For Bean’s seventh birthday this past June, we made a big step and bought him a Disney Infinity. I’m not a video game person. I didn’t grow up with them in our house. Chris did, but he wasn’t that into them. But, neither of us were morally opposed to our kids playing video games. We thought, like anything else in life, in moderation, it would be fun. And it has been. Bean LOVES having it.
I thought the issue with video games would be the actual games themselves. But we specifically chose games that were not violent and were age-appropriate for Bean. We even chose the Infinity system itself because it’s made by Disney, and we thought that would make it somehow less graphic for him. Turns out, though, the games were not the issue with Bean. It was his attitude.
This summer, Bean’s attitude has taken off to new heights. He’s never had an attitude issue before. He has always been very upbeat, flexible, laid-back, and positive. This summer, though, I have been observing some real attitude in him. Eye-rolling, loud, dramatic sighing, pouting to no end, and even arguing back (which he has NEVER done). At first, I was annoyed by this behavior and I would get mad and snap at him.
But in the last several weeks, I have tried different approaches to the attitude. I’ve tried humor (“Did you just roll your eyes at me, you tiny little stooge?!” and then I’d tickle him to death), explaining (“I know you don’t want to stop what you are doing to load the dishwasher, but we all have to contribute around the house…”), exaggerating (“Oh, your life is so hard! I can’t imagine how hard it must be to have to PUT ON PANTS! Oh, your life is awful!”), and even punishing (“You owe me one bead every time I see your attitude…”). And none of it works.
Finally, I mentioned this to Chris last week and said that I thought that this was actually coming from him playing video games. This behavior began as soon as he started being able to play his video games. And the reason I can link those two things together is because I see the attitude when he has to stop playing video games to do something he doesn’t want to do.
We started addressing this by limiting the video game time. Now, he has to earn three beads before he can play video games for 30 minutes. But what we have noticed is that he is reading in his room by himself in order to play video games, and then coming downstairs and playing video games in a room by himself. Even though he isn’t playing them all the time, he has become obsessive about them.
One night last week, Chris and I were talking about a particularly challenging day we had had with Bean that day and I mentioned the fact that he had been sneaking video games lately.
“Then, we’re done with the video games,” Chris said. And he got up and packed up every piece of Bean’s Disney Infinity. We put it in a box and put the box in the top of our bedroom closet.
The next morning, we braced ourselves as Bean went downstairs to play video games (which he is allowed to do in the mornings until everyone wakes up). I heard him padding sock-footed downstairs. I heard him opening drawers and cabinets in our entertainment center. I heard him come up to the living room and open drawers and cabinets there. Finally, I heard him come marching into our bedroom.
Very quietly, he woke me up and whispered, “Mom! Where are my video games?! I think someone took them!”
“I know, buddy,” I said, kicking Chris awake beside me. There was no way I was having this conversation without him! “Dad and I packed up the video games last night.”
Panic took over Bean’s face, but he tried to keep it in check. “But why?” he asked.
Chris and I pulled him up into bed with us and explained. “Well, you know we haven’t been happy with your attitude lately, right? We are tired of the pouting and the arguing and the eye rolling. And we think that maybe some of that attitude is coming from you being frustrated that you can’t just play video games all day long.”
Bean kind of laughed and said, “Yeah, maybe.”
“So, we are done with the video games, Bean,” I said.
“We also don’t want you to spend all your time by yourself, dude,” said Chris. “You are either reading in your room or playing a video game. We are really glad you are reading so much, but you need to be reading and then playing – with Gracie, with friends, outside – just playing. Not sitting in front of the video games. We think maybe it was not such a great idea to get the Disney Infinity for you. I don’t think you are ready for it yet. You have to learn to balance things first, instead of becoming consumed by one thing.”
Bean sat there for a little bit. There was no eye rolling. There was no arguing. There was no attitude. I swear, he almost seemed relieved.
It’s been five days since we packed up the video game system and we have seen such improvement from Bean. He’s playing with Legos, playing with Gracie, playing with Daisy, playing outside, and just seems to be more interested in the things around him. He has also had a big change in attitude, which has been the real goal. Though, he did tell me yesterday that he hasn’t had an attitude because he wants to earn his video games back. I told him that having a good attitude won’t earn his video games back, but it is making him so much more fun to be around.
We aren’t perfect parents, and we definitely make a lot of mistakes. But I think the mark of good parenting is realizing you have made a mistake and then coming up with a plan to fix it. We are doing our best, and I think packing up video games has been a definite parent win for us.