I come from the school of Constructivist not Behaviorist parenting. No sticker charts. No gold stars. No allowance. You do what you’re supposed to do for the intrinsic rewards. Clear boundaries. Clear rules. Logical consequences.

In second grade, my son angsted (that’s a fine word for his big, fat, intractable, boulder-sized opposition) one day when I couldn’t drive him to school, and I needed a fellow student’s mom to do it. He cried. He moaned. He wailed. He refused. And then, I offered him a donut. What if Charlie’s Mom got you a donut on the way?  I was amazed at the power of the behavioral approach. He was like one of those cartoon kids who went from sobbing to a light-switch-change of buoyancy, laughter and light, more than happy to go along with it. Donut parenting 101 forever impacted me.

So when my son at age eleven found himself petrified to get a blood test — he actually, literally, passed out when the allergist suggested we need do it — I brought out the big guns on the way there. “What would make this feel so much better once you’re all done?” I asked.

Battlefield 4.

Battlefield 4 is rated M for “mature”– seventeen and older. I’ve said no to that game, and every one like it, as long as he’s asked for it. It’s a military simulation game where they get to use machine guns, grenades, rifles, knives. Lord have mercy. Common Sense Media states flat out it’s not for kids.

I read about it once more on my phone, do a high-speed Internal wrestle with it, and agree he can use it only when he’s with his father by his side and without playing the multiplayer part with the volume up (I’m drawing the line at him hearing the unmonitored uncensored talk of strangers playing the game. We never allow that).

That completely satisfies him. He agrees. Just like the donut it has this bizarre calming effect, and he breathes his way through the blood test.

Soon after comes my own blood test, I guess, because my husband is out and my son wants me to keep him company so he can play the game.

And you know what? It was certainly awful. The blood splatters on the screen each time he gets killed. Big weapons. But it actually just felt like kind of stupid boy shoot ’em up shit to me. It didn’t feel harmful — didn’t feel like it was going to turn my boy into a killer or a war monger. I wouldn’t want him playing it hours on end, but I wasn’t horrified.

Then it hits me. I can’t believe adults play this game.

Pause the game.

“Son,” I declare, “I have a new rule. You may play this game now as a child (no multiplayer talk). But, I absolutely forbid you from playing this game as an adult.”

He laughs appreciating the irony, I suppose.

I’m horrified though to think that adults want to play this game. Mothers, don’t let your boys grow up to play military simulation games. Let them get it out of their systems while it’s age appropriate. Let them serve their country if that’s their will. But grown men and women playing this, is just, well, embarrassing for our nation. Get a life! Get a book! Get a lover! Do something, anything, other than pow, pow, bang, bang, gurgle, gurgle, got ya.

If kids used to play Cowboys and Indians and now they play Battlefield 4, so be it. Some adult supervision and  common sense, and we’re doing okay here. It’s not like kids understand the true horrors these images represent yet. There’s plenty of time for that to come.

Is it like porno? A secret and hidden vice that modern technology has allowed into bedrooms? Well, Debbie Does Dallas doesn’t do me any favors and neither does my man riding a battleship.

No son of mine will be playing rated M games past his seventeenth birthday. Gracious no.

I think I passed my blood test. I think I’ll go get me a donut.


  

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