I Was Tired of Arguing With My Son Over Video Games So This Is What I Did

Our son Noah is a great kid. He’s witty, smart and a gifted rock climber. We get along great, unless there is video game controller in his hand. He turns into a zombie and I evolve into a barking lunatic and then arguing begins!

This past summer he wanted to play a game that had me on the fence. I felt it was too mature for him so I said no. He whined. I overreacted and he retreated into his room in tears.

This was becoming our routine and I feared it was harming our relationship. So in a moment of weakness, I decided to let him play the game.

He was happy and I liked “feeling loved” again…sort of.

Crap! I felt manipulated.

Later that night I tossed and turned; mad at myself for caving under pressure. I got out of bed and began researching reviews of this game. It didn’t help. Half of them said it was appropriate and the other half said it wasn’t.

God, what do I do?

blog photo - games:contractThe next day, Mark and I called a meeting with Noah. “Buddy, we’re not 100% sure how we feel about this game.”

“What!? But you said…” He was ticked.

I had a possible solution.

Years ago I had seen an interview with politician who would have his kids write out their arguments in order to help them process their thoughts. As I fought sleep the night before I remembered this story and it birthed this idea.

“Noah, your point of view is important and there are times that Dad and I will be wrong.  If your opinion is correct, you should be able to convince us you are right. But…when you whine, my mind shuts off and it’s hard for me to hear what you are saying.”

I went on to explain that if he was willing, he could write a proposal, we would reconsider allowing him to play the game. He would then present it to us and if he did a good job convincing us, we’d allow him to play the game.

Here is what he was required to put in the proposal… 

–       An opening paragraph stating what he wanted and a brief statement stating why.

–       Three points defending his point of view. A minimum of two had to be from research. The more points, the better.

–       A conclusive paragraph summarizing his desire and points.

–       A code of conduct – what was expected from all parties and what would happen if these rules were not followed.

–       A place for all parties to sign.

To be honest, there was a part of me that thought I had an easy win. Noah is a bright kid but he’ll do his best to avoid anything that has the appearance of schoolwork. I wrong! He worked the whole day researching and refining his points. This obviously was important to him.

His presentation blew us away. It was organized well and his points showed he had fully thought through his belief system. His protocol was fair for both sides. Mark and I did add a couple of amendments but in the end…we signed the contract and to date it’s been awesome.

I know this sounds extreme but here’s why we did it… 

–       I realized my overreacting made Noah feel I didn’t respect his opinion. The last thing I wanted to do was anything that would hurt his self-esteem and our relationship.

–       I hoped it would help him to develop an argument without whining (Oh Lord, please!) – and that, by all means, would help our relationship.

–       It would be good practice for writing and research that will help him all of his life.

–       It was a reminder and exercise to both sides of the importance of listening to each other.

–       It would show him the benefit of taking time to evaluate his thoughts with God before jumping to a conclusion.

I’m not sure how long this will work for us but I thought I’d share this with you in case you too have a constant battle in your home. You can tweak this to fit your family and situation. I only wish we had started this earlier. When our kids were younger, we could have done it in a verbal and simpler format. I’m pretty sure we would have avoided a lot of drama from mama – if you know what I mean.

I’d love to hear what you do in your home with similar situations. Believe me, I need all the help I can get!

Happy parenting!





  1. Anna McHargue says:

    What more is there to say except that you are AMAZING!

  2. Missy Russell says:

    Thanks SO much for sharing. We, too, have been working on how to disagree appropriately (not in the heat of the moment & with a respectful tone.) Your SA method is great for turning on the front of the brain & getting him out of the fight mode & more importantly showing mutual respect in a matter you disagree on. Will have to try for sure! Also, would love to read the SA if he wouldn’t mind sharing since the same game has drawn attention here.

    • Laurie Russell says:

      Thanks Missy and great insight on how this affects different parts of the brain! I’ll talk with Noah about it and see if he’d be okay with me sharing his proposal.

  3. Lynda (Barber) Mauborgne says:

    This is awesome! I wish you could be cloned…or at least have your parenting skills bottled & sold! I’m amazed at the amount of manipulation kids do, and how parents react (mostly negative). Thank you, my friend, for this post! : )

    • Laurie Russell says:

      Aw – thanks so much Lynda!This means a lot to me coming from you. I bet you see a lot of manipulation in your profession. We need to bottle YOUR wisdom up and pass it out.:) Miss you my friend!!! Thanks for reading and commenting!

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