I hate TV! I hate video games! I hate them so much! And then again, it is all my fault.
I thought, let’s get him all of the latest games, he loves them! His cousins have them. It keeps him occupied for a while, and it stimulates the mind. It challenges his creativity and problem solving. Yet now he’s so hooked into technology, he’s starting to choose it over his friends & family, over playing outside, and involving himself in extra curricular activities. He doesn’t even want to do things with me…What have I done?
Our biggest arguments stem from playing video games and watching YouTube videos about video games. He’s so hooked he doesn’t even acknowledge the world around him. I could call his name 10 times, and he might hear it by the tenth time. Then he argues about me “yelling” at him. He wont put it down to get dressed getting ready for school, get ready for bedtime, to leave to go to stores, eat dinner, or pretty much anything. It’s all he thinks about, and mainly what we argue about.
This morning, I was so angry towards his WiiU that I literally imagined in my mind unplugging it and throwing it out the window, beating it with an aluminum baseball bat and then running it over with my car. Instead I held it in, that suffocating feeling overtaking my chest that wants to release. I kept reminding myself that it wasn’t his fault, I shouldn’t take it out on him – it was mine, and I truly was angry at myself for it, too.
I don’t want him to become like my brother. My brother started his love of video games when he was about 3 years old. And he still has that love. In fact all of his hard earned money working 2-3 jobs goes to video games. He would rather skip a bill or two so he could get the latest video game or console released. The majority of conversations with him are about video games, of which I mostly can’t relate to. I realize that my brother has felt rejected most of his life, so he uses video games to reject the world and mentally be inside one he can control. I don’t want this for my son. My son is developing that low self esteem from being outwardly judged by his peers and with the help of inconsistency visitations with his father – I’m sure he feels rejected too. Whenever I got him video games, I thought I was being careful to not get him to approach my brother’s status of addiction. I fear that I am wrong or at least close to it.
Unfortunately, this seems to be the way of the world anymore. To be so sucked into technology and forget about reality. Everyone nowadays creates their own little world utilizing them, whether it’s pretending to be someone different on Facebook, or whether they pretend they’re doing something important on their phone to avoid physically socializing with others around them. Sad, but true. The other day, I sat in a doctor’s office lobby with 5 other strangers. All five of them were on their phones. If you stuck a mouse between them, I’m sure they wouldn’t of even noticed. I don’t like where the world is headed with not acknowledging the world in front of them. I don’t want my son like this either, to forget humanity & forget compassion.I don’t want him to be incapable of acknowledging someone in need and how to care for them.
Last month, Ty grabbed his little tablet that he refers to as his “phone”. Then, he sat on the sofa with a blanket over him. He placed his tablet onto his lap. I kept asking him about this noise making ball that my mom sent him from Florida. He wasn’t answering me about it, so I tossed it onto his lap. Then I noticed it immediately. I cracked his tablet with the ball I just threw. His $70 tablet, now unable to work. I felt terrible. Felt like a bad mom to break his tablet. It was truly an accident, but it still crushed his feelings. However, deep inside, I was jumping for joy. I compared it to being on a mission. My secret mission to defeat all of the technology in our house – 1 down, 5 more to go. I had won the battle, but not the war. Although, I’m on the wrong side of this mission. I felt guilty for my semi-happy feeling. There is no reason for me to be glad that I destroyed his tablet of which was of value and honestly hurt his feelings. Things need to change. This was obvious.
Yesterday I took away video games and TV. He genuinely cried the whole night. He must of asked me to do one of those relating things every 20-40 minutes. He kept apologizing, but I wanted him to remember why I was doing this. I kept trying to divert his attention to do other things. I offered to play outside with him, paint, make paper airplanes and suggested that he should find something to do from his toy store bedroom. Nothing appealed to him. I felt like maybe this was another sign that he had definitely been involved in technology way too long – he didn’t know how to be himself without it. I definitely felt like I failed him. Then, his cries pull at my heart strings. They were the unbreathable cries, the ones that pull at the chest, but I stayed stern to what I believed in. Throughout the night, I tried to explain and remind him why I was doing this. However, I wondered, what I going at it the wrong way? Was there an easier way to handle this? What else can I get him to do to stimulate his mind and make him happy without this other world? I couldn’t figure it out, I couldn’t find answers, but I knew if I just gave in then it would be converted back to the same aggravating situation and I would have this suffocating anger towards it again. It was one of those times that I wish I had another parent to help with the situation. I needed that good guy and bad guy roles playing in this situation, but I didn’t. It was just me – the bad guy. I just wanted this day to end to help end both of our sufferings.
At one point in the night, he decided to play with paper airplanes, but got discouraged and gave up. Then we began to paint. He drew with a pen the character, Steve from Minecraft. Then he started to paint his head. Next thing I know, he threw back his chair and sat on the sofa. I glanced at his picture. He had only painted Steve’s head, and he wrote with a pen, “I hate my artwork”. I gave him a moment to cool off, so I just finished my painting as I thought about how I was going to approach him about it. Finally we talked about it. I asked him why he would think such a thing. He responded with, “Because everyone in art class is much better at art than I am. People make fun of my artwork.” This made me sad. A child can’t even express himself through art without someone ridiculing him – unbelievable. These are the reasons why he wants to escape into video games. It’s a world without judgment and it’s something he feels completely confident in doing. And I was the bad guy taking that away from him.
The next day, I was determined that it was a new day to start over and do things correctly on a more positive note. My goal was to only limit his screen time in a more effective way rather than demanding and arguing. The plan was that he has to exchange the time for more productive things such as chores, playing outside, learning a new trait, etc.
I saw this post on Facebook, where someone wrote down chores with how many minutes earned for screen time on Popsicle sticks. I liked that idea, so I tried it to see if that would work. Actually, it did. He got to pick out the popsicle sticks that he wanted. I had chores or a lesson written on them. He first picked a lesson. So, I chose to teach him chivalry and respect. The lessons of opening doors for others, saying thank you “Sir”, yes “Ma’am”, etc. We actually practiced them with role playing. We had fun and he enjoyed them. Then he fed the cat to earn more minutes. So, he earned a total of 20 minutes. He grabbed his Vtech watch and set a timer for himself. When it was over, he promptly paused his video and looked for more chores. At this point, dinner was ready. Then his friends came over to play. So, after dinner, he went outside to play freeze tag with his friends. Then, afterwards he took out the trash to earn 5 more minutes. Then I told him that it was quiet time. So, he grabbed a math book that his teacher just gave him earlier that day. He sat down and worked at them until bedtime. He loves math, so it was productive and educational. It’s only the first day of this, but I can only hope for more progress with using his time more wisely and useful.