nothing in common

My Son and I Have Nothing in Common

One of my favorite shows on television was Parenthood. Honestly, I was probably too emotionally invested in the show. I would talk to fellow fans about the characters like they were real people. It followed a family called the Bravermans. The show centers on the four grown-up siblings trying to figure out the ups and downs of parenthood. The oldest sibling named Adam is married with three kids. In the first few episodes, he and his wife, Kristina, come to find out that their middle child, Max, has Aspergers, a syndrome that makes social interactions and communication difficult.

Adam loves his son and strives to be a great father. However, throughout the series, you see his struggle as he attempts to connect with a son who is different from him in every way. His interests are different, the way he looks at the world is different, his humor is different, and on and on. Those kinds of barriers can be frustrating. You try and try, but just can’t break through. Are you and your son polar opposites? Perhaps you have similarities, but you just have trouble connecting. If that is you, or you and your son actually have nothing in common, the following will help you connect more.

Change your Expectations

When you found out you were having a son, I’m sure you got a picture in your mind of what it was going to look like. You created expectations and couldn’t wait to live them out. Those expectations need to be thrown out. It is a different picture and a different life. Max Dupree, the author of Leadership is an Art says, “the first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.” The first step in building a good relationship with your son is embracing the reality of who he is. You need to love the son you have, not the one you hoped he would be. [Tweet This]

Meet Him on His Turf

Remember the movie Over the Top with Sylvester Stallone? It was about a father-son relationship and the title song for the movie was called “Meet Me Halfway.” Wrong mentality. We need to meet our sons on their ground. I heard an expert on Asbergers recently say that the kids who do the best are the ones who have parents that step into their world. I believe that’s true of all kids, Asbergers or not. Don’t pressure him to change. Take an interest in the things he loves, whether you hate those things or not. Play with him.

Learn His Language

You don’t have to talk like him, but you have to work on understanding him. This is hard. It takes patience, discernment, and the ability to ask a lot of questions. Assume good intent and read between the lines. Kids, preteens, and teenagers have a difficult time deciphering their feelings and the reality of the world around them. That’s where you come in. Ask questions like, “So when you say that you ‘hate school’ and that it is ‘boring,’ do you really mean that you have a class you are struggling in?” “Yes.” “I know what that feels like. Can I help?” Learn what he means behind what he says.

Failure is Not an Option

Gene Kranz, the retired flight director for NASA, wrote about the Apollo 13 crew whose ship had experienced a catastrophic failure that they were out of his physical reach but they were never past the limits of human imagination and inventiveness to be rescued. When it comes to our kids, we are faster, stronger, and smarter. It’s not their job to make the connection, it’s ours. We need to make the connection. Use every gift and ability at your disposal. Ask your wife if you are married or brainstorm with friends to find ways to connect with your son. Remember the motto: Failure is not an option. He needs you. Don’t let anything stop you, especially frustration and expectations.

Sound Off

What have you done to connect with your son?

BJ Foster

BJ Foster is the Director of Content Creation for All Pro Dad and a married father of two.

  • CDub71

    In this post, you encourage us dads to “Take an interest in the things he loves, whether you hate those things or not.” My son loves video games, and not only do I personally hate them, but I think they’re detrimental to his development. Any suggestions on handling this?

    • I’ve seen the games get too crazy with many kids. I loved them growing up and felt they taught me tenacity, but now that they are on every device there can be too many opportunities to get locked in.

      What’s really worked for me is to change up the environment. Getting somewhere more interesting than the games kind of thing.

      Of course that can be a challenge, but I had to compete for their time and attention.


    • BJ_Foster

      The interesting thing is that I had video games in mind when I wrote that line. Why do you think his video game playing is detrimental to his development? Is it the types of games he is playing or the amount of time or both? Either way the question I would ask is would you rather he do it alone or with you? At least when you play with him there’s the benefit of bonding over it and potentially pulling him into other things that are more productive. If you play his games you’ll earn the right to say, “Let’s do this (activity) now.” You’ll earn the right to say “I think you are spending too much time there.” You’ll show him an example of someone who has played, but then quits and does other things. Without playing with him he can always fall back on, “You don’t understand Dad.” Also, you’ll come to know what draws him into the games he plays if you don’t already. If the games are inappropriate and he still spends too much time then I would limit screen time and not allow games that are inappropriate. However, I would be prepared with a good explanation of why they are destructive.

      • CDub71

        Yesterday, he faked being sick – even going so far as to stick his finger down his throat – to stay home and play with his buddies (who go to another school and had the day off, as we found out later). Video games are all he talks about, and are seemingly all he thinks about. He used to like to read, play outside, etc. And even if I tried to play with him, he’s connected to his friends on XBox Live, so I wouldn’t be in the mix anyway. He would rather do it with his friends. smh

        • BJ_Foster

          So I would say that if there is a violation of trust or it becomes a problem then take that thing away. You could also have him do things to earn video game time. With every book read, good grade, new hobby/sport/activity learned, or time spent outside her earns video game time. That could be a creative way of dealing with it. Playing video games is something I wouldn’t allow in the future if he is “sick” and home from school and I would definitely set a certain amount of time allowed each day.

      • Paul_Sp

        I agree with CDub71.
        My sons love some video games and are not in fact out of balance with them or only obsessed with them.
        But I have ZERO interest in them, so your line saying get into it even if you hate it……Nope, not happening.

        When I was a boy, my dad and I had some overlapping interests, not too many, but I knew without being told that I had a responsibility to take some interest in what he enjoyed too, and join him in that. I never blamed or resented my dad for having ZERO interest in my sports, he hated sports (he was a writer/public relations corporate guy)!

        It’s a two way street. The kid has to meet dad on his turf some too.
        And if anyone says things/kids today are just different, YOU dad have to do all the kowtowing to them, I have news for you!

        Honestly I don’t see why any dad and son can’t find SOME common interests, even if it’s not much.
        I respected my dad and I knew he respected me, even where the common interests lacked.

        • BJ_Foster

          I understand your point Paul, but I just don’t see it that way. I don’t see it as kowtowing. I see it as taking every opportunity to love my son, bond with my son, and trying to understand the world from his perspective. In all of my work with teenagers I have found that the more I stepped onto their turf the more reasons I gave them to want to step onto mine.

          • Paul_Sp

            Well of course, to your last sentence.
            But some of kid’s interests won’t be dad’s too, and I think that is fine.

    • Jason Wagner

      I will sit with my son and just watch him play. I ask him about the game while he’s playing. I have found hat he LOVES to talk about it. Seriously, if I ask him about his day at school, I’ll get, “Fine”. If I ask him what level his Valkarie is, he’ll talk to me for an hour if I let him!

      I have found that talking to him is no different than talking to my wife, I have to show, genuinely, interest in what he is doing. Even if, especially if, I have no interest in what he is doing. By doing so, I’m not just telling him he’s important to me, I’m showing him he’s important to me.

      Sometimes he’ll be online with his friends, but I am lucky enough that he will still talk to me first. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still playing while he’s talking to me, but he’s talking to me. I’ll take it.

      That didn’t come right away, it took time. I had to make it routine and I had to show him it was just a haphazard attempt. That I genuinely wanted to get into his world.

      One other thing I have figured out. Video games to my son, are what a stick and and a silver strainer (Army helmet and gun) were to me. It’s an imaginary world in which he can run around in and be a superhero or a villain or soldier. I know it’s different, but it’s also very much the same. It’s different, but it’s still “make believe” (cue cheeses Mr Rogers Neighborhood music).

      It ain’t easy figuring out and balancing his video game play with all the other things he needs to do and that I want him to do or do with him, but I need to realize and understand that his world is just as important as mine, and that I need to walk a little in his with him.

      Besides, if I don’t walk with him a little, how in the world will I ever level up my wizard?

  • I found common ground hanging off a cliff in the Sierras. This post I wrote about it actually ended up becoming a book which just launched:

    Stoked I found your site here. I still struggle with always finding something we both love, but “Stepping into his world” has been key.

    Really enjoying your site. Thanks


    • Shoot – Sorry I didn’t realize those pics were going to come up so big fellas. Couldn’t figure out how to delete them once I posted.

      • BJ_Foster

        Thanks for sharing your photos. Great to have you here!

        • Thanks BJ. When they showed up so big I was worried. Point was to share them. Thanks for the warm welcome.

  • screaminscott

    “Don’t let anything stop you, especially frustration and expectations.”
    Sorry, but most of us are not saints. we don’t have the patience of Job, and can’t force ourselves to relate to someone who is completely different than us. I know that makes us bad parents to kids who aren’t like us, but we just can’t change.

  • Mortimer Bigglesworth

    Yeah, not so interested in the video games for myself. I was really curious to understand what was so compelling about the games. Maybe partly due to feeling like time was slipping away for us. Partly because we wanted to make sure he wasn’t getting sucked into some kind of on-line cult.

    When I took some time to ask questions he perked up. I learned that what he is doing is actually quite sophisticated, requires thinking, and working/coordinating with others. I was impressed that 14 year old kids were taking this game/simulation thing so seriously and working together respectfully in varied roles. While that is great we do still need to work on overall balance and have continued discussion about the rules and being cautious with on-line contacts (but that is another discussion).

    Anyway, he expressed interest in game development. He has gotten really good at developing 3D models of all sorts of objects. Very realistic. He was worried about writing the computer code that makes the object work within the game environment. DING! We found a common something. I spent some time helping him with programming until we got one of his models integrated into the game. Didn’t take long. It was a blast for both of us.

    The reason I shared this is that I had no idea this would happen. It started with just wanting to truly understand.

    Since then, he begged me to play airsoft with his friends and some of the dads (they have an organized event usually once a month). Was reluctant but tried it. Once again, stumbled on something good in getting connected with dads intent on being involved in their son’s lives and setting good examples. Frankly, the dads sometimes don’t really want to do this (like in the cold, rain, or both) but they keep pressing on for the sake of their sons.

Subscribe to the Play of the Day for daily advice, videos and updates on how to be better dad.

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “If there was one thing you would change about our relationship, what would it be?”

foster and adoption
Did You Get It?
Every Man's Bible
Florida Prepaid