Have you ever been frustrated with your son playing too many video games?
Does it lead to fights and power struggles?
If so, I want you to know that you are not alone. Every parent of a teenage boy has had similar experiences and even been pushed to the limits at some point. In those moments of frustration you might have made some regrettable decisions. The good news is that most of that damage is repairable and you can absolutely learn from these experiences. I want to share with you some common mistakes that parents make and how to best recover from them.
Here are a few strategies to avoid.
1. Acting out in anger
I think every parent has been guilty of this one at some point. You are stressed, frustrated and nothing you try seems to work. With no patience left you find yourself acting out your anger in a destructive way. Here are a few examples of how this can happen.
- Pulling the power cord out of the wall
- Shutting the laptop forcefully
- Breaking the computer or game console
You know when you have lost your cool to a point where it is not OK. I remember watching a YouTube video of a father who was fed up with his son’s gaming. He took at least sixty of his son’s video games, put them on the back lawn and ran over them with his riding lawnmower. Meanwhile, the son had an absolute breakdown. While I can understand the frustration he was feeling, I think he did more damage to his relationship with his son in the process and he did not actually solve any problems. It will always be best if you can keep your cool and avoid acting out in anger or aggression.
For more support and strategies check out my parenting resource.
2. Using video games as punishment
I would say that taking away a teen’s privileges and access to technology has to be the number one most used parenting approach to discipline. There is an important distinction to be made here between effective and ineffective consequences. If your son misuses or abuses his access to technology then removing it for a time makes perfect sense. However, if you use video games as a punishment for unrelated offenses (breaking curfew or being disrespectful) you will see a few negative results. Most importantly there will be little to no actual learning or lasting behavior change. This is because the consequence is totally unrelated to the behavior. Related consequences are always going to be more effective, only to be topped by natural consequences.
This approach will also likely cause anger and blame directed at you. Most teenagers are very sensitive to perceived injustice and unrelated consequences will simply not make sense. He might become accustomed to this punishment and it could lose its punch, especially if he chooses to stop caring about video games so that you cannot control him anymore.
Now, I understand that you may have very few things to use as leverage in disciplining and teaching your son. Video games, internet access and his smartphone may be the only things you have some control over. I realize that you will need to remove the video games as an unrelated consequence at some point. I want you to be able to choose the best and most effective ways to teach your son and help him develop into a responsible young man.
3. Letting your teenager have free reign
I think we would all agree that allowing a teenager complete and total free reign to play video games is a mistake. Unless, of course you have an amazingly responsible and mature teenager. They do exist! It is a good idea to avoid both extremes, whether it is complete access or a total unwavering ban. You can imagine that it would be hard to impose reasonable limits after a period of time when there have been none. Making the decision to turn that ship around takes commitment and a thought out plan.
On the other hand, I have talked to parents who think video games are evil and absolutely ban their kids or teens from playing them. The likely result is that the teenager wants them 10x more and finds sneaky ways to play video games whenever possible. That is not the best outcome. Now I understand and support you if you have decided that video games don’t work for your family. I have definitely heard stories where this has worked out quite well. Whatever you choose do, I highly recommend that you don’t give your son an unlimited pass to gaming.
4. Thinking video games are the problem
This may be a less obvious mistake, but nonetheless it is prevalent. It is crucial to find out what is driving your son’s problem gaming. The video games, the fascination and the amount of time spent are likely only symptoms of a bigger issue that needs attention. It is possible that there is not an underlying issue to be found. It may just be that your son loves video games and gets carried away. In that case the solutions are fairly simple. Putting workable limits in place should take care of that. However, for the teenagers who are really deep into gaming and show signs of social or emotional issues it is key to address those over and above the gaming behavior. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that taking away the video games will solve the problem.
For more support and strategies check out my parenting resource.
5. Arguments and lectures
We all know this is counterproductive, but we still find ourselves trapped in the inevitable argument cycle and/or lecture mode. It is super difficult to avoid this. This is where the suggestion to avoid too much talking and just take action comes into play. Honest discussions that get a bit heated are fine, but arguing rarely leads to agreement and solutions. I have heard it said that arguing with a teenager is like wrestling with a pig in the mud. It is their domain and they actually enjoy it much of the time.
As far as lectures go, your son may be a pro at tuning you out and you are likely just spinning your wheels. What you want to work towards is productive discussions, asking questions and collaborating on solving the problems.
Here are 3 easy steps to fix your mistakes
- Get vulnerable
- Be honest
Admit your mistakes and open your heart to your son. Let him know this is tough for you. You love him and want to help him. Sometimes you lose your patience. You do and say things that you know are not helpful. Tell him that you don’t have all the answers, but you want to work together and not fight about video games so much. Tell him you are sorry.
We all make mistakes as parents and need to make some relationship repair.
What have you found to be helpful in avoiding trouble with video games? Click the social sharing buttons below to share this post and add your comment.