My Strategy For Teaching Kids To Make A Difference

My son Vince loves video games. He’s nine. He’d be happy if we could feed him through an IV so he could play games 14 hours a day.

He loves Minecraft. We’ve convinced ourselves Minecraft is good for his mind. Who knows. He also likes old school games, like PAC-MAN and Galaga. They just happen to be games I played decades ago. Santa Claus just happened to deliver those particular games and a console to our game room Christmas morning.

Playing video games is a bonding activity for Vince and me.

Vince and I play every night for about an hour. I’m convinced it’s a bonding thing. Some fathers read to their sons. Some do science projects. I play video games with Vince and help synchronize his remote controlled fart machines. He got two of them for Christmas. We laugh a lot. A lot!

I like to make little wagers with Vince… little bets that motivate him and me. For instance….”five bucks if you beat me at PAC-MAN.” He beat me. “Double or nothing if you beat me at Galaga.” He beat me. He beat me again and again and again. We got to somewhere over 100 dollars when I cut him off.

Like most 9-year olds, Vince would play ’round the clock if we let him.

Now, I wasn’t trying to turn my nine-year old into a gambling addict. I had a plan. I wanted to teach Vince to learn instinctively to give. So I said to Vince “Look. I’ll buy you a new video game and you get an extra treat after dinner. I want you to take that hundred dollars you won from me and find a way to make a difference with it.”

Vince found a cause he likes, and we’re donating his gaming winnings.

Came home last night… Vince was on his I-Pad. He said “Hey dad, check it out.” He had found TeamTrees. TeamTrees was started by two young YouTubers. They set out to crowdfund 20 million dollars to plant 20 million trees. Elon Musk, the billionaire Telsa founder is their largest donor. He is planting a million trees. Alejandro from Columbia South America… he donated one tree. Vincent Griffin’s donation? 100 trees. The site is already at more than 21 million trees… with no end in site.

TeamTrees inspired Vince to make a difference this time. Who knows what’s next?

Look, I know my approach may be a tad unorthodox. But I’m not a normal guy. I took something that my son is passionate about (gaming) and used it to help him see he could do something good with it (help the planet by planting trees). And it worked. My son made a difference, and he knows it. The next time… I want him to do it on his own. His timing, his idea, the money from his piggy bank. Stay tuned.

About Marty Griffin
Marty is a past recipient of three prestigious Regional Emmys for Outstanding Investigative Reporting and also won a Broadcast Achievement Award for an undercover story about Michael Irvin and the Dallas Cowboys. He was named the Best Talk Show Host in Pittsburgh in 2008 for the Pittsburgh Achievement in Radio Awards. Marty shakes things up weekdays 9 am to noon on KDKA Radio.

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