Poor motivations for gaming – No 1. Not wanting to deal with negative emotions

In my post Gaming – How to put kids in control I wrote about the research we carried out: our four sons kept a journal of their motivations to game, their emotions before and while gaming each time they started to play a computer game. Observing themselves this way they concluded:

  • Gaming is most fun if they play with friends, and
  • Gaming does not feel good if they start it to forget negative emotions or to postpone a task.

They thought that they would be in control of their gaming if they would always start playing for the expectation that it would be fun. When they are not in control, they start playing for one of these reasons:

  • suppress negative emotions,
  • postpone a task or
  • pass the time.

In this post I will discuss the first of the reasons, i.e. not willing to deal with negative emotions.

When your teen decides to play a computer game instead of processing a negative emotion, he suppresses that emotion, leaving it unprocessed. Unprocessed emotions lead to stress. So what does it mean to process an emotion? How does one know whether an emotion has been processed? We think very often that we have dealt with an emotion and still it keeps coming back. Again, I did some research and found some useful information.

Here is how we process an emotion:

  1. Turn toward your emotions with acceptance: become aware of the emotion and identify where you sense it in your body
  2. Identify and label your emotion: “This is anger” or “This is anxiety”
  3. Accept your emotions: don’t deny the emotion. Acknowledge and accept that it is there.
  4. Realize the impermanence of your emotions: even if the emotion feels overwhelming, remember that it will pass.
  5. Inquire and investigate: ask yourself: what triggered me? Why am I feeling this way?
  6. Let go of the need to control your emotions: be open to the outcome of your emotions and what unfolds.

source: https://www.gottman.com/blog/6stepstomindfullydealwithdifficultemotions/

So this is when you can submit to your emotion and act on it. However, it’s not always possible. For example, I don’t think I want my 15 year old son to beat me up or scream into my face when he’s angry at me. So how do you process emotions that urge you to do something that is not acceptable? You change those emotions:

Processing emotions


The most important step for teens is to understand that processing their emotions is just as important as physical exercise. They have to find time for it: when lying in bed alone with their thoughts and emotions, or sitting on the backseat of the car, or walking to school.


Screens – Is your teen in control?

Do you often feel that their screen-time is running out of hand? Have you ever asked yourself why it is bothering you?

Mom playing tennis while kids on screens

“When we were kids, we used to play outside”, I`d like to say to them. But I won’t. I don’t even know why I have a problem with them being on screens. I only know that I often feel stressed when I find them gaming. I’m not a control freak, except when it comes to screen time. Time to find a solution.

I have to come to understand my own concerns first. Here are the steps to clean my mind:

I don’t like my kids spending too much time on gaming. This is my starting point.

This combines a thought and a feeling. I think that my kids spend too much time on screens. But the fact is, that I don’t even know, how much time they spend on screens, and I don’t have an idea what is too much time anyway. So I should just say that they spend some time on screens, and that’s a fact. The thought “too much” is subjective. It is not a fact, just a thought.

This thought causes me feel out of control, even angry from time to time when I get tired of controlling my emotions. Sometimes I act on my anger and demand that they shut down the screens immediately.

Would I want to bother controlling their screen time if I knew that they are in control for themselves? No. I’d be happy to let go of this control.

You may want to play this on your own thoughts too. It will at least take care of your side of the issue and help you figure out what you would like to achieve.

So step one for me is to check if they are in control of their own habits concerning screens. How do I do that?

Firstly, I asked them to write down all their thoughts for a period of one week, before they start gaming and after they’ve stopped. The deal was that I would stop nagging them if they co-operate. It was easy to convince them.

I’m sure each young person is triggered by diverse motivations, so I expect four different results for my four kids. Your children would have different motives again.

In my next post I will hopefully be able to tell you what I want to do next about my kids’ screens-habits after I have come to understand their motives.

Are you disturbed by the screen-habits of your kids? Have you analyzed your thoughts? What was your conclusion? How would you find out if your kids are in control of their screen habits? I’d love to read your comments.

Teen tennis cognitive distortion

After our game the other day, where Noe already at the beginning got angry and which ended with me screaming at him, I sent him a text asking him if he knew what cognitive distortion means and how it is connected with tennis. He was playing the piano next to me, before that, doing something on his mobile phone, before that, drinking coffee, and before that, eating… Those are important activities, and I did not have the courage to ask for his attention.

He got the answer within a minute: googled the definition up and could make the connection immediately:tennis trophy

After a few bad shots I thought that I was playing very poorly and that it would stay like that for the rest of the game.

Did you think about the possibility of chasing that thought away?

I don’t know, I was angry.

(Does that mean that he got angry before he realized what was going on? That is something to talk more about.)

Would you have chosen to be angry if you had known where it was leading?


How strong was this no on a scale of 10? – Can he give me an honest answer, without thinking about my feelings? I hope that. That is where two circumstances get in the way: I’m his mother and I was also the one suffering from his tantrum.

8 – I think this is about an honest answer.

So, why would you choose anger as opposed to staying calm?

Because it takes less effort.

I get that, completely. I’ve been through this.

That is enough to digest for now, but I will certainly go on with this conversation later. I have a lot of questions, but I want to ask them the right way. And I want to open my mind for anything he says. I wonder if he would be more motivated to play if he could get rid of the cognitive distortion concerning his game. And if he will want to decide to learn to choose the right mindset.

What if he won’t???

I will just have to accept his decision. It would not be the end of the world, it would just mean that he would take longer to learn to deal with those negative ideas. Unless he stops playing completely because of all those frustrations. That would be tough for me to accept. The whole family plays: it is our favorite thing to do together.

Thank you Your Mindset Coach for the recent post, it was perfect timing for me!

15 Common Cognitive Distortions