My four year old loves to watch his father play video games. So for a treat his dad went and bought him a couple of Mario games. He thinks he is such a big kid now, and he’s getting really good at them. Mostly. On occasion, however, the crazy video game monster comes out. If any of you have gamers at home then you know what I mean. My ex takes it a bit further than I can only assume most do, he’s been known to throw a controller or two… and I DO NOT want my son taking after him in this area.
I have no problem with a healthy competitive nature. It’s good. It keeps you motivated, but as soon as my 4 year old starts his outbursts he’s done. I take away the controller, I pause the game, and I tell him that he has to breath. I tell him that he has to calm down if he would like to continue playing. I have used this technique a lot over the last year. When he is in the car on a long ride and needs to get a little break and starts screaming.. I tell him, “If you calm yourself down I will pull into a Dunks and we can take a break.”
I know that he needs the break, but I feel like if I pull over when he’s screaming that will reinforce the wrong behavior. If I tell him that he has to calm down and ask nicely to get what he wants.. then hopefully that will stick.
The funny thing is that now I’ve noticed him doing it on his own. I’ve been floating around the house cleaning or working and I can hear him sitting on the couch whispering to himself “calm down… calm down” while taking deep breaths. I just smile and ask if everything is OK.
He’s actually getting really good at his games, and earlier this week for Memorial Day we went to lunch with his grandmother. She had bought him one of those eye-spy books which has hidden pictures on each page for him to find. She was so impressed by his level of concentration. When he would get frustrated and not be able to find things he would simply ask for help. Usually we would just direct him to which page it was on and that would be enough to get him back on track.
This world has become so fast paced. Everything is at the touch of their little fingertips. It takes actual purpose to not give them what they want. To make sure that they know how to handle problems, and adversity.. and slow internet connections. I purposefully let the batteries run out, or disconnect the wi-fi, just so that he has to learn how to deal with these things. He has plenty of other things to play with. Even on those long car rides when other’s in my car may want to hand him off a device.. I tell them, “He’s fine.. he’ll figure it out.” and I’ve watched the boy play for 10 mins with straws.
We need to remember to let our children’s brains work and develop, to slow down and connect to the real world. They don’t need to be constantly told what to do and what to think. They don’t need constant stimulation. They need to be happy being with themselves. I know lot’s of adults who need that too.