Guest Posts, Parenting and Empathic Fathers

How To Create A Straightforward Approach To Losing Your Angry Dad Voice

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I very much enjoy reaching out ot other (dads’) blogs, parenting websites, and parenting coaches. Today I would like to introduce to you Ian Hawkins. Ian is a coach and teacher from Australia, and he supports “…Dads to rediscover their passion and to inspire their own children to be their best.” Here’s a post by Ian with an intersting take on how you can lose your ‘angry dad voice’. More links and info at the end of his guest post. Enjoy!

A few years ago I had reached a point in my life where I was not happy with where I was at. I was always feeling tired and frustrated, and I was bringing this frustration home to my wife and kids.  Not only was I impatient but when I snapped it was often with an aggressive tone which no matter how soft, felt like yelling to my kids. Even when I was trying very hard to talk quietly, they told me to stop yelling. My angry voice was more than just my voice. It was my body language, it was the look on my face and even though I was trying to talk quietly and calmly there was an edge to my voice that was not sounding kind or loving to my kids. I no longer wanted to see the sadness and pain in my child’s eyes and face after I had overreacted with my angry voice.

And I see the same thing from other Dad’s every day, in the street, on the train, at the shops and particularly at children’s sports. They have unrealistic expectations of their children and have lost focus of what’s really important in their relationship, having that loving connection that your child craves and that you crave. Your angry voice has a negative impact on the happiness and wellbeing of your child and can damage your relationship with them. Should you continue this way as your children grow older, you will end up fighting more and more and worse still, they may end up with a similar issue with anger as they grow up.

Here’s what I have learned. There is another way. By making some changes in your life and by changing the way you approach situations with your children, you do have the power to be able to stay calm and speak in a loving and kind way to your children every single time.

If you get this right you will develop a calm that allows you to speak to your children with a smile and a kind voice, even after the most challenging day of work or play. Your children will love your new approach and be more likely to respond to your requests. Your children will model your behaviour and develop the ability to stay calm and speak in a softer voice as well. As time goes on this calm response and kind voice will become a natural response that comes out with little to no effort and as your children get used to your new approach, you will be pleasantly surprised at the massive improvement in your relationship with your children and overall happiness in your household. 

As with anything that you want to achieve in your life, the best way to reach that goal is to have a plan. It can be very challenging to change a habit and I believe the best way is to have a process to follow so that you know exactly what to do every single time. This process will be specific to you personally so you will need to create one for yourself. The good news is, right now I am going to give you the framework to do just that. Create your own process using my steps below as a guide:

1. Deep breaths.

The first step in your process should always be to pause and take 3-5 deep breaths right into your belly. Step away from the situation for a minute if that helps too. You may need to intervene if there is the potential for something to get broken or someone to get hurt, but most of the time you will be able to take 10-60 seconds to calm yourself first. Also as I have mentioned in previous blogs, deep breathing helps you reduce stress and can immediately stop your natural “fight-or-flight” response. You will be less likely to react with frustration and more likely to stay calm.

2. Be the observer. 

Also in this 10-60 seconds and after you have taken some deep breaths and stepped away physically, mentally step away as well. Be the observer for a second and look at the situation from the outside, as if you were looking on at someone else in the same situation. That is, take the emotion out of it. If you had to suggest the best solution for this situation to yourself, would it involve you using an angry voice, or staying calm and connecting with your child? And further still, is what your child is doing really a problem at all? They are only kids – are they just testing the boundaries or have they made a small mistake or are they just looking for attention?

3. Positive emotion. 

Next look for a positive emotion in your child. You are far more likely to get the result that you want when your action triggers a positive emotion in the other person. This is your child so this will be something unique to you. For example, you could smile and say something that will bring out that positive emotion or even laughter from your child.

4. Aim for connection not aggression.

Think about the type of people you are most likely to do something for. The ones who talk rudely to you?  Yell at you? Or the people who are really nice and speak in a calm and non-threatening way? Instead of towering over your child with an aggressive or grumpy tone, crouch down to their level and speak how you would like to be spoken to by someone you love.

5. Empathise with your child. If they have made a mistake, done something they shouldn’t have or are just plain upset, it is not a time to punish or speak aggressively. Empathise with them so they feel understood. “I understand” is a great way do to that. Tell them that you understand whatever they are going through. For example – “I know you don’t want to stop playing now and you don’t want to go in the shower” OR “I realise you are feeling upset”. And do so with clear boundaries. “I see that you don’t want to go to bed yet. I can also see that you are looking tired, it is your bedtime and you need to get a good night sleep so you are full of energy tomorrow.”

As I mentioned, use these 5 steps as a framework to create your own process to follow. You know your child better than anyone else so create a plan that works for you and for them. Go into as much detail as you need, but not so complicated that you won’t be able to follow the steps in a real life situation. Write it down and don’t be afraid to refer to it as required until you change the habit or are at least until you are comfortable you have committed your process to memory. Good luck, be patient with yourself and remember…..

”Change is hard at the beginning, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.”Robin Sharma

 

ian hawkinsRead, what Ian says about himself: “I have a passion for personal growth and inspiring others to reach their full potential. With a background as a trained teacher, years of leadership as a sportsperson and coach and over 10 years as a manager at Fox Sports Australia, I have a unique ability to bring out the best in others. After my own growth through the last 5 years of personal development, I decided I wanted to help other Dad’s to rediscover their passion and to inspire their own children to be their best. I pride myself in helping Dads through their transformation into high energy, calm, patient, loving and very happy individuals.”

Connect: http://www.inspireddads.com
http://www.facebook.com/InspiredDads
http://www.twitter.com/InspiredDads

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Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Relationships

Being Close to Your Partner through Active Listening

loving coupleHow often do you argue with your partner and you feel misunderstood? How many times do you respond with anger, defending yourself or becoming cross when she or he doesn’t get you? Close connection comes through really seeing our partner, understanding who he or she is. Essential for that are active listening and empathy.

What is Active Listening?

“Seek first to understand, and then be understood” (Stephen R Covey)

• We are used to listen to ourselves in response to what the other person is saying. That means we ‘listen’ to our reactions of what the other has said, judging, commenting it in our mind and formulating a response, waiting only for our turn to speak

• We jump in, give opinions and possible solutions, before the other person has really finished

Active listening, however, is when we stop focusing on our own agenda and thoughts and focus fully on our partner’s words, intonation, body language and facial expression.

When we truly want to understand we need to listen actively, that means:

• Give our full attention, this can be shown by moving our body towards the speaker, nodding our mirroring their body language

• We can repeat and summarise key words and phrases. Be careful to use their words, so that you don’t change the meaning of what they said.

You show that you are really listening when you do that and it reaffirms the speaker, that you understood.

• Reflect back the emotion that you hear them express. Like: ‘You sound very sad…’ However, if in doubt, leave the emotion. You don’t want to make the speaker believe he/she is sad, for example, if they are not.

• By paraphrasing what the other has said you encourage him/her to carry on and when you feel you have come to a point in the conversation where it would be helpful for you to interpret what has been said, this can be useful for the speaker, as it clarifies his/her thinking.

The aim of active listening is that you are able to truly understand and therefore feel yourself into his/her position and are able to respond with empathy and compassion.

To practice active listening, arrange a special evening, order or cook some special food and have a candlelight dinner or anything that you know your partner will find romantic or will appreciate your efforts for.

Have a “listening” evening. Each person has time to talk without being interrupted for five, ten (you decide what feels best) minutes. The other listens. Make sure you really listen and don’t let your thoughts drift off (if they do, make sure you come back to listening actively). Take what you hear as feelings and thoughts of your partner, rather than “the truth”. This means you won’t get into justification mode (“she always accuses me of this”, “I never said that…”). Active listening means you look each other in the eyes, you can nod, you might want to clarify points (but not question what the other has said!).

Start your sentences with “I”, if that helps you talk about yourself, rather than accuse your partner of something.

Get closer. Listen to your partner. Become (re)connected. Enjoy!

(Based on Stephen R. Covey’s work* and other researchers, I have summarised in this post how their work can support your communication with your child(ren) and partner.

*Steven R. Covey: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Simon & Schuster Ltd., 2004

 

 

P.S. I still run my campaign AWESOME WORKSHOPS for AWESOME DADS at Indiegogo. I raise funds in order to offer workshops for fathers (on a low or no income) in my community. Wanna help me? Awesome. Click HERE.

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Relationships, Society

Ways to Keep Sex Vital When Life is Full (My Guest Post for The Good Men Project and How I Reflect On It)

It’s evening and they get ready for bed. Quite the normal procedure as most nights: brushing teeth, quickly checking whether the children are asleep, then reading a few pages in a book and finally light off. A few minutes later his hand wanders over his wife’s belly and inch by inch going deeper… Read full article HERE (Link to The Good Men Project)

My article above was published at The Good Men Project last Sunday. Since then I have received a lot of feedback through social media which I find very encouraging and inspiring. It also gave me the opportunity to review and to reflect on what I had written and to add a few thoughts here:

Some women responded in questioning, whether it’s only men who can feel frustrated about their sex life: “Only men experience these frustrations? How about when it’s the woman wanting sex and the man not being willing or able to provide it?” or as another woman expressed: “My husband shuts me down all the time.” And yes, they’re both right: I should have mentioned in my post that the roles can very well be reversed. I wrote it from my perspective as a man (and working largely with men). But the suggestions in the post on how to transform your sex life are still true for both genders.

Another feedback on facebook suggested that it’s helpful to consider different motivators for having sex: “…that men often desire sex because it helps them relax and feel great and that women desire sex only when they feel relaxed, safe and unstressed.” I believe it’s an interesting thought and something to explore further.

Feeling close and connected is the essential for true intimacy. It’s not easy to get there though, that’s why I have designed a guide to become more empathic as the first step towards a rocking, awesome relationship. Get this guide for FREE here!

Parenting and Empathic Fathers

So, Who is Doing the Washing Up then?

Everyone talks about equality: the media, charities up and down the country and politicians anyway. It’s always a good subject to celebrate the achievements of our modern times. And yes, women often confirm how their status in society has improved – not only compared with the last 500 years, just take the last 50 years.

It is true: women (with our without children) have the same rights and responsibilities as men (at least that’s what the law says) – but a quick look into reality tells a different story. I’m not talking about all these big companies, where the men-women-ratio in the senior management is 9:1or that women are generally getting paid less than men for doing the same job. No, I mean the normal, mainstream family: Dad works full time, Mum works part time (or she is full time at home), 2 kids, 1 dog and a house with a mortgage for the coming 25 years (which actually feels like 100 years).

And now, let’s imagine a really lovely picture: Dad works but he is also a very committed, gentle, loving, patient, understanding and empathic guy who too raises the children – equally to the job his partner does. But – and here comes my evil question: Who is doing the washing up? No, don’t tell me it’s your dish washer! That’s not my point. I really question how equal our society is when it comes to the household chores. Yes, you could say now ‘hey, where is the big deal  here?’

I see it like this: I would say my Dad did a pretty good job as a parent. Apart from not talking about his emotions and feelings, he tried really hard. He was born by the end of the war, had a difficult childhood (as many post-war children had) and still gave his best when raising me. I’m convinced he believes in gender equality and women’s rights. But – here comes the big BUT again – he lets my mother doing most of the chores. I think he feels responsible for putting the bin out, that’s it. Why? Because that’s what he had observed when he was little. Mummy was doing everything, while Daddy worked. 50 years ago. And the bad news: it’s going on and on. I observed it many times when working with families and research confirms it.

Nowadays boys (and girls) still see the same thing at home. That includes my childhood too. And if people say to me, it’s no big deal then I say household chores are a pretty heavy job. I was a stay-at-home dad for nearly two years (I’m still most of the time at home). And yes, I had and I have days where I didn’t manage the washing up, because I chose to play with my kids or I couldn’t be bothered to do it.

And what’s the good news? We can change it. For example I have close friends, all dads, who do a stunning job: they work and do their share at home as well. Often a little talk can ease the problem too. E.g. my wife and I have a simple rule. Whoever has the time and motivation will do it. We don’t blame each other for not doing it. We both know when the dirty dishes pile up or the bathroom sink gets scruffy that we have a choice: do it or leave it – but be happy with your decision. At the same time “teach” your children that boys can clean up their mess too, whether it’s the loo or their plate. Or involve them in cleaning. Yesterday my boys and I had our weekly cleaning party. We took turns in vacuuming and tidying the house. After the job was done, we sat on the sofa and read a book. So, it turned out to be fun, just don’t see it as horrible task.
Anyway, I believe we (men, dads, uncles, grandads) should get more pro-active at this matter. Let’s bring some genuine equality into our homes and show that fathers of the new generation are just awesome. So gents, it’s about time to pull up our sleeves and to get busy there.