Changing the Outside Influences of a Child

The thought between my ex-wife and I was that there was a reason our son was lashing out in a negative way. Don’t get me wrong, Ankle Biter isn’t throwing tantrums all the time and he is still the loveable kid that we’ve tried hard to raise…but he is having moments that have given us pause.

Obviously, starting a fight at school and texting really inappropriate things to his friend were the items that caught our attention the most. The week before, though, he got mad at his mom and actually slammed the door.

An eight year old. Slamming a door.

So she opened it up and explained that they weren’t going to do that in their house. You can get mad, but slamming doors and stomping off isn’t going to fly with her. I’m behind her 100% on that, too.

We tried to think about what things were affecting him in a negative way. We came up with a list of items that we thought we would have to crack down on:

  1. Violent video games – Listen, even the Lego games are violent in their own way (hitting somebody and watching them explode into blocks). But one of his biggest pleasures is playing those first-person shooter games. Whether it’s Halo or Call of Duty or whatever. He’s got a ton of those games at his mom’s and one of those games with me. Beginning now, those are being set to the side. Is it adversely affecting him? We don’t know, but the desensitization to violence is certainly there…especially when he brags about a “head shot”. I’m also going to remove the wrestling video games from our weekends together. This will kinda suck for the both of us, actually, because we’ve been playing these games together. But I have a suspicion that he’s maybe getting geared-up from wrestling, and if that’s the case then it’s too early to expose him to that. We’ll still allow games like the “Boom Beach” or “Clash of the Clans” apps, Age of Empires and other strategy-based games, and all the Lego games that we’ve collected over the years.
  2. Violent movies – I don’t normally let him watch movies that I don’t find appropriate. Maybe my sense of appropriateness differs from yours, but to me something like Godzilla or Lord of the Rings isn’t too bad because it’s not real; there aren’t people killing other people. It’s monsters and orcs and wizards and the like. But he has been taken to movies like It’s A Good Day To Die Hard (not by me) and shown other movies that probably weren’t the most appropriate for him to see. So for now, we’re cutting back on those. Just the other night, he asked to watch I Robot on television, but his mom said “no”.  That’s exactly the type of fast-paced action shoot-em-up that we don’t want him to be exposed to right now.
  3. Videos on YouTube – This one is slightly different because we can’t sit there and watch every single video that he watches. I mean, I’ve heard him watch a “gaming mod” in which grown adults are screaming like kids as they chase around and shoot at each other. Every once in a while, an f-bomb gets dropped. Do we shut off the video right at that point? Or do we give it another chance and hope the guy playing the game doesn’t curse again? Do we let him watch home-made videos of kids using Nerf guns to shoot at each other? Is that any better or worse than him watching a clip from WWE.com? Regardless of the debate, this is something we’re going to have to keep a very close eye on.

It’s funny…I grew up believing that television shows and movies and video games couldn’t affect me as a person. They didn’t influence my behaviour and any suggestion otherwise was just stupid. But now? Now I’m a father and I’m concerned that my son is changing, so I’m willing to do whatever I have to do to keep him the way he is now.

Could it be parenting? I suppose it could be, but his mom is single and has never had a boyfriend since we split up (that I know about), so Ankle Biter has never seen violence or cursing in her household. Sunshine and I have had arguments on occasion that he has been exposed to, but that happened maybe two or three times over the course of the past six years. And again…there was nothing in those arguments from at least six months ago that would cause him to start a fight with another boy at school.

I’m concerned. Maybe it’s just a phase and I don’t have to be worried. But maybe it’s him lashing out because of a bigger problem or issue that he doesn’t want to talk about.

I guess only time will tell.

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