If we allow it, time passes without a second thought. We do the same thing we did yesterday. We go through the motions, from one commitment to the other. We allow our mind to continuously run, pre-occupied with what happened at work or what needs to get done tomorrow. We only speak to our children through requests or discipline.
It is human nature to find a "groove" and stick to it, blanking out during the drive only to end up at your destination wondering how you got there. But is that how you want to live your life? Is that how you want to remember (or not remember) your children's childhood?
Today I challenge you to think about and intentionally implement one of the three ideas below.
Your relationship with your child is not going to grow without intentionality. Time does not expand, utilize what you have. Don't let it pass only to have regrets of complacency.
Below are 3 ideas to be a more Intentional Father today.
Set "Be Present" Time
Set an hour of time aside every day (determine what realistically works for you and yours) to be present. Whether it’s the hour you get home from work, the hour before bedtime, first hour of the day, or time every weekend, set this time aside to be present with your family. What is meant by "Be Present" time? Being present is fully committing yourself to the moment, not allowing any outside influence your attention or implying that your attention could be taken away. Two facets to unpack here.
Committing to the moment
Ensure you have no other engagements or other priorities. Clear your mind of 'things to do' by writing them down. This is not a time to 'quickly check something' or 'oh let me just do this real quick'. The only commitment you have is the time, conversation, activity, or moment with your family.
Today, the number one nuisance that vies for attention is your phone. The brief chirp or subtle vibration of a notification is all it takes to remove your mind from the moment. Turning your phone to silent is a great step. This rids the potential of an outside influence gaining your attention. However, the next step to truly Be Present? Remove your phone from sight. Your phone simply being out, sitting next to you or nearby, can imply that there is potentially something more important coming. That your family is not the true priority. Remove it from your sight all together. Whatever the 'something' is, can wait. Be fully committed to the moment and ensure your attention is not taken away. Be Present. For more ideas on how to manage distractions, see our Better YOU Resource: Personal Accountability.
Imbalance Your Words of Encouragement
Too often we get caught up in the little frustrations and only verbalize to our children their mistakes. We are quick to hold the discipline line, but do not have the same approach to encouragement. Ensure your words imbalanced, favoring positive thoughts. If your children obeyed what you asked the first time, verbally say thank you. If they are being kind or playing well with their siblings, point it out and let them know you recognize the good behavior. If you only speak to them in times of frustration or pointing out faults, any time you open your mouth can put them on the defense awaiting criticism. A few years ago, I was working as an engineering supervisor. One guy in particular was an excellent employee. If I asked him to accomplish a task, I knew it would get done and that it would be completed to the best of his ability. He put his head down and did his work. The reason I bring this up is, the only time he would poke his head in my office was when he ran into a large issue, hit a roadblock, or needed dire help in some way. At first I appreciated this. He was problem solving on his own and was quite self-sufficient. However, after a while, I realized any time I saw him walking my way an issue was coming too that would require my attention. Instead of being happy or even indifferent to see him, I would have immediate feelings of frustration. I brought this up to him and said, before you are allowed to bring an issue to my desk, I need you to come talk to me about something positive, or simply say hi, at least twice. I needed him to imbalance his words, favoring positive topics. From then on, every morning he would walk to my office, poke his head around the corner, goofy smile on his face (completely making fun of the situation), and say good morning. Though he was intentionally patronizing me, it brought on a genuine smile and imbalanced the relationship in a positive manner. I believe the same idea can apply to you and your child. If the only time you address your child are in moments of frustration, when they acted inappropriately, or when asking them to do something, eventually, they are not going to be excited to see you or talk with you. Speak to their strengths. Be their encouragement. Build them up in what they are doing well. Verbalize these thoughts. Imbalance your words of encouragement.
Find Your Mind-Shift Method
No matter what you do for a living, jobs require a significant amount of mental capacity. Whether the type of work, the people you interact with, or both, by the time you head home feelings of frustration, stress, being drained, all of the above, can be present. Home life, however, requires you to be dad the moment you walk in the door. Children don't understand the stress of a job, nor should they. They innocently ask for your time and attention. What happens when your mind is still at work? You are not able to truly be present. No matter the kind of day, no matter the stress, no matter the frustrations of the past 8+ hours, by the time you step foot at home you must be 100% dad. You must be able to shift your mind, rid it of tenseness, bitterness, or anger. If not, any and all interactions with your wife and children are effected. You could be short with unintentionally. Not willing to play because your worn out. Don't hold the line of discipline required because your tired of confrontation. You must find your Mind-Shift Method. Depending on your personality and the type of day, some people require silence. Others, heavy metal music blaring with the windows down. Podcasts seem to be a method of choice for many. Me, I prefer a book on tape. When the book is being read, I get lost in the dictated text. My mind empties and I solely focus on the stories read aloud. A fantastic way to separate your mind from current emotions. My favorite and most recommended book for this is The Way I Heard It by Mike Rowe. From his voice to the delicately crafted stories, it is truly excellent. Last thought here. Given today's work environments, some of you may be working from home. This is particularly challenging since there is not a built in time, i.e. the drive, for your mind-shift. Talk to your family about this and game plan. Before stepping out of your home 'office', put your headphones on and take a few minutes to listen what you would listen to if you were driving home. Perhaps you could take a quick walk around the block. Or heck, even get in your car and drive around if needed. The short amount of time you take to get your mind is nothing compared to the potential emotions and effect of those emotions you could bring home. Be intentional in finding what Mind-Shift Method works for you. Find your method and be 100% Dad when you walk in the door.
Don’t be complacent in your relationships. Be intentional with your time and energy so you can be more intentional with your family.
Let me know your thoughts on these ideas and what you do to be a more Intentional Father!
Be Present. Be Intentional.
- Chad Vrla