Saturday, November 6, 2010

What do you do if video game frustration causes your child to have a temper tantrum?

What do you do if video game frustration causes your child to have a temper tantrum?
I have heard parents, even of young children, talk about how frustrated their children become when they cannot reach a certain level in a video game that they had been playing. As the child realizes that he cannot reach that level, they typically begin to cry and/or scream and whine, which may be accompanied by body language that matches his emotional state. No one wants to see their child disintegrate emotionally because of a video game. Parents may feel that it is ridiculous that their child has become so upset by a game. Being successful at video games may be just as important as being successful at school or sports to children. It is important to respect your child’s need to succeed at video games, even though you may feel they are totally unimportant.
That being said, it is one thing to respect your child’s passion for video games and another thing to permit him to behave inappropriately when he loses. Some parents have told me that when they see that their child is becoming frustrated, they tell them that they will turn the video game off in five minutes if they do not stop their whining, crying, etc. What does this ultimatum do? It sets up a power struggle that will definitely result in a temper tantrum. What else can you do?
Your goal here is twofold. First, you want to diffuse his misbehavior. Second, you want him to learn to manage his own behavior so that he can control his own frustration. By having a conversation with him explaining that, as my son, a long-time video game player has told me, “It’s really just getting himself to stop and think about his actions and making him realize that it’s just a game.” Therefore, by pausing the game instead of the shocking action of shutting it off, and talking to him about the fact a game can be played over and over again, he may not have had a temper tantrum.
Also, he must be taught self-talk on task cards so that he has steps to follow when he feels that he is getting frustrated that will teach him to exhibit appropriate behavior instead of inappropriate behavior. These task cards will get him to stop, as my son says and think about behaviors that he can exhibit that will lead to productive behavior. In the end, when he learns to self-regulate his misbehavior he will feel a new sense of positive self-esteem. Try these strategies and let me know.
Check back tomorrow to hear me talk about how children gain self-esteem by feeling successful at video games.

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