My children play video games all day long. How can I get them to stop?
It’s important to keep in mind that you are your children’s parent. It’s ultimately up to you to make the rules in your home concerning things like video games and television viewing. The best way to ensure that your children play video games in a measured way is to set up rules from the beginning about how much they’re allowed to play them every day. That’s not always easy to do, however. Sometimes parents make the mistake of allowing video games and television to act as a sort of babysitter for the children. Perhaps the parents are especially busy at work, and so they back off for a little while and let video games and television do the work of a babysitter. Then, when they (the parents) find themselves less stressed, they realize that their children are addicted to television and video games; it seems like a cruel thing to interject themselves at this point and start making up rules.
How can I make new rules without coming across as arbitrary and cruel?
It’s important to keep in mind that you made a contribution to the problem as well, and that you acknowledge this to your children. In other words, sit down and talk with them as if they’re equals. Perhaps you could say something like this:
“I got a little busy a few months back and was grateful that television and video games kept you occupied and out of trouble, ha ha. But now I think it’s time we make some rules together so that television and video games don’t dominate your lives. It’s important to me that you do your schoolwork, but also that you get outside and play in the sun and play games that involve a little more physical exercise. What do you think? Let’s make a plan together.”
This way, your children won’t feel that you’re suddenly senselessly flip-flopping, and also that you’re not censuring them or calling them lazy for their involvement with television and video games. You’re not telling them that television and video games are a bad thing; you’re simply telling them that too much of anything is bad and that you want to work together to find a more balanced approach to life.
What are some ideas for working with my kids to find a more balanced approach to life?
Well, the name of the game, for kids (and for many adults as well!) is fun. The last thing you want to do is make your kids feel that playing outdoors is a chore. For this reason, it’s perhaps a good idea to ask them what sorts of things they’d like to do outside. You know your children better than anyone else; what are they interested in? If Johnny likes bugs, buy him a bug book and a bug collecting kit. If Sally likes writing, give her a book allowance and read her stories and poems excitedly. Also, get their friends involved. Getting kids away from video games is a family affair, but your kids’ friends are a hugely important part of the process. If a kid has a friend with him outside, whatever they’re doing together feels like play instead of work. So, talk to your kids about your worries, get their feedback, and then combine your ideas with theirs to come up with a list of activities that can gradually replace television and video games. Remember! Television and video games are harmless so long as bounds are set. You, as the parent, are the only one who can set the bounds. But setting those bounds should be a matter of getting input from the kids and then slowly but surely changing habits together in a spirit of fun.