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Dec ’19 Q&A – When Expectations are Off and Trust Gets Lost

Q. I am currently feeling like a failure as a parent. My 12 year old daughter is smart, well behaved, does well in school. However, there are 2 main areas where we fight and tempers flare resulting in a tense hostile environment at home. 

1) She sneaks food. She loves junk food like cookies and chips. We have a policy at home where the kids get to choose 2 junk items from the pantry as snack after school. And the deal is they don’t eat anything later. It works in most part, but she ends up taking 1-2 extra things on the side to her room. I am worried about the impact of constant junking on her teeth & overall health. She just cannot stop herself from eating. I cannot constantly monitor her and increasing the ‘allowed’ unhealthy stuff on a daily basis is not an option. 

2) The other is her watching You Tube, again without my knowledge. She has to use the laptop for homework, and I cannot baby sit while she is doing that as I have another kid and work to take care of. And mainly I want to give her the independence of making the right choices in the long term. Watching screen distracts her from homework, impacts the quality of her work so it takes till dinner time to complete! Plus, I don’t approve of what she watches. While age appropriate they are a waste of time and not shows that will enrich her, improve her skills and help her grow as an individual. 

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Gaming: Hobby or Addiction?

Gaming: Hobby or Addiction?

Do you worry that your child who loves gaming more than anything else has an addiction?

If so, chances are you panic and fear a future for your child that is not pretty. In that emotional state you react in anger and wield threatening consequences when your child resists and get into ugly power struggles that create a wider and wider gulf between you. You feel hopeless and your child grabs for every screen second he can. “Consequences” do nothing.

There is a big difference between a hobby gamer and an addicted gamer — and you need to know the difference.

Gaming is a thrill for many kids. It’s an arena where success and feeling in charge are more easily achieved for children who don’t find it in school or social relationships. It’s easy to connect with others through a game, and mastery is euphoric. It’s the mastery part that can be addictive, especially for the child who finds it nowhere else.

When gaming is a hobby:

I am a big proponent of trust — allowing your child to self-regulate , which he can do best when he knows he is trusted, when you talk about time spent on devices and set limits that you both agree are reasonable. Nagging, threatening, and taking away privileges will lead your child to hoard game time and get sneakier and more divisive with his screentime.

Think about it. Whether a hobby or addiction, how do you think your child feels when you criticize and punish what she loves so much? She will learn quickly that you don’t understand and connection — and with it, any hope of influence — is lost.

Internet games, youtube, facebook, snapchat are scary for parents and can be a panacea for kids. Finding connection with your child in this area is tough but essential to maintain. When your child thinks you understand how fun it is, how much he would rather game than do almost anything else, and even let’s you play with him, then you have a launching pad to discuss what feels right for both of you.

  • Make agreements that are reevaluated regularly.
  • Play games with your child.
  • Do not use consequences to force turning off devices, unless they are logical and your child has had part in agreeing to the consequence.
  • Understand that just “going outside” is not enough motivation. Because mastery is a critical component of gaming, decide with your child another skill he can get involved with that has that essential element.

When gaming turns to an addiction:

Cam Adair, founder of gamequitters.com is an ex-gaming addict who once fit your worse nightmare of your gamer. His amazing story is here. He is now passionate about helping gaming addicts quit. He says the most important things for parents to understand is:

  • Gaming offers an escape from an otherwise unexciting life.
  • Video games are a challenge than bring with it extreme motivation even when you see that motivation nowhere else in your child’s life.
  • They provide a source for constant measurable growth.
  • All good games are social. No need to get together with friends. Non-multiplayer games are fun but for only a limited time.
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    Are we ready or able to stop bullying?

    The youtube capture of the 68-year-old bus monitor being bullied by a group of 12-14 year olds has been viewed by almost 5 million and has raised the ire of each one of us. We are all full of opinions and judgments. But what would you do if you were the parent of one of these children?

    The situation was so horrifying that our knee jerk reaction would likely be to shame the boys (I think they were all boys) with almost as horrific threats and punishments as they gave to their bus monitor. That’s what we do in reaction mode. And look where it’s gotten us.

    The school district’s assistant superintendent for student services said, “Certainly the behavior of the students on the video is a clear violation of our district’s code of conduct and will not be tolerated. Disciplinary action to the fullest extent appropriate under New York education law will be taken against all involved.” I’m sure it will. But what will that disciplinary action be, and will it be effective? My guess is not at all.

    How we handle bullying in our school systems certainly hasn’t helped yet. What can we learn from this incident? What can the bullies learn? What can schools learn—and will they?

    As it turns out, one of the weapons used in the incident has become its best teacher—the cellphone used to capture the event. Upon seeing and hearing their own behavior apart from the pack mentality, the boys were able to experience the true natural consequences—how their behavior effected their victim, what they sounded like and what they did.

    “I feel really bad about what I did,” one boy said. “I wish I had never done those things. If that had happened to someone in my family, like my mother or grandmother, I would be really mad at the people who did that to them.” A statement from another boy was, “I am so sorry for the way I treated you. When I saw the video, I was disgusted and could not believe I did that. I am sorry for being so mean and I will never treat anyone this way again.”

    I hope that their learning will not be destroyed by the usual ineffective punishments doled out that could easily send them right back into the mindset that started it all.

    Here’s what I would do:

    1) Insure that each child spend fifteen minutes to a half hour alone with Mrs. Klein listening to what her experience was like and responding to her with his own thoughts and experience, 2) bring the boys together under the direction of a school

    social worker to talk about their experience, why it happened and how they feel about it in hindsight, 3) write a paper about the experience and what they learned, and 4) assign them the job of partnering and designing a year long program in which they would talk to and teach their peers about the consequences of bullying using their experience.

    Instead they will probably be suspended or given detention—much easier. Although with summer upon us, who knows if anything will happen until the event is history. I can only imagine what kind of treatment they will be given in their homes and neighborhoods. After all these are the homes in which they have learned how others should be treated.

    The boys have received enormous amounts of hate emails and threats. Is this how we want to correct abhorrent behavior? Look at our society. As New York Times columnist Charles Bow says, “This kind of behavior is not isolated to children and school buses and suburban communities. It stretches to the upper reaches of society — our politics and our pulpits and our public squares.”

    Our children are subject to the slandering, the lies, and the bullying now normalized by those we are supposed to look up to. How can we expect our children to do what we say and not what we do? When are we going to start taking responsibility for ourselves as parents, politicians, teachers, administrators and stop putting all the blame on our children who are doing what they do best—learning from modeling. read more