If your child spends more time than you would like playing video games, you’re wise to search for alternatives that will captivate them. Even if you’re not worried about the amount of time spent playing, you do want your child to be exposed to a variety of activities.
When my oldest child was two, he loved playing games on the computer. I chose quality games for him to play and I didn’t have concerns about his screen time. That was a long time ago. Now I have a child with ADD who loses time playing and chooses games over most other activities. This is worrisome. I read about a young man who didn’t come out of his cabin on a cruise ship because he was playing games the whole time. I have read about college students who have failed and young men who have no interest in getting married because all of their time is spent on gaming. This isn’t typical, but even if my son has half of these problems, it’s a concern.
Video Game Addiction
Video game addiction isn’t yet considered a mental disorder, but the behavior patterns have been observed and studied to some extent. True gaming addiction, which is fairly rare at a rate of just 1%, isn’t outgrown. Boys are particularly at risk as are impulsive kids like those with ADHD. The most remarkable data that has come from research studies to date is that kids with poor social skills are most likely to have a gaming problem. Gaming provides an outlet when other social activities are uncomfortable. Sadly, lonely kids tend to game too much and time spent gaming increases the sense of loneliness. Gaming addiction, like other forms of addiction, is also typically a response to life stress or at least suggests poor coping skills.
Your child doesn’t have to be addicted to video games to suffer negative consequences. Interestingly enough, taking games away or enforcing time limits with older gaming addicts doesn’t seem to help.
Teach Your Child Social Skills
The first step in helping a child who games too much is to help him develop social skills. I found an amazing free resource called 101 Ways to Teach Children Social Skills. It includes activities and printables that are appropriate for a wide age range. Some social skills are learned automatically; others aren’t. We have to be intentional about teaching these skills to our kids to fully equip them for life. Include one skill a day in your homeschool. That’s my plan. It’s crucial to understand your child’s personality as you teach. Introverted children aren’t abnormal. They just need time away from people to recharge. I recommend reading Personality Plus for Parents by Florence Littauer. Explain your child’s personality to him, especially if he’s an introvert. Many children mistakenly assume there is something wrong with them if they aren’t the extroverted American ideal.
After addressing social skills, what are some alternatives to video games?
Getting your child involved in sports is a great alternative. Social skills are enhanced and friendships are created. Sports also take up time in a healthy activity that cannot be spent on gaming. Sports can give your child the adrenaline charge he looks for from gaming — both from the activity and the competition. My son is already involved in a sport, but doesn’t spend much time doing it. If that’s your child, consider adding another practice, another team, or playing the sport as a family. The latter is my choice. We plan to spend more time playing tennis with my son now that it’s getting warmer outside.
Perhaps your child doesn’t care for or doesn’t have the skill he needs for traditional sports. There are so many options to consider: bowling, archery, fencing, and more. Contract with your child to keep trying different sports until something clicks.
A second alternative is to find a different group activity that is not sports-related. Preferably, there would be a competitive component to the activity and it would require time for your child to participate. A robotics team is a perfect option for kids who are engineering-minded. Competitive speech and debate are excellent for kids with strong verbal skills. Getting involved in theater productions is perfect for musical or artistic kids, even if they have no desire to act. All of these activities are excellent at helping children build relationships and they require a substantial time commitment. If your church has a good youth group, getting your child involved can make a difference. My kids have done volunteer work through their youth group and have developed leadership skills as well. Even when the group activities themselves are over, your child’s new friends may keep him busy with other social outings.
A third alternative is to enroll your child in outside classes that are not online. If your student is concerned about grades, any class will do as this will keep your child busy and learning social skills. A better situation, however, is for your student to take a class with peers. This arrangement allows for the possibility of making new friends. The very best situation is for the class to be an interesting one. You could enroll your child in classes through a local co-op. Some homeschooling parents choose to enroll their child in school part-time for this reason. Dual-enrollment classes are good for demanding a lot of your students’ time. But the sky is the limit when it comes to outside classes. They come in every variety. Should you force your child to take a class? I think it’s okay to require enrollment in some kind of class. Kids with anxiety issues will reject the idea, but avoiding social anxiety will not make it better.
A fourth alternative is to give your child a job or help him secure one. Money is a wonderful motivator and the social skills that can develop when working in a group are invaluable. There are so many options here. You can pay your child to work for you which will use up a lot of time he might otherwise devote to gaming. You could help your child find an internship in a field that interests him. You could help him find a volunteer position that makes him feel needed. The pull of gaming won’t be nearly as strong if he knows people are counting on him. If he’s old enough, you can teach him interview skills and help him find good employment options for a young person. One of my sons loves working so much that we had to insist that he cut back his hours!
A fifth alternative is to play games socially. We own so many games and don’t play them nearly enough. Have a family game night where you play the board and sports games you have. We have a ping pong table and love playing with family and friends. If you have video games that are participatory, you can play these too. I love Wii bowling and Wheel of Fortune. Create a competition for friends. More than once I have created an Olympics that involves darts, ping pong, a video racing game and more. Families compete against each other for gift cards and have a blast. Gaming becomes less of an issue if it’s done socially. You’re modeling for your child how to use games in a healthy way.
A sixth alternative is to choose educational video games and activities. I’m more interested in activities because most educational video games will be viewed as less exciting than a favorite video game. Beware of this before you pay for an expensive online curriculum. A gamer child may like the platform less than a non-gamer. I have a list of websites that include games that teach grammar, for example. One study suggests that the more competitive the game, the more likely kids are to master material. I really like engaging gamers with technical activities. This could be a course online that teaches robotics, coding, or videography. Again, the better option is to have the course be social. Have your child do the course with a sibling or friend. My gamer son prefers classes we do in our home-based co-op to courses he has to complete himself. Techie Homeschool Mom shares tech educational options and offers online unit studies that your gamers may enjoy.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of video game alternatives. I did some research to create a list of 50 alternatives to video games. I can’t wait to go over the ideas with my son. When you subscribe to the Sanity Savers newsletter, you’ll receive this list.
If you want help finding the best video game alternatives for your child, talk to other homeschoolers. Ask people in your local co-op about sports, activities, and classes. Ask online homeschool groups like HomeschoolScopes.tv about their favorite board games and tech courses. I have a plan for how to address my son’s gaming using these alternatives and I’m hopeful. I hope you are, too.
Which alternatives will you choose for your child first? Let’s chat about it on Facebook.
When I answered a parent’s question about low frustration tolerance, I realized I had a lot to say on the subject. First, I want to define the problem and then I want to share six tips for teaching your child.
When we are discussing low frustration tolerance, we aren’t talking about a child who easily gets quiet when challenged, are we? If a child withdraws to his room to read because he’s frustrated with the first few math problems he’s presented with, his mother is unlikely to complain. Low frustration tolerance means that a child gets frustrated easily. What most parents struggle with isn’t low tolerance, but poor frustration management. They generally aren’t concerned about when a child gets frustrated as much as they are with how they deal with it. I will be discussing how to help a child who yells, cries, or acts out when frustrated.
#1 Observe the situations that lead to frustration
Be an investigator rather than a mommy. We tend to feel helpless when our child tantrums. Our helplessness can lead to our own poor frustration management. We’re anxious about our child’s behavior and our inability to manage it. This is a problem. Children who have poor self-control have to know that you aren’t freaked out by their behavior. If they don’t have control, they want to know that you do. If you have to fake a sense of control, do it. Your anxiety is fuel on the fire of your child’s fit. Stay calm and rather than fretting, take note of what is happening.
By take note, I’m less interested in you observing her screaming, kicking, or crying. I’m more interested in your observation of what led to this behavior. Observe:
Sleep: did your child get enough sleep? My 3-year-old had a tantrum when we were in Disney World. That was not his typical behavior and was directly related to his not getting a nap. Take note of how your child responds to sleep deprivation.
Nutrition: How long has it been since your child ate? Could this be low blood sugar? I often see my husband being irritable when he’s hungry. Conversely, has your child had a lot of sugar? You may want to take note of any unusual foods eaten as well.
Change of routine: Did you do anything out of the ordinary in your schedule? For example, did you say no to something your child typically gets to enjoy? Have you just returned from vacation?
Interruption of fun: Did you demand that your child stop a fun activity or leave somewhere without giving adequate warning?
Too much input: Was your child around too many people, too much noise, or too many options?
Did someone or something keep your child from getting what he wants? Perhaps a younger sibling destroyed a Lego creation. Does your child have a physical or learning disability that makes achieving difficult? Did other children keep your child from playing?
This kind of observation can’t be done in a day. Keep good notes and you’ll likely discover a pattern to your child’s frustration. This is valuable information.
#2 Use your observations to avoid provoking frustration
We all get frustrated at times. We can’t avoid it completely, but we can certainly avoid provoking it unnecessarily. Let’s talk about being proactive in each of these areas.
Sleep: If your child is reactive to sleep deprivation, make regular bed and naptimes a priority. The fun of staying out late one night probably isn’t worth a hysterical child in your co-op the next day.
Nutrition: If your child reacts to low blood sugar, carry snacks with you and make sure your child has eaten before high-stress situations. If your child can’t handle a certain food or drink, look for an alternative that your child will enjoy.
Change of routine: Allow plenty of ease-in time when you are coming off a break. Don’t return to a full schedule immediately when your child doesn’t manage it well. Avoid unnecessary changes in routine and talk to your child about the necessary ones. Explain the change and give your child some choice in the change if at all possible. For example, if your preschooler is used to watching educational TV at a certain time and you know you won’t be home, explain that you will record the show and that she will be able to watch when you get home or after dinner — her choice.
Interruption of fun: Give your child more than one warning before ending the fun. Saying that you’ll be leaving a friend’s in 30 minutes and then 10 will help your child adjust.
Too much input: Avoid these situations for now. If they’re unavoidable, try to minimize them. For example, if you’re at a fun center, suggest that you spend time with your child in one area. Definitely avoid these situations if your child is already at risk for frustration. You don’t want to take a sleep-deprived, low-blood sugar child to an arcade.
Not getting what he wants: Make sure you address any physical concerns with your pediatrician. Difficulty seeing or hearing is frustrating. If frustration seems limited to certain subjects or skills, consider testing for learning disabilities. Many older children are relieved to know why certain work is so hard for them. If another child is interfering with your child’s fun, ask the parent to intervene or nicely intervene if the parent isn’t available. It’s very frustrating for a child not to have an advocate. If a specific social circle isn’t friendly, find a new one or join in the play with the kids to help your child fit in. You can imagine that I’ve barely scratched the surface of the kinds of things that can keep your child from getting what she wants.
#3 Prepare your child to encounter frustration
Once you’ve observed the situations that cause frustration and you’ve taken steps to avoid them, you’re ready to prepare a child to deal with the frustrations that are part of life. If you know your child is likely to be frustrated, tell him so. For example, “We are going to be playing at Joey’s house today and you know his little brother likes to play, too. One thing that might keep him from bothering you is to play with him first. He just wants to be included. After that, maybe you and Joey can play in Joey’s room and we’ll play with his brother. If he is bothering you, though, tell us right away, okay?”
Everyone copes better with challenging situations when they know what to expect. Be honest about the difficulties; don’t say things like, “It will be fine.” Rather, specifically state the kinds of things that may lead to frustration. Then affirm your belief in your child’s ability to cope. That leads me to step #4.
#4 Teach your child the signs of frustration
We expect our children to just know some things when they must be specifically taught. Most children who struggle with frustration management didn’t see the signs before their behavior was already out of control. The best way to do this is to talk about the physical signs you experience. These are some of my signs that may or may not apply to you. My shoulders get tense. I may hold them up closer to my ears and they feel tight and even sore. I may be frowning so much that I have a headache. My stomach may feel tight, too. As I get more frustrated, I start handling things roughly. I may pound the mouse on my desk or press hard with my pen.
Talk about the thinking signs of frustration that you experience. See if your child has these. I may think, “I can’t do it!”; “It’s not working”; “This is taking forever!”; “They’re driving me crazy!”.
Talk about the verbal signs of frustration and see if your child relates. I might raise my voice. I might ask people to leave me alone. I might tell people to be quiet. I may say, “Never mind!” or “You don’t understand.”
It’s a good idea to write down the specific signs of frustration your child has.
#5 Teach your child how to manage frustration
The best time to teach your child these skills is when he is not frustrated. He should be well rested and ready to learn.
Have your child imagine that she is starting to get frustrated. Use one of the situations you know is a trigger. She should close her eyes and picture it. She should notice the physical signs of frustration she would be likely to feel. Then have your child take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Have your child raise her shoulders to her ears and make the muscles as tight as possible, holding them there for several seconds. Then have her quickly drop her shoulders and let her arms hang like noodles at her side. Take another slow, deep breath in. Do the same thing with her forehead muscles. Have her lift her eyebrows toward her scalp and hold them there, making the forehead muscles tight. Then quickly drop the eyebrows. Take another slow, deep breath in.
Then ask your child for smart ways to manage frustration. Ask what she thinks of the following ideas if she doesn’t suggest them: taking a break; asking for help; praying; going outside.
Suggest new ways of thinking about the frustrating situation: “I can get help”; “I can do it with practice”; “It will be easier to do if I take a break”; “I can calm down if I walk away.”
Suggest new ways of verbalizing the frustration: “I can’t get this to work”; “I’m feeling frustrated”; “Can you help me?”; “Will you pray for me?”; “I need to be by myself for a while”; “I need a break.”
It may be frustrating for you to know that this training is going to require a lot of time. That leads me to step #6.
#6 Continue coaching your child in frustration management
When you notice the signs of frustration in your child (and you should be getting better at noticing them), you can intervene by noting your observations. Consider creating a stoplight sign. You would just put red, yellow, and green paper circles on a black piece of construction paper. Explain what you’re seeing and that it looks like your child is at a yellow level of frustration. Ask what your child needs to do to return to the green level. If your child is struggling, make a suggestion. You could suggest taking a deep breath, for example.
Another way to help your child notice the signs is to say what you’re seeing. “It looks like you’re having trouble getting this toy to work.” This is more helpful than saying, “You’re getting frustrated.” If you want to help, always get permission. Your child may be frustrated specifically because he wants to do it himself. If you fix it for him without permission, you’re likely to provoke a tantrum. Instead, ask, “Do you want me to help by holding this piece for you?” If the answer is no, you can continue to suggest options. “Do you think taking a break and coming back to it might help?” Do not take something away from the child in this situation. That will provoke him for sure. Always give your child the choice, unless there is danger involved.
I had a mother ask if she should allow her child to do what she wants or to set limits even if she knows it will provoke a tantrum. First, I recommend you listen to the episode on the #1 question homeschoolers ask me. Then your choice to do something that you know will frustrate your child depends on you. I’m not suggesting that we avoid ever making our children unhappy. That would be very poor parenting. But if you are highly stressed, haven’t had enough sleep, etc. and pulling your child off her favorite game means she will pitch a fit, I am all for avoiding a confrontation. However, this choice of giving in to your child cannot become a pattern. Children have to learn to manage frustration in order to survive and thrive.
You can succeed in teaching your child to manage frustration. Start by observing what provokes frustration. What have you noticed? Let’s chat about it on Facebook.
I’m so excited about the beautiful weather we are having lately. I want to get outside and do fun educational things with the kids. Here are 6 great outdoor activities for you to consider.
I’ve written about what a great family activity this is, but I wanted to mention it again. Go to your local park’s or schools’ courts and have fun. Pick up racquets at a garage sale or buy used from a local club. We have also gotten private lessons for our family outdoors at a very reasonable cost. You can count it as P.E. hours!
#2 Four Square
After tennis, this is my favorite outdoor game to play with the kids. Here are the official rules. We use sidewalk chalk on our driveway. Once again, P.E. hours. 🙂
We love to hike any time it isn’t really cold. Spring is a perfect time to hike before it gets really hot. Fortunately, there are a number of great hiking trails near where we live. It’s great exercise and so inspiring to be in God’s creation. You can study wildlife and plants on the way and count it science. Even better, do some drawings of what you find and count it as art, too.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I don’t garden. But I want my kids to have the experience of planting and caring for plants with the hope they will inherit their dad’s green thumb. This is a great time to teach the kids about plants and yes, counting it as science.
I took an ornithology class in college because I absolutely love birds. We enjoy watching the birds at our feeder all year, but we have an opportunity to see more species when we venture out. One thing I learned is that cemeteries are excellent places to look for birds. Bring your bird book or app. Look at old headstones or the grave sites of famous people in your area and you’ll get history time in, too.
Whether you are reading to your children or everyone is reading independently, spring is a great time to take the books outside. Scholastic shares this list of read alouds for spring that would make good options. You can count this as language arts or any subject that you’re reading about.
There are more outdoor activities than I can list, so I want to direct you to the Homeschool Days Hop.
I have used just about every type of chore system imaginable and have blogged about them, too. I finally have a system that works with my 5-6 kids (depending on who is home) and has for a long time. You can get your checklist here, but first I want to explain why other systems haven’t worked for us.
The Problem With Chore Charts
They fall apart, literally. I used a huge pegboard with tags that was stuck to the side of my refrigerator with magnets when the kids were little and it kept getting knocked down, requiring an hour to reassemble it.
They require a lot of time to set up and maintain. I would love to have back all the time I’ve spent creating chore systems (both paper and digital) for my kids. I could probably have published a couple of books with that time. Seriously! The digital approaches also required me to log in and check that chores were done and verify rewards earned. I don’t have time for that as a busy homeschooling mother of many.
They resulted in squabbles. To simplify chores, I would have to assign the same chores to kids. Then the complaining would start. “Why do I always have to load the dishwasher?” You get the idea.
They weren’t flexible. If the child assigned to load the dishwasher wasn’t home, who was supposed to do it? See the problem above.
They usually don’t include the steps. With most chore charts, there isn’t a place for details about how the chore is to be done, resulting in a child claiming that they had cleaned a bathroom that most truck drivers wouldn’t walk into (no offense to truck drivers!). No matter how many times I’ve instructed the kids, they had severe memory loss when it came to the steps to take in completing chores.
The Solution to Chores for Kids
The solution, for my family anyway, has been to create a simple checklist in Word. There is a main list of chores (things like clearing the table and loading the dishwasher) that have to be done twice a day and a morning list of chores (things like unloading the dishwasher and cleaning bathrooms) that I’ve combined into one for use before we start chores in the morning. We repeat the main list of chores after dinner each night. Each chore has a detailed list of steps to take to complete it and a space for the name of the child who is assigned the chore for that chore period only. I put our customized checklist in a page protector and attach it to a clipboard. I then use my Random.org app on my phone to assign chores. I write the name of the child who is assigned that chore on the line underneath the chore in dry erase marker.
If one child isn’t home, I can assign a chore to another child, not assign a less important chore, or assign it to myself. It’s flexible and I love it! I tell the kids when I will check chores, usually setting a timer. I then take my clipboard and dry erase marker with me to review the chores. I sometimes take the kids with me for the review process and make them complete any steps they’ve missed. Other times, the child who failed to complete a step is given a fine that is discussed during our morning school time (my kids earn an allowance of 50 cents per year of age until they are earning money at a job or doing bigger chores like mowing). The kids REALLY hate getting fines.
Your Easy, Free Chores for Kids Checklist
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One of the hardest parts of setting up a chore system is determining what the chores should be. That’s where my chore checklist can help you. Start with the chores I’ve added to my list and edit them in Word or a compatible program. You may not have a separate playroom, for example. Just delete that chore. Replace any of the steps for chores that you need to, but my guess is a lot of these things will be the same.
Once you’ve edited it for your needs, just print it out, put it in a page protector and onto a clipboard, your household binder, or even put it on the refrigerator. Randomly assign the tasks. If you don’t want to use an app, roll a die! Set a timer and have them get to work. They can refer to the list until they’re done.
Then take the checklist with you to make sure everything is done. Hope this is as helpful for you as it is for me!
I’m a psychologist and you’d think I would know better than to make some of the mistakes I’m listing below, but the fact is I have made some. It’s only by the grace of God that I have stopped short of doing most of them with my kids.
I am writing, not out of a sense of superiority, but compassion for the parents and kids who will suffer greatly if changes aren’t made.
If you recognize yourself in many of these examples, know that it is NOT too late. Take the actions I share at the end of this post.
1. Never tell a toddler no.
Even if they kick you, bite you, or run from you.
2. Always give your preschooler what he wants.
Even if it means ignoring other people’s needs and your own.
3. Always make excuses for your child’s bad behavior.
And make sure she hears you say she was just tired or hungry.
4. Always give in to whining and begging.
Say no until they make a scene or bargain with you.
5. Let your child call you names without consequence.
Do not demand the respect of being called Mom or Dad.
6. Let your child disrespect your spouse and other authorities without consequence.
Always take your child’s side.
7. Ignore bad behavior until you explode.
Hit or yell at your child and give them more reason not to respect you.
8. Put your child in so many activities that you never have to spend time with her.
When she complains, tell her that you’re doing it all for her.
9. Never require your child to do chores.
Complain about picking up after them instead.
10. Don’t supervise your child.
Let him use the Internet without guidance and leave home without telling you where he’s going.
11. Give your child expensive gifts to make up for your lack of attention.
Brag about what you bought her to your friends within her hearing.
12. Curse at your child and call him names.
Tell yourself that you are motivating him.
13. Laugh about the idea of your child having sex or using drugs and alcohol at an early age because “kids will be kids.”
Serve alcohol at teen parties and let them go on unchaperoned co-ed trips.
14. Don’t require your teen to work.
Pay for everything he wants.
15. Pay for college even though your child refuses to study.
Keep threatening to make her pay for it, but never follow through.
16. Allow your adult child to live with you rent-free, though they refuse to go to school or get a job.
Blame this behavior on your spouse.
What to Do if You’re Afraid You’re Raising a Spoiled Brat
The weather outside is still frightful where we are, making it hard for kids to get the exercise they need. I’ve talked about ways to give your kids exercise before, but I started thinking that I wanted another option.
I remembered using this workout from Marie Claire on vacation and loving it. I realized it would be a perfect winter workout for kids if I made it into a checklist. This is a routine you can easily do WITH your kids. Here’s what I love about it:
Kids can control the intensity of the workout with pace. Less fit kids can go slower.
It uses only body weight and no equipment besides stairs.
It’s hard. One of the things I don’t understand is why kids’ exercise videos are so easy, they won’t even sweat, when a simple game of tag that kids play all the time is enough to wipe me out.
It’s quick. It takes 20-minutes to do the entire routine or 10 to do just one round.
First let me say that I am not a physician or personal trainer. I didn’t create this routine nor can I say that it’s safe for you or your child. Please make sure you are cleared by your doctors to do these exercises and STOP if you are in pain and not just tired.
If you would like to give your kids (and yourself) a good quick workout during these cold winter days, print it out and give it a try. I laminated mine so kids can check off each step and reuse it. You will need to have a timer of some sort handy (iPods or smart phones work great). Finally, you may want to play some upbeat music! Make it fun and kids will want to keep exercising.
What other ways do you use to keep kids fit in the winter?