Family Gamer: Discipline, Reward, Educational, or something else

When I first approached Atanvardor about starting a blog he told me to target one article a week, or so. This was to help keep me from burning out... but alas an incident yesterday inspired me to put out a new piece right after my intro, and it couldn't wait.

The debate is long and oft heated when it comes to introducing children to gaming – even more so when it involves online games. While child psychologists and “ECD’s” may want to argue that screen-time should be limited or nonexistent, the responsibility falls to parents to decide what is best / acceptable for their brood. It can be tough sometimes – the inclination to use games as a privilege or reward for good behavior, and on the flip side to restrict them as punishment for poor behavior. For my clan (family) games are treated like a part of the development process – spatial awareness, fine motor development, teamwork, goal-setting, critical thinking, etc. It is hard though, at times, to block the propensity to restrict gaming when something goes… sideways.

ikea-kid-tableDinner last night was left-overs, a somewhat decent faux-lasagna from over the weekend. I’d gotten home a bit late and sat down noting my middle son (3y/o) was not at the table, though his plate was empty. He arrived a few minutes later, apparently having excused himself to go to his room and, as he puts it, “get control of his emotions.” The control did not last long, and after a bit of prodding (leveraging cues from my wifemate – you know the subtle looks they can toss around) I was able to extract the story. I’ll spare you all of the details – in short a small IKEA children’s table had been used as a stage / jumping platform, but unfortunately had collapsed under the abuse. No one was hurt, but the table was a total loss.

As I sat trying to absorb that my rather energetic son had just destroyed another piece of furniture, the love of my life noted some of the suggested disciplines that had been discussed – all seemed to fall short of what my “righteous indignation” was calling for. Banishment from all things enjoyable is what was called for here! Chains and gruel, baby seats and oversized utensils, or possibly the removal is his “big boy bed” would be a good place to start! As these things flashed through my head I noted that I was receiving the “eye-brow” of disapproval and quickly returned to reality. My son the suggested that perhaps he should not be allowed to play games for a time, and I stopped cold.

Yes, DS3 (darling son 3y/o) is a bit too intelligent for his age. His identifying that games are fun and therefore a worthy target for restriction in a case where discipline is called for utterly floored me though. We wrapped up dinner in a thoughtful mood, and my son and I sat down to discuss valuation, target lessons to be learned, and recompense. First we worked through the value gained from gaming, and compared it to the cost of a new table. Then we reviewed other items and privileges and their value – discounted by the value of lessons learned from the fall from the table… okay, I think I’m getting to much into the nitty-gritty. Let’s just say it’s nice being married to someone with a degree in early childhood development.

We’ve settled on emptying PvZ-GWtwo “piggy-banks” (to buy a new table) plus ceding rights to “his” easy chair over to DS2, and we’re back to gaming (Co-Op “PvZ Garden Warfare 2″ FTW!). He’s learned his lesson, and I’m left re-evaluating how my initial instincts affect my life outside of familial and gaming circles. There comes a time when we have to train ourselves to evaluate our own instincts, because our kiddos are quickly out-pacing us in this area. As a gamer I admire those twitchy PVP masters – here is a group for forced themselves to ID their own instincts, suppress those with negative valuation and bolster habits that support the positive. The true masters take time to review their own performance and openly critique where they need more improvement. Applying that same methodology works in our careers as well as in our family interactions.

How about you? What value have your taken from gaming and applied in real-life to great effect?



DoD Blogger at Dads of Destiny
Over the past two decades "MagPest" has been balancing life and gaming (well... trying to anyway). Having played everything from ADnD to Uncharted 4. Married for over the past decade (to a fellow gamer) with three children, the drive to balance has become increasingly important. Now with kiddos old enough for school, the joy of sharing a passion for gaming has begun.

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