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Using Gaming to Push Through Failures

In a previous post, I wrote about my response to Julianna Miner assertion that gaming can be perceived in a positive light for youth that may have difficulty fitting in to normal school life. I was bothered by the notion that a solution to fixing difficulties in the social world was to encourage an activity that would further hinder the ability to grow socially.

However, today as I continued to study this notion about what parts of gaming can be used in a positive manner, I was reminded of times where I could see the positive influences of gaming. It was not during a time when kids were in solitude playing a game by themselves against people they didn’t know (not gaining any real social interaction), it was instead in times when youth were playing games together in the real world.

I can think of a time recently when our family convened during the holidays and the middle-aged (including me) crowd was playing Wii with the younger ones. It was a fantastic time to laugh when the older ones were making hilarious failures, and it was a time for the kids to think positively about themselves as they were excelling at something the adults were struggling to do.

It was clearly a social interaction that was facilitated by the gaming experience. I feel this sort of gaming is fantastic as it allows the adults to join the children in the fun and demonstrate that the gaming world can be a fun way to do things together.

To Dos: Do play games with your kids. Highly recommend to have any gaming consoles or devices in public areas of the house.

Secondly, my initial post was heavy in how strongly I feel about developing grit and perseverance by pushing through failures. I fully admit that when done correctly, games and in particular games that require improving skills or figuring out a puzzle are a powerful way for young ones to feel the disappointment of failing, but continuing to push through the failures until they are able to accomplish the task…moving on to the next level, or improving in the game.

To me this is still one area that is not fully understood. In games, it really doesn’t take all that long to improve, to the point of mastering the game and ultimately beating it. Even the most challenging of games I suspect take something like a year to complete.

In this respect, if a child has difficulty realizing that little failures are sometimes required to improve past the short-term struggles, then to me it makes sense to incorporate gaming to help get them past this mental block.

To Do: Encourage children to continue at a game they started if they feel the desire to quit when things get challenging.

However, once a child has demonstrated they are okay with failing on occasion, then I feel the payoff that games provide for the youth start to reverse.

Many parents point to studying a musical instrument or improving in a sporting activity to help force children to learn something that takes years and years of practice. The many failures involved in mastering a musical instrument can feel painful through the journey. It seemingly feels like it never ends as each year the lessons get harder and harder.

I think of how we have seen success by incorporating little rewards along the way. Rewards for practicing. Rewards for performances (even if they weren’t perfect). Rewards for increasing in levels.

To Do: Reward children often when doing a task that takes years…even decades to master. Such as playing an instrument, math & creative writing, singing, playing a sport, etc…

I have observed children playing video games in a way that brings me concern. The have many games they enjoy playing, but as soon as one feels hard, they bounce to another game. They may say they got bored of that other game. However, it is an indication that the child feels the games was too much of a challenge and did not want to push through the difficulty. This is where I go back to a basic premise, being involved as a parent during the early stages of a child’s life is critical for stopping this type of tendency before it escalates.

If you are going to allow your child to play games on a device, get to know the games and play with them. Help them push through the difficult moments of the game. Every moment in life can be a chance for development. Certainly, if you and your household choose to incorporate games, I think this can be completely powerful when an adult is intentional about noticing the responses the child has and helping the child to push through the desire to quit too quickly.

To Do: Observe how children play games. Demonstrate a healthy response to failing in the game. Teach that repetition will often allow skill improvement to pass an area that was once challenging to complete. Point out to the child to reinforce for their identity when they accomplish something new.

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