Friday, January 04, 2008


If you can't beat em...

Z got an Xbox 360 for Christmas. We'd been reluctant to give him one because he seems to get so engrossed in whatever game he's playing - currently, "World of Warcraft"... Why provide any extra temptation?

In early-November his grades had fallen, drastically. I met with his teachers and learned a few things - several late and missing assignments, missing or incomplete homework, some messed up quizzes, a few really bad tests, and so on. Z admitted he hadn't tried too hard to stay up with everything, and although he wouldn't acknowledge that it was related to his online gaming, he did say he really wanted to get things back together and was willing to work hard for it.

So we made a deal: two hours of studying earned one hour of WoW (school nights only)... real studying, with a pencil and paper, and worksheets, etc.

I realized I should start spending a half-hour or so each night with him to review and explain some of the missing concepts - especially in Chemistry and Geometry. Even after teaching Chemistry (almost 35 years ago), and working as a chemist for several years (about 25 years ago), I was surprised how much of the basic stuff I'd forgotten, but it all came back quickly enough; although I don't really like the way it's being taught now. On the other hand, today's Geometry syllabus puts a lot less emphasis on proofs than I had to learn.

We were relieved (and proud) to see Z take this all pretty seriously and put in the time and effort to bring those grades back up. He spent quite a few lunches and time after school going over problem areas with his teachers. He also brought his homework to me every day - not so much to prove he was doing it, but so I would look through it with him. Gradually the grades started to come back up. He really studied hard for the semester finals and by the end of the term his grades were back in line, in fact somewhat better than before.

Along with all the studying, he still took his hour of WoW every night. In any case, he did fulfill his part of the agreement.

He's wanted an Xbox since the first one came out several years ago. So, we caved.

Rather than set it up - as we had expected - on the old TV in the game-room (admittedly not the best quality), he immediately plugged it into the new "Home Entertainment" system I was installing. Over the past week, he invited me to "help" load and setup each of the games, drawing me into the character selection and story line development. I have never had a lot of patience with video games, usually getting bored with them pretty quickly. It had been several years since I'd even tried one. But, the quality - graphics and capabilities - of the new systems is astounding. I admit it, I got hooked into playing along. Sort of. That is, mostly watching and advising Z as he plays. I still don't have a lot of interest in manipulating the characters directly, unless it's riding a horse on the trail from one town to the next. Each time a threat appears on the path, I hand the controller over to Z to fight off the wolves or bandits or whatever. Then he hands the controller back for me to ride onward. Still, I've enjoyed working through the situations with him and figuring out ways to overcome the latest challenges.

I find I still get bored with it rather quickly, but with the long nights and cloudy, cold days, not much consulting work this time of year, and all the TV shows on recycle, I've been willing to give it a go. I don't think I'll get hooked, but I finally think I can see the attraction.

As we face the next term, we've agreed that two hours of studying will earn two hours of gaming. If his grades hold through the quarter, we'll loosen it a little more.

Sounds like a great deal all around! Way to compromise!
You are waaaaay nicer than I am. I am a charter member of the Mean Mommy Club.

I have a strict policy on games and TV. Basically, none during the week unless you have straight A's. Three A's get you 1 hr with Dad if he plays an acceptable game with his xbox night. And no TV during the week, except if Ihave to leave for rehearsal and Dad isn't home yet and your homework is done and your room is clean, then you can watch until he gets home.

So yeah, I'm the mean mommy. :) But this works for now since my guys are much younger.
We were quite a bit stricter on these matters with Z's older brothers, A & B, now age 31 and 30. By the time Z came along, we had mellowed considerably (as A & B are quick to point out). The main difference, though is that I spend a LOT more one-on-one time with Z, and we have a strong, open relationship. As for watching TV, he'd really rather read a book.
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