by Lane Vail
In terms of discipline, natural fathering is neither tough nor timid, punishing nor permissive. The mindful dad is calm, connected and capable. He’s able to harness introspection and observe himself as he parents, because he focuses more on managing his own behavior than that of his kids.
“Fathering is a leadership role, not a management role,” says Hal Runkel, a licensed marriage and family therapist and author of the bestseller ScreamFree Parenting. “If I manage myself with calmness and clarity, I can lead my children to learn to manage themselves.”
Runkel says the first step is “committing to cool.” Find an anxiety-or-anger-managing technique that feels natural, such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing, visualization, prayer or counting beads on a bracelet, and call on that skill to maintain coolness when challenged by a child, advises Runkel.
It’s a misconception that emotions need to be released or they will consume us, he says. “Emotions just are; it’s the thoughts about emotions that drive us crazy.” Learning to name, tame and befriend feelings through introspection and mindful exercises allows space for calm conversations with children to emerge.
“We fathers have a special responsibility to lead with calm because we are physically imposing in children’s eyes,” he says. “The approachable dad has teachable kids, and he lets natural and logical consequences do the teaching.”