Q: Should we have kids if my wife is emotionally unstable and has been physically abusive with me? We've been married for ten years and this has been going on the entire time. I very much want kids and don't know what to do.
Jim: I'm saddened for you and understand the painful prospect of life without children. Still, under the circumstances, I think it's fortunate that you haven't had kids yet. Physical violence and abuse are serious problems in a marriage. It's impossible to say for sure without more details, but our counselors suggest that the kind of behavior you're describing may indicate the presence of a personality or mood disorder. That's not a good situation for a child.
I'd encourage you to make a determined effort to deal with these issues decisively before giving another thought to having kids. You can't possibly move forward until you've addressed this pressing need at the heart of your relationship.
Ultimately, your wife must acknowledge that she has a problem and do whatever it takes to get in touch with the sources of her anger and frustration. That may mean digging up past hurts, facing fears about the future or exploring the possibility of chemical imbalances. In the meantime, parenthood will need to wait until these hurdles have been overcome.
If you've tried counseling and it hasn't worked, try again—preferably individual therapy for your wife and intensive marital counseling for the two of you. Our counseling staff can provide you with referrals to qualified therapists in your area and would be happy to discuss your situation with you over the phone. They're available at 855-771-HELP (4357).
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Q: I'm totally in sync with your view that kids should play only positive video games—but that's not our issue. Ours is time. Both of our children play only games with suitable content, but it's like pulling teeth to get them to quit. Any help here?
Bob Waliszewski, Director, Plugged In: As you've discovered, even games you don't mind your kids playing can be time bandits. Video game makers have definitely figured out not just what it takes to entice children to play, but to keep them coming back for more.
A good rule of thumb for curbing the tendency to overindulge is to require your kids to read 30 minutes of a great book in exchange for the privilege of playing a video game for the same amount of time. Or you could require an hour of reading for 30 minutes of electronic screen time (TV, computer, video gaming, etc.). I'd suggest developing and instituting some type of coupon system as currency. However you choose to enforce this, your children will come out winners. They'll expand their world—increasing their reading skills and knowledge—while keeping gaming activity under control.
A related challenge you might encounter is that your child's mental clock may tend to "run slow" when it comes to his 30 minutes of gaming privileges. The remedy is to employ a reliable timekeeping device. In our home, we used an egg timer to help enforce a family rule that limited video gaming to 30 minutes per day (an hour on weekends). These days, there are timers on the market that go one better: They actually shut off a device at a predetermined time so you don't have to be the bad guy. What better way to limit gaming to what you and your spouse determine is best for your children!