Parenting Mistake #2,659: Video Games

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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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9 Thoughts to “Parenting Mistake #2,659: Video Games”

  1. Amy

    Can I just say, I’m so glad you’re back to blogging?!?! This is the type of post that I look to for parenting advice. We have a 2.5 yr old boy and a girl due any day now, and it’s so good to be reminded that you can take back parenting decisions at any time. I really appreciate your honesty about how you are parenting, and mistakes, and how you move past them. Thank you.

  2. Ugh … My husband is as bad as my son. And it’s all too easy for my 8 ear old to become obsessed. I’ve been putting very strict limits as well, but if it were up to me they’d be gone. Good for y’all!

  3. Meghan

    This is really interesting and something I’ll be sharing with my husband. We have similar issues with our younger son, who’s obsessed with what time each day he will get to play the iPad. I’m not opposed to the iPad or video games, either, but perhaps with certain personality types it is just too much at 7, as you mention…..

  4. My husband and I both grew up with video games and my husband is what one would call a “gamer.” So, to my chagrin he started my 4 year old with video games, including Disney Infinity and Skylanders. You are spot on with video games changing their attitudes. We haven’t taken them away entirely, but we really limit it and thankfully he can’t set everything up by himself yet (we won’t show him how). Even he has noticed that sometimes he has had too much screen time and that a break is good for all of us. It’s amazing, though, how I can link his bad days to him having too much screen time. Now if I could just get my husband more on board. 😉

  5. Rhona

    My kids are all grown now but we never allowed gaming systems. However, I could always tell when my son came home from a friends house where they played video games by his attitude. I agree with your decision.

  6. Love your honesty. Thanks for sharing! We don’t have any video games at our house but my boys do love “technology time” as we call it. We limit it to once or twice a day and that’s it. So far it’s working out great but I know once school starts back it won’t be as popular and they won’t care as much. Yay. =)

  7. R's Mom

    The attitude has reared its ugly head at our house, too (my son is 6.5). The connection of the attitude to the video games is interesting. He also has Disney Infinity, but it’s not on that often at our house — maybe once a week in the evening, and usually one weekend afternoon while the youngest is napping (but he always plays with my husband — who is not really into gaming but likes to play Infinity with our son). We let him watch movies/play video games some on an old ipad, but again, it’s not a daily thing, and we really try to control screen time for things like this. Regardless, I feel like he is always asking to play video games or play on the ipad — especially when he’s bored. It’s like it’s his “go to thing,” and it sort of drives me nuts. He really can’t stand to be bored, and this summer especially I’ve been trying to teach him that every minute of his time does not need to be filled with things to do…it’s okay to sit quietly or wander around and find something interesting to do on his own — he’s way too focused on instant gratification, and gets an attitude if that’s not there. The attitude thing has been really getting to me because he’s generally a really sweet kid, so this sort of came out of nowhere. I don’t really have anything to add, other than I was happy to see your post – it made me realize I’m not the only one dealing with this!

  8. Verity

    I just shared this with my husband because this sums up my children with any screen time too! Tv & movies together is fine but iPad or game playing = negative attitude & poor sibling playing. Aiming to keep it banned as long as possible xx

  9. Thank you for this! I have to say…I’m disappointed with myself for the amount of time I’ve allowed my 3 year old to use the iPad…he loves watching videos on the Youtube Kids channels…it’s harmless in terms of content, but he’s had a horrible attitude lately. And from reading this, I think that is it…He gets so angry when we won’t let him have the iPad. I also think he’s bored, I unfortunately, am not the best at keeping my kids entertained, and they both (my daughter is 1.5) really don’t even like being outside?! I’m blaming the long, cold winter we had on that one…but I’m afraid I’m kind of a homebody too. I need to share this with my husband, so together we can both be firm about giving up the iPad time, and encouraging our kids to play together and outside.

    I love all of your posts, but ones like this are why I’m super glad you’re back to blogging again! 🙂 🙂

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