Saturday, August 22, 2015

How Giving My Kids More Game Time Has Helped.

You should know that this post is sponsored by BIG W. All words and opinions are my own.

Our children are digital natives, and the world of gaming is no longer just involves staring at a screen. The world of games has become our children’s playground to some extent. Games can be a social time for our kids; they can interact, play and chat with their friends from the comfort of their bedroom or living room. We hear a lot about this news being all doom and gloom, but it doesn’t mean that children will become endlessly idle, and not socialise outside of a digital environment. In fact, there are a great many benefits I have found to indulging the digital native, game obsessed side of my kids’ lives.

The trick to navigating this is balance, which I can tell you from experience is not an easy thing to find. It involves give and take, trial and error. We have spent a great deal of time giving and taking, trialling and making many errors when it comes to finding that balance in our family.
I am going to share with you some of the many errors we made along the way.

Our usual game routine before was fairly flexible, homework and responsibilities were taken care of and game time could start, but generally games were turned off for the day before dinner. This worked for a time, but pretty soon we encountered a problem in that, this one time, I got up around midnight to find the boys tucked up in bed, playing their DS ™ under the duve. They had developed an intense love for all thinks Pokémon™  I liked this game for the kids as it wasn’t violent or graphic in nature. It involved problem solving and adventure. Pokémon has been a constant in our family game library, and seems to be one of those games that are as enjoyable for the six year old as it is for the sixteen year old. They became obsessed with it, so much so that they would be playing it under the covers at all hours. I don’t exactly know how long this had been going on for, but it sure did explain a lot of tired mornings, short tempers.

We worked out this kink, by having the kids hand in their NintendoDS™ after dinner. Before long though, we noticed that homework and after school responsibilities were becoming rushed. Not a great deal of effort was put into homework, and simple chores like unstacking the dishwasher were becoming a nightmare. My cupboards were dishevelled with the haphazard attempts to put things away in a rush to begin game time. Dirty dishes were being placed back in the cupboards; clean clothes were being dumped in dirty clothes baskets in an attempt to clean bedrooms as quickly as they can. Their race to indulge in their game was becoming a problem. In an attempt to fix this, we decided that game time would be limited to the weekends only, very limited game time would be offered as a reward for great school effort and doing a great job in contributing to the household chores.

This worked for a while, in fact we worked with this system for over twelve months, but what I found was that I had unwittingly created a golden idol out of game time.

Game time had become so limited that time spent on the games became their number one objective, and time spent playing games began to take priority for them over other activities, like family picnics or a family ball game outside. Pretty soon we found that this system wasn’t working as well as we had planned.

Around six months ago, we began a new routine when it came to time spent on games, a series of rules that helped maintain a better balance and so far this has worked out really well.
It was time to make game time my friend, and not the source of constant battle.

We have found that the PS4 console could actually be an invaluable homework tool. After speaking to the parents of a few of the boys friends, we decided that they could begin a virtual homework club on a Monday.

On Monday afternoons the boys take turns in meeting their friends in Minecraft ™ on their PlayStation ™. they organise a group chat with a few of their friends, and together they do their weeks homework together before they begin their game. This requires a little supervision to ensure they aren’t simply copying each other’s answers, but I can’t begin to tell you how great this has been. They help each other with problems and offer ideas. 

This has been so successful l that some boys from another local school have joined in and it has been great for them to explore the things that other students from different schools are learning about too. It also creates a network of parents who are all taking turns to help the kids with their homework. This has been invaluable as I work from home. Any extra help from our parenting village is most welcome! When the kids are done their homework is checked and the children from the homework club reward themselves with an hour of Minecraft ™.

The next change we implemented was getting rid of using game time as a reward system for general household contribution. Chores are expected in our house, as everyone must contribute to the household. General chores are divided up amongst the three children. In our house, the general chores are;
Emptying the bins.
Unstacking the dishwasher.
Setting and clearing the table for dinner.
Keeping their rooms tidy
Putting away school notes and lunchboxes on the kitchen counter.
Organising their school clothes and bags for the next day.

Instead of rewarding this contribution, we replaced it the option for the kids to earn game time by helping out with some household tasks that are outside of their general responsibilities. This has worked wonders. The game time earned is dependent on what extra chore is done, and how well they do it.

Extra chores are given depending on the child’s age and ability. Some extra chores include;
Wiping over the kitchen cupboards.
Hanging out a load of washing.
Wiping over dining chairs.
Dusting skirting boards.
Watering household plants.
Sweeping the porch.
Cleaning out the endless water bottles from the car.

There are a plethora of small, very mundane chores that need doing, but you don’t always get time to do that the kids are quite happy to help with to earn some game time. Sometimes I make a list of things that the children may want to do as I see them when I am doing the daily clean.

So far this has worked really well for us, as the kids are actively seeking out chores that they may help with. Keeping these chores separate from their contribution to the house has stopped the expectation that every task they do requires a reward. Making the game time dependant on how well the chore is done has helped in making sure that the chore is not rushed in order to get to play the games faster.

By placing less restriction on the game time my children are allowed, it meant that time spent playing games was not a golden idol, and they began to enjoy doing other things like picnics and playing outside a little more.

This may not work for every family, but it has certainly made a difference with ours, and if you are struggling to find a balance, it may be worth giving it a try.

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