Video games are ruining my athletic children!
Billy Shepherd, a former Indiana Mr. Basketball and ABA player who now is a sports parenting advice guru (and whose father was the athletic director when I ran cross country and track at Carmel, Ind., High School), takes a question about a common holiday problem: kids not getting the hell off the new video game system. From his column in the Crawfordsville, Ind., newspaper, that is understatedly and appropriately called The Paper:
I think my wife and I have made a big mistake. We bought our two boys (6th and 3rd grade) the [W]ii game for Christmas. All they have done the last eight days is play the game non-stop.
While both are good athletes we are now concerned that they will spend more time playing wii than actually practicing sports.
Any suggestions? We had heard that the game was great for teaching sports, but we are concerned because of the lack of physical activity. Are we being over concerned in your viewpoint? Old Time Parents in Indy
Meet Old Time Parents in Indy’s children, Buckner and Garcia.
First, I’ll give you Billy Shepherd’s response, which is sort of even-handed, reasoned approach that is the hallmark of good sports parenting. Then you’ll get my response.
Dear Old Time Parents,
What you are seeking is a balance for your kids. Only you as parents can make those decisions. Do you have time limits on the games? Do you make them go outside and play which results in physical activity? How are their grades in school?
Once school starts back you need to place restrictions on when they can play the video games and for how long. Try and balance it with homework, sports activities, and computer time. Keep a close eye on their grades and keep them involved with their sports.
Balance is the key to help develop any young person socially and physically. Be sure to monitor their time in all facets of their lives, just not video games. That way you will have well rounded young men as they continue to grow up, whether they play sports or not.
I’ll put it more practically and succinctly, Old Time Parents in Indy: get the stick out of your ass! Why did you buy them a Wii and somehow expected a sixth-grader and a third-grader to have natural restraint in playing it? It’s been freaking freezing in Indianapolis over the holidays. What do you want them to do, go outside and play Who Gets Frostbite First?
When kids get a video-game system for Christmas, they do nothing but play it for the bulk of vacation. It happens. Old Time Parents, I bet when you got your first hula hoop, you were swinging your hips with excitement for the next two weeks. I bet your own Old Time Parents worried you would never do anything productive ever again. Also, have you notice your sixth-grader and third-grader have probably spent more nonfighting time together the last two weeks than they have in their life? The beauty of video games is they can help siblings bond like nothing else.
I agree with my former athletic director’s son that once school is back in session, you can and should put limits on the video game playing. However, I wouldn’t start out by saying, you have only X amount of video games and/or screen time (a term I detest. I’m not sure why. I just do.). I would say that you have these responsibilities, and once they are fulfilled, knock yourself out on the Wii (not literally, because you can the way the controllers get swung around). I’ve found that works wonders with my own kids. Punishment is much more effective when you take away what they already have in spades. Plus, you don’t give the Wii the succulent flavor of forbidden fruit.
So I’m in agreement with the concept of what the ex-Memphis Sound has to say, though we differ in technique. And in our desire to tell people to get the stick out of their ass.