Elon Musk's parenting tech struggle
“Biggest battle I have is restricting their video game time” -Elon Musk
Having trouble restricting your child’s video game time? Well you are not alone. More and more, modern day parents are finding this a common family struggle. Even Elon Musk, founder of Paypal, Tesla Motors and SpaceX suffers from this parenting dilemma. With a current estimated net worth of US$147 billion (May 2021), Musk admits having difficulties limiting his 6 children from excessive video game use (he has 1 set of triplets and 1 set of twins).I was surprised when I read Ashlee Vance’s latest biography, titled “Elon Musk”, that Musk faces the same parenting tech struggles as the parents I see in my clinic. Musk, who is dubbed in the book as a real life “Tony Stark” (aka Marvel’s Iron Man). Vance’s book chronicles the rise of Musk’s companies from the brink of bankruptcy, his work ethic and also his family life. The book also details Musk’s love for video games especially first-person shooters, often challenging his employees to a game of Quake.
What can we learn about parenting from a technology visionary like Musk?
1. Wealthy parents like Musk are worried their privileged children will lack the ambition and motivation to succeed
“It bothers Musk a bit that his kids won’t suffer like he did, he feels that the suffering help make him who he is and gave him extra reserves of strength and will. They might have a little adversity at school but these days schools are so protective.”
A 2014 survey of 3000 families, found that among millionaire parents one of their main concerns was that their wealth would make their children lack motivation and drive. For example, it is well known that Bill Gates founder of Microsoft, plans to donate all his money to charity and not give his children an inheritance. It is very important to instil in your children passion and drive for real-world goals that require real-time effort. Without direction, video games can artificially meet core drives/motivations not met in real-life; achievement, socialising and exploration. Also, the latest technology is no longer limited to rich families, computers are now very accessible and common place in all families.
2. Musk, like many parents have difficulty restricting their child’s video game time.
“The biggest battle I have is restricting their video game time, because they want to play ALL THE TIME.” – Elon Musk
Gaming really is a problem of time and are often so addictive that even children are willing to spend 40+ hours a week on a game. That is like working a full-time job for free! Then again, the book also describes how Musk will often work everyday of the week. Balance is key.
3. Set firm rules:
“The rule is they have to read more than play video games.” – Elon Musk
Read, read, read! Read to your children and encourage them to read books. Books as opposed to screens and wikipedia, are great because without Internet connectivity, there is less opportunity for distractions. Children’s brains are still developing areas in the brain required for attention and concentration. Just imagine for every interruption how difficult is it to get back into focus. By making sure for every hour they spend in front of a screen, they are reading at least an hour’s worth of books or spending time playing outside!
4. Use gaming time wisely and take the opportunity for teachable moments in better decision making
“They also can’t play completely stupid video games. There’s one game they downloaded called ‘Cookies’ or something. You literally tap a f#@#ing cookie. Its like a psych 101 experiment. I made them delete the cookie game. They had to play flappy golf instead, which is like flappy bird, but at least there are some physics involved.” – Elon Musk
Although Musk is notorious for having high and often unrealistic expectations of his employees, this is also reflected in his parenting style. Take the opportunity to help your child make better decisions and make sure they understand ‘why’ by explaining it to them. It seems that even in video games, according to Musk, physics matters.
5. Spend family time together
In the book, despite spending most of his time between SpaceX and Tesla Motors, Musk is described as making an effort to come home early to have dinner with his family and also spend time playing video games with his children. Having a positive connection with your child’s is very important for attachment, self-esteem, emotional regulation and those times you set firm boundaries with your children.
This post was first published on July, 5, 2016 and was updated May, 24, 2021.