Life Lessons Not Learned on a Video Game
Video games don’t prepare a young boy for real life or real baseball.
Do you struggle with gaming in your house? We did. We battled to balance it all, with three boys–all naturally born “gifted” video game players, like every other boy in the world. Finally, as a result of learning the hard way that a preoccupation with video games could derail a young man’s dreams lickety split (see Adam’s story here), I made drastic changes with my younger boys. I tried something different, and we went game free. Call me one brave mom, but I was a proven failure at managing their time on those darn games. I knew my limits. So when my youngest was 6, I decided to pull the plug and send them all outside to play.
Removing Screen Clutter
Because my boys’ path was cleared of screen clutter, baseball took the place of gaming, the habit they were obsessed with. They started dreaming of hitting real home runs, not the virtual kind. This dream was fueled through many years of:
- Playing on baseball teams — instead of Minecraft.
- Talking with Grandpa at dinner about baseball — instead of ignoring him while playing a video game.
- Collecting and trading baseball cards with friends — instead of collecting likes on Instagram.
- Reading baseball books — instead of watching YouTube.
- Going to the batting cages — instead of playing a video baseball game.
- Hosting sandlot baseball games with friends — instead of trying to connect with virtual friends.
- Memorizing stats on all the best players — instead of memorizing video game cheats.
- Studying baseball history — instead of sitting on the couch studying mom’s smartphone.
- Watching MLB games on TV with Dad, playing catch with Dad and breaking down the plays with Dad — instead of watching Dad play video games.
Putting Time Where Your Dreams Are
All of this brain power was accompanied by action. One of my sons spent countless days in the backyard with his bucket of balls, his bat and the hitting net. For hours a day, even in the rain, he would throw the ball up and hit it in the net, over and over. Did he ever get distracted with video games? No, because that wasn’t an option. Did he ever get discouraged? Probably. Did he ever get bored? Maybe, but it didn’t matter. To me, he was hitting a “home run” every time he chose to get out in the yard instead of plugging into a screen. I loved that he had a goal, and he was putting in the work to achieve that goal. These are the little moments that all moms cherish.
Then the Big Day Finally Came
The season was as fresh as the new uniforms. The night air was crisp. His focus was locked in. And with the swing of the bat and a sweet crack, the ball went sailing. He took off for first base just as he had for six years, but by the time he rounded second, the cheers from the crowd changed, and he knew he had reached his goal. A home run! His whole team ran to greet him with hugs, high fives, cheers and grins as he and his teammate crossed home plate. When you are 12 years old, life just doesn’t get much better than that.
From my mom perspective, I knew that the real “home run” was not the ball that went over the fence; it was the life lessons that he learned over the last six years:
- Hard work does pay off.
- Practice is key to anything you want to get good at.
- There are no shortcuts to working hard toward a goal.
- Delayed gratification is difficult but it builds patience and self-control.
- Success is not guaranteed and doesn’t happen overnight.
- Resilience. Sometime it takes half of your life to reach a goal, but it is worth it.
- Determination fuels success.
How Video Games Don’t Prepare a Young boy
As much as you want to think gaming is good for your boys, they are not learning life lessons like these if they spend six years on a video game. The preparation for this real-life home run will get him one step closer to success in college, his marriage, his family, his job, and his future. He will remember and use these same skills he has practiced again and again: how to dream, how to plan, how to work hard, how to sacrifice and how to wait for it. He will also remember the sweet payoff of success; that feeling alone will fuel his motivation and his conviction that hard work is worth it.
The Home Runs in Your Son's Future
I am so glad we made the decision six years ago to pull the plug on video games in our house. We will never go back. For our family, that one decision closed the door to arguments, conflicts, depression, laziness and miserable kids. It opened the door for rich boyhoods full of dirt, dreams, determination and the surprising and rare home run. While I can’t promise baseball home runs in your future, I can promise many real-life “home runs” if you make the trade. But right now, I am enjoying this peaceful, quiet late night knowing that there is a 12-year-old boy asleep upstairs in his room who hit his first home run today. His name is written on the well-worn ball sitting on his desk next to his baseball cards. Do you think he misses his video games? He doesn’t. He is dreaming about the next game and hitting another full bucket of balls in the backyard tomorrow; he has home run No. 2 to work on!
Are you struggling with too much gaming in your home? Is your son balanced with other goals and interests? We can show you how to get off the virtual game and back in the real game of life. Please join us at one of our upcoming seminars or check out our website for resources, tips and solutions at familiesmanagingmedia.com.