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Geek Girl Guide: Raising Geek Girls

Raising a geek girl requires more than putting a Wonder Woman plushie in her crib and putting a periodic table of elements placemat under her cereal bowl. Raising girls who idolize Marie Curie rather than Marie Claire is an uphill battle, but we’re not here today to talk about size zero models and push-up bikinis for seven-year-olds.

We’re here to talk about the way you can interact with young geek girls (or soon to be geek girls) to help them avoid deriving their self-esteem based on looks alone and steer their focus toward being passionate about their interests.

1. Don’t tell them how cute they are.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young girl in possession of pigtails will be in want of some attention. Little girls hear all the time that they are adorable, pretty, and well-dressed. They also hear other little girls – perhaps more traditionally cute than they are – receive the same compliments in greater volumes. And so it begins. Save the compliments on physical attributes for later in life when they are responsible for crafting their own style and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

There is NOTHING cute about this.

2. Do give compliments.

Avoiding the “you’re so pretty” trap is not to say that you should give a brutally honest assessment of a child’s looks (because let’s be frank here: some kids “grow into” their features). However, if you can compliment things they are responsible for like their polite manners, their thoughtfulness, and their hard work, they feel empowered to control the praise they receive through their behavior rather than their appearance. So if she makes a fun finger painting or do a funny impression of a cartoon character, reinforce her passion for creativity by praising those qualities.

3. Don’t assume they are into girly things.

Many surprisingly things about our personalities may have some genetic component including thrill-seeking behavior, open-mindedness and even political leanings. However, I was raised in a home where I watched Indiana Jones and Star Wars in addition to Disney princess movies. My home was filled with overflowing bookshelves, and I got a Creepy Crawlers Bug Maker Creation Stations instead of an Easy Bake Oven. My parents didn’t just give me Barbies and turn on Sleeping Beauty. They provided me with options, and I gravitated towards the ones I enjoyed more.

Presented with limited options, potential young geek girls do not have the opportunities to develop passion for the geekier things in life.

4. Do ask them about their interests.

Whether you’re a parent or a close friend or family member, you have the opportunity to empower young geek girls (and even young geek boys!) by simply ASKING them about their interests. They may repeat what their friends are interested in, or they may show a genuine interest in gender-specific activities and toys. But they may also tell you about their favorite book.

Even if it’s that book.

As Lisa Bloom said in her recent article (and inspiration for this post), How to Talk to Little Girls, she was able to turn a book discussion about little girls looking cute in their clothes and into a conversation about peer pressure and choosing what you like instead of following the crowd. This opportunity gets geek girls in an independent mindset at a young age while also practicing early critical thinking and text analysis skills.

And THAT is geeky.

5. Don’t hide them from all “idealized” beauty.

Short of keeping your little Padawan in a locked tower, there’s no way to avoid exposing young girls to runway models and make-up advertisements. In fact, if we know anything about psychology, we know that making something taboo makes it all the more attractive. However, if a young girl talks about how pretty someone looks in a picture, you can talk about how they do special things to the picture in order to make them “perfect.” While she may not be up for a full Photoshop tutorial, mentioning that nobody looks like that in real life (or even hunting down some “real” pictures of celebrities – not hideous, mind you, but real) may influence her expectations when she looks into a mirror.

They even get pimples…just like normal people.

6. Do expose them to all forms of beauty.

Talking about beauty should not be limited to just human appearance. Make sure you mention that a piece of art a young girl comes up with is beautiful or that a kind compliment is a “beautiful” thing to say.

“It looks just like your brother…”

Not only are you helping a budding geek girl with her vocabulary depth, but you’re also giving her permission to assign the word “beautiful” to many different aspects of her life.

So this post turned a bit more into a diatribe against superficiality than originally intended, but the false nature of the equation of looks = value is an important one to make early on.

A girl may end up hugely into appearance: becoming a beautician or stylist, spending her days matching hair styles to face shapes, memorizing the different types of make-up brushes, learning how to do twelve different styles of nail shaping, and practicing color blending with various eye shadows.

But guess what: that’s pretty geeky, too, in its own way. And with good influences in her life, she will have arrived at her passion for the right reasons and with a healthy set of personal values.

To read more of Jana’s writing, check out the Quality Logo Products blog!
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. AmandaTwo

    July 29, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Great post here Jana. It really makes me think about how young girls are raised in today's society. I like how you give alternatives for families in this post. Well done!

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