Mindful Fatherhood in Modern Times
How mindfulness can help in effective parenting.
Relationship with one’s mother is one of the most important relationships in one’s life. It’s nourishing, noble and wonderful. On the other hand, the father‘s role in the family is equally important and irreplaceable.
Fathers play a meaningful role in a child’s development as they provide a distinctive blend of firm yet loving approach to parenting. Many fathers encounter a lot of complexities in our culture that makes mindful parenting a bit difficult. Conventionally, fathers are expected to be the breadwinners for the family, behave rock solid to shield the family from all kinds of problems without showing any sign of weakness. At the same time, fathers are expected to be kind, loving and take part in the upbringing of children’s social and emotional needs.
I remember the story of a young man who told me, “My father was always too busy in providing food and safety for our family that he missed to spend quality time with us kids.”
He told me of the affection and quality time he missed with his father as his father would travel to different cities every week as a salesperson. On weekends, when his father was home, he would only see him sleeping and whenever he tried to get close to him, his father would tell him that he was tired and had no energy to spend time with him. Today, they don’t enjoy a close relationship with each other.
I see this as a very common problem with an increasing number of fathers constantly travelling for work, having external stressors and numerous competing responsibilities making it very difficult for them to be involved with parenting.
The world around us is getting more and more challenging, coupled with growing distractions, psychological issues, work and relations related stress which easily blows our attention away from the present moment. This in turn means that we become less mindful towards people we love, especially our kids and family.
Mindfulness, an important skill, can help you to stay in the present moment, pay attention to your feelings, thoughts and behaviours and others in turn creating loving and joyous relationships with children and family.
A mindful relationship between father and child is extremely important for the child’s skills development in domains such as:
- Physical Skills
- Survival Skills
- Social Emotional Skills
- Critical Thinking Skills
- Empathy and Compassion Skills
How to embrace mindful parenting responsibilities
Fathers are increasingly realising the need to strengthen their bond with their kids which is possible by spending more mindful and meaningful time with them. Here are some ways that fathers can learn to cultivate changes in themselves in order to be more present and available in their time with their kids:
1. Paying Attention to every moment: Today our world is filled with distractions at every turn, paying attention can be challenging. Emotional awareness and paying attention to each and every moment can be a golden key to become a mindful father. My first suggestion would be to start with simply being with your child and pay attention to whatever he or she is doing, without trying to change anything. Just pay attention using all your senses, environment and observe your and your child’s emotions. Pay attention to how you feel on the inside out and just be present at the very moment.
2. Acceptance with Openness: The greatest gift we possibly can give our children is our undivided presence with full acceptance. Accepting whoever they are and whatever they bring, with just an open-minded approach in supporting the child. We all know it is easier to be open and accepting during fun times together but it’s much more challenging when there is a feeling of anger, frustration or struggle in a relationship. This is exactly when your children need your openness and acceptance.
Remember you don’t always have to change or fix things. Observe your impulse, don’t just rush to give judgement or to find solutions to every situation, just be open and accepting. This will also help disconnect from prejudged, unrealistic expectations and open avenues to explore newer attributes of both children and parent’s emotional and cognitive abilities.
3. Encourage mindful listening: Research shows when fathers/ parents relate to their children with mindfulness, they activate a very specific part in their brain which allows judgement and cautious impulses to slow down, be more relaxed, receptive and more present to their kid’s necessities and challenges. Listening with full attention is an art, it is particularly important when children are growing up. When you listen mindfully you are open and accepting which promotes healthy conversation and thus better relationships. During adolescent years, it becomes challenging to physically monitor their behaviour, parents have to rely upon verbal conversations and intuitive clues.
Mindful listening allows to be calm and open which helps in perceiving children’s thoughts and feelings more correctly. This behaviour in turn, helps in reducing misunderstanding and disagreement and promotes self-submission and disclosure by your child.
4. Step away from digital distraction: Today parents seem to be feeling the pressure when it comes to balancing their own and their children’s screen time. Problem is that we have endless distractions, especially when it comes to our smartphones and social media. We are so consumed by these screens that we practically miss to observe our environment, behaviour and precious moments with our children.
The problem starts when many parents find it easy to give digital devices to children as a pacifier. Though this looks convenient in the beginning, but these parents unknowingly cultivate a poor habit for themselves and their children. In the long run, this becomes a problem for both children as well as parents as it forms a permanent habit.
Digital well-being is a new field of mindfulness inquiry and practice that integrates important constituents of mindful relationship with our digital devices and communications. Few micro practises which I suggest in my workshops that you can try are:
1. Unplug time: Fix a time in a day to have time out from gadgets.
2. Mindful listening game: One person talks and another person listen’s mindfully.
3. Enjoying digital detox before bed: Keep some time before bed ( maybe 20 minutes) to chat and detox with your child.
4. Disconnect every week: A weekly unplug routine both for parents and children.
5. No gadget zone: Create a no gadget zone in house.
6. Place for mindfulness: Make a place in house where you can do daily mindfulness or meditation practise.
All these practises of listening with full attention, non-judgmental attitude, acceptance, emotional awareness, self-regulation and compassion brings well-being for self, families and children in holistic ways.
Make your Father’s Day an amazing experience
On this Father’s Day, all kids should also try to remember to do following:
Be open… to the generation gap and respect father’s guidance as he teaches you with his real life experiences.
Mind your language… when you speak to him, talk with respect and don’t talk back.
Be the best child that you can be: You cannot replace your parents, do not replace them with your friends. Whatever you may have gone through in your childhood, try to make your parents’ old age the best. So be the best child that you can be and make them proud of you.
Be thankful: Remember as human beings we are not perfect, neither are parents nor are children. Be thankful for your parents’ love and sacrifices for you. They deserve to be loved and respected. Pay your deepest gratitude for all their hardship and sacrifices they have done for you, which you can never repay.
Be appreciative… of all his efforts in becoming a good father.
To celebrate Father’s Day this year, try doing a simple mindful listening or mindful observing practise as a family. Have fun by asking for old stories or connect with old memories and mindfully enjoy each and every moment, this would be the greatest gift to your father on this day.
Author Manish Behl is India’s leading Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence expert, a TEDx speaker, and Founder of the Mindful Science Centre (MSC) and the Mindfulness India Summit – Asia’s largest summit on Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence backed by Neuroscience. He offers practical strategies for leadership transformation, increase performance, transform anxiety and negativity into calm and focus. He has over 25 year of leadership experience and his workshops facilitate physical and mental wellbeing and cultivate inner peace.
Mindfulness based Training and Coaching
Mindful Science Centre is mindfulness and emotional intelligence based training and learning centre providing leadership and performance solutions for corporates and organizations. Mindful Science Centre applies practices based on self-awareness and social emotional intelligence that cultivate leadership qualities such as attention, resilience, focus, empathy, compassion, communication and clarity. Well-designed Mindfulness training programs and one-on-one coaching sessions support individuals and organizations to develop a positive outlook, decision-making, agility, creativity, concentration, sustainability, mental and physical well-being through mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence practices.