Stuff You Should Know – Making Your Life Easier – Kids

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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
Problem: My geekiness manifested, first and foremost, in books. At a very young age I had a proclivity for reading science-fiction and fantasy books. While most girls were reading the Babysitters Club books, I was devouring Madeleine L’Engle and C.S. Lewis, soon followed by a host of others. Geek girls often discover a great method escape in SF/F, mystery, horror, and other non-realist genres at early ages, which unfortunately, can make them stick out like a sore thumb during study hall. I remember getting teased for reading King Lear for fun, and seriously contemplated hiding the book under a cover, or not reading it at all. Which would have been a mighty shame.

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
Problem: Geek girls don’t watch the right shows. They don’t go to the right movies. They don’t listen to the right music. And unfortunately, pop culture provides the clues by which kids sort each other out; it’s almost as obvious as the clothes they wear. When I was younger, I loved “The X-Files”, Westerns and They Might Be Giants. I quoted Monty Python and the Holy Grail with my handful of guy friends, but certainly didn’t win points in the cool crowd. Often girl geeks fall into this odd no-man’s land. We are passionate about the things we like, but share them with very few. Especially in a high school or junior high-school setting. That can lead to teasing, isolation, and ultimately, depression.

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
Problem: There are more boy geeks than girl geeks. At least, that was my experience. And many geek girls discover more friends among guys than girls. This can lead to feeling of self-consciousness and a lack of connection with other girls. While this isn’t always a bad thing, I definitely had trouble making gal friends as I got older, and assumed there were so few geek girls that it wasn’t worth the trouble. Good, enduring relationships between girls are important, not just for your daughter’s social growth, but emotionally as well. Not to mention, having tons of guy friends can be an issue when dating starts…

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
Problem: Many young geeklets tend to be smart. Whether it’s math, science, English or art (or all of the above), young girl geeks will excel in something. And coupled with the geeky tendencies and often bookish nature, this doesn’t exactly contribute to popularity (not that they want to be popular, but you know what I mean). Personally, I recall the utter mortification as my English teacher in ninth grade read aloud my essay to the whole class as an example of excellence. I melted down into my seat, withering from the stares and snickers.

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
Problem: There wasn’t always a culture of geek girls. We didn’t always have pride, solidarity and ironic 16-bit graphic t-shirts. And even some girls don’t realize they’re geeks at all. As such, they feel like they never fit in. Even though they assert they don’t want to be the crowd, they can’t help but feel on the outskirts. This can lead to a poor self-image, which is never a good thing. While popularity isn’t important, self-worth always is.

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.
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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
Lighten up! Joking with your toddler helps set them up for social success, according to research presented at the Economic and Social Research Councils’ Festival of Social Science 2011. When parents joke and pretend, it gives young kids the tools to think creatively, make friends and manage stress. So feel free to play court jester — your kids will thank you later. [Top 5 Benefits of Play]

Be Positive

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.

Foster Self-Compassion
Parental guilt is its own industry, but avoid the undertow! Research suggests that self-compassion is a very important life skill, helping people stay resilient in the face of challenges. Self-compassion is made up of mindfulness, the ability to manage thoughts and emotions without being carried away or repressing them, common humanity, or empathy with the suffering of others, and self-kindness, a recognition of your own suffering and a commitment to solving the problem. Parents can use self-compassion when coping with difficulties in child-rearing. In doing so, they can set an example for their kids.

Let Go
When the kids fly the nest, research suggests it’s best to let them go. College freshmen with hovering, interfering “helicopter” parents are more likely to be anxious, self-conscious and less open to new experiences than their counterparts with more relaxed moms and dads. That doesn’t mean you should kick your offspring to the curb at 18, but if you find yourself calling your child’s professors to argue about his grades, it may be time to step back.

Nurture Your Marriage
If you’re a parent with a significant other, don’t let your relationship with your spouse or partner fall by the wayside when baby is born. Parents who suffer from marital instability, such as contemplating divorce, may set their infants up for sleep troubles in toddlerhood, according to research published in May 2011 in the journal Child Development. The study found that a troubled marriage when a baby is 9 months old contributes to trouble sleeping when the child is 18 months of age. It may be that troubled houses are stressful houses, and that stress is the cause of the sleep problems.

Tend to Your Mental Health
If you suspect you might be depressed, get help — for your own sake and your child’s. Research suggests that depressed moms struggle with parenting and even show muted responses to their babies’ cries compared with healthy moms. Depressed moms with negative parenting styles may also contribute to their children’s stress, according to 2011 research finding that kids raised by these mothers are more easily stressed out by the preschool years. The findings seem glum, but researchers say they’re hopeful, because positive parenting can be taught even when mom or dad are struggling with their own mental health.

Mamas, Be Good to Your Sons
A close relationship with their mothers can help keep boys from acting out, according to a 2010 study. A warm, attached relationship with mom seems important in preventing behavior problems in sons, even more so than in girls, the research found. The findings, published in the journal Child Development, highlight the need for “secure attachment” between kids and their parents, a style in which kids can go to mom and dad as a comforting “secure base” before venturing into the wider world.

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
Teens who talk back to their parents may be exasperating, but their argumentativeness is linked to a stronger rejection of peer pressure outside the home. In other words, autonomy at home fosters autonomy among friends.

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
Nobody’s perfect, so don’t torture yourself with an impossibly high bar for parenting success. According to a study published in 2011 in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, new parents who believe society expects perfection from them are more stressed and less confident in their parenting skills. And no wonder! Make an effort to ignore the pressure, and you may find yourself a more relaxed parent.

Last But Not Least, Know Your Kids
Everyone thinks they know the best way to raise a child. But it turns out that parenting is not one-size-fits-all. In fact, kids whose parents tailor their parenting style to the child’s personality have half the anxiety and depression of their peers with more rigid parents, according to a study published in August 2011 in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. It turns out that some kids, especially those with trouble regulating their emotions, might need a little extra help from Mom or Dad. But parents can inadvertently hurt well-adjusted kids with too much hovering. The key, said lead researcher Liliana Lengua of the University of Washington, is stepping in with support based on a child’s cues.
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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.
Browse Online

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.
Remember Learning is Everyday

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.
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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. *

*Not really.

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.
It’s not that telling a girl she’s pretty is bad. It’s not. The point is that it shouldn’t be the only kind of compliment she gets, so she doesn’t feel that only her appearance matters. Compliment her intelligence, her resourcefulness, her imagination, her hard work, and her strength. Don’t pretend that her looks will never matter, but teach her not to judge herself or let herself be judged only on looks.

2. Teach her that handymen don’t have to be men.
Checklist of things to teach her: routine car maintenance, how to stop a toilet from overflowing, how to set a mousetrap, how to use the fuse box, how to turn off the water main. (Marcus’s note to self—learn to maintain car, fix a toilet, use the fuse box, and find the water main.) There’s nothing wrong with needing help to get things done, but self-reliance and confidence are handy if you need to change a tire, fix a toilet, or even squish a bug without needing a rescuer to do it for you.

3. Let her play in the mud.
No need to fill their sandbox with only sugar and spice. Mix in some snips and snails and puppy dog tails, too. Be cautious, however, about giving her any nicknames like “Sugar” or “Spice” while she plays in the mud, as it could lead to some uncomfortable career choices down the road.

4. Remember that the way you talk about and treat women will have a lasting impact.
Your daughter will pick up on generalizations you make about women, whether positive or negative. Intentionally or not, you shape her identity about what it is to be a woman, and how to expect to be treated for being one. Say positive things about women without pedastalizing. If you can’t be nice, at least be respectful and steer clear of the B-word, C-word, and other words for putting down her entire gender. All this goes double for talking about her mother.

5. Teach her the correct names for her genitals, and use them matter-of-factly.
If she wants to say wee-wee, that’s fine, but make sure that as she grows up, she knows her vulva from her vagina. And whatever you do … don’t call it a front-butt.

6. Indulge her imagination.
You be the kitty, she’ll be the mommy, then she’ll be the kitty and you’ll be the baby kitty. It’s going to get boring for you, but it’s good for her. Keep doing it. Meow some more. Don’t forget to hiss.

7. Cry when the family pet dies.
You don’t have to weep if you hated the critter, but the point is to show that it’s okay for men to feel and express emotions when they come up, even hard ones like sadness and grief. Sometimes the most comforting thing you can do with a difficult emotion is to share it.

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.
“Honesty and integrity in relationships” doesn’t mean blind devotion. It means living a life consistent with the values you hold dear, and helping the people you love to live consistent with theirs.

Live the integrity you hope she’ll choose for herself.

9. Read her books with great heroes – both boy and girl heroes.
Books with girl heroes are harder to find, but they’re out there. You can find a lot of recommendations at A Mighty Girl. Also, make up stories on the spot—they don’t have to be perfect—starring her as the conquering hero battling the dragon or saving all the kittens in a big thunderstorm.

10. Teach her that she has power over her own body and sexuality.
From when she’s small, tell her that her body belongs to her, and she is the boss of it. As she gets older, teach her that her body isn’t to be used in the effort to win love or approval, or to manipulate others. Teach her that sex is beautiful, and that choices to have and not have sex both carry power and integrity, as long as she is true to herself.

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.
It’s tempting to tell her that boys are bad, that sex is evil and that guys only want one thing…

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.
Play your favorite music and tell her why it’s great. Let her do the same for you. Teach her why the bridge in the middle of Van Morrison’s Into the Mystic is so crucial and really try to understand what’s so great about One Direction (and then enlighten us when you figure it out).

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.
Yeah, it sucks a little playing dress-up for those of us not theatrically-inclined, but it makes a child feel important when you play the way she wants to play.

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.
No, you don’t have to get polish! Just enjoy the time with your daughter and the accompanying foot massage. (Unless you have an aversion to emery boards like Marcus does.)

15. Include her in your favorite hobbies.
Share with her the things you love, like watching Motocross, cooking dinner or playing the guitar.

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.
It doesn’t take much—a goofy tap dance, armpit farts, standing on one foot—to make a little girl laugh.

17. Let her choose any color she wants for one wall in her room.
Yes, any. Then let her help you paint it. We recommend a very sturdy drop-cloth.

18. Roughhouse with her.
You won’t break her, and rough play is good for teaching confidence and resilience.

19. Inspire her with women role models who excel in traditionally male-dominated fields or activities.
She’s not going to grow up to be an NFL linebacker, but don’t crush aspirations before they begin by telling her what she can’t be because she’s a girl. The few things she can’t do will become obvious on their own, and the rest become possible if she’s allowed to dream and has role models who achieved great things without a penis.

20. Don’t shame her for what she wants to wear – but exercise the power to modify.
This one gets trickier with age, but most wardrobe choices by a toddler or little girl can be made to work. If a skirt is too short, leggings are great. If she picks a Spiderman tee for a wedding, try letting her wear it under a dressy top. If you have to overrule her choice, be pragmatic, not judgmental.

(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.
Even if it’s just about My Little Pony or Justin Bieber.

22. As she gets older, tell her the truth about drugs. Don’t use scare tactics, be honest.
Drugs are scary enough without exaggerating. But saying, “If you try drugs, you’ll die (or end up homeless, or become a prostitute, etc)” and having that as your “Drug Talk” will fail. Why? Because she will quickly learn that smoking pot doesn’t kill you—either from watching her friends or doing it herself.

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.
Teach her physical boundaries. Teach her how to say no directly, and that her no is to be respected, and that she shouldn’t be afraid or embarrassed to protect her body.

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.
Let her wear dresses whenever she wants, but don’t force her to. Don’t buy everything in pink—unless she’s crazy for the color pink. If she loves Spiderman, go with that until she’s tired of it.

25. If she’s still little enough, hold her until she falls asleep sometimes.
You’ll miss it when you can’t.
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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.
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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.
You can choose how you’re going to respond to most setbacks, annoyances and outrages, and it doesn’t have to involve screaming or teeth-gnashing. Satisfying though those gambits might be in the moment, scorched-earth policies tend to leave you with…well, scorched earth.

2. That’s gonna leave a mark.
What you do matters. So does what you say. Your deeds and words leave the only trail others can or should track you by.

3. Dr. Bissmeyer doesn’t know how to milk a cow.
I was a sensitive lad (read: butt-clutching crybaby). My pal Billy Bissmeyer’s dad was a doctor, and mine a mere dairy farmer — paired facts that provided the inexhaustible theme of Billy’s daily discourse. This cruel inequity finally broke me down in bed one night. Mom came in, and when I whispered the shameful facts to her, she brought me out to Dad and made me tell him.

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.
That oddly-named soccer team that just trounced your U8 team, the ones with the bellowing coach with the bulging neck vein and the U12-sized striker who made your goalie cry? Sorry: even with all that, those girls aren’t evil. They’re people, too. So are Republicans (or Democrats), Jews (or Palestinians), cats (or dogs). Well, wait a minute…

5. If someone’s hurting, say something.
Anything. Even if it’s not the perfect thing. Nine times out of ten, just telling them you’re sorry it’s happened to them will be enough. And if you can’t say something, a pat on the shoulder (or an affectionate sock there, if the two of you are too studly for a pat) will say you recognize they’re not feeling great, and wish they were. That’s really what they want from you, and it’ll make a world of difference.

6. Only you can torment your brother.
Or sister. (Or dad, or mom, or friend.) Internecine skirmishes are unavoidable and often fiendishly enjoyable, but if someone else messes with the little brother who drives you crazy, you step in and stand up.

7. Think about tomorrow morning tonight.
Yes, you want to live in the moment. But you don’t have to live only there. In particular, you’d do well to get in the habit of looking at least eight hours into the future: Get some sleep.

8. Say you’re sorry.
Yep, you screwed up — hurt somebody, let someone down. Being human, you might not recognize this right away, and might give in to the temptation to make others feel crummy because you’re feeling crummy. (Humans can be messed up, sometimes.) But once you do recognize it, say you’re sorry. The real words, out loud, to the actual injured party. Mean the words, and sound like it. And then fix it.

9. Sometimes (sometimes) it’s OK to just go fishing.
One of my jobs growing up was feeding the heifers who hung out in a hillside pasture: climb into the old haywagon, break open a couple of bales, and distribute the hay into the mangers on either side. Simple.

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 -
I went to feed the heifers. I fed most of one bale, and then saw a big, hairy rat.
I’ve gone fishing.

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.
Yes, you are who you are — but that doesn’t mean you should consider yourself a finished product, helpless to alter your genetic predispositions. You change in important ways throughout your life, and yes, you can direct some of those changes.

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.
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I Do Not Want My Daughter to Be ‘Nice’

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.
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