Not everyone is thrilled with the mainstreaming of geekdom, but I think it has highlighted a lot of the strengths that geeks have as experts and creators, and that extends to parenting as well. Geeks are who they are because of the obsessive passion they have, and there’s no better teacher than someone who loves and immerses themselves in the subject matter. But not matter what your geeky passion is, as father there are five things that you have to teach your children.
How to Break Stuff
I’m strictly talking about controlled demolition, here, rather than wanton destruction, which your kids are probably already good at. Break their old toys and take a look at the guts, help them take apart their old bike and put it back together, or (my favorite) dismantle an old computer to show them how it works.
Learning to tear stuff apart (gently or otherwise) gives your kids a chance to get their hands dirty. Breaking stuff helps them see how the everyday things they take for granted really work and that it’s all stuff that they can figure out and even fix if they need to.
How to Build Stuff
Destruction is the precursor to design. And now that you’ve taught her how to break a few eggs, it’s time to show your young padawan what an omelet looks like. Build a custom PC with them. Craft a self-contained greenhouse in a soda bottle. Put together a model rocket. It doesn’t matter what you build; it’s the act of creation you’re after here.
There are a ton of videos, designs and descriptive how-tos to help you tackle any project. If it’s simple enough, you and the nerdlings can work out your own design. Once kids start building, they’ll want to do more. Geeks are puzzle-solving addicts, and it’s best to get your kid started early.
How (not) to Read
This may seem a little lame, but I really think that a whole generation is growing up without the ability to concentrate for significant lengths of time, and it’s a serious problem. We all need to get back to exerting long, sustained attention on one article or book instead of the flighty, constantly shifting attention that we’re training ourselves to have when reading online.
How can you teach your kids to surf the web and find what they want without getting bogged down with distractions or scary websites? You need to focus on things we mostly take for granted. Show them how to do a Google search and refine it to locate hard-to-find info. Make sure they spend time reading long-form content like books, comics and even short stories. Get them to pay attention to how their mind wanders when they read so they can refocus and resist distractions. Learning to train your own brain is geeky, and it will help them with literally everything else they do.
How to Code
Now, not everyone needs to code, but kids love seeing stuff they do have an effect. And while it may seem like a complicated task (it’s really not), anyone who can read can code; you just have to learn the rules, and that’s like a game for most kids. Plus, it’s easier to learn to code than ever. Go through some tutorials on Code Academy with your kids (they can learn several languages), or try hunting through video tutorials on YouTube (some are better than others).
Too many kids are shying away from math and science, and part of it is because of a culture that tells kids that things like programming are hard. Don’t let your son or daughter be scared off of this fascinating skill.
How to Fail
Sometimes it’s good to pick a challenging project that you suspect you might not finish. Your kid needs to see that his dad doesn’t always succeed, and that it’s okay to scrap something that isn’t working and move on to something else. A failed custom PC or a not-so-level clubhouse is a good opportunity to have them evaluate what went wrong and find possible ways to fix it. Getting past his mistakes, and hopefully learning from them, will make your geek child more confident and persistent in the face of setbacks.
Why it’s Good to Be a Geek
Besides generally just being as nerdy as her dad, there are some real benefits to teaching your kid a geeky mindset. People with a passion for something dive deeper into life. You can teach your kid to be a creator, a doer, a starter; not a copier. This has a lot to do with your kid’s confidence in their own talents and abilities, but it has mostly to do with their belief that there’s an answer to be found to every question and every problem. Isn’t that the type of person you want your child to be? Heck, isn’t that who you want to be?
Author Bio: Owen Williams is an associate editor for FundamentalGuy.com, where he writes about guy stuff, geek culture, entertainment and fatherhood. He loves tinkering with electronics, has broken more than his fair share, and loves tutoring students in science and math. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cover image by by Kiet Callies via Flikr