Does This Sound Familiar?
“Hey, Bryson. What’s up, buddy?” I casually asked my son on a lazy Saturday afternoon.
“Not much,” he replied in an unusually down tone.
Suspecting there was more to his response, my fatherly instinct was to probe with concern to find out the real story behind his blue mood. But then I stopped myself.
In the past, my digging for information has led to him retreating to his room for hours. So, I decided to play it cool this time.
Creating a little turn in the conversation, I said in a fun, upbeat manner, “Hey, I was thinking the other day about my first concert, and it made me think, ‘I wonder what Bryson’s first concert will be.’ So, if you could go to just one concert this year, what band would you see?”
His eyes lit up a little, as he sat up taller and thought for a second. He pulled up his playlist and started scrolling. After much contemplation true to that of a real music aficionado, he finally blurted out a band with excitement. He then played me a few samples, and I, in turn, shared some of my favorites from my own playlist.
Through all this, he relaxed and we shared a few good laughs. We were connecting in a way we hadn’t in a long time, and it all started with a little small talk on a topic I know he loves: music.
What about his down mood earlier? Well, this music conversation led to a deeper conversation in which he let me know that a girl he liked had not returned his text.
“Ah! There it is,” I thought to myself, not giving a hint that I was relieved. Instead, this exchange allowed me to provide natural encouragement in a way that did not feel intrusive.
Conversations lead to connections
Everyday scenarios like this are what inspired us to write Ask: Helping Dads and Sons Connect, an easy-to-use guidebook filled with imaginative and practical questions that offer fathers and sons the freedom to connect in meaningful ways.
Our sons need three things from us as fathers:
Conversations lead to connection, and connection helps our sons feel acknowledged and loved, laying the groundwork to help them grow into loving adult mature men who know how to develop and nurture successful relationships throughout the course of life.
What are the right questions to ask?
Finding the right questions to ask all starts with you, your son, and your current relationship. It also depends on what is going on in your lives. We have come to find that some of the smallest questions can lead to some of the most profound conversations that help deepen the connection with your son, so don’t get too bogged down with what to ask…just ASK!
To help spark the conversation, we have created a book called Ask where we provide more than 50 questions in categories ranging from small talk to bigger topics like relationships, love and money. We offer questions from both perspectives, father and son. The goal is to give you a starting point that makes sense for your current situation and relationship.
Here are some examples:
Start with small talk – If you’re just starting to communicate with your son in more adult ways, but haven’t quite found your groove, start with small talk. As illustrated in the story above, small talk can keep things feeling natural and non-intrusive, while helping you find common ground. You might ask: “What are your favorite 2-3 bands? What do you like about them?” And your son might ask, “Did you and your parents listen to music together? If so, what did you listen to?”
Questions about relationships – Going a little deeper, you might ask about relationships, especially if he’s moving past the crush phase into more complex relationships with girls. You might ask: “Why might a couple want to live together before (or instead of) getting married? What are some pros and cons of this choice?” And he might ask you, “What does commitment mean to you? What would you say to me if I chose to live with someone instead of marrying her?”
Questions about “us”, which are direct questions about your father-son relationship – If you two have a push-pull relationship, you may benefit from more direct questions about how you two interact. For example, as the father, you might ask, “Am I too critical of you? In what areas of your life do I seem critical?” And he might ask, “Are you open to my bringing up issues that bother me about you?”
Questions about Life & Goals, give you and your son a chance to talk about future dreams, goals and ambitions. These questions are essential to helping your son feel like he can come to you for help not just when he is under your roof, but beyond into his adult years. For starters, you can ask your son “What are your current goals—for summer, for college, for travel?” which could lead to an endless conversation about your son’s aspirations and dreams.
No matter the question, just start small. No question is too small and no answer is wrong, just a conversation point to open up the floor for trust and open dialogue. Whether you use the Ask book or not, we hope you are encouraged to strike up the conversation and deepen the level of connection with your son for many years to come.
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