Family / Parenting

Parenting Lessons from Minecraft

A few months ago, I started playing Minecraft because I wanted to understand why my kids were so fascinated by the game. I got hooked and then started playing on a server with other Minecraft moms and, sometimes, the kids join me and we are able to play side by side.  I’m nearly 13 years into this parenting gig and I think I am a good parent most of the time. However, playing Minecraft with my kids tested me in ways that surprised me and I had to relearn a few very valuable parenting lessons.

1. Let go of perfectionism.

I thought I had dealt with my perfectionistic tendencies and then my daughter helped me build on to my Minecraft house using a different type of block – one that didn’t match. Furthermore, she didn’t center things or show any concern for symmetry which totally ruined the feng shui of my little spruce house on the hill. My first reaction was to correct her and then tell her I was going to redo everything but when I noticed how excited she was to be creating something with me, I remembered there is beauty in asymmetry.

I did not want red sheep...

I did not want red sheep…

2. Don’t be a control freak.

Once when I was playing with my daughter, I went off to mine while she stayed at the house. I assumed she was working on her own house nearby or was farming. When I returned, I went down to my bedroom in the basement and couldn’t find my bed. I looked everywhere before finding my bed in a different room, a room that she had covered in the carpet I had been saving for something else, and I was mad. I called her over and snapped, “Why did you move all my stuff around?” and she said, “I wanted to make a pretty room for you.” And I felt like a total schmuck. I apologized for freaking out and I kept the room as she had made it, adding a few details of my own to complete the look. Sure – all that red carpet makes it look like a whorehouse but at least it’s our whorehouse.

3. Follow the child.

My kids have always gone to a Montessori school and one of the basic tenets of the Montessori method is that you follow the child. Kids are active and curious and seek out new experiences. It is how they learn. Even in Minecraft, I tend to be tentative and stay within the safe confines of what I know. When I play with my kids, however, they want to explore. They lead me into dark caves and down ravines and far from the safety of my walled city and I have had so much more fun in the game because of that. They remind me of the thrill of discovery.

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Sometimes, it’s fun to jump off towers…

4. Listen.

As parents, it’s easy for us to think we know more than our kids. We have better problem-solving skills. We are better at assessing risk. We have more life experience. Even though my kids had been playing Minecraft longer than me, I still thought mother knew best. I planted trees that never grew and ignored the kids’ advice, sprinkling them with fertilizer that never seemed to work. After several Minecraft days and nights, I finally took the time to listen when my son explained that I needed to plant four saplings together for them to grow because the saplings I had were different than the other trees around my house. I did as he said and the saplings grew into a beautiful dark oak tree. I can learn a lot from my kids when I listen.

5. Trust them.

Kids want our approval and want us to see them as capable people – even when playing a video game. I came across a deep dark cave that I wanted to explore and my daughter asked if she could explore it with me. I wanted to wait until I could log on with some of the other moms because I knew they would be better able to help me survive the zombies and skeletons we were sure to find. I hesitated and she said, “Please mama…I know I can help you kill the zombies.” So, I took a leap of faith and we went down in the cave together. She needed me to believe in her.

Look mom! I'm riding a horse.

Look mom! I’m riding a horse!

6. Forgive.

When I went down in that deep dark cave with my daughter, she shot me in the back four times trying to kill a skeleton, almost killing me in the process. I took a look a my little pixelated self – an arrow sticking out of my neck and the rest in my back and side – and then looked at her and she said, “I’m so sorry. I know I almost killed you.” I said, “It’s ok,” and gave her a high five. Forgive and forgive again.

7. Be patient.

While playing Minecraft with my kids, they have run out of food, showed up to fight without weapons, accidentally pushed me off of a cliff, fallen on top of me in a hole, used precious materials of mine without asking, let out my farm animals, accidentally broken my windows and once totally wrecked a fancy hot tub that I spent longer to build than I am willing to admit. This means that I have had to give them my food, protect them from monsters, sacrifice myself to get us out of a difficult situation and fix things they’ve broken. Just like in the real world! And each time, I remind myself that I have to be patient. Because even in Minecraft, I’ve realized that it’s so much more fun when they are around.

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Throw me an apple, kiddo!

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  1. This is so great Vikki. I’m going to start playing Minecraft with my 8 year old. I hope he’ll be patient with me!

  2. I really need a laugh. Thank Vikki! Too bad by 3 year old doesn’t know what video games are.

  3. Great post about the good points of Minecraft. It’s a tricky thing to weigh what my 8yr old should and shouldn’t spend hours of time with! I found a Riddle list of 15 signs Minecraft has Downloaded Your Child’s Brain.

    I thought you might enjoy it!

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