M is allowed a 1/2 hour of “electronic” time per day. This includes Nintendo DS, computer, Wii and TV. The quid pro quo is that he has to get ready and out the door on time for school. Most days he does pretty well at getting ready in the am. But shutting down the computer or turning off his Nintendo after 30 minutes is much harder. We try to give him a few minutes warning, but it is often a struggle to get him to shut down the device.
Us: Time’s up – you need to turn off the computer.
M: Just a minute, I need to finish this game.
Us: You’ve had your 30 mins, time to shut it off.
M: I need to finish this game.
Us: How long will it take?
M: Not long?
Us: How long is not long?
M: I just have 3 more lives and then I’m done.
Us: That’s too long. It’s time to get off the computer.
M: You just made me lose all mt lives!
At this point, he usually slams the top down on the laptop and storms off.
Tonight M got off the computer without too much prodding and set the table. He asked if he could go back on after supper and I agreed. He finished his supper before we did and went back to the computer. I told him he could stay on as long as it took us to eat our supper. Since M often professes not to have heard us when we ask him to do something while he is on the computer or on his DS, I asked him to repeat what I had said, just so we were clear.
So M had a bit more computer time – about 10- 15 mins. I am usually the strict parent about electronic time and tend to enforce the 30 minute rule. But he was reasonably polite about asking for more time and I was still eating my supper.
When his time was up, M turned off his game as requested. But then he asked if he could go on and download some music to his IPod shuffle. Of course I said no. I explained that I wanted to use the computer – we only have one laptop – and his time was up. He countered that downloading songs shouldn’t count as computer time since that was when he played games.
These kinds of discussions are a slippery slope with M. Of course, it makes no sense to the adult mind, but to him it makes perfect sense. There is little point in arguing with him. I told him he couldn’t use the computer again and he stomped off to the kitchen. He came back a few minutes later to try to plead his case a second time. At this point, he started being rude. I told him he would lose 5 minutes of electronic time tomorrow if he didn’t stop. He made a few more snide comments and stormed upstairs. I heard his door slam shut and then loud banging. I have no idea what he was doing, but the banging got louder. Clearly he was trying to get my attention, but I wasn’t biting.
Eventually he came back downstairs to the kitchen, where he proceeded to take the bulletin board apart and scribble the various papers and phone numbers with a black sharpie marker.
At this point, I asked M if he wanted to watch TV with me. I had already offered to play a game with him, but he turned me down. I figured TV would distract him away from whatever path of destruction he was wandering down. Plus it didn’t require a lot of energy on my part.
As we were sitting on the sofa watching Phineus and Ferb, I wondered if I had brokered an effective compromise – TV instead of computer? Or had I capitulated in the face of M’s fit of pique? On the one hand, I didn’t give in to his demands for more computer time. On the other hand, he got TV, which put him well over his 30 minute limit. He was obviously spoiling for a fight and I refused to go down that road with him. So maybe it was more of a compromise? Maybe it was neither compromise nor giving into him, but rather the most expedient decision, given the circumstances? Sometimes parents have to buy a little peace, before their child covers the kitchen in black shapie marker.
I did remind him that he would only get 25 minutes on the computer or his DS tomorrow. We will see what happens when he remembers.