Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Which Battle Would You Pick?

This picture has nothing to do with the post, I just love it! Our whole family has fallen in love with this horse!

Sometimes I really do believe that we have to pick our battles as parents, but sometimes I think that phrase is a way out. A way out of dealing with hard situations. Not so much when they are little of course. Picking your battles with a five year old means putting your foot down when it comes to eating all their vegetables or enforcing the no light up character sneakers rule. Personally I choose to put on my boxing gloves when it comes to character apparel and figure I can find plenty of ways to sneak more veggies into their food. To each his own though.

If only picking my battles were that simple again though. If only they wanted Spiderman shirts again instead of bloody video games and action packed movies that happen to also have cursing and maybe some scantily clad women!

I want what's best for my kids. I really do. I also want them to be happy and well liked. There in lies that slippery line of really picking my battles and using those words as a sad excuse for poor parenting. My son is obsessed with video games. His entire world revolves around when he can play next. He's gravitated towards them ever since he was really little. At first it didn't seem like a huge deal because most of the games were harmless and I would try to regulate how long he played. Sometime though it was just so much easier to let him play for a couple hours while I got stuff done around the house than fight with him about turning it off and suddenly games were the only thing he was interested in. And then he started wanting to play the big boy games. Fighting games.

Before I continue, let me make one thing very clear. I hate video games! I think they are the biggest waste of time. If it was solely up to me, we would not own them at all. However, my husband enjoys playing them occasionally and I do realize that a lot of what kids do together is video games so we have them.

When it comes to the more mature games though, the answer in our house is always no! There are ratings for a reason. I wouldn't let my 8 year old son watch an R rated movie, so I'm certainly not going to let him play a game rated for the same audience. Please realize that this is my own opinion only and I don't judge others who have different rules. Every household is different and I'm not here to change your mind about what kinds of games your kids play.

Recently though we realized even the games that aren't mature have been causing problems. The overall atmosphere of our home has gone downhill. The kids fight with each other more and everyone seems on edge and less patient with each other. So, my husband and I decided together to get rid of all technology during the week. Now the only time they play games or watch movies is on Saturday. And for the most part is has helped a lot. There is a very real shift in the energy of our home come Saturday and it can take up to a day or two for things to calm down again and for the kids to stop asking "can I please just play this one time?"

Are you wondering yet where all this rambling is going? OK so here is the problem. When my kids are home I know what they are or are not playing and if it falls within our family guidelines. However my son (and daughters) are frequently invited to go to friends houses and many of them have different rules than us about what games and movies are allowed. I've tried repeatedly to explain to my son that our rules don't change at other people's houses and if they suggest something that is not appropriate than he needs to decline and suggest something else. I'm sure you can guess how well that is working out.

Last week he came home from a neighbors and confessed to me that they played a game called Bully! The entire point of the game was to go around bullying other people. Now, I do try really hard not to judge other parents, but I just cannot fathom any parent buying that game for their child! Why!!!

This is not the first or second or third confession we've had recently on breaking the game or movie ratings rule at other's houses, so now I'm at a loss. I want my children to enjoy spending time at home and feel comfortable inviting their friends over. I also want them to experience life and be able to make hard choices away from me. I'm at a place right now though where I feel like they are both not possible at the same time. The more I enforce the gaming rule at our house the more he wants to be at his friends houses. If I say no to going to a friends house than he spends all day terrorizing his sisters and complaining about our strict rules. Help!

Am I overreacting? Is it just a phase? What would you do or what have you done with your own children?


Ria said...

Unfortunately, it probably isn't a phase. I have the same problem with my child and he is 23. As a bishop, John saw marriages destroyed by gaming. It is often an addiction. I don't know how to avoid it either. We never owned an Xbox and only had educational computer games etc. Kids just play at their friends houses instead. I believe gaming can be very dangerous to people besides just being a "waste of time". People with addictive tendencies (which are genetic and run in our family) are sucked in to it so easily. It can damage relationships, education, focus, increase violence, etc... I never figured out the cure. I think the best you can do is monitor as much as you can at home (which it sounds like you are doing) and continue to teach good principles with the hopes that your kids are strong enough to make those choices when they are not home. Wish I had a better answer. Oh, I might try to avoid him playing at the house where they have the Bully game. It is obvious that your standards don't match up there. I also suggest praying a lot.

Seth and Julie said...

Since we became moms at the same time I usually find that we hit the same phases at the same time as well. We only have a Wii and my kids never play on it but they love the computer and right now Alex will spend every free moment just watching some guy play Minecraft on Youtube. We don't even have Minecraft because if he likes to watch it that much, imagine if he played? Everyone else has it so I don't know if I am being the mean mom here but I hate games. I agree with you that they are a waste of time, and people get addicted if they are not careful. We are also at the age where the kids are old enough to hang out with friends without quite as much supervision and sometimes they do see/hear things I would never allow at home. This phase stinks! I liked when they were little and underfoot all the time because I could control everything they were and were not exposed to. I would definitely monitor his usage at home but I guess at some point we have to allow them to exercise their agency. Of course, you don't want to just throw him to the wolves but if it is a safe environment let him go and make choices. There are neighbors my kids are only allowed to play with at our house and others where I trust the parents and pray that the kids make good choices while they are there. The fact that James is coming home and telling you what they are playing is a good sign that he knows the standards you have taught him and that you have created and environment where he can communicate with you. I love a quote by Joseph Smith when he was asked how he governed the members of the church and he said...

"I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves."

As a parent letting go and letting them govern themselves is the hardest, scariest thing but all we can really do is teach them correct principles, and lovingly make corrections along the way.

Jenn said...

I'm sorry you are having to go through this! I wish I had some really awesome advice but since I don't have any experience I feel like I don't have much to contribute. I like your new rule and think it is for the best. I LOVE the quote from Joseph Smith that Julie commented with. It is the HARDEST part about being a parent. All we can do is do our best to teach them and then we have to let them decide for themselves if they are going to do the right thing. And they won't always do that. In your home you can obvously govern them a little more closely but when they are away from you they have to make their own choices. I think you are doing the best you can. just keep praying and asking for guidance to know what will be best for your family. Good luck!

Krista Johnson said...

I am not there yet but I had a thought. I don't know how often he goes to friends houses as it is but maybe encourage him to invite friends to your house rather than going out as often? (I know how much you love babysitting his friends' siblings too!) Good luck! Pray, read your scriptures, and love him.

Anonymous said...

Moderation in all things is what I believe in. This is just my opinion but I don't think it will hurt your kids to play GOOD video games for a limited time. I know that some kids love them. Four of my five children do and they played them as kids. As you know, they turned out pretty well. Of course the games were Pac Man, Mario Cart and Lode runner. As far as I know, none of my children have ate their young, ran over them or blew them up. You are a great mother Sally and in your heart, with the help of your husband and our Heavenly Father, you will know what is best. I am so thankful that you are my daughter-in-law and I love you.

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