It’s quite a headline, isn’t it? But it’s true. I’m an asshole. Ever since Minecraft became a thing in my house, all I do is yell, threaten, punish, and negotiate. Negotiating isn’t necessarily a bad parenting technique, but the kind of bargaining in which I’ve caught myself engaging – “If you stop playing Minecraft, you can skip your bath” or “If you stop playing Minecraft, I’ll give you a dollar” or “If you stop playing Minecraft, I’ll buy Froot Loops” – has left me feeling defeated and depraved.
Last Friday, as I yelled my way through another miserable Minecraft morning – Get up! Eat breakfast! Get dressed! Put your shoes on! Brush your teeth! Get in the car! GET IN THE CAR! – I lost it. Without thinking about the consequences, the following words came flying out of my mouth: “THERE WILL BE NO MORE MINECRAFT IN THIS HOUSE BEFORE SCHOOL!”
I felt a little bit like I cancelled Christmas, but I also felt really good. I didn’t want to be a victim of Minecraft. I wanted to be a survivor. I wanted to be in control of and feel good about my parenting, but I had to admit Minecraft and technology in general were starting to have the opposite effect.
Allison Slater Tate’s remarkable Washington Post piece on parenting in the age of “iEverything” resulted in an aha-moment for me when I read this one sentence:
“My generation, it seems, had the last of the truly low-tech childhoods, and now we are among the first of the truly high-tech parents.”
Yes! That was it! That was why I had no idea what to do about Minecraft! That was why I had no idea why my kids were obsessed with watching YouTube videos of other people playing video games! That was why I ended up yelling, why I was afraid to set boundaries, and why I didn’t know when to say yes or how to say no! That was why I was an asshole! It was because I had no idea what the hell I was doing! But neither did anyone else! Hallelujah!
My boys are young. At ages seven and five, they have access to tablets and smartphones, the Xbox, and our family computer, but they don’t have their own cell phones, and they don’t do social media, send emails, or text…yet. I’m only just beginning my “iEverything” journey as a parent, and I have absolutely no idea know what’s right, but I’m starting to recognize what feels wrong.
On Sunday night, I reminded the boys that there would be no Minecraft allowed on any devices in the morning before school. They would be allowed to play again after school only when all of their homework was complete. I’m pleased to tell you that the kids survived the morning, and, to my great surprise, they complained very little. Even better, I didn’t raise my voice, negotiate with a terrorist, or cry after I dropped them off at school because I felt like an asshole…again.
Toward the end of Ms. Tate’s Washington Post piece, she wrote:
“I don’t think I even believe there is a ‘right way’ to parent with technology. But acknowledging that what we are doing is unprecedented – that no study yet knows exactly what this iChildhood will look like when our children are full grown people – feels like an exhale of sorts.”
As a 30-something- (okay, almost 40-something-) year-old parent of young kids immersed in technology, I’m navigating uncharted territory. I don’t know what’s right, but I do know how I feel. So, at least for now, my strategy is to trust my gut and make choices that don’t make me feel like an asshole. If you think this revolutionary parenting technique will work for you, feel free to use it. Just don’t forget to give the original asshole – me – some credit.