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A Mom Writes: “Help–Our Son is Addicted to Computer Games!”

Dear Dr. Bill,

Our 14-year-old son is very bright and enjoys strategic and technical games on the computer. We’ve tried to be careful about limiting his time, but lately his resentment over this limitation has escalated dramatically — especially when we’re getting ready for vacation or have work to do around the house.

My husband and I are wondering — is he addicted? We don’t understand why the computer can’t simply be a fun activity like watching a movie or playing games, rather than something to fight about! What should we do?

–Cheryl


Dear Cheryl,

Millions of parents in the U.S. are beginning to realize that their child may be addicted to computer or video games–something they thought was simply harmless fun.

These parents have confronted the painful reality that their son or daughter is spending countless hours each week glued to a video game console or a gaming website.

They’ve noticed disturbing changes in their child’s personality—they seem obsessed with “reaching the next level” and their friendships are limited to the “virtual” world of their online gaming community. Also, many parents are unaware that there is a disturbing link between violent video games and aggressive behavior.

Here are a few suggestions for dealing with video game addiction from authors Olivia Bruner and Vicki Caruana:

  • Set firm time limits on online gaming
  • Make sure all chores and homework are completed before play
  • Model good viewing and gaming habits yourself (that includes TV viewing)
  • Monitor your son’s attitudes and behaviors surrounding gaming

In a worse-case scenario, you may actually need to get rid of the gaming equipment or block your son’s internet access using parental controls.

Thanks for writing Cheryl. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

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A Mom Facing Divorce Struggles with Some Tough Choices

Dear Dr. Bill,

In the middle of marital struggles with my husband, we became pregnant. Despite this, my husband announced that he wants a divorce. Since I am originally from Europe, I’m considering a move back home rather than staying in this country where I have friends but no family. But I wonder if this is the best decision for my child.

–Heide


Dear Heide,

My heart goes out to you in this very difficult situation. But I would encourage you not to give up hope. Because you are under such a great deal of stress, now is not the time to making major decisions. Give yourself some time and space to think through all of the alternatives available to you.

The research on divorce shows that if couples will slow down the process and seek outside professional help, many marriages can be saved. Although it may feel to you or your husband that divorce is the only option, in reality it’s not.

The fact is that children do better on every measure of well-being if they grow up in a home with a married mother and father. Even if a marriage is less than perfect, staying together is always better for your kids than getting a divorce.

If your husband has no desire to reconcile but is willing to take an active role in your child’s life, I would encourage not to you not to move back to Europe. Fatherlessness has profoundly negative impacts on children, and your son needs his dad.

On the other hand, your husband refuses to take responsibility for parenting his son, moving back to Europe to live with your extended family may be the best option. A loving grandfather or uncle can’t replace your son’s father, but they can certainly give him the male attention and affirmation he so desperately needs.

Thanks for writing Heide. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

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Same-Page Parenting

Dear Dr. Bill,

My husband and I have three teenagers and we don’t agree on our parenting values or rules. I often feel like I need to loosen up and my husband needs to tighten up. He’s never willing to say no, often making me the “bad guy” whenever the kids want something. He’d rather be their best friend rather than guide them the way a father should. And now the kids are taking advantage of this situation, using us against each other. What should we do?

–Janelle


Dear Janelle,

It’s critical that you and your husband get on the same page when it comes to discipline. You’re already seeing the fallout from your very different parenting styles, and things are only going to get worse.

Many couples struggle with conflicts over parenting, and their differences typically spring from the way they were parented themselves. In your husband’s case, I’m guessing that he grew up in a home that was either too lax or too strict. If his parents were overly permissive, he’s following in their footsteps. If they were authoritarian, he’s reacting to their harsh discipline and has vowed never to treat his own kids that way.

Unfortunately, by going 180 degrees in the other direction and not setting any limits, he’s actually harming your kids, setting them up for failure and frustration later on in life.

Share your concerns with your husband in a constructive, non-defensive way. Rather than telling him that your way is the “right” way and that he’s got it all wrong, ask him if he’ll agree to appeal to a neutral third party, someone who is an expert in parenting and child development.

A great book that will help you get started is “The Well-Behaved Child” by Dr. John Rosemond.

Thanks for writing Janelle. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” tab on the Family Expert page.

Disciplining & Parenting Amidst A Divorce

Dear Dr. Bill,

My son is 4-years-old and I have him approximately 5 months out of the year due to a divorce.  My biggest struggle is getting him to follow the rules. He can be very stubborn and defiant, and I respond with either a timeout or spanking if he refuses to obey. But here’s the problem — his mother is extremely passive and when he’s with her, she doesn’t enforce anything.

So far I’ve been unable to get my ex-wife to understand why we need a consistent set of rules and discipline for our son. What should I do?

–Tim


Dear Tim,

You wouldn’t believe the number of divorced parents who have contacted me about this issue. It is a true dilemma, and unfortunately there are no easy answers.

Your first strategy should be to try again to discuss this issue with your ex-wife in a kind but assertive way. DON’T try to talk to her about this in the midst of conflict or in front of your son.

Approach her gently and tell her you know how much she loves your son and that you’re sure she wants the best for him. But let her know that you are concerned about his behavior and that you feel it’s critical for both of you to be on the same page when it comes to discipline and parenting style.

Rather than insisting that your way is the right way, ask her if she would be willing to find a structured parenting program that you both can agree on, and then go through the program either together (or separately, if you live in different cities).

If you make it clear that your motivation is the best interest of your son, not proving that you’re the better parent, she may be open to this. If she denies there’s a problem, chances are she’ll receive a very clear message about his behavior when he enters pre-school or kindergarten. Hopefully at that point she’ll be more open to making changes.

Thanks for writing Tim! If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” tab on the Family Expert page.

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Big Sugary Drinks

As you may have heard, New York City has approved a ban on big sugary drinks.

According to USA Today, the measure could go into effect as early as March. It places a 16-ounce limit on bottled drinks and fountain beverages sold at city restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues and street carts.

It applies to sugary drinks that have more than 25 calories per 8 ounces. It would not affect 100% juice or beverages with more than 50% milk or milk substitute.

In New York, hundreds of soft drink makers and sellers, trade groups and community organizations banded together to fight the ban.

The New York State Restaurant Association and the theater owners’ group also spoke out against the controversial ban.

Andrew Moesel, spokesman for the restaurant association, says “Proposals like the soda ban discourage new business and hurt our reputation as the dining capital of the world,” said “Reducing obesity is an important goal, but we want to partner with government to come up with effective ways to confront the problem.

“What we don’t need is more burdensome regulation making it harder for businesses to function and skewing the competitive landscape.”

But the ban does have its supporters.

Steven Safyer, president of Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, says “The Board of Health did the right thing for New York,” “For the past several years, I’ve seen the number of children and adults struggling with obesity skyrocket, putting them at early risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.”

Personally, I don’t think the ban is going to make a significant impact on childhood obesity. That won’t happen until PARENTS start taking more responsibility for their children’s nutrition—and model healthy behaviors themselves.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM

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Pushover Parenting

Dear Dr. Bill,

My youngest daughter just turned 8-years-old and for the first time in my life, I heard her say she HATES me! And she not only said it to me once, but 3 times. This happened because I reminded her about her chores — she knows she has to do them, but this was her response to me. I found this very upsetting and I wonder what should I say back to her? I didn’t believe my daughter’s words — but, boy does it hurt!

–Diane


Dear Diane,

As difficult as it is to hear mean words from our children, remember this important principle: if our kids always like us, we’re failing in our job as parents.

Too many parents today are so concerned with being their kids’ best buddy that they don’t set appropriate limits on their behavior. I call this “Pushover Parenting,” and it sets children up for failure and frustration later in life.

By the same token, it’s unacceptable to allow your child to tell you they “hate you.”

Explain to your daughter that when she’s frustrated or angry there are certain words that are appropriate to use and others that aren’t.

While it’s okay to say “I’m angry with you” it’s never okay to say “I hate you.” Let her know that if she says “I hate you” in the future—to you or anyone else, she will be punished.

Then follow through if it happens again, and make sure the consequence is a powerful one, like losing a favorite toy or privilege for a period of time.

You can also teach your daughter a vital spiritual principle here. Explain to her that every human being is made in God’s image and that he loves each of us deeply. When we speak in an unkind way toward another person, we are essentially harming one of God’s children.
Thanks for writing Diane. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

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