Toxic Television – Pt. 2 – Shows We Don’t Watch

Per my previous post HERE, I’m starting my review list off with the programs that are popular in the ages 5 and under crowd that we don’t care for.  I thought it might be helpful for some and at least spark conversation for others.

1- Caillou- Shelved for: whining, tantrums, issues with sister, unclear consequences

It’s an okay show I guess and I know a lot of moms who like it because it does feature lessons about behavior as little baldy struggles with the same, every day issues most all toddlers do, but his attitude and whiny voice is NOT something I want to have emulated in my house.  My kids are too little to learn the lesson, so all they learn is the attitude and tone of voice being presented and I’m not a fan.  The first time I heard Liam say “but moooommmyyy….” in that whiny, Caillou voice, I said “no thank you” and turned it off for good.  The point of the show is to show toddlers that their feelings are valid and to help them work through those issues as they see Caillou do it on TV.  Which, in theory, is a great idea. Unfortunately the child between ages 18 months through 4 years is unlikely to get that- all they are going to get out of it, is seeing a child whining and yelling, throwing and hitting and they are going to do the same thing. Save your nerves and your child the tears and just avoid this show, at LEAST until they are old enough to comprehend what is actually being taught. Oh, and one last thing- I also don’t like that they call his meltdowns “temper tantrums”.  It drives me INSANE when people just assume that because a child is upset and vocal about being upset that they are throwing some kind of belligerent, angry fit for attention and manipulation.  This show perpetuates that nearly always incorrect assumption about child behavior and I don’t like it.

2- Tom & Jerry (and all the side/lesser cartoons that go with them) – Never even put these on the shelf to begin with.

Why?  Because they are horrible.  They are full of hitting, fighting, animal cruelty, racism, sexism, smoking, drinking, bashing “child” mice in the head, hitting cats on the head with hammers, eating birds who are friends, pulling giant knives out from the kitchen and chasing after one another with them, poisoning, pushing, running over characters with cars, trucks, steam-rollers… basically every one of the “10,000 ways to die” are showcased on this show and all while the characters are laughing and thinking it’s hilarious to watch the other be in physical pain.  So no.  Just no.  This show is a breeding ground for apathy, bullying, dangerous behavior with ZERO consequence and I’m not having it.

3- Various Mickey Mouse cartoons and holiday specials- Shelved for Violence, yelling, hitting and bullying.

Whaaaaaaaattt?????  You mean the all powerful mouse did something I don’t approve of?? GASP! Yes, it’s true.  There are Disney cartoons I don’t let my kids watch.  More than a few, actually… but right now, I am talking specifically about the Mickey Mouse cartoons and specials, the ones with the “fab 5” gang, Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy and Donald, alongside Daisy, Chip & Dale, and their buddies, the ones from basically 1995 and back.  Why?  Because they’re violent. Violent in the same way the Looney Toons are, just not *quite* as bad.  What’s worse in my opinion, is when they’re not being violent, they’re mean to each other or getting into dangerous situations.

Now, anyone who watches Mickey Mouse Clubhouse knows that “Pete the cat” is a bad guy, but did you know that back in the not-so-long-ago day, he was a REALLY, REALLY BAD GUY, like, way worse than he is now?  In fact, they’ve watered down his badness substantially for the new generation but as recent as 10 years ago, Pete was not the guy who is sorta bad but mostly redeemable.  In the 2004 release of “Mickey and the Three Mousketeers”, Liam was clearly confused about Pete and why he was so scary.  I think it really disappointed him and freaked him out when he saw Pete strangle, lock up and then attempt to drown Mickey Mouse.  He kept asking me “why is Pete doing that?” or saying things like, “Pete is so scary and mean!” I ended up just turning it off because it disturbed him so much.  So, we’re not watching that one anymore, nor any of the others that are blatantly violent and displaying super mean behavior.  Even a few of my favorites got shelved because Chip and Dale are really mean to Donald Duck and Pluto in the Christmas episode and I really just don’t think I want to deal with anyone throwing Christmas decorations at their siblings or punching each other in the nose because it’s funny when the chipmunks do it.

In general, we have always known that Donald had a temper problem, that was always the point behind his cartoons and the lessons learned were because of his inability to control himself, but in the mean time, a kid watches him hit, yell, throw things, scream and otherwise be a horrible and horrifying person to his friends and everyone just shrugs it off because, “oh, well, that’s just Donald”.

Bullying is another big issue in these older shows.  Characters call one another stupid, make fun of their friends, call them idiots, and it’s all okay because they’re friends.  Um… no.  Not a lesson I want them to learn in our house.  Just because you’re my “friend” does not mean it’s okay to call me an idiot or make fun of me.  That’s not how friendship works.

4- Max and Ruby- Shelved for sibling rivalry, whining and rewards for poor behavior.

I have never liked this show. Mean, snotty older sister with a REEEEAAAAALLLLLY annoying voice, bosses around her baby brother, huffs and puffs and throws fits about how he wants to be in her space all the time or get into her things or play with her when she wants to play with her friends or by herself, ALONE.  I gave up on trying to like it when she whined at him for the (yes, I counted) 26th time, “MaaaaaAAAAAAaaaaaAAAAaaxxxxxxxxxxxxx…. Nooooooo, that’s MIIINNE”. UGH *shutter* I swear I was about to slap me some bunny.  Also, apparently they have no parents because you NEVER see them anywhere to correct her bossy attitude. The moral of each episode seems to be; be a selfish brat to your baby brother and you’ll STILL get presents at the end of every day anyway because even if you are a jerk, your family loves you and is just trying to do nice things for you because you’re a princess.
There is nothing good about this show except the cool 30’s style music.  No all the way.

5- Mike the Knight- Shelved for: bad attitude, being disrespectful and not following directions

Now, this disappointed me. I was SO excited to see a toddler/learning show about a Medieval knight! There are dragons, his sister is a sorceress, there’s trolls and fairies and vikings… it’s adorable! Except for the fact that Mike is a selfish, little jerk. The show’s plot typically goes like this; He is asked to do some sort of task which he typically ignores or does in a short-cut way, while complaining, whining and being mean to his friends, conning them into doing his work for him and saying it’s “because I’m a knight and knights don’t do THAT kind of work!” His selfless friends love him, so they do what he asks without question because they want to help make him happy. Which, Mike takes full advantage of. Eventually, (usually not until the last 10 minutes of the show) Mike realizes that he’s been a jerk and he jumps to fix it, which he does easily with no problems, no one gets angry with him for having been such a brat the entire time and he eventually gets what he wanted anyway with about 2 minutes dedicated to the lesson of kindness and learning from it. The show does have a lesson each time- it’s just not clear enough and his bad attitude is prevalent throughout too much of the show for my taste. It’s so much that a child within toddler age will simply learn that behavior, but not the lesson itself. It’s a show for an older child who can actually see that the behavior is NOT to be emulated, because there were consequences. This is a show that maybe we will try when Liam is closer to 4-5 years old, when he has a better understanding of right and wrong behavior, but for now- we have to shelve Mike and his awesome dragon friends. (edit- Liam actually IS 4 years old now and the last time we watched Mike, he understood that Mike was being mean, so we may bring this one back around again.)

6- Henry Hugglemonster: shelved for: screaming or, rather- “roaring” inappropriately

Let me just start this one by saying how much I LOVE this show.  It’s all about family and inclusion and love- connection, compassion and relying upon one another. They baby-wear their infant brother, Igor, and imagination and talent is encouraged in each child by their monster elders, each in different ways.  Henry speaks directly to the audience and really brings in a sense of identifying with, and speaking directly to the children watching him.  He relates to his audience and his emotions are clearly identified.  They learn great lessons about asking for help and telling the truth and doing the right thing.  Unfortunately, there is a lot of roaring in this show and some of the concepts are a little mature for toddlers, so they go right over his head.  Liam now roars when he’s both happy and mad because Henry roars when he is happy and mad.  Roaring for a 2 year old is a lot more like screaming at the top of your lungs and running around the house like a crazy person than it is anything productive and it just doesn’t stop.  I feel bad scolding him for doing it, because it’s my own fault for showing him a character who does it.  The only way I could find to make it stop was by removing the stimulus that encourages it.  For now, we are shelving this one until he can better grasp that it isn’t actually a good thing to yell and scream at the top of your lungs. Monsters roar- little boys must use words. Once we learn this lesson, my hope is that we can bring this fantastic show back into the picture for all its great lessons to be learned. Note- Since I first wrote these, we have re-introduced Henry back into our lives and we’ve learned that we can watch it, but only at certain times of the day.  Roaring is for playtime, so we can watch Henry during or before but not during or JUST before quiet time.  We also rarely watch it in mixed company (anyone outside our little family) because the roaring seems to increase when guests are here.  He is also much better now at accepting the direction that just because Henry roars does not mean he should.  I still hold to my belief that it really is for older toddlers, 3-5 years, not so much for younger 2-3 years, ones who don’t understand the appropriateness of certain behaviors.  As always, you make the call.  Ultimately, we do love this show.

7- Ni Hao Kai Lan- Awesome show, Shelved for: whining and yelling


Ni Hao Kai Lan teaches Chinese words, Chinese culture, they teach kindness, team work, value of friendship and acceptance. They work through emotions and help kids identify and focus on their feelings in a positive way.  This show is targeted at a little older age range than my kids, probably ages 4-6. There is a lot of yelling, some happy yelling, some angry yelling, some venting yelling and as a young toddler, all my child sees is yelling and screaming and he thinks that’s a great idea.  He sees that the characters react to their frustrations through screaming (as they learn a lesson about sharing feelings and expressing their frustration so they can work through an issue) and all he sees is, anger = yelling, excited = roaring, can’t have your way = screaming. So, naturally, he followed in suit. The other day, I asked him to stop running in the house. His reaction was to “roar” at me at the top of his lungs, clench his fists and say, “I’m mad!” This was exactly, right down to the foot-stomp and furrowed eyebrows- what happened on the show.  He didn’t know how to do that or know TO do that until he watched this episode.  Now, on the one hand, I’m happy that he wants to start expressing how he feels so we can begin to talk about it, but I know he’s only doing it because he watched the little tiger and the monkey in Kai Lan do it.  This wasn’t an issue at first, but the more it happened, the less I wanted to watch it, so we’re shelving this one for a while.

8-Oscar’s Oasis and Rabbid Invasion- Shelved for: Violence, laughing at other’s pain

These aren’t supposed to be “for toddlers”, but many people allow it because they are simple, lots of action and no words, so it holds baby’s attention and toddlers think they’re funny.  I’m roping these two together because they’re basically the exact same thing.  Honestly, there really isn’t much to say about either of them, other than the fact that the concept is not much different from Loony Tunes in the “violence and hurting friends is fun” department.  There are no words, just actions and most of them display characters in peril either due to their own poor decisions or the fact that they have jerks for friends.  I thought it might be cute for Liam to watch this before I knew what it was like.  It only took one episode to have him laughing at people when they got hurt because the little bunnies do it.  So no, not a good show for us.

9- Chuck and Friends – Shelved for: Contradicting adults, bad attitude and being mean to friends

Chuck and Friends is pre-school show about a land of trucks and cars, similar to the Disney “Cars” world.  Chuck is a child dump truck who, along with his friends, learns lessons about what is right and wrong.  Eventually, he always does right, but not until he spends the majority of the episode doing the wrong thing.  Too much wrong and not enough right.  The cars are really cute, though.  I suspect this will be better in a few years when we can have conversations about consequences.

10- Loony Toons – Including Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain and any version of Bugs and the gang, old and new-Shelved for: Violence, dangerous situations, attitude, name calling and sneakiness

Okay, so it’s not much of a stretch to consider that I’d ban Loony Tunes like Bugs Bunny, Daffy and Elmer, the Roadrunner & Wiley Coyote, Tiny Toons and many others.  Some may say, “well, these were never intended to be toddler cartoons anyway!” And those people would be absolutely correct- HOWEVER… there are many, many people who allow their toddlers and pre-schoolers to watch these shows because, well, we grew up on them so they’re fine, right? Of course, right after we pile them all into the back of the pick-up and drive them to grandma’s house, feeding them Karo’s syrup for a tummy ache.  All of these cartoons are extremely violent with the hitting, shooting people in the face, cooking friends in giant stew pots, dropping pianos and anvils on their heads, and the general meanness that can be taken completely out of context by a child.  I keep hearing this crap about “but these are classics!  Every child needs to know who they are!” …No, actually they don’t and certainly not at toddler age.  Does any parent really need to deal with the idea that a child might harm his or her sibling or family pet because they saw Bugs and Elmer do it and everyone was okay?  Would you want to risk it?  I’m not willing to, so we don’t watch them. Period.  Unfortunately, that means I also have to hold off on two of my personal favorites; Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain.  I actually did let them watch both of these shows for a while, thinking… I let my niece and nephew watch them when they were 3-4 years old, it can’t be that bad… but yeah, it kind of is. LOL  I ignored it until I started seeing my little Yakko and Dot reenacting the show’s more colorful scenes like chasing and hitting people on the head as you run, little attitude comments that sound just like Dot, yelling just like Katie Kaboom and the bad attitude of Slappy Squirrel… yeah, really not a great idea.  Pinky and the Brain is surprisingly tame  and we can actually watch that one from time to time because there usually is no outright violence to be emulated.  The problem with that show, is the bullying.  I didn’t remember that from when I was younger, but Brain is CONSTANTLY belittling and bullying Pinky.  It’s actually really sad and definitely plays right into the “bully culture” concept where one person is constantly picking on the other and making fun of them, even while they call them a friend.   But that’s a concept still far beyond them, so at this point, the worst to come from watching that show so far, has been Liam adding the words, “Zoink!” and “Narf!” to his vocabulary.

11- Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs- Shelved for Lying, general disobedience, some attitude

Liam recently got into dinosaurs in a big way thanks to Dino Dan, so I’ve been seeking out programming specifically having to do with them in some capacity.  This seemed like the perfect solution!  Unfortunately, I’m not a fan.  I think it could have been great, and may still be later on but I doubt by the time he is mature enough to actually learn the lesson being taught, he will want to watch the show.  It’s a toddler program with pre-school (and sometimes older) lessons being taught.  The one that sealed the deal for me, was that Harry needed to return a book to the library and he didn’t want to give it back because he loved it so much.  So, he escaped into his “dino world” to HIDE THE BOOK (basically stealing it) so he wouldn’t have to give it back.  Of course, the lesson was, you can’t do that, it’s not nice and other children will miss out on the book because you’re being selfish.  At NO POINT was it every mentioned that it’s NOT OKAY TO STEAL SOMETHING.  Every episode is all about how, if he doesn’t like something, he runs away to his dino world to hide from whatever it is he’s doing. Every lesson is focused on facing your problems and moving toward solutions, but those lessons are lost on a child under 5 because they are more sophisticated concepts that the average toddler/pre-school brain hasn’t yet fully grasped.  What a child will see is – uncomfortable situation = run away.  Why Harry couldn’t just go into his dino world to have great imagination games and have fun learning about the dinosaurs and what they’re like is beyond me. They had to add in this bad behavior issue thinking it’s a good lesson to learn, but not connecting the age ranges of their target audience and what that age range is actually capable of grasping vs. simply repeating.  It’s too bad, it would have been a good one.

12- Horrid Henry- Shelved for… well, being horrid.  Attitude, yelling, bullying, hitting, selfishness, bad behavior.

Horrid Henry is NOT a toddler show.  It’s not marketed as a toddler show and should never be mistaken for one, but I know several mamas who allow their toddlers to watch it, which is why it’s on the list.  Horrid Henry is a UK show about a really awful child who has parents who yell at him and there’s nothing but bad attitude throughout the entire show and beyond that, he makes really ugly, mean faces and bullies people and is basically just a horrible person.  Honestly I have no idea if there’s a lesson in there eventually, because I can’t get more than a few minutes in before it makes my skin crawl.  So this is a no.  A no now, and a no later.

So that’s my current list of shows we don’t watch.  Because I started writing it when Liam was 2, things have changed a bit, as seen in the edits I’ve made.  Overall, I don’t think it’s too long in the grand scheme and I think most people can agree with me on these issues and my logic for my filters.  Many parents who disagree simply don’t agree that those influences will create problems for their kids. Which is totally fine if that’s true- rock on man, more power to ya,  but think about it next time you have to scold your youngling for hitting someone, teasing someone, whining, yelling, punching, being sarcastic or rude… consider what you allowed them to watch that mirrored that same behavior and ask yourself if it was worth it.

If we could avoid the situation by NOT presenting the behavior to them in the first place, I can’t see that as anything but a win for everyone.



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