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December 15, 2007
Boy on couch holding video game controller and slice of pizza

Dear Mike and Debi,

Through your teaching and the ministry of the Holy Spirit to me, I have come to realize that my family is worldly and puts God second.I am ashamed that my boys are more interested in their Playstations and other electronic amusements than they are in taking responsibility. I know they are not developing the skills of manhood. I told them that we were going to put an end to all this foolishness, and they blew up. They say I am being cruel and unreasonable. My wife said I was becoming a fanatic. My question to you is, how do I make them see that it is for their good?


It is a good question, one that has been asked many times before. I share your sentiment about seeing the boys engaged in more productive activities. Your estimation is correct; they are not developing life skills. Playstations are electronic gods that leave children emotionally immature. Many a wife has been jealous of these digital dummies—and rightly so. When a man becomes absorbed with contrived play, he is ceasing to be a man.

To answer your question, keep in mind the rule that I have stated many times before in my advice to families: “Never take something away without replacing it with something more interesting and better.”  If you take away their pleasure, you will definitely appear to be an insensitive tyrant, and worse yet, a religious nutcase, driven by desperation and fanaticism. Rather than doing a police raid and confiscating the wicked thing, provide them with a more interesting alternative that will cause them to choose to walk away from the altar of digital deity. In time, their digital toys will degrade or need upgrading to remain interesting. At such a time, you can deny the upgrade or choose not to repair it. In the intervening time, without taking it away from them, and while providing that “more interesting alternative” which will consume some of their time they would ordinarily be investing in the electronic gods, you can limit the amount of time that they spend on the gadgets. Allow them only one hour each day in front of those screens, but not on weekends when they will have opportunity to be engaged in activities with you or be doing something manly outdoors—sports, hunting, hiking, bicycle riding, etc. In short, wean them off of it with limited use and by providing “distractions” that are more challenging.

I understand the strength of their addiction. They may refuse any alternative. It may be that they do not find anything as fun as punching buttons and looking at a flashing screen. But I know some things that will get their attention—a day shooting guns, camping, fishing, hunting, fixing up an old pickup truck for them to drive when they get old enough—taking it out to the country on a Saturday and letting them drive just a little on the back roads. A normal ten-year-old will drop a Playstation to sit behind a real wheel and feel the power of the gas pedal. Skateboarding, paintball battles, rappelling down cliffs, making bows and arrows, and throwing knives and tomahawks are just a few of the radical things that will get a kid’s attention. You just need to think outside of your own box.

You don’t even need to know what you are doing; just learn together. In time, when they have adopted several of their own hobbies, you can let the electro-gods die a slightly assisted and much welcomed death.

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6 comments on “Playstation”

  1. This is a problem we have been fighting in our house as well. The boys are so glued to their games that they rarely want to do anything else. Thank you for your insight and ideas. I had an internal shudder at the thought of my 11- and 10-year-olds throwing a tomahawk, but I've realized recently that I "momma" them too much and they are capable of much more if I will only stand back and let them try. They can't learn to be responsible if I don't give them responsibilities.

  2. I dislike the implication that the only way to get boys off the computer is to get them outside. A simpler and equally "nourishing" option is to get them hooked into reading. After all, what else did they do before computers?
    Also, you don't really make a provision for girls who play video-games, which seems a little shortsighted.

  3. my 7 year old was given a nintento hand held game i want to give freedom to play games and the like so we made a rule that for every minute he plays he has has to pay us a penny and he cant play until his chores are done and he has to do one outdoor job to earn money to play his game thus 15 min he pays us 15 cents ect. well he decided to sneak his game and play it late at night when he should have been sleeping, this was day 2 of sneaking day one he got spanked and lost his privelge of playing so tonight I said fine i made me some coffee and I said go ahead and play it I caught him about 1am playing it this was after he was to be sleeping at 9pm so it had been 4 hours which now meant he owed me $4 and he also got to stay up all night long playing it (yes i know you teach give a negative for negative behavior but I KNEW he would be tierd and his flesh would want sleep only he wasnt going to get to sleep) he would have a whole lot of chores and work to do the next day, he was so stinking tierd and exahuasted from playing video games the night before without sleep, he never wanted to play another game again!

  4. If you have someone you trust, such as grandparents to look after the kids, Katharina, you can suggest a weekend out just by yourselves to have a get-out-of-the-house and go for a trip for a couple days and possibly church at another location away from home while you are at another destination while you are having a Just You and I outing at a hotel. Take day trips to museums and the like in the area you go to. Just lay down a rule, such as NO ELECTRONICS (computers, laptops, netbooks, or the like) and just go for lunch, supper and tourist traps and so on.

  5. There's gotta be a better way to teach your children moderation as an avid gamer I don't believe the games are the fault they're just medians of entertainment just like TV and books. What I've done with my children is sit down and actually spend time playing the games that they love or doing The hobbies that they love I also read to my children every night. When games become a problem is when parents use them as babysitters.