My child has been obsessed with Pokemon for as long as I can remember. I think he was about 3 years old when he started this infatuation. At every birthday and Christmas, cards and plushes were on his wish list. Every Halloween, I have bought or made costumes related to Pokémon. He has played the card game, watched the shows, and read every book and graphic novel. To say he is a “Fan Boy” is an understatement, so when he heard that a new game was coming out and that it was around the same time that he received his first phone, he went a little crazy.
I wasn’t opposed to him getting the game, but then those headlines started up. “Mother and Father Leave Two Year Old Alone to Play Pokemon GO.” “Pregnant Mother Dies After Being Run Over While Playing Pokemon Go.” My first thoughts were, “What an awful game!” and “No way are my kids playing!” After some time and serious thought, I slowly came around to the idea and here are some of the reasons why:
REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY-Restricting it just makes them want it more. When Pokémon Go first came out and I had heard about a few of the accidents associated with the game, my first instinct was to take the game away from them or ban it. This just made them sneak it and want it even more. Then they felt like they were doing something wrong when I caught them. It just wasn’t working for us and now because I give them free rein, they really don’t play all that much.
TIME MANAGEMENT- Once I was okay with the idea of letting them play, I allowed them to set their own limits as to what the appropriate amount of time to play would be. At first, it was higher than I cared for, and when they started to miss homework assignments, or not study for tests, it took holding back every cell in my body that wanted to take it away or throw the phone out the window. Instead, we discussed at the dinner table how it felt when they did poorly on that test. A question I ask all of the time is, “How does it feel to not be so proud of yourself?” The answer in my house is always, “not great.” I also have them imagine a time when they did do really well and were prepared for the test, then ask the same question: “How does it feel to be proud of yourself?”
It’s better for them to mess up on a test when they are in elementary or middle school than it is for them to mess up in high school or college. Let them FALL when they’re young. It only took that one time and then they set their own limits. Sometimes I need to remind them that they have a test, and “are you sure you don’t want to study instead of playing Pokémon GO?” and “How does it feel to be unprepared for a test?” Not saying this works for every child, but it certainly has on mine. They have really come to understand what priorities are and when to say, “I’m done.” Keep in mind, I have older kids. If they were not mature enough to set their own boundaries, then I would either not tell them about the game in the first place or allow only a small window each day.
SELF DISCIPLINE– Since my kids have started playing Pokémon Go, they have become much more self-disciplined. They always do their homework as soon as they get home and if they are feeling out of sorts, they might say, “maybe I’m playing too many games?” I always compliment them when I see them display self-restraint. I tell them that sometimes the right choice is often the most difficult and I am proud that they came to that conclusion on their own. They aren’t perfect. Sometimes they still play too much, but I feel I can always come back to them and say, “How’s that working for you?” and they can see themselves that maybe they’ve over done it.
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY– As soon as Pokémon Go came out, my kids suddenly joined me every time I stepped foot outside the house. “I need to walk the dog, would anyone care to join me?” That used to be met with silence, but nowadays, everyone wants to go. As a result, they are getting more exercise and, if we all play the game together, which many times we do, it’s actually really fun and we are engaging with one another. On the flip side, there are times when I ask for a family walk free of technology. They are happy to oblige and enjoy tech free walks as well. We love to find beautiful rocks or look for migratory birds, connecting with nature is a stress reliever and we discuss this sensation as well. That night at the dinner table, we talk about how we feel when we go on walks with Pokemon Go vs. not playing. There are positive and negatives to both. Getting them in touch with how they feel is the real key here.
AGREE TO DISAGREE– I am not a fan of televised sports. I don’t exactly enjoy sitting and watching a football game and the thought of sitting through a baseball game would be like locking me in an empty room with no windows for several hours. Does this mean that I don’t let my kids play or watch sports? Nope. They play and I sit in the empty room. I adore my kids and even if I don’t care for something that they are passionate about, I do it because they love it and I love them! Not only do I sit and watch, I support and cheer. I do the same thing with Pokémon Go. I don’t get why they like it, but I know that they do. I get excited for them when they evolve a Pikachu and high five them when they hatch a 10K egg. What a drag I would be if all I ever did was complain about how much I hate it. I’m honest about how I feel, but I don’t roll my eyes at them every time they want to share their excitement. I love things that they don’t and it would get me down if they sighed every time I brought it up. Sometimes love is more important than our opinions. I believe in lifting the spirits of those we love. It’s not always about you.
OUTDOOR SAFETY-I do share with my kids some of the dramatic stories about people being run over and leaving their kids and that those instances are not the norm, but certainly not to be ignored. I also share with them some of the safety concerns, like predators approaching you pretending to be a player. I don’t want to scare them, but I do want them to be educated. There are certain rules that we follow, like no playing while you cross the street even if there are no cars around, and that you need an adult with you to play outside. If for some reason someone does approach you, do not go anywhere with them and find your adult. They are learning to be more aware, not less.
SOCIAL CONNECTIONS– They talk about it with their friends and even if we don’t understand why they like it, this makes them feel included. They are a part of a peer group and that is very important. Not every kid is going to love Pokémon Go, but in my experience, many do! We used to talk about and enjoy things that our parents didn’t understand when we were kids– this is their generation full of new concepts. There is a reason they enjoy it and we may never figure out what that is and that’s okay.
The surprising reason I let my kids play Pokémon Go whenever they want! #parenting #fitfluential Click To Tweet
Don’t get me wrong, I am monitoring their usage and actively participating in conversations with them about this topic, but I am allowing them to mess up, knowing that it will sting without me having to tell them what to do. Instead of avoiding this game, I am using it as an opportunity to teach them. My philosophy is to put them in these situations so that they can learn by experience. My hope is that when they go off on their own, I will have taught them these lessons without them even knowing, and in a relatively safe environment with me being here to cushion their fall. If you completely shelter the opportunity for failure it’s my opinion, that they will never learn. Making mistakes when they’re young is a lot more harmless than if they make failures on their own in college when there is a lot more at risk. They will probably make some there too, but my thought is, it’s always good to give them the tools early on.
I’m not saying this method will work for every child or every family, and I am certainly not judging you if you have a different approach than this. I am simply sharing what seems to work for our family.
I realize that this post may not sit well with some of you and I understand that. We all parent in different ways and all of our children have different needs. I am not here to judge what you feel is the right thing for your family. Just like with Pokemon Go, I may not understand, but I am here to lift you up in whatever decision you feel is suitable. Parenting in the modern world is difficult enough as it is, we don’t need to criticize each other, but love one another. No matter how different we may seem, we are all just trying to do our best. I’m no expert, just a Mom who is trying to do what I feel is best for my children’s future.