Fathers encounter a lot of double standards in our culture that may make fathering mindfully a bit challenging. Men are stereo-typically expected to be the breadwinners for the family, to not show weakness, and to fix whatever problems arise. At the same time, fathers are expected to be present, loving and involved in their children’s lives, sharing their authentic selves within their families.
Mindful vs Mindless Fathering
One of the definitions of mindfulness is non-judgmentally paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment. If we apply this definition to parenting and examine our capacity to be present, we may find a considerable amount of mindlessness in our day-to-day relationships with children. Our typical busyness coupled with our own psychological “stuff” can regularly knock us off course from paying attention to those we love in the present moment, especially our kids.
Mindful Fathering Guideposts
How can fathers reconcile these cultural norms with their intention to be present and available for their children? The following mindfulness tips can serve as guideposts:
- Curiosity – Bring curiosity into your relationships and let it unfold without judgement or expectations. View your children through the lens of their experiences and needs. See them for who they are.
- Non-Judging – Try to be more open to what your children are sharing with you. We tend to either judge experiences as “good” or “bad.” These judgments affect our relationships and limit our perceptions of who we want our children to be.
- Acceptance – Keep an open mind, supporting your child even as you experience challenges and struggles with the relationship. Recognize that you do not always need to change or fix things.
- Letting go – Let go of expectations that might be getting in the way of a positive relationship with your children.
- Patience – Recognize that things unfold in their own time. Choose to be patient with your children, instead of rushing through life.
- Agenda-free – Be present with your children without an agenda. Recognize that you don’t always need scheduled events. Just hanging out or spending time can be intentional and rewarding.
These mindfulness intentions are interconnected, and they take practice. But perhaps for fathers – and all parents – they can help improve the connection to one’s self and children. If we can make curiosity and acceptance the starting point for our relationships, there is much that we can learn and gain from our children!