Why: If your kiddo has ADHD like mine, he or she is likely to get emotionally caught up in or hyperfocused on game play. Other children may get overstimulated or zone out completely.
While it’s okay to allow your kid to play video games, you must establish some rules for when, where, and how long your child(ren) can play. Without rules, your kiddos are forced to figure out what’s okay and what’s out-of-bounds all by themselves.
Work with your child and other family members to create a family gaming policy. The policy should be a short list of rules that applies to all kids in the house that’s easy to follow.
Here are 5 strategies for creating a gaming policy that works:
1. Take into account each child’s triggers. My son (age 11) explodes when he senses something might be unfair, so we work hard to keep things balanced. He and his five-year-old sister have the exact same rules for earning and maintaining their video game time. Consider your child’s triggers and create a policy that keeps them in check.
2. Write — and post — your policy. Talking about the rules is great for adults, but it’s useless for most kids. Once you’ve created your rules, write them down and tape them up in your gaming area. Keeping the rules where the kids can see them is a great reminder of what you expect.
3. Include a “cooling off” clause. Many children get really upset when a video game doesn’t go well. Losing a game or not being able to advance to the next level can evoke lots of frustration — or even tears. For these instances, build a breather into your policy. In our family, we laminated a yellow card. The parent hands the yellow card to the kid, which signals to the kid to go cool off … but that gaming isn’t over yet. The child can cool off and then come try again.
4. Refer to the rules, always. Your policy should explain what behavior would result in a loss of game time. When your child loses game time, you must explain which rule he or she broke. Linking the child’s behavior to the specific rule will help your child better resist that particular behavior in the future.
5. Stick to it. Any time you institute a set of rules, someone’s going to try to buck the system. You must create a reasonable policy that you can enforce now and down the road. Putting the rules into play may be tough for the first few weeks, but the family will benefit from your persistence.
Do you have a set of rules for playing video games? What rule would you demand be on the list?