Getting my kids to use critical thinking skills is an important aspect of life. They will need those skills when they enter the independent world of college, jobs, relationships and just existing in a modern society. My children do well in school. When they are having fun at home I try to make sure both my teenagers understand thinking things through will always be an important skill that fosters learning life lessons.
Enter the video game.
My kids only get to play video games after their homework is done. That usually means from 7:30 until 10 p.m., one or both of my teenagers will be playing on his or her video game console.
One thing my kids like to do when they are stuck in a video game is to research how to do a certain task on the Internet. Even worse, they beg me to buy a game guide. They would rather see what others have done before them rather than figure things out.
I gently remind them of my heyday playing video games. When games were simpler there were no extra lives or bonuses. I had three lives to win five levels of a World War II bombing game or I was toast before the game was over. I actually had to get progressively better at the game as I went along in order to win. Otherwise my goal would be unattainable. If I wanted to beat a game I had to master the process.
My kids know me by now. I’ve been insisting for years that they at least try to get past the level they are playing for an hour before looking something up. I use an hour because I don’t want them to get overly frustrated without at least trying first. I just want them to try their best first before researching how a level works. Whether my kids are playing a gentle game with those Italian plumbers or a shoot ’em with giant robots, I’ll sit down with them and try to beat the level using my help before we hit the Internet. More often than not my kids get it before looking at a tutorial.
The point I make to them is that life doesn’t always have a tutorial for specific situations. We humans learn as we go by experience and pass the knowledge on as best we can. I will gladly give my children advice on whatever they want in a situation that is unfamiliar to them. But as they learn on their own, I would prefer they work it out for themselves if I believe they can handle it.
Video games are a perfect learning tool for moving through life. When my son gets stuck at a level, he gets creative to get around it. If my daughter gets hung up on a certain boss battle, she’ll play scenario again.
Only after they get a little “life” experience in the video game will I let them look up how to win. If everyone got to look up how to beat the game of life we wouldn’t learn anything. I may annoy my kids sometimes with the video game philosophy, but they have come to accept the things on this world they can’t change.