Does There Exist A Parent Who Has Successfully Kept Their Child From Elmo?

3282118574_c56bbb9f8f__1377441259_142.196.156.251Don’t we all give into Elmo eventually? Or Thomas the Train? Or Super Why? Or (insert charismatic children’s character here)? Of all of us who swore we would never allow our children to fall in love with a character on TV, did anyone succeed – and more importantly, does it really matter?

Emily Grosvenor of laments her eventual surrender to Elmo in her article, I Hate Elmo. It got me thinking, do I hate Elmo? Does it really matter that my child is enthralled with a character on our television set? Besides annoying the shit out of me with that voice, is my child’s love for Elmo harming him in any way?

I was one of those people that thought my kid would never watch TV. Then I actually had a kid. It’s amazing how quickly your views change when you are forced to keep a little human around you 24/7. Inevitably, the TV came on. Not very often and not for very long. I didn’t think anything of it.

Then one day we were in Barnes and Noble, in the children’s section. There is a little area devoted to characters you see on Nick Jr.; Dora, The Wonder Pets, The Backyardigans, Diego – my child could name them all. I was shocked. There’s only one Nick Jr. show that he watches (Yo Gabba Gabba, of course). He had picked up the names of all of the characters from the little skits they perform during Nick Jr’s “commercial” breaks. Nick Jr. doesn’t have conventional commercials, it just runs little mini skits advertising its other shows. I have to say I was impressed.

Yo Gabba Gabba teaches him to dance. Sesame Street teaches him numbers. Super Why teaches him letters and Tree Fu Tom teaches him Karate moves. Of course, we teach him these things first, but he dances along with these shows and recites all the information he learns and generally has a fantastic time. We alternate the shows throughout the week and keep his screen time down as recommended.

We all know a lot of screen time isn’t good for kids. But if it’s moderate, I don’t see the harm. I finally have come to a place where I can say, I don’t hate Elmo. I watched TV as a child, too. Oh well – I’m not a perfect parent. I haven’t successfully kept my toddler from television like I thought I would. But I’m not sure that there is a parent in this country with a TV in their house that has. And if there is, I’m just not sure that I’m impressed anymore.

(photo: Flickr/CreativeCommons/ tiffany terry)

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  • Justme

    My daughter knows who Elmo is, but she is certainly not obsessed with him by any means. My husband and I both work, so we aren’t home with her during the day and at her baby-sitters house, they don’t watch television so she hasn’t ever been exposed to him (or the rest of the Sesame Street crew). She watches the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in the morning before we get ready for work…but even with that, there really isn’t an obsession. Nor with any of the Disney movies she has watched.

    I think some kids are hardwired differently than others. My daughter is not one to latch onto a specific object or character and become obsessed and fanatic. She’s fairly easy going and very, very adaptable. She’s also extremely compliant – most of the time. Part of that is the way we parent and the other is just part of her nature.

    But to be honest…we also didn’t let her watch television until she was two, and even now it’s pretty limited. Quite frankly, she watches a lot of football, basketball, baseball and soccer….she knows when to cheer for a touchdown and says “boom” when a player makes a good tackle.

    I guess it’s all in your priorities. ;)

    • AugustW

      Haha, my 2 year old hasn’t quite figured out how to only root for one team…it’s pretty cute when she cheers no matter who scored. :D

    • Justme

      My husband collects and sells sports cards so she likes to play cards with Daddy. We’re slowly teaching her “good” players (Peyton Manning) and “bad” players (she once brought me an Aaron Hernandez card).

    • chickadee

      Teach her about the “douchbag” category. The chief of those is Ben Rothlisberger.

    • ElleJai

      I definitely had a double blink on reading that. Then I realised, Americans mean something totally different when they talk about “rooting” for a team…

      Excuse me while I take a few deep breaths to get over the sudden shock lol.

  • Valeri Jones

    My son has a vintage Tickle Me Elmo and he loves it, but he doesn’t care much for the show. He likes Mickey and Curious George and Planet Earth.

    Planet Earth = Parenting Win

    • CK

      Adding “vintage” to Tickle Me Elmo makes me sad.

    • Valeri Jones

      It’s a first edition.

  • C.J.

    The only character I ever swore my kids wouldn’t watch is Caillou and I did succeed at that. Caillou makes me cringe. They liked Elmo but were never obsessed with it. My older daughter was obsessed with Dora, Wiggles and princesses. My younger daughter was obsessed with Diego, Dinosaur Train and Sid the Science Kid.

  • Amber

    I despised Elmo but I let my son watch him since he was on Sesame street.

    My biggest beef with Elmo is he would ask, “Where do you go if you want to learn more about fish?” and I would think, the library, obviously. Then he would squeal, “You go to the fish channel!” and I would die a little inside.

    Apparently I wasn’t quiet about it though because I overheard my son tell another relative, “Elmo is so stupid. He doesn’t even know what a library is.” I feel like I won that battle, even though I let him watch it.

    • Andy

      I have to say, your son sounds like a very bright little boy. At the very least in this day and age, couldn’t Elmo say “You look it up on the computer!”, so some thought is involved.

    • Justme

      I agree with Andy…with the internet and the bevy of resources at our fingertips, more than likely if our children want to learn about something, they ARE going to turn to the internet rather than the library.

    • Amber

      It wouldn’t have bothered me if Elmo had suggested the computer but he did not. Just, “look it up on the fish channel” or “look it up on the bread channel.”

      Bad enough to suggest TV is the place to go for info but to point kids to television channels that don’t even exist? Monstrous. LOL

  • Hercules03

    I have an 8 yo and 3 yo girls. My oldest liked Thomas for a short while but moved into princesses quickly – and my three yo went straight to loving princesses. The little one loves Princess Sophia – the older one loves Ariel. The often watch cartoons in the morning eating breakfast but that pretty much is it. Thankfully there aren’t many princess shows, only movies, which I can control easily. Really works their imagination!! I won’t stop them from idolizing a character. They just aren’t allowed to have shoes or clothes with characters because I think they are ugly – and look cheap.

    • AugustW

      Am I the only one who thinks Thomas is depressing? It’s, like, prime sleepy time viewing.

      I also avoid products with characters on them. They always seem to be made from this cheap plastic stuff. Not a fan.

  • CK

    My daugher is a year and a half, and I’ve kept her from Elmo so far. I know time is not on my side, right now. We stick to Disney Junior, and I started DVRing Mister Roger’s. I will say that I never noticed how many children’s show characters are assholes until I watch them now. The fight against Elmo will rage on until she is past the age for him. He really bugs me with his childish talk, and generally annoying demeanor.

    • Emmali Lucia


      :D Yes, we should give every parent the entire Mister Rogers series for their children. Because seriously, Elmo and most of the others suck.

      I’d rather be around an adult who watched Mister Rogers religiously than around someone who watched Dora the Explorer or Sesame street

  • AugustW

    I’ve said it before on here, and I’ll say it again: I’ve convinced my toddler that Spongebob only lives at Grandma’s house.
    Elmo isn’t so bad, although the grammar nerd inside of me has a little twitch every time he speaks in the first person. (Which is, I guess, always. I’ve very twitchy)

    • Justme

      Do you mean third person?

    • AugustW

      Yes, yes I did. Need more coffee. :)

    • Rachel

      This. Elmo can be annoying, but SpongeBob and his gawdawful laugh are just not ever going to happen in the place where I have to live. Ever.

  • DMH

    No Elmo in this house. No show, no toys. Hoping it stays that way.

    • chickadee

      That’s how I was about Barney. I explained to my daughter when she was 2 that it was fine that other people liked Barney, and she could watch Barney at other people’s houses, and it was absolutely great that *she* liked Barney, but that he couldn’t be in our house because he wasn’t allowed. That worked out well for all concerned.

  • Alanna Jorgensen

    I hated Dora before she was even born, so I avoided it like the plague and she didn’t seem to mind, so phew. Her current favorite show is Adventure Time, which I adore, so I’m feeling pretty good about life. :)

    • G.E. Phillips

      I initially read that to mean that you hated Dora before Dora was even born, and I was like, Whoa. That’s some deep hatred. LOL

    • Alanna Jorgensen

      Hs! Not quite that much hatred, but close.

  • G.E. Phillips

    We watch TV in my house but I do try to avoid certain shows that I don’t think have a point to them or just make me want to stab myself in the eye with a grapefruit spoon (Calliou, Thomas the Train, most of the stuff on the Disney Channel) I definitely try to steer towards the shows that seem more educational (Team Umizoomi, SuperWhy.) I personally love Sesame Street, but Face never took to it. I tried for a realllllllly long time to avoid Dora (Because, bitch, stop yelling at me, I’ll say “Backpack” if I FEEL like it!) but he caught onto it and I guess it does have some value (following directions, problem solving, blah blah blah.) I also tried for a long time not to buy overtly commercial stuff–like, if there was a generic toy or a Disney toy, I would buy the generic toy. But now he’s old enough to recognize and have preferences, so it’s a little harder. We’re going through a big super hero phase right now, and I’ve become more willing to indulge his love of Superman, as long as I can put off Star Wars for a few more years….

  • Katie L.

    We are fully immersed in the cult of Elmo over here (but got forbid Elmo the Musical is on instead of Elmo’s World). I don’t mind it too much. I limit it, but I have to say it is really handy when I need to dry my hair or start dinner.

    Just yesterday I realized my daughter had learned “Try again” from Miss Noodle. She likes to build towers of blocks and when they fall down she goes “Try again, Miss Noodle!” and starts to build it again. So Elmo helped teach my kid perseverance. I’m okay with that.

  • Mary

    My daughter just asked me the other day, “who’s Elmo?” I laughed because she was OBSESSED with him when she was 2-3, she’s now 7. She has completely forgotten him (which is fine with me) because that’s what kids do, they go through phases with everything. Nothing ever stays the same. Constant change.

  • Edify

    The two pillars of evil in our house are Elmo and Dora and my MIL kindly introduced both into my house. It’s not so much the characters that give me conniptions but the intense product marketing to kids.

  • G.S.

    All the hype for Elmo to me was horribly misplaced. Everyone knows that Grover was the one who had it going on, amirite? He was a superhero, held numerous jobs, traveled the world, begged you not to turn the page to get to the monster at the end of the book . . . Grover was awesome.

    • CK

      I love(d) Grover! You can’t find Grover centric stuff anywhere, though. I did find a stuffed Grover at a baby store, and got that for my daughter. She loves him.

  • A-nony-mous

    Oh Gods..Thomas *shudders* So. much. Thomas in our house. I know *way* too much about those really useful engines. It was only tolerable because George Carlin narrated a bunch. I finally broke and sold off all the Thomas stuff when I couldn’t stand it anymore and thankfully we moved on to something else. Child fads are definitely funny.

    • Shelly Lloyd

      George Carlin narrated Thomas the train???? Oh My Gosh! I never knew. He would have been the last person I would have thought to do something like that. LOL.

    • historychick79

      Alec Baldwin and Ringo Starr also narrated some of the earlier ones. C doesn’t even ask to watch tv. He asks to watch ‘choo choos’, then we have a discussion on which program he actually wants to watch; oddly enough it’s usually not even a train show. Lately it’s been ‘Jake and the Neverland Pirates’ or ‘Peep and the Wide World,’ and I sadly find Peep a bit funny these days….

    • Shelly Lloyd

      My children are teens now, so I have no ideal about the new children shows. But my son was very much into Tomas the Train when he was a toddler. He had stuffed Tomas doll that he took every where with him. (I still have it carefully packed away.) But I never paid attention to the narrators.

      I need to catch up on my children’s shows, because this morning in the bakery someone called and asked if we did “Princess Sophia” cakes. Neither me or the other baker had any ideal what a Princess Sophia cake was. Apparently it is a cartoon or a doll. But all I could think about was this from How to Loose a Guy in 10 days:

      Needless to say we do not do any Princess Sophia cakes.

    • A-nony-mous

      It’s pretty amusing although you would never know it if you’re a fan of his humor because [obviously] there’s no cussing or ranting. ;-) But man the first few times I kept waiting for him to say something lol.

    • LiteBrite

      My son is obsessed with trains, so we too have a ton of Thomas in our house. Thomas toys. Thomas books. Thomas throw blanket. Thomas pillow pet. But at least that’s the only character he’s ever really been into for a long period of time.

  • Shelly Lloyd

    My daughter was ok with Elmo and Mr. Noodle. She could take it or leave it. This was when Michael Jeter was playing Mr. Noodle. She LOVED dinosaurs though. So my hubby had the bright ideal of renting Jurassic Park III, not knowing that the actor who played Mr. Noodle was also in Jurassic Park III. As soon as his character appeared, my daughter was like, It’s MR. NOODLE!!!! I was thinking, “this is a bad ideal….” And sure enough by the end Mr. Noodle was eaten. So we comforted her my telling her that it was only a movie and the actor was ok. Then a few weeks later she heard on the news that the actor himself had died. UGH! And she was sad all over again.

  • Ann B.

    I have no problem with Elmo. But I have successfully enforced a Spongebob-free lifestyle so far at age 3.5. Even at my parents’ and in-laws’ houses, they know that my kids are not allowed to watch Spongebob. (I think my stepmom actually legitimately likes that Baby channel, anyway. She turns it on for all the kids, even the 6 year old.) Oh, they know who he is thanks to Happy Meals toys and toys at the store. But they have yet to watch an episode.

    • Rachel Sea

      Curiosity finally enticed me to find an episode of Spongebob online, and OH MY GOD that was one of the most annoying things I have ever seen. I didn’t even get a full two minutes in before I had to turn it off, and I now have the first line of the intro song burnt permanently into my poor brain. That show will never play in my house again, if I have anything to say about it.

  • allisonjayne

    I’m just so thankful that Netflix exists. At least I can put one show on, know that it won’t have any commercials, and when it’s over, it’s over. Sesame Street is so far the only thing we’ve really let her watch…I can handle the sesame street obsession (right now she’s all about The Count for some reason), because at least I know the characters and I can actually handle watching the show.
    Lately though her absolute favourite thing to watch is videos of bands playing live, which is awesome.

  • SDA

    She saw an Elmo video at the sitters and LOVED it and started ‘noticing’ Elmo everywhere, so I bent. We don’t “do” TV, but I will pull-up a YouTube Elmo song every now and then for her to see. When she hits 2, for sure Elmo will be allowed. Sesame Street is freakin’ awesome and actually educational. I hope to avoid everything else until she is of an age for Saturday morning cartoon awesomeness. I do not like how freaking expensive Elmo toys are….like $50 for an Elmo that jerks around laughing and he wasn’t even soft. I hope I can keep away from the marketing aspect of it.

  • matt30fl

    We managed to dodge Elmo for the most part, and thankfully our daughter lost interest in Barney in under a month. We did get the full Wiggles inundation though. That still didn’t prevent two Tickle Me Elmos from showing up as gifts, but my wife an I would just set them off simultaneously to creep each other out. Go ahead and try it and see how disturbing it is..