How can I get my socially awkward son to learn social skills?

Ben is 12. He talks about weird topics others aren’t interested in and won’t drop them even with very clear signs that the other person wants him to. He tells jokes others don’t find funny, over and over and over. He’ll talk long after people want him to be quiet.

Part of the social awkwardness is he has no idea that he annoys people, and doesn’t recognize how he comes across to others.

How can I increase his awareness and get him to learn social skills?

Good luck with that. Speaking as a person who sounds very much like your son, it’s not something I think you can force him to change. Over time (after he gets some negative feedback from his peers), he’ll improve, but don’t expect it all to change. When I was a kid, I talked non-stop (still do), annoyed people (still do, but not nearly to the extent I used to), was brazenly arrogant about my intelligence (thank goodness I toned this down a LOT over the years, but occasionally it can peek out, but I don’t like it when it does), and I always took a little bit longer to realize that I was boring/annoying/insulting people than I probably should have. It has been frustrating for me, as I am genuinely a friendly, deeply caring person, and it would hurt when the lightbulb would finally go on and I realized that the things I said had either annoyed someone or worse, insulted them or made them feel small by either bragging or relating a story that at first seemed like it would be helpful, but in hindsight made things seem much worse (I did that one recently and felt absolutely awful for a week).

I’m much better at controlling these aspects of my personality than I was when I was a kid, but it still happens occasionally, especially in a situation where I’m genuinely trying to help someone understand something and they suddenly decide they’d rather not know about it, with no interest in learning it. I am just now (I’m 34) starting to recognize this when it’s happening, but it’s a disconnect for me, as when I find out I’m wrong on something, or I’ve misunderstood something, I have an absolute thirst to understand that thing completely.

Anyway, the only things you can do is remind him that these behaviors are socially unacceptable and try to, over time, tone it down. But don’t expect a miracle. Do realize that he very likely truly doesn’t know that what he’s doing is causing other people to feel annoyed/hurt/frustrated, etc.

Has he always been lacking in ability to read social cues, or is it a new thing?

When you say "weird topics " do you mean droning on about the makeup of the concrete used to construct a platform, or weird like gross blather about the taste of boogers? Intelligent conversations or attention seeking ones?

How good is he with eye contact?

Sounds like Asperger syndrome maybe. Consider reading everything you can find about that.

Upon reading the description, I thought of the very same thing.
Still, even if he does have AS (or some equivalent), there must be ways to help him.

Shit I’m him at 45. I’ll let you know just as soon as I figure it out.

Can’t he just be weird? Why does it have to Asperger’s?

I don’t think diagnosing people with things is always the right way to go. When I was younger, I couldn’t sit through a class. I’d always talk with my neighbors or be disruptive in other ways. Eventually, some genius decided I had ADD. Of course, it later turned out that no, I did not have ADD, I was just a hyper 7 year old. And then I was a less hyper 8 year old, even less hyper 9 year old, and so on, until now I’m not hyper at all.

With regards to your son… Could it just be that he’s 12? Lots of guys are awkward at that age, and most of them grow out of it. I think what he needs is a role model. Is there anyone he can look up to who is as far from socially awkward as possible?

Didn’t you know? Every maladjusted boy has some form of autism.

So I’ve heard. It’s actually starting to piss me off actually.

Like Jman, I was an annoying little intellectual wannabe twerp at that age. I used big words, read comics like Bloom County and Doonsberry which were WAY beyond my ability to comprehend at the time to impress people with my political savvy, declared that popular music was crap and I only liked classical… I have mercifully blocked out the rest and am glad that time is forever carrying me forward away from those days :cool:

I had no idea I was the annoying one, I just thought the other kids were hopelessly common and that I was the cat’s ass.

One of my sisters, god bless her, tried to stop me acting like that and be more “normal” which only had the effect of making me resent her for trying to make me act like the common folk, instead of the special snowflake I (thought I) was.

Unfortunately, anything you try to do to change him will probably work about as well as my sister’s efforts. Thankfully, time and survival instinct (jr. high is NOT kind to anyone different/nerdy) did the trick.

Is he aware of this tendency? If he’s aware, does he want to change? If he’s aware and wants to change, then counseling MIGHT help him, if he likes and trusts the counselor.

If he’s not aware, or doesn’t think he needs to change, then maybe you can get him involved with a group who likes the same things he likes. If he wants to discuss manga and anime, but other people shut him down because of his skills, he might get motivated to try to change.

Nothing’s going to happen unless HE wants to change, though. And he won’t want to change until he realizes how he comes across to other people, and how he’s annoying him. You might try filming him in various social settings, and have him watch the films with you. For the most part, don’t nag about his behavior, but answer any questions he might have.

Sounds like a big brain he hasn’t grown into. Hence Dopers chiming in with “sounds like me.”

It does sounds like me, and now my teenaged son. As I try to do the Parent Thing - see if I can help my kids avoid some of my issues - I am trying to do two things: have explicit discussions about his behaviors right after it happens, with much love and support - to help him connect dots earlier, knowing this will take years but no time like the present to get started. And the other is just to expose him to more experiences - travel, community service, Scouts/camping, etc. I find that the more New stuff he is exposed to, the more he realizes he has to think about his interactions.

Again looking at the long game here - putting spin on a ball taking years to trace its path. Good luck, PV - it’s not one of the fun parts.

He’s a 12 year old boy, this is par for the course.

Is the OP male or female? I listened to my sister go on and on for years about how her son wasn’t sociable enough. She worried that he didn’t have a girlfriend at 15 for example, or that he didn’t want to go to parties . So she forced him to do all the things she felt were the right social moves for a child of whatever age, the things she did as a girl 30 years before at those ages . Now he is very unsociable, still a nice young man though, and she just can’t figure it out. She forced him to be sociable, why didn’t it stick?

Asperger’s, Asperger’s, it’s always about Asperger’s. Asperger’s is the new ADHD.

“Some kids are good at some things are some are good at others” is the first place I’d go, the Occam’s Razor answer, before deciding on a clinical diagnosis. It should also be borne in mind that a lot of 12-year-old boys are weird.

That said, it could be a legitimate weakness. What I’d suggest is something we have to do with our 6.5-year-old-girl, who lives in her own head a lot and can miss out on the other kids getting pissed at her, especially in group situations; we just watch, listen, and VERY gently guide her to being more attentive.

One thing we find helps the Small One is talking her through it intellectually. When she cries that Melissa was mean to her, I walk her through it; what happened? What happened then? That’s interesting… was she turning away from you? What did she say? Do you think maybe she was trying to show you that she didn’t like you taking the Pokemon cards? And I gently do the same thing in my interactions with her; “honey, I love playing Zoobles with you, but it’s more fun if I get to decide some things about the story too.” And you know what? She’s gotten better at it. No Asperger’s, she just had to learn.

Kids can be taught. Just don’t make it a “Stop being weird” thing. Guide him through how to interact with people, gently and in a manner that teaches him how people react and what signals they’re sending.

He’s fine with eye contact. By weird topics, I mean one week he’ll try and turn every conversation to being about llamas, and the next week he’ll just want to talk about cheez-whiz.

His older brother (he’s 15) and his younger sister (10) are both very social, popular kids. They try to give him social pointers (not always kindly) but he is just oblivious to them.

I wouldn’t worry too much. The odd topics are likely his way of learning about things that he is discovering and finds interesting. I was very much this way.

While I was never popular, and often picked on as a younger kid, by the time I got to high school, most of the major issues had been figured out. And while I wouldn’t call myself a ladies man, I have never really had a problem in that area either. In fact, it sounds sort of odd, but from February of 1996 (my senior year in high school) to now, I have spent exactly 3 months without some sort of relationship (High school girlfriend…we were not compatible as a couple, but broke up early in the summer but continued to date for ‘fun’ because we were compatible that way, just not as companions…then my college girlfriend, who I met the second week of college and dated for 5.5 years. Then I dated some random girl for a few months, then had a few months with nothing, then started dating my wife, and well, that was a decade ago.)

More than likely he’ll be just fine.

Ah, the middle child. That was me too, even the age gaps. When they gave me pointers I felt the need to do the exact opposite. I didn’t want to become a clone of my brother (Mr. perfect) and I sure as hell wasn’t going to take advice from a girl younger than me (little Miss perfect). It just wasn’t worth it to worry about competing with them in the popularity contest, especially when mom and dad pointed out that I was already losing.

Is this actually making him unhappy?