“Mom? What’s the Wi-Fi password?” my 11-year-old asked and, as my little brother tried to chirp in with his idea that it was a string of numbers on a Post-it somewhere, my daughter simply retorted with, “No, that’s a WEP key and we use WPA now.” An obvious look of irritation etched itself across her olive-toned face.
That, my friends, is how you know you have set a child on a path for being obviously tech savvy and/or possible nerd-dom. When your child can recite key plot points and explain Doctor Who and how Time Lords work better than most adults you know, and would rather read Peter Pan and Terry Pratchett books than indulge in the latest girly young adult novel, you know you’ve done something right. Sure, the argument could be, “Well, I’ll love my kid no matter if they’re a geek or not.” But let’s be honest: we’d love to be able to connect on that level, right?
When I was a child, I was lucky enough to have my hands in everything: a bit of sports, lots of video games, and a ton of extracurricular activities that really kept me away from just one clique in school. Surprisingly enough (at least for me), I was known as one of the “popular” kids who could — and I would usually try to — connect with my peers on a number of different levels. I sat with everyone at lunch because I knew what everyone liked and when the guys would talk video games, I could offer my own stories on my latest game. When the other table wanted to talk sports, I was lucky enough to follow whatever my father had been watching and telling me about, enjoying the excitement that came with it. Hockey was my private passion and, though I may not have divulged it to most, the kids at school always knew when I was excited about something.
My daughter, admittedly, comes by her bubbly personality honestly. She’s bright, open, and ready to engage on any number of levels and she has a lot of them. Books, movies, music, video games, and most of all, technology. She eats it up and readily asks for more! While most kids may want a bike or even shoes or something when they get honor roll, my kid asks for an iPad or a tablet. She figures she can check her grades, use the Internet, watch Netflix, and play games from it, so why not, right? She was the first child I knew of who could reconfigure network connections on Linux through the command lines and who knew how to code HTML within a blog post. If you bring it up to her as being amazing, she simply doesn’t realize it actually is. The kid isn’t genius level, folks — she’s just interested!
From a young age, I involved Monkey (yes, that’s what her nickname is; she does the best monkey-face around) in my hobbies. Things like Red Dwarf, Doctor Who, computers, video games, subtitled anime from the source, books from my childhood, and things that I was into because I wanted to show her what comprised my hobbies. Not only would it give her a chance to see what I was into and what I liked, but if she ended up liking it, we could connect on that level. Maybe she would end up enjoying it and, through that, find out more about those things and bring something to me that I didn’t know about.
Seriously, what’s the point in raising a child if you’re not going to do it right? Are you going to sit back with some friends and play Dungeons & Dragons? Let them sit and watch as long as it doesn’t run too late. Want to get them into a game you’re playing? Hand them a controller. As I see it, spending time with your child shouldn’t be a chore anyways, but if you’re doing something you love and they can get into it, too, it makes everything so much nicer.
Ask them what they are into and show them something you’re into that is akin to that hobby. Are they into space? Get them into watching The Pluto Files with Neil deGrasse Tyson (I love you, Chocolate Spaceman!) on Netflix with you and get them the awesome Star Chart app for your iPad or favorite tablet. Engage them in your world by opening up theirs and you’re never going to find yourself scraping to find things to embrace your child with.
Ease them in.
With Monkey, I introduce her to new things that I love by means of paying attention to the stuff that she likes and then introducing her to something similar. For instance, she loves happy and cheerful melodic pop music, so instead of the usual Billboard 100, I passed her a few tracks by fun YouTube sensation, Pomplamoose, and found that she absolutely loves that sound. Not only did I share something, but I opened up a dialogue by easing her into something new. Easy, right? It’s foolproof. I mean, my little brother who used to just watch Jackass clips on the Internet is now watching Doctor Who. Seriously. Try it.
Most of being a parent for a kid in this day and age is about becoming comfortable with adapting to a world that is constantly changing and appealing to young brains. It’s all flash bulbs and instant gratification so, I find, I need to slow the world down for my child and let her see that there is so much out there that won’t speak down to her, won’t treat her like a commodity, and will allow her creativity to flourish.
How about your kids? What kind of nerdy things is your young one into that you eased them into and found out they absolutely loved it? Do you have a kid who’s hard to connect with? Tell me all about it!
Image of adorable geek monkey via Wikipedia