Children see, Children do

Question : My 8 year old son is absolutely hooked on to Video Games and Mobile Phone Gaming. Right from the time he wakes up he is thinking of his games. When I ask him to do his homework or study, he is just not able to concentrate because he is still thinking of his games. He is not doing too well at school. I find him becoming very aloof and lost in his own world of gaming. Looking to understand what can be done to help him get out of this addiction of sorts.

Answer : Children learn only by imitating what they see and perceive in their environment. There is no other way a child learns.

Sometimes children blindly copy. Sometimes they observe for a while and interpret what they see and then copy. I’m sure you would have observed little children pick up toy phones and say “Hello!” into it….or little boys trying on their father’s shoes and strutting around…or even little girls trying their mother’s lipstick and/or wearing the dupatta (stole) as a saree. And in most of these situations we have unconsciously applauded them for successfully copying the parent. So the child continues to copy the parent and feel worthy.

Very often we have seen, in cases where children are hooked on to gaming, the child is merely copying the fact that the parents spend considerable amounts of time on their laptop/phones/devices. The parent might be working, but the child only perceives the act of sitting in front of the system. The child is now inclined to spend time with devices and gadgets in order to feel worthy.

Now if you’ve understood this simple phenomenon, you could reverse the pattern using the same principle.

START DOING WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE YOUR CHILD TO DO :
~ If you wish your child to spend time studying, please start developing the habit of studying or reading as a hobby.
~ If you wish to have your child learn music, start with listening to music and enjoying music in the presence of your child.
~ If you wish to see your child eating his vegetables, be more conscious about your health and diet yourself.
….I suppose you get the drift.

Now, what do you do with a child that is already hooked on to gaming?
One couple experimented with their kid’s addiction. They decided to bring home a whole lot of colouring-books, sketch books, crayons, oil paints, playing clay, jigsaw puzzles, board games and the likes. And everyday the couple decided to spend time doing one of these things together – either sit with the jigsaw and solve it together, or just pick up some crayons and start colouring and sketching.
Invariably the child would just leave his video games and join the parents in this new fun activity. Soon, “family time” became a part of their routine. The child improved considerably. Almost a year down the line, he started displaying a keen interest in joining painting classes and expressing his creative side. The parents only ensured that they genuinely and sincerely did what they wanted to see their kid display.

The child is inherently programmed to always try to fit in to his/her environment. And the child best does it by copying what the environment (read: parent) is doing. If you observe an issue in your child, start by looking at what he might be copying. You might help the child tremendously. 

Watch this little video (below) that beautifully captures how children watch what their parents do, and then copy the same thing in their lives. Be it little gestures of how the parent stands while going up an escalator or more pronounced gestures like road-rage, addictions and abuse, the child is always watching and copying what the parent does in his/her life.

NOTE : The questions and answers in this series are compilations of discussions during therapeutic sessions with my clients. These are not generic pieces of advice.  I am deeply aware that these answers can seem way too simplistic for people actually going through similar situations. Please comment or connect with me if you find yourself grappling with something I have expressed.

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