Scarvey column: ‘You don’t need more friends’

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 17, 2008

Last Saturday morning, I went to see the Homemade Jamz Blues Band at the library. This talented young group performed brilliantly later that day at the Rowan Blues and Jazz Festival.
Although the three Perry kids who make up the group have a serious music career, they struck me as pretty normal kids, if a little more well-mannered than most.
As part of a workshop, they were fielding questions from the audience. Their father, Renaud, was on hand, too.
He said something to the parents in the audience that made me want to stand and clap:
Well, he didn’t yell it, but I heard the implied capital letters.
Renaud enacted his own ban when he realized that video games had become overly important to his kids.
Of course there are things other than video games that become unhealthy obsessions for kids. Television. Facebook. Junk food. Or ____________. You fill in the blank.
If you’re imagining Renaud’s kids were devastated when their games disappeared, you’d be wrong. Or if they were disappointed, it wasn’t for long. They redirected their energies, spending more time on their music.
And boy, has that paid off.Sixteen-year-old Ryan now thanks his dad; he recognizes that the game ban helped make him the guitarist he is today. And he still finds time to hunt and fish.
What do kids actually get from playing video games, other than immediate gratification? I’d concede that gamers develop certain skills and gain the confidence that comes with mastering something. But it’s sobering to consider what gets left behind when kids spend so much time in front of a monitor.
Renaud would probably agree with writer Norman Douglas: “If you want to see what children can do, you must stop giving them things.”
I told Renaud that I applauded his parental decision. With a background in the military, he assured me that he has no problem exerting authority.
Wielding control seems to be a challenge for many parents. We all know parents who seem to want to be their children’s friends, parents who let their kids dictate what’s for dinner, what they wear, what’s on TV.
I tend to agree with the person who said, “When a child is allowed to do absolutely as he pleases, it will not be long until nothing pleases him.” My husband and I aren’t the world’s most authoritarian parents, but neither one of us minds making an unpopular decision once in a while.
“You’ve got enough friends,” my husband likes to tell our kids. “I’m your parent, not your friend.”
When did we get the idea that families need to be democracies?
There were times when we’d tell our older daughter she couldn’t do something her peers were doing รณ and sometimes we’d notice a fleeting look of relief on her face. Just because kids test boundaries doesn’t mean they don’t want any.
And as the Perry kids show us, telling kids “no” to one thing can open the door to other, better things.
Contact Katie Scarvey at