The Gaming

Hello, Middle of Summer. That point where the kids’ summer dreams and bucket lists are slowly fading into the 95-degree heat.  The days of children desiring three things are upon us:

Air conditioning.

Xbox and/or Playstation. 

Large packs of Skittles to sustain the Fortnite play. 

I am positive 90% of thirteen-year-old boys could live for two weeks on the three things listed above, plus water.  They think us parents are Newbs at this mid-summer thing. That we are too tired and hot to force them outside with a ball and glove or onto the deck with, dare I say, a PUZZLE.  (Should add in here that Niamh’s summer dreams never die…they just carry over into fall, and she fights for every last one. 😂)

Both my kiddos enjoy playing outside, boardgames, reading, skateboarding, swimming, etc.  They are not obsessively glued to their video games; however, I do notice that gaming can become the default (pun intended Fortnite-knowledgeable parents) activity they gravitate towards.  Video games quickly absorb their attention and the hours just fly.  It is the easy “what do we do with our day” decision.  

All parents handle video gaming differently, but we all land somewhere on the spectrum.  Some parents choose to limit their kid’s time to one hour a day.  Other parents make the kids earn the time they spend playing.  Some cut the kids off when their little eyes stop blinking and they no longer respond to human interaction.  And still, some parents do not set limits or monitor the play time.  Whatever method you employ currently— I’m not here to critique, judge, or shame.  

For our two kids, we chose to take the video games away completely for two days a week during the summer.  We allowed Niamh and Philly to choose the non-gaming days which gave them some ownership of the rule.  On Mondays and Fridays, they are not allowed on Xbox or Playstation (or Instagram, Youtube, their tablets, phone, etc….we nixed it all).  It has worked nicely for us to free up whole days where they play together, imagine, create, read—uninterrupted by periods of gaming.  

I wanted to give a few ideas to parents who, like us, allow a moderate amount of gaming, but who also want their little peeps to remember summer days composed of puzzles on the floor, nerf gun wars, skateboarding tricks, and nighttime manhunt matches.  Summers are too special, too wonderful, to spend sitting in front of a monitor for hours and hours every day.  I do believe the key to introducing rules around the gaming is to not seem like you are introducing rules around the gaming 😉.  Invite your child’s input.  Ask them lots of open-ended questions.  Remind them of their non-gaming passions.  Find creative ways to mix gaming with other activities that benefit your child(ren) as well.  (BTW, video games employ a good amount of quick problem solving, creativity, spacial imagination, and fine motor skills— so they are not a waste!)

Here are six suggestions to limit your child’s gaming and feel free to share your own methods and tricks in the comments!

  • Choose two to three days a week when video games are outlawed.  Let your child pick the days, even switching them after the first week if they come up with a better schedule they prefer.  
  • Invite your child to meditate for ten minutes using a child’s guided meditation in the morning, thirty minutes of reading after lunch, and at least an hour of outside play before dinner.  Planning these pre-determined pockets of time into the day will break up extended gaming and require the child to engage in other activities and ways to have fun.  
  • One hour on; one hour off.  There could be endless versions of this type of plan (one hour on; two hours off, etc.), but create segments of time when gaming is allowed and is not.  Deciding the lengths of time with your child might give them a sense of ownership and the feeling that their opinion matters!  
  • A fixed amount of time (maybe one hour) with ways to earn more playtime: chores, reading, projects, helping with siblings, etc.  I do not love this method, as it creates actions motivated by gaming rather than kindness, responsibility, and thoughtfulness…but it can be useful and might help some children be more proactive.  
  • Keep gaming reserved for the evening, so the day remains wide open for all non-electronic fun.
  • Create a pocket of daily gaming (maybe an hour and a half) with an extended gaming marathon time each week (i.e., on Friday nights, from 6-11:00pm).  Keeping the daily gaming time down is a challenge, but building in a long period once a week of “free time” makes it less upsetting to the kiddo and gives them something to look forward to on the weekends!

Parenting is the hardest job in the world, and it is impossible to know, moment-to-moment, if what we choose is the “right” thing.  But, we try.  And adjust.  And we should be giving ourselves a lot of grace in the process.  And grace for the kids, too.  They just want to live a good, fun, Fortnite-filled life. 😄 (Sometimes, that doesn’t sound so bad on those hard adult days.)  Let them be little.  Raise them to be wonderful humans.  Do your best.  Apologize a lot.  And once in a while, break into a full-on hype or floss dance.  They will laugh and think you are ridiculous…but also remember that you knew them and noticed the things that mattered to them while they were young.

Also, I wrote a short children’s ebook on video game anger called Rage Quit.  It’s $4.99 on Amazon.  For children and parents alike.  I think your kiddo might get a kick out of it.  And, if you like coloring images, I give away free images from the book when it is downloaded!  If you do grab it, please leave a review!  I’d love to read your thoughts on it.

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