How to Raise an Uncool Kid

Some kids are born “cool.” Even in their cradles, they rock.

On the other hand, being “uncool” can be taught. We're successfully instilling in our four children traits of the hopelessly uncool. We aim to raise geeks, but we're not doing this just to make their lives miserable. We actually think it's better to be uncool as an avenue to “late blooming.” We want our kids to peak for the big show, real life, rather than in middle school.

When it comes to uncool, parents have all the power. Even the savviest kid can't be cool if his parents subscribe to these ten foolproof rules of uncool child-rearing:

Rule #1: Raise a brainiac. The trademark of the uncool is intelligence, which is not to say cool people can't be smart. But uncool people — the truly geeky ones — would rather be smart than cool. In fact, while they're smart enough to figure out what it would take to be cool, they don't do it because it would mean pretending they're not interested in uncool things, like astronomy, books by Jane Austen, or the History Channel.

Rule #2: Raise an innocent kid. Let your child be a child for as long as possible. It's uncool to be innocent — though innocence and ignorance are not the same thing. Don't raise an ignorant kid. Instead, respect his curiosity and answer all his questions, fostering a close relationship that keeps him talking to you about things like sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Very uncool, indeed.

Rule #3: Raise an eccentric kid. Not too eccentric, but enough to enjoy stamp or coin collecting, chess, computer camp, new foods, Hitchcock and Monty Python films, and early Frank Sinatra recordings. Teach your child dialogue from movies (“You come to me on the day of my daughter's wedding?” and “Badges? We don't need no steenkin' badges!”). Use these movie lines after you run into cool kids on a family night out. Inside jokes are the lifeblood of the uncool.

Rule #4. Raise a kid adults like. Teach your child a firm handshake and to make eye contact with grown-ups. When your child has articulate, meaningful, and enjoyable conversations with the parents of his peers, they'll lobby for him to be included in parties and outings. Uncool. No kid wants to hang with a kid his parents suggest.

Rule #5: Raise a sheltered kid. No MTV, no instant messaging, no unsupervised internet surfing, no dirty music or movies, no Cosmo or People for teens, no CSI, Sex in the City, or pretty much anything produced by HBO or the WB. Uncool? Oh, yeah.

Rule #6: Raise a reader. Recreational readers are a little uncool. Kids who read the newspaper every morning before school are profoundly uncool. And teachers love them; ergo, the uncool “kiss of death.”

Rule #7. Raise a team player. Sports are a great way to practice the uncool lifestyle. When your kid joins a team, stress coachability, reliability, learning the fundamentals, and sticking with it, even if nobody passes him the ball. When he scores a goal or basket, do the “dance of joy” on the sidelines. Parents of cool kids don't do this.

Rule #8: Raise a real friend. Make sure your child knows true friends are consistent, kind, accepting, and affirming. Teach him real friends may be rare, but they're out there and are found in uncool places. Like chess club.

Rule #9: Raise a homebody. Kids who enjoy hanging out at home are poster children for the uncool. In fact, when they are invited out, you sometimes have to force them to go — and you should. Uncool doesn't mean loner.

Rule #10: Raise a faithful kid. Talk about God and help your child develop a vibrant relationship with Him. When the burden of being uncool weighs heavily, encourage your child to have faith for the future, when all these rules pay off.

In the end, uncool kids become the coolest adults, but also part of an important cycle. After all, it takes a cool adult to raise an uncool kid.

(Marybeth Hicks is a writer and author of the features “then again.” and “A View from the Pew.” A wife of 17 years and mother of four children from second grade to sophomore year, she uses her columns to share her perspective on issues and experiences that shape families and the communities we share. Marybeth began her writing career more than 20 years ago in the Reagan White House. She also has worked in marketing and public relations positions in corporate and agency settings. Mostly, she spends a lot of time in her mini-van, where the real work of parenting actually happens. Learn more about Marybeth and her column at

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