Pokémon Go has taught me to be a better parent in significant and concrete ways. Sure Pokémon Go is a fun activity that encourages family time and exercise but that’s not what I mean. I will also stipulate that kids can learn about determination, disappointment, delayed gratification and goal setting, but the real value of Pokémon Go is in what it teaches us parents. What do I mean?
Well, if you’ve played much Pokémon Go then you’ll understand when I say that the game can draw you in and make you focus on doing the right things at the right time to get the results you want. You will also know that when a rare or desirable Pokémon appears, it’s time to put your game face on and make sure you convert those opportunities. Those of you who don’t play will think I’m being silly about a stupid game but play for a while and see if you don’t agree (or if you don’t play Pokémon Go simply imagine taking your child along during your favorite activity and allowing them to take control of said activity and you can follow along with the point of this article).
Anyway, I started playing Pokémon Go because my son loves Pokémon and my patients love Pokémon and I wanted to understand the game. I was simply going to play enough to understand but it didn’t take long for me to become obsessed with the next level and collecting enough candies or stardust to power up my Pokémon. Once I was interested enough to care about “our performance” and the results, I was primed for some serious parental learning…
The first few times my son asked, “Can I evolve this Pidgey?” (when we didn’t have a lucky egg) or “Can I power up this Magikarp?” my automatic response to such a stupid and illogical idea was assertive to the point of being aggressive. I tried to explain to my 8 year old Pokémon fan why that was dumb and why he shouldn’t do ANYTHING without my direct approval. I took a similar position whenever we were playing the game together and “he wasn’t doing it right”. Later I would feel very badly about trying to “instruct him” instead of just letting him play but I couldn’t see it at the time. “Man it’s really frustration when someone messes up what I’m trying to accomplish – I worked so hard to accumulate those things and now he’s just wasted them… I would have definitely captured that wild Dragonite – no way it would have escaped me…” are all thoughts I had about actions my 8 year old took while we were supposed to be playing and having fun! It only got worse when my 7 year old daughter decided she wanted to play. The nerve of some people!
My incredibly stupid mindset actually went on for several weeks. I rationalized my behavior by saying that being up on the latest thing kids were into was important to my business, but I was really just being selfish and controlling. One day, I don’t know why, I finally became self-aware and understood how silly I was being. From that point forward (after my shame waned and after saying, “you can do what we you want” about 1000 times so that the kids finally stopped asking permission to play) I better understood a few things that that I thought I already knew that make me a much better parent:
- Understand what is important and what is not.
- Worry only about the important stuff.
- Almost anything I can do with my kids that they enjoy doing with me is a great thing. Time is short and soon they won’t want to hang out with mom and dad.
- Control is overrated. When I let go I’m often amazed at what my kids come up with, how creative they are and how much they can do that I never imagined they could. I even learn from them regularly when I take the time.
- Whenever I find something that my kids can “mess up” that doesn’t hurt them or anyone else, that’s an activity worth engaging in. We humans learn more from making mistakes than anything else. The only thing more valuable than making the mistakes is learning that making mistakes is not a big deal and not to be feared.
- When kids try something they initially find difficult and then master it, that gives them confidence to try other things that they aren’t naturally good at. As a parent, any time I can offer an opportunity for this to happen I should grab it with both hands.
- We parents can be as territorially, selfish and short sighted as any kid when it comes to doing things we enjoy and having others interfering with that. Now that I’ve become aware of my shortcomings it’s interesting to watch parents with kids at ball games, at the park, playing Pokémon Go, fishing, crafting or any other activity families engage in. Often times if you watch closely you’ll see that the kids are squeezed out of the actions by well intentioned, enthusiastic parents enjoying ourselves….
Parenting is an exercise in learning. I’m so grateful to have the wide array of resources that we modern parents enjoy but I’ve also found that if I’m open minded and attentive I also can learn from my own mistakes and the reactions of my kids to my actions. Simply stated, if I don’t get the response I was hoping for from my kids I try hard to examine my own behavior before assuming my kids aren’t doing what they should. Don’t misunderstand – kids often get off track and need correction – I’m just saying that we parents can sometimes lose our way as well. The difference is that we can’t count on an authority figure being around to help us see the error of our ways!