This is a tactic I’ve been using for years. It comes from a lot of self-experimentation and the application of my day job, behaviour change. It’s the trick that’s made the single biggest difference to my parenting over the years and is super simOur impatience and lack of presence come from thinking and acting without intention, from slipping into old habits or getting distracted by our environment. You’re worried about something at work, so you spend time thinking about it. Your phone is on the kitchen table with email and twitter notifications so you pick it up. You’ve spent your day, or week, dealing with adults, so you expect your children to be able to behave at an adult level when they can’t because they are just kids.
The tactic is based on intentionally being the dad you want to be. Practically, it’s just about asking yourself ‘what kind of dad do I want to be?’ every morning when you wake up, every evening when you rush home for that precious hour or two before bedtime.
There are two things you need to do to make it work though.
The first is getting to the point where you know the answer to that question without having to think about it. The images and feelings of what it looks like when you are being your best dad self spring to mind effortlessly. This means you need to think about it quite a bit, imagine yourself being that version of yourself, of being in testing situations and acting in the way you want to act. If you don’t know how you want to act in those situations, it’s impossible to change because you don’t know what to change to. As an aside, this goes for any kind of change, in organisational change, it’s having a vision, MLK talked about his dream, politicians use soundbites to conjure up images in people’s minds – Make America Great Again, Take Back Control of Britain.
The second thing is remembering to ask yourself the question. This is much harder than it sounds, so instead of adding it as another thing to your mental to-do list, delegate it to something else. A calendar reminder on your phone, a postcard by your bed. I’ve also made screensavers for mobile phones that are part of my patience course, which I’ll be giving away to all patrons soon.