Guest Post by Damon Dietz
Have you ever experienced that moment where the small stresses of life build-up, and it feels like you are going to explode? If you are a dad, I already know the answer. Maybe it happened when your son was having a temper tantrum in the dairy aisle at the supermarket. Or, when your daughter was screaming hysterically and yelling at you for serving her macaroni and cheese. “You know I hate mac & cheese” she screams, even though last week it was her favorite.
It’s times like these where mindfulness can help save us from ourselves. What is mindfulness?
- the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something
- a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
Why is this important? Because most people are always looking in the past or in the future. Very rarely do we look into the present moment. Mindfulness is about experiencing and appreciating the present moment.
If we as dads can become better at being mindful in the present moment, we can become better dads. Let’s talk about how we can do this.
The last thing we want to do when we are in the middle of a temper tantrum crisis, or when we are being yelled at that we are the worst dad in the world, is to listen. We immediately become defensive, and attempt to solve the problem at hand, which is primarily, “how can I make this stop?”
Instead, I impress upon you the importance of listening. When we really listen and focus on what is actually being communicated, and not the obnoxious method in which the communication is taking place, we become better dads. We need to give our kids our full attention. Put down the cell phone. Stop multitasking. And listen. By removing the distractions, our kids might actually start talking and stop yelling and screaming.
I am a huge advocate of meditation. I am not talking about hours a day of eyes closed, deep breathing, chanting, and yogi type of meditation (though that’s fine if you have the time and that’s your thing). I am talking about being present in the moment. It is as simple as closing your eyes, and taking five deep breaths. And in that moment you think about nothing, except taking those breaths.
Once you can make a habit out of taking five deep breaths daily, increase it to six. Then seven. And so on. Soon you will find yourself meditating for a few minutes at a time. Your mind might wander. That’s ok. Bring your attention back to the breath. The idea is to stay in the present moment. Do this for as long as feels comfortable, but many experts agree that 20 minutes of daily meditation is ideal. Harvard researches have determined that that’s all the time it takes to see measurable changes in the brain that would help you become more focused, creative, productive, and less anxious.
If you don’t know where to start or prefer a guided meditation, check out headspace, one of the best apps for guided meditations.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. This was the toughest aspect of implementing mindfulness for me. I am not naturally empathetic. I am a problem solver. Most of my friends love that aspect of my personality. My kids? Not so much.
Children yearn to be understood. It is the same reason why listening is so integral to developing a positive relationship with your kids. But it can be difficult to show empathy when you’re frustrated, but acknowledging your child’s feelings is an important way to connect.
You will notice that when you start practicing mindfulness, your children begin to learn from your example. They will become more mindful, more grateful, and their behavior will improve as well. Mindfulness will help your relationship with your children and make you a happier and more positive parent.
Damon Dietz is a writer, filmmaker, and professional speaker, who shares his knowledge of finance, health, and life from the perspective of a single, divorced dad over 40. He is a father to three amazing kids and thinks dads are kick-ass, even when the rest of the world thinks we’re idiots. You can read more of his musings at: www.damondietz.com