Can Parenting Be Like Playing A Computer Game?
It’s not uncommon for parents to feel like they’ve been thrust into the job of raising tiny, occasional troublemakers with no preparation. But take heart—experience can often come from unusual places.
For example, chances are if you’re reading this blog, you’ve played a Computer Game like Wizard101! Computer games operate on common principles such as clear, consistent rules, positive reinforcement, and second chances. If those principles sound familiar, it’s because those same principles are at the core of good parenting.
Set Clear Rules
When you sit down to play a new computer game, there is a learning curve while you get used to the rules of the game’s world. After you acclimate, you’ll have a much easier time navigating the game. This same idea can be used in parenting to make following the rules much easier for your child.
When rules are clear, you don’t have to think about them much anymore after initially learning the rules. For example, you know what to expect in a game when you press a certain key or fall off a high area. Likewise, if your child knows that asking politely will get him what he wants, whereas crying, whining and temper tantrums are grounds for using your parental discipline or strategy of choice, the positive behavior will soon become habit and the negative ones should only occur on rare occasions.
Consistency also helps you learn the rules of a game – not only in what you can do, but also what you shouldn’t do. For instance, you know if you run out of health or lose a battle, no amount of begging will change the computer’s mind.
With your kids, be the computer. Set rules that apply the same way and don’t let them talk you out of the consequences of breaking one. Your children will be a lot more likely to follow the rules if they know you won’t let an infraction slide. Cheat codes have no place in parenting!
Give Positive Reinforcement
Computer games have plenty of negative consequences that usually involve starting the game, level, or scene over. Despite these, there are usually an equal or higher number of positive reinforcements placed throughout the game. You get rewarded for fighting bad guys; you earn points for exploring the game’s world; you receive bonuses like extra lives, healing potions, and weapons; and you also get rewarded with help for taking care of your fellow players.
Parenting is similar in that there is a place for negative consequences when children do the wrong thing, but there also has to be positive reinforcement for doing the right thing. Many parents have found success with positive rewards like sticker charts. Kids earn stickers for doing chores and can track their achievements on their charts, eventually “cashing in” these stickers for a reward. That being said, you can even reinforce a child’s behavior with an appreciative “Thank you,” a hug, or an unexpected treat too, so don’t feel that you have to set up an elaborate system of acknowledgment. Little rewards are what keep you playing your computer games and likewise motivate your children to please.
Offer a “Do-Over”
Have you ever heard of a computer game that locked up when you died and never let you try again? Of course not. Think of parenting the same way: You have to give your child a chance to get it right.
When your child does something against the rules, make sure the punishment you enact embodies this idea. After all, you’re not trying to get revenge, you’re trying to exemplify proper behavior. You don’t have to offer another chance right away, but after a short break, let your child try again and apply what he or she has learned.
As it turns out, all those hours logged playing computer games—while your parents nagged at you to do your chores or your homework, no doubt—were good for something after all. You can actually use what you learned to raise your own children, and to do a darn good job of it, too. Who knew?