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Every day it was the same battle. Immediately after school, video game addiction would set in, and my well-mannered children would become their chaotic counterparts to wield a video game controller.
I was once the mom who limited screen time to only weekends. That’s not to say I don’t still urge my children to do a physical activity over video games. But when you live in the midwest, and it’s negative 10, with a windchill of negative 30 succumbing to some technology on weekdays doesn’t feel like the worst thing.
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But how do you find balance?
How do you not slip into letting video games with your ADHD child become your go-to babysitter?
As a parent, you set it up to help you win.
I grew up with a mother who never let me play any video games, aside from a handheld Gameboy I received for my 11th birthday. The only game on it? Frogger.
So when my kids began wanting to play video games…
I was worried I was some horrible parent. That it would destine for them to become mindless zombies who only understood how to speak to people through a headset.
Not to mention, aren’t video games terrible for ADHD kids?
Here’s a great video from Understood.org about the pros and cons for video games for ADHD kids, by someone a lot smarter than me.
I was determined for video games not to be their demise.
I researched and set strict boundaries and as time has gone on these boundaries have widened slowly.
Here are the rules we set for video games for ADHD kids in our household based on the ages of my children:
Video Games for ADHD Kids 0-5 years old:
None. Aside from the rare occasion of learning games. (Think Leappad, VTech).
Did they whine that everyone else could play Minecraft?
Yes, they did. Daily. But at this age, screen time was an apparent privilege and their developing brains needed more substance to create neurological pathways that set them up for learning in school years to come.
This age was not a time for video games in our house. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends most children not even watch a screen until 18 months- 2 years old. Beyond that, the amount of screentime is very low. 1-hour maximum up to 5 years of age, and preferably only high-quality educational programming. This is based on research-based evidence that shows that brain development at these stages of life needs adequate physical play and sleep. Two things that screentime can significantly disrupt.
6-8 years old:
We introduced games. They were limited to only weekends and only rewarded based on everything else that was a responsibility being completed. Did this always happen? Probably not, but I was satisfied with how well we stuck to it. Games were introduced as a single player, no ability to log in to the internet. And we stuck with things like Minecraft, and simple games on phones/tablets.
8-12 years old (where we are currently):
Gaming is a reward.
Is homework done?
Sure, you can play video games but only for an hour. Or, “No you can’t get on video games until the dishwasher is unloaded.” or “You lose video game privileges today because you didn’t complete your homework in time.”
We also take this one step further and use extra chores for my kids to earn gaming money.
Allow me to explain:
My oldest son upon finally being allowed Fortnite immediately began asking for add-ons, or otherwise known as skins. These are small details that you purchase in the game for worldly gain. They aren’t required to play; they just look cool.
Our conversations go like this:
“How much is what you want?”
“This pack is $9.99. Please, mom. Please mom, PLEAAASSEEEE.”
“Ok. I’d say you need to come up with two approved $5.00 jobs to be allowed to purchase that.”
In our household, we don’t make an allowance.
You are paid based on work you do. In the summer, finding jobs to do that are above his usual chores is easy for him. Things like weed whipping, mowing the lawn, helping his Grandpa do manual tasks, basically anything outdoors is what he will gravitate to. And because these jobs are not daily jobs, he is allowed to get paid. But the price point has to be agreed on based on the work.
For this $9.99 exchange of two $5 jobs, he ended up being required to help me clean out my car and also clean up the living room area part of the basement. He cannot take help from his brother for this because it then becomes a split job. Something his brother earns money for as well.
In this case, his brother was going to benefit from the purchase, so he did help. But he doesn’t play Fortnite as often as my 10-year-old.
If you are hesitant to allow your child to use tools such as a weed whip, or lawn mower I assure you there is a job at their skill level that they can get paid for.
To help you come up with some, I’ve created a cheat sheet of odd Jobs you can use. I’ve left a few spaces blank for you to fill in Jobs specific to your household to get you started. You can find it in my resource library.
In the meantime, I would love to hear if this technique works in your household as well as it does in mine. I’ve also applied it to the cost of movie rentals, movie purchases in Amazon Prime Video, as well as trips to places I cannot afford in our budget.
In the end, the lesson isn’t that video games for ADHD kids are evil, but that they are a reward. They are a luxury that you only gain when responsibilities are taken care of. On top of that if you want things that cost money, then you will do like the rest of the world and work for it.
ADHD Kids are capable of hard work, the incentive just must be greater than the action.
I’m still working on finding motivation for my youngest, he doesn’t seem to care about having money to spend.
Ah, the parenting adventures continue.