Rage against the machine


A war is being raged in this house and I SHALL BE THE VICTOR!

Sure, it’s been attacking my morale, calling me to question my whole approach to parenting, undermining my confidence and lulling me into false hope with occasional ceasefires but I WILL NOT SURRENDER.

This battle happened with the stealth-like characteristics just like most battles do. A squirmish here, a negotiation there until whoomf all hell breaks loose.

On the one side is me.

On the other is a burly conglomerate of electronic devices, gaming consoles and computing devices resorting to the dirty tactics of recruiting my children in to do their tawdry work.

Since the beginning of this year there’s been the no television at night rule. Primarily because I couldn’t take the clanging of cymbals it resembled in my head but also because homework is now a serious deal for some and silence – or the illusion of such – is growing in importance.

For as long as I can remember there has been a blanket no console games (xBox, Playstation, Wii) during the week.

Technically there has been a no-technology (ie computer) after 7pm rule as well but that has been tricky to police as I try to clean up from dinner and deal with all the other stuff raising 100 children involves.

But the console and computer games saw this weakness and have been slowly creeping over these battlelines for several months, occasionally more aggressively through the form of tantrums and fighting and more subversively through good behaviour and reward systems.

The casualties of this war have – as can now be seen with the benefit of hindsight – sibling infighting, poor communication between comrades and combatants, lowered tolerance, disappearance of empathy and the rise of the Reactive Parenting Technique*, aka yelling. A lot.

The situation reached such a point I was daydreaming of just walking out of the house – many times – over the course of a weekend. I was miserable. The boys behaviour to each other and to me (and Chef and Grandmama) was appalling.

So I tasered them. Metaphorically of course. There’s no way I’m going to prison for this lot.


(It annoys me how you have to explain yourself while yelling – it’s like slamming the soft-close drawer.)


I knew they knew I was serious by the complete lack of response. This is also known as “shock”.


Of course, they found a loophole and moved their frontline to the computer to satiate their need for mindless bright colours moving across the screen with some awful muzak. I conceded this ground until last Saturday morning when Jasper reacted with the equivalent verocity as you would if you’d have a limb ripped from your body by a speeding car.


This time the assault went something like this: THAT IS IT – THE COMPUTER IS NOW ADDED TO THE BAN!


Shock AND Awe boys, shock and awe.



And then something happening. I think it was because all bets were off, all cards were on the table, there was no room for negotiation, no trade-offs, it was a total, complete fullstop.

They didn’t ask for it. They just got on with … living.

Within 24 hours there was play, sibling jibes taken with good humour, GAMES and all the rest.

With each passing day the peace becomes more assured. Bouyant even.

I would say that the past two afternoon-evenings are pretty close to my idea of perfect.

I am not shitting you. The results have been nothing if not breath-taking.

But I know this won’t last. As this becomes the new normal something will creep back in or something will step up and suddenly I’ll be having to re-evaluate all over again.

I know a blanket ban on these things is not sustainable. For these guys computers, console games and some form of connectivity is as much part and parcel of their day as matchbox cars, barbie, wendy walker, scalextric and strawberry shortcake were for us.

So where to?

1. I’m going to ride this baby for as long as I can

2. We’re reigniting Team Berry and as part of that bringing in a weekly family meeting. The idea behind that is regaining control and giving the boys a heads up on what is expected of them. So we’re going to look at what is happening during the week for each of us and then discuss which Family Value we’re going to work on that week. Remember our Family Values?:

THEN we let them know the consequences if that Family Value is not adhered to, the first punishment being something like no dessert/ice cream, the second having far more gravitas (so IF using rights are reinstated for the console games on the weekends they will lose that).


So there you have it. I tell you, this parenting gig is a rollercoaster and a half. Just when you think you’ve nutted it out aWHOOSHka it all goes to hell in a handbasket and you have to re-evaluate everything you’re doing.

I’ve been really buffeted by the last few weeks and was at quite the ebb over it.

But here we are, a new strategy at the fore.






* The Reactive Parenting Technique is that perfected by our parents’ generation – you know:

Parent: put that down

Child: NO

Parent: I asked you to put that down


Parent: GILBERT I asked you to put that down. PUT IT DOWN NOW.




… and so on and so forth.







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  • Thanks for that, Kim. The machines seem to be taking over my two boys, too, and their behaviour is shocking. I wonder how a blanket screen ban would be received. It’s worth a try…

    I really needed to read this tonight….

    • ahh, you see Dorothy, this is one of those few posts that take me an age to write. So I am ever so pleased it resonates and has helped!

  • Susan, Mum to Molly

    Brilliant. Hope it lasts a while.

    Also love your family values – and may well steal them for my similarly troubled family of girls.

    One question – you & I are of the same era (circa 1972), and I have a child named Wendy – but I have no idea what a Wendy Walker is…?

    Please enlighten me! I do know of and fondly recall the others listed – although I never did manage to convince my parents (or Santa) to get me a scalectrix.

    • Hah! Wendy Walker was a large-size doll – you could hold her hand and she would walk along with you. Not mechanical or battery powered or anything like that.

      In a disturbing story, in my little cubby house under our house, I used to tie a ruler to her back to improve her posture…

      • oh how I wanted a Wendy Walker. and a Baby Alive.

        • OH HOW I wanted a Baby Alive. YEARNED for a Baby Alive. To no avail. I did, however, have Fashion Plates. Still do.

          • Susan, Mum to Molly

            Perhaps the four lovely “Baby Alives” you have now need a little of your special Wendy Walker ruler under-the-house treatment…

            Sounds a bit Flowers in the Attic!?

  • trash

    I was at school with someone called Wendy Walker.

  • Perhaps, when enough time has passed, certain individuals could earn 30 minutes of console game time.

    • The plan is a bit up in the air at the moment – to either allow them an amount of time each weekend which is then lost due to abhorrent behaviour OR to use it as a reward for lovely behaviour.

      At the moment they all get stars for being lovely/helpful etc, so I am leaning to the latter – that IF THEY CHOOSE it can be a ‘reward’ for reaching a certain number of stars (at the moment they get to buy a toy or some such).

      I can’t WAIT to be out of this ‘stage’.

  • Linda

    ah the smell of victory is sweet indeed

    (ignore bb – she has revealed herself to be a big softie)

  • Onward !

  • I have GOT to do this, I tried it once, It worked brilliantly, then I was invaded by the School holidays and I was weak. Game On…
    I mean… Game off bitches.

    • Do it. DO IT. Be BRAVE. The force of mothers around the world is with you. From my experience you have to go hard first – a total ban – and then negotiate its return w/ very strict, understood and agreed to parameters.


  • Elizabeth Gain

    “slamming the soft closed drawer”


    Awesome post lovely. Storing all this info for the years to come!

    • Oh do – although with girls it appears to be more about mobile phones and Facebook. I am VERY relieved I’m not dealing with that shite.

  • Paola

    I might sound silly what with just one teeny wee son BUT sometimes he (and I quote you) SHITS me and yesterday was one of those days. He had already left to go swimming (yes, he goes by himself BUT this is Positano in the end!) and when I went to his room and found a whole lot of mess I won’t even dare describe because I am ashamed, well I rang him and made him come back RIGHT AWAY, sat him down, talked to him adn THEN HE asked ME to help me and dusted all.the.house.
    After which I had to send him have fun. Didn’t I.
    ALl of this happened after the day before we had another LONG talk about something else, hence my losing the marbles next morning.
    Onward … slowly but surely.

    • I know. I KNOW. It’s all one step forward ten steps back.

  • Laura

    Kim, your blog has hit a nerve – well, mine to be exact. Once you have more than one kid at high school it becomes impossible to control screen time because they have to use their computers all the time and the homework is often on the school portal, so I can’t even turn off the Internet access. I’m sure the screen time contributes to the bad behaviour. But my kids also gang up in me. Eg. The eldest one is rude to me, so I politely tell her off; she does not respond politely; then the second child defends her by having a go at me; then, behind my back, the youngest one is called a traitor for defending me; and even my husband is upset because apparently I started this by making a fuss about the behaviour of the eldest child. The joys of parenting…NOT. And I can’t even take revenge by saying No screens, because they have to do their homework.

    • OH LAURA, I SO feel your pain. I know that this level of control is going to be very short-lived. Felix is keenly missing his screen time in terms of keeping up his social kudos through many hours spent on YouTube. Oscar – the eldest and in high school blessedly doesn’t get homework and I am LOVING how now he is adamant he has to do Mathletics homework, something he has never been that keen on in the past. Oh HOW HILAIRE.

      that ganging up thing? bad news bears. Really. I feel for you. Keenly.

  • ChubbyLove

    Who is Gilbert, did chef get untied?