Failing Motherhood

The Case for Embracing Screens + Video Games with Mx. Ash Brandin, EdS

October 03, 2023 Danielle Bettmann | Parenting Coach for Strong-Willed Kids Episode 124
Failing Motherhood
The Case for Embracing Screens + Video Games with Mx. Ash Brandin, EdS
Show Notes Transcript

NOTE: This episode will not answer every question you have in hopes of finding the *perfect* formula for managing screens and video games at your house.  However, I guarantee you will see them in an entirely new light one hour from now, no matter your child's age.

Mx. Ash Brandin, EdS (they/them) has been a public school educator for over a decade. . After years of research and starting  their Instagram page @thegamereducator,  they have helped over 100,000 families make screen time beneficial for the whole family.

The COVID-19 Pandemic brought forth a reckoning in how we view and interact with screens, especially as parents.   Ash believes screens should be a part of our lives, not the center of our lives and helps caregivers navigate the world of tech using consistent loving boundaries. 

IN THIS EPISODE, WE COVERED...

  • Whether there is "good" screen time and "bad" screen time
  • The brilliance of video games and how to work WITH them
  • The need to sit in the discomfort of prioritizing our own needs as parents

DON'T MISS-

  • The privilege of discovering ourselves so our kids have an easier time doing the same


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Ash Brandin:

So much conversation around tech and screens gets very myopically focused on kids. And I completely understand why. Because we haven't very focused on like, what is it doing? Is it good or bad? Is it helping them or harming them? And but most of the time, not that clear cut either. But what is so often missing from that conversation is the adult is often a very important factor in why we might be utilizing the screen time and that is a perfectly okay reason to utilize it. And therefore we need to consider the adult in the conversation.

Danielle Bettmann:

Ever feel like you suck at this job? Motherhood, I mean? Have too much anxiety...not enough patience. Too much yelling, not enough play. There's no manual, no village, no guarantees. The stakes are high. We want so badly to get it right. But this is survival mode. We're just trying to make it to bedtime. So if you're full of mom guilt, your temper scares you. You feel like you're screwing everything up. And you're afraid to admit any of those things out loud. This podcast is for you. This is Failing Motherhood. I'm Danielle Bettmann. And each week we'll chat with a mom ready to be real. Sharing her insecurities, her fears, your failures and her wins. We do not have it all figured out. That's not the goal. The goal is to remind you, you are the mom your kids need. They need what you have. You are good enough. And you're not alone. I hope you pop in your buds. Somehow sneak away and get ready to hear some hope from the trenches. You belong here, friend. We're so glad you're here. Hey, it's Danielle. I'm so glad you're here. It is such a joy to bring you these interviews. If you've been tuning in for a while and loving it along the way, do us a favor and pop a little five star rating and your Apple or Spotify app while you listen today. It helps more parents know that they are not alone if they feel like they're failing their kids on a daily basis. Which speaking of, if you have recently caught yourself saying "no" to screentime because in your head that they should be doing something better or different....Or if you say yes, then you're failing as a parent...you needed this episode yesterday. Now disclaimer, this episode will not answer every question you have in hopes of finding the exact right answer or formula for managing screens and video games at your house. However, Ash is going to challenge you with such valuable illustrations and insight. I guarantee you will see them in an entirely new light one hour from now. Let me introduce you. Ash Brandin has been a public school educator for over a decade. And in that time, they found innovative ways of using student interests, including video games, to increase engagement and make learning more fun and effective. Since February of 2021, their Instagram page "the gamer educator" has helped 10s of 1000s of families make screentime beneficial for the whole family. Ash believes screens should be a part of our lives, not the center of our lives and helps caregivers navigate the world of tech using consistent loving boundaries. Isn't that the goal? So our conversation today covers the plight of the mental load, the illusion of the right answer, the need to sit in the discomfort of prioritizing our own needs, how COVID brought forth a reckoning and how to move forward from here, whether there is good screen time or bad screen time, the brilliance of video games and how to work with them, not against them, and the privilege of discovering ourselves so our kids have an easier time doing the same. And we didn't get to circle back to it at the end. So please go follow Ash on Instagram@thegamereducator for more insight and tips after this episode. And without further ado, here is my interview with Ash. Welcome to Failing Motherhood. My name is Danielle Bettmann. And on today's episode, I'm joined by Ash Brandin, "the gamer educator" on Instagram. Ash, thank you so much for joining us. And I'm not only going to pick your brain from a personal place, but we just want to tend to take some of the pressure off and let everybody know that it's okay if your kids watch a little screen time or a lot of screen time, you know actually probably okay. But go ahead and just introduce yourself to my audience. Who are you? Who's in your family?

Ash Brandin:

Hi, so I'm Ash. My pronouns are they / them. I am"the gamer educator" on Instagram and I am parent to a six, six ish year old. I don't use their real name or their pronouns on the internet and they don't have any like they don't show them on the internet either. So

Danielle Bettmann:

it's probably for the best.

Ash Brandin:

Yes, yeah, they go by WB, that's their like internet nickname. They don't really realize it's their nickname. So I'm a parent to them. I have a spouse, and I am a middle school librarian, and was a classroom teacher in middle school for around 11 years then changed every being like right in the last two years. So work with kids in many, like academic spaces, and pretty much always in the middle school range, and then have my kids.

Danielle Bettmann:

Very cool. I didn't know you were also a librarian, so we could talk about banned books, and all the other controversy...

Ash Brandin:

All the things.

Danielle Bettmann:

...all the things. It takes a special person to deal with middle schoolers. I was an educator, I went into elementary ed, but I just feel like there's definitely you require thick skin and a really playful personality. So it sounds like you check those boxes of being able to put up with the ups and downs of the emotional roller coasters.

Ash Brandin:

Yes, I tell people that. Like if you can hack it in middle school, like you should, because I because not that many people.

Danielle Bettmann:

Yes. It is a top tier human.

Ash Brandin:

But I also find more and more, the longer that I am a parent and also, like work with this age of kid that I tell people that like you really need to cover up the 10s digit in their age. And that's like their emotional edge. And that is so so. So, so true. And then just add in like hormones and bodies and changing. And yeah, when I was like last actively in a physical classroom teaching, like pre COVID, I had my child was like turning three. And I was teaching seventh grade. So those kids are 12, turning 13. So I have a two three year old at home and 12-13 year olds in the classroom. And I had a student who was like, Wow, I'm explaining that must be really different. Like you have a two year old at home and you come here and you work with us. I was like No offense, it's exactly the same. To me, and I was like, Well, my child, I was like, it's all about power. It's all about power and control. And you got more power than you have. And I was like my kid wants to be able to dress themselves and can't get this working on that. And you wish you could decide what you wear every day. And your adult doesn't always let you do that. And the kid looked at me was like, Oh, I guess you're right. It's like, Yeah, same

Danielle Bettmann:

mind blown. That is the caveat, though, of like, being an educator and a parent is because like you never get a break. It's like you move from one environment to the other. But it's the same thing taken out of you. It's a lot.

Ash Brandin:

Yeah, and some things are definitely easier to handle when it's not your child. And so things are definitely harder. There's definitely things where you're like, Okay, when I'm with my kid and I have more empathy or understanding or know the ins and outs of this kid, this is not a big deal. Or other times where you're like I can handle this better, because it's not my child because there's some emotional distance.

Danielle Bettmann:

I'm not taking it personally. Yeah.

Ash Brandin:

Exactly. Sometimes that emotional distance makes it much easier. But yeah, you're kind of always in that space of like management, managing all that. is tiring. Just a little bit.

Danielle Bettmann:

Understatement of the year. Yeah. So to humanize you for my audience to make sure that we don't think or jump to assumptions that you have your entire life together with all the you know, I's dotted and the T's crossed. Have you ever felt like you were failing parenting?

Ash Brandin:

Yeah. When you were like, oh, we'll start with an anecdote. I'm like, Oh, I don't even it's one of those things where you're like, Oh, what do I even go to? Like? Yeah, but yes, yes. I have a very supportive group of friends who are also parents, and we have kids who are all the same, roughly the same age. And, you know, like clockwork, every like, you know, a couple of weeks, one of us will be like, spiraling out of control, in this place of like, oh my god, I'm terrible. Like, I've screwed up, or am I doing something wrong, my bad. And then one of us will come in and say, like, bad parents don't worry if they're bad. Mm hmm. And I've been in that place so much, and it's back to school season. So I'm always like, I find that a very kind of emotional, anxious time of year, as a parent, understandably, in my job, I obviously but like, as a parent, it's that time of like, oh, you're just you want to send them out into the world and be successful and then so much of it is out of your hands and it's so hard and when those things come up, it's so easy to to go to a place of like, Oh, if I had just, you know, done this thing that somehow protect them from this and it's such a hard, helpless feeling. So yes, been there? Many many a time.

Danielle Bettmann:

Yes. You just put your words what like everyone is feeling in this season. And they are nodding along I guarantee it, like, thank you for saying it out loud.

Ash Brandin:

Absolutely. We're all there. Yeah,

Danielle Bettmann:

I think it is like the timing of the season where you're like, Oh, another year has passed. They're another year older. They're like, you know, one more step farther out of our house, you know, like, you're counting down. How many more years do we have left, like, it's just like, Oh, it's on the tip of your awareness now, where the rest of the year is kind of like, alright, you know, see holiday to holiday? And you're like, oh, no, the time's running out? Have we done everything? Oh, no. Let's overthink every decision we've ever made. And think about the future. Yes, you know, minor details. It's fine. We're all fine.

Ash Brandin:

Yeah, and it hard when you just take that very personally, it's hard not to take that personally and feel a weight of it.

Danielle Bettmann:

And if you are, that means that you're probably being quite intentional. I'm caring a lot about your kids. So that's a pretty good sign. You're doing a good job already. Yes. So who were you before you became a parent? Have you been in education sphere for a while? How did you get into what you're doing now is basically what I want to know,

Ash Brandin:

I actually got into this through education. So yes, I was not in the like, parenting advice space. But I got into this space, because essentially, because COVID forced my hands. Because I, I grew up with video games as just a relatively neutral part of my life. They weren't a big deal. My family didn't treat them as a big deal. They're just part of my life, like other parts of my life. And so when I went into education, I saw them that way. And it was at a time where there were certain video games that I thought would be really effective, like tools to bring into a classroom. And so in my master's degree, I thought, Oh, I'm gonna, like, look into the research on this and basically found that there wasn't any and I decided to start playing with stuff and trying stuff in my in my academic life, and really liked it liked when it brought to kids really rethinking, instead of being like, oh, let's bring video games into classrooms. It's not very practical, but instead, it was more like, how do we make learning feel as motivating as video games? Feel? I think a lot of people assume that video games are we hear words like they're addicting. But mostly what they are is motivating. And if we reframe that, to think like, oh, how is this thing motivating this person to try something 100 times to work through something to challenge themselves to be perseverant? Suddenly, we see it as skill building. And I'm like, How do I take that and bring it into an academic environment. So that's what I tried to do in varying ways around like curricular structure. And I liked it liked what I found, like what I tried, and I mostly presented that in like gaming conventions and conferences and local spaces. And that was kind of it. And then in COVID, I thought, Well, I'm not going to a convention anytime soon. I'm, I'm kind of like desperate for this outlet. And so that's when I turned to social media, thinking that I would be in the same space of education, and then realized pretty quickly, oh, actually, no, the audience here is caregivers, and that there's a real dearth of information and people filling that space to help caregivers think about how do we understand things like gaming and technology and screens? How do we reframe them? How do we embrace them as part of our lives instead of kind of resenting them and something that might get our kids attention? So it kind of just happened very organically? And now I'm here, and here we are, yeah, yeah.

Danielle Bettmann:

Clearly, there's a lot of interested parties ready to have this conversation with you. Yeah, in the hundreds of 1000s, you know, no pressure, you just have to have all the answers now. And, you know, ya know, yeah, we're here to provide resources and insight so that you can feel more equipped to make confident decisions for your family. And that doesn't always mean that you need more information, it just means that you can just be able to have a, you know, space to bounce things off of other people and discuss them and see them a little bit differently, and maybe take a step back. And I love that we can do that now, in such an accessible sphere, on a platform that is free, and and to be able to find such like minded people that can equip us as parents because a lot of times it's it's making us feel even more insecure. And it's making us feel even more like we have to overthink everything. And we have to take in so much information overload and it's conflicting. And then, you know, we've tried to reteach it to our partner and they don't get it and then you just live

Ash Brandin:

Oh yes the mental load. Too much the mental load of being the person to like, acquire all the information. And then suddenly, you've created like an inadvertent like funnel, where all of a sudden now you're the one that knows all this stuff, and you know, the best practice and so now it's like compounding that feeling of emotional labor of like, what Well, now I either have to offload all this information or I have to like gatekeeper how someone else is handling this. Oh, yeah, that pressure part is really hard. Yeah. Social media brings about it on the one hand this like ubiquity, and access of information. And on the other hand, yeah, that feeling of somehow now I have like more rules that I have to be following. That's really hard. And it's funny because from the Creator side, I try very hard not to paywall information like I don't have any paid information. Because I think it's really important that if we do think that this is really that important, then I really do you want it to be accessible to people. But even then, you know, I get it, people come to people in advice spaces, and they want they want binary answers, or they want, like, tell me the thing to do. And that's true, even when it's not social media, like when we have new babies, and we're reading the books, and we're, you know, talking to other friends that we just, we just want the answer. And the hardest part I think about parenting is the inevitable answer that is always consistent, which is that there is no like, there is no one right answer, there will never be one right answer. We should be so lucky. There are one or two or five? Yeah, there's there's never going to be one and a lot of social media with creators who are trying to, you know, monetize their advice, which I completely understand I am privileged in that this is not my job. So I understand people need like, advice sells when it when we say it will fix your problem. But then we're setting people to this standard of like, like this is the answer. And if it's not working, then it must be who yes, when in reality, especially when we're talking about things like tech and screens. We cannot account for every brain in every family and how they're all going to be affected by the myriad different kinds of technology that we have available to us. And I find it much more realistic to give people tools, or perspective shifts of how we might reframe things so that they actually can be sustainable for a family, as opposed to being like, oh, yeah, well, you should just do this. And if that doesn't work, then I don't know what to tell you. Like, it must be a huge problem. But that's not gonna set people up for success. And it's not gonna make people feel better about their parenting.

Danielle Bettmann:

No, definitely not most likely the opposite. Yeah. So that's a good prerequisite for our conversation, because we're not going to share the exact right number of minutes that your child should be on a device on a daily basis, you know, to make you feel like you can put a gold star on your sticker sheet of being a good parent. Right. Unfortunately.

Ash Brandin:

Yeah. I think a lot of my reframing for folks is, a lot of it is like, hey, don't forget that you matter in this decision. So much conversation around tech and screens gets very myopically focused on kids. And I completely understand why. Because we haven't very focused on like, what is it doing? Is it good or bad? Is it helping them or harming them? And it's most of the time, not that clear cut, either. But what is so often missing from that conversation is the adult is often a very important factor in why we might be utilizing the screen time. And that is a perfectly okay, reason to utilize it, and therefore we need to consider the adult in the conversation. Yes, yes. And I think that involves a lot of us having to have grace for ourselves, and sometimes grace for our kids, you know, those moments where we're like, okay, it was not in my plan for us to sit down and watch a movie this afternoon. And I'm reading the room. And that just seems like the best thing, right? It's needed, for whatever reason. And there's that part of us, whether it's perfectionism or comparison, or internalized capitalism, as I will sometimes say, when I drag up my soapbox, there's that part of us that says, like you should be, or you should be doing something else, you shouldn't be doing this, this is a waste, you should be doing something better with your time. Oh, it's sunny outside, you shouldn't be watching a movie. Like we have to qualify it with all of these things. And I think it's so challenging to so much of our society to instead really look at like, well, what are our needs right now? Like our need is to relax, our need is to rest, our is my need to get a break, and would using a screen help us meet those needs in a way that will then help us do the other things we need to do you know, connect or be present or get the rest of our things done? Okay, if a screen is going to help us with that, if it's going to primarily help me if that puts me in a position where I can then be a better presence for my kids. Well, that that is a good thing for them. And yeah, if centering ourselves in that decision, I think feels very selfish. But the So reframe I keep coming back to of like, if we are not considering ourselves in the equation, we're focusing only on our kids, that we are leaving out a lot of the reasons that we end up using screens to begin with. And it's okay, that is okay. And that's a reasonable use for screens.

Danielle Bettmann:

I could not agree more. And that I mean, I could have paid you to say that because this is exactly what my, my listeners, my clients, and I need to hear, we all need to hear almost daily, as a reminder, put it up on the fridge if you need to. But I would love to have you elaborate on that even just a little bit more. How did you come to that conclusion, as in, I'm sure that nobody sat you down and said, you know, like, here's a really important thing to consider when it comes to gaming for kids. So where did this conversation start? And you know, why is this one of like your main messages now?

Ash Brandin:

In very early COVID, like height of lockdown era COVID, I was at home of our all at home, my child is at home, they're three years old, my spouse is at home was always working at home. But now we're all there. And I am. At that time, I was a classroom teacher in a brick and mortar school. But now we're all home. And I'm supposed to be live synchronously teaching, while I have a three year old around.

Danielle Bettmann:

What a nightmare.

Ash Brandin:

And up until that point, we had a pretty like, not entirely consistent relationship with certain screens, like TV we were very regulated about but tablet we had just introduced and it was not very consistent. In fact, we had already realized it wasn't working great for us. And we needed to rethink it. But like we just hadn't yet. And what ended up forcing our hand was COVID. And I was in this position where I was like, Okay, there's like a couple times in the week where I have to be live on a computer in front of my students. And my child is not going to be napping, or eating or occupied by a screen. It's just like a random time in our day. And it didn't even occur. Like I think it maybe occurred to me I could use a screen was like, Oh, I don't even I don't I don't need to do that. And if you press me, if you pressed me on the why it would have been like, oh, because I shouldn't do that. Like I shouldn't do that. And I was I think I would have said I was centering my kids needs. But really what I was not doing was centering like my needs, right? I was really fighting an excuse to not sit with the discomfort of saying it's okay, because I need this. And so I had set up a child activity that I think I'd probably seen on Instagram to be honest. And it was like it was spring. So it was like I'd given them all these like plastic Easter eggs. So the jelly beans, they were trying to like get them out like an obstacle course, like with a spoon or something because they were three. So it was like kind of like, okay, this is good. It's like motor skills, they'll be thrilled they're gonna eat candy. So funny that I'm like, oh, yeah, I cannot possibly let my child be on a screen for 20 extra minutes. So I will let them eat like 50 jelly beans. Yeah, makes sense. So I set them over this activity. I'm like, I'm not available, right? And I'm teaching my students saw again, I think 15 seconds at max have elapsed. But for my child in the background, my parent name is muffin. My child in the background is like "Muffin! I found a jelly bean!" And I'm like, no, no, you're supposed to be eating.

Danielle Bettmann:

This is not the way it's supposed to go.

Ash Brandin:

And then like trying for a couple of like, fruitless minutes to like, handle this. I have like 30 12 year olds who are looking at me. And I hear my spouse's office door open. And I hear my spouse like literally run like run into the room, throws the tablet and headphones at my child runs back out. And my kid just put the headphones on uses the tablet that which was like curated with all kid appropriate stuff, right? It was like a safe experience. Yeah. And my immediate feeling was like, Oh, I failed. guilt. Yep, guilt. But what really helped me actually was the way my spouse handled that because I looked at that and thought my spouse didn't feel any guilt about that. My spouse didn't feel bad. My spouse didn't think that that was something that we should feel shame about. It was just I need to work, Ash needs to work, kid needs to be quiet. Here's how we're gonna handle that.

Danielle Bettmann:

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Ash Brandin:

As COVID went on, then what I quickly realized was like, I, if I don't get a half hour, where I am not being talked to, I'm gonna lose it like and then and then what's going to happen is I'm gonna be a terrible parent, I'm gonna be a dysregulated mess who's snapping and yelling and not handling tantrums, I have a perfectly developmentally normal three year old, but that's still really hard. And so then I quickly realized that this no, this is serving my kid, because it's allowing my kid to have an adult who can make a meal who can like vacuum and keep our house tidy, because we're just in the house all the time. And so that was what forced my hand. And then my kid started getting like 30 minutes of tablet time before lunch every day. And that was my time to like, put in an air pod and listen to a podcast and take a mental vacation and make lunch and tidy and just not be needed intensely. And it was that time where I was really centering my needs in order to then also meet my family's needs. Right? Not exactly a selfish act. But it was that kind of reframing and that experience that made me really realize like, oh, when we say screens or tools, this is what we should be saying. You know, I think we think of screens as tools as like, a tool to like, keep us at still treading water minimum, right? Like, oh, yeah, let your kids use that screen for five minutes when things are really bad, right, as opposed to a tool that allows all of us to maintain our best selves. And that was that era for me. And we basically have still continued that to this day. Now, my kid has video games for 30 minutes before dinner. And it looks a lot different. We're talking a lot more, we're more connected. We're using that time differently between us. But I still make dinner during that time. I still sometimes, you know, half, let's do a podcast and get a little break. So that experience was I think, what really shifted it for me. And that was before I existed on Instagram. But when I came on to Instagram, what I noticed from people so often was people essentially always coming. It didn't matter what data I gave people. It didn't matter what strategies because people would still say but like, but it's bad, right? Or, but I don't like that they're focused on this, or shouldn't they be doing something else? And I'm like, Okay, this is just proven that actually like, this isn't about data. This isn't actually about is it rotting their brain? Is it going to make them aggressive? It actually isn't about the data. It's actually about our fundamental feeling about prioritizing our needs, or leisure or rest or fun over other things we think are more important, but our needs are important and rest is important. So that just I don't know it was all mesh together in my own life, but then just hearing so much feedback from people where I thought, I think this is the crux that we just have to keep coming back to. So there was like a 15 minute answer to your very short question.

Danielle Bettmann:

Well we're gonna wrap it up and send it to the TED Talk company. And like I feel like it's such an important message to drive home with that added personal illustration, because we've all been there. There's no parent that parented through COVID, that didn't have that exact same situation happened to them. I guarantee it.

Ash Brandin:

Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And I actually do think that COVID did kind of shift the conversation. Like, I do think many people, you know, want to walk back, there was probably more screentime happening, and for many reasons, amongst COVID, educational screentime as well. And it doesn't mean we want to stay there forever. That's not what I'm saying. But I do think that it did kind of shift the conversation to it not being like, oh, screentime is an IF. And instead, it's now more like a HOW, like a, a WHEN and HOW instead of IF. Yeah. And I think it's probably good that the conversation shifted there, because technology is not going anywhere. This isn't going anywhere, it's only going to get more ubiquitous. So it is I think about time that that conversation did reach that point. So I think that is probably more helpful for people.

Danielle Bettmann:

Yes. No, 100%. And that's a that's a perfect segue into the how, because we've established that it's a tool, we've established that you need to look at it within the lens of what our family's needs, can we use this to meet our needs today, and it's okay, if I feel uncomfortable prioritizing my own needs, but I'm going to do it because it makes me a better parent. And it benefits everyone. It's a trickle down effect. So now that we're not going to have any more problems with that moving forward.

Ash Brandin:

We never have to go back to that again.

Danielle Bettmann:

Right, lesson has been learned, check in the box. Now I want to I want to move into some of that, you know, how so? Is there good screen time and bad screen time? Or is it morally neutral? How do we need to be looking at it?

Ash Brandin:

I mean, I think both are true. Okay. I think yes, they're morally neutral, like, yes, it is morally neutral, and other morally neutral things can still have positive or negative impacts on people. Right? Like, I used to do taekwondo a lot as a form of exercise that's morally neutral as a form of exercise. It's not better or worse than running or weightlifting or whatever else. But my knees really do not like it. And so I had to stop doing that I just switched to other forms of exercise. And that doesn't make taekwondo bad. It just means that it was not the best fit for me and my body and what I needed. That's a good analogy. And I like coming back to and I'm glad you brought up that screens are morally neutral. Because when we do think of them that way, that does not I think you are fear. When I say that to people, I think the fear is that somehow I'm opening a floodgate and saying yes to every screen in the world. But I'm not, you know, there's been a huge conversation shift around food. And I make a lot of parallels to food. Because we've seen a big shift to talking about food in a really morally neutral way and not saying good food or bad food, and you kind of normalizing what we might have thought is like treat kind of food so that our kids don't obsess over that and don't have a disordered relationship with food. And I draw that comparison to tech all the time. Because it really is the same idea. The things we treat as special becomes special, like the only food my child is, like, genuinely preoccupied with his prunes. Because, because that's a food we actually live it, because you can eat too many prunes, things will go back. And so like we we do say like, No, you cannot we are limiting you. And so like when we give my kid approved, they're like, Oh, my God. They're thrilled. Because it's hilarious that we have created preoccupation with because we've limited we've created a scarcity mindset. Yeah. And when we think of screens as morally neutral, all I'm saying is treat them like anything else, so that your kids think of them like anything else. Like if you don't want them to be a big deal, don't treat them like a big deal. And that doesn't mean that we allow free unfettered access, we don't allow free, unfettered access to bathtime. Right, but it is still morally neutral. We have limits around normal, morally neutral things all the time, sleep, bath books, toys, bed, walking the dog, like all that stuff. And it also allows us to then think about what kind of use of this morally neutral thing is best for my child. And if it's not working, then I can think of it in a way that is problem solving oriented. Instead of blaming Because blaming, it feels good, right? Like I get it, it feels good as a parent to feel like you have found something where you can be like, Oh, that's the problem, I have found the problem. And if I just get rid of the problem, it will fix things. And I totally empathize with that I have been there, we all want to find and fix the problem. But often, it isn't that simple. And so if we realized that, okay, my kid was watching 45 minutes of whatever they were watching, and now, they are like a dysregulated mess. And it's a nightmare trying to get them off of it. If all we do is say, oh, that's the screens fault, then how does that set us up for doing anything differently? It really doesn't. And my only option becomes, I should say, no, but now my needs are being met. And now like, we're back into that problem of, well, now are we going to do and screens are often filling in systemic gaps. So what's going to fill in that gap? And then that just puts a parent in a position of being a martyr themselves further, and nobody wins? like nobody's winning in that situation? Nobody wins. But if instead we go, Okay, that didn't work very well. What do I want to change next time, like in a scientific way, like, what is one element that I can change, I could change the length of time, I could change the show, or the game or the app that they're playing, or the content, I could change the content, I could change how we end, right and Mike, okay, a five minute warning didn't work. So this time, I'm gonna use a parental control that shuts it down, or we're gonna decide on an activity to do afterwards. So we have a really clear transition, or we're gonna do big physical movement before or after. And what I really think is important about that is not only does it shift the morality of it, it also allows us to then help our kids get introspection about how technology affects them. So that if we want kids to grow up and able to manage their technology for themselves one day, which we do, then a big part of that is teaching them the skills of noticing like, hey, yesterday, you watch this, and it seemed like you, you know, had a lot of energy. It was it was really hard to stop watching today, we watch this other show, How'd that feel? Did it feel easier? Did he feel better, and getting them to be introspective, maybe sharing what we noticed, too, and then we're getting them to realize like that they have agency in this, that this affects them in different ways that we can make different decisions. And that that doesn't mean that they're bad. It doesn't mean the screen is bad. It doesn't mean we're bad. Yeah. It just means that we're all affected by things differently. And just as we would have that conversation around the food we eat, or how much sleep we get, or the friends we play with, and the decisions we make with those friends can have the same conversation around technology.

Danielle Bettmann:

Yes, I love that. So wise and practical, because you have to look at what you have control over. And then problem solve from there and not make it like, you know, good versus evil. It's like, yeah, problem solving approach. That's exactly what I teach. I love it so much. So the last thing I want to get to because I know you have to get back to school is video games, specifically, I have gamer kids, I call them the inside cats. They love their switch, I just that's just who they are. They play musical instruments, and they would never go outside if they didn't have to. But that's my kids. I love them. And I would love to know what you would want parents to know before maybe introducing video games, or what their relationship to how they think about video games can be when you know, there's more insight there. Because there were some things that really made a difference for me, like how video games really tap into that motivator in a really positive way and how they're scaffolded to meet the child where they are. And that's why it becomes so engaging. So what are those types of things that are like the good of video games? And you know, how do we work with it?

Ash Brandin:

So what I love about video games is that they are in like basically intrinsic motivation machines, and especially the education world, we love to talk about intrinsic motivation, because we love when students want to learn for learning sake. But when it happens at a video game, then we're like, oh, that's all they want to do. But we would never say that if a kid intrinsically for intrinsic motivation reasons wanted to play the cello. Yeah, we wouldn't be like, Oh, there they are playing the cello for her another hour today. Just can't get that kid to stop. Right. But psychologically, it is the same and I know that can be hard to conceive of. But the three contributing factors that really lead to intrinsic motivation. This is a theory by deci and Ryan called self determination theory they came up with in that like the 80s. The three factors are autonomy, competence, and relatedness. So autonomy is a feeling of power and control. Well many kids all day long go to school, I have no control. I know, we think that they are the center of our lives, and they are. But from a kid perspective, they don't decide anything. You know, they don't get to make decisions for themselves, especially when they're in school, they really are being told what to do all day long. So then they come home, and they turn on a video game, and no one is nagging them. And no one is saying go here, do this. And if they are, they can ignore them. Like, if the game is like, Hey, you're supposed to go over here, right now, kids don't have to listen, they can test the limits. And when they reach those limits, the game doesn't yell, doesn't admonish them, it doesn't punish them, it just holds the boundary very neutrally. You know, if I go to the edge of the level, and I'm trying to fall off, the game will just put me back and say you can't do that. Yep, you know, if the game isn't going to be like I told you, how many times do I have to tell you I can, I can do that as many times as I want. And that's and I can choose. So it's a feeling of power, a powerful feeling of power and control. Competence is a feeling of success. And in games, you often fail at something a lot. But the failure itself is relatively small, you know, I fall off a level, I die, I try again, they're relatively small compared with the size of the success. And then when you do succeed, you feel this rush of like, I did it. And most of the time, the game itself is not actually praising you very much. Like, it might be like, okay, you've reached the end, right? Or you get to a cutscene, or you move to the next level, but the game is not like, Oh, I knew you could do a great job, you know, the game isn't really coming in with much. So it becomes you having to decide how you feel about that. And there's a lot of internal validation. Yeah, that has to take place. And so it's up to me to then go like, Oh, my gosh, I feel so proud of myself. Yeah, I'm not proud because the game told me to feel proud. I'm proud because I did the thing. And then relatedness as you know, relating to other people. And you know, some games are very social. And that's like a predominant reason people play them. And sometimes they're not, you might be not really relating to anyone, and you might just be dependent on yourself. So those are things that are going on in most games in different ways in different combinations. You know, some games are going to play into one thing more than the other. But I think it can be really, really helpful if you have a kid who's interested in gaming, to pay attention to what it seems they're going for, you know, if you have a kid who wants to play Minecraft, and they're doing like creative, and they're just building, and they're just creating, well, that might be a kid who just wants they want to feel in control. And they actually feel in control when they are not being told what to do when they're being given a maybe a really like 10,000 foot view kind of task, but then get being given total creative freedom. And so if I look at it that way, then I can suddenly think of a bunch of other things they might like, they might like being given a giant tub of Lego, they might like being given a bunch of arts and crafts supplies, they might like being taken somewhere where you can go like back country hiking, they might like martial arts where you are sparring, or competing against someone else. Whereas someone who likes really leveled games, where it's like, okay, you're doing this, you're solving this puzzle, I am this person, they might like they actually feel control, because they can trust the instructions given to them. They can just trust what's in front of them and do what's in front of them. And so accomplishment. Exactly, yeah. And then they'll know they'll get to the end, they'll feel good. And so it's the same thing of like, okay, well, maybe that kid wants to use coloring books. Maybe that kid wants to build Legos from instructions. Maybe that kid wants to like make cookies from a recipe. How do they, but when we look, when we look at what it's igniting for them psychologically, it allows us to see like, well, what's motivating my kid? And how are they motivated? As opposed to thinking that it's the what thinking that it's the game itself? When in reality, it's probably the psychology.

Danielle Bettmann:

Yeah. Oh, that's brilliant, such a much more high level nuanced way of looking at it, that opens up entirely new doors of understanding our kids. And that's what we should be doing right is like, that's our, that's our special thing is we know our kids best and we can continue to get to know them tomorrow better than we did today. And this is just one way of doing that, that I have been able to unlock kind of a new piece in me where I'm playing Animal Crossing now with my kids. And I was never ever ever a video game person like didn't grow up with them, not really even motivated by it. But for them, they just love the accumulation and the customization and the avatars and the villagers and and all the little things and like their little world that they have created and I love getting to see them represented how they like to represent themselves as avatars. I feel like there's got to be like some sort of psychological thing there about like, like, there could be a Buzzfeed quiz for like, what is your avatar look like? And what does it tell you about your child?

Ash Brandin:

For sure? For sure, yeah. I love that. And I love when we just when we just treat the kids interest as valid, it doesn't mean that we think it's the best thing they do with their time. That's okay. But when we show up and just genuinely show an interest of like, what are you doing helped me understand, you know, a lot of times adults will say, like, but I don't get it. And it's like, you know what, I don't get lacrosse. But I have like middle school kids who play lacrosse. And I'm like, Oh, cool. What position do you play? Like, do you are their positions in lacrosse? And, you know, just ask because I care about them. Yeah, it doesn't really matter. If I care about what they do. I don't like I don't really care about lacrosse. But I care about this kid. And what I care even more is I care that this kid knows that I care about them. And and when it's your own child. You know, I think we think if we show interest in somehow we're like, giving our rubber stamp to what they're doing with their time. But we'd much rather they feel like we care about them and their interest, then have them think this isn't something I can share with my adult. So I'll keep this to myself. Because that's not that's not gonna go anywhere. Good. Right? But if we just show up that genuine curiosity, like what are you doing? What made you think to do that? What are you trying to do? How do you know to do that, like, doesn't even have to be specific about the game. Those are pretty generic, open ended things, or finding a way to play with them. Like you were saying that feels good for us and can feel good for them. It can open a door to so many great opportunities. Yeah. And moments for connection and help us understand what it is that they might like about it and know them even better. Yeah.

Danielle Bettmann:

Because if if this is important to you, then it's important to me. Yes. Like that's that reciprocity in that relationship that it would be just go so deep in our heads. Yes. Love them. Okay. Last question before you have to go and ask this to every every guest. I feel like we could talk for a million more years. But I feel like also, I just want to put a bow in this and like, let it sink in for like the week for for everybody. But okay, the last question I have for every guest is how are you the parent your kid needs? It's a doozy.

Ash Brandin:

Oh my gosh, this is a doozy. So I know you're I laughed when I saw the name of your podcast is called Failing Motherhood. And I failed motherhood in the first, like I'm grabbing a tissue. I failed motherhood in the first year of my child's life, because I realized I wasn't a mother. And, and I, I came out really early in my child's life. So my child's only know me as a parent. But for very early in their life, I was trying really hard to be their mom. And I and I was trying very hard to be that person until I finally finally realized that that's not who I was. And when I fully accepted that I wouldn't fail motherhood because I wasn't a mom. That allowed me to become I think the parent that I could be. And you know, figuring yourself out is really hard, even if you are who you thought you were all along. But it's it's a bit it is a whole other level of hard when you're having like a literal identity crisis. And we all go through that in some degree or the other, like mine was very literal, everybody goes through that in some way. And I think any experience you have like that allows you to then realize that you if your child ever goes through an experience like that, you want it to be easier for them. Yeah, you know, whatever it is, if it's someone you know, with mental health or neuro divergence or ability or like whatever hardship we might face, we're there and it's not even a hardship. Like for me, it's not a hardship, I got to figure out who I am that's a joy. It's a privilege that I get to live in this life. But the journey is not always an easy one. And so I think for me, I think I'm the parent my child needs because because I have the experience of accepting my true self and being able to model that for them so that whatever that eventually looks like for them you know whatever aspect of themselves will take some discovery for them that hopefully they can see a model of what that looks like and have that experience in a way that is easier or better or earlier. So they can be their true self. I don't know it was an elegant but

Danielle Bettmann:

No you brought me to tears. Ah, you're killing me over here.

Ash Brandin:

Come for the games, stay for the introspection!

Danielle Bettmann:

We're supposed to be wrapping up not like waxing poetic.

Ash Brandin:

Like, I have to leave, nevermind .

Danielle Bettmann:

Just gonna drop that and bounce Okay. Obviously you are the parent your child needs and they are lucky to have you and we are lucky to have you on this episode. Genuinely thank you for your openness, your honesty, your insight, your perspective. I really truly feel like it will be impactful for every listeners relationship with their kid. And I think that is where the that's where the gold lies. So that's what we're all here for. I... I'm just so thrilled to share this episode. So thanks again for for your time and your insight and for being you.

Ash Brandin:

Oh, thank you so much. It was so lovely to talk to you.

Danielle Bettmann:

Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of Failing Motherhood. Your kids are so lucky to have you. If you loved this episode, take a screenshot right now and share it in your Instagram stories and tag me. If you're loving the podcast, be sure that you've subscribed and leave a review so we can help more moms know they are not alone if they feel like they're failing motherhood on a daily basis. And if you're ready to transform your relationship with your strong-willed child and invest in the support you need to make it happen. Schedule your free consultation using the link in the show notes. I can't wait to meet you. Thanks for coming on this journey with me. I believe in you, and I'm cheering you on.