Ready Player Two

Do you let your child play video games?

I’ve shared with you before that we don’t have a gaming system in our house. We do have computers, phones and tablets, so while my son sometimes thinks our family not having a XBOX or PlayStation is ‘the worst’ though he’s really not all that deprived.

Over the holidays I was finally able to watch the movie my son had been talking about, Ready Player One. A movie about how gaming had taken over, and the fight to remind us what is really important was on (spoiler alert: connection). 😊 I was surprised at how much I liked this movie. Perhaps it was the nostalgia tied to the 80s throwbacks (music and games), or how smartly the story was told, or the fact that connecting at a human level — friendship, treating others as equals, and finding room to share success — all resonated with me. While the movie was titled Ready Player One, it left me with a Ready Player 2 feeling (we are better together in numbers).

We went away for a few days over the holiday break. The place we go to has a game room. My son asked me to accompany him to the game room. The XBOXs were taken but an old arcade style game was available. “Wanna play?” I asked. “Sure,” he replied. He hit the 2 player button and we each took turns at Pac-Man, Galaga, and Astroids. It was fun to play together. I was good at some of the games, but he was better at most, and I was fine with that.

After the trip everyone shared their favorite moments. He said, “Going on hikes, and going to the game room you, Mom.” It was a highlight for me too (though maybe for different reasons?). 😊

I look forward to any activity my son wants to engage me on. I’m ready. Consider me player 2.

How do you and your child connect over games? What are some of your favorite memories?

Madden

Is your child enthralled with video games?

My oldest son is a huge fan, though we’ve never owned a gaming system. It was a conscious choice by my husband and I. We didn’t want to get caught up in having to have the latest and greatest, spending lots of money on games and accessories, turning our living room into a game room, and most importantly losing our son’s attention. We want to spend time with him while he’s growing up, not him and his video controller.

Of course, we have tablets and my son has found that gaming systems aren’t the only medium that allows you to play games. He quickly found Madden (NFL) was available as an app and begged me to download it. We agreed he could with screen limits (though I know he’s exceeded the limit many, many times). When I’ve realized this and told him to turn the game off, it is met with much resistance. “I need to finish this game!” “Just a minute.” And the list goes on. I’m the ‘bad guy’ interrupting his fun, or so he thinks. After me nagging him multiple times and then walking over and taking the tablet out of his hands he shared his anger. “Why can’t I have an XBOX? Everyone else does!” I took a breath and reminded him that we had no plans of buy a gaming system. He’d already shown us he struggled with screen time just on the tablet. He didn’t like that. I’m sure he thought my husband and I were being unfair and/or mean.

My son went away to overnight camp for a week and was not allowed to bring any electronics. We didn’t know how he’d fair. He had books to read but this would be the longest time he’d been away from electronics. Before he left on his trip, he asked if I’d update his Madden app on the tablet while he was away. “It’s very important,” he said. He even put a reminder on the calendar.

When my son returned I shared with him that I’d had trouble updating the app, but found a work around. He was grateful and started to play the game. After about 30 minutes, he gave me the tablet and said, “You know, Mom, I don’t need this. I’m glad you never got me a XBOX. If you did, I would just be on it all the time and would miss out on doing so much. Like all the stuff I got to do while I was at camp. Sorry I gave you such a hard time about it.” My younger son was standing nearby and overheard the whole conversation. His expression was priceless. He too couldn’t believe what his older brother was saying.

My son is back on his tablet, but not as much as he previously was. I know what a draw Madden can be, and know how much my son enjoys playing it, but am glad he’s seeing the pitfalls of spending all of your free time playing games and how, if you’re not careful, they can take you away from participating in life.

How do you handle your child’s screen time or gaming habits? How are you helping them be present and experience life?

I’ll be off for Labor Day weekend and back in September.

Talk to Me (or someone you trust)

Have you ever wondered what your child was thinking or feeling, and gotten frustrated when they weren’t able (or willing) to talk to you about it?

My oldest son is getting to the age where he is starting to hold back on what he shares with my husband and I. He is willing to ask questions and come to us when something is really on his mind, but struggles to talk to us (or his caregivers or teachers, etc.) when he is frustrated or upset. In these instances, his go-to strategy has been to express his frustration with a grunt and closed fists, or to simply walk away. While I appreciate him being aware enough that he knows he needs to calm himself done before responding, I yearn for him to talk to me (or my husband, or his caregiver, teacher, etc.) to tell us what is going on and why he is getting so frustrated, angry or upset. When he doesn’t or isn’t willing, I feel helpless to help him. It’s feels awful.

We enrolled our son in a camp that was recommended to us to help with these types of struggles. When I picked him up following a day of camp his counselor came over and shared that he refused to participate and talk to them during the day. We discussed how we could get him to open up. The camp, which is outdoors-focused, runs a MineCraft project for their participants. They set-up a project the kids can work on, and help them with their social interactions. My son heard about this and wanted to join. We saw an opportunity to help him get what he wanted (to ‘play’ MineCraft) while helping him open up and better express himself when frustrated or upset. “I’ll make you a deal. You tell your counselor what is bothering you tomorrow, and we’ll consider letting you play MineCraft,” I offered. “Okay,” my son quickly replied. The following day, he eagerly greeted me and said, “Mom, I told the counselor what was bothering me today!” He was excited about it (I’m sure his excitement was around the possibility of him playing MineCraft increasing, but I’ll take it).  I told him that I was glad to hear it, and I’d talk to the camp counselor about how to get him set-up to play with the other participants. My husband and I are not necessarily video game fans, but thought this was about as good as we could hope for as an introduction to the gaming world. As my son and I were leaving I reiterated why it was so important he not keep his thoughts and feelings to himself all the time. “We can’t help you if you don’t talk to us. We don’t know what you’re feeling or thinking. We can’t read your mind. But we can help you when you are willing to tell us. Make sense?” “Okay, Mom. I’ve got it.” We’ll see if this works, but it feels like we’re heading on the right path. I’m feeling a little less helpless.

How have you gotten your child to talk to you when they were reluctant to do so?