Our son is 13 years old and in the 8th grade. He is intelligent (in the Gifted program at school). He gets good grades. He has two or three friends that are good kids. But all he does is play video games either on the computer or the Xbox. He does not do any kind of extracurricular activities. He doesn't play a sport, play an instrument, belong to a club, or even go out of the house to socialize. He seems to isolate himself, although when he does have a friend over, they talk and laugh, but again..they're playing video games. This is causing a lot of tension in the house because we are constantly trying to get him to do something else (like go outside and ride his bike, go to the pool, shoot some hoops, etc). When he is off the games, my husband orders him around and gives him chores to do because he doesn't want my son sitting around on the couch. I feel that, yes, he does need to do chores--which I also give him, but that my husband ordering him around all day out of frustration is not good either. My son is unhappy, and we are unhappy. We are at our wits end and this has been going on for years. My son just refuses to find something else to do. I'm starting to think it's because he is uncomfortable socially and doesn't want to do things with groups of kids because of that. Should we take him to a psychologist?
First, it sounds like you have some excellent instincts about your son--moms often do! I suspect you're right, that he is spending so much time on video games because he struggles a bit socially. More some kids(and adults) it is much easier to interact with technology than it is with other human beings because people can be difficult to read, demanding and complicated. In fact, some kids become practically addicted to video games because they feel challenging, fun and not stressful.
You're right to not want him sitting on the couch all day. However, I'm sure he senses your frustration and at his age, I'm confident that he resents being ordered around and having to do chores as the only alternative to playing his games. Therefore, it is--as you also suggest--a good idea to try and break this cycle.
I have a couple of thoughts for you. The first is to find other short-term activities that are not socially demanding(short term so he doesn't feel he has to leave the games for too long or too much or a commitment)--bike riding with you and his dad; a movie; a short game of cards, a trip to help you at the supermarket--very simple stuff to break the cycle.
The second suggestion is that, yes, you should see a psychologist. There are many things that could make it difficult for a child to socialize including language issues, Aspergers Syndrome (even very mild); depression, social anxiety--which can be hard to diagnose in kids as a parent. See someone that specializes in teens and make sure that your son is happy with the person too. Once you get to the bottom of his difficulty, you will be able to treat it more effectively and the stress on your family will be alleviated.
Good Wishes and Great Parenting,
Dr Susan Bartell
JustAsk Expert www.drsusanbartell.com
NEW book "The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask"
Hang in there! Psychologist is not necessary. Joy is wrapped in many different packages. I have worked with kids for twenty years in a variety of venues. It is quite plausable for a fella to be a well adjusted person and have a handful of friends with no interest in larger group activities. These traits can be attributed to characteristics of an introvert. Descriptions of introvertion can be found on the internet. Often parents and their children end up being at opposite places on the introvert extrovert scale. There by finding it difficult to understand each other. Moving right along, I bet if you read about introverts you'll find a discription of your child and different ways to love him in a way that he can hear your love for him. Some ideas about encouraging activity in his life: maybe he is a runner in stead of a track star. In addition bright minded children get bored easily. They can at times and in a sence concure the learning curve on a topic and then be done with it. An idea to offer would be to look for what kind of thinking he likes to do and get him involved in an equivilant activity. Example Evaluate the games he likes to play. Maybe some of them are Rennisance period games?
So take him to a live rennisance reinactment game in the park. Folks dress up in period costume and pretend to speak the language and play a complicated version of capture the flag. He is getting outside, making new friends, getting exercise and it is different every time.
Remember that the nature of man is to take the path of least resistance. So if you are going to take him to something like this to try it out.... asking him if he wants to go he'll say no. Tell him youre going on an adventure in an I am the parent you are the kid tone maybe of better service. Last, limit the video game time. It has been my experience that games make kids generally sluggish and appathetic to real life experiences. Some parents have set a rule that the child has to do X# of minutes of real life stuff in order to gain Y# minutes in game time. Most often it is a 3x to a 1y ratio. In some cases when parents have set this kind of system in place, and stuck with it, the desire for gaming melts off. Lord bless you and your son!
Firstly! I can identify with this situation as I have a son the same age, who is gifted, and highly creative, and was confirmed as such in evaluations first at age 5, more recently just a month ago with a neuropsychologist.
I used to really struggle with his persistent requests to play games I did not approve of, and the amount of time dedicated to gaming!
It was in fact a very experienced psychiatrist who addressed this matter for me, in that he identified my son as having a need to address his thrill seeking side! He recommended I allow him, so long as he is not acting out his gaming in real life, it would not be a problem.
My son has yet to find his personal niche, though I have to note, he is exceptionally talented at gaming, and the games he plays require some real skills to conquer!
I fixed him up with XBox Live, and he games now with others and is socializing in this way very well, so I see him building social skills, and as he does have difficulty in this area, I feel that he is becoming more confident through this, and it will begin to open him up more to others socially in the real world as time goes on!
Not every boy is interested in what is typically expected of boys! Your son may never be interested in sports, and the activities you feel he should enjoy!
I think it is wise to not pressure him, but rather let him know what is available outside of this and be supportive.
He will let you know when he's ready to change direction! Have you considered looking for a course in computer animation for him, and game design?
This may be much more interesting to him, and is certainly a worthwhile and possibly lucrative venture for him to become involved with, if he likes it, and has talent in this area.
Often when children are very creative they will become goal orientated, and there is no point in fighting with them over anything they feel strongly about, so long as it's a safe activity.
It is better that he is at home gaming, than out on the streets possibly getting in trouble, or miserable because you don't approve of his current passion.
The more he feels you are unhappy and disapproving, the more likely he will be to rebel and dig his heels in.
How about you or dad having a game with him, and trying to understand his interest?
The more intelligent and creative a child is, the harder it is to control their lives and interests, as they often feel much more strongly about their own wants and needs, they feel injustice, and they are often just much more sensitive than their peers, and they don't take criticism very well; you don't want to stifle him, but nurture, offer up suggestions, show interest in the things that are of interest to him, and ultimately you are likely to end up with a very well rounded child, who will be confident and high achieving in the area of his choice!
Whatever that may be.
I hope it all works out for you all.
Treasure the son you have right now! He will treasure you forever for your understanding.
It's not easy for a parent! But maybe it's time to try and really start thinking outside of the box, for his sake.