Author Marybeth Hicks Is Raising Geeky Kids — And Here’s Why You Should, Too

Marybeth Hicks has raised four Geeky kids and is proud of it! The author of Bringing Up Geeks, Marybeth has redefined geeky into today’s super cool (think empowered kids, not pocket protectors). We spoke with Marybeth about cool vs. geeky, our voraciously consumer-obsessed culture, and why it doesn’t always feel good to be a good parent.

I loved the book. From reading it, I would definitely say that my husband and I are geeky parents raising geeky kids.

That’s great!

Now, let’s clarify what GEEK stands for.

It stands for Genuine, Enthusiastic, Empowered Kids. We’re a bit uncool in my house. We’re not uncool in that we need a bath! [laughs] We shower, but my kids have never been the A-listers. The decisions that my husband and I made in our approach to parenting impacted our kids’ social standing in a way that we liked. We know that for many parents, their children’s social standing and popularity is very important.

They think it’s a reflection on them, their parenting, and how cool they are.

Absolutely. I think it’s hilarious. My kids are very happy, well-adjusted people. They have a ton of friends, but it’s not important for them to be in the cool crowd. Today’s culture is coming down on our kids at younger and younger ages. I want to preserve their childhood and let them be kids. And, when our kids ask us for things, we sometimes say no.

[gasp!] That’s shocking! [laughs]

It’s true. You would be surprised at how many parents don’t say no to things, even when they want to. Our oldest child came home a few years back and wanted a screen name. After explaining what it was to my husband and I, we said, “Well, if you want to talk to your friends, just pick up the phone or hop on your bike!” Eventually, she became the only kid who didn’t IM, and she was left out of things because many plans were made in cyberspace.

And now my 12 year-old daughter, Amy, wants a cell phone. Well, if I give a cell phone to a 12 year-old, it will wind up in my washing machine! [laughs] It’s as if inclusion was the end all and be all. I told her that if her friends don’t include her in something just because she doesn’t have a phone, then they weren’t good friends to begin with.

It seems that a lot of the “geeky” factor comes from not being so plugged into the commercialism of our culture.

Our culture wants kids to grow up fast, and the reason for that is the almighty dollar. I speak all over the country, and one of the topics I lecture about is the tween market. Frankly, there is no such thing as a tween. That’s a term created by marketers to make a new marketing demographic, so they can sell more stuff to you and your family. The tween market is now between the ages of 8-12. The last time I checked, that was an age group called childhood. We are turning our children into little shoppers; that’s the only reason for the tweens. It’s part of a marketing strategy called “age compression.”

That is so sad. Now, what do you say to parents who truly want to listen to their gut and say no to things, but are afraid of upsetting their children?

Parents have to trust their instincts more. They are also suffering from peer pressure. Many of them are saying yes to things because they didn’t feel like they can say no. The truth is this: It doesn’t always feel good to be a good parent. Your child gets upset, you feel badly, but it’s important to stay true to your own beliefs.

Children are also entitled to enjoy a more innocent childhood. By buying things that they don’t need and feeding into the culture, childhood almost becomes a competitive process. Kids are constantly trying to outdo each other and see who has more things. For parents, it’s important to raise kids with a conscience, who have principles and who understand the concepts of right and wrong, instead of handing them over to the social directives of the powerful kids at school.

Having raised four geeky kids yourself, how would you describe them in comparison to the cool kids?

Geeky kids seem much more mature than their cool kid counterparts. I’ve always encouraged my kids to find like-minded friends. In turn, they have developed a good genuine character; they are not faux-adults. They are not that interested in experimentation. We often take it for granted that all kids are going to drink and take drugs. They don’t. In fact, it is the cool kids who are at a greater risk for dangerous behaviors, because they have to go along with things — that deep inside they may not feel are right — just to maintain their cool status. Do geeky kids struggle with peer pressure too? Of course, they do. All kids struggle. I haven’t found one who hasn’t. It is up to us as parents, though, to guide our children and help them make the smartest decisions that are in their best possible interests. Even if those decisions are the geeky ones.

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