Be sure to read Part 1 where we talk about giving kids unlimited game time and present relevant research from experts in the fields of parenting and child development.
For Unlimited Game Time Part 2, we’ll talk about HOW we did it and WHAT we learned.
If you disagreed with us, or thought we were crazy for trying this experiment, you will probably enjoy this post or at least give a sigh of relief when you read it.
In our previous post, we concluded that the problem in our family was not video games themselves, but lack of balance.
So here’s how we introduced balance with our daughter’s gaming.
First, we got clear about what we valued as a family. The things that we want to see our children do fall basically into 6 categories: Social, Creative, Physical, Academic, Contributing to the House, and Self Care (yours could be different depending on your family values).
Make a Plan
Each morning she made a plan for herself, choosing ONE thing what she would do in each category. She wrote down her plan and put it up on the refrigerator. She followed her plan, monitoring her own time during the day, with minimal support.
She played video games at any time during the day. This is a really important detail. This wasn’t an “if you do this, then you get that” proposition. Video games were not a “reward” for her getting her “work” done first. She chose to play games at any time before, after or between her other activities. The result was that she began to regulate herself.
Your categories and activities will likely be different. We’ll include some examples here of what went in each category to get you started.
Social: having a play date with a peer, talking on the phone, setting up a play date for the future
Creative: pastel class, writing in her journal, drawing pictures of dragons, writing a story
Physical: riding her bike, swimming at the pool, roller skating, walking in the park
Academic: practicing her multiplication tables (homework would also go here, but it was summertime)
Contributing to the House: cleaning her room, cleaning the bathroom, taking out the trash, sweeping, vacuuming
Self Care: taking a shower, healthy foods that she was going eat for lunch or dinner
What We Learned
- Conflicts about video games disappeared over night. Not only did the parent-child power struggles go away, but the internal conflict that I was feeling about her video game time went away too, because she had balance with how she spent her time. We all felt better about our relationship because a major cause for arguments, kid sneakiness, and parental monitoring had gone away. We all experienced more harmony, less stress and more freedom.
- The amount of time she spent playing video games decreased. Since introducing unlimited game time, she frequently plays less than she used to. This is probably because she spends more time setting up playdates and playing with her friends.
- She is learning to regulate her video gaming. She has to monitor her time and plan her activities during the day. As would be expected, she did not accomplish this perfectly every day. After a couple of days in which she didn’t complete her plan, together we agreed that she’d do a day of no video games over the weekend. Without a single complaint, she happily choose which day to take a break from gaming. This was not a punishment because it was something that we had worked out together, in a conversation, and she had some choices about it (by contrast a punishment is top-down, with no input from the child).
- This approach–coming up with a daily plan–gives us a lot of flexibility. We can change the categories in the plan as our family changes, as she enters into the school year, and as she grows (and outgrows this level of support).
For families with younger children, or for kids that need more or less support, this plan could be easily modified.
If you’ve tried something similar leave us a comment and let us know how it went. Or if you are interested in trying this, let us know what you hope it will change.
Cecilia and Jason