One of the hardest things for me to understand as a parent is how involved my girls are in barbie video games. As a child I was not very big on video games, I was much more interested in reading and playing outside. Sure, I had a video game system as a kid, but it did not appeal to me as it does to my girls.
Like many other parents out there, I fought endlessly with my girls about video games. My girls were obsessed with them; they always wanted to have the coolest gaming system and the newest games, although Barbie video games were their favorite. I can remember when my youngest received Barbie: Island Princess for the DS for her birthday one year. As soon as she opened that video game, none of the other presents mattered. With her new video game in hand, off she went to her room where she remained for what seemed hours.
I was literally in awe over this strange hold that barbie video games seemed to have over my children. I had read all the warnings in parents’ magazines that talk about how bad video games were for children. I had even seen numerous reports on the news talking about the same things and how several studies had been done. With all of this bad news about video games, I was determined to put a stop to them in my house. I grounded my girls from video games for days at a time, sent them outside to play in the sun. I signed them up for dance lessons, took them to the park, in other words, I exhausted myself trying to distract them from the barbie video games they seemed to love so much.
Needless to say this battle against video games in my house was exhausting. It seemed like no matter what I did I could not change my girls’ minds over video games. I am not the type of parent who gives in to her children or am I the type to give up when I want something. However, it seemed like this battle against video games was going to defeat me. So, instead of trying to fight their obvious interest in video games and the pleasure these games gave them, I decided to check them out.
I grabbed my daughters DS and her Barbie Groom and Glam Pups, the newest favorite video game, and started playing it. I probably got about five minutes into the video game and was at a total loss as to what to do. No surprise that barbie video games still baffled me as an adult. Rather than throw the game down in disgust I called my daughter into the room to help me out. The surprise on her face when she saw me playing her video game was priceless.
My daughter sat down beside me and patiently explained to me what I was supposed to do. Before I knew it I was having so much fun, sitting there giggling and laughing with my daughter, and I was even having fun with a video game.
My daughter and I probably sat there for two hours,
before I realized that it was way past time to get dinner on the table. I quickly jumped up to go cook dinner, but seeing the look on my daughters face made me stop short.
Instead of just rushing out into the kitchen, I sat down to talk with my daughter. My daughter was confused. She could not understand why I would stop playing video games with her to go cook dinner because we were having fun. Oh how nice it is to be young! Rather than just leaving her puzzled, I explained to her that yes I was having fun, but I needed to attend to my responsibilities as well, if I did not cook dinner, nobody would eat. I also reassured her that after dinner we could sit down and play some more video games.
You see by taking the time to understand my kids’ pleasure in video games, I was able to see what I had never seen before. Video games could be fun, even more fun than reading a book. However, I still was on a mission to curb how much my children played video games. Now I understood why they liked them. I was even enjoying them. Even so, that did not mean I supported my kids playing them nonstop, I knew that boundaries needed to be set.
In talking with my spouse, who probably enjoyed video games even more than my kids did, we decided to start a family game night, only we decided to do it two nights a week. Twice a week after dinner my daughters would go pick their favorite video game, which of course each one had her favorite. My youngest daughter loved Barbie: Island Princess, while my older daughter preferred Barbie Groom and Glam Pups. We all took turns picking out the games for family night. And, in doing so, we all benefited from spending more time together as a family.
What I learned, as a parent from this experience is that trying to ban something usually is not worth the battle, I prefer to save my battles for the really big things. By taking the time to listen to my kids and open up my mind, I realized that all the studies were just that a bunch of studies, only I know my kids, and only I can decide if video games are hurting my kids. Now I have come to realize that video games are great, they can even be enjoyed together as a family. Therefore, although we no longer fight over whether or not video games should be played. We do have issues with moderating how much time is spent on video games. Now I will not give up that battle. Everything needs moderation!