Friday, March 14, 2014

Minecraft with Love and Logic

Our boys have been intensely interested in Minecraft for around a year.  With cousins and friends who play Minecraft and the strange world of Minecraft parody songs (e.g. the Lady Gaga "Poker Face" parody "Creeper Face"), they've played a tiny bit and talked a bunch.  We recently gave them permission to buy the game.  It turned out they had enough saved between the two of them to buy one instance of the game, so they're sharing it.  The photos at right depict how happy they were to finally get it loaded on our family computer.

[Notes: 1) Very similar shirts are a coincidence. 2) Note the pride of place of Teddy's Seahawks football he bought with his own money.]

We don't have pictures of our faces when we discovered that Minecraft explained Charlie's slow progress on his science project.  It's that time of year in sixth grade, and both Paige and I had spent time helping Charlie structure his project and think about how to execute and document his experiments about the effects of adding drag to paper airplanes.  When he would show us his draft or his work product for what seemed like large blocks of time working on it, we found that he'd produced far less than we expected.  It kept being incomplete and we kept prompting him with the next step to improve toward a good result.  We went back and forth between a) sympathetic head-shaking about how hard it is to structure a full-on, open-ended, serious science project when a young man hasn't done that before, b) blaming the teacher for not giving enough instruction and c) blaming the boy for just not being able to focus.

When his mother woke up from a Saturday afternoon nap and went to check on him, and found that he was in the exact same place in his science project as when she'd fallen asleep, she asked him what was up.  First he said he “spaced out,” and when she replied that it had been a long time and he hadn’t made progress and he needed to tell her what he had been doing, he admitted that he’d played Minecraft during that time. 

He did own up to it when confronted.  That's what the cusp age of 11 looks like: devious enough to play video games instead of working on homework, but not so devious as to lie about it when he knows he's caught.  

It was an affront, though.  We felt like we really had to come down hard on this because we'd both been expending such effort to shepherd the science project along without doing the work for him.  We also looked back at the assignment packet for the science project and realized that if he'd been consulting that all along, he should have been able to make much better progress than he did ignoring it.  It wasn't the teacher's fault, after all.  We contemplated different lengths of Minecraft embargoes and settled on a month.  He was a little surprised at the length of time, but we hope that it really gets his attention.  We executed it by having him tell us his password and creating a new one until his month is up.  This seems to be a digital rite of parenting passage these days.  

This is more of a punishment than a consequence to use the language of Parenting with Love & Logic.  It is, however, a punishment that hits right at the disobedient behavior.  We hope that the next time he's tempted to play when he's supposed to be doing something else, he remembers that we can take it away.  In fact, still on our agenda is a discussion with him about how tempting it is to lose oneself in a digital escape rather than keep plugging away at something that bores, taxes or tires us.

An unintended benefit of this is that little brother gets to keep playing while big brother is grounded from Minecraft.  That means he can jumpstart his skills and creations, which can only help the never-ending race-without-a-headstart that he lives every day being four years younger.

This all broke last weekend.  When people asked Monday how my weekend was, I told them that my oldest child chose that weekend to become a pre-teen.  As the car chinks its way up the first incline of the parenting-a-teenager rollercoaster, I'm grateful to share it with a partner with whom I can work together on the bewildering new challenges.  Please keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle until it comes to a complete stop.


Lauren Jackson said...

So familiar. And our boys would love to get into a LAN world with T &C when the ban is up.

JFo said...

Oh yeah. Global cousin Minecraft sounds like taking the best advantage of the medium.

Mr. Jackson said...

Love the football! Glad to see the Hawks represented! I am now using MinecraftEdu in my classroom with all my kids. It has worked so far. Like with parenting, it brings up new management issues I have to address but, so far at least, the benefits have outweighed the problems.