How do you deal with your child’s technology or video game use? Do you constantly nag them and get angry when they don’t listen to you? Are you tired of telling them over and over again not to play too many video games only to have nothing change? How do you stop your child from gaming?
Most parents approach addictive technologies with a “me vs. my children” mentality. But here’s the thing, you can’t fight problematic gaming if you and your child aren’t on the same side.
Being on the same side as your child may sound impossible when you feel like you’re butting heads all the time, but it’s not as hard to do as you may think.
Don’t Take Away the Video Games
You could remove the video games completely, but without addressing the root problem, another issue will simply pop up. Maybe they’re addicted to video games because they struggle with making friends at school, for example. Video games aren’t the problem; video games are just a coping mechanism for the root issue.
And what happens when you take away your child’s coping mechanism? They’ll just see you as the bad guy and harbor negative feelings toward you. They’ll say they hate you and put up walls so communication becomes even harder.
Ask Your Child Questions
Make sure you ask open-ended questions and engage in reflective listening when your child is expressing themselves. Ask them what you can do to help them.
Parents must first establish trust and communication because this is what will get us through the inevitable challenges we face when trying to overcome an addiction.
Have you thought about asking your child why they’re struggling? So many problems in relationships could be solved simply by having a conversation with the person you’re having a conflict with.
What’s going on in your life? How are you doing? I see that you’re struggling at school and you’re acting a bit different, can you tell me what’s going on? Why do you like playing video games so much? What kinds of games do you enjoy playing and why?
Ask these questions with compassion and without judgment. Open up a dialogue with your child and ensure they feel safe and comfortable sharing their feelings with you.
By asking these questions, you’ll come to understand what kinds of video games they like to play…
Have a Real Conversation With Your Child
Once you’ve solidified healthy communication between you and your child, you can start to formulate a strategy to make concrete changes to your child’s gaming habits.
Here’s an example of a scenario with a participant in our Parent Program.
A young kid has been struggling with self-esteem and confidence issues. His father notices that he is gaming excessively, to the point he isn't completing his schoolwork or chores around the house. Knowing that martial arts can be a healthy way to build confidence, the dad asked his son if he wanted to learn jiu-jitsu. The child says he’s interested.
We all know how hard it is to break old habits and create new ones. To address this, the father asks his son, “When it comes time to go to jiu-jitsu class, and you tell me you actually don't want to go, do you want me to listen to you, or do you want me to hold you accountable and force you to go?”
Whether his child says yes or no, his father is taking his feelings into account and putting the responsibility on his son to make the decision on whether or not he wants to follow through.
After the class, the father asks his son, “Did I do the right thing in forcing you to go to class?” Most of the time the child will say their parent did the right thing. Now they’re on the same team. Suddenly this normally antagonistic interaction becomes a celebration.
This can apply to many situations. For example, not “forcing” your child to go to college, but asking them, “Do you want to go to college? If yes, do you want my help?”
A Change in Perspective is Everything
It’s not you vs. your child, it’s you and your child vs. what they are struggling with. One conversation won’t change everything, it will take consistent effort, but it’s incredible how much easier managing problematic gaming can be when you can engage in healthy communication.
If you want more guidance on how to build an alliance with your child, check out our Parent Coaching program.