My teenage son went through a short phase (although it seemed to last forever) of gaming for long hours, avoiding showers for days, taking his food back to his room, and avoiding contact with us at much as possible. Yes, he was in the throws of World of Warcraft, and the sudden emersion into this multiplayer fun-fest took him off his feet. I could hear him laughing at all hours of the night, even though he would insist the next day that he was in bed by 10 p.m.
My nagging for him to stop playing felt quite similar to the nag I used to give my husband when he was in the throws of yet another MMORPG. I stopped nagging my husband years ago, when I realized that all that energy could be put into my own quality time. If he was so involved in this hobby of his, then I decided to focus on my own hobbies and build my own life. This is probably the most healthy approach for any relationship, although your marriage tends to grow in different directions.
Yet, the focus away from the nagging worked. I made sure to appreciate the times they did spend with me, and realized that they will grow tired of the newness of their current game, and will come back to the ‘real’ world. My husband realized one day that he was missing a lot of my life, and didn’t really like the fact that I didn’t nag at him anymore. The nagging meant he had some control over my feelings. With that power gone, he couldn’t wait to get it back! The entire experience evolved into a great lesson for me. My happiness was no longer bound to what the people in my life said or did. My happiness was under my control.
With this lesson being learned, I decided not to nag at my teenager, but use a different approach. As a growing boy, I didn’t want him to subject himself to living a life of reclusion at a computer. The thought of him growing into one of those pale, smelly gamers who only comes up from the basement briefly, was not a nice picture. Here are some methods I used to help him transition out of this period nicely:
1. He has to feed himself. I would not serve him food while he was playing. If he couldn’t eat dinner at the same time as us, he would have to come up and heat up his own food.
2. Emailed or texted him notes of appreciation or love.
3. Watched him play. There were times that I would go into his room, sit back on his bed, and chill out. I tried to maintain a good conversation, but there were times where he was so far gone into a raid, that he would barely say anything. But, even so, I enjoyed bothering him.
4. Encouraged him to attend family outings. Sometimes, I MADE him to do this, which involved threatening WoW account closure.
5. Chore completion for monthly subscription fees. I will admit I balked on this sometimes, as I’m not very good at insisting on chores. As time wore on, I did get better and more of a stickler on this.
6. Family vacations to the outdoors. There is no better way to get your kids attention, than by taking them away from technology. Camping is especially a great way to get them involved with the family.
7. Make it clear they know where you stand. I told my son specifically that playing games exclusively in life will not bring him fulfillment. I also told him that he would grow out of it, and when he does I’ll still be there, but in the meantime he still needs to be responsible for taking care of himself. Bathing, eating and sleeping are basic life necessities. If his gaming interrupts those, then he should take a break.
Overall, he listened. He has since passed the obsessive gaming, and is more active in our family life. He still uses his computer and phone a lot, but it has been a more positive experience than negative. He has grown to be an amazing teenager, and I even think WoW helped him grow out of his cocoon. He met some great friends during that time period, friends that he’ll probably know at least ‘virtually’ his entire life.
The great news is that I didn’t freak out about the whole thing. I was able to continue living and raising him as I wanted. Nagging has lost its luster for good.