3 Key Strategies for Self-Regulation
Will I be policing Fornite play forever? I don’t want to always be the “video game bad guy.”
Sometimes as parents, our gamers make us feel like FOMO cops (Fear Of Missing Out). We are taking them away from the game they love playing so much, what if they miss out on an epic match, an epic reward? And I’ll be honest, depending on the age of your gamer, that’s a normal way for them to feel. Your younger gamer is going to experience these emotions more intensely that your older ones. But… your goal as a parent is to facilitate the gradual release of responsibility. You want them to develop to the point where they can self-regulate, so any effort should have the focus of gradually allowing them space to manage themselves. Where they might actually choose exercise over Fortnite. Where they cut the vegetables, set the table, then go jump online. Where they turn off the gaming console twenty minutes before the deadline because they felt tired of playing and were ready to do something else. This self-regulation, that we typically view as an adult-level style of behavior, can absolutely be learned and embraced by our children. We as parents just have to help facilitate it.
We at Gamer Wellness find that it helps to articulate this release of responsibility to our gamers. “We want you to be able to play within limits, to turn the game off on your home, to make sure your other obligations are met before you start gaming. I want to trust you to do this yourself.” And this declaration comes with our honest acknowledgement as parents that our gamers won’t be perfect at this. That they’ll screw up. That sometimes they’ll play for way too long. That sometimes they’ll pitch fits. That sometimes they’ll sacrifice eating, sleeping, and even accept punishment, just to play their video game. The solution is not “scorched earth,” to punish them by taking away everything they know and love. It may not even be to take away the video gaming itself. The solution may be to lovingly show the downsides and consequences of their poor choice (consequences discussed IN ADVANCE of the mistake). And to teach them how to make a better choice, and all the benefits of good decision-making.
Here are some quick tips. Remember, enforcing these self-regulation tips takes LOVE and PATIENCE:
- Timers (on phone or gaming console) to set clear gaming parameters
- 3 reminder system. Every 15-20 min, give your gamer a reminder that their time is almost up.
- Debrief each week (how did we do? Do you feel like you gamed well? Review exercise, diet, sleep). Plan for the next week (do you want to play more or less? Are there other video games to play, games we can play together? Can we substitute some video gaming time for board game or active play time?).
The ability to self-regulate is a lifelong skill. Using video games to teach your gamer these skills is brilliant. These skills will apply to his YouTube watching, his mobile usage, and a lot of other things he/she may do. Don’t get stuck in the short game, this is a marathon! Not every gaming conflict has to be a world war! Or even the Battle of Gettysburg! No one has to win or lose or retreat to their room. Focus on having rational discussion, that can end in smiles (and if you’re lucky, hugs!).