The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:
I’m a homemaker in my 40s. I recently took away my sixth-grade son’s video game console as he broke his promise about following the family rules in regards to playing it. I’m at a loss because he’s been demanding it back, saying, “I can’t follow conversations with my friends.”
My son is cheerful and honest, but is crazy about playing video games. At first, I allowed him to play games at home on the condition that he follow the rules I set to prevent him from obsessively playing them. But after a while he started to break the rules more and more often. I discussed the rules with him and revised them, but he broke the new rules after just a few days, so I took it away from him.
I gave him chances to relax in ways other than playing games, such as reading books and doing fun things with the whole family. We initially had a good time together this way, but in about 10 days, he told me he wanted the game back.
My husband said I don’t have to return it to him. Is that OK? Or should I set new rules again with my son and return the game to him? I suspect he will end up breaking new rules every time.
I don’t want to always be scolding him and spoil the last summer break of his elementary school days. Please give me some advice.
I, Kanagawa Prefecture
Dear Ms. I:
I feel your son is truly honest, just as you said. Video games are designed to get their players hooked. Once your boy starts playing, he forgets about time and ends up finding himself breaking the rules. Even adults who indulge in playing games tend to lose themselves in them. No wonder your son is crazy about video games.
I admire you and your husband’s attitude toward your son, as neither of you will ban him from playing games without consulting him. You restricted his playing time out of consideration for his health. You also decided on the rules after talking with him, and then allowed him to go on playing. You’ve guided him to have fun with family members as well. You are good model parents. I’m deeply impressed.
Back to your question, your son’s concerns are probably true — that he can’t follow conversations with his friends without playing games. It is unlikely he is alienated from them, but he seems to feel more or less inferior. He considers this a punishment for breaking the rules and is regretting it. You should give him another chance for discussions to make up new rules, before allowing him to play games again.
As he is still very young, he may forget about the rules when he is too absorbed in the games.
When it does happen, you should reprimand him again and take the game console away from him. I hope you do this over and over again without getting tired of repeating the process — consider it part of your parental duties.
Masahiro Yamada, professor