This is the second in a series of blog posts about useful (and sometimes sneaky) ways to teach your kids awesome habits.  That is, these are ways to make our Values go Viral. Values like Cooperation and Helpfulness can be natural parts of our children’s self-expression everyday. It’s our job as parents to share our Values in ways that our kids find infectious.

If you’re a parent, you probably wonder how to get your kids’ full attention more often. And you likely wonder how to persuade them to get their homework and/or chores done. Nagging is ineffective and embarrassing for you. Threatening doesn’t work well, either, and makes you feel like a brute. Appealing to their sense of decency and morality might work, sometimes, but fails just as often because their view of what matters is probably different from yours. What then is a Values-Led Parent to do? How do you speak your kids’ language to teach them the valuable lessons of cooperation, selflessness, and hard work?

One suggestion: Cooperative Video Games.

Who knew? Playing video games don’t just strengthen your thumb muscles and rot your brain: They can actually make people more socially conscientious.

John Velez, the Texas Tech researcher who published the finding explains it this way: “What we found was cooperative play seems to have the biggest effect in terms of decreasing aggression toward other people. We found that playing with a helpful partner increases the expectation of others to reciprocate that pro-social behavior and generally be helpful. That applies to not only the teammate, but to others as well. The other interesting thing we found was when playing with a helpful teammate, you’re nicer to the other team you just competed against that tried to beat you, even though you don’t expect them to give it back to you.”1

As parents, how could you use cooperative video games (or any other cooperative activity) to influence your kids’ better habits and increased helpfulness? How would you use cooperative play in order to get your kids (or a partner or anyone else, for that matter) to do something they might otherwise resist?

If you want, take a minute to jot down as many ideas as come to your mind.

Don’t worry, I’ll still be here when you return!

Ok, welcome back. Now, if your list was anything like mine, you wrote down “Play first, then ask for them to do chore X”. This makes sense, because the video game sets them in a helpful mind frame – they are more likely to value cooperation because they had just been cooperating with others and they had a good time doing it. Since they will be primed to think highly of cooperation by their Halo session or World of Warcraft triumph, they will be receptive to your parental request. (I, personally, don’t play video games, so I use other cooperative activities to prime people to do positive, pro-social things.)

If your children play video games and if you want to influence them in positive ways, try asking them to do the dishes right after they have played Halo. Test it out for yourself, see if the cooperative play makes them more cooperative workers, too.

And if it doesn’t work, feel free to contact me and I we can brain-storm how to use this strategy in other ways, with or without video games.

Be well,

Lindsey Jay Walsh, MMFT

1. Texas Tech University. “Cooperative video game play elicits pro-social behavior, research finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 May 2015. <>.