It’s become known as the day I thought they’d finally turn on me, that my own children would want to stab me in the eye with their overpriced, scented Smiggle pencils. T’was the first Saturday of the Christmas holidays, which may explain my naive, fuzzy optimism getting out of hand, however, ‘shouty mummy’ had already reared her scary head and unleashed the fury of a thousand toddlers denied “choc-choc”! I’d heard enough shouting “replenish my health” down headsets/into the next room/to the brother sitting 67cm away to last me a parental life time; been told “…but I’m in a game!” like it was the answer to every possible request I could make of my children and seen the cherubic faces of my offspring for a whole 13.5 minutes (while they scoffed vital food supplies) in an 8 hour period.
The request to put away the football kit I’d picked up from their floor the previous day, washed, dried, folded and returned to their room was ignored! Enough was enough – hell hath no fury than that of an ignored, washer-woman mother; something had to give and I wasn’t going to let it be my sanity – not this time!
So, the very next day I set my mandate, a peace treaty if you will, to ensure that the Xbox was no longer seen as a priority, a given or, a virtual ventilator offering up needed gaming-oxygen to my console dependent children – it’s a treat, one that is earned, not a God given right to small people just for gracing this planet.
I’ve had DMs, comments and emails asking me if it’s still working? What I’ve done, are we still doing it? So below I’ve popped the outline of what works for us, with the aim of offering up hope to those of you out there who have lost a child to a world of Fifa points or Fortnight loot drops. But a forewarning, you will hear a lot more “I’m bored/I’ve got nothing to do/are you trying to ruin my life?” while the period of adjustment sets in – but this is about the parental long game!
The Time Limits
- 2 hours of Xbox on school days.
- 4 hours of Xbox on weekend days, but not between the hours of 10am-6pm.
- No Xbox before school, football matches or football training, until you’re completely ready and have checked there are no other jobs.
- Unused time cannot be carried over to other days.
- If you go over your allotted time, I reserve the right to go bat shit crazy.
No Xbox until the following have been done:
- Lunchboxes emptied and put away.
- School bags and coats hung up (not on the floor).
- Bedroom floor clear and that doesn’t mean scooping everything up and shoving it the laundry basket!
- Beds made.
- Any clean washing put away.
- Any dirty washing/the washing basket brought to the utility area.
- Any football kit/school uniform/PE kit needed for the next day is ready.
- Homework is completed.
- A chapter of reading book is read.
- Any other tasks requested (bins going out, showers, emptying the dishwasher etc) have been completed to my satisfaction.
Any fights with regards to the above or the Xbox games, disrespectful or unkind behaviour will result in losing Xbox time with risk of a ban, all at the discretion of ME! MWAHAHA!
I know there’ll be people thinking 4 hours?!?! That’s loads! And I agree, but I’m taking things slowly and bearing in mind that my boys, in particular, spend a lot of their free time at football training/matches (8 hours plus 6.5 hours travelling a week) – so, while it may seem (to them) that they’re still getting a reasonable amount of time – in reality it works out a lot less. I’m also not willing to set unrealistic goals (for me or the boys) and would rather have something that’s seen as compromise, than all out war! Sure, this all could’ve been avoided had we not started on the slippery path of pads and consoles, but in 2018, it not only takes a strong parent, it takes a stronger child to be alienated from friendship groups for not being involved in the latest Fortnight glitch or best Fifa draft. I’m a firm believer in balance, and that’s what I’m trying to restore; while teaching the boys about priorities and taking responsibility for their precious time.
I’ve seen suggestions mentioning earning points/time; for every job completed a certain amount of time is allowed on the console or earns the wifi password for the day. We tried this once for pocket money, and I considered it for this – every job earned different amounts/20 minutes on the Xbox. I was soon being pestered for jobs every minute of the day – there weren’t enough jobs to dole out to my money/console hungry monsters. They were doing jobs which didn’t even need doing – Bruno changed all bed sheets on his brothers’ beds two days running!!
Have I been rigid? Hell no, I’m not perfect and this is still a period of adjustment. I have to get reacquainted with interacting with my kids again and the boys need to realign their eye line to above TV level to meet my eyes! There are days when the cleaning, emails, cooking, ironing et al would benefit from 8 hours straight of the kids being comatose by Call of Duty! But my patience, sanity and relationship with the kids (so I’m told) will benefit – the rest can wait, or I’ll add them to the list of “jobs” for the kids to do before Xbox time!!
Thank you. This may prove invaluable to me and my husband when our child is old enough! We already have rules for the iPad. At 3.5yrs old we finally realised he was using it way too much. And we were using it as a crutch, especially at those 5am wake ups when he wouldn’t go back to sleep!
That’s how it all started… years ago, with a Little Einstein app here and a farm animal noise game there on their pads. Before you know it they’re battling warlords from other galaxies that refuse dinner time cos “I’m in a game” x
Love this. However I’m afraid now my son is 15, 16 in June I’ve completely lost control of the time allotted to PS4 gaming. It’s a different ball game at this age and you can be regularly woken during the night on weekends as FUT championship games wait for no man. I’m out town there is a lot of teenage problems with drinking and fighting so I’ll take the during the night shouting and thank my lucky stars he’s safe at home communicating with his friends and being sociable. The world has moved on and they communicate in a different way to we did but that’s not necessarily wrong. He plays football 7 hours a week and stays at school late to do supported study. Anyway what I’m saying is the use of gaming consoles is not always a bad thing and at some point in you’re teenagers life it will become a blessing x
Hi lynne, thanks for your comment. I’d like to say we see it as a blessing with our 15, 16 in April, year old; it’s not. While I sooo get your point about others out drinking and doing drugs, which thankfully neither of ours are, his non-stop PS4 gaming has had a huge impact on his social skills, the input he’s put into his GCSE prep leaving a year of retakes as a very real option and mental health. Sure, the world has changed, which I’m certainly not denying, I feel our parenting tactics need to also alter to embrace this. Unfortunately, I’m only too well aware from our resident teens that it can be a different kettle of fish to my 10 and 11 year old, and sure, the teens aren’t happy when we enforce the time limits and controllers/iPhones get taken away for the night between 10pm and 8am… but we, in particular, needed to rebalance our house and the boys’ dependence on these bloody consoles. It’s not for everyone, but hopefully these words will help someone. X
Like you say it’s not for everyone but for us the alternative is very scary. Only this morning he was telling me about a boy he goes to school with and has since primary doing cocaine and ecstasy last night. That scares the shut out of me! If the results of his prelims are garbage then the study time will increase and he’s ok with that. Have a great day out there is no chance I’m getting him into the world when there’s football to watch. So maybe not a blessing for you but definitely is for me. Oh and the ten year old hormonal girl she’s another kettle of fish all together x
Great blog and I personally think you have done it in a really sensible way. Of course there will be people that think 4 hours is too much but provided they are spending time enjoying other things and being active (which clearly your boys are) then a few extra hours at a weekend if they are doing everything else you ask of them can’t hurt. We have a very similar set up – PlayStation is played first thing in the morning at weekends and stopped by 10am and then maybe another hour around tea time and then that’s it. We don’t want to deny ours the chance to enjoy the games and play online with their friends but totally agree with you that if as parents we don’t keep control over it ….. they never come off it!! Well done for taking on the challenge … it’s so easy to let them keep playing so you can get some peace/jobs done!
My son has just recently received an xbox ban…because i had a lovely email telling me my account on Xbox Live had been reported for bad behaviour, looking further into this I discovered that my son had been saying some pretty rude things/swearing to other people on his friends list. This one particular ‘friend’ wasn’t even his friend and he has never met before (let me clarify that I did set the privacy settings on correctly so he couldn’t chat to just anyone – and they failed!) My son is also an avid Fortnite player and he absolutly LOVES the game and to be fair it’s nice to hear him playing with his friends….however, my son is 8 years old (9 in october) the age limit for Fortnite is 12+. in your opinion do you think he should be playing the game???? I have said that I will think about it once he has his Xbox back..he had 1 weeks ban! Thanks Victoria xx