Three Ways to MacGyver Your Dad Brain
By Alexander Chin
As a father, you are faced with responsibilities every day: figuring out how you will divide your time between family and career, parenting, exercising, completing your “honey-do” list or other household tasks.
Balancing these responsibilities can be like having to juggle flaming torches with a blindfold while walking across a tightrope. At times, it might feel like it wouldn’t take much for it all to come crashing down. Even MacGyver would find it difficult to figure out.
The myth that you need to be a superdad in order to be a good dad, can weigh on any father. You may find yourself toiling through the week to get everything done, and as MacGyver was often forced to do, solve a complex problem using only a few tools.
So, dads before you brew another pot of coffee to help you stay up late tonight to get everything done, here are three things you can do to help MacGyver your brain and get more balanced in completing your everyday tasks.
1. Drop the all-or-nothing mindset. This approach can cause you to see extremes, rather than the middle ground. It can be a father’s nightmare to have no progress, whether on a project at home or work, or in your personal exercise plan. Consider this example: you wanted to get a workout in, but your child woke up from his nap early. You might get frustrated since you were looking forward to your workout. Your wife and kids notice, and an argument ensues. In this case, all-or-nothing thinking might include a thought of, “if I miss this workout, my training will be a bust.” This type of thinking leads you to the conclusion that you’re stuck and that you will be less prepared for your next workout or competition.
First off, not true. Second, what good does it do to focus on the supposed outcome, when you aren’t even there yet? Allowing yourself to be stuck in an all-or-nothing thought pattern can definitely bring you down. Instead, focus on those things within your control and think about how acting in those areas can benefit you.
2. Don’t jump to conclusions. It was a busy day at work, and all you want is a nice dinner and some quality time with your wife. You get home, your house is a mess, the kids need baths, and your wife is frazzled and exhausted Your heart sinks, your high hopes and expectations replaced with frustration and irritability. You realize that what you played out in your mind will not happen.
By putting an end to expectations, you can cut down on the frustration that arises from our expectations not being met. You can instead exist in the present, one which may or may not lead to a restful night after a busy day.
3. Do…separate your opinion from fact. As a father, what do you consider your job to be? Is it to guide and lead your family? Or set good examples for your children? In any role you might have as a father, there is potential for you to mistake opinion for a fact. By the way, the answer to those two examples is “facts”. You may think to yourself that in order to be a successful dad, you need to have a daily workout. Or you may think you deserve to be catered to by your spouse. Both of these statements are just opinions, not facts. However, separating the two can be challenging. Maybe you want those things, but they will not make you a better dad. But if you hold on to them as though they are facts, but in reality those things don’t happen, how will that make you feel?
“My kids require my attention when they are talking to me.” That is a fact. Your children require your attention. That means getting rid of the phone and spending one-to-one time. No opinions there.
Here’s an exercise that can help. Create a list of statements you believe about yourself (for example, “I am bad,” “Others must cater to me,” “I yell when I get angry”) and label them as fact or opinion. Doing this can help distinguish between the two when they happen in your own thinking.
Alexander Chin, a licensed psychologist, has worked with parents, especially fathers, children and families for over 11 years on improving communication, reducing conflict and raising satisfaction. A father of three children, he understands the difficulties of parenting. You can learn more about his practice at www.chinpsyd.com.