For the men who desire to be responsible spouses and fathers but who didn’t have solid male role models growing up, and who have tenuous attachment histories with their family of origins, and who may even carry the burdens of trauma that have a detrimental impact on emotion regulation, here are some quick tips for increasing your attentional, emotional and behavioral regulation for the sake of learning to embody responsibility, principles and ultimately love.
Tip 1: Remember Principles
Start with your why. Mindfulness practices help you increase connection with your values. More importantly, you connect with the timeless, transcendent, and enduring principles that govern relationships and life. You set for yourself a willingness to submit your moods and emotions to principles, with skills. Be mindful of trustworthiness that emerges over time through dedicated reliability and honesty. Accepting and validating your children’s emotional expression creates safety and connection within your family. This in turn, contributes to the development of their confidence and competence they will need as adults to help them succeed in education, work, and leisure.
Give your full presence to your spouse and your children, turning toward them physically, and putting down distractions, or apparent distractions, such as smartphones or gaming devices. Looking at them with a kindly face opens you to deeper connections. Half-listening expresses disinterest and invalidates. A gentle tone of voice creates safety in relationships, more than harsh tones or demandingness. Your wise mind will be energized by the recollection of principles such as honesty, industry, fidelity in family and friendship, exercise, and nutrition for health, as a few examples.
Tip 2: Be Willing, Be Humble
The best way to start understanding willingness is to call it a yes to your life. This yes is receptive to life as it is, in any given moment, whether you experience success or defeat, whether you are frustrated or joyful, you just show up where you are, right here and right now. Willingness softens any resistance and reactivity that you may feel in otherwise ordinary situations. Whenever you feel frustration, irritation, or embarrassment, willingness helps you “slow your roll.” Recall the principles of embodied love so that you open yourself to gently subordinating your strong emotions to principles. This is for the sake of the greater good of your family. When your kid climbs on you when you come home, for example, you embrace them with welcome, rather than being overwhelmed with a reactive annoyance, , you welcome that your kid is expressing love.
Willingness also entails a willingness to notice your own unhealthy patterns and acquire new skills to help you actualize, that is to embody, your principles and to overcome limiting forces such as past scripting from your family of origin or strongly conditioned habits of reactivity, or other lack of support.
Tip 3: Pay Attention
Learn mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to how you pay attention. Mindfulness helps you to see your thoughts and emotions as they come and go from moment to moment, without latching onto any of them or “getting stuck.” To practice mindfulness you start with observing thoughts and feelings and their transient nature, coming and going, and continually changing like weather patterns. For example, if you have the thought “I just can’t stand the kids climbing all over me. I can’t stand it,” you say to yourself, “I notice I feel irritation,” or “I observe the thought ‘I can’t handle this’ has just entered my mind.'” This simple practice helps you to de-literalize your thoughts freeing you from believing every thought that you have. Your thoughts are real, but they’re not always true.
Tip 4: Practice Opposite-to-Emotion Action
As you become more familiar with your emotions through daily mindfulness practices, you will become more skilled at identifying when your emotions don’t match a situation. So, if you feel angry toward your child and you notice great pressure and risk that you will fly off the handle with stomping or yelling, you take a breath, and you begin to walk gently, as though your feet are kissing the earth. Within a few minutes, you will notice that your anger subsides. You further reduce your anger by softening your face, and by moving through rooms slowly and gently. These movements will change your emotional state, interfering with the risk of rage while downregulating your emotional arousal until you can act and speak from a place that is consistent with your goals of being a safe parent who connects with his children.