Isn’t that nice.

Video games, computer games, iPad/tablet games, cell phone games. X-box, PS3, Wii, DS, Minecraft, Halo, Angry Birds, Madden, Club Penguin, and many more. These can all be a source of fun and entertainment into your family.

Or not.

“Johnny, time to put the iPad away,” says the nice, naive young mother to her 4-year-old, who has been busy tossing colorful birds at green pigs with the swish of a finger.

“Noooooooooooo!” comes the reply. Then the battle begins.

I imagine that 99.9% of you have been there before. Perhaps daily. If this is the case, I’d like to offer you a solution that will be worth more than a case of Advil.

Let me introduce you to the three S’s. These are requirements for electronic activities, in the same way that a driver’s license is a requirement for driving a car. These are not suggestions; they are the behaviors your kids must show in order to be able to have the privilege of playing electronic games. Period.

Welcome to the Three S’s

1) Start Right. This simply means that your kids must begin an electronic activity the right way. They can play after their homework is done, for example. For younger kids (preteen), I strongly suggest having them ASK before they start to play any electronic device. Then you can give them permission or not. This helps you keep tabs on their electronic use and reminds them that electronic play is a privilege.

2) Stay on Right. This means that your kids are expected to treat others respectfully while they play an electronic (or any) game. They must also be respectful to the game device itself. They cannot throw or slam the devices when they lose and they must listen and talk respectfully to others while playing a game.

3) Stop Right. This step is where many kids need some help. When it is time to stop playing the game, they need to respond quickly and respectfully. They can say, “OK” and turn the game off, or they can politely ask to finish their level, etc. They may not always get the answer they are looking for and are expected to still comply in a respectful way. Arguing, complaining, whining are not on the menu.

I highly recommend sitting down with your kids and walking them through the Three S’s. I have done this many times and kids understand them easily. Make sure your kids understand that the Three S’s turn on electronic privileges. Without the Three S’s, electronic privileges will simply get turned off.

You can gently remind your kids about the Three S’s when needed. However, if your child violates one of the S’s, then calmly tell him that that electronic privilege is now done for the day. He’ll have another chance tomorrow. Your kids will quickly see that you mean business about the Three S’s and that electronic privileges will simply not happen without them.

I often ask kids which is more important: their family or a video game. Sometimes, they take a little too long to come up with an answer. Incorporating the Three S’s into your family’s electronic world will help your kids learn that people are more important than privileges and that being respectful to others is more important than electronic fun.

How have you handled the issue of video games with your kids?

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