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The Father Factor

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Vincent DiCaro

Vince is NFI's Vice President of Communication and Development. He is married to Claudia, has one son with another son on the way and lives in Maryland.
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Recent Posts

Day 91: Attack of the Clichés! #P90X3Dads

Throughout this post, I am going to keep track of the number of clichés I use. It worked! (Cliché #1). That sums up my experience doing P90X3.

It was a tough “90” days. It took me over 100 to finish. We had a baby in the middle of it. I spent a day in the ER. I started teaching a class once per week. A lot has happened, but I finished. I kept hitting play just about every day, morning or night, whenever I could squeeze in 30 minutes. 

10256375_553395681443208_7548343725577734934_n

And the results show. You can see my before and after pictures here at the teambeachbody.com website (login required). I am leaner, more muscular, more flexible, stronger, and have less pain in my lower back and right hip (problem areas for me). 

“Real world” results? I had blood work done recently, and I am clear on all fronts. My 4-year-old son, who weighs about 40 pounds, feels a lot lighter. Playing with him has become easier and more fun! Our baby, who loves to be held and walked around the house, feels lighter, and the constant walking (around the house) is easier. I have more energy. 

Basically, all of the things you’ve heard about the benefits of exercising are happening with me right now. And I went from zero to where I am now in just 90 days. Amazing. 

What P90X3 has taught me is that there are no* excuses for being out of shape (Cliché #2). So it is worth repeating, over and over again. Beach Body has made this as “easy” (easy = excuse-free) as possible. Just 30 minutes a day. Just 90 days. Do it and it will change your life (Cliché #3).

Your kids deserve the best dad you can be (Cliché #4), and part of that is being healthy enough to engage in whatever activities it takes to be involved, and to stick around long enough to meet your grandchildren, and maybe even your great grandchildren. 

The reason I’ve used all these clichés is because they are simple, but not simplistic; and even though they sound “easy,” they are actually quite hard to follow. After all, if they were easy, everyone would be in great shape and be the world’s best dad.  

So, my final, simple, clichéd advice is this: just start hitting play

*Of course, if you have medical conditions that prevent you from exercising, then that is an excuse. 

Link to pics are here

What Dads Can Learn From the Santa Barbara Killing Spree

I’ve blogged many times over the years about the disturbing “father factor” I’ve seen in virtually every shooting spree or mass murder that has made the news. In nearly every case, the shooter grew up in a fatherless home. 

what dads can learn from santa barbara killing spreeFollowing in the wake of the D.C. sniper, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Tucson, Chardon High School, and the Norway terrorist, the Santa Barbara case in the news today appears to be no different: a murder spree carried out by a lonely, angry, disturbed young man with a troubling family background. 

At this stage, we don’t have a lot of detail about the “inner workings” of Elliot Rodger’s family life, but we do know that his parents divorced in 1999, and he, according to an article in The New York Times, seemed to be at odds with his family throughout his teenage years. And reports have shown that Rodger’s parents gave him lots of “things”: therapy, medicine, an expensive BMW. But did they give themselves? 

I am not suggesting that his family life caused his violent behavior, but it is becoming more and more clear as these horrific incidents occur that a family life defined by instability and turmoil is a significant factor that must be considered as we figure out how to make such incidents less common. 

But given Elliot Rodger’s clear hatred for women (and everyone else for that matter), there is another “father factor” that is important to consider here as well: the positive role that good dads can play in helping their daughters and sons navigate the world of dating. 

Rodger, in his last video before he carried out his murders, suggested that he was doing what he did due to being rejected too often by the women he desired. It is understandable that such an act could cause young women to fear what the consequences may be when they turn aside unwanted advances from young men. How can fathers help their daughters get their heads around this?

For starters, it is important to note that Rodger said in his video that he thought he would be rejected if he asked a woman out. This was a young man who felt rejected; he was seemingly never rejected by an actual woman. So, young women and their dads should take heart that Rodger’s actions were those of a severely disturbed individual, not the result of a run-of-the-mill rejection by an actual woman. 

That aside, it is the role of good dads to help their daughters find their prince without kissing all the toads.

Here is how dads can help:

  • Be there: First and foremost, a good father’s mere presence helps daughters see what a healthy relationship between a man and a woman (her parents) looks like. Good dads model that relationship for their girls, allowing them to start learning about healthy relationships from the very start of their lives. Good dads also build their daughters’ self esteem, as various studies have found. 
  • Be proactive: As their daughters get older, good dads play an active role in their decisions around dating. Dad and mom should call the shots on when their daughter starts to date; it is their call, not hers. They are in a better position than anyone else to determine if she is ready to date. 
  • Discourage “bad boys”: Once she does start dating, good dads help their daughters avoid guys who appear to need “fixing;” so-called bad boys. They are bad for a reason. Despite the allure, dating should not be therapy, where your daughter is the therapist and her boyfriend is the patient. 
  • Encourage group dating: Good dads encourage their daughters to spend their first months of dating going on group dates so that they, a) are rarely alone with guys, and b) have their friends around to help them “vet” guys. There is nothing like having your peers give you an objective evaluation of a guy who may be more trouble than he is worth. 
  • Avoid unknowns: Good dads discourage their daughters from dating guys they don’t know. If a guy and a girl are interested in dating each other and they don’t know each other (e.g., don’t go to the same school or church, etc.), then it is likely they simply want to date each other based on looks alone. This is probably not a good recipe for those earliest years of dating. 
  • Don’t obsess over dating: Good dads encourage their daughters to pursue lots of different interest in their teenage years. They help their daughters focus on academics, friends, sports, and other interests, so that dating (or not) doesn’t take over their lives.

So, when it comes to the question of how to “safely reject” a guy, it can be as simple as following the same basic rules you follow in all other human interactions. Be respectful. Don’t humiliate people. And, if dads are following the above steps, it is likely that their daughters are confident, assertive young women who are surrounded by good friends and supportive parents. These are notoriously good insulators against violence. 

Finally, it is critical that dads work with their sons to help them navigate the world of dating, too. It is clear that Elliot Rodger had no idea how to interact with members of the opposite sex. Good dads ensure that their sons are confident, respectful, and hold the best interests of others above their own. They teach their sons that girls are worthy of love, not lust, and model this behavior in their own lives.

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. As someone who works in “fatherhood,” it would seem I see fatherhood everywhere in the case of the Santa Barbara murders. But it appears that in every aspect of this horrible incident, there are lessons good dads can take away to ensure that they are raising sons and daughters who will be less likely to be the perpetrators or victims of such crimes. 

We dads certainly can’t control everything, but we can give our children what they need the most: ourselves.

What's one thing you're teaching your son or daughter about dating?

Victory Weak? #p90x3dads

I am in Victory Week of P90X3. But, right now, it doesn’t feel like much of a victory. I don’t feel as…STRONG as I’d like. It’s more like Victory Weak (get it?). Here’s why (I think): 

beach body p90x3I tend to set pretty high standards for myself, so when I don’t do things perfectly, I can be self-critical. Through the first five weeks of P90X3, I was on fire. I worked out every day, according to the plan. 

But then we had a baby. As I detailed in this post, I missed about 8 workouts over a three-week span after my son’s birth. I laid out a plan in that post, wherein I would “catch up” after those rough few weeks and get the program done on time. Unfortunately, that hasn’t quite worked out as planned. I never really “recovered” from the interruption to the plan, wrought my having a newborn and then spending time in the ER with gastritis. 

My rough calculations are that despite having skipped a week’s worth of workouts, I am still ending the program a week later than I was supposed to. That means that I essentially “skipped” two weeks worth of workouts over a 104-day span.

I guess it is P100-something-X3.

But before I start to feel sorry for myself, here is the good news. This thing works! Without a doubt, I am stronger, leaner, and in better shape than I was when I started. And here is the even better news – now that my wife is ready to exercise again, we are going to do the program together, from the beginning, starting this weekend.

The Beach Body folks have truly created something remarkable – a program that is undoubtedly difficult and transformative, but that is attainable enough so that you want to do it again…and again!

So, I have three workouts left in my Victory Week, and then I will post my Day 90 photos. You will see a huge difference from my Day 1 photos. But I will still be a bit disappointed in my lack of discipline to keep the 90 (days) in P90X3. But, hey, that is what second chances are for, right? I am excited about doing this crazy thing all over again with my wife, and I am confident that with adding her discipline to the mix, we will come much closer to finishing the program in the 90-day timeframe.

In other words, my Day 180 pictures are going to be awesome.

What difficulties have you faced when trying to start or continue a good habit? How have you overcome them?

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. Use #P90X3Dads on social to win a free base kit of the P90X3 program, provided by the generous folks at BeachBody.

Putting P90X3 to the Test (#P90X3Dads)

Whew! The last 21 days have been crazy. On April 4, my wife gave birth to our second son, Gabriel Luke DiCaro, who weighed in at 7 lbs, 14 ounces and 21-¼ inches long. We are of course overjoyed (and tired) about the birth of our angel Gabriel… Hey, that has a nice ring to it!

Thanks to my fatherhood-oriented employer (ahem), I was able to take two weeks of paternity leave from April 7th through the 18th. This time was extremely helpful in allowing me to help my wife, bond with my new son, and, importantly, make sure my first son, 4-year-old Vinny, was getting the love and attention he needs, too. The wonders of paternity leave… more on that in another blog post. 

p90x3 tony hortonBut a slight curve ball was thrown at all of this last Thursday (the 17th) when I started experiencing horrible pains in my stomach. These were not routine stomach ache pains, but brutal, stabbing pains that I never had before. Thankfully, my parents were visiting and my dad was able to take me to the emergency room while my mom stayed home with my wife and kids. 

Five hours and a morphine drip later, I was sent home from the hospital with a diagnosis of acute gastritis, likely caused by my zealous consumption of milk, my lack of sleep, and the fact that I was taking flu medicine to deal with some annoying symptoms the night before (coughing, headaches, runny nose, etc).

I tell you all of this because I am supposed to be in the middle of one of the most intense workout routines on the planet, P90X3. As we’ve blogged about several times, Ryan Sanders and I, along with our friends at Dads Matter and Life of Dad, have taken on the challenge of P90X3 to show that busy dads can find the time to workout and transform their bodies and their health. We’ve called it our #P90X3Dads campaign. 

So, the real question is, “Has P90X3 passed some serious, real world tests?” The answer is mostly “yes.” 

For the first 13 days of my son’s life, I only missed 4 workouts, and made up for one of those by skipping my “rest” day and moving right on to the next week’s workouts. To me, this is amazing. They’ve been able to design a routine that you are inspired to do, even when you have so little time, and, in my case, so little sleep. Again, it is the magic of the fact that each workout is only 30 minutes long (2% of your day!). You have the idea in your head that it’s going to be over so quickly, so I may as well just do it! And it works!

Unfortunately, the gastritis situation was a bit too much to handle, and I did miss 4 straight days of working out (Thursday through Easter Sunday). But I am right back on it, having worked out Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. And I have a plan to completely catch up and actually finish the entire program in the 90 days that it was designed to be completed in. I am supposed to start a “transition week” on Friday; it is an “easier” week designed to ease you into the next block of intense workouts. I’m going to skip the transition week. I think I’ve had enough rest over the last week having missed 4 workouts, so I'm going to jump into the next block on Friday. That will put me right back on schedule.

I am truly excited about this, because the gains I was seeing (loss of body fat, increased strength and endurance) were really getting me excited, and I am eager to get back on track so that my day 60 photos will be as impressive as possible.

So, long story short (too late!), if a dad like me, with a newborn and a shaky stomach, can still find time to workout, so can you!

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. Use #P90X3Dads to be eligible to win a free copy of the P90X3 program.

Mid-Program Doldrums #P90X3Dads

Let me start by saying I love P90X3. I am on day 35, and I am seeing real results.

I posted my Day 30 pics here (note: You have to have a free registration with teambeachbody.com to view the message boards and photos).

p90x3 imageHowever, I have to admit I am in those mid-program doldrums right now. When I first started the 90-day program, the novelty and excitement of doing something new sustained me for the first 3 weeks.

Then week 4 came, and it is considered a “transition week” to move you from one set of workouts to a new set, or block, of workouts. I have just finished that first week of the new workouts and I feel as though I am behind where I was at the end of week 3.

Now, my mind is telling me that this is how it is “supposed” to work. The whole magic of the P90X philosophy is that your body is never allowed to get used to one set of movements, because once you are comfortable doing an exercise, it is no longer having as much of an impact on your fitness. So, the fact that I feel “tired” this week means it is actually working – my body is going through another “shock” due to the new movements I am doing.

So, I have to be patient. In two weeks, when I’m done with this second block, I should be ahead of where I was at the end of week 3. Should. I hope!

The beauty of this struggle that I’m having is one of the reasons I think people love exercise and sports. Pushing yourself physically forces you to become mentally tougher. The challenges you put your body through translate into mental challenges, too. And when you work through them, you feel energized, refreshed, and more confident.

But darn it, it takes patience. Much like fathering, actually! You can spend months teaching your child something, and you don’t see any progress. But then, suddenly, it clicks. This happens all the time with my 4-year-old son. Things are often sudden, not gradual, with him. He goes from not knowing anything about a certain skill, to knowing everything about it seemingly overnight; but it was really the efforts over the past several months – teaching, repeating, modeling, reinforcing – that led to the apparent “overnight” epiphany.

I am hoping to have a Day 60 epiphany with P90X. When I take those Day 60 photos, I am hopeful (very confident in fact) that I will see a “sudden” transformation as a result of the patience and persistence required to make a real change in your life.

As they say in P90X land, just keep pushing play!! Great advice for dads, too…

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 the hashtag #P90X3Dads to be eligible to win a free copy of the P90X3 program.

 

Do What I Do, Not What I Say #P90X3Dads

Whenever you think people are exaggerating about how children are always watching you, just hang out with a child for a few hours. 

man_doing_chin_upsThanks to God, I get to hang out with my son for more than just a few hours, so I get to see first hand on a daily basis just how great he is at imitating me and my wife. 

Never had this been so obvious until this past weekend, when I was doing one of my P90X3 workouts. As we’ve written about extensively here at NFI, a dad’s health is intimately and intricately linked to the health of his children on a number of levels. It is critical that dads model healthy behavior for their kids, because if they don’t, chances are they won’t learn those healthy behaviors, even from mom!* 

So, Sunday morning, I headed into the basement to do my Day 11 workout for P90X3, the aptly named, “The Challenge.” The thing that puts the “challenge” in The Challenge is that it is 30 straight minutes of alternating pull-ups and pushups of various kinds, without any real breaks. You pick two numbers at the start – the number of pushups and the number of pull-ups you think you can do – and then stick to those numbers for the ENTIRE workout. Wow.

During week one, I picked 4 pull-ups and 10 pushups. By the end of the workout, I was barely doing the 4 pull-ups and could only do 5 pushups.

But on Sunday, I felt great! I started off thinking I would do 4 and 10 again, but by the middle of the workout it was clear that I could do more, so I increased to 5 and 12. Somewhere during that time, my 4-year-old son came downstairs to observe why I was making such a racket – yes, I was yelling to force myself to crank out that last pull-up or pushup in each set. 

My son immediately (and hilariously, I might add) started mimicking exactly what I was doing, down to the funny “workout sounds” I was making, to being out of breath (even though he really wasn’t out of breath), to needing a drink of water after each (of my) sets, and even pretending he was writing down how many reps he did, just like I was doing.

Talk about an eye-opener! Not only did he want to workout, he wanted to workout exactly like I was working out, down to the smallest detail. If he is that attuned to the little nuances of a workout routine, think about what he is attuned to on a daily basis when my wife and I are just going about our business. Every facial expression, every change in tone of voice – they all must register with him.

I am so grateful I got this stark reminder from my son that he is watching our every move.

First, I am grateful that he sees me working hard to be healthy.

Second, I am grateful that I am reminded that every aspect of my life is under scrutiny, but in the best way possible.

My boy is looking for guidance – and where else is he going to get it? I certainly don't want our culture – which is usually more interested in the profane than the profound – to model proper behavior for him.

So, I will continue to do my best to be a well-rounded person for him. In this case, I am pumped (no pun intended) to be a #P90X3Dad! With his health issues – Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease – it is even more critical that he learns healthy habits right from the start.

P90X3, at least right now, is making that possible and fun for me to do. I can’t wait until my next workout (today is my day off!), so that I can watch my son watch me. It is the best workout motivator I’ve ever had.

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 the hashtag #P90X3Dads to be eligible to win a free copy of the P90X3 program.

*Sources: 

Wake, M., Nicholson, J.M., Hardy, P., & Smith, K. (2007). Preschooler obesity and parenting styles of mothers and fathers: Australian national population study, Pediatrics, 12, 1520-1527.

Figueroa-Colon R, Arani RB, Goran MI, Weinsier RL. “Paternal body fat is a longitudinal predictor of changes in body fat in premenarcheal girls.” Department of Pediatrics, General Clinical Research Center, Medical Statistics Unit, Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Trost SG, Kerr LM, Ward DS, Pate RR. “Physical activity and determinants of physical activity in obese and non-obese children. School of Human Movement Studies, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia. 

Fogelholm M, Nuutinen O, Pasanen M, Myohanen E, Saatela T. “Parent-child relationship of physical activity patterns and obesity.” University of Helsinki, Lahti Research and Training Centre, Finland.

 

Family Structure Can Be a Life or Death Matter

A little over a year ago, I wrote on this blog about how the Sandy Hook shooting may have been another crime of fatherlessness.


In a recent interview in The New Yorker about the shootings, Peter Lanza, the father of shooter Adam Lanza, makes remarks that confirm our worst fears about Adam’s life and the sad reality facing far too many of our nation’s children.

The part of the story that struck me the most was this:

Peter hadn’t seen his son for two years at the time of the Sandy Hook killings, and, even with hindsight, he doesn’t think that the catastrophe could have been predicted. But he constantly thinks about what he could have done differently and wishes he had pushed harder to see Adam. “Any variation on what I did and how my relationship was had to be good, because no outcome could be worse,” he said. Another time, he said, “You can’t get any more evil,” and added, “How much do I beat up on myself about the fact that he’s my son? A lot.” (emphasis mine)

At a time when forces in our culture are trying to discount the importance of family structure for the well being of children, Lanza’s remarks are another tragic but important reminder of the unfortunate reality facing children in father-absent homes: they usually have limited or no contact with their dads.

new yorker image

The fact that Peter -- who had divorced Adam’s mother, moved out, and remarried in 2009 -- had not seen his son in two years should not be a surprise to anyone familiar with the research on father absence. That research tells us that one-third of children in father-absent homes have not had any contact with their dads in the last year, and another third have contact once per month or less.

Why does it work out this way? Human nature, and the nature of how men think about family. Men tend to think of their families as a “package” – the wife and kids. What is the age-old question that every guy asks every other guy? “How are the wife and kids?” So, when a father’s relationship with his wife fails, his relationship with his children too often fails with it, especially when he starts another family – a new “package” – elsewhere, just like Peter Lanza did.

There were no legal barriers preventing Peter Lanza from being involved in his son’s life, yet he chose not to be involved. And again, the research confirms that fathers not living in the same homes as their children become distant and disconnected over time.

But despite the evidence, there are too many powerful forces in our country running away from the data on the importance of family structure. “Family revisionists” want to convince us that “any family structure will do” when it comes to raising children. This is insane – it doesn’t square with ANY research I’ve ever seen and doesn’t jibe with that we know about human nature.

When will we learn? It seems even when yet another boy from a fatherless home strikes out in rage and murders people, we still aren’t jarred enough to focus our energy on strengthening two-parent families, marriage, and father involvement. I am always mesmerized by how we are so willing to settle for second best when it comes to our children’s well being, especially when decades of research have made it clear what the best actually is – for a child to be raised by his/her married, biological (or adoptive) parents.

Of course there are exceptions to the rule. Not every child raised in a single-parent home becomes a murderer or drops out of school. But that doesn’t mean we can ignore the research.

Here’s an analogy to make it clearer.

We have tons of data on the harmful effects of smoking. We know that, on average, people who smoke are at greater risk for heart disease and certain forms of cancer. However, not everyone who smokes dies from smoking, and you probably know someone who smoked his whole life and lived to a ripe old age! So, does that mean we should ignore the research on smoking and conclude that, because of the exceptions, that smoking is not unhealthy.

Of course not.

So, why should it be any different with the data on family structure? Sure, there are always exceptions to every rule, but it does not make three plus decades of social science research disappear. Even more, we now have good evidence that father absence causes the problems it’s associated with, such as poverty and crime.

In other words, father absence is not just correlated with problems for children – it is a cause of those problems.

In short, family structure, on average, is the single most powerful predictor of the quality and quantity of a father’s involvement in his children’s lives. If we think father involvement is important, we have to pay attention to family structure. Period.

Adam Lanza’s case may have been extreme, but our nation’s prisons are filled with boys – and increasingly girls – who grew up in fatherless homes. So, the next time you are tempted to discount the critical role that family structure plays in determining the level and quality of a father’s involvement with his children, take a look at the research, think about smoking, and do whatever you can in your life to celebrate and encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families and strong marriages. 

After all, our children deserve the best, don’t they?

I Don’t Exercise for Myself #P90X3Dads

I think if I were single and childless, I would rarely exercise. That sort of attitude, based on what I’ve seen in research, is probably pretty common among men; researchers have found that unmarried men are less healthy than married ones.

Now that I'm 36, I get it; my wife and my son inspire me to take care of myself. Without them, the enormous amount of motivation it takes to work out regularly would be gone.

1491652_487832177999559_937538906_aBut now that I’m married with one son and our second child due any day now, I have the incentive I need to live to a ripe old age.

But do I have the time? For the last four years, I’ve pretty much convinced myself that I don’t.

It is incredibly easy to come up with excuses to not work out. After all, what is more important: spending time with your child or going to the gym or isolating yourself in the basement to get a good workout done?

Fortunately, the folks at Beach Body, led by the incomparable Tony Horton, have “officially retired” that excuse. They’ve done it with the brand new P90X3. 

When I heard about P90X3, I was immediately interested in it because of the very simple and compelling premise that each workout in the 90-day regimen is only 30 minutes long. They call it “muscle acceleration.” 

My wife and I completed the original P90X program right after our first son was born in January of 2010. We LOVED it, and we both got amazing results. I lost 13 pounds and got much stronger and more defined. But the workouts were long; about an hour each, some of them even longer. 

We were able to do it because infants take lots of naps. But toddlers don’t. So, once our son grew up and became a child who always wants mommy’s and daddy’s attention, I pulled the old “I don’t have time to work out” excuse off the shelf.

So, for the last three-plus years, my only work outs have been 15-minute ones, twice a week, where I’d do some squats, pull ups, bench press, and a few other things here and there just to make sure I don’t get completely out of shape. But, as you can guess, it isn’t really working…

Enter P90X3.

The good people at Beach Body – the makers of P90X – have generously donated two copies of the program to the two dad bloggers here at NFI – myself and Ryan Sanders. Ryan and I have just begun the program, and we will document our journey right here on The Father Factor. Two other blogs also received copies of the program – Life of Dad and Dads Matter. Their bloggers will be sharing in this journey, too. 

We are all doing this because we want to be involved, active fathers in the lives of our children and wives for a long, long time. I am doing this because it is inexcusable for me to say, “I can’t spare 30 minutes for 90 days to change my life and change the legacy I leave for my children.”

I am pumped, no pun intended. As I write this, I have just completed the first week of the program. It absolutely kicked my butt in the best possible way. My chest is still sore from The Challenger work out I did on Sunday. But I haven’t felt this good or this confident in years.

We want you to get that same feeling. That’s why we are giving away two free copies of P90X3!

Again, the generous folks at Beach Body have given us two additional copies to give out as prizes. We want to use these as motivation for you to start your own exercise routine, and to tell us about it (on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or the blog comments) using the hashtag #P90X3Dads.

In about a week, we will pick someone at random to win the first free copy, so that he/she can join us as we complete the program. Then, we will do the same at the end of the 90 days for another lucky winner. 

As for me and Ryan, every few weeks we will provide updates here on The Father Factor about how things are going. It is going to get interesting for me. Our second child will be born when I am about a month into the program. The 30-minutes per day philosophy will really be put to the test then. Will I be able to stick with it and still care for my wife, newborn, and pre-schooler? We shall see…

For now, here are my Day 1 photos. I am hoping that on Day 90 I have a smaller stomach, more muscle, and better cardiovascular health. 

 

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: who do you exercise for?

 

Coverage of Celebrity Deaths Always Misses the Mark

As a lover of movies and good acting, I am saddened by the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died this past weekend from an apparent drug overdose in his apartment in Manhattan.  

philip seymour hoffman with his kids

[image: ABCNEWS]

I was particularly fond of his turns in Doubt, The Master, and Punch-Drunk Love.  

But despite my admiration for him as an artist, I can’t help but feel sickened by the tragedy many celebrities seem to leave in their wakes when they die unexpectedly like Hoffman just did. And the tragedy is only deepened by what is almost always very shallow media coverage of their deaths, which is typically characterized by overly sentimental “worship” of the deceased while ignoring what their selfish choices meant to their families.  

Hoffman was the father of three elementary school-aged children. Despite what a fine actor he was, his children are going to grow up without their dad.  

As a father, I have to ask myself what would drive me to essentially kill myself when I have my children to take care of. Sadly, it does not seem as though his kids gave his life the purpose he needed to carry on. Indeed, the story of his death provides an even more depressing insight into his passing, perhaps a microcosm of a larger issue that may be revealed as time passes. According to CNN.com, Hoffman was last seen alive at 8 p.m. on Saturday. He was expected to get his children on Sunday, but didn't show up. In other words, he overdosed the night before he was to go pick up his children.  

But even though it is clear that the greatest victims here are those precious children, not the movie-going public, his colleagues appear to be solely focused on the fact that a great artist, not a dad of three, has left us. Here are some tweets from other celebrities reacting to his passing:  

  • One of the greatest, kindest actors who ever lived.  
  • Phil was an irreplaceable force in American theater. His work & passion & intelligence & dedication were unmatched. It's just devastating.  
  • We lost one of the greats today. Philip Seymour Hoffman RIP my friend. You will be missed always and forever.  
  • Oh no no no. Not PSH. We needed so much more from him. What a talent. RIP.  
  • Words seem inadequate to express the sadness I'm feeling about the loss of an acting genius and friend. Rest in peace Philip Seymour Hoffman  
  • My heart is broken, my mind is racing. My idol has died and I am so confused and sad by this tragic loss. RIP  

Unlike his fellow actors and entertainers, I don’t mourn the fact that we lost a great actor, or that there will no longer be any great films starring him. I mourn three children whose father is now dead. Three children who can’t be tucked in at night by even the most perfectly-portrayed character in a movie. His Oscar statue can’t say, “I love you,” those three magic words that every child needs and deserves to hear from their dad.  

And the elephant in the room is that, at the end of the day, Hoffman’s own choices led to his death. Addiction is a horrible thing, but to suggest that the addict is not responsible for his own fate is patronizing. As someone close to me who was also an addict told me over the weekend, “we [addicts] are each responsible for our sobriety, and when you’ve been sober for a while (like Hofffman was) you know what you are doing when you choose to pick up again.” The needle and the damage done indeed.  

I feel terribly for Mr. Hoffman – it is clear he suffered greatly. But now his children will suffer without their dad, who, by all accounts was a genuinely nice guy, but made choices that took him away from his kids far too early. And I hope that as time passes, his children are given their due by a culture that seems to only want to talk about how “amazing” their dad was.

The “Tale of Two Fathers” Confirmed by New Study

I am having a hard time deciding how to respond to this report from the Associated Press on a new survey of fathers.

dad feeding baby bottle

One the one-hand, I am encouraged by the positive spin put on the survey’s results, as reflected in the headline, “Dads Do Diapers and More, Myth-Busting Survey Says.” Indeed, the nationally representative survey of American fathers shows they are more involved in their children’s lives than they were in 2002. Moreover, the report points out the many positive effects this increased involvement has on child well-being. 

Specifically, the AP report says:

The results are encouraging and important "because others have found the more involved dads are, the better the outcomes for their children," said researcher Jo Jones of the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control Prevention. She co-authored the report released Friday.

However, a part of me is discouraged by what I see as a glossing over of the elephant in the room. The story goes on to explain how “most” of the survey’s respondents lived with their kids. Ding, ding, ding! The alarm bells sounded in my head. I knew it was too good to be true. So, what are things like for the 24 million children who DON’T live in the same homes as their dads? Well, the AP report points out that, “Not surprisingly, men who didn't [live with their kids] were less involved with parenting activities.”

Right – that is not surprising. But the next line did surprise and disappoint me: “Even so, several times weekly, at least 1 in 5 still managed to help bathe, diaper, dress, eat or play with their kids.” I understand putting a positive spin on the news about dads who live with their kids. But to put a positive spin on that? In other words, 80 percent of dads who don’t live with their kids are NOT doing these things regularly.

This is not encouraging news for the state of fatherhood in America, and reflects the theme that NFI has been driving home for at least a decade – that it is the best of times and the worst of times for fatherhood in America. Essentially, this new survey does not tell us anything we don’t generally know already – fathers who live in the same homes as their children are more involved than ever, but there are also record numbers of children living in father-absent homes, and they generally have very limited contact with their fathers.

Putting the AP’s spin aside, this survey is why NFI is doing the work we are doing – providing community-based organizations around the country (such as military bases, prisons, Head Starts, etc), with the tools and training they need to help fathers connect with their children, regardless of their living arrangements. Moreover, we work to engage the culture around the importance of fathers in children’s lives so that we can start to rebuild a “culture of responsible fatherhood” that values the irreplaceable contributions fathers make to child well-being.

What do you think of the new survey’s results? Were you surprised by them?

image: iStockPhoto

When “Inclusion” Results in a Total Lack of Fairness for Dads

Words like empowerment and inclusion get thrown around a lot today. But do we really know what they mean? Do these principles in fact have any intrinsic value, or are they just the flavors of the week?

The problem with attributing value to ambiguous concepts like “empowerment” (which Daniel Pink defines as “a slightly more civilized form of control”) is that when you run into conflicts, there is no real standard by which to resolve those conflicts. This post-modern dilemma is playing itself out in a big, public way over at Time Warner, where CNN (a Time Warner company) journalist Joshua Levs has filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charge against his employer. 

Joshua and his wife just welcomed their third child into the world, and when he went to his employer seeking the 10 weeks of paid leave that new parents get, he found out that all new parents except biological fathers are entitled to this time off. You read that right – every kind of new parent working for Time Warner is entitled to 10 weeks of paid leave, except biological fathers. Adoptive mothers and fathers, biological mothers, and all mothers and fathers whose children were born through surrogacy; they all get 10 weeks of paid leave. But if you are in Joshua’s shoes, where his own wife gave birth to his own child, he only gets two weeks.

Time Warner, in its efforts to be “inclusive,” and to “empower” new parents with a policy of “equality” has created a situation that exposes a much more serious problem – it is completely unfair. Moreover, in Joshua’s view, given his EEOC charge, it is discriminatory.

While we at NFI do not know all of the legal details about the EEOC charge, we can say that we agree with Joshua Levs. His company is clearly treating him unfairly. And from a broader “fatherhood perspective,” Time Warner’s actions are symptomatic of much a deeper cultural issue that has been plaguing our culture for decades, the devaluing of fatherhood and marriage.

It seems every group has a movement or a program behind it, except married, biological fathers. Guys like me, who have sacrificed much to get and stay married to the mothers of our children, seem to be the ones who get the least support in the public square. We are the “suckers” who seemingly made the mistake of setting aside our own interests by going home every night to our wife and children so that we can be there for them for life.

We hear it all the time at NFI, but one of the most common refrains I hear is that “you don’t have to be married to your children’s mother to be a good dad!” Well, sure; most of our community-based programs help unmarried fathers connect to their kids. But the reason every civilization across all of world history has created the institution of marriage is because it enables men to be the best dads they can be. Since when are we so comfortable with settling for second best when it comes to our children? Have we lowered our standards that much?

As for Mr. Levs’ situation, one can’t help but be befuddled by the hubris of Time Warner to create and then enforce such a policy. In Mr. Levs’ own words, in his public statement about the situation, he said, “The company gave no explanation in rejecting my request last week, saying only that it was ‘unable’ to grant it. That’s obviously false. Time Warner is able to, but chose not to. The moment it did that, this issue stopped being a possible oversight that the company could have resolved quietly. It became an active, deliberate decision to discriminate.”

I am at a loss to figure out why Time Warner would do this, other than to go back to our mass cultural confusion, where we value too many other things more highly than the importance of father involvement.

But that only explains part of it. Other fathers at Time Warner are not getting the same lousy treatment as Joshua. So, could something more sinister be at work here?

For one thing, Time Warner’s policy is not actually about child well being. In Joshua’s statement, he mentions that certain forms of discrimination are legal because they are directed at groups that are not “protected classes.” Apparently, children are not a protected class, because if improving child well being was the purpose of Time Warner’s policies, they would extend the most generous policies, or at least the same ones, to the types of parents who are most likely to have children -- biological parents. Despite “advances,” the vast majority of children are still brought into the world as a result of a man and woman having sex with each other. So, Time Warner’s “inclusive” policy only touches a small minority of new parents.

Furthermore, as I mentioned above, our culture has gone out of its way to devalue married fatherhood for decades. Time Warner’s actions sound like yet another attempt to move our culture away from tradition and towards some new way of doing things. I am not sure what that “new way” is, but decades of social science research indicate that it is probably a bad idea, because children living with their two, married, biological parents do better across every measure of child well being than children in any other family structure. Shouldn’t that, therefore, be the structure that we encourage and promote? Wouldn’t that be fair to our nation’s children?

But there is the problem! It is not fairness we actually care about. We care more about ethereal concepts like “inclusion” and “empowerment,” which change with our culture’s whims. It is not even child well being we really care about; it is making sure “protected classes” are kept happy.

We at NFI hope Joshua Levs, and all of the biological fathers at Time Warner, get what is coming to them, which is simply what every other type of parent gets. And, furthermore, we are hopeful that Joshua’s actions resonate throughout our culture so that fathers all over the country get the same truly fair treatment they deserve, and more importantly, that their children deserve.

The good news is that much of the response to Mr. Levs’ charge has been positive. You can help the cause simply by making supportive comments right here on this blog, on NFI’s Facebook page, or by visiting Mr. Levs’ Facebook or Twitter page and voicing your support for him.

The PURPLE Crying Game [Infographic]

Now that I am going to become a new dad for the second time, I have been reflecting a little bit more on what it means to be a good dad. I have this feeling that when you have more than one child, then you are really a dad… As if just having one doesn't count yet.  

cryingbaby

So, I have been readin’ up on some new dad skills that I will have to re-employ come April (it’s been 3 years since my first son was an infant!), and I found some very helpful guidelines about crying. No, not my crying, the baby’s crying. Hey, that gives me an idea – I should write a guide about how to stop parents from crying during the toddler years.  

Anyway, have you ever heard of PURPLE crying? I hadn’t until I cracked open, once again, one of NFI’s Doctor Dad® fathering handbooks. PURPLE is a nice acronym to help you understand the types and times of non-stop crying in infants – the kind that is most frustrating and difficult for parents to deal with.  

P – Peak pattern (crying peaks at around 2 months, then lessens)

U – Unpredictable (crying for long periods can come and go for no reason)

R – Resistant to soothing (the baby may keep crying for long periods)

P – Pain-like look on face

L – Long bouts of crying (crying can go on for hours)

E – Evening crying (baby cries more in the afternoon and evening)*  

Then, of course, there is just routine crying, like when baby is hungry.  

So, how to respond to all these kinds of crying!? First and foremost, babies cry because they need something. Sounds simple, but in the heat of the moment, it is easy to think your baby is crying for no reason, or worse, just to personally annoy you! But once you accept that there is an actual reason for the crying, you can proceed productively.  

Enter the “Crying Baby Flowchart”!

This incredibly helpful diagram takes you through a step-by-step process to determine why your baby is crying and how you can help stop the crying. It comes complete with illustrations and clear instructions to make your new dad life much easier.

Finally, I would be remiss to not mention that you should never shake a baby for any reason. If things are getting way too frustrating, and no one else is around to come in for relief, make sure your baby is safe and then just walk away. Go in the next room. Sit down. Have a cold drink. Your baby is not going anywhere. When your blood pressure has come down a bit, head back in and give things another shot.  

So, do you have any great ideas on how to stop a baby from crying? What worked best for you?

*Learn more about the PURPLE crying program from the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome

InsideOut Dad® Designation on National Registry of Evidence-based Programs & Practices

We're excited to announce NFI's InsideOut Dad® is now included in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP).

NREPP SAMHSA Logo

This designation lends further credibility to the curriculum, the only evidence-based program designed specifically for incarcerated fathers.

According to Christopher Brown, president of NFI, “InsideOut Dad’s inclusion on the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices is yet another powerful testimony to the effectiveness of this program in changing the lives of incarcerated fathers and their children. This listing further confirms the evidence, both statistically and from the stories we’ve gathered over the years, that InsideOut Dad® has the power to transform lives and connect fathers, heart to heart, with their kids.”

InsideOut Dad® was found to be evidence-based in 2011 as a result of an evaluation conducted by Rutgers University-Newark’s School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA), qualifying it as the first evidence-based program designed specifically for working with inmate fathers.

Specifically, SPAA’s study compared the effects of the InsideOut Dad® program on more than 300 incarcerated fathers who participated in the program (intervention group) to incarcerated fathers who did not participate in it (control group). Through the quantitative data collected, the researchers found statistically significant changes across confidence, knowledge, behavior, and attitude variables in the intervention group compared to the control group.

The researchers also conducted interviews with program facilitators. This qualitative data indicated that several of the practical issues that emerged in previous evaluations of other parenting programs for incarcerated parents did not become a problem, such as staff turnover, poor coordination, interruptions during class, a lack of respect, and comprehension difficulties.

Based on the above findings of SPAA’s rigorous study, InsideOut Dad® then met NREPP's minimum requirements for review and has been independently assessed and rated for Quality of Research and Readiness for Dissemination, resulting in its listing on the registry.

InsideOut Dad’s listing on the registry is an important iteration in a growing body of research that suggests that a key to reducing recidivism is ensuring that inmates have strong family connections.

InsideOut Dad in Richmond JailInsideOut Dad® is currently being used in over 400 correctional facilities across the country and has been named a standardized program by 26 state departments of corrections. It is also used by many community-based organizations as a re-entry or transitional program to help reintegrate ex-offenders back into their communities, often used in conjunction with NFI’s 24/7 Dad® program, job training programs, and other helpful interventions (e.g. substance abuse treatment).

InsideOut Dad’s NREPP entry can be viewed here.

Prisons, jails, facilitators, and others can learn more about using InsideOut Dad® here

Photo credit: Daniel Sangjib Min/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2013.

Hoping for “Style Points” With Baby #2

My wife and I are expecting our second child in April! Woo hoo! But…  

stork

Yes, there is a “but.” For some reason, I am more nervous about child #2 than I was about the first, who is almost 4 years old. Maybe it was the sheer excitement and novelty of a first child that overshadowed any fears or anxiety I may have had. I knew everyone would be stepping in to help. But now that my wife and I are “old hands” at this parenting thing, we won’t need any help with the second child, right?

Part of my anxiety about the coming baby could also stem from the fact that our first son, God bless him, was a VERY difficult baby. He cried all the time. He always had ear infections. He didn’t poop regularly. The list goes on.  

We love our son to death. He is a wonderful, funny, beautiful child. But he was a pain in the neck. And he still is VERY emotional.  

So, as April approaches, I am selfishly hoping for an “easy” baby. I know this wish will come back to haunt me. I am going to have the most difficult child ever. Therefore, it is best that I am prepared, and I understand baby “styles.”  

So, I cracked open a copy of NFI’s Doctor Dad™ Well Child Father’s Handbook, and turned to the page on “Temperament (Style).”  

Here is what I learned.  

It is important to know your baby’s temperament, because it is often a blueprint for what their personality will be for their whole life. I have seen this with our first son – he is very much the same child he was from day 1, just a more mature version.  

Knowing your child’s style will help you temper your expectations and avoid getting frustrated by their behavior. If you know you have a difficult child, when they act difficult it is a little easier to swallow. If you have an easy-going child and he is acting up, it could be an indication that he is getting sick, for example.  

So, here are the three main “styles” of babies:  

The Easy Child

  • This child can easily handle change, in both people and places.
  • This child is biological regular. He eats, pees, and poops on a regular schedule and without much fuss.
  • This child’s intensity level is mostly moderate. She doesn't need much to entertain or comfort her.

The Difficult Child

  • This child is the reverse of the easy baby. This child is “strong willed.”
  • This child finds change difficult and is biologically irregular. She eat, drinks, sleeps, pees, and poops whenever she does or doesn’t want to.
The “Slow to Warm Up” Child
  • This child is shy and is slow to warm up and adapt to change.
  • This child usually cries when faced with change, but the intensity is low and you can calm this child.  

My first son was indeed the difficult baby. Can the stork please deliver an easy one in April?  

What style was your baby? Do you have any advice on handling difficult babies? Please share!


Father Facts are Pesky Things

We get a lot of inquiries here at NFI about “trends in fatherhood.” One of the most common “trends” people want to know about is the rising number of single fathers in the country. I hear this inquiry so often that I started to believe it was true, until I actually looked at the data.  

According to the US Census Bureau, 4.2 percent of children lived in “father only” homes in 2000. In 2012, that number dropped, yes dropped, to 3.96 percent. Not a huge drop, but a drop nonetheless.  

To put these numbers in even broader context, the percent of children who live with neither parent stands at 3.6 percent, virtually the same as those living with single dads. It’s interesting that I have never received an inquiry about the “huge” numbers of children living without their parents.  

As most people can probably guess, the number of single-mother homes still dwarfs the number of single-father homes—24.3 percent of children live in mother-only homes. The percent in 2000 was 22.4 percent. Yes, it is single-mother homes that have become more common in the last decade, not single-father homes.

Why am I pointing this out? Because it is critical that discussions about the family are based on facts, not impressions. We don’t have to guess about most of this stuff; we have good, free, abundant data at our fingertips.  

We often see the same thing happen when people are thinking about the impact of father absence. Does it make a difference? How can we really know for sure? Based on at least 30 years of research, father absence does make a difference. Take a look at this small sample of very persuasive data to get an idea of the great scholarship available on this topic.  

Moreover, it can indeed be dangerous if the media (or whoever) is creating news by manufacturing impressions that are not based on facts. Even I, someone who works in this field, was under the (false) impression that there has been a rise in single fatherhood. I mean, everyone is writing about it, right?! The fact that the real story is actually the opposite—that more children are living in single-mother homes, which are of course father-absent homes—is critical. We (NFI, our culture, you and I!) need to be focused on reducing father absence, not weaving fantastical tales about single dads.  

So, the next time I get a call asking me about the rise in single fatherhood, I'm going to burst someone’s bubble and tell him he should write about the rise in single motherhood (read: father absence) instead. I would then be happy to give him more facts, if he doesn't hang up on me. 

The Father Factor Blog: News, tips, and tools for dads and those helping dads.

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