My two oldest boys (ages 5 and 9) love to play video games. Last year, their constant requests to play the games drove my wife and me up the walls. We wanted to come up with a way to put a stop to the constant requests to play, and at the same time, help our kids learn how to exercise self-control.
First, we tried a system where they could play video games for a specific number of hours per week. The challenge was that they needed to keep track of how much time they were using and not go beyond the time they were given for that week. Our nine year-old managed it pretty well, but Zack, our five year old, just couldn’t do it. It’s not that he couldn’t tell time. He could, and he knew how long an hour was. He just couldn’t get his mind around the idea that if he played a lot on the first day of the week that he might not have any time left for the other six days. By the end of the week, we still ended up with him being frustrated and feeling like he was being punished when he used up all his time, because the concepts were just too abstract for him. Using concepts from Power Messaging ultimately solved the problem and brought some measure of peace to our home.
One of the things that you learn in Power Messaging is the importance of taking abstract ideas and making them concrete. One of the ways you can do that is through the use of 3-D props. This can be especially important when you are working with children. How do you take something like the concept of base 10, as an example, and move it out of the abstract world? How do you make it concrete – something you can taste, touch, see, feel or hear?
This is a challenge that schools are facing today. One of the ways that they attack this problem is with something called math-based manipulatives. Math-based manipulatives are used to teach math concepts by letting students get their hands on things. Another way you could accurately describe math-based manipulatives is by calling them 3-D props.
Math is one of the most abstract concepts out there. It’s all numbers and symbols. One of the most important things for young children to learn is the concept of base 10. If you remember the concept of base 10, you certainly know how to use it. Base 10 means that once the “one” space is filled to ten then you move it over to the “ten” space and once that is filled up you move it over to the “hundred” space, etc. How can you take that concept and make it more concrete? One of the ways you can do that is with a product called Digi-Blocks. The explanation below is from www.digi-block.com.
Here, the ‘ones’ (or single blocks) pack into the small holders to make a larger block. The “smart box” design only allows the holders to close when there are 10 single blocks inside. This unique feature allows children to know that there are always exactly 10 blocks inside the new, larger block once it is closed. Since there can not be any more or any less, we are able to call it what it is: a ‘block-of-10’.
The “block-of-10” can then be turned on its end and placed into a “block-of-100” and so on. Digi-block is one of many math-based manipulatives (3-D props) on the market that take the abstract ideas in math and make them concrete.
How did we use this lesson to help Zack? Here’s what we did. Instead of asking Zack to keep track of how much time he played video games and how much time he had left, we gave him a 3-D prop to make it easier. At the start of every week, he got some poker chips (anything physical could be used for this). Each poker chip represented 30 minutes of game time. Every time he played a video game for 30 minutes, he had to take one of his chips and put it in a bowl. He could now see how many chips he used and how many he had left. He didn’t ask us permission to play video games, and he didn’t ask us how much time he had left. If you asked him, he could tell you exactly how many chips he had left. This reduced friction between parents and children. We were not the time-keepers, anymore. An even bigger benefit was that it helped Zack with self-control. The first week, he burned through all of his chips in one day (Hey, he is only five!). But he didn’t complain when he couldn’t play video games for the rest of the week. And he never did that to himself again. Ever since, he’s always saved at least one chip for the last day.
Power Messaging® is not just a sales course. It’s a course in human communications. How many personal challenges do you face as a result of communication problems? Reflect back on what you learned in Power Messaging, allow yourself to get creative, and you’ll see that most communication problems can be solved by using these concepts.
By Erik Peterson, Consultant, Corporate Visions Inc.