Video Games Can Be Parents' Little Helpers, If Used Correctly

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John Sting

“Mama?” my six-year-old daughter calls my name from the living room, but I’m busy cooking dinner. I open a jar of red sauce (organic, because at least I’m trying).

“Mama,” she calls again. Louder this time. I pour the Prego into the saucepan too quickly; it splatters everywhere and the acid in my stomach turns to fire.

“Crap!” I grab a towel to clean up my tomato massacre.

As I’m wiping, my two-year-old is holding onto my leg, sitting on my foot with her arms and legs tangled around my calf. I drag my foot across the floor with the twenty pounds of baby, strapped tightly. As I’m wiping, my daughter frolics into the kitchen while shouting.

“Mom-meee!” Her Cinderella dress flies in ripples around her. “I’m bored,” she pouts.

“And I’m busy making dinner.” I put down my rag and turn to look at her. In my head, I count to 10. A trick I learned in therapy. “Go play. Dinner will be ready soon.”

“I already played for like ehhhh-vur.” A wild smile spreads across her face and I know exactly what’s coming. “Can I pleeeeaaase play The Dancing Game? Pleeeaaase.”

The Dancing Game is Just Dance, a game for the Wii. I already know you’re going to say that video games are bad for my kids, so don’t waste your breath. I’ve done my research ― Parents and CBS both say video games can be BENEFICIAL to a child’s development, if played in moderation.

There is a fine line between enough and too much gaming, but parenting is tough and sometimes I need a break. If I’ve learned anything from raising two high-maintenance girls, it’s that video games can help in a pinch, and the value in that exceeds any negative connotations that gaming is associated with.

Often we are eating dinner at a restaurant, whether it’s Buffalo Wild Wings or the local farm-to-table, and my youngest starts screaming for absolutely no reason. Before I get the “I’m-trying-to-enjoy-my-meal-here” stare or the “can’t-you-control-your-kid?” gawk, I put on Toddler Lock, and casually slide my phone in her direction, so I can scarf down the rest of my chicken. I avoid the meltdown, thanks to video games.

Or how about when we’re stuck in the car for six hours? My oldest could have all the coloring books and markers in the world and it might not be enough. She could play “Eye Spy” over and over, look for out-of-state license plates, or take a nap, but inevitably she will start asking me “are we there yet?” And when she starts, she doesn’t stop. She will literally ask me every ten seconds. EVERY 10 SECONDS. Eventually, I hand over her pink tablet, pre-stocked with educational games, to keep her happy. Plus I really want to hear the rap section of TLC’s Waterfalls in peace, you know?

And if I’m trying to get some version of a half-boxed dinner on the table, I need a tiny bit of time to finish boiling the damned pasta before slathering on the jarred sauce. So if my kid wants to play The Dancing Game, that’s fine with me. According to an article in the New York Daily News, I’m not the only one who feels this way. In fact, more than half the parents out there have relied on technology to occupy their kids at one point, or another.

“Please,” she begs again.

One website says that letting your children play with video games will actually make them smarter and more creative. My kids are learning from video games and I’m a saner parent because of them.

Furthermore, it says, again, that negative effects of gaming aren’t prevalent as long as the games you choose are non-violent and time spent gaming is limited. In my house, we follow both of those rules.

“Fine,” I say, shooing her off. “Fifteen minutes. That’s it.” She jumps up and does a shimmy.

“Thanks, Mom! You are the best mom ever!” My heart melts.

“You’re welcome,” I say, patting the top of her head. “Just remember that when I make you eat your broccoli.”

Donkey Kong (1994)

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