Fear of failure is a normal part of being parent. You’re responsible, and want to do the best job you can. You want your child to have more opportunities than you did. You want to provide them with a better life.
But could your fear of failure as a parent be contributing to your child’s video game addiction?
Recently I sat down for dinner in Adelaide with a group of 15 parents and the conversation was enlightening for me in particular, because there was a consistent theme that kept coming up throughout the night: their desire as parents to ensure their kids did not fail.
To avoid that, they were taking care of every obstacle in the way of their child’s success. They were cooking for them, doing their laundry, and paying their bills.
But was this truly helping their children succeed?
Before I dive into that question, I want to recognize each of you for being incredible parents. You are doing your best, and your actions are coming from a deep sense of love you have for your kids. You should be acknowledged! Thank you.
I also want to state that I am not a parent and I am certainly not here to tell you how to parent. What I can do, however, is share with you my perspective based on the thousands of interactions I have with those addicted to video games – including my own experience going through the struggle – with the hope that my perspective helps you navigate your role as a parent in their lives.
Stop Removing Every Obstacle
So what does removing every obstacle in their path achieve? It create more space and time for your child to spend studying and being productive to become successful. Or at least that’s what your intention is.
The first problem with this is called Parkinson’s Law, a productivity principle that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. The more time you have to complete a task, the more time you will take to complete the task.
So your child comes home from school and has no other responsibilities for the night except to complete their homework. They have about six hours after school to get it done, so they think to themselves, “well my homework will only take me an hour, so I can game for a few hours first.”
We all know how that ends.
When they have less time to complete a task, they have no choice but to focus harder to get it done. They don’t have the luxury to waste time. By including them in chores or family responsibilities, you cut down the amount of time they have to waste gaming, or mindlessly watch YouTube videos.
A Safe Place to Fail
The second problem with removing every obstacle in their way is that it creates a mindset that failure is bad. When failure is bad, failure creates pain, and pain is something we all want to avoid.
That’s not to say that failure is “good”, but failure is a very natural part of the growth and learning process, and that’s how it should be taught.
Allowing your child to fail gives them the opportunity to learn and grow. Allowing your child to fail allows them to cultivate a healthy relationship with failure, instead of an unhealthy one that needs to avoided.
One of the main reasons your child plays video games is because it’s a safe place for them to fail. If they die in the game they just press the restart button and try again. Life doesn’t work the same way, and failures in life feel more permanent.
If they apply for that job you’re asking them to apply for and they get rejected, that hurts. If they put effort into school and they fail, maybe they weren’t as smart as they thought. That hurts, especially for their ego.
Why put themselves out there like that when they can just avoid it and escape into video games instead?
If you find your child is gaming more than you’d like, or you’re concerned it has become a full-blown addiction, there are many variables that can be involved, but one of them is the relationship your child has with failure.
3 Steps You Can Take Today
1. Have a conversation with them about their perspective on failure.
How does failure make them feel? Do they believe failure is necessary to learn and grow? If they failed to achieve (something you’re asking them to do like apply for that job, go back to school, etc), what would they do? What could their plan for the “worst case scenario” be?
2. Include them in more household responsibilities and chores.
Have them make their own lunches, and do their own laundry. It will teach them independence and that is one of the best things you can do to help them become more responsible adults.
3. Become more comfortable with the idea of failure, and more willing to allow your child to fail.
That does not mean you should continue to enable them to game for 16 hours a day, it means to be more willing to set stronger boundaries. If that means your child needs to move out and risk failing on their own, then that’s ok.
Special thank you to the parent in Adelaide who hosted me for this parent night, and for the other parents who came to have an open and honest conversation. If you’d like to host a parent night in your area, please reach out and get in touch.
Lost Your Child to Gaming?
I understand how you feel, because I was addicted to playing video games. In fact, I dropped out of high school, never went to college, and even wrote a suicide note. That is until I learned “why” I was so drawn to games. Today I’ve been game-free for seven years, and I’m finally reaching my full potential! Now I want to help your child do the same.
That’s why I’ve created Reclaim. I’ve taken my years of experience, and thousands of hours studying this subject, and distilled it to exactly what you need to know to help your child overcome their video game addiction.
Cam’s book Reclaim is brilliant and is highly needed. We strongly recommend Reclaim to parents seeking help and solutions for their kids struggling with digital media overuse. – Andrew Doan, MD, PhD (author, speaker, and neuroscientist) and Julie Doan, RN (author, speaker, and life coach)