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.