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The Father Factor


Ryan Sanders

Ryan is Director of Marketing and Communications at National Fatherhood Initiative. He is married with two young daughters and lives in Northern Virginia.
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NFI Awarded Contract with General Services Administration (GSA)

Organization’s leading fatherhood skill-building materials and training programs now available to federal agencies on MOBIS.

Germantown, MD (PRWEB) May 07, 2014—National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), the nation’s leading provider of fatherhood skill-building materials and training, has been awarded a contract with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).


NFI’s field-tested, research- and evidence-based fatherhood resources are now available to federal agencies via the Mission Oriented Business Integrated Services (MOBIS) Schedule 874, where the resources will be offered at an 8% discount.

MOBIS Schedule Special Item Number (SIN) 874-4 will offer NFI-led training on the organization’s flagship fatherhood curricula, such as 24/7 Dad® and InsideOut Dad®. MOBIS Schedule SIN 874-9 will offer NFI’s skill-building resources for dads, such as curricula kits, fathering handbooks, brochures, pocket guides, and tip cards.

Purchases of NFI’s resources from the GSA schedule can be made on the GSA Advantage website or via NFI’s GSA contract number, GS-02F-083BA.

Availability on the GSA schedule will make NFI’s resources easier to procure for agencies such as the Department of Defense, enhancing NFI’s position as the leading provider of fatherhood-specific resources to the U.S. Military. Additionally, NFI’s InsideOut Dad® program, the only evidence-based program designed specifically for working with incarcerated fathers, will be available to the Bureau of Prisons and various Department of Justice agencies seeking resources for working with incarcerated and re-entering fathers.

Finally, agencies seeking to serve families, such as those within the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, will have access to NFI’s general fathering education programs such as 24/7 Dad® and Doctor Dad®.

“The GSA schedule will give NFI the opportunity to better serve our federal agency customers,” said Christopher Brown, president of NFI. “This better service will in turn help these customers better serve their constituents by equipping even more fathers with the tools they need to be the kinds of dads their children need them to be.”

As the premier fatherhood renewal organization in the country, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), founded in 1994, works in every sector and at every level of society to “create a world where every child has a 247 Dad℠.” NFI is the #1 provider of fatherhood resources in the nation. Since 2004, through FatherSOURCE™, its national resource center, NFI has distributed over 6.6 million resources, and has trained over 13,500 practitioners from over 6,500 organizations on how to deliver programs to dads. NFI is also the most quoted authority on fatherhood in America. Since 2009, NFI has been mentioned in over 3,600 news stories, and makes regular appearances in national media to discuss the importance of involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood.

What To Do (and What Not To Do) With Your Kids on #MomsNightOut

There are three types of dads in the new parenting movie Moms' Night Out. Inspired by the idea of "giving the at-home mom a break," I have advice for what dad can do with his child no matter the age or stage so that dad can connect and mom can relax.

dads big book of tips for moms night out

Let's pretend for a moment you read my earlier post Prepping for Mom's Night Out and now the mom in your life is going out to watch the Moms' Night Out movie with her friends (in theaters tomorrow May 9th...hint...hint). You work outside the home, which means that most days, you aren't alone with your kids super often, it happens, we get it. Which makes what you do with your child once mom is out vital so you can feel comfortable, bond well, and she can relax knowing dad has everything under control.

If mom's going out with friends to a movie, you're gonna have at least four hours to connect with your kids. Do the math: movie running time is at least an hour and a half, there's the time it takes your wife to get ready, the drive to and from the theater, and what about dinner? Boom, four-plus hours gone.

You need help. You can waste this time on your iPhone while your kid plays MineCraft or you can use it to connect with your child.

Whether you're a dad reading this post or someone who serves dads, here are few ideas for what a dad can do based on the stage of the child—and the dad. I have two phases in my head of how evenings with my girls can pan out:

1) staying inside the house and

2) venturing outside of the house. 

You'll find ideas for each phase based on the age and stage of your child. Thank me in the comments.

In the Moms' Night Out movie, the three types of dads shown are all good, caring dads. But, they each have their own experiences, some more than others. Let's get at this...

The Dad of an Infant or Toddler: This is possibly the scariest stage. The dad of a teen may disagree, but he's not writing this post, so I stand on my opinion. Here's the clencher, know this dad, you're connecting now with your young one so it's easier later. This stage was scary for me, still is. Call me crazy, but I'm more comfortable with the child once it can talk to me. But, this night isn't about your fear, it's about connecting with your baby. 

Inside the house: Get on the floor and crawl around. That's it. Simple right? Now do that for four hours. Seriously, your life at this phase should be on the floor. The younger the child, the more time you should spend on the floor. What else should you do beside play? Well, you can feed'em; that's helpful. Check their diaper often. Make sure they are drinking enough fluids. Am I getting in the weeds here? Can you tell it's been over four years since I had a baby in my house? I have a story about tossing my firstborn in the air with a belly full of milk and popcorn. Sorry, Bella, I was new. Which makes this rule super applicable...


Looking back on when my daughters were at this young stage, I cherish the simple times of holding them and them falling asleep in my arms. Older dads like me know somehting you don't yet, as hard as it seems now to get that baby to sleep, there will come a time when they get too big carry around for hours before they fall asleep. You will want this stage back as crazy as it sounds now.

Just hold them. Snuggle them. Read to them. But try not to be scared and worried like the new dad in the trailer below who says semi-jokingly to his wife going out, "...I could get maimed, I could lose both children..." If you're too afraid of messing something up, call for back-up. I'm only a little ashamed I called my father-in-law to help me watch my second-born infant when all she did was sleep the entire time mom was out. Don't judge me. 

Outside the house: I can't lie, I wasn't the quickest dad to venture outside when mom was away. Especially once there's more than one child. But, for toddlers, dare I say it, those places with the mouse-head logo work well. End of discussion. You don't need more tips, because if you visit the mouse, you won't be home before mom is back!

The Dad of a School-Aged Child: This is the stage I'm in now. I'm with you, dad, you can do this.

Inside the house: Here's my go-to idea: slumber parties. They're the going-thing at my house with two daughters, ages 7 and 4. Slumber parties have been all-the-buzz at my house for years and I plan to ride this slumber party train until it stops and the conductor tosses me off.

Make said slumber party a big deal. Annouce the slumber party like it's an event. Talk it up the morning of said slumber party. When it's time, grab every cover and pillow from every room and then visit the neighors and get their covers and pillows. Go crazy on the floor. There's something magical about a dad on the floor with his kids. Watching a movie on the floor immersed in covers and bunnies and bears and various old dolls is magical. There's no magic on the sofa. Same with dinner. While mom's gone, live on the floor at your child's eye level. Add dessert and popcorn and you have the makings of a great evening.

Pro Tip: Make pizzas with your kids. Get them involved. They'll be prone to eat what they help prepare. No need to call delivery either, here's the latest craze at my house, which I was reminded of online:

1. Buy english muffins (or hamburger buns is what we used as kids), tomato sauce (I use garden combo spaghetti sauce, but you do you), shredded mozzerella, parmesan. That's it for the kids, you can add pepperoni and veggies to yours until your heart's content.

2. Toast the bread.

3. Let child spoon sauce on bread

4. Add mozzerella.

5. Dash some parmesan on top.

6. Place in oven at 400 until the cheese melts to your liking (about 5 minutes).

7. Enjoy this delicious simple, healthy pizza with easy clean up and no waste that has built-in bonding. You're welcome. 

But your not an "inside the house" guy like me...

Outside the house: Take the time to attend a local event, go on a walk around your town or try a new restaurant. Let your child pick the place... 


The Dad of a Teen: I'm less-versed here since I'm not at this stage yet. You'll have to help me in the comments. But, I'm pretty certain teens watch movies, play video games, and eat food. So, here's your chance to connect with your teen eye-to-eye. Do something that will bond you together. I don't think technology is bad, just be mindful of how you use it.

Inside the house: Enjoy a hobby. With your son, what if you spent the evening talking and playing a video game, learning from his mouth why he thinks it's cool? For either your son or daugher, you could cook or sing karoake. Every family has a karaoke machine right? Remember, the point here is to step outside of your normal routine and do something that connects you and your child. 

Outside the house: Go to the mall. Yes, that's right, I said it. Probably not your favorite, but if it's a good way to spend time with your son or daughter, that's what's important, right? Go try all the samples at the food court. Visit a coffee shop and people watch. Dads of teens, help a brother out here. What do y'all do with teens? I'm taking notes for later.

But remember this last tip is for all dads: Whatever you do, don't call your wife unless something emergency-room-worthy happens. Repeat this mantra: Be the dad. 


The point is, you can make it. No matter the age of your child or the experience you have, you can help your wife get a much-deserved break and feel appreciated all in one night. Get details on the Moms' Night Out movie here.

What's your go-to activity that you and your child enjoy while mom's away?

21 Questions with NFI's Newest Board Member: Chris Efessiou [Interview]

Get to know our newest board member, Chris Efessiou, in 21 questions. 

chris_efessiou_headshot_board_memberMr. Chris Efessiou is NFI's newest board member. The author, speaker, radio host and media personality has founded, co-founded, developed, and managed multiple successful enterprises—all the while being an involved, responsible, and committed father. Who is this busy dad and what makes him passionate about serving fathers?

Allow me to introduce to you, Mr. Chris Efessiou:

1) Name and title? Chris Efessiou, PhD

2) Place of birth? I was born and raised in Thessaloniki, Greece, and came to the United States at age 18 with the goal to get myself accepted into college.

3) Current home location? My wife Juliana and I live in Vienna, Virginia.

4) Number and ages of children? Juliana and I are blessed with four adult daughters. While three girls are hers and one is mine from a previous marriage, the closeness of this blended family is beyond our wildest dreams. Alexis and Jessica live in Los Angeles, and Hilary and Persephone live in the DC area.

5) What do you do for a living? I am the founder and CEO of SRxA Strategic Pharmaceutical Advisors, a consulting firm providing marketing and education strategy to the pharmaceutical industry.

6) What made you decide to serve on NFI's Board? I raised my daughter as a single dad since she was 7.  She is now 26, a loving, compassionate, unentitled, successful young woman whom I admire. I served as both parents to her and she credits me for who she has become today. I loved the experience and felt that if I could help another father to see the beauty and value of fatherhood, that I could be helping the shaping of a young person’s life. That is what NFI does, and that is why I am honored to serve on its board. 

7) What was your first car? A 20 year old, third hand, 1961 VW bug with half its floor gone and only 3 cylinders firing on any given day. Yet, it was my first set of 4 wheels, albeit barely in place, it got me to and from school and work and to this day, I am supremely proud of it.

scan00158) What was your first job? When I lived in Greece I worked in my father's shop in the summers doing minor repairs. He was an electrician. While I never learned to work with electricity, I was thrilled to have my dad to myself the entire day and to be exposed to his business acumen. I asked questions endlessly, and tried to understand every business move he made and why he made it. It all paid off later in my life.

9) Lamest gift you ever gave your dad? A hug and a kiss. At the time it felt lame and cheap. When I became a father, I realized that it was the best gift I could have given him.

10) Best advice you ever received? "The three ingredients of a successful union between two...humor, commitment & undying love." —Bill Cosby

11) One thing you always carry with you? Pictures of my family on my phone. I make it a point to look through them, particularly on long flights, and reflect upon them. It is also a good opportunity to say "Thank You God" for giving me the good fortune to have this family.

12) One thing you wish you could do more? I am a licensed pilot and love to fly whenever I have the time. I find that instrument flight requires absolute attention to every detail. Flying is the only time I know that I can purge my head from everything else and enjoy the 30,000 foot view. It is a sense of freedom and reflection. I'd love to do it more frequently but other commitments get in the way.

13) Man who most changed your life? My father. He was part dictator and part mentor. I always liked to analyze the way he thought and tried to understand why he made the decisions he made. I loved his innovative spirit and the fact that he could always find a way to accomplish what needed doing. Learning by watching him in my youth, paid handsome dividends in my adult life especially when I first came to the U.S. without knowledge of English and had to compete on the same field as everyone else. Yes, innovation and a can-do attitude work!

14) Thing you’re always telling your children? Find something you love doing, and find a way to make a living at it. Then you'll never have to work a day in your life

15) Dinner with famous dad: who? why? 
Bill Cosby. He single-handedly formed my early opinions of what kind of father I wanted to be through his book Fatherhood and later his TV show. Above all, he taught me the value of humor. I want to have dinner with him to thank him for what he's done for all fathers and to discuss with him my book CDO Chief Daddy Officer - The Business of Fatherhood. I'd love to know what he thinks of it.

16) Article of clothing every dad should own? An extra light coat in your car. Your wife and kids, especially daughters, would typically under-dress and you'd soon find yourself covering one of them with your own jacket. If you don't like feeling cold, you'd be well served by having an extra one nearby.

17) Book every dad should read? Fatherhood by Bill Cosby, and CDO Chief Daddy Officer - The Business of Fatherhood by Chris Efessiou  

18) Thing a dad should know about money? You can make it, save it, invest it, spend it, or give it away. Every dad should know the value of each, and teach it to his children.

19) Advice for a new dad? Always do what's best for your child, even if that's not the best for you. Always remember that children are smarter than we give them credit for. Don't underestimate their intellect or overestimate yours!

20) The “secret” to being a great dad? Always be emotionally available, and when able, be physically present. Nothing elevates a child's self esteem more than to know that he or she is important to you, and that their importance is acknowledged not by words, but by your actions. Remember, nothing speaks louder than your presence and there is no excuse for emotional absence.

21) To what are you most looking forward? Silly as it may sound, I look forward to the day that my daughter has a child so that I can relive those beautiful memories one more time.

New Orleans Group Teaches Fathers How to Be Dads

Writing for New Orleans Public Radio, Eve Abrams reports on a group called NOLA Dads who is reaching the community by training fathers to be better dads.

Abrams points out that since 1986, a group called Family Service of Greater New Orleans has offered many services to the community including mental health counseling and training. Why are we telling you about this great work? Because they recently added a class called NOLA Dads.

nola dads nprAbrams interviewed Lawrence, a father trained by NOLA Dads using NFI's 24/7 Dad® Program. Lawrence is a new dad. Listen to the audio of Eve's interview with Lawrence here. I found it touching to hear the genuine response from Lawrence when Eve asks what he's learned from the program that can connect him to his daughter.

His response, "I tell her things," he continues by explaining that he tells his daughter:

“You're important. You're sweet. You're kind. I love you...and then I repeat it about five times. That’s what I do. I do it all the time. Even when she's asleep.”

Wow, I've worked at NFI for two years. I'm still surprised by this statement. The complex made simple, right? While it's Lawrence who's attending the 24/7 Dad® training, it sounds like he could teach us dads a thing or two about what's really important.

Once a week, Lawrence takes a class on how to be a dad. It’s called NOLA Dads; and much like the training that's happening in San Diego, New Orleans is changing the community by addressing the problem of father absence.

Lawrence says of the program:

“I’m glad I’m in here, because you know I’ve never been a daddy so I need to learn what I need to, learn to do what I got to do, to be able to be there...might not have money, might not be able to fat up with gifts, but as long as love and caring count, I’m all about it. So there’s a whole lot more that I can learn.”

As part of the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, Lawrence attends the NOLA Dads class at a local center. The program is part of a bigger campaign to reduce recidivism for ex-offender's on probation and parole. The fatherhood training deals with all things related to parenting including communication, anger management, employment and education.

Eve also talked with Patrick Carter, the facilitator for NOLA Dads. He says, “Family Service finds a need to come back and help in the community...they noticed that all programs are geared toward women, so Family Service put something together to come out and help the males in the community.”  

Patrick continues:

"Because society places us in a certain kind of role, so it's kinda hard for us to say, 'Look I need help,' because we don't want to be looked upon as weak or afraid or less of a man...I find that us as males, we want help but we don’t want to be looked upon in a certain kind of way for asking for it...I mean, I’ve never been asked about how do I feel as a man about anything. Basically just suck it up, tough it up, and make it happen. As opposed to the other side of it: changing my thinking so I can be better and do better things for myself, family and community.”

Listen to the audio and you will hear, Carter, the facilitator, start class by asking the dads about parenting. After Carter asks the class, "What's three things you can do today to help your child do well in school?" Another dad in the program, Joseph, answers:

“My first one is help him every day with his homework when he comes home...reward him for the good things he is doing in school, and the third one to like stay up on him, make sure I stay up on him so he can do the right thing. Because once I let off he may take off and go the other way. So keep that in there."

Listen closely and you will hear Carter reply, “I tell you some other ways too. Let your kids see you actually doing the things that they do in school. So when your kids come home and never see you read or anything, and you tell them to read, why would they want to read?

Carter makes the same point with writing, "Writing too. If they never see you write — kids want to imitate you. They pick up everything you do. They put on your shoes, they want to put on your clothes. Even if it’s you reading the paper, or you writing down a grocery list or anything, they need to see you reading. They need to see you writing. Simple as that.”

“They want to do what their parents are doing," says Joseph.

Eve reveals upon leaving the NOLA Dads class, she asked Joseph, a dad with a young son, if there was anything else he wanted her to know. His reply?

“NOLA Dad is a great’s helping me to succeed with my child and teach him better, give him that structure that I wasn’t given.”

We couldn't ask for anything more when it comes to serving fathers with our 24/7 Dad® program.

Click here to learn more about the 24/7 Dad Program® and download our free guide to getting started.


NFI Celebrates 20 Years of Changing Fatherhood: Ryan Williams

This is a special year for us. It marks our 20th year of working to “change fatherhood” by ending father absence and connecting fathers to their children. Meet Ryan Williams...

20 year fatherhood changes everything

To celebrate the fathers and families whose lives we’ve turned around in the last 20 years, we launched this series of videos, blog posts, photographs, and stories to highlight how our work has strengthened fatherhood since 1994.

At NFI, we know that fatherhood changes everything. If you're a family that's been helped by us, you know how important fatherhood is. For the organizations we have helped provide our training programs, you know how vital fathers are to creating healthy families and healthy communities.

From poverty, to crime, to school achievement, to child abuse—every issue we care about is affected by whether or not a child has an involved, responsible, and committed father.

When we connect a father to his child, heart to heart, lives change, communities change, and our entire nation is better for it.

This video shows how NFI’s programs affect an individual life. This is one story out of many over our 20 years of operation.

Each video in this series was created from the book “Choosing Fatherhood: America’s Second Chance,” a photography book created by Lewis Kostiner.

Lewis spent years traveling around the country, photographing dads who were going through NFI’s programs at community-based organizations in their neighborhoods. The result was a compelling photo book telling the stories of dads working hard to make their children’s lives better.

Ryan williams

In this video, we spotlight Ryan Williams, who attended an NFI workshop in his community and learned how to be a better dad. Read his words or listen to them on the video, they are a powerful. Let Ryan's words remind you that you are vital to your child's life. And if you're part of an organization who doesn't serve fathers, you should consider how you can better train fathers today.

Can't view the video? Click here.

"My dad really was never around. I don't know where he is today. I was raised by my grandma. My grandpa passed away. I really didn't listen to her or relate to her like I should because she was a lot older than me. Not having a dad around really influenced me with my daughter, that I know I have to be there for her, and I have to be around. My grandma raised me to take care of responsibilities. I feel like a good dad. I'm not great because I've made some mistakes here and there. This is my first daughter, my first kid. It's just fun. Probably the best experience in the world was watching her be born and then cutting the umbilical cord, just being there for the whole birth process. I don't know how you cannot want to give your kid everything, just seeing what you created. Everything may not go right between you and the other parent, but you always have a strong bond with your kid. That's the most important thing – just have a strong bond with your kid, because the kid needs both parents." —Ryan Williams (Colorado Springs, Colorado) 

View more stories from our Fatherhood Changes Everything series here.

How has fatherhood changed you? How have you changed fatherhood?


Single White Moms Should Say Yes to Father Involvement

Christopher Brown recently wrote an article for The Huffington Post in response to an article on about white, working-class mothers and father involvement. In his rebuttal, he points out not what one person's story is, but what decades of research has to say about the importance of father involvement for the sake of the child.

Chris responds to an article in Slate titled, Just Say No: For white working-class women, it makes sense to stay single mothers by Naomi Cahn and June Carbone as "the latest attempt to devalue the role of fathers."

to working-class white mothersHe says, "Despite decades of research to the contrary, this article implies that fathers are not important to the well-being of children. But it does so in the very pernicious way that has become the tactic du jour of individuals who continue to disregard mountains of evidence on the importance of fathers."

While Cahn and Carbone, writers of the original article, share the story of Lily, a single working-class mom who decided to raise her child without the involvement of Carl, an "unemployed loser who sits around all day drinking with his buddies and playing video games. Lily doesn't want to commit to Carl." Her thinking? Why support herself and her child and risk marrying a guy she can't financially support or trust. 

Chris says to this point:

As the father of two girls, I wouldn't want either of them to date, much less marry, a guy like Carl. And I certainly wouldn't want them to have my grandchildren with him! Selfishly, I look forward to bonding with my future sons-in-law in ways other than playing World of Warcraft.

But what's the problem with taking one story of one woman's life and projecting it onto the bigger narrative of society? Chris continues:

The problem with Cahn's and Carbone's use of Lily's example is that it deflects attention from what children need to thrive: an involved, responsible, committed father. And it symbolizes what marriage has become for so many Americans: a way to fulfill their own desire for finding a soul mate who can complete them and make life wonderful, rather than as a means for raising children who thrive. The authors' tactic prevents us from seeing and discussing the indisputable fact that raising children without involved fathers places them at much higher risk for a range of poor outcomes and causes the ills we see in so much of society.

In their column, Cahn and Carbone "unintentionally reduce the contribution of fathers to that of a bank account," says Chris. And, their focus seems to be on the mother instead of the child. Chris wants readers to take a step back, reflect and ask this question of Lily: "Why did you have sex with this guy in the first place knowing that he is such a loser?" Chris continues, "Not asking this question is another symptom of a reactive culture that would rather argue about what to do after the bomb goes off than what needs to be done to keep it from being built in the first place."

Chris calls for all of us to reflect on and correct the problem with this article and the way of thinking it represents. Ask yourself this question with this article: where is our focus? If the focus is too far on the mother or father, a red flag should go up. As Chris makes clear, "Our focus should be on what is best for children...when fathers are encouraged and educated about being involved, responsible, and committed fathers, children, moms, and dads are better off."

Read the full article from Christopher Brown in The Huffington Post.

Have you read the article? What's your thoughts on what it takes to make a strong family?


Prepping for Mom's Night Out

I recently screened the new parenting movie, Moms' Night Out. While laughing my way through the movie, I found myself connecting with one dad trying to get his wife to take a break.

As this post's title implies, there should be a mom's night out on the horizon for your family, too. But, from the intelligence I've gathered, moms feel guilty about leaving and taking a break. So, dad, it's on you to help make the mom in your life happy.

MNO_OfficialPoster-2Whichever parent stays home every day with the kids needs breaks, and often. Emphasis on often. In this movie's case and in my life, mom is home everyday to take care of our kids. This post is meant to prep you, dad, for taking the lead in getting mom away for her much-needed rest. My next post in this series will be all about what to do with your kids once mom actually leaves the house.

I have experienced bliss in my married and parenting life. I've seen it, felt it, I know what it looks like. I've been married to my college sweetheart for ten years (11 years this October). If I was an NFL player, I'd be a veteran. You'd have to listen to me in the locker room. I want you to experience marital and parenting bliss, too. Bliss only shows up for the relaxed. It's funny how bliss works.

I'm suggesting two things for Operation: Keep Your Wife Sane. You must take the lead on giving the mom in your life these two things:

1) The Daily Break

2) The Weekly Break

I implied earlier that I "gathered intelligence"; i.e., I talked to my wife, Tonia. She says, and I'm pretty sure she speaks for all moms ever, one of biggest challenges a mom can face, especially a new mom, is the feeling of guilt about leaving your children. There's always "something else" to be done which often becomes an excuse for not taking a much-needed break.

In the Moms' Night Out movie, we gather from Sean Astin's character that he's "all in" on his wife taking a break, and he rejoices that she actually has a night out planned at the start of the film.

He has things "under control", so to speak, in that he's encouraging her to go out with friends and relax. Imagine the stressed-out mom with the husband who acts weird if his wife mentions needing a break. We don't want to be that dad, right?

Here's some things that, when I'm operating this life correctly, I know work. When I do these things, life is better for everyone in my home and around my home. I promise. Trust me and do these things.

1) The Daily Break: The point of the daily break is that you can't realistically give your wife five hours or more of rest per day. She, like you, has a job to do, and it must be done daily. However, without little nuggets of bliss on a daily basis, your other half may forget what freedom feels like. 

What's my point here? Maybe you're thinking one hour per day is tough depending on the age of your child. But the point here is to give your wife solace daily for at least 30 minutes or more. When she wakes in the morning, she should know that she has this certain time of the day that's hers. She owns it. She can nap. She can fish. She can write a novel. Play Uno. Shower a long time. I don't know what your woman likes to do, but the point is to take small breaks. It's the small breaks that will keep everyone sane in this life.

Try this pro tip: Text your wife this message right now (the earlier in the day the better):

"My Dearest Sexy Pants (or insert your wife's pet name here), I know it's hard out there for a mom. But, I'll be home this evening to make your life easier. Be ready with car keys in hand waiting at the door for me. Once I arrive, kiss me on the face and go directly to Starbucks for at least one hour. Do not try and return to this house before at least one hour is up. My Gold Card is loaded for all that your heart so desires. Go crazy, get a cake pop. I mean, we can handle it, the Gold Card has like $11.13 on it. You're good. I love you. You're welcome. PS: Please, do come back home later."

Yes, it's a long text message. But, trust me and reap the rewards. Tips can be left as donations to NFI.

2) The Weekly Break: This break may or may not be realistic depending on the ages of your children. But, with a 7 and 4 year at my house, I find my wife needs more of a rest/disengagement than just the daily, short break given that she's running one child all over the world and at home with one all day. If weekly doesn't work, you should definitely shoot for monthly.

Girls night out is a real thing, dad. It matters. They usually happen weekly and you should make sure they happen. This can be anywhere from two to three hours. Be prepared. It doesn't have to be any longer if it's happening as often as it should. But this break is less introverted in nature compared to the daily break. I'm assuming that the small, daily breaks are "alone time" for your wife. The weekly break is her time to have fun and look forward to being out with other adult friends every so often.

What was the last thing you did to give your wife a break? Seriously, I want to know, I'm taking notes. 

Follow Moms' Night Out Movie on Facebook and Visit Moms' Night Out Movie online for more. Check out the official trailer and be sure you have May 9th on your calendar to keep the kids.

Need for More Sleep and Happier Babies? NFI Has the Answer!

If you've ever been a parent for more than 30 seconds, you know that crying happens. And at times, a lot of it. When my daughters were babies, I remember each one being different when it came to crying. Oh, they both cried, but each one cried differently.

My firstborn would cry and need to be held while sitting down. This wasn't super-difficult. As long I held her in my arms or lap, she would be fine. But, try and put her down and walk away. Nope, not happening!

the happiest baby education association

With my youngest, things got more interesting. I couldn't sit down with her. She would cry, not only without me holding her, but even if I sat down. She would cry and complain until I stood up and walked around. I spent many night's walking around our house with her in my arms and holding an iPhone playing music to calm her.  

What was I missing? I figured I was only missing hours of sleep! But, I was missing "the 5 S's" of calming a baby. After seeing these five steps, I'm ready to try these steps out on a third child!

Developed by Dr. Harvey Karp, America’s most-read pediatrician, The Happiest Baby™ techniques are based on a newly discovered newborn behavior—the calming reflex—that can quickly calm baby’s crying and increase sleep by at least one hour. As I recall, one hour for my wife and I would have been treasured time! 

While this approach may seem simple, the techniques are recommended by many of America’s top prenatal and pediatric experts, including:

  • The past U.S. Surgeon General
  • Prevent Child Abuse America
  • Postpartum Support International
  • Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine
  • Doulas of North America
  • Lamaze
  • American Academy of Pediatrics books and website

Here's why I'm writing about this to you: as readers of this blog and leaders of trainers and fatherhood/parenting leaders across the nation, this approach to calming a crying baby will be extremely helpful to the fathers and parents you serve. That's why NFI is offering The Happiest Baby™ DVD+CD at a below regular retail price of just $19.99 for you to distirbute to parents you work with. Learn about it here.

Imagine the frustration that could be alleviated for new parents by using these 5 calming techniques - more sleep for parents and baby, increased breastfeeding, reduced crying, and more. Here are just a few places where providing the skills and techniques to new parents will prove helpful:

  • Health Departments and Home Visiting Programs: Use the DVD as an easy “plug and play” tool to enhance existing parenting curricula, programs and services (such as WIC).

  • Hospitals and Pregnancy Centers: These techniques are ideal for use by nurses and childbirth educators with expectant parents or parents with young babies.

  • Military Bases: If you are a New Parent Support Program staff you can distribute DVD+CD Combos to military families on base and in military hospitals.

In case you haven't heard about this technique, watch this video featuring Dr. Karp and his 5 S's approach: 


You Can Also Become a Happiest Baby™ Certified Educator!

Certified educators are trained to correctly teach Dr. Karp’s calming techniques in order to reduce parent frustration and error; they are also able to give away or sell deeply discounted Parent Kits, receive informative newsletters and research reports, and earn a valuable credential directly from The Happiest Baby™ creators.

Thousands of professionals teach this effective approach in hospitals, WIC clinics, military bases, home-visiting programs and departments of health across America...and in dozens of other nations. With this training, your efforts can bring even more benefit to the lives of parents and infants you care for!

NFI is offering the Certification Kit for one person at just $245 here, or you can certify five (5) staff for the price of four (4), just $980 here.

Learn more about the program components and requirements today!

Are You a Stressed Dad? Learn How to Manage Work & Family Today!

I recently wrote 6 Steps for Stress-Less Living for In that post I wrote, "If you feel stressed out, it’s your fault." I think I still mean it. Here's why: stress happens. The only thing you can control is how you think and what you do. The following list is meant to be simple. It's meant to remind you of the things that you can control.

Feeling Overwhelmed? Do These 6 Things to Conquer Your Week!

When dad is unhealthy, his child is more likely to be unhealthy. It's the power of example. What you model to your child often comes back to you.

While this is scary, there's a deeper level of scary at play. The health issue is generational. What you do, as a dad, changes a life. How you live and what you teach your child, your child is more likely to teach to his child.

When a dad is involved in his child's life, he can expect:

  • better overall infant health
  • reduction in the likelihood that his child will smoke or abuse drugs
  • more likely to have a stronger vocabulary
  • perform better in school
  • have a healthier weight

Mental health and fatherly involvement is no different. Someone smarter than me said this: the mind and body are one. If you have a problem with your mental health, it will show up in your body. If you have a problem with the health of your body, it will affect your mind, how you see the world and how you treat people.

We need to get serious; not stressed, but serious, about how we can "get back to basics" and find ways to reduce stress and live happier lives. These are a few basics where I easily go astray.

In order to manage work and family, try these six steps to help combat stress in your life.

1) Exercise: We need to be active. I'm so new at this, but coming home from work and sitting on the sofa isn't as relaxing as you think. I haven't yet conquered "the morning workout" so I come home and immediately change into workout clothes. If I don't do this, exercise will not happen. Getting active will change your life. Trust this skeptic, you only think you don't have the energy to exercise. You will have more energy if you can find a few minutes to exercise. You will feel better if you walk or jog for 30 minutes each day. Get outside when possible. Your body and mind will thank you.

2) Eat “clean”: Over the last year, I’ve lost over 45 pounds. I’ve done wrong things and right things. But my diet has been the single craziest thing I’ve learned to manage, some days, eh, some hours!

Your schedule and your diet are often closely linked. The busier you are the worse you may eat. Healthy eating takes planning. Aside from the occasional, weekend Chipotle (not an official sponsor of this post...someone should tell them they can be!), I'm cooking from home. I know exactly what's in my food because I put it there.

One cheeseburger won’t kill you, but if your diet consists of mostly processed or fast foods it's time to change your diet. Force yourself to try new things like raw veggies and peppers and grill everything! I haven't had a burger in months; now I want one!

3) Sleep: I don’t have this one figured out yet. I still blame my daughters for this even though they are seven and four years old now. Shoot for at least six to eight (ha) hours of sleep a night.

Work in a nap of 20 minutes during the day if you can’t get enough sleep. Simply a few minutes of closing your eyes and breathing will do wonders to help reduce stress. I've read where naps allow folks to get twice as much done in one day as folks who aren't nappers. Yes, "nappers" is a word. I just wrote it.

4) Keep Work at Work: Bringing your work home is a fine way to stress yourself and your family. The secreat to how to balance work and family is this: Leave your work at the door. Not really "at the door." If left "at the door" your work may get rained on unless you have a front porch. In which case, you shouldn't bring your work to your front porch.

I've gotten into the weeds, but here's my point: Stop your car in your driveway; do something, anything, to separate your mind from work before entering your home. Home has its own work. I'm terrible at this. If you have tips that work, tell me in the comments, I'd love to know! It's the iPhone that's my ultimate problem. I'm an addict. I must stop!

5) Date your Spouse: No spouse? Find a friend and get out of the house! The point here is to get out periodically and do something you enjoy. Date your spouse or find a buddy and get to dinner, movie...something. For those with spouses, think about this: a guaranteed way to increase stress is to stop communicating or spending time with your spouse. Not that I have any experience at all with increase my wife's stress. Oh no, not me. I'm perfect and always date my wife periodically!

6) Find a Hobby: A hobby will take your mind off of "stuff." Find something that takes your time and energy completely out of work and "stuff." Something you really enjoy. Experiment with photography, running, anything (that's legal) where you can't be thinking about work while you're doing. What's that one thing that when you do it, time flies by? That's probably a great hobby.

The point with these tips is that you can help get your family healthy while leading by example. Learn to how to be an active dad. If you are healthy, odds are good that your child will be healthy. As dad goes, so goes the family.

What's the one step where you need the most work? Talk to me in the comments or using #247Dad on social.

381 Dads & Counting: Kentucky Dept of Corrections is Changing Fathers from the Inside-Out

There are over 2.3 million men and women in prison today. Ninety-five percent of these individuals will eventually be released from prison. How we prepare these moms and dads while behind bars and upon release matters.

Sadly, two out of three offenders will re-offend once released. There is an intergenerational cycle of incarceration: a study of 109 juvenile offenders indicated that family structure significantly predicts delinquency.* Said in a less-academic way: when dad's in prison, his child is more likely to go to prison. A generation of children is growing up without involved dads. We must train fathers how to dads while in prison. 

A generation of children is growing up without 
involved dads. We must train fathers
how to be dads while in prison.


How can this problem be solved? Are we comfortable letting offenders rot in jail? Or will we rehabilitate these persons from the inside-out?

The Kentucky Department of Corrections is getting it. Eighty-nine percent of Kentucky's inmate population is male—and many are fathers—fathers returning to their families and communities. Kentucky is all too familiar with the issues from releasing fathers who have not been prepared "on the inside" to be involved, responsible fathers.

89% of Kentucky's inmate population is
male—and many are fathers—fathers returning 
to their families and communities.

kentucky department of corrections

The Kentucky Department of Corrections (DOC) mission is to:

Protect the citizens of the Commonwealth and to provide a safe, secure, and humane environment for staff and offenders in carrying out the mandates of the legislative and judicial processes; and to provide opportunities for offenders to acquire skills that facilitate non-criminal behavior. 

The Challenge 
Until finding NFI's programs, Kentucky didn't have a program in place to serve dads. Eighty-nine percent of Kentucky’s inmate population is male and many are fathers, some even grandfathers.

In many cases, dads in prison get a visit from their child, however it's not all roses. Their child is confused and upset that dad is in prison, and there aren't clear answers for the child about why dad isn't in their lives. These children have to draw their own conclusions.

Then one day, dad is released. Dad's coming home! Hopefully, he's coming home to the family he once left. This dad will be faced with marriage, family and parenting decisions. What dad learned or didn't learn from prison about connecting with his wife and kids will be tested within minutes.

This challenge moved the Kentucky DOC to train and connect these dads to their families before release. The state was required to use an evidence-based program, and wanted to implement a program to reach dads both while in prison and once they left. 

The Solution 
In their research for a suitable fatherhood training, Kentucky found NFI's InsideOut Dad® program, the only evidence-based program developed specifically for incarcerated fathers. InsideOut Dad® has been implemented with fidelity, and provides a cognitive behavioral therapeutic approach, along with a focus on the inmate and the child.

Research shows that fathers who are connected to their children and family prior to release are more likely to successfully integrate back into the community and less likely to return to prison. This fit the bill for Kentucky, and they now run InsideOut Dad® in their 10 all-male facilities. 

Research shows that fathers who are connected
to their children and family prior to release
are more likely to successfully integrate back into the community
and less likely to return to prison. 

NFI also worked with Kentucky to create a re-entry program to help dads continue building their fathering skills once released. Kentucky's DOC works with community-based organizations, via the state’s Probation and Parole Division, to deliver NFI’s 24/7 Dad® program to fathers in transitional facilities and other community-based organizations in the re-entry field. 24/7 Dad® addresses fathering from a holistic perspective and continues to build on pro-fathering behaviors.

Speaking with a representative of the Kentucky DOC, she pointed out that by using InsideOut Dad® and 24/7 Dad® programs, the state was addressing the top four needs of fathers:

    1. Criminal and family history
    2. Family (marriage and parenting)
    3. Education and employment
    4. Leisure and recreation

Since the state started tracking the use of the program in 2012, 381 dads have graduated from program.

The best news? The state has seen a clear shift in the inmate population from an egocentric attitude, to a focus on their families and children, even from inside prison. In addition to the fathers benefiting from the program, the DOC is meeting their statute requirement by offering both the program inside prison and 24/7 Dad® outside prison while inmates make their transition.

The state has seen a shift in the inmates
from an egocentric attitude, to a focus on 
their families and children, even from inside prison.

For more information on the products and services the Kentucky DOC is using along with the organizations they are partnering with, view the full case study and visit our Corrections Programs page for more program successes.

How is your state helping incarcerated fathers connect with their families from the inside-out?

*Source: Bush, Connee, Ronald L. Mullis, and Ann K. Mullis. “Differences in Empathy Between Offender and Nonoffender Youth.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence 29 (August 2000): 467-478. 

Day 37: Dream Bigger Than a Smaller Number #P90X3Dads

The number on the scale is a gauge for how good or bad you are doing when it comes to living healthy. But, based on my last 36 days, there are more accurate ways to measure health than simply the number on the scale. Here's what I mean...

I wrote in a post back in early 2013 called "How to Set (and Keep) Your Goals in 3 Simple Steps" that, "You lose 50 pounds by losing one pound 50 times." While this is true, I've learned, eh, I am learning, that the number on the scale can't be the the end-all-be-all goal of life. Nope, the number on the scale is only one indicator. There are other indicators that will motivate you long-term. 

p90x3 imageWhen I weighed 230 pounds back in June of 2013, I mistakenly thought that to be healthy, I needed to weigh 180. While 180 pounds sounds great on paper, the fact is, I have been too focused on the number. Hear me closely on this, the number may be good, but it's not the real goal. Be careful that you don't place too much emphasis on your weight. Weight is only one indicator.

There's one major reason why a small number on a scale shouldn't be your only calculation. It's de-motivating. You became overweight or obese by your lifestyle. Likewise, it will take a different lifestyle to get you fit.

To do anything longer than a few days, you need the right motivation. When you're looking to lose weight and get in shape, the last thing you need is one more thing in life that doesn't encourage you.

You need wins, and any wins will do. It's a daily/hourly/meal-ly struggle to cut bad calories, increase the right calories and balance energy levels so that you actually exercise and burn fat.

It's simply not good enough, in the long-run, to pick a number on a scale and make that your goal. This motivated me to lose the first few pounds; but over time, and especially of late, the number is not what's keeping me in the game. Only now am I realizing that there are more important things than simply what the scale says.

Over the last 36 days of doing P90X3 and jogging, I haven't noticed much difference on the scale. My weight started at 198 on day zero and today it was 188. Ten pounds isn't bad now that I think about it. But much more important is that I'm seeing results in my face, shoulders, arms, chest, stomach and legs. They're all getting more fit! If you're a Beach Body member and want to be my buddy, you can view my pics here.

While I really want to see the number on the scale decrease, the real results are in my pictures. I must keep telling myself this. Even better, the really real results are the unseen. I'm certain I have more muscle strength. Never in my life have I exercised so consistently for so many days. I'm certain much of the reason I haven't "lost weight" is because I'm gaining muscle.

On the BMI scale, I've went from obese to overweight and now I'm almost at the correct weight on paper. However, I'm no longer watching only the scale, I'm seeing that energy level and muscle tone are what really matter. You may be in the correct spot on the BMI scale, but that may be soley because you aren't overweight, it doesn't mean you are at your peak fitness level!

I'm looking forward to day 60, with hope that there will be even more changes in my pictures. Ultimately, there may well be more weight loss to come; but the number on the scale is no longer my ultimate goal.

My new goal is living the right blend of diet and activity that keeps me excited and thriving. It's not just enough energy to "get by" but to do things in life I would have never dreamed of doing when I was obese. I still can't run a full 5K, but as of last night (my day off I might add—I don't recommend doing this!), I ran more of the 3.1 miles than ever.

Here's my point:

The number on the scale will never be enough to inspire you to a lifestyle of fitness. Dream bigger than a smaller number on your scale. Make your goal to be stronger, to run longer and to live better. Your fight should be against time and time alone; not a smaller number on your scale. 

What about you? What's your next fitness goal? Talk to me.

Note: No dad was paid for this post. We were, however, given a base kit and two kits to giveaway because the Beach Body folks are so awesome. Tell us about what motivates you to stay healthy. Use #P90X3Dads to be eligible to win a free copy of the P90X3 program.

San Diego Is Getting Fatherhood: What Happens When 120+ Fathers Become Trained Dads

We know fatherhood changes everything. And we've changed fatherhood in our 20 years of operation. This post is one example of what we mean. I recently talked with three incredible folks who are training fathers in San Diego, California. This group uses our 24/7 Dad® program to train dads. Here's how they are changing fatherhood in their community.

logo_mhaLead by Daphyne Watson, Executive Director of Mental Health America, she, Andre Jones and Aaron Wooten are changing the lives of dads in San Diego. They call their fatherhood program Father2Child, and one thing I noticed in the first few minutes of my call with Aaron and Andre was how highly they spoke of Daphyne.

Daphyne has vision. She is the woman who saw that not only was something broken in her community, but that fatherhood specifically, was the necessary repair. She pulled Aaron and Andre together because she saw the need for training more dads to be better dads. Daphyne gets fatherhood; and thanks to her work, she's helping San Diego get fatherhood.

Watch this video to see the remarkeable results of their fatherhood program in action (visit here to get details on the song in this video).

What's Father2Child doing in San Diego? 
Over the last three years, they have organized over 120 dads using NFI's 12-week 24/7 Dad® program to teach dads how to be great dads. From the 120-plus dads, many have reported learning:

  • What it means to be a father
  • How to better interact with their kids
  • How to work with the mother of their kids

It's important to mention that Father2Child's 24/7 Dad® class didn't start with 120 dads. Their first group meeting had just seven dads, and with each additional week, more men joined. In the end, that first group graduated a class of 15-20 dads! 

The first graduation ceremony as a platform to promote the next group. In three years, they grew their footprint such that 120 dads have since graduated from the program!

"The project is designed to improve fathering knowledge, 
fathering skills, and attitude towards fathering." 
—Andre Jones (Father2Child Project Coordinator)

Watch the video close and you'll find, Aaron Wooten (Father2Child Project Director), as he speaks to a graduating class of dads. Listen as he tells the newly-trained dads, "Andre and I, we work as guides, but the people that really move the process of change are the men (graduates) on this stage."

mental health america father2child san diego

What do the men cover in the program?
Howard Tayari (24/7 Dad® graduate) describes the 12-week program and points out, "it takes you through life skills, communication skills, parenting skills, behavior skills and it breaks down that barrier...allowing men to talk one on one with another man."

Howard is in the video as well. At the end he was asked how he would describe the program. He replies, "If I had to rate this program [24/7 Dad®], one word "priceless." It's absolutely priceless. I would say that every father, potential father and anyone thinking about being a father should be a part of this program."

I asked Daphyne, Aaron, and Andre a few more questions about leading the 24/7 Dad® program:

What's the toughest part of what you do with the men, as leaders? 
Recruiting men to attend the program is one of the biggest challenges. Andre pointed out what we know, men aren't typically great at saying, "I need help." Often, it's the opposite; we say, "I don't need help."

Aaron makes clear, "If they can ever get that dad to attend the first class, and understand that it's more that just a parenting class, more than just about learning to be a better dad, it's about becoming a better human." Then they have something.

Why do Aaron and Andre work with fathers?
When asked, Aaron said he was dedicated to fathers because he, "saw too many men meet their dads on a prison yard." And this is in fact true - there is an intergenerational cycle of incarceration among men.

Andre explained his motivation to work with fathers saying, "As men, we will hold other men accountable for all kinds of things from cars to clothes, but we don't hold each other accountable as dads."

Daphyne quickly pointed out the generational component she's seeing from the dads who attend, "Some are new dads, some men are raising grand kids, but there's a real connection and support, the program opens the process of healing."

What's one of their most memorable stories from the program? 
A retired police officer helped a young boy from being a criminal, to now the sheriff recently helped him get his driver's license. They add, "when you see a father say, 'this isn't about me, it's about my child,' that's a dad who gets it."

"When you see a father say,
'this isn't about me, it's about my child,'
that's a dad who gets it."

Andre and Aaron have seen men attend the classes who have never had a good example of a dad. Those same men have now learned how to be a to be a better man. 

How do you know you're making a difference?
Aaron and Andre point out that they, "are doing something that makes real-life change in people. We see it. And they keep coming back. So we know that it works!" 

Watch the video created by Father2Child. Be inspired to change fatherhood like Aaron, Andre, Daphyne, and these graduating dads. As you watch, remember that NFI can also help your organization to train dads by providing the tools you need to be effective in changing lives of children, fathers, and families.

24/7 dad getting started guide

Thinking of starting a fatherhood program?
Get our free guide to learn how to start and be successful.

24/7 Dad® Program is Connecting Father to Child in El Paso, Texas

In El Paso, Texas, Jose Camacho is one of around 25 fathers who are part of our 24/7 Dad® Program at the Child Crisis Center of El Paso.


The program has only been around since late February. "I've been learning how to treat my kids better," Camacho said.

Once a week, he spends two hours at the Child Crisis Center learning skills that he hopes will make him a better dad.

"We jumped at the chance and we were able to get the grant through the state. We got a $1.2 million grant for five years," said Russell Booth, a fatherhood effect educator.

The program centers around five main components:

  1. self awareness
  2. caring for self
  3. fathering skills
  4. parenting skills
  5. relationship skills

"So a lot of times it's more of a conversation that we have through the facilitators and the students. When it comes to learning how to discipline, learning about how to show love, learning about how to motivate a child," Booth said.

"There's a group of men that we all share, give little testimonies of our life as parents, how can we do better?," Camacho said. Watch the video from KFOX14 to learn more:

Can't view the video? Click here.

Speaking about teaching men who may have not had a father figure how they can be dads for their own children, Booth said, "Unfortunately, a lot of men today didn't have that role. So that's why this program is so awesome."

Booth points there are many challenges when it comes to being a dad. "It's something that's not really taught to you. You learn it through trial and error. And that's one of the hardest parts is trying to be a good dad and not really knowing about it."

Developed by fathering and parenting experts, our 24/7 Dad® Program focuses on the characteristics that men need to be involved fathers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. NFI is excited to see the El Paso, Texas area learn the fathering skills it needs from evidence-based community programming.

Celebrating 20 Years of Changing Fatherhood: Randall Gonzalez

2014 is a special year for NFI. It marks our 20th year of working to “change fatherhood” by ending father absence and connecting fathers to their children.

20 year fatherhood changes everything

To celebrate the fathers and families whose lives we’ve turned around, we launched this series of videos, blog posts, photographs, and stories to highlight how our work has strengthened fatherhood since 1994.

At NFI, we know that Fatherhood Changes Everything. From poverty, to crime, to school achievement, to child abuse—every issue we care about is affected by whether or not a child has an involved, responsible, and committed father.

When we connect a father to his child, heart to heart, lives change, communities change, and our entire nation is the better for it.

This video reveals how NFI’s programs affect an individual life. This is one story out of many.

Each video in this series was created from the book “Choosing Fatherhood: America’s Second Chance,” a photography book created by Lewis Kostiner. Lewis spent years going around the country, photographing dads who were going through NFI’s programs at community-based organizations in their neighborhoods. The result was a compelling photo book telling the stories of dads working hard to make their children’s lives better. 

Randall Gonzalez

In this video, we spotlight Randall Gonzalez, who attended an NFI workshop in his community to learn how to be a better dad. Read his words or listen to them on the video, they are a powerful if you take time to listen. Let Randall's words remind you that you are vital to your child's life.

Can't view the video? Click here.

"I tell my daughter from time to time, 'Remember, you can ask me anything you want. Even if I'm embarrassed, I'm still gonna answer you.' I remind her that I don't get embarrassed about my handicap. I'm trying to build a good rapport with her and talkig to her about trust. And I try to let her make as many decisions on her own as she can while she is young, so that she gets better at it when she is older. I am not going to expose her to everything. I am not going to hide things from her. I just want to make sure she is ready for life and ready to be happy. Another thing, I refuse to spank. My father spanked me. His father spanked him and on up the line, so I'm breaking the chain. It takes a little more time and a little bit more patience, but I think in the end it's going to be better for her." —Randall Gonzalez (San Antonio, Texas)

How have you changed fatherhood?


Justin Bieber's Missing Something

Former NFI President and now board member, Roland Warren, recently wrote an article in The Huffingon Post titled "The Hole in Justin Bieber's Soul" where he explains what he thinks is missing in Bieber's life...and what us dads can learn from it.

Warren recalls seeing the recent cover of Rolling Stone, which features the shirtless Justin Bieber with the caption, "Bad Boy -- Why Justin Bieber Just Won't Behave."

Upon opening the magazine to find "a series of disturbing pictures of Bieber," he found the following paragraph:

Late on a Monday night in mid-January a slightly stoned Justin Bieber leans back on a couch in a North Miami strip club's weed-scented VIP room, casually accepting lap dance after lap dance... More than once, Bieber pauses mid-grind to lean over and fist bump his dad, a hard-eyed 38-year-old who's always up for some family fun. Jeremy Bieber split with Justin's mom when Justin was a toddler, and wasn't around afterward. But, he has, as of late, accepted the place of honor in his superstar son's entourage. The position comes with perks: Jeremy, a tatted up former carpenter and pro-am mixed martial arts fighter, sips beer while enjoying the overflow from his 19-year-old son's parade of strippers.

justin bieber rolling stone article coverRoland points out that while he's not necessarily "in the 'Belieber' demographic," he has followed his rise from YouTube. Interestingly enough, Warren says of Beiber, "I was drawn to him and I soon found out why: Like me, he was a son who grew up without his father."

Mr. Warren doesn't mix words, writing: "I am a wounded soul and believe that Bieber is too. Why? Because a father's rejection is a deep, and often, unnoticed wound that can fester for years. I know mine did. Only someone who should love you deeply and unconditionally can hurt you deeply by rejecting you unconditionally."

Roland maps out his concerns about Bieber's growing celebrity, based on his decades of personal and professional experience of working with men affected by father absence. Two observations from Roland stand out to me. Warren says:

1) If Bieber had the kind of father who would leave him as a toddler, when Beiber was his most vulnerable, he had the kind of father who would seek to re-enter his life when Bieber was his most successful.

2) Bieber would probably let his father in—regardless how dysfunctional the relationship, and the objections of his mother.

Why did Roland make these two observations? Because as he points out, "there is a pull much stronger than the strongest mother's apron strings that beckons a son from boyhood to manhood. It's the pull of his father's 'presence,' even if his father is absent."

Roland understands from not only his own experience but from countless men he's worked with, that "A son has to make sense of his relationship with his father. He has to determine what it means to be a, a boy's destiny is linked to his father's history."

Roland doesn't just leave us with cultural commentary; no, he provides answers as to what we should do as a community given that Bieber isn't alone. Sure, Bieber's a celebrity, but when it comes to boys who grow up without their dads at home, Bieber has a lot of company.  

What are we to do with the "one out of three kids, two out of three in the African-American community, grow(ing) up in father-absent homes?" 

Roland offers insight into what must be done to "heal the wounds of these boys:"

1) We must acknowledge the wounds exists and their impact on a boy's life. As Roland sees too often, we don't acknowledge the issues. Instead, we act as though, "fathers don't matter."

2) We must acknowledge the link between fatherhood and healthy marriages, because research shows marriage is the best societal glue to connect fathers to their children.

Knowing this information, Roland distills the lessons for fathers like you and I in all of this. There are lessons for the dads reading here that may have abandon their child. But also, there are lessons for the dads reading this who are in the game.

These lessons are discussed thoroughly in the book titled, Bad Dads of the Bible: 8 Mistakes Every Good Dad Can Avoid. But for our purposes here, please understand that Jeremy Bieber certainly made a mistake by abandoning his son. But, don't miss the other lessons around this unfolding story. Justin's dad (Jeremy) "has committed other mistakes as well," as Roland writes:

You see, a good father doesn't exploit the hole in his son's wounded soul to enjoy the "overflow" of his son's reckless response to his father's absence. He is careful to be a healer, not an enabler of bad behavior. Moreover, a good father provides, nurtures and guides. He doesn't prey on his child's vulnerabilities and insecurities. After all, there is a long line of folks willing to do this, especially if you're Justin Bieber. You see, Justin Bieber doesn't need his father to be his lap dance pal or pot-smoking buddy. He needs Jeremy Bieber to be a good dad now. He needs his father to grow up, step up, and "daddy up" before it's too late. So, why won't Justin Bieber behave? Unfortunately, the sad answer is just a fist bump away.

Dad, use this story as a reminder, that you and I are just a few decisions away from missing something.

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