Yesterday we heard from pastor’s wife and mom Valori Maresco about the matter of video games in their home. Today, we listen in as another mom and pastor’s wife, Janis Shank, shares how she and her husband, Steve, parent their son through this issue.
We have had to face the issue of media games with our 15 year old son (technology had not sufficiently progressed for this to be a big issue with our two older sons or daughter). Here are some principles we have put in place to guide us in the use of Play Station 2 and on-line computer games (with people we know) in our home.
1. Priorities over privileges. The priorities we have stressed have been:
- spiritual growth
- study of God’s word and related books/topics
- participation in our local church
- joyful participation with family activities
- education (including music and sports)
- age appropriate work/chores/responsibilities
Only after these things are prioritized and practiced do we allow the “privilege” of video/computer games, for a limited amount of time, no more than 45 minutes on a given day (with a little more time allowed in the summer months or with a friend on a weekend). On many days there is simply not time remaining for him to play. The kitchen timer is set as a form of accountability.
2. Parental review. Dad has looked at the games, and critiqued them in areas of modesty, graphic depiction of violence, etc. Some games put a premium not only on violence, but graphic displays of it, emphasizing blood, gore, etc. We have chosen not to allow those games. However, some games, though they include shooting, do not seem to emphasize/dramatize the violence that other games do, and we have allowed them.
3. Moderation. Whether it is video games, sports, hobbies, time with friends, etc. we have attempted to use Scripture and the principle of “moderation in all things” as a guide, not allowing the popular trends of what culture accepts to dictate our decisions. Rather, we have asked the following questions of our son to help him look at heart issues:
- How important is participation in these games is to you?
- Do you prioritize them above essential things?
- Do they distract you, preoccupying your thoughts throughout the day?
If video games seem to dominate and animate his thoughts, even though he isn’t actually playing, we discuss idolatry and cravings in his heart and we attempt to help him see these things from the perspective of honoring God with his life, so he can learn to discern how his heart operates. And if needed, curtail the privilege.
4. Dad is responsible. Mom just doesn’t quite understand the thrill of video games that depict hunting down an “enemy” and killing them! Dad seems to be more objective and tolerant of the interest these games create in a young son. What is in place, however, is my opportunity as the mom to communicate with dad my concerns, when I have them, about these games, priorities, potential for distraction for our son, content, and so on. Because I have full confidence that my husband is doing his best to evaluate these “games” objectively, keeping the biblical priority areas as true priorities in our son’s life first and foremost, I can leave these areas in his hands, though he has welcomed and asked for my perspective at any time along the way.
This is how we have chosen to handle media games. Our son is still in need of parental help and oversight and we have, on occasion, removed the privilege for any number of reasons stated above. Privileges removed can only be re-won by a pattern of growth displayed in our son’s life, for the pleasure and glory of God, and not simply to get the privilege of playing the game back
We watch this area of “interest” closely in our son’s life and he knows that these games are not areas he will be allowed to venture into unaccompanied by his parents.
Thank you Janis and Valori (and your husbands!) for your wisdom and example. May their thoughts provoke all of us to consider our own guidelines for our children’s “gaming” habits from a biblical perspective.
This week’s question is regarding an all-too-common issue confronted by parents today: video games...
Q. My boys love playing video games on their dad’s x-box—the sports games in particular. I prefer they play with toys that will develop their brains and imagination, so I limit the gaming as much as possible. Am I just being a mom who doesn’t get the whole male pre-occupation with video games, or is it not good for them?
A. To answer this question, we’ve called in some help!
First of all, we want to recommend a recent article by Dr. Al Mohler entitled “Video Games—The New ‘Playgrounds of the Self?’”, which offers both educational and challenging insight into the world of “gaming.” As parents it is vital that we be informed on issues related to our children’s physical and spiritual well-being so we can make wise decisions on their behalf. Hopefully, reading this article will help you do that.
But secondly, we have asked two moms and pastors wives—who between them have no fewer than eight boys—how they, following their husband’s leadership, have handled the issue of video games in their homes. Both of these families have been long-time friends of ours, and we have observed up-close for many years the godly fruit of their parenting in the lives of their children.
Today we’ll hear from Valori Maresco, mother of five boys ranging in age from one to sixteen. Here is what Valori says about their approach to video games in the home:
My husband Kenneth and I have always been on the same page regarding video games, so it hasn’t been something we’ve wrestled with as a couple, although we have had several talks with the boys! Up until last year, with boys aged 16, 15, 13, 6, and 1, we did not own any kind of video games that you hooked up to the television set (X-box, Play Station, or Game Cube). We did, however, have computer games and had to set guidelines for these. We preferred the computer games because there were more educational-type games available, although we did own some sports games and other fun games as well.
Our general practice with computer games was 1 - 2 hours on weekends only; no computer games during the school day. One of the reasons we limited play to weekends was because we found that one of our sons was having a hard time doing his school work whole-heartedly since he was distracted by his desire to play video games so badly when he was finished. It was apparent that his heart was too drawn to this form of entertainment! And we wanted him to cultivate more of a love for reading than video games.
For the last 2 or 3 years, all of our boys would put X-box on their Christmas list, but we always told them that we had decided that we weren’t going to buy them one, even though we did allow them to play a limited amount of video games with friends. It wasn’t that we were totally opposed to the games themselves as much as we were not wanting the constant lure and draw of these games in our home.
This past year, after my husband sought counsel from several respected friends, we bought the boys a Game Cube for Christmas. We felt the boys were in a place where they were able to follow our guidelines, without temptation, and all of them had become good and consistent readers.
We chose Game Cube over X-Box because it offers more child-friendly games (for our younger sons) as well as sports games. The X-box culture seemed more to focus more in the Mature games category. As we reviewed the games available on the different platforms, we did not want our boys going through the X-box section, and set clear guidelines for going into video game stores.
We still have the basic guidelines that we used with the computer games: no video games on school days for the older boys, and only 1 hour per day for each of them when they are allowed to play. Our younger son is sometimes allowed to play on a school day, but we try not to make that a daily practice so that it is not taking the place of what we feel are more fruitful activities, such as outdoor play, reading, spending time with the family, etc.
So, while we are not all out opposed to using certain video games as a low-priority form of entertainment, we do seek to limit their use in our home in order to keep them in their proper place. We have found that in doing this, they really have not become a big distraction to our boys.
Kenneth and Valori’s wise parenting has obviously served their children and promoted godliness in the home. Tomorrow we will be allowed to observe what “gaming” looks like in the home of Steve and Janis Shank. Stay tuned…
In response to my post last week where I passed on one mother’s suggestion for “blanket time,” our friend Tawn O’Connor sent in a wise caution from her own mother’s experience.
“Just a hint from my own mom’s experience. (She had ‘room time’ for my two brothers, similar to ‘blanket time.’) Don’t leave the timer within reaching distance of the child. When they got a little older, my brothers figured out how to set the timer ahead. Years later, when they finally confessed (post-college-age), Mom said, ‘So that’s why that hour went by so fast!’”
In credit to her mom, Tawn adds, “She was a smart mom—this was one of the extremely rare occasions when they managed to outwit her.” So for all you smart moms out there, be on guard, so that your own smart children don’t outwit you too!
It’s that time of year again: Back to school. Of course, I’m not going back to school and my two-year old Jack isn’t quite ready yet (maybe next year?), but I still have the urge to post a new fall schedule on the refrigerator.
So when Kristin told me she’d received a list of ideas for entertaining toddlers from a mom in her church, I immediately said: “Send it to me!” (That was an imperative sentence for all those grammar buffs out there. That’s about all I remember from elementary grammar. I probably could use some remedial schooling!)
I can’t wait to turn this list (and other lists I’ve collected) into a brand-spanking new schedule for Jack. But I thought some of my fellow “moms of bored toddlers” might also appreciate these ideas. And I bet homeschooling moms with toddlers will appreciate them even more! So we’ve received permission from Elise Finch, who compiled this list, to allow us to post it here .
My love of “schedule” was deeply impressed upon me by my mother. I remember her often quoting Elisabeth Elliot, “God is a God of order.” And now that I am a mom, she often encourages me to strive for order in my home and with Jack. Having experienced the benefits, I’m eager to follow her advice.
“Children thrive in an environment where there is peace and order,” she’s told me. “They know what to expect and what is expected of them. Order, structure, schedule—all help you as the mom enforce the rules, because you know what the rules are and you’ve made them clear to your children. Order in the home teaches children that there are boundaries. It helps them develop self-control.”
Wise advice! But, as I’ve discovered, order doesn’t “just happen.” It can also very quickly “un-happen!” I have to plan, prepare, and persevere, if I want order to characterize my home. And I must confess here that order is probably not the first word that would pop into your head if you visited my home today! We just got new floors put in and don’t have closets yet. So my house is in a bit of disrepair! However, I continue to strive for order. And collecting ideas from other moms such as Elise is one of the keys to pursuing order in my home. With that in mind, I have to pass along one more idea that I learned from a wonderful, godly mom, Laurie Reyes. It’s the concept of “blanket time.”
“What is blanket time? It is a survival technique I employ for that time of the day when we all need a break from each other particularly helpful for post-nap-age children. Here’s how it works: Each of my children have a blanket that they spread on the floor in different rooms of the house. They each bring something to play with. This would include maybe legos, army men with blocks, puzzles, and adventure sets. In other words, they need to choose something that can keep them entertained for a while. I usually give them a crumb-free snack (fruit snacks, grapes, apples, cheerios), a spill proof sports bottle with H2O or juice, and maybe put on music if it is available in the room they chose. Blanket time lasts about an hour, but you may want to start shorter. (a timer/clock helps so they don’t keep asking, ‘is it over yet?’).”
Jack still takes a nap, but I’m keeping this idea in my back pocket! Most of all, I want to emulate Elise, Laurie, and many other moms I know in pursuing order and structure in my home for the glory of God. I pray that Jack will experience the peace that comes as a result.
We are going to take a different approach to Q & A today. We have received a number of questions about raising teenagers…not only from the blog, but personally as well. And while we will continue to attempt to answer these questions, we want to strongly encourage you to take advantange of some helpful resources. These books, articles, and cd’s—if studied and applied—will ultimately be more helpful than any advice we can offer on any one question.
In particular, there is a brand new resource we want to highlight, and that is the latest issue of that most outstanding publication, The Journal of Biblical Counseling. Devoted entirely to topics related to parenting teens, this issue (Vol. 23, No. 3, Summer 2005) includes articles such as:
“Only A Teenager” by David Powlison
“Dazzle your Teen” by Tedd Tripp
“What is ‘Success’ in Parenting Teens?” by Paul Tripp
“Why Do Kids Turn Out the Way They Do?” by Jim Newheiser
“Communicate with Teens” by Tedd Tripp
“Addressing the Problems of Rebellious Children” by Mary Somerville
“Counseling Angry, Unmotivated, Self-Centered, Spiritually-indifferent Teens” by Rick Horne
“Yelling at My Kids” by Nina Campagna
Here are some choice excerpts from just one of the articles (“What is ‘Success’ in Parenting Teens?”). But it’s hard not to quote the whole thing!
“Many parents have a simple goal for getting through their child’s teenage years: survival. But this goal focuses simply on getting yourself through a difficult time. In order to get through these years, parents tend to settle for external, behaviorist goals. We try to deal with our kids according to the Nike way, ‘Just do it!’ But parents who just want to regulate and control behavior don’t give teens much to take with them when they leave home….The final years of a child’s life at home are a time of unprecedented opportunity. As a child’s world unfolds before him and he experiences greater freedom, his heart is revealed. This means parents have to take every opportunity to be part of the final stage of preparation. Being involved with our teenagers at a deep level is a critical goal for these years.”
“The most helpful thing to remember is that your teenager is more like you than unlike you….There are very few struggles in the life of my teenager that I don’t recognize in my own life as well. For instance, imagine my child has gotten into trouble because he’s procrastinated on a school assignment, and now he can’t possibly get it done on time. Haven’t I done the same thing? Of course, I have. And if I realize that, I can’t come to him and say, ‘How dare you! How could you? In my day I would have never thought of doing this!’ Instead, I come as a fellow sinner. It’s because of this that my dealings with him become based on the gospel rather than the law. Here’s my opportunity to point him to Christ. So I say: ‘Son, there’s a rescue provided for us in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. There’s hope for both of us. I need it every bit as much as you do. And I stand with you. However, don’t expect me to write a note to the teacher to get you out of the assignment.”
My husband, Steve, who is the pastor of the parent-teen ministry at our church, recently gave this journal to all the parents. And as my dad says, “This issue of the journal deserves broad distribution.” The cost is only $8 and we hope that every parent of a teenager (or soon-to-be teenager) purchases a copy. You can order it by clicking here or contacting the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation at 800-318-2186.
Also, most of you are probably aware of these resources, but if you haven’t read or listened to the following, we believe they will serve you as well…
Age of Opportunity by Paul Tripp
“Parents, Teens, and Reasonable Expectations” by Grant Layman
Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood
I was lying awake on the couch the other night, listening to my one-year-old Owen’s raspy respirations. He had a bad cold and I was little anxious about how much trouble he was having breathing. Then, having a few moments to think in between Owie’s labored breaths, my mind cast back to the last five years of motherhood and how often I have been anxious about my children.
There was my concerned call to the doctor about Andrew because I didn’t know that periodic breathing was normal for a newborn. Then there were Andrew’s febrile seizures in the middle of the night which were way-scary. I was relieved to hear that he would soon outgrow them. Then came the two miscarriages which led to constant wondering throughout the next two healthy pregnancies.
When an ultrasound discovered a spot on Liam’s heart while I was still carrying him, the midwife could tell I was very anxious. “You can do more harm to your baby by worrying than any spot,” she told me. It turned out to be nothing but a calcium deposit.
Now there is Liam’s speech, which still isn’t as far along as other two-year-olds. And the fearful thoughts crowd in again: “What if he has a learning disability? What will his life be like if he does?”
So much anxiety in these few short years! Then I thought of the writer who said: “There is nothing easy about good mothering. It can be back breaking, heart wrenching and anxiety producing. And that’s just the morning.”
However, that quote is not entirely accurate. Yes, good mothering is hard! But it hasn’t produced anxiety in me. Rather, it has revealed the anxiety that was already there in my heart. Mothering has revealed my sin of unbelief in God, in who He is and what He’s promised to do. So often I have sought relief from my fears in a doctor’s reassurance that “everything is going to be OK.” Too many times I’ve run to the pediatrician instead of running to God.
But because of the grace of God that has broken through my hard heart, I can…I must now choose to repent and trust God with my children. For He is their Loving Creator. He knit them together in my womb and He planned all their days (Psalm 139:13-16). And if he has allowed them to have seizures or learning disabilities, or even a cold, that is all part of His perfect plan for them.
That’s what’s wonderful about Liam’s slow-developing speech. I can’t run to the doctor and get a “for certain” answer this time. I simply have to wait and trust God for my son. I must believe that God’s plans are for Liam’s good, to give him a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11). All is under God’s sovereign hand. And in this truth is rest for a mother’s heart, and eventually for me that night…sleep.
Mom and Nicole have been contributing a series of articles to Crosswalk.com from their book, also entitled Girl Talk. I thought you might want to read this month’s installment for mothers and teenage daughters (and all women) called “The Language of Biblical Womanhood.” Check it out by clicking here.
This is going to be a fun day…I have the run of the blog! Mom and Nicole are heading out of town and Kristin is just returning from a trip. This means that I am free to do whatever I want. The first thing that came to mind was a little something that I have been wanting to post for a while. I was just waiting for the right time. Today is perfect. Enjoy…
It will come as no surprise to any of you that I have been thinking a little more about motherhood lately. I can’t get very far in thinking on this topic without my three very favorite mothers coming to mind—my mom and my two sisters. Many girls have to stumble into motherhood unprepared and unsure, but not me. I walk around each and every day watching and learning from the examples of these three amazing women. At any given moment one of them can be found wiping noses, tying shoes, reading stories, driving carpool, attending soccer games, cleaning up messes, giving kisses…you get the picture. They are always there. Their children know what it is like to live in the goodness of a mother committed to her family and her home, no matter the cost. The options of alternative vocations abound for each of them, but their hearts are firm and their understanding of God’s call on their lives unwavering.
Mom, Nicole, and Kristin, thank you for providing me with a living example of how to walk in the way of the Lord with so much joy. I’m so grateful for the many years learning from each of you. I only pray that the Lord will help me to be the kind of mother to my little baby that you have been to each of your children. I love y’all.
Saturday was our final chance to attend the annual Montgomery County Agricultural Fair. And so, ignoring a heat advisory, scoffing at all the cleaning and painting I needed to finish, and not even considering the two hour car-trip there and back before Jack’s afternoon nap, I guided my 1993 Toyota Camry (greasy-finger artwork on Jack’s window comes standard) toward the Capital Beltway. Once my car is pointed in the direction of Gaithersburg (where the rest of my family lives) it could probably get there on its own, without me steering. Sometimes it actually goes there when I’m intending to go somewhere else.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair. My parents took my sisters and Chad and me to the fair every year, ever since we could remember. Today I can walk down the carnival streets and still see the crazy ride Janelle coaxed me onto, only she freaked out as soon as it started moving. She was crying and screaming and I was praying—hard.
Then there are the legendary pig and duck races and the firetrucks and the little booths where political groups hand out stickers and balloons, and the arts and crafts pavilions where you can see the blue-ribbon winner for bundt cake. And the hog and cow and sheep pens that smell like…well, you know. The fair is what you would call “a cultural experience.”
And it’s an experience I wanted Jack to have. So after waiting in a long, hot line for our tickets Mom, Kristin, Janelle, Chad, and I took the kids on one of the rides. Jack smiled and said “weeeee” and I thought, I love the fair!
Then we went to Old MacDonald’s Farm which I was sure he would go crazy over since he’s always pointing out the animals in books or on TV. But it didn’t turn out quite like I’d imagined. Instead of petting the animals, he stayed in my arms, gripping me with his legs and repeating nervously: “I say bye bye cow,” “I say bye bye horsie” whenever we’d get near any animal bigger than a rabbit.
Oh well. Sticky and smelly now, we headed over to the cheese barn for some real Wisconsin cheese and cold red grapes. And then trekked back to the car with sweat dripping down our backs. Exhausted, we finally arrived home, and after depositing Jack in his bed, I took a much-needed nap.
I asked Mom later “Why did I do this? Why did I go to all this effort for an experience I thought Jack would enjoy when in reality, he’d probably be just as happy playing in his sandbox at home? He didn’t even like the animals and he’ll probably never even remember we went to the fair today!”
She laughed and told me about the time she and Dad took us girls for a big day of sight-seeing in downtown Washington, DC. Only, we were more interested in the bright yellow trashcans and the pigeons than the Washington Monument.
I don’t remember that day downtown. But you know, when I think of my childhood, it’s like one big happy memory, full of fun and exciting outings. And I guess that’s why I took Jack to the fair on Saturday. I want him to feel that way about his childhood someday. And who knows, maybe twenty years from now he’ll take his little boy to the cheese barn at the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair.
Last Thursday night occasioned another one of my husband’s surprises. He’s provided a gazillion of them for me through the years. He simply told me what time to be ready and how to dress. This time my surprise was dinner at a homey, rustic restaurant followed by the play “The Miracle Worker” at a nearby theatre. It was a wonderful evening.
And if you will indulge me I’d like to say a word to my husband. (He is in Sun Valley, California at present, due to being the guest speaker at Grace Community Church this past weekend.). CJ, I hope you read this today because I simply want to tell you again how grateful I am to be your wife. Thank you for thirty years of devoted, passionate, exhilarating love. I don’t deserve you!
So back to what I was saying. We went to see “The Miracle Worker.” Most likely, you are familiar with the plot. It’s the story of Annie Sullivan’s struggle to teach the blind and deaf Helen Keller how to communicate. Initially Annie found it extremely difficult to teach Helen due to her wild and violent behavior. But then Annie had a revelatory moment. All of a sudden she realized: “Obedience is the gateway for knowledge to enter the mind.” She understood that she needed to first teach Helen to obey before she could teach her knowledge.
At this point in the play I couldn’t help but think of my daughters, Nicole and Kristin. That’s what they are doing. They are attempting to train and discipline four little boys to obey so they can impart knowledge. And not just any knowledge, but the most important knowledge of all—the message of the gospel.
So to all moms with little children I desire to encourage you today. I want to cheer you on in your efforts to discipline and train your children to obey. It’s hard, exhausting work, I know. Just watching my daughters makes me tired. But it’s worth it. Because an obedient child is a receptive child. And with a receptive child you can teach them the good news, the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. Now that’s a goal worth striving for, don’t you agree?
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Prov. 22.6