Recently, a mother said to me, “My son spends too much time gaming! My husband and I are at our wits end! What do I do?” This can be a challenging situation and every family has their own level of tolerance for gaming. I wish I could say that I didn’t feel her pain. However, as a parent of a teen, I too have faced this question. Here are three things to consider.
First, restricting the amount of time spent gaming is always an option. Sometimes this is not just putting boundaries around “game time” but also around responsibilities that must be done before being permitted to play games. Consider your expectations, and communicate to your teen that playing video games is a privilege. By doing this, you send the message “work before play”. Even with this restriction, determining a reasonable block of time is also fair.
Have your teen earn game time…almost like a kid earns an allowance. For example, doing something to help around the house could earn a block of minutes. I knew a parent that would only let her children game or watch TV if obligations were met AND the child was on the exercise bike while playing or watching. Don’t be afraid to get creative with that one!
If you feel your teen’s game play is interfering with other respo
nsibilities, do a mini coaching session. This may help your teen come to his/her own realization of how much time is being wasted, or taken away from other important parts of life. First off, don’t start with talking about gaming.
Ask questions like: What are your goals for the semester? What do you think you need to do to achieve them? Have your teen articulate how much time is needed to get certain grades, or be good at a particular sport, piano, etc. Throughout this process, be the cheerleader. Ask your teen how you can best support him/her. Next, have your teen articulate how time is really being spent. On a separate piece of paper, log how time was spent over the previous week. You can make seven columns and do each day if that works for you. Be specific and write it all down….time studying, socializing, playing sport, practicing an instrument, gaming, watching tv, texting, reading, anything…. This really sets the stage for talking about what goals will “actually” be met given the way time was spent. You can start by asking “Based on how you spent your time, what do you think you will achieve? What will you be better at by the end of the semester?” From here, you can engage in a discussion about how your teen can adjust his/her time so as to be moving toward, not away from desired goals.
It is healthy to talk about how much we ALL like to do fun things, but we have to meet our other obligations so that we CAN do fun things. Too much of anything is usually not a good thing….
Please share your thoughts. What has worked for you?