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The Father Factor

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Confronting the Child Support Crisis

Nonresident fathers have been in the news lately. The death of Walter Scott in South Carolina, who ran from a police officer during a routine traffic stop rather than risk returning to prison for owing back support, has brought to light the more punitive aspects of the of child support enforcement system. In a recent Room for Debate discussion blog in The New York Times, supporters and detractors of the child support enforcement system addressed its pros and cons.

Unfortunately, child support is similar to other issues that stir our passions, but on which it is difficult, if not impossible, to find common ground. We want all parents, including nonresident fathers, to support their children. But trends in men’s earnings are working against nonresident fathers’ ability to pay what mothers and children need. 

child-support-may

Since the mid-1970’s, the earnings of men without graduate degrees have stagnated or declined, except for a brief period during the economic boom of the 1990’s. These wage trends have made it especially difficult for fathers to support their families. During this same period, the federal government began to devote its considerable resources to state child support enforcement efforts.

As a result, those efforts have become more forceful over the same period during which nonresident fathers have experienced diminishing ability to pay. Automation of the child support enforcement system in 1996 had particularly harsh consequences for the lowest wage earners, fathers making $20,000 or less, in part because many of these fathers never married.

When the courts subpoena these men to determine if they are the legal fathers of children born to unmarried mothers, the fathers sometimes fail to appear. This happens because of fear, transportation problems or sometimes, because the father was doubling up with a friend or family member at his last known address, but has moved on before the subpoena arrived. 

To address these problems, the federal office of child support has recently proposed a set of rule changes designed to better align child support orders with nonresidential fathers’ ability to pay. One change would require courts to base child support orders on actual earnings, income, or assets, rather than imputed income when the father’s income is unknown.

Imputation of earnings is widespread practice that occurs when courts set child support orders for non-marital births, presently accounting for 41 percent of all births in the US. To expedite the process if the father fails to respond to a court subpoena, the courts establish paternity by default and attempt to create a child support order, without the information they need about the father’s income.

Instead, the courts impute income using a proportion of welfare and other benefits the children receive, or earnings at the father’s last-known job. If there is no record of prior earnings, the order is based on earnings at a full-time, full-year job paying minimum wage, which the courts assume any father could find.

Not surprisingly, the resulting child support order is often more than some of these fathers can afford, so they fall into arrears. Studies leading to the rule changes show that in states that use default orders and income imputation widely, fathers with earnings of $20,000 or less accounted for the majority of arrears. 

A second change, a self support reserve, would require courts to take into consideration the fathers’ subsistence needs when setting child support orders. In this way low-income fathers no longer need to choose between paying their child support and paying their rent, utilities, and transportation to work.

Several other changes would encourage states to use incarceration as a means of collecting child support as a last resort. That South Carolina was notorious for using incarceration as a first resort, inspired the 2011 Turner vs. Rogers decision by the Supreme Court, which made it clear that courts could not deny father’s their freedom, unless judges were very sure that fathers’ could afford to pay the child support they owed.

In fact this decision inspired the rule changes, which are designed to help states respond to new legal environment. Unfortunately these proposed changes, which have been the subject of work by researchers, advocates, policymakers, and child support administrators for decades, are now caught up in a political battle of wills over the limits of the executive branch.

Congressman Camp, Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, and Senator Hatch, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, have asked Child Support Enforcement to withdraw the proposed changes, pending Congressional action.

Curiously, these key legislators do not take issue with the substance of many of the proposed rule changes. Rather, they argue that the administration is overstepping its authority to make these changes without the approval of Congress.   

President Obama has spoken passionately about the difficulties he endured as the child of a nonresident father, and was only a teenager when the federal government began to put its considerable muscle behind state efforts to enforce child support.

Ironically, even he sees the need to make child support enforcement more accommodating in light of the limited growth in father's earnings that have occurred since that time. Congressman Camp and Senator Hatch may still get their way and block the rule changes.

This means that a teenager today may grow up without the financial support children need and deserve from their fathers. Let's hope we don't have to wait until that teenager becomes the leader of the free world. Congress and the President must focus their attention on the changes in the child support enforcement system so desperately needed now. We simply cannot wait any longer.

 
About Ronald B. Mincy

Dr. Ronald B. Mincy is the Maurice V. Russell Professor of Social Policy and Social Work Practice at the Columbia University School of Social Work and a co-principal investigator of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study.

Dr. Mincy publishes extensively on family formation, child well-being, responsible fatherhood, urban poverty and the underclass, and the effects of income security policy on child and family poverty. Dr. Mincy is widely regarded as a critical catalyst for changes currently underway in the treatment of low-income fathers by U.S. welfare, child support, and family support systems. 

Dr. Mincy's undergraduate and graduate training in economics were at Harvard University and M.I.T. He and his wife of nearly 40 years, live in Harlem, New York. They have two sons, who along with Dr. Mincy's two brothers have inspired his interest in males throughout the life course and family well-being. Please find Ronald Mincy's author page for more details on his work.

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

How Mindsets Impact Helping Dads

Do you believe that a person's intelligence is fixed, or do you believe it can be developed and grown? Do you believe, for that matter, that a father's intelligence about parenting is fixed, or do you believe it can be developed and grown? At NFI, we believe a father's "parenting intelligence," to coin a phrase, can indeed be developed and grown.

Carol Dweck, Ph.D., is a leading psychologist who has conducted extensive research into people's mindsets when it comes to their views on the static versus pliable nature of intelligence and other human abilities. In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck describes two mindsets. The fixed mindset is characterized by a belief that a person's intelligence, attitudes, beliefs, and abilities (e.g. parenting, cooking, writing, etc.) are set in stone and can't be developed or grown. The growth mindset is characterized by a belief that those same aspects of a person can, in fact, be developed and grown. A person can have a fixed or growth mindset they apply across the board or a kind of mixed mindset in which they believe some things are fixed while others can be grown. The graphic below provides an excellent summary of the differences between the two mindsets.

two-mindsets

Whether a person generally has one mindset or the other explains a lot of the differences in how people behave and approach certain situations. When it comes to personal improvement, for example, a person with a fixed mindset tends to be super sensitive and dismissive when someone suggests areas of improvement. A person with a growth mindset, in contrast, tends to be open and accepting of such a suggestion. The same is true of parenting. Have you ever suggested to one friend that he could improve his parenting by doing something new or different and another that she could do the same and gotten totally different reactions--one open and accepting and the other closed and dismissive? Have you ever suggested to your spouse or significant other a way to improve his or her parenting? What reaction did you get? Has someone ever suggested to you that you could improve your parenting? How did you react?

Regardless of your experience in suggesting that others in your personal life can improve their parenting--or in receiving suggestions--the work you do with dads is affected by the mindsets they have about improving as a man, father, and husband/partner. One dad might have a fixed or growth mindset that he brings to every aspect of his life, while another dad might have a mixed mindset that makes him resistant to change in certain areas (e.g. his view of the mother's ability to be more accommodating in granting him access to his child) but open to change in others (e.g. his ability to learn more effective tactics to discipline his child). What might look like a schizophrenic reaction is simply a different mindset applied to a different situation.

Here are some of the primary areas affected by dads' mindsets to reflect on as you work with individual dads and groups of dads:

  • Views of their own intelligence and their own parenting and fathering attitudes, beliefs, and skills
  • Views of the intelligence, attitudes, beliefs, and skills of their children's mothers
  • Views of their children's intelligence and abilities
  • Views of the people and systems they interact with (e.g. judges and court systems and child welfare workers and systems)
  • Views of you and your organization

Knowing the mindsets of the dads you work with and to which aspects of their lives they apply them will make you a more effective agent of change.

To help you develop and grow fathers, all of us at NFI bring the same growth mindset to an organization's ability to become a father-friendly organization and to improve its fatherhood program(s). That mindset is why we provide a ton of free capacity-building resources that focus on the entire organization, such as the Father Friendly Check-Up™, and implementation of fatherhood programs, such as the Research to Application series. There's no reason your organization or program can't develop and grow! Check out our new Free Resources section that just keeps growing and growing!

What mindset do you bring in working with dads?

What mindsets do the dads you work with have in general and about specific areas of their lives?

What mindset does your organization have in helping dads to be the best dads they can be?

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

The Importance of the Self-Aware Father

Being a dad is awesome. But, being a dad can be tough when you don't have the skills you need. Now, you may be thinking: what skills? I'm just doing the best I can...isn't that enough? Well, the good news is, it’s never too late to learn new skills to be the best dad you can be. Every child deserves a 24/7 Dad, and we want to ensure you have the 5 characteristics needed to be a 24/7 Dad.

So, let’s get started: When we say "self-awareness”, what do you think of? The Karate Kid or some fancy ninja training? Maybe, but it’s so much more meaningful than that. Let's talk...

self-aware_dad

When we say "24/7 Dad" we're talking about an involved, responsible and committed father, and self-awareness is just the beginning. We're talking about a dad who knows his role in the family. He knows what it means to be a man. He understands he is a model for his sons on how to be a good man. If he has daughters, he models what they should look for in a husband and father for their children. Basically, he has the 10 Ways To Be a Better Dad memorized.

Everything we know about being a great father is tied to one or more of the 5 main characteristics of a 24/7 Dad. In the coming months, we’ll unpack the meaning of the these characteristics in their very own Father Factor posts. The great news is that these five questions come with a guarantee: if you answer each one honestly and take action, you will become a 24/7 Dad!

To begin, let’s get familiar with the five traits of the 24/7 Dad:

1. The 24/7 Dad is Self-Aware: The 24/7 Dad is aware of himself as a man and aware of how important he is to his family. 

2. The 24/7 Dad Cares For Self: The 24/7 Dad takes care of himself.

3. The 24/7 Dad Understands Fathering Skills: The 24/7 Dad knows his role in the family. 

4. The 24/7 Dad Understands Parenting Skills:  The 24/7 Dad nurtures his children.

5. The 24/7 Dad Understands Relationship Skills: The 24/7 Dad builds and maintains healthy relationships with his children, wife/mother of his children, other family members, friends, and community.

So back to being a self-aware dad...

A self-aware dad knows his moods, feelings and emotions; capabilities, strengths, and challenges. He is responsible for his behavior and knows his growth depends on how well he knows and accepts himself. Don’t run by this first category. Take a moment to reflect. Be honest with yourself as a man and father.

Ask yourself some questions:

  • What defines me? Do I have a sense of meaning? How does being a father play into my sense of meaning?
  • What is my current role in my family? What would I like it to be? What can I do to work toward that goal?
  • What are my biggest personal challenges? Am I ignoring them or dealing with them? If I am dealing with them, am I handling them in a healthy way? Or am I acting in a self-defeating or self-harming way to "deal" with them? How do these choices affect my children and family?
  • What are my biggest challenges in fathering? What can I do differently to be proactive and show my dedication to my children?

Another way to become self-aware is to consider how you act in your day-to-day activities. Do you know what part of the day you are likely to be most tired or annoyed? Learn to be discerning about how you treat your children during these times.

For example, if you know that by 6pm, you're tired and more likely to be annoyed because you've been at work all day and in traffic (don't ask how I know this), it's up to you to schedule at least a few moments to be calm and ready before you open the front door to your family. If you find yourself daily coming home frustrated upon entering the house, that's a red flag something needs to change in your day.

From physical health to emotional health, and everything in between, the 24/7 Dad understands he is responsible for his decisions and ultimately his actions. The 24/7 Dad also knows his ability to be with his children is affected by the choices he makes.

Consider this: with your own words, replace “I’m too busy for XYZ” with the words “I didn’t make XYZ my priority.” Hear the difference? You should. These phrases reveal two different mindsets. One is responsible and understands his role, while the other doesn't.

The 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I know myself?

Niel knows what being a 24/7 Dad means. He wrote about Being a 24/7 Dad recently at his blog Great Moments in Bad Parenting. Niel says: 

Sandwiched inside a busy morning which included buying groceries for Easter, hitting the post office, getting an oil change and car wash, I went to my kids school to take pictures of my youngest and his class search for Easter eggs in the meadow behind their school. I ended up playing crossing guard as the seventeen four year old crossed the street and unofficial basket holder. Am I a superhero? Nope. Should anyone erect a statue in my honor? No, I’m just a dad and I’m a dad 24/7.  


You can read Niel's full post Being a 24/7 Dad but it sounds to me like Niel's a dad who know his role. 

*****

fodada-hero


Wear it. Be it. Show Your 24/7 Dad Pride.  

24/7 Dad T-shirt by fodada



Share pics of yourself or the dad in your life being a great dad using #247Dad on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

> But first, go here to buy the shirt!

All of you fine 24/7 Dad leaders > wear this unique t-shirt to show how proud you are to be a 24/7 Dad leader. Give it to dads who attend your program or as a graduation gift.

Dads, Moms, & Children > Wear this shirt to show your passion for fatherhood and inspire those around you to live as responsible fathers. Or, give as a gift to a dad you know.

Question > What's being a 24/7 Dad mean to you?  

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

How the YMCA of Greater Des Moines, Iowa is Helping Fathers & Families (Video)

We talk about how "Over 24 millions kids in the United States live without their fathers" often. But at NFI, we don't glaze over this statistic. Why? Because behind each number is a child. Behind the national number, there's a statistic for each state. Behind each state number, there's a story. Like this one...

johnrgrubbcommunity-ymca-iowa

In Iowa, there are over 64,000 households with children under age 18 who have no father present. But, the YMCA of Greater Des Moines is working to help by serving fathers and families through their Fatherhood Initiative. Watch how this program is helping men improve their relationship with their children—and help the city of Des Moines—one father at a time.

The Fatherhood Initiative through the John R. Grubb YMCA is helping men improve their relationship with their children. The Y has a variety of resources available to help fathers connect with their families. Their Facebook page is a great example for leaders interested in doing more to reach fathers and connect them with their family.

The Fatherhood Initiative uses NFI's 24/7 Dad® Program, the 12-week course that teaches dads key principles of fatherhood. It teaches everything from how to connect with your child to how to talk with the mom of your child. The program is helping The Fatherhood Initiative in Des Moines to foster and build up connections between fathers, their children and families. The class also provides an opportunity to meet other fathers in a similar situation and work with YMCA staff to create solutions to problems affecting the relationship between dad and child. Watch this video to see their work with fathers...

Can't view the video? Click here.

Morgan Streeter (Director, Y Fatherhood) explains the importance of a fatherhood program: 

The main purpose of The Fatherhood Initiative is to engage men in the lives of their children because we know a child does a lot better when both parents are actively involved...we find these guys and give them the resources to be more involved and to give them that support so they feel comfortable being more involved.

As you watch the video, don't miss what Ed Nichols (Faith-Based Fatherhood Leader) says about fatherhood:

We all have the same issues. We are all trying to be involved in our kids lives. The culture doesn't teach us how to do that. So we help guys understand that not only do you need to be involved in their kids' lives—they need to be strategic as a dad. They (kids) need to see us do certain things. They need to hear things from us. They need to receive things from us. A kid wants to know their dad loves them.

In Iowa, there are over 64,000 households with children under age 18 who have no father present. Jose Ochoa, Sr. reveals what it's like to be a father and need help connecting with your child: 

The best part of being a father is the unconditional love that goes both ways. Much like the past, he doesn't know my mistakes. He doesn't know the bad choices I've made. He knows me for being a dad. I wish my son was with me more often and I know eventually he will be. But sometimes it's hard when I sit alone by myself and he's not there with me, and he should be there with me, that's the hard part.

Child support is not just about money. Nikolle Ross points out who suffers when dad isn't involved: 

When a father isn't there, sometimes a child feels guilty they may blame themselves for their father not being there thinking that it's their fault. Sometimes, the mother is working excess hours and she's not able to be there all the time and so it leaves a lot of room for a child to get into trouble because there's no one there, there's no guidance at home. So then, really they've (the children), ahve lost their mother and father by their father not being present.

Statistics show a child growing up without an involved dad is...

  • 4X more likely to live in poverty
  • 7X more likely to become pregnant as teen
  • More likely to have behavioral problems
  • More likely to face abuse and neglect
  • More likely to abuse drugs
  • More likely to go to prison
  • More likely to commit a crime
  • 2X more likely to suffer obesity
  • 2X more likely to drop out of high school

What's it take to be a good father? Ed Nichols has the answer: 

A good father is one that is not passive. He's not sitting back waiting for someone else to do something for the kids or expecting his wife or the kids mother to do it or teacher to do it. He's one that accepts responsibility for his role as a father.

What does a program like the Des Moines YMCA and 24/7 Dad® resources do for dads? Listen closely to the painful, yet helpful, words of Jose Ochoa, Sr.: 

I got involved in this program at a real sad my life and everybody here was very supportive. It was a place where I could come invent, get mad, you know, talk about what was hurting me, what was bothering me and that really helped me a lot through sad times —when I wasn't able to see my son. We are not alone. There's a lot of guys out there that are single parents with kids and these people listen and care. And don't give up.

If you live in the Des Moines area, visit the YMCA Fatherhood Initiative.

What's your city doing for fathers? Find out who uses NFI resources using our FatherSource Locator™ and help connect with fatherhood leaders in your area.

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

Preventing Child Abuse: The Crying Baby

People tend to think of infant crying and colic as a parenting nuisance. But it is much more serious. In fact, sleep deprivation and blasting the sound of crying babies for hours are used to prepare the Navy elite SEALS to endure torture!

Crying -- and the demoralization and exhaustion it provokes -- trigger a cascade of serious consequences, including marital conflict, postpartum depression, breastfeeding failure, SIDS/suffocation, car accidents, cigarette smoking, maternal obesity... and child abuse.

happy-babyAlmost 580,000 children were reported as abused in 2008, 1,740 of them died of their injuries. In addition to this terrible human cost, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates the financial cost of these abuses at $124 billion/year. 

To rally citizens against this scourge, we observe Child Abuse Prevention Month each April. And, to bring national focus on stopping infant shaking -- the #1 cause of child abuse deaths -- the third week of April is designated Shaken Baby Awareness week.

Unfortunately, infant shaking is not rare. Experts estimate that tens of thousands of infants are abused in this way each year. And two recent studies found that rates of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) have increased by as much as 100% during recession. 

  • The SBS victims are usually 3-4 months of age.
  • On average, one child is killed by SBS every day. 
  • The main SBS trigger is infant crying.

Child welfare leaders are beginning to realize that SBS prevention programs must include showing parents how to effectively and safely calm their babies -- not just teach them never to shake their infants. Adding a baby calming approach may not only stop the vicious cycle of parent frustration leading to child abuse, it may create a virtuous cycle! Empowering parents to calm their babies with effective, evidence-based techniques like the 5 S's may increase parent confidence and nurturing relationships...as well as reduce SBS and other serious problems triggered by infant crying.

The "5 S's" System

According to Dr. Harvey Karp, to sooth a crying infant, recreating the womb environment helps the baby feel more secure and calm. Dr. Karp recommends:

  • Swaddling: Tight swaddling provides the continuous touching and support your baby is used to experiencing within the womb.
  • Side/stomach position: The infant is placed on their left side to assist in digestion, or on their stomach to provide reassuring support. “But never use the stomach position for putting your baby to sleep,” cautions Karp. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is linked to stomach-down sleep positions. When a baby is in a stomach down position do not leave them even for a moment.
  • Shushing sounds: These imitate the continual whooshing sound made by the blood flowing through arteries near the womb.
  • Swinging: Newborns are used to the swinging motions within their mother’s womb, so entering the gravity driven world of the outside is like a sailor adapting to land after nine months at sea. “It’s disorienting and unnatural,” says Karp. Rocking, car rides, and other swinging movements all can help.
  • Sucking: “Sucking has its effects deep within the nervous system,” notes Karp, “and triggers the calming reflex and releases natural chemicals within the brain.”

NFI partners with The Happiest Baby for its potential to reduce child abuse. When you know these techniques for calming a baby (and can teach them to those around you) it means a happier baby—and a happier you!

Combo-no-bkgrd

More sleep and a happy baby...in just one click. Magic? A miracle? No...it's a reflex! Find details about The Happiest Baby.

Who can use The Happiest Baby?

  1. Health Departments & Home Visiting Programs > An easy "plug and play" tool to enhance existing parenting curricula, programs and services (such as WIC).
  2. Hospitals & Pregnancy Centers > Ideal for use by nurses and childbirth educators with expectant parents or parents with young babies.
  3. Military Bases > New Parent Support Program staff can distribute DVD+CD Combos to military families on base and in military hospitals.
  4. Community Organizations > serving fathers and families
  5. New Parents > If you're a new mom or dad who needs help with a crying baby.

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

On Fathers and Their Importance

A famous baseball player, Harmon Killebrew, is credited with saying, “My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, "You’re tearing up the grass." "We’re not raising grass," Dad would reply. "We’re raising [children]." This story sheds light on what some experts say is an important difference between mothers and fathers. Dr. Kyle Pruett, an author and professor of child psychiatry at Yale University, writes, “Fathers do not mother, they father…Fathers tend to do things differently.” Both parenting approaches are important in raising healthy, productive children in safe and stable environments. 

group_of_children_-_child_abuse_post_april_2015

The FRIENDS National Center on Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) provides training and technical assistance to CBCAP State Lead Agencies (SLAs) in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. CBCAP is a federally funded program managed by the Children’s Bureau within the Administration for Children and Families. This community of federal, state, and local programs aims to reduce child abuse including neglect through evidence-based and evidence-informed programs.

Many populations are targeted and strategies are typically based on building protective factors within individuals, families, and communities. These protective factors include

  • building social and emotional competence in children
  • building resiliency in parents
  • supporting families in need of concrete support
  • helping parents make social connections
  • increasing knowledge of parenting and child development

While the presence of a father in the home has decreased substantially in the last forty years, CBCAP-funded programs know there are many ways to engage fathers who may not be living with their children, and help fathers who are disconnected become reconnected with their children.

When this is not possible, other men become even more important in the lives of children as healthy male role models. These men may be uncles, grandfathers, neighbors, teachers, coaches, and many others. Research indicates father involvement promotes better outcomes for children including increases in

  • self-esteem
  • grades
  • overall academic achievement
  • empathy
  • prosocial behavior
  • lower levels of alcohol and drug use
  • and other high-risk activities  

The field is learning more each year about the importance of both fathers and mothers in children’s lives.

Sam Blue from St. Louis Missouri serves on FRIENDS National Center Parent Advisory Council (PAC) and is a family engagement specialist with Project Launch.

Mr. Blue’s Perspective on the Diversity of Fatherhood

My name is Sam Blue. I am thankful for my wife of 25 years and 9 children. I have 7 daughters, and 2 sons. My children all have unique and different personalities. I’ve learned to appreciate and value diversity through my children. I have daughters that are outgoing, strategic minded, funny, risk-takers, studious, Hollywood quality, and creative. While one son is gifted with music the other brings a curious and adventurous spirit to everything he does. As a community engagement specialist for Project LAUNCH, I’ve learned to appreciate and value diversity in fathers as well. I work with fathers with cultural differences, racial differences, different employment statuses, and all levels of income. Amongst all of the differences, the fathers are each still looking for effective ways for them to grow in their fatherhood.

I’ve learned to appreciate and value the diversity of my children and the many different fathers I work with. I’ve learned to be open-minded, and to celebrate the diversity of fathers and their children.

Resources

For specific resources on engaging fathers’ and their importance in the lives of children, please visit the FRIENDS’ website www.friendsnrc.org.

Whether a father teaches his children to cook, sew, pitch a ball, or work productively, we know what he brings to the table cannot be easily dismissed. A parent and participant on a FRIENDS’ Peer Learning Call once said, ‘Mothers prepare the world for their child, while fathers prepare their child for the world.’ Not many could argue that both types of preparation are critical to growing up healthy and productive in a challenging world.

The balance of having someone help pave the way for you in the world, and being taught how to manage one’s place in the world as it is, is something a baseball player, a parent, and many experts agree on, and is best taught by a mother (or mother-figure) and a father (or father-figure).

Resources from NFI

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month > NFI understands the importance of training fathers to be involved because dads are vital to their child's lives. We recommend two resources, Creating a Safe Home for Your Family and Understanding Domestic Violence Workshop to help the fathers and families you serve.

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

Valerie Spiva Collins is the Training and Technical Assistance Supervisor for the FRIENDS National Center on CBCAP. Sam Blue is a member of FRIENDS National Parent Advisory Council, a community engagement specialist for Project LAUNCH in Missouri and a supportive husband of 24 years and loving father of 9 children.

Hyundai's Daddy-Daughter Spot You Must Watch to Believe

This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

Consumer brands continue to focus more on dads. What a concept. It's about time. Here's why Hyundai's new campaign is so important and why others have a lot to learn from this automaker.

If you follow my posts in this blog, you've read about consumer brands that continue to promote a negative image of fathers as bungling, clueless parents in contrast to brands that understand the important role fathers play in children's lives by portraying fathers as they are--competent, compassionate, knowledgeable parents.

Consumer brands, those bell weathers of today's culture, still have a long way to go in consistently portraying fathers as parents worthy of our admiration for everything they do and sacrifice for their children and families. Fortunately, I continue to see more and more examples of brands that understand fathers are critical to the success of their businesses.

Automakers --Toyota, Honda, and Nissan in particular -- have been especially keen to promote a positive image of fathers. Enter Hyundai. The South Korean automaker just released one of the coolest spots I've ever seen, father-themed or not. (It's interesting that all of these automakers are Asian in origin. It seems American automakers are, once again, behind the curve.)

hyundai a message to share

This 4-minute spot -- called "A Message to Space" -- centers on the daughter of an astronaut who works on the International Space Station. The spot opens with the daughter talking about how deeply she misses her father and he misses his family. The daughter and her mother travel to the desert where Hyundai employs a team of drivers that, collectively, uses 11 Genesis models to write a message in the sand (using tire tracks that etch the message) that is large enough for her father to see as the space station passes over the desert. I won't spoil it for you by sharing the message, but it will warm your heart.

 

The skeptic might say these automakers are just trying to make a buck. After all, aren't men primarily responsible for making purchase decisions when it comes to automobiles? Not so fast. Men certainly influence those decisions, but recent surveys (click here and here for examples) point to the growing influence of women in making those decisions. It seems auto-buying decisions have reached gender parity.

Still, men are a major influence on those decisions. What these automakers understand, however, is that beyond these consumers being men, they're fathers. These automakers understand the growing influence of the fatherhood role on today's man and how powerful that identity has become. By appealing to that identity, they know that men will appreciate a brand that understands how important being a father is to men.

Bravo Hyundai. You've joined the Asian block of automakers that get it.

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

How to Be the Hero Like Paul Blart

Officer Blart says, "A hero is never off duty." At National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), we agree, fatherhood is never off duty. Earlier this week, we presented Kevin James with NFI’s Fatherhood Award at a special NYC screening with other great moms and dads. Let me tell you about the great event and tell you what it takes to be the hero like Paul Blart. 

NFI co-hosted a special screening in New York City of Columbia Pictures' upcoming film Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 with Paul Blart himself, Kevin James. After NYC moms and dads enjoyed the screening, they were treated to a Q&A with Kevin James and the film's director, Andy Fickman (an NFI Fatherhood Award recipient for Parental Guidance, the 2012 Fatherhood Movie of the Year), followed by a special presentation of the NFI Fatherhood Award to Kevin James.

Check out pictures from the special event and NFI Fatherhood Award presentation.

nfi-fatherhood-award-nyc-event kevin james ryan sanders andy fickman the moms paul blart

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 13: Actor Kevin James, director Andy Fickman, attend 'Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2' Screening co-hosted by The Moms [Denise Albert (L) and Melissa Musen Gerstein (R)] and Ryan Sanders of National Fatherhood Initiative at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 on April 13, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by J. Countess/Getty Images)

I was struck by the father-daughter story in this film. Between laughing at Paul Blart on screen, I was reminded of the struggle I face as a dad of two young daughters. It’s the contradiction of fatherhood…you raise your child to learn and grow and be independent…but how do you teach yourself to let go once you start succeeding? You’re basically raising your child to leave. Sad, right? I know.

I love my daughters and want the best for them. However, like Paul Blart and his relationship to his daughter in the film, where does the balance of training and love move from discipline and protection to freedom and life lessons? 

Paul Blart is a prime candidate for the loving-but-over-protective dad. Is he a good dad? Yes, he will do anything for his daughter. He loves her. And that’s awesome. But how much protection is too much? I struggle with it. You struggle with it. Where’s the balance between concerned and supportive and over-protective father?

I was reminded as I watched the film of our fatherhood training and resources on discipline. When we understand our role as a dad in relation to discipline, we can learn to model and teach the values we want to see from our children. Many Dads think that discipline means “to control” rather than “to teach or to guide.”

The Hero Knows His Style

pbmc2coverMuch like Superman wears his trademark suit and an officer has a uniform, you must know your discipline style if you're going to get this parenting thing right. We talk about the styles of discipline in our 24/7 Dad® Program. We train leaders and dads to understand the styles and model the proper actions in word and deed.

In case you’re new to this site, here’s a crash-course on the styles of discipline. You most likely exhibit one of these styles more than the other. 

Style #1: Dictator > This dad is always strict and never nurtures. He’s clear about his morals and values. He leads with control and enforces rules with an iron hand. His children know what he doesn’t want them to do but rarely what he wants them to do. This dad says, “My way or the highway.”

Style #2: King > This dad is strict and nurtures when needed. He is clear about his morals and values. He leads by example. His children know what he doesn’t want them to do and what he wants them to do. This dad says, “Let me show you the way.”

Style #3 Joker > This dad is never strict and rarely nurtures. He isn’t clear about his morals and values. He jokes a lot and makes fun of his children. His children don’t know what he doesn’t want them to do or what he wants them to do. This dad says, “Let’s just have fun.”

Style #4: Follower > This dad is sometimes strict and sometimes nurtures. He lets mom take the lead on discipline and backs her up when needed. He is sometimes clear about his morals and values. His children know some of the things he doesn’t want them to do and some of the things he does want them to do. This dad says, “Do whatever mom says.”

Style #5: Dreamer > This dad is never strict and never nurtures. He lets mom take the lead on discipline and doesn’t get involved with it. He is never clear about his morals and values. His children don’t know what he wants them to do. This dad says, “Whatever. Just leave me alone.”

The Hero Knows What To Do in Any Situation

I can’t leave you with only the styles of discipline. I have to give you some tips to help you model the correct behavior. Like Officer Blart, you can succeed at your mission. Here are tips you need to be sure you're teaching and guiding instead of being over-protective and simply punishing your child.

Say You’re Disappointed > Tell your children you expect more of them, and that you expect them to behave the right way. Just be careful to not overuse this one. It can be powerful. Use sparingly.

Pay it Back > Tell your child to make up for bad behavior, such as paying for breaking something, doing the behavior they were supposed to do in the first place, or saying they’re sorry to someone they hurt. 

Time Out > Tell your child to sit in a corner, on the couch, or go to their room for a short period of time. Time out works best with younger children under the age of 10. 

Grounding > Don’t let your child leave the house for some period of time. Grounding works best with older children, such as teens.

Take Away a Freedom > Remove a freedom for a period of time. Note: Make sure the punishment fits the crime. Don’t take away a freedom, for example, when a child does something minor and telling them that you expect more of them the next time will do the trick.

Remember these tips the next time you want to punish the wrong-doer in your house.

Which tip could you use today that would make the most difference in how you discipline your child?

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 was as entertaining as I remember the first one. Yes, it’s a comedy, but with a deep father-daughter story. It’s a fun family film that will have you leaving the theater thinking about how to connect with your child.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 releases in theaters nationwide Friday, April 17th. 

While watching the movie offers lots of opportunities for dads to laugh with their kids, Columbia Pictures also developed a very engaging and highly informative safety program Paul Blart’s Safety Smarts for children ages 7 to 11 that shows kids how to stay safe.

> Visit and share the safety video with the dads you serve. Encourage dads to watch the video with their kids and then participate in the accompanying activities designed to sharpen your dads’ and children’s safety smarts with role-playing, peer-to-peer learning, and critical thinking. There is also a take-home safety quiz that parents and kids can take together to reinforce these important safety topics.

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More Helpful Resources

> Safe Kids Worldwide

> FBI Safety Tips

> National Children’s Advocacy Center

3 Tips for Spring Cleaning Your Life

OK dads, is spring finally on its way? Being from Minnesota, I’m ready to ditch the snow blower for the lawn mower! And, for those of you on the eastern seaboard, I’m sure you’re doubly ready to kiss this winter good-bye…

Regardless of where you live, spring is a natural time to take stock of what you’ve accumulated around your home and life whether that be dirt and grime, general disorganization, or maybe some bad health habits like overeating or…  The good news is, you don’t have to take it on all at once – here are three of my favorite tips to get started:  

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Tip 1 > Make sure your grill is in prime shape to fire up for the warmer months. It can be tempting to use harsh chemicals, but those can affect the finish. Mild soap and water is best. (Just be sure to disconnect the propane tank before doing anything.)  

Tip 2 > No one can feel refreshed when bogged down by financial worry. Make time to sit down with your loved one to revisit your budget and financial goals. This goes for you, the leader, and for the dads around you. Online sites like mint.com can help streamline the process so you can get a better understanding of where your hard-earned money is going. 

Tip 3 > Research shows that getting outside has many positive effects on your health, including improving relaxation and your immune system. Think about planning a camping trip for the summer and bask in the beauty of one of our nation’s great parks. Check out a list of where to go here

Want more spring cleaning ideas?

Spring Clean Your Life: Reorganize, Reprioritize and Reconnect by brightpeak financial is a 21-day email program created to help you tackle the post-winter cleanout – in all areas of life. Focusing on daily tips and activities, the program is designed to help you reorganize your home, reprioritize and revitalize your finances and reconnect to a healthier you. Get started today!

What's one thing you HAVE to do this spring in order to get life together?

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5 Challenges Faced by Fathers in Responsible Fatherhood Programs

What are the primary challenges of fathers who participate in responsible fatherhood programs? The Fatherhood Research and Practice Network (FRPN) recently released a brief that attempts to answer that question. (I sit on the FRPN's advisory committee.) Answering that question is critical because these challenges may be, as the brief notes, strongly associated with lower levels of father involvement in children's lives and lower quality coparenting relationships.

5 Challenges Faced by Fathers in Responsible Fatherhood Programs

FRPN's Dr. Jay Fagan and Rebecca Kaufman interviewed fathers--from 9 responsible fatherhood programs in 5 cities in the northeast that serve primarily low-income, unmarried, non-residential fathers--about the challenges they face.

The top 5 challenges they mentioned in descending order of frequency were:

  1. Unemployment
  2. Lack of money to buy things for their children
  3. Inability to pay child support
  4. Difficulty keeping a job
  5. Inability to pay bills

The other challenges they mentioned were wide-ranging, from physical health problems to their living situation preventing their children from coming to see them to drug/alcohol use to being accused of abusing/neglecting their children. (The brief includes all of the challenges the fathers mentioned, the frequency with which fathers mentioned them, and the severity of those challenges.)

These challenges underscore one of the most vital pieces of guidance National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) has provided to organizations through the years: the importance of helping fathers meet their most immediate, pressing needs as part of or even before enrolling them in a responsible fatherhood program. Meeting these needs is often the hook that encourages fathers to enroll in a responsible fatherhood program and to maintain their participation rather than learning how to be a better father and parent (e.g. through increased knowledge of child development, child discipline, etc.). Indeed, helping fathers overcome these challenges should be a component of a responsible fatherhood program either through the provision of services (often called "wrap-around services") by the organization running the program or the organization's partners.  

The FRPN's findings are similar to the results of research that I conducted with Dr. Keith Cherry, a long-time colleague and friend, when NFI was part of the National Quality Improvement Center on Non-Resident Fathers and the Child Welfare System (QIC-NRF), a 5-year project (2006-2011) funded by the Children's Bureau in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through a contract with the American Humane Association. That research involved interviews with low-income, non-resident fathers involved in the child welfare system in four communities supplemented by interviews with fatherhood program practitioners who worked with these and other child-welfare involved fathers.

Like the fathers interviewed by the FRPN researchers, the fathers Keith and I interviewed also mentioned financial challenges as their most pressing needs. Our research (published in the journal Protecting Children) also involved delving deeper into the impact of these fathers' challenges on the fathers and their perceptions so that child welfare workers and fatherhood practitioners within and who work with the child welfare system could better understand these fathers and, as a result, work more effectively with them and develop better strategies to encourage enrollment in fatherhood programs offered by child welfare agencies.  

We recorded, transcribed, and conducted an in-depth content analysis of the interviews. We identified the following themes in the lives of these fathers:

  • The financial and emotional devastation caused by their own absence from their children's lives.
  • The belief that they are constantly extorted by the mother of their children with their children being bargaining chips in a constant tug-of-war between them and the mother in which the mother has the upper hand.
  • The loss of control over their lives and hopelessness about the future.
  • The belief that the judicial/court system fosters poor fatherhood.

This deep understanding of these fathers' lives is so critical to effective program delivery. Staff of responsible fatherhood programs must look not only at fathers' needs but how those needs affect fathers. It is those affects that drive fathers' behavior. Indeed, the most successful of the programs we studied during our participation in the QIC-NRF were those seen by fathers to meet fathers' needs and care about fathers' welfare. 

What are you doing to understand and solve the most pressing problems of fathers?

What are you doing to better understand the impact of father absence on the fathers you serve?

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Special NYC Screening with Kevin James for #BlartRidesAgain [Invitation]

National Fatherhood Initiative and The Moms partner for a special New York City screening of Columbia Pictures' upcoming film Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 with Paul Blart himself, Kevin James, on Monday, April 13th. The film releases in theaters nationwide Friday, April 17th, but don't miss out on the chance to see the new movie before anyone.

PB_Mall_Cop_2After six years of keeping our malls safe, Paul Blart has earned a well-deserved vacation, or has he? Sony's Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 arrives in theaters Friday, April 17th. Vegas may have a new high roller, but not before that high roller visits NYC!

After the screening, please stay for a Q&A with Kevin James and the film's director, Andy Fickman (also an NFI Fatherhood Award recipient for Parental Guidance, the 2012 Fatherhood Movie of the Year), followed by a special presentation of the NFI Fatherhood Award to Kevin James.

After six years of keeping our malls safe, Paul Blart has earned a well-deserved vacation, or has he? In this sequel, Paul Blart heads to Vegas for the annual Security Guard Expo with his teenage daughter Maya (Raini Rodriguez) before she leaves for college. While at the convention, he inadvertently discovers a heist – and it’s up to Blart to apprehend the criminals. Safety never takes a holiday and when duty calls, Blart answers.  

This movie was as entertaining as I remember the first one. But with a deep father-daughter story. A fun family film with a father-daughter story that will have you leaving the theater thinking about connecting with your child.

Here's your invitation to the special event...RSVP if you can make it to NYC!

TheMOMS_PaulBlartMallCop2_Invite


The Moms and National Fatherhood Intiative invite you to this special event:

A Mamarazzi® Event 
with Kevin James 
and Director Andy Fickman

Monday, April 13, 2015 at 3:30PM

AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 
(1998 Broadway New York, NY 10023) 

RSVP here for the NYC screening > Click here to RSVP.


Can't attend the screening? Get the sneak peak of the official trailer here:

 

More information on the film > Click here to visit NFI's Official Paul Blart Page.

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Announcement > Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Requests Comments

The Office of Family Assistance at the U.S. Department of Human Services has asked us to share the following information with you. A new set of Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood performance measures have been proposed. Please review this post to learn more information on how to request the proposed measures as well as more information on how to comment on the proposal.

Screen_Shot_2015-04-07_at_11.13.03_AMThe Proposed Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Performance Measures and Additional Data Collection (Part of the Fatherhood and Marriage Local Evaluation and Cross-site [FaMLE Cross-site] Project) is seeking comments on the proposed set of data that will be collected around future grantee projects/programs.

The FaMLE Cross-site project will answer three main research questions: (1) What strategies did grantees use to design well-conceived programs? (2) What strategies did grantees use to successfully implement well-conceived programs? (3) What were the reported outcomes for participants in the programs? In order to answer these questions, they are considering a new set of data collection activities.

Background > For decades various organizations and agencies have been developing and operating programs to strengthen families through healthy marriage and relationship education and responsible fatherhood programming. The Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Office of Family Assistance (OFA), has had administrative responsibility for federal funding of such programs since 2006 through the Healthy Marriage (HM) and Responsible Fatherhood (RF) Grant Programs.

The federal government currently collects a set of performance measures from HM and RF grantees. The purpose of this previously approved information collection is to allow OFA and ACF to carry out their responsibilities for program accountability.

Current request > ACF is engaged in a learning agenda to increase their understanding of Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood programs. This means that they incorporate multiple opportunities and options for learning throughout a program's implementation that provide a range of insights and perspectives. These opportunities help programming constantly develop and advance. For example, data provide the opportunity to feed information back to decision-makers and leaders—both those on the ground and those in management—to inform program design, operation, and oversight.

On November 6, 2014, ACF published a Federal Register Notice (79 FR 65973) requesting public comment on a proposed new set of performance measures to be collected by all grantees, beginning with the next round of HMRF grants. These measures will collect standardized information in the following areas:

  • Applicant characteristics;
  • Program operations (including program characteristics and service delivery); and
  • Participant outcomes (will be measured both at initiation of programservices (pre-test) and completion (post-test)).

To learn more and comment on the proposed peformance measures, please see the full article on the Federal Register detailing comment submission guidelines here

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The Federal Funding Process and Engaging Fathers in Corrections/Reentry [Free Webinars]

Here’s the scoop: Back in January, NFI hosted a webinar titled "Responsible Fatherhood: What’s Mom got to Do with It?" (You can access the webinar recording here in case you missed it.) During that webinar, we surveyed participants on other topics of importance to their work, and learned of two highly requested webinars: 

1) Funding fatherhood programs and other related work

2) Working with fathers in corrections and probation/parole

Armed with these requests, NFI went to bat to find experts to partner with us on these topics. We think you’ll agree that we hit a home run with two, valuable (and free!) learning opportunities coming soon in April.

corrections_webinarNational Fatherhood Initiative is proud to offer the following webinars to anyone interested in the federal funding process and working with fathers in corrections and probation/parole. The two don’t necessarily go together - but they can!

On Thursday April 16th from 2pm-3:30pm EST > NFI is proud to present a funding-related webinar hosted by two staff members of Saint Wall Street: the first being a former federal Branch Chief for discretionary grants and the second, a federal grant reviewer, long-experienced with the federal funding agency. The webinar is titled:

The Federal Grant Proposal: Key Insider Perspectives 

Saint Wall Street is a non-profit organization that helps organizations achieve the highest good and the highest return. Saint Wall Street inspires changed behavior within organizations and helps nonprofit board and executive directors become change leaders who understand, communicate, and leverage the market value of their program’s impacts. This is also commonly known as “program return on investment” or PROI.

The timing of this free webinar is key - as millions of dollars in new federal funding for Responsible Fatherhood Opportunities for Reentry and Mobility and New Pathways for Fathers and Families (formerly titled "Responsible Fatherhood: Improving Relationships and Economic Outcomes for Fathers and Families") will be announced in days.

Learning how to submit a proposal that qualifies is imperative, as the federal Grant Process is highly competitive, has a limited amount of money to be awarded, and receives more qualified applications then can be funded. As you may already know, it doesn’t matter how great your program performs, your proposal will be eliminated from eligibility immediately if it fails to meet submission guidelines. The webinar will cover the following:

  • An overview of the federal grant-making process from the key insider perspectives of a former federal Branch Chief for discretionary grants and a federal grant reviewer long-experienced with the funding agency
  • Share common mistakes to avoid as you prepare your application
  • Provide tips on interpreting the funding opportunity announcement, and insight to prove your program investment-worthy. 

This webinar is a MUST for any fatherhood program interested in receiving federal grants – even those working in corrections and probation/parole. Click here to register.


On Thursday April 23rd from 2pm-3:30pm EST > 
NFI Vice President of Program Support Erik Vecere will be joined by Starlene Smith-Wright, Corrections Program Administrator for the Kentucky Department of Corrections to present a webinar titled: 

Corrections and Reentry: Engaging Fathers Inside and Out

The Kentucky Department of Corrections has long been focused on delivering sustainable fatherhood training to incarcerated fathers via NFI’s InsideOut Dad®, as well as partnering 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. Recently, Kentucky revealed exciting data they have collected around success in working with incarcerated fathers, particularly, a reduction in recidivism and improved behavior.

Kentucky’s data and other anecdotal accounts NFI has received over the years shows that lives are being changed in prison (and out) with father-specific programming and engagement. During this webinar, participants will learn the best approaches and resources for working with incarcerated fathers, including using evidence-based strategies like InsideOut Dad®. It will also cover engaging fathers for successful reentry and what works in Probation and Parole. It will also highlight:

  • Current national best practices—especially recent data from the KY DOC that shows fatherhood programming reduces recidivism and improves behavior
  • The data and rationale for reaching fathers pre and post-release
  • Guidance on specific father engagement strategies and tools. 

Anyone working with incarcerated or previously incarcerated fathers will benefit from this learning opportunity. Click here to register.

Federal Funding Webinar > Click here to register today.

Corrections Webinar > Click here to register today.

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Two Stories that Will Warm Your Heart

We receive a lot of phone calls and emails from dads and moms who seek guidance on father involvement and related issues. The vast majority of these calls and emails are associated with the negative effects of father absence. But every once in a while, a dad or mom, and sometimes a child, shares an uplifting story about how a dad stepped up to the plate to be a great dad and the positive impact of that action. Those stories drive our staff to never stop ensuring that as many children as possible experience the love of an involved, responsible, committed father.

share-your-story
We also stay on the lookout for such uplifting stories that aren't directly shared with us because we know they can motivate individuals and organizations in their work to connect fathers and children. These stories are often shared by the organizations that use our resources, donors, and dads and moms across the country. (Click here for Stories of Impact shared by our organization partners.) Sometimes we find stories during the course of our work to provide the most useful information and resources. 

While conducting some research recently, I learned about StoryCorps, a nonprofit with the following mission:

StoryCorps' mission is to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share and preserve the stories of our lives. We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters. At the same time, we are creating an invaluable archive for future generations. 

In its more than 10 years of existence, StoryCorps has captured and archived more that 50,000 recordings on an incredible range of topics. Curious, I plugged "fathers" into their search function to see whether I could find stories to use in our work. The result produced a number of recordings that turned up a few gems, two in particular that I hope will uplift you as much as they did me.

The first recording is of a 9-year-old boy, Aidan Sykes, who interviewed his father, Albert, about being a dad. (Albert runs a nonprofit focused on mentoring children. He is not only in a great dad, he has stepped up to help children less fortunate than his own.) Click here to listen.

albert-sykes

The second recording is of Wil Smith telling his now adult daughter, Olivia, what it was like to raise her as a single dad while in college. He recorded the conversation shortly after he was diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, he died just a few months ago. Click here to listen.

wil-smith

We want to share more stories like these. Please let us know if you have one.

Do you have an uplifting story to share? 

Do you have a Story of Impact that resulted from the use of an NFI resource? If so, click here to learn more about how to share it with us.

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One Thing This Billion-Dollar CEO Does Every Week That You Should Too

I often feel inadequate at managing work and family. Sure, I get home at a decent hour each day. But, I have to start early to accomplish this. By evening, I'm tired or still have my mind on work. Then I read a story like this one. This guy sounds like he has managing work and family figured out. Forbes named him, "America’s Most Promising CEO Under 35." He started a company in his mid-20’s that raised $70 million in 2012. By 2014, he was known as "The Guy Who Turned Down $500 Million For His Startup." Now, with a $1 Billion valuation, Ryan Smith, CEO of Qualtrics, can teach us the one thing he does to be successful with work and family. 

One Thing This Billion-Dollar CEO Does Every Week That You Should Too fatherhood work family balance

After about a decade of bootstrapping, Qualtrics made its way into a profitable company generating $50 million in revenue. In 2012, they had 200 employees and 3,800 customers. Qualtrics helps companies perform employee and customer surveys in the cloud. It was created by Ryan Smith's dad, Scott Smith, a professor of marketing at BYU's school of business. My guess is that Qualtrics is a company that resembles the brands you'll find on our social good page—a brand who cares about fathers and families.

At 33 years old, a company offered to buy Ryan Smith's startup Qualtrics for more than $500 million, he asked his wife to take a drive. Smith ended up turning down the $500 million offer to sell his company. In 2014, Smith had 6,000 customers and 550 employees, and the company is expanding nationally and internationally opening an office in Dublin, Sydney, Seattle, and Washington, D.C..

After he and his wife talked, they felt strongly that earning so much money at once could "negatively impact the way they were raising their children." Smith and his wife had learned to manage work and family life.

"As a founder, you're either the type that gets invigorated with every milestone, or you get less interested. For me the bigger we get, the more scrappier we get, the hungrier I get," Smith told Business Insider in 2014. "I have to keep telling myself to look around and enjoy this," he said. "We sat in a basement and bootstrapped for 10 years so we can do this, be here. Now we have bunch of money, a ton of customers, and we're dominating our market." Together, the Smiths decided to keep their 800-person company private. Qualtrics is currently worth over $1 billion.

With the help of a CEO coach, Smith relates work-life balance to a plane that can "go lopsided and constantly needs to be stabilized." On one wing is his family, on the other is his work. When he's traveling for business, the work side of the plane tilts. Then, when he gets back home to his family, he knows to keep his schedule open for home and family life, in order to tilt the wings of his plane back up.

Smith's CEO coach taught him a strategy for success to be done every week. Smith's coach asked him what jobs he was responsible for in life. Smith replied the following:

  1. Husband
  2. Father
  3. Son
  4. CEO
  5. Boss
  6. Sibling
  7. Grandson
  8. Friend

I'm guessing your list looks like Ryan's. His coach then asked what he could do for each job that week to make him feel successful. For instance, if Ryan dated his wife and bought flowers, that could make him feel like a decent husband. Teach his daughter to ride a bike? Boom, instant better dad for the week.

Ryan found he could combine tasks on his list to achieve everything more efficiently. He learned quickly, if he was really productive, every task on the list starting Sunday could be done by Tuesday. If he took his daughter to his parent's house and taught her to ride a bike, he could be both a good father and son. Bam. 

Smith's weekly list started to look like this:

  1. Husband > Take wife to dinner and buy flowers
  2. Father >Teach daughter to ride a bike
  3. Son > Visit parents. Combine tasks 2 & 3.

Through all of this, Smith has learned people usually plan for one part of life ("I'm going to sell my company by the time I turn 30.") Most times, people "either don't know which steps to take to achieve that goal, or they don't plan what to do after the goal has been achieved."

While we know it takes quantity to ultimately get quality time, I think Ryan's plan of breaking done work and family life goals into weekly tasks is brilliant. We need to work against waking up one day and realizing our dreams and/or priorities have slipped from our radar. This takes a strategic plan. The truth is, what doesn't get scheduled, doesn't get done. This is true in work and with family.

Business Insider points out that after Smith explained this success tactic in an interview with them on Friday evening, he left the conference. While others stayed out late at a local pub, Smith drove three hours to Dublin and booked an early flight home to Utah. When his children woke up on Sunday morning, they spent all day with their father. This story illustrates in real life exactly the type of intention and focus we should have as husbands, fathers, sons, and leaders. It's the kind of focus I want to live out. Thank you, Ryan Smith, not only for having a great first name, but sharing a great strategy for us to follow.

Question > What's one thing you do to help manage work and family? Share your answer in the comment section or on , or  using #247Dad.

247-to-go-app




24/7 Dad To Go App allows dads to customize time-sensitive checklists. These checklists can include items related to involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood. You can be an intentional dad too.

> Find the app and start being a better dad here.

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