Bonding with your son is often harder than it should be. Between choosing an activity that you'll both find interesting, and then making time for it, it's a wonder dads ever find a way to connect with their boys.
Building a better relationship with someone you see everyday can be difficult, and many father-son experiences are uneventful, filled with awkward silences or consist of nothing but arguments and bickering. Every father and son deserve quality time together, which is why we're giving you 10 useful tips for bonding with your boy. We'll explain why getting him to help you around the house might bring you closer, and why inviting him to a poker game could help the two of you establish a deeper connection.
We're all busy, but no matter how packed your schedule is, it's important to set aside time every week to hang out with your son. Don't worry, it doesn't have to be a scheduled multi-hour event (though it can be if you want). Proclaim every Wednesday evening father and son pizza night, or make time every Saturday afternoon to play catch with your kid.
It doesn't matter when it is or what you do -- just having that time scheduled together every week will strengthen your relationship and give you both something to look forward to.
Get Out of the House
It's where you eat, sleep, play and argue. Your home is many things, but being the best place to bond with your son isn't always one of them. Sure, it's fine to sit back and watch a game together on the living room TV or teach him how to grill steaks in the backyard, but sometimes it's good to break out of a familiar setting and hit the road (even if only for a few blocks) for some bonding adventures.
Go downtown to watch the game in person, or head to the park for a jog instead of sitting on the couch. Find a good barbecue restaurant in your area in place of firing up the grill. It's not that home is a bad place for bonding -- it's just sometimes easier to share meaningful one-on-one time away from the rest of the family and that overly familiar environment.
Ask for His Help
While we can't underestimate the importance of setting aside time together, any activity at home, from taking out the trash to painting the deck, can also be turned into a father and son bonding experience. You may think he wants to sit back and play video games all day (and he'll probably even tell you as much), but you might be surprised by how eager he is to help you complete some chores around the house if you ask. Of course, asking him to help change the oil in your car doesn't guarantee the two of you are about to make happy, lifelong father-son memories, but it's a great place to start.
Listen to Him
It's easy for us adults to forget how hard it is being a kid. Children don't have to worry about earning a living, maintaining a marriage or paying a mortgage, but juggling school, homework, tests and a social life isn't easy, so make sure you listen to what your kid has to say. Just ask him how things are going over dinner, a movie or whatever -- you may have to pry a bit a first, but stick with it. As soon as he starts opening up, you'll be amazed by how complicated his life is, and just the simple act of listening will bring you closer together.
Can Your Criticism
This can be a hard one, but it's mandatory. No kid is ever going to do exactly what you want all the time, but even if your son's recent actions make you feel more like a prison warden than a dad, don't drag your frustrations into your bonding time with the boy. It doesn't matter if he forgot to take out the trash, got into a fight at school or was just mouthing off. If you're angry, aggravated or upset enough that you're not going to be able to let it go during your one-on-one time, put off that bonding activity you've got scheduled until you get over those feelings. It's one thing to let him know what he did was wrong; it's another to allow your time together devolve into a multi-hour lecture or screaming match.
If you really want to bond with your son, canning your criticism isn't going to be enough. You've got to exhibit a positive attitude when you're around your son. Like everybody else in this world, he just wants to feel loved, and sometimes the best way to show him how much you care is to simply tell him. Even if you're the kind of guy who doesn't like to express his feelings, you can still let him know how proud you are of him. Point to something he's done recently and tell him that he did a good job, or just make an effort to say something positive to him every day. Of course, a simple "I love you" will also always do the trick.
Do Something He Wants to Do
Everyone has their own interests, and it's natural for your boy to want to learn more about what he finds exciting. This may be an interest you both share, like NASCAR or the Atlanta Thrashers, or it may be something you're not so keen on, such as monster truck racing and Little League hockey.
As a dad, one of your principle duties is to help your son discover who he is, and if sitting with your boy in an amphitheater that reeks of exhaust for a few hours or freezing your backside off at an ice rink helps him do it, then it's bonding time well spent.
Besides, whether you share all his interests or not, watching your son develop into the man he's going to be will be well worth a frozen tush, we promise.
Show Him Who You Are
Of course, not everything should be about your boy. It's just as important to show him who you are and let him in on your interests. If you frequently play poker with friends, bring him to a game and teach him how to play. If you love American history, educate him about the Founding Fathers and take him to nearby historical landmarks (history is everywhere, so you should be able to find places of interest no matter where you live). We can't promise he's going to grow up to be a professional poker player or a historian -- or even take an interest in your hobbies -- but you'll both enjoy spending quality time together.
Focus on What You Have in Common
You may share genes, but it's only natural that you and your son have different interests. Even if he looks just like you, he's a completely different person. The father and son bonding time you spend together will sometimes be about you, other times it'll be about him. But the majority of your time together should be about compromise and focus on what you have in common.
So, if you were the star high school quarterback and he couldn't give a kick about sports, instead of dragging him to countless football games in the hope that he'll learn to love it, spend a weekend pursuing your mutual love of classic muscle cars at an auto show or car auction. Catching a game every now and again is fine, but neither of you is going to have a good time if there's any sort of pressure involved. Just relax and find something you both want to do.
Teach Him to Be a Man
He might not say it very often (if at all), but your son looks up to you. You're the primary male influence in his life, so virtually everything he's going to learn about being a man is going to come from you. Keep this fact in mind when the two of you spend time together. Lead by example. Show him how to be a humble winner and a gracious loser. Teach him the value of hard work and the importance of seeing projects through to the end. This may all sound a bit cliché, and you can be a spoilsport and a sore loser and still bond with your boy, but you'll teach him so much more by showing him how to act like the man you want him to be. Remember that you're more than your son's dad -- you're his role model.
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