In Defense Of Video Games
I feel video games, just like watching TV and consumption by children, belong on a meme that would probably read “There are two kinds of parents: the kind that doesn’t allow their children to play and the kind that does.”
I have learned to raise my child a different way from the way another parent raises theirs. We get so caught up in trying to do things “the right way” when what we ultimately want is the best for our children.
Have you watched that advert that parodies “mommy wars?” The one where every mother acts superior: the baby Bjorn versus the pram, working versus stay-at-home moms, breastfeeding versus formula-feeding. I think it’s the perfect example of, “everyone has their own way of parenting.”In allowing our kids to have a go at the video game world, I have found a few good things in those moments.
For starters, video games have become his greatest motivation to learn how to read.
Since he cannot read instructions or clues during interaction points on the games, he has to ask for help. I cannot tell you the number of times he asks me whether being able to read his books will mean he can read game instructions on his own. You know how one of the toughest things about a child starting school is getting them to thrive in a sit-down-and-focus environment? And how you are called to school by your child’s teacher? Who, in so many words, is trying to tell you that your child needs a lesson in concentration? And they tell you nice things like to try bead work with them?
Well, with video games you don’t need to worry about concentration. I only hope that it translates into focusing in the classroom.
Here’s how Kamau learned how to play his PS3 Ben 10 game. He would make us search for Ben 10 game play walk-through videos on YouTube until we found the exact one that he had. He watched those tutorials everyday until he learned the various tricks he needed to get ahead. He’d hen apply them. He got so good at it such that the game was no longer a challenge. I think there’s something to be said about that. As a bonus, he learned to spell the name “Ben” so he wouldn’t have to ask for help searching for his tutorials.
We bond over the games and push each other’s buttons, ultimately learning new things about each other. Yesterday he invited me to watch him play Lisa’s Spongebob Truth or Square Wii game as she studied. It was just him and I and he wanted to show off. I cheered him on and congratulated him when he did well. We laughed. We high-fived. He let me hold the console (a very rare occurrence). We also fought. Brutally. There were tears. There were threats. He wouldn’t back down. I wouldn’t either. We came back home in a huff. At bedtime, he said he had fun and that he wanted me to watch him play again.
Disciplining by way of taking away video game privileges is also very effective.
It is often more scary than the threat of spanking. We have taken his games away for a day or a week depending on what he was being punished for.
I am trying to teach him patience. That winning (success) takes time. He has laser-like focus. He starts a game and wants to play it until he has conquered to the final level. Kamau gets angry and frustrated when he doesn’t play to completion because he doesn’t want to start all over again. This has helped introduce structure. Video games are only allowed if: homework is done, you tidied up your Lego toys, finished your meal, etc.
As is the case with everything, we are careful about exposure. Careful selection of games he is allowed to play and for how long he can play at any given time. I appreciate the fact that he will ask to play outside on a warm day as opposed to staying indoors. The fact that we have days when all he wants to do is play with his Lego toys or help out in the kitchen, makes me feel better about being that type of parent.
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