5 Tips for Raising Your Girl Geek
By Natania Barron
As geek parents, we often have rosy colored notions about our children growing up. We actually want them to be geeks. From the earliest of ages we dress them in WoW gear, teach them to quote Star Wars and wonder when is too early to start reading The Hobbit. We nurture them in the way of the Geek, hoping that, when the time comes for them to choose their path, they won’t stray far.
But being a geek kid isn’t easy; and being a geek girl might even be harder. Here are some things to keep in mind if you are raising a geek girl that might help her–and you–get through the school years.
The Book Factor
Suggestion: Try to get involved in your daughter’s reading, if you’re not already. I was born to non-geeks, so my parents really had no interest in what I was reading. If you can’t be involved, look into reading clubs–or start one–that support the genres your daughter is into. Look to libraries and gaming stores if there’s nothing available at school. And above all, even if you don’t get the stuff she reads, reiterate that reading is awesome.
The Pop Culture Factor
Suggestion: If you are a geek, yourself, it’s fine for you to reach out. I mean, it is your fault she’s the way she is, right? But don’t be too pressing, because even if your geeklet gal speaks Klingon fluently, she needs to find her own brand of geek. If she’s into medieval stuff, consider the SCA. If she’s got a sci-fi lean, consider taking her to a convention. Maybe she’s a budding film-maker? Enroll her in film classes. Not to mention, there’s always the Internet. For me, that was my saving grace, discovering like-minded people, even if they were far away. And if teasing is a problem, help to equip her with witty ripostes and bolster her self esteem with praise.
The Boy Factor
Suggestion: Start with family. I had some great gal cousins growing up, and though they weren’t exactly geeks, our friendships were strong. If you’re daughter doesn’t have gal friends as school, you can encourage her to meet people at your church or other extended network. Also, teach her about all the wonderful girl geeks in history, like Ada Lovelace, Marie Curie and Felicia Day. Go fictional, too. There are plenty of geek gals in literature and movies, like Agatha Clay, Meg Murry and Kaylee Frye. Help make her proud to be a girl geek!
The Smart Factor
Solution: You know you’re on shaky ground when your girl geek starts to be embarrassed of being smart. If grades and enthusiasm are waning, it’s time for parental intervention. But not too much. And not too little. Really, you know your daughter best, and it’s important to talk about what’s going on at school. While the “grades will help you in college” argument won’t always work, home incentives–like movies or gadgets–might. And nothing replaces flat-out support. If you sucked at a subject in school it might worth dragging out your report card to share, and let her know you wish you had worked harder. Either way, just continuing support and praise of her performance will help steer her in the right direction.
The Self-Image Factor
Solution: Encourage your geek gal to get involved, even if the interests aren’t up her alley. You never know: she might love homecoming. She might take to soccer, or softball. I enjoyed being on the Yearbook committee when I was in high school, which had a great cross-section of folks, geek and non-geek. Geek doesn’t mean you have to shun what everyone else does; it just means that you have your own slant on it. And it also means you’re smart enough to think outside the social box. If anything, being a geek means the rules don’t apply!
No matter how geeky your daughter is, fostering her sense of self-worth is the most important thing. Every girl is different; every girl responds differently to parental intervention. But just being there, however corny that might seem, makes all the difference in the world. I know, even though my mom wasn’t a geek, she always took the time to talk to me when I was having a tough time at school. Even when I begged her to be homeschooled, she kept encouraging me to stick with public school. In the end, I wouldn’t change my school years for anything. Every step I made along the way made me who I am today, after all: a very proud geek gal.
10 Scientific Tips For Raising Happy Kids
Being a Good Parent
There are many ways to raise happy, well-adjusted kids, but science has a few tips for making sure they turn out okay. From keeping it fun to letting them leave the nest, here are 10 research-based tips for good parenting.
LOL! Joking Helps
No surprise here: Parents who express negative emotions toward their infants or handle them roughly are likely to find themselves with aggressive kindergartners. That’s bad news, because behavioral aggression at age 5 is linked to aggression later in life, even toward future romantic partners. So if you find yourself in a cycle of angry parent, angry baby, angrier parent, try to break free. It will ease your problems in the long run.
Nurture Your Marriage
Tend to Your Mental Health
Mamas, Be Good to Your Sons
The mommy bond may also make for better romance later in life, as another study reported in 2010 showed that a close relationship with one’s mother in early adolescence (by age 14) was associated with better-quality romantic relationships as young adults. “Parents’ relationships with their children are extremely important and that’s how we develop our ability to have successful relationships as adults, our parents are our models,” study researcher Constance Gager, of Montclair State University in New Jersey, said at the time. “So if kids are not feeling close with their parents then they’re probably not going to model the positive aspects of that relationship when they reach adulthood.”
Don’t Sweat a Little Sassing
Don’t worry, though: The study doesn’t suggest that kids should have adversarial relationships with their parents. In fact, a secure bond between teens and mothers is also linked to less bowing to peer pressure. Teens need to practice standing up for themselves, the researchers reported, but they also need support from their parents.
Don’t Aim For Perfection
Last But Not Least, Know Your Kids
Fun and Frugal Ways to Make Learning Fun for Your Toddler
Educational toys and enrichment programs are terrific; unfortunately many of them come with a hefty price tag. However, don’t feel like those are your only options when it comes to helping your child develop intellectually and gain the skills that they will need for formal schooling. There are literally hundreds of activities that you can share with your child to help make learning fun and accessible for them. Here are a few ideas to get started.
Begin at the Library
Most public libraries offer parents and children so much more than books and story-time. Ask your librarian what resources are available for parents. Many offer a parents and educators area that is stocked with books and videos about child development and educational activities. Some even loan out educational toys and have free passes local museums and zoos. Don’t forget the books though – being a fluent reader will help your child their whole life long.
Along with the library, try giving your school board a call and ask if they offer any classes or learning materials for parents of preschool aged children. They should also be able to give you guidelines that detail what your child should be able to do before entering kindergarten along with activities to help them master these skills.
Luckily for us parents, many teachers and child care providers have embraced the Internet and are sharing wonderful ideas for arts and crafts and learning activities on their blogs. If the idea of trying to hunt down these sites is exhausting, try these sites as a jumping-off point:
Pinterest – If you’ve never used Pinterest before, read through this guide that explains step-by-step how to use it. The Education, DIY/Crafts and Kids sections are filled with wonderful ideas for crafts and activities.
Zero to Three is an advocacy group that offers a wide variety of learning materials for parents who wish to nurture their child’s intellectual and emotional development.
Read Kiddo Read offers books selections and tips for parents to help them get their children more interested in reading.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library sends children from birth to age 5 one free book a month. You can check to see if your child is eligible on the site. Many areas have no income limits on the program.
Nature Rocks helps parents discover local opportunities for their child to interact with nature and free activity guide downloads.
The most important thing that parents can do to help their young children grow and learn is to simply be available and present. Specific educational activities are nice, but nothing takes the place of spending time with your child, both one on one and as a family.
1. Invite your children to help you with your chores. It might be more work at first, but even little things like folding hand towels or putting spoons in the dish washer helps your child develop hand eye coordination and fine motor skills as well as the healthy sense of self esteem that comes from being a contributing part of the family.
2. Instead of flashcards, use every day situations to teach your child letters and numbers. Label each family member’s napkin with their initial. Ask your child to divide 6 apple slices between himself and his sister. Make numbers and letters a part of your child’s daily life.
3. Limited amounts of screen time are okay, but remember that puzzles, board games and even simple card games offer more interpersonal interaction and also help develop the hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills that your child will later use to learn to write.
4. Look for opportunities for your child to play with other children and to practice spending time away from you.
5. Encourage your child to learn to dress themselves and take care of as much of their daily hygiene as possible.
A good education is crucial to your child’s success. You don’t have to be rich to give them the best start possible – what’s important is that you are motivated and committed to enriching your child’s life.
25 Failsafe* Rules For Dads Raising Daughters
All daddies with little girls want to raise them “right”, but how the heck are they supposed to know what that means?
If you spend any time on the Internet these days, you’ll quickly learn that pithy numbered lists are the path to enlightenment. It is in that spirit that we have collaborated to develop this list of rules that are guaranteed to guide fathers in the correct way to raise their daughters. This wisdom is universal, proven, and failsafe. *
Marcus is raising two toddler daughters, and Joanna is a daughter (in addition to being a mother) so we feel we have at least as good a chance as anyone at enlightening others. We are colleagues and friends, and while we find we disagree on many things, one area in which we often find common ground is in raising kids.
We agreed on many of these rules, though some only made it in when the other one wasn’t looking.
• Joanna says dads should be girly with their daughters.
• Marcus says dads should be manly with their daughters.
• It’s okay to be both.
1. Tell her she’s pretty, but tell her other good things about herself more.
2. Teach her that handymen don’t have to be men.
3. Let her play in the mud.
4. Remember that the way you talk about and treat women will have a lasting impact.
5. Teach her the correct names for her genitals, and use them matter-of-factly.
6. Indulge her imagination.
7. Cry when the family pet dies.
Pro tip: If she wants to schedule a memorial service for the pet you hated, try to schedule it right after you’ve watched “Brian’s Song”.
8. Teach her honesty and integrity in relationships by demonstrating them in yours.
Live the integrity you hope she’ll choose for herself.
9. Read her books with great heroes – both boy and girl heroes.
10. Teach her that she has power over her own body and sexuality.
Allow her to talk to you about sex without getting squicked, but also leave room for her to have private conversations about sex and sexuality with other people.
11. Teach her about male sexuality without fear-mongering.
But we know from the last 50 years of Sex Education that this tactic simply doesn’t work, and it damages both boys and girls in the process. Girls learn to fear boys and see them as one-dimensional, or they learn that their parents have been lying all along.
Teach her that respect is key, and both boys and girls deserve it and are able to give it.
12. Share music with each other.
Teach her the courtesy of headphones and the wisdom of volume control.
13. Dress like a princess if she asks you to… And let her dress like a Power Ranger if she wants.
Also, playing ‘like a girl’ won’t make you one and playing ‘like a boy’ won’t make her one. So have fun with both.
14. Go with her to the nail salon and each of you get a pedicure.
15. Include her in your favorite hobbies.
Take her with you sometimes when you go to the bowling alley, or for a hike on your favorite trail. Go watch surfers in the ocean. Explain exactly what’s happening. Let her get bored after ten or fifteen minutes and then go do what she wants to do for a while.
16. Let her put on shows for you. Then put on a silly show for her.
17. Let her choose any color she wants for one wall in her room.
18. Roughhouse with her.
19. Inspire her with women role models who excel in traditionally male-dominated fields or activities.
20. Don’t shame her for what she wants to wear – but exercise the power to modify.
(We couldn’t agree on the right approach to this once your daughter hits puberty, so you’re on your own.)
21. Look her in the eyes and have a real conversation at least once every single day that you’re together.
22. As she gets older, tell her the truth about drugs. Don’t use scare tactics, be honest.
Instead, try something along the lines of, “Using most drugs is like Russian Roulette… Five out of six times a person may be fine. But you never know if you’re going to end up as that one person who won’t be okay.”
23. Teach her that “No” means “No”, for both herself and others.
Make it clear that when someone—a little brother, a friend, or a parent—says no, that she is to respect that … including with boys.
24. Allow her to be girly if that’s her thing, but don’t force her to be if she’s not.
25. If she’s still little enough, hold her until she falls asleep sometimes.
Things I Think Every Dad Should Teach His Kids
When I first became a parent, I found myself either constantly giving or receiving advice. Potty training, co-sleeping, TV time — there are hundreds of conflicting opinions out there about every parenting-related topic. However, when my really good friends become parents for the first time, there are certain pieces of advice that immediately jump to the top, nuggets of wisdom that I mention before all others. Some are philosophical, some are mundane in the extreme. But when I sit down and really think about being a parent, these are 25 of the most important lessons that I think any dad (or any parent for that matter) would definitely want to pass on to their kids.
1. Winning is fun, but it teaches you nothing. Failure is the best teacher in the world. Winning is a trophy, failing is an education.
2. The key to surviving failure is to not take it personally. This is why video games make great educational tools. Mario doesn’t rage at the world when he fails to jump over a pit. He just starts back at the beginning and tries again until he figures out how to rescue that princess.
3. Ketchup is for French fries and hamburgers. Never hot dogs. That’s why the universe invented mustard.
4. Lying to protect someone’s feelings isn’t lying. It’s called empathy.
5. All the best stuff happens in the dark. Fireworks, movies, trick-or-treating, roasting marshmallows, Space Mountain. Try to remember that when you hear a noise in your closet at night.
6. Grown-ups don’t know everything. Most of us are just trying our hardest and faking it as best we can.
7. If a grown-up, corporation, religion, teacher, boss, and/or significant other tells you that they, in fact, do know everything, that they speak the absolute truth, that’s called fundamentalism, which is a fancy way of saying that they’re lying.
8. Even though, yes, I just admitted that I don’t know everything, pointing that out when we’re arguing is never going to work in your favor.
9. When you’re doing laundry, read the labels on your clothes. When in doubt, wash everything in cold.
10. One day, in the future, during a job interview, someone will ask you “What’s your greatest weakness?” This isn’t an invitation to be honest. This is a test to see how well you can answer a stupid question.
11. Almost everything in life is better in moderation, particularly TV, water parks, the Internet, and Twizzlers.
12. Want to prove to me you’re a big kid? Make it through a two-hour movie in the theater without squirming or complaining. Want to take it to the next level? Make it to the eighth inning of a baseball game.
13. Yes, everyone is going to die one day. And, yes, that really sucks.
14. No, I don’t know what happens after we die. But that’s a fascinating question. Keep asking fascinating questions.
15. I’ll tell you this — I promise you will never be alone and, even after you die, we will always be together. And there is no one in heaven or on Earth who can prove that that isn’t true.
16. Farting is always funny. Even at the dinner table. Actually, especially at the dinner table.
17. Good rule to live by: If they look like they’re fine, it’s OK to laugh. If they’re really hurt, shut up and help.
18. Ignoring race and class doesn’t mean that you’re enlightened. It just means that you’re good at ignoring things.
19. Debt is evil and oppressive. If you’re going to go into debt for something, make sure it’s worth it.
20. On a related topic, a college education is worthless if you don’t know how to properly use an apostrophe with the letter “s.”
21. Science both answers questions and keeps discovering new questions to ask. This is why science is awesome.
22. As far as anyone knows, Santa Claus and vampires might actually exist. The world is a much more interesting place if you accept the fact that, yes, there really could be a Monster at the End of This Book.
23. You can be mad at someone and still love them at the same time. This can be very confusing.
24. Talking about abstract things is important. Having big, wild conversations about concepts like art, music, time travel, and dreams makes it much easier when you’ll eventually need to talk about things like anger, sadness, pain, and love.
25. Every dad needs to teach his kids the lyrics to “The Diarrhea Song.” During a long family car trip… But only when they’re ready.
The 10 Most Important Things Fathers Can Teach Their Kids
One of the most unsettling consequences of bringing a child into your previously simple, happily oblivious manly life is that you’re now unquestionably, inescapably…The Man.
Being The Man now is obviously different than it was for our fathers. There are few loads you’ll have to bear on your own these days, for one thing. You’re very likely the co-breadwinner, and probably at least close to a full partner in the day-to-day, down-and-dirty childrearing and housekeeping duties.
There’s one role, however, that remains yours alone: You’re the male role model. The Man.
I’m not going to pull us into a drum circle and lead us in a chant to heal the neglected warrior within. (It would take more than a chant to rouse my warrior, anyway. He’s a paunchy little guy with a weakness for microbrews, and beer makes him sleepy.) But I am going to suggest that it’s a good idea to give some hard and ongoing thought to the wisdom you’re called upon to give (and embody) to your kids.
Here, in no particular order, are 10 that I’ve tried to impart to my daughter in my dozen-year tenure as The Man:
1. You could laugh.
2. That’s gonna leave a mark.
3. Dr. Bissmeyer doesn’t know how to milk a cow.
I didn’t want to crush my dad! But he wasn’t crushed. Not even a little crumpled. He just shrugged and said, “Well, Dr. Bissmeyer doesn’t know how to milk a cow.”
I was thunderstruck. It was inarguably true: elegant Dr. Bissmeyer would look ridiculous in my dad’s rubber boots and raingear, would be lost before a busted tractor or under-producing Jersey. My father was an expert in his field, and so was every other father (and mother) I could think of. My unthinking acceptance of class and status dictates took a lifelong hit that night.
4. Creepy Kitties are people, too.
5. If someone’s hurting, say something.
6. Only you can torment your brother.
7. Think about tomorrow morning tonight.
8. Say you’re sorry.
9. Sometimes (sometimes) it’s OK to just go fishing.
Unless you see a rat in the wagon.
A few years ago, I was going through my dad’s wallet after he’d moved into his assisted-living facility and wouldn’t be using it anymore. Folded and tucked into a back pocket was the note I’d left him that day:
Dear Dad -
A great dad, my father was also a demanding, impatient boss. But he never gave me a hard time about walking away from my task that day, and I think he was right not to. You don’t need to fight every battle, every day. You just don’t.
10. Your nature needs (and will always need) some nurture.
We all continue to work at teaching ourselves things like those listed above. One of the greatest — most daunting, sometimes annoying, but in the end greatest — things about having kids is that it reminds you to keep working at it. We all fall short — but your kids will profit from seeing you try.
I Do Not Want My Daughter to Be ‘Nice’
By CATHERINE NEWMAN
My 10-year-old daughter, Birdy, is not nice, not exactly. She is deeply kind, profoundly compassionate and, probably, the most ethical person I know — but she will not smile at you unless either she is genuinely glad to see you or you’re telling her a joke that has something scatological for a punch line.
This makes her different from me. Sure, I spent the first half of the ’90s wearing a thrifted suede jacket that I had accessorized with a neon-green sticker across the back, expressing a somewhat negative attitude regarding the patriarchy (let’s just say it’s unprintable here). But even then, I smiled at everyone. Because I wanted everyone to like me. Everyone!
I am a radical, card-carrying feminist, and still I put out smiles indiscriminately, hoping to please not only friends and family but also my son’s orthodontist, the barista who rolls his eyes while I fumble apologetically through my wallet, and the ex-boyfriend who cheated on me. If I had all that energy back — all the hours and neurochemicals and facial musculature I have expended in my wanton pursuit of likedness — I could propel myself to Mars and back. Or, at the very least, write the book “Mars and Back: Gendered Constraints and Wasted Smiling.”
But it is not one thing or another, of course. My mostly pleasant way might get me more freelance work. And friendliness tends to put people at ease — loved ones, neighbors, waitresses — which is a good thing. Plus, smiling probably makes me feel happier, according to all those studies about self-fulfilling emotional prophesies. I know that our sweet-hearted son, who is 13, has always had the experience of niceness being its own reward. What can I do to help? he asks. Please, take mine, he insists, and smiles, and everyone says, “Oh, aren’t you nice!” and “What a lovely young man!” (Or sometimes, because he kind of looks like a girl, “What a lovely young lady!”) But, if I can speak frankly here, you really don’t worry about boys being too nice, do you? He still has the power and privilege of masculinity on his side, so, as far as I’m concerned, the nicer the better.
Birdy is polite in a “Can you please help me find my rain boots?” and “Thank you, I’d love another deviled egg” kind of way. But when strangers talk to her, she is like, “Whatever.” She looks away, scowling. She does not smile or encourage.
I bite my tongue so that I won’t hiss at her to be nice. I tell you this confessionally. Because do I think it is a good idea for girls to engage with zealously leering men, like the creepy guy in the hardware store who is telling her how pretty she is? I do not. “Say thank you to the nice man who wolf-whistled!” “Smile at the frat boy who’s date-raping you!” I want my daughter to be tough, to say no, to waste exactly zero of her God-given energy on the sexual, emotional and psychological demands of lame men — of lame anybodies. I don’t want her to accommodate and please. I don’t want her to wear her good nature like a gemstone, her body like an ornament.
And, currently, she is not in danger. She is decisive and no-nonsense, preferring short hair and soft pants with elastic waistbands. Dresses get in her way, and don’t even get her started on jeans, the snugly revealing allure of which completely mystifies her. She’s the kind of person who donates money to the Animal Welfare Institute and attends assiduously to all the materials they send her, including their dully depressing annual reports, which she keeps in a special folder. Gender stereotypes, among other injustices, infuriate her. “This is so stupid!” she sighs at Target, about the pink rows of dolls and the blue rows of Lego. “Why don’t they just put a penis or a vagina on every toy so you can be completely sure you’re getting the right one?”
She is tender, fierce and passionate — the kind of person who can stroke our pussycat with gentle fingers while she growls at you, her eyebrows a menacing shelf, about bedtime and her plans to avoid it. Even as a 2-year-old, she had the determined wrath and gait of a murderous zombie gnome — and my husband and I grimaced at each other, afraid, over her small and darkly glowering head. She will lift knife and fork, sighing, only if I scold her about eating with all 10 fingers like a caveman, and I have mixed feelings about that.
“She’s very moral,” a friend said recently, and it was not a compliment. She is the kid who can be a pain the neck at a play date, insisting on the rigors of turn-taking, of fair-sharing, of tidying up before the guests vamoose and leave her with an afternoon of mess to deal with. That said, though, she’s got your back. She is a patron saint of babies and animals, of the excluded or teased. “That’s not right,” she’s not afraid to say. “Stop it.”
She is a beautiful kid, but she is also sure and determined in a way that is not exactly pretty. Which is fine, because God help me if that girl ends up smiling through her entire life as if she is waitressing or pole-dancing or apologizing for some vague but enormous infraction, like the very fact of her own existence.
I picture her at the prom in stripy cotton pajamas, eating potato chips with both hands. I picture her slapping a patriarch-damning sticker on her jacket. I picture her running the country, saving the world, being exactly the kind of good bad girl that she knows herself to be. And I think: You go. I think: Fly! I think: Take me with you.