A couple months ago I was in a parent meeting…an 8th grade boy with major attitude problems at home and the problems were starting to pop up at school. He was disrespectful to teachers in the hallway, refusing to follow rules, argumentative with authority. Home was worse…he resisted any authority of his parents, particularly his step-father. His actions had earned him being grounded from his friends, computer, and phone. And instead of things getting better, they got worse. He attempted to negotiate where he had no standing…promising better behavior if the parents returned privileges. He refused to accept responsibility for his actions, or even show understanding that his actions were tied to his consequences.
In the midst of this parent meeting, we were all discussing the difficulties of the path of behaviors. It was the School Resource Officer that raised an interesting perspective. One that I would later tell him I was going to steal. His only condition was to preface it by saying, “a wise old man once told me…”
So…A wise old man once told me that the current generation of kids, particularly boys, should be referred to as the Reset Generation. He offered a unique premise: that kids raised in the video game age are used to a reset option. And that the more we see the prevalence of video games influencing children at younger ages, the more solidified this concept becomes in their social/emotional developmental process.
When he brought this concept up in the parent meeting it was like a lightning storm struck…in that parent meeting, I was not facilitating the meeting as an administrator…I was sitting there as a step-father, banging my head against the will of a thirteen year old. As the detective talked about the Reset Generation, my perspective shifted dramatically…he had just described my son to a tee. Being able to see him in a different light allowed me to take the first step toward recovery…not in what I expected from my son, but how I needed to change my tactics to get the best from him.
I have come to the conclusion that, as with most things, there are pros and cons to the reset switch that young people expect in real life, just as with their fictional characters on a console. Adapting to a video game environment where a character dies or an obstacle is too big to conquer, a player simply restarts at the last save point. In this scenario, anything that happened in the last mission technically does not exist…therefore…the player cannot be held responsible for it. Sure, depending on the game, they may lose some experience points each time they die, but by and large, mistakes have no lasting consequences.
For kids in the Reset Generation, there is an emphasis on learning from mistakes…take as many resets or reloads as necessary to successfully complete the mission. However, once the mission has been restarted, there is no need to discuss the previous attempt. The player has no desire to discuss or acknowledge defeat, but simply wishes to try again without making the same mistake, yearning for that euphoric moment when the mission is successfully completed.
Is that a bad thing? Perhaps in some regards. In real life, not all problems in life can be avoided by hitting the reset switch…and some mistakes cannot be undone. But I do think there are myriad opportunities in life that there is some redeeming value in being able to put the past behind you and moving forward.
Typically, I work through a behavior issue with a student by getting them to admit responsibility for their actions, then we talk about learning from our mistakes and moving forward. What I have come to understand is that for some kids, refusing to admit their fault does not equate with whether they accept responsibility …and forcing them to admit it, might even be tantamount to subjecting them to humiliation and ridicule. All they want is a chance to reset…forget the failure…try again without judgment…show that they will approach the mission differently the next time.