Raising a Well-Rounded Geek

As a self-professed geek, my three sons might as well have been born with dice in one hand and a video game controller in the other. From a very early age, they were playing all sorts of board games and video games. They are very comfortable with the geek gaming culture and all three still embrace it. It is a wonderful hobby that can stimulate the imagination, build intellect, and develop social skills, just to name a few of the many benefits. However, I also wanted to make sure they were exposed to other experiences besides gaming in order to help them be well-rounded individuals. As parents, my wife and I thought it was important to give our children opportunities to participate in other activities that they might find enjoyable and enrich them as individuals. The first was sports.

I’m a sports nut who loves to play and watch sports. I played lots of sports in my youth and for the past 25 years I’ve participated in organized softball. As a result, I know first hand how sports emphasizes the importance of working as a team, respecting authority (ie. the coach), accepting victory or defeat with dignity, and of course the many benefits of practicing to obtain improvement and discipline. With all three boys, I gave them the choice of whatever they wanted to participate in, from baseball, to football, to basketball, to karate. For me, it didn’t matter. I just wanted them to participate in some sort of organized sports activity. If they didn’t like a certain sport, we encouraged them to try another. They are now ages 15, 11 and 9-years-old and all three still participate in some form of sports. In addition, we love to go and watch sporting events as a family. These family outings have given us great memories that will stay with us forever.

Obviously, another huge benefit of playing sports is the physical activity. Geeks have a negative stereotype of being overweight individuals who just sit in front of a PC or gaming table all day. Sports helps instill the importance of physical fitness that they’ll need to maintain through their entire lives to remain healthy and active.

A second form of activity I have supported with my sons is learning how to play a musical instrument. I took piano at an early age and it’s an activity I’ve enjoyed my entire life. I currently play in a band at my church and in a local rock band, too. The discipline it takes to learn how to play an instrument is invaluable to an individual. Even if a person never becomes proficient at playing, the work ethic established can last a lifetime. So when my oldest son came to me when he was 10-year-old and said he wanted to learn how to play guitar, we supported him. We got him a cheap starter guitar and lessons. Five years later, he’s now a pretty good guitar player, plays in a jazz ensemble in high school, and spends more tine in his room practicing than he does in front of the TV.

My second oldest recently decided he wanted to learn how to play the bass. So this past Christmas, we gave him a beginner’s bass and he has started learning how to play. In addition, he is playing the trumpet in his middle school band which is developing his music reading and playing skills. He might decide he really isn’t into being a musician and that is fine with us. We just wanted to make sure he had an opportunity to try it out.

Another activity we thought was important was community service. It’s so easy nowadays to get caught up with our own self-interests. In a time where the “culture of entitlement” can be a strong influence on our children, we believe that helping and putting others first shows our boys how good they got it. Serving others shows them how they could make a difference in people’s lives and, in return, receive that joyful feeling when helping those in need. Whether it’s doing service through local charities, the church, or the school, we’ve seen our boys’ level of maturity grow as a direct result.

These are just three examples of non-gaming activities that we believe to be good for our family, but it could be any activity like creative writing, painting, learning how to dance, art appreciation, theater, and even geocaching! The list is limitless. Don’t get me wrong, gaming is a fantastic hobby that my family spends many hours doing and enjoying, but taking time to put down the dice and turning off the video games has helped cultivate an appreciation for many different activities that our boys will enjoy for a lifetime.

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About Marty

Father of Three, and Husband of One, Marty has been a video and board gamer since the Atari 2600 and Uno (both from the 70's). As a child, he has fond memories of playing all sorts of games with his family and friends. As a parent, he now wants his three sons to have the same great memories of everyone sitting around the table captivated by cards/tokens/miniatures, feeling great about a win, learning how to deal with losses, but having fun regardless of the outcome. Marty didn't discover the sub-culture of "geek" gaming until 2000 through the Lord of the Rings TCG. From there, a whole new world of card games, board games, RPGs and miniature wargaming was opened up to him and he dived in head first. As his sons started taking interest in his hobby, Marty gladly cultivated their interest and supported whatever games they wanted play. Even his wife, a non-gamer just a few short years ago, now loves the gaming culture and gets "geeked up" as anyone for board game nights and trips to GenCon. Gaming is now a family event. Less time is spent watching TV and more time is spent sitting around the gaming table strategizing, laughing, learning, and building memories that will stay with them for a lifetime. At the same time, Marty is adding new memories of his own. Marty goes by the handle WolfpackEE on Board Game Geek.

11 Responses to Raising a Well-Rounded Geek

  1. Jason says:

    Laundry! Laundry is a wonderful experience to get kids involved with! They shouldn’t miss out!

    Good thoughts. I was listening to a radio program the other day that argued you should only take classes in college that are going to be directly applicable to your career. What a load, I thought! Variety and well-rounded experiences benefit you in ways beyond the immediately applicable and calculable. Definitely getting kids exposed to many activities is not only healthy, but critical so that they can discover “who they are” and where their interests lie in life.

    • Cyrus says:

      I couldn’t agree more, Jason!

      Starting with simple chores around the house like taking the responsibility of cleaning up their toys is a great way to start getting your little geeks involved. I think laundry is something you should work up to, however. I shudder to think what my 4-year-old would do to my delicates…

      I’m surprised to hear someone was suggesting that you should only take courses that are specific to your career. Sounds like the speaker was suggesting that you are going to get the job your education discipline is focused on right after graduation. That is absurd. While many college graduates find jobs after graduation, I doubt the total number of individuals who find positions specific to their career choice is equal to the number who graduated. There are college graduates flipping burgers, after all.

      Further more, how can you expect to be a viable candidate with any company if you cannot demonstrate you are a well-rounded individual who is capable in different areas and eager to learn and take on new challenges? Please tell me the person on the radio was not a high school guidance counselor! I weep for the next generation…

    • Jason says:

      Hehe…the laundry comment was tongue-in-cheek – we have 9 people in our house, so anyway I can get out of laundry, I’m taking it, man! Though a 4 year old and laundry could be a fun experiment! Come to think of it – might be a good way to teach about color and dyes and fabric and what happens when you throw them in with whites in hot water… 🙂

      The guy on the radio was Dave Ramsey, a financial “get out of debt” expert. His angle was mostly in regards to complaining about the price of higher education (a legit concern) and how to minimize that and avoid student loans. He wasy serious, though. But man, it’s hard to put a “price tag” on some things.

    • Cyrus says:

      I was being totally serious about not letting my 4-year-old near my delicates. You have to clean doilies just right or you mess them up. And cashmere? Don’t even get me started! You are less likely to mess up cleaning nuclear waste than you are washing a cashmere sweater.

      Why don’t more men know about these kind of things?

    • Marty says:

      Dave Ramsey? Wow. I’ve read some of his financial planning and always saw him as a pretty sharp guy, but he is off the mark on this one.
      I’ll never forget at the end of one my electrical engineering classes the professor said we’d only ever use 5% what we learned in college. To be successful in the workforce, effective communication is the most important to skill to learn. He was absolutely right. To this day, one of the most beneficial courses to me wasn’t an engineering course, it was a technical communications.

      I have heard discussions on how some degrees don’t pay for themselves though.

    • Cyrus says:

      Wow…that 5% costed me a lot of money…

    • Marty says:

      Because I think it would mean turning in your man card haha

    • Cyrus says:

      Whoa! We get cards?! I have been seriously misinformed.

  2. Frank says:

    Marty — this is so true.

    A couple of years ago my wife and I were at a conference for the parents of gifted children. Most of the parents were asking questions such as, “My child is gifted in languages. How do I get my school to teach Latin?” They might ask, “How do I determine the choice between magnet schools and charter schools for my little science wonder?” No one, I mean no one, was asking, “My child is gifted, how do I make sure they are well rounded and socially adept?” Yet, as you point out, communication skills are a far better indicator of success than aptitude in any subject. Studies prove it.

    Everyone should make sure there little geeks are well rounded. (Lest they become dweebs.)

  3. Troy says:

    Thanks for the article. I am a big proponent of the well rounded philosophy, as well.

    It is my hope that my wife and I are instilling a love of learning about the world around them. We try to tap into that natural curiosity and sense of exploration and it seems to naturally guide them into wanting to try different things. It makes me proud to see my two young sons not only very adept at technology (rather scary, at times) but also flow easily in different social situations, whether it be church or the playground.

    I think that one of the fun non-tech things that my son came up with was putting a story into a book form. We stapled some printer paper together and got out the markers. He came up with the words, and we partnered on the artwork. It was a neat exercise in art, spelling and creativity. It was also a fun father and son activity.

    Of course his story was about he and his dad being superheroes, so the “geek” in him did shine through.

    Thanks for the blog, I enjoy reading it.

  4. Marty says:

    Thanks for the kind words. I checked out your blog and it looks like we peas in a pod. I’m following it now and looking forward to your posts.

    Thanks again and visit often

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