Skip to main content

Child's Play

Is raising your kid as easy as playing Mario Bros.?  Or Contra?

I know there are days when it would be nice if a little Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right B, A, Select, Start action could summon 99 extra parents to assist me. On second thought, no, that sounds awful.  But it would be nice, wouldn't it, if parenting were as simple as repeatedly mashing the A button?
Yeah, don't mess with me.
Parenting, perfected

This guy at the Art of Manliness says it is.

Before you scoff, read the article.  He has a point and its a good one.  Also, what follows is perhaps just a bit of confirmation bias.

As he says, the real trick to parenting is getting kids to do what you want them to do and cut out the annoying stuff.  Face it: as much as you'd like to think you have some role to play in when they learn to spell, or talk or walk, those things are mostly as programmed as when they get teeth.  There just isn't a lot you can do about it.

So what do you do in the face of 25 relatives giving you advice from 1,000s of websites?

Let's load up Mario and find out.

In Mario, there are set rules.  Bump a bad guy and its back to start.  Push A and you jump on top the bad guy, sending him... well, where he goes.  Input-Output.  The same every time.  In fact, a game that changed the rules midgame, or varied them in game, would be incredibly frustrating.  Imagine if jumping on Koopas suddenly resulted in death for no discernible reason or that jumping altogether now resulted in a restart.  Frustrating, right?

Its no different with kids.  They like consistency.  Love it, in fact.  Input-output.  The same every time.  If they find that shouting gets them isolated in a timeout and that Mommy and Daddy ignore them, they will eventually learn to stop running headlong into Koopas and jump on the darn things instead.  But if they only have to restart every 5th time the shouting gets out of hand, well, its hard to play Mario if sometimes the Koopas send you back to start and sometimes you just pass right through them.

No one likes long cutscenes.  Video game developers love to put cutscenes into games.  Long narrative pieces that fill in the gaps and give players an insight to motivations and what is going on.  You know what players routinely complain about?  Cutscenes.  You know what players regularly skip when given the option: Cutscenes.

So why do we keep introducing long cutscenes into our kids' "game?"  No one, games have shown us, like long narrative discussions about what we were doing wrong or where we go from here or how we got to this place in time.  We want to get back to playing.  So skip the soliloquy and keep it short.  Kids need to know they did something wrong, what it was, and that it is game over as a result.  The cutscene isn't helping either you or them.

Good game play.  Of course, skipping the cutscene is of no use if the game sucks.  Who wants to hurry up and be bored.  That is why its so important that you spend your time creating a fun atmosphere around your kids.  That way they have something they want to skip the cutscene for.  Eventually they'll learn that running headlong into Momma or Poppa Koopa results in a restart cutscene and, um, well, hopefully they won't start jumping on your head, so maybe that wasn't the best analogy this time around.  But you get the point.

You can always load a past save and start again.  Parenting isn't one day or one event, its an ongoing series of them.  Maybe you didn't have a great day yesterday.  The article this article is based on recommends doling out punishment with the same even tone you would say anything else.  I fail big time on that one at different points.  Just as in video games, you are going to have that one difficult issue - a boss battle, we can call it - that is going to give you fits.  But just like a video game, you can reload the next day and play that one over again until you get it right.  At the end of the game, you recall the joy of playing it, you don't recall that boss that beat you 50 times, and when you do, you are fondly recalling to your friends how long it took you to figure him out.

So get to mashing those buttons.


Popular posts from this blog

The Dark Months

The holidays are over.  It only seems like life is over.

There is a solid three month period where holidays of various degrees are hitting you one-two-three style.  You have Halloween, which takes some of the sting out of the cooling temperatures and the disappearance of summer.  You have Thanksgiving, with rare foods and the promise of Christmas. 

Then you have a month of prepping and joy for Christmas.  You are so busy, you hardly notice how cold it has gotten.  And this year it got pretty darn cold.  And then Christmas itself.  My wife and I take a week off between Christmas and New Years, so we have that. 

Its a period so full of life.  And then the aforementioned NYE - when the cold decided to take it up a notch.

With triplets, its a little like being shot out of a cannon and taking three months to land.

But when you land, you land firmly in what I call the Dark Months.

There are no more holidays.  Yes, I realize MLK and Presidents Day are in January and February, and yes, I know…


A couple months ago I posted about a push up challenge, and at the risk of pushing this blog into a self-help section, I'm going to post something else that I really enjoy that I think might help a reader or two (all two of you!). currently runs what it calls "Mid-Week Meditations," which is a short story on some piece of ancient wisdom.  Oooohhhhhhh, its ancient.  Just so you know, I'm not one to fall for the whole "ancient" is best meme.

But this is legit good stuff.  They take a quote or concept from a philosopher in the past - think Marcus Aurelius - translate what the sometimes mumbo jumboish phrase means, and then kind of detail how you can apply it.

This week, its all about how to train your mind for constructive thinking.

One thing I love about the series is that it doesn't dress up the knowledge too much.  It doesn't make it out to be more than it is, or suggest that its great simply because some Greek guy said it 2,000 years …

Stop Telling Kids They Are Perfect The Way They Are

Parenting is super tricky.

You do a thing you think is great - look, I've set very strict guidelines that will make my kid a super adult and prepare them for the world - and all you do is instill them with the thought that you never let them have fun and kept them from being able to adjust to the world as it is.
OTOH, you give them no rules and be their friend, and they long for you to have given them direction and guidance and pushed them so that they didn't end up with no skills and a habit of laying around on a couch all day.
It is really the ultimate no win situation in a game that feels incredibly important to win.  As a result, I'm hesitant to give hard and fast advice on how to parent a specific child.
But there is one piece thing I think we parents need to stop doing across the board: stop telling kids they are "perfect the way they are."  
This is also a tricky, mine filled field to traipse through, because honestly, self esteem requires that we like who…