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How I Stopped Trying To Force My Son To Be A Carbon Copy Of Myself

flickr / kerben

The following was syndicated from Minimalist Today for the Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at

Advice is cheap. It comes in all shapes and sizes. It comes when it is requested and when it’s not.

But sometimes, advice gets dropped on us like a ton of bricks when it’s least expected. This is often the advice that sticks with us.

I treasure advice. I hunt for it in books, blogs, Facebook, and conversation. I get advice from people whether they know it or not.

Once, without asking, I got the best piece of parenting advice that I have ever received about connection, empowerment, and trust. It happened so fast I didn’t even realize it was advice. That’s usually how it happens.

I was talking to my uncle Brian at a holiday gathering. We were discussing this and that — making small talk. I was casually airing my grievances in child rearing from one dad to another.

I told him that my son was obsessed with video games. I mentioned that I could never get my kid to do anything with me. I told him that I would ask him to play drums while I play guitar but he rarely bit. I told him how playing battleship wasn’t as easy of a sell as it once was. I told Brian that no matter what I did, my kid just wanted to live in his virtual world.

He laughed for a minute. Then he told me that his son was the exact same way. Just video games. That’s all he wanted to do. So I asked uncle Brian what he did about it. How did he have such a good relationship with his now-grown son?

What he said next changed the way I approached parenting from that moment on.

He stated, “I played a lot of video games.”

He then got up to refill his drink — and that was that.

I sat there for a moment. It hit me like a freight train.

It was so simple.

I had spent many hours trying to mold my son into a tiny version of me. He would have the same likes and dislikes. We would laugh at the same jokes. We would care about the same issues. We would, of course, have the same favorite Ninja Turtle.

No matter what I did, my kid just wanted to live in his virtual world.

None of that happened, though.

Brian’s statement was so simple, yet so profound. It was this:

Go to your kids. Don’t make them come to you.

Since that day, I have made a concerted effort to go to my kids. I am not a fan of most of the things they are into.

Playing on the hard floor with tiny Shopkins is nearly unbearable. Finding the characters in her favorite “look and find” book for the thousandth time is less than stimulating. And yes, even playing videos games is at times a chore.

Having said that, here is what I have found. When I make the effort to go to my kids and show an interest in what they love — on their terms — I can see our relationship grow. I can see their faces light up. I see trust being developed. I see a child being empowered. I see a bond being formed.

If minimalism allows me anything, it’s more time to have these moments. Less distraction. More time to “go to them.”

Also, I finally got to beat Super Mario 2.

Jon Schneck is a musician in transition working in digital marketing. Married with 3 children, he writes about his journey to live simply at Minimalist Today, where he’s on a mission to align short-term actions with long-term vision. Follow him @ jonschneck .