Game obsessed child

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  • Kath85

    Hello! I would love to hear if anyone has some wisdom to share on this topic.

    My 12-year-old son has ADHD among other things. He is probably also on the spectrum although we have chosen not to pursue that diagnosis at this time. He has always been homeschooled, but up until about a year ago we were in constant crisis mode with him and were never able to maintain much of a schedule. Praise the Lord, his therapies did wonders and about a year ago we had a much more balanced child on our hands!

    However, we still very much struggle with game obsessions taking up the majority of his brain space and that of his younger brothers.’ For reference, they are allowed about an hour and a half of video and computer games and only on the weekend. However, they spend their afternoons and any free time almost exclusively playing Pokémon or other board/card games, creating their own games, discussing game strategy, or pretending they are inside games.

    I don’t mind this to a certain extent, but my oldest resents doing much of anything else in his off school hours and of course that attitude filters down to his brothers. He doesn’t generally complain about school, but he doesn’t like it and has little joy in it because he feels that it steals time from games (school mornings last roughly 2.5 hours). He feels the same about afternoon occupations – handicrafts, free reading, work, instruments, art, nature study, outdoor time – he downright resents. There is no play acting or excited narration to dad about what they learned in school, because the focus is entirely on games.

    Now, I realize that this is fairly common for kids with ADHD/autism and I also recognize that it’s partly my fault for not structuring our afternoons more constructively in the first place, so that habit was never built. But I’m also a little reluctant to force those occupations because it’s always met with anger/explosions and deep resentment. I think his brain is quickly overloaded and gaming is soothing to him.

    Still, I’m concerned that he and his brothers are missing out on valuable skills and time outdoors. Does anyone have advice on how to handle this without creating serious friction and in a way that respects the way his brain works?


    I dont know how much help I can be. I don’t have children diagnosed with ADHD, though I am sure my oldest would have been if I had pursued that. I though perhaps I could be of some encouragement. My oldest is 20 now, about 12 he was obsessed with Minecraft and Terraria. He would walk around all day as a Minecraft character, a zombie I think, arms folded bumping into things and people, and grunting. It was sooooooo annoying. He would constantly bump his younger siblings and grunt in character. Drove us bonkers. He hated school and anything he had to do he did in Minecraft mode. All art was Minecraft, any project had some Minecraft element. When his younger brother got older they both got into Terraria and I had Terraria worlds drawn on printer paper taped together that went the perimeter of our home. They never wanted to clean it up. Now my oldest is 20 and his brother is 15. They both still love to game. My 15 year old is obsessed for sure, with Roblox, and we are actually about to start an electronics fast to help him discover new interests. The 20 year old still plays Minecraft and Roblox, he and his brother really bond over Roblox, I do love listening to them talk all night about it. I think your limits are age appropriate. I also think, to some extent, its common among most young men today whether or not they are ADHD or on the spectrum. The fact that they turn everything into the game is pretty creative, I would allow it, as annoying as it may be. Perhaps enforce outside movement time, even if they are out there playing “live action” Pokemon. If art let them draw or paint their characters. In retrospect, I wish I had just found ways to incorporate his passion into his activities and handicrafts, rather than trying to make him stop.. They will grow out if it eventually, probably you forcing it wont make it happen any quicker. My oldest – the Minecraft zombie – is a pretty well rounded adult. He hated school and chose work over college. So he works, loves to tinker with cars, draws cars mostly now (rather than Terraria worlds), offroads in a jeep he bought all on his own, goes to church, has many friends, and still games with his little brother. It is just a season, enjoy it if you can, and let them have fun with it. As long as they aren’t in front of a screen I think their minds are engaged. It takes a lot of intelligence and creativity to turn everything into Pokemon. Maybe you could even challenge him to narrate history or science with a Pokemon twist. He would really have to process well to be able to make a history narrative a Pokemon story! I am not super familiar with Pokemon, but I might have asked mine to add the Colosseum to his Terraria World or build an aquaduct in Minecraft.


    My oldest is similar. Although outdoor life has always been a huge part of his life, everything for him is about strategy and games/competition. Getting them outside is the best thing for these young men. So, how can you turn the outdoors into a game? Can you create an older kid outdoor scavenger hunt? At the top of the scavenger hunt page, write “look in the hollow log for the code”. Then, instead of listing “red leaf”, write out a coded word that translates to “red leaf”. And then write all the rest of the scavenger items in the code. Let the boys compete with each other on minutes reading, books read, etc. I know we want them to love reading for the sake of reading, but we have to entice them there sometimes. Narration: let him rework the strategy of wars, and other historical events. “If you were Ceasar, what strategy would you have used? Did he choose the best strategy, or would another way have worked better?” Handicrafts: Give him new modeling clay, and download a stop motion photography app. Have him narrate a school subject by making a stop motion video. Art: Show him the artwork, and when he says, “This is so stupid!” tell him you are giving him 5 minutes to tell you 10 things that are stupid about the photo. Tell his younger brother to tell you 10 things that are NOT stupid about the the portrait in that period of time. In other words, beat him at his own game! Eventually, he’ll start to enjoy the art for it’s own sake. Instruments: Introduce him to musical saws, or give him 12 wine glasses filled with different amounts of water, and ask him to produce his favorite video game musical themes. Find instructions for wine glass music on Youtube.


    Finally, read the childhood biographies of Edison, Einstein, Elon Musk, and other autistic/ADHD/driven men, and envision the incredible future our boys will have one day!

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