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Why Horseplay is Vital for Your Kids

This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

When my daughters were toddlers and preschoolers, I played a game with them called "Attack Baby." I'd lie on the floor and let them run at and jump on me. They'd scream at the top of their lungs as they ran toward me. Right after or right before they landed on me, I'd pick them up and throw them to either side of me. (Don't be appalled. I gently laid them on the ground so they'd roll safely across the floor.) Every once in a while, I'd include a tickle or two before I discarded them to either side of me. As I did so, the attacking screams turned to joyful laughter.

why-horseplay-is-vital-for-your-kidsThe objectives of the game for them were to have fun and do as much damage to their dad as possible. My objectives were to help them learn the joy of physical play and how to play and not hurt someone in the process (i.e. learn emotional self-regulation). They sometimes lost control, particularly when they'd gang up on me. My youngest, in particular, would sometimes launch herself feet first and try to pound on my chest or head. Whenever they got out of control and became too physical, I stopped the game and explained that they needed to regain control or that session of Attack Baby was over. As time went by, they learned how to control themselves more consistently and still have a blast. To this day, some 15 years later, they remember Attack Baby with fondness and tell new friends, when describing their relationship with me, how much they enjoyed it.

In the Art of Roughhousing, Dr. Anthony T. DeBenedet and Dr. Lawrence J. Cohen reveal the benefits of horseplay (rough-and-tumble play), such as how it develops close connections between parents and children, helps solve children's behavior problems, and boosts children's confidence.

Roughhousing is interactive, so it builds close connections between children and parents, especially as we get down on the floor and join them in their world of exuberance and imagination. Most important, roughhousing is rowdy, but not dangerous. With safety in mind, roughhousing releases the creative life force within each person, pushing us out of our inhibitions and inflexibilities... Play -- especially active physical play, like roughhousing -- makes kids smart, emotionally intelligent, lovable and likeable, ethical, physically fit, and joyful... Roughhousing activates many different parts of the body and the brain, from the amygdalae, which process emotions, and the cerebellum, which handles complex motor skills, to the prefrontal cortex, which makes high-level judgments. The result is that every roughhousing playtime is beneficial for body and brain as well as for the loftiest levels of the human spirit: honor, integrity, morality, kindness, and cooperation.

Unfortunately, this art is becoming a lost one as video games and other technology-based activities play an ever-increasing role in children's lives. Moreover, other changes in children's environments that facilitate horseplay have faded or disappeared, such as schools reducing or eliminating recess and physical education.

But another truly unfortunate factor in this development is the hyper-focus of so many parents today on their children's safety, a focus that negatively impacts their daily interactions with their children.

Sadly, among many of today's families, roughhousing barely limps along on life support. What was once a motto of Safety First has evolved into a fretful new motto of Safety Only. Many parents are more frightened by skinned knees and bruised feelings than life's real dangers: stifled creativity and listless apathy.

This hyper-focus on children's safety is an outgrowth of how parents today over-protect and over-schedule their children's lives. So it's not surprising that children's playtime has, as the authors point out, become "adult-organized, adult-refereed, and adult-structured." Parenting as protection has taken on huge significance despite the fact that the world of today is no more dangerous than in the past. In fact, it's safer for children. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics show that the death rates for children caused by unintentional injuries (e.g. vehicle-related, drowning, and fires) and murder were lower in 2010 compared to 2002. The reduction in deaths of 32 percent from unintentional injuries is staggering! Also staggering is the reduction in murders over an even longer time period. Among teens 15-19, for example, the reduction was 63 percent between 1993 and 2012 and was, in 2012, at its lowest level since before 1970.

I'm not arguing that parents shouldn't be concerned for their children's safety. Situational safety has its place. Being chronically concerned about children's safety does not. Children will get hurt. Bruises, abrasions and broken bones are a natural part of childhood. Parents shouldn't be so concerned about safety that they don't allow their children to be, well, children. Children are wired for horseplay with their parents and other children. It's one of the ways they learn about their world, how to appropriately interact with others, and to have fun. So by all means, enjoy playing a little roughly with your children on a regular basis, and get off the hyper-safety bandwagon.

When is the last time you spent time on the floor playing with your kids?

This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

17 Critical Issues: A Guide for Fatherhood Practitioners & Staff

So you want to work with fathers? Whatever your situation or reasons for caring, we're glad you do! You might be asking the following questions: Where do I start in working with dads? What in the world do I focus on? How do I actually help meet the needs of fathers around me?

17-Critical-Issues-CoverThese are all great questions! And, you’re not alone in asking them. Everyone who works with fathers has asked them at one time or another. Which is why we developed a discussion guide to answer these questions. More specifically, we created this guide in response to requests for help in identifying the most critical issues to address with dads.

In talking with you and based on our years of experience, we identified 17 issues that are critical to address when assisting fathers of any race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background in becoming involved, responsible, and committed dads.

We offer a full guide called 17 Critical Issues to Discuss with Dads for purchase. In this post, we wanted to give you sample of the 17 critical topics that are covered in more detail with the full guide:

1. Family of Origin
What is the most important factor that influences a father’s knowledge, attitudes, values, and behavior about how to raise and care for his child? If you said, “The influence of the family he grew up in,” you are correct.

"A father’s own father is often the most powerful 
influence in shaping how he fathers his children."

If you want insight into how a father thinks and what he feels about fatherhood, and how involved he is in the life of his child, ask him what he learned about being a father from his parents and extended family. The family someone grows up in is often called a “family of origin,” because it is the family in which a person begins his or her life. 

2. Masculinity and Fatherhood
Have you ever put together a model airplane? The idea was that if you followed the instructions, your model should have looked like the picture on the box. Unfortunately, your model might not have looked like the picture, because pieces were missing or you didn’t thoroughly read or follow the instructions. 

The key to developing good fathers is to first develop good men. Learning what it means to be a man and father works the same way. Men learn from their parents and culture a model for how a man and father should look and act. This model comes with instructions that help men grow into the “right kind” of man or father.

3. Fathering Skills

Unfortunately, many fathers lack the self-efficacy they need to be good fathers. Self-efficacy is the belief in a father that he has the skills—or can acquire the skills—that he needs to be a good father. A lack of self-efficacy can be especially chronic in fathers whose own fathers were physically or psychologically absent. Self-efficacy is the belief in a father that he has the skills—or can acquire the skills—that he needs to be a good father.

4. Child Development

Picture this situation. A father prepares a meal for himself and his three-year-old son. As they dine, on the three-year-old starts to eat with his hands. The father tells his son that he must use a fork. The child uses the fork for a few minutes and then reverts to using his hands. The father becomes frustrated and yells at his son to stop using his hands and pick up the fork, or else dad will take the food away. 

What’s wrong here? If you said the father shouldn’t have yelled at his son and threatened to take away the food, you’re right. But why did the father yell at and threaten his son? The primary reason is that dad didn’t understand that it’s perfectly fine, developmentally speaking, for a three-year-old to use both utensils and hands to eat. One of the most helpful tools for fathers is information developmental milestones. Some of the biggest mistakes made by fathers stem from a lack of knowledge about child development. So it’s vital that dads learn about child development and the physical, emotional, and social milestones their children should reach by a certain age. 

5. Raising Boys, Raising Girls

Are boys or girls harder to raise? Is there any difference in the way a father should raise a son compared to a daughter? These are questions that can weigh heavily on the minds of fathers. Perhaps you have asked yourself these questions. The answer to the first question is that boys and girls pose different challenges at different stages in their lives; so, as a general rule, neither boys nor girls are harder to raise. The answer to the second question is that the basics of fathering sons and daughters are the same, but it’s the ways in which fathers engage their sons and daughters that must sometimes be different.

6. Discipline

“Just wait until your father gets home!” is a phrase that we might have often heard growing up. Dad as disciplinarian has defined most fathers throughout history. So it’s not difficult for fathers to grasp the idea that a basic role for them is to discipline their children. But what’s not so clear to a dad is how to use appropriate discipline (i.e., when to use it and proper techniques), and that he must model self-discipline if he hopes to raise a healthy child. 

7. Gender Communication

You might wonder what gender communication has to do with fathering. It has a lot to do with fathering because when moms and dads effectively communicate, it helps them raise healthy children. It also helps fathers raising daughters to know how their daughters are “wired” to communicate and vice versa. 

8. Building Healthy Marriages and Relationships

The most important relationship in the home is the relationship between the father and mother. How well the father gets along with the mother affects their children every day. This is true whether the father and mother are married to each other or not. Children look to their father’s relationship with their mother as the blueprint for developing their own relationships. If a father’s relationship with the mother is healthy, then the children will have a model for what a healthy relationship looks like. 

9. Dealing with Emotions

Years ago a report on CNN recounted the horrific story of a man who entered a home in Atlanta and killed all the members of a family except one—a ten-year-old boy. The boy locked himself in an upstairs closet to escape the carnage. The police found him as they searched the home after the killings. Outside the hospital where doctors had examined the boy, a reporter interviewed the minister of the church this boy’s family had attended. When asked how the boy had held up through this tragedy, the minister said with his face and voice full of pride, “If he wasn’t a man before, he sure is now.” It was amazing that this minister was proud that a tragedy of this magnitude had made a man out of a ten year-old boy. He had likened the tragedy to a right of passage into manhood. 

If fathers are to raise healthy children, they must first learn that it is manly to express their emotions and connect with and understand their emotions. They must then learn to express their emotions appropriately. You might encounter some fathers who uncover long-lost feelings and, perhaps, who have suppressed memories that will require the help of a professional counselor. You might also encounter fathers who need help getting their anger and rage under control. Be sure to have a list of resources to refer fathers for assistance. 

10. Grief and Loss

Perhaps the emotion that fathers have the most difficulty expressing is the grief that results from the losses they encounter. All fathers experience loss, such as the death of a loved one, loss of a job, or divorce. If a father doesn’t live with his children, he faces the loss of his children every day. Losses like these can devastate a father emotionally, spiritually, and financially. Other losses are not as obvious or life changing, but they are losses nonetheless. Examples of loss include losing a ball game, losing a bid for a contract or job, and having to cancel a trip you were really looking forward to. 

11. Men's Health

The health of our nation’s men is in crisis. Although women suffer more often from some ailments, such as autoimmune disorders, on balance men are far and away worse off when it comes to health outcomes. Consider these startling facts on the state of men’s physical health: 

  1. men live an average of five years less than do women;

  2. more men than women die from each of the 11 leading causes of death, including suicide (81 percent of suicides are committed by men);

  3. 91 percent of work-related deaths strike men;

  4. men perish from drug-induced deaths at a rate of 16.2 (per 100,000) compared to 10.2 for women;

  5. alcohol-induced deaths are 3 times higher among men;

  6. more men than women use alcohol, binge drink, and drink heavily; and

  7. more men than women are obese. 

12. Sexuality
How many times have you heard the word “sexuality” uttered by men or been used to refer to men? Do men know the difference between “sex” and “sexuality” or understand the concept of “sexual self-worth?” The sad fact is that most men don’t know the difference between sex and sexuality, nor do they understand the concept of sexual self-worth. Most men, unfortunately, are raised to focus on the physical act of sex as the end all and be all of their sexual nature as human beings. 

13. Intimacy
Before reading the rest of the information on this topic, consider the first few words or phrases that pop into your mind when you hear the word “intimate.” Did you consider words or phrases like “a close friend,” “personal,” “confidential,” “emotional,” or “spiritual?” Or did you consider words or phrases like “sex,” “sexual,” or “making love?” In working with men on this topic, it’s critical that you help them understand what intimacy truly means. 

14. Power of Spirituality
Many fathers say they have been transformed by what their religious beliefs teach about the role of a father. As a result, some fatherhood programs are rooted in scriptural principles, teaching fathers to follow those principles as they raise their children. In working with fathers on this issue, it’s vital you communicate that spirituality is an important part of being a father and of a family.  

15. Power of a Fathers' Support Group and Network 
The quality of the relationships a man has is just as important to his health as is going to the doctor, eating right, and exercising. Men with strong social networks are healthier than men with weak ones. They live longer than do men with weak networks. It’s vital that fathers have people in their lives with whom they feel safe to share their feelings and to talk with about the challenges of fatherhood. No one understands better what it means to be a man and father than does another man and father. 

16. Balancing Work and Family
One of the primary challenges fathers confront in becoming involved, responsible, and committed dads is the challenge of balancing work and family. NFI’s Pop’s Culture survey revealed that work responsibilities are the most significant barriers to fathers being the best dads they can be. 

17. Financial Responsibility
“I want my two dollars!” is a familiar refrain of children when allowance time rolls around. Regardless of how much of an allowance parents give to their children, it’s often the first strategy parents use to teach their children financial responsibility. An allowance, when tied to chores, teaches kids that they must earn their money. Many parents take the idea of earning pay one step further by setting up savings accounts so that their children learn the value of saving money for the future—a lesson in delayed gratification.

Depending on how long and intensively you have worked with fathers, consider using additional NFI resources to more fully address some of the topics. Many of our curricula go into greater depth on most of these topics. We encourage you and the dads you work with to subscribe to our FatherSource™, a weekly email that includes tips and advice on a range of topics, and our Father Factor Blog, which also includes tips and advice from our staff and experienced dads, and will keep you updated on the latest research on, and opinions about, fatherhood and father involvement.

17-Critical-Issues-CoverDownload our free sample of 17 Critical IssuesA Guide for Fatherhood Practitioners & Staff to Use in Presentations, Home Visits, or Meeting with Dads

 

The How and Why Behind Never Giving Up Hope

Dads and moms aren't perfect. But, if mom understands the importance of involving dad, she will understand that she herself - is a vital factor in connecting father to child. The following story reveals exactly this...

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Jamal recently emailed me with his story of becoming a father overnight...

It’s been eight years since my daughter has come into my life. I say “come into,” because I was not present when she was born. In fact, I didn’t even know that I had a child. Let me explain. I dated my daughter’s mother the spring/summer of 2005 and the relationship ended in the fall of 2005. We did not speak or communicate for months after the break up. During this period of time, I decided to focus on improving my life, so I re-enrolled myself in college to complete my degree. I picked a temp-to hire position with a company with the hopes of working there full time after completing my education. I lived at home with my mother, made very little money, and the only responsibility I had was to myself

The summer of 2006 rolls around and I’m continuing to stay focused on my goals working during the day and going to school at night. One night, I saw a news report which mentioned my ex's name and connected her in some way to an abandoned baby. Feeling a sense of urgency to see if my ex was okay, I immediately called her and we spoke briefly. In my mind I started to count back the months that she and I had been intimate, and it had been almost exactly nine months. So I asked her if the abandoned baby was my child. I was told no, and to stay out of it.   

I just knew I had to know
the truth for me.


After hanging up the phone, you would think I would feel relief, but I did not. My heart was heavy and I could not shake the fact that this abandoned child could indeed be my child. Up to this day, I don’t know what compelled me to investigate further to find the truth. I just knew I had to know the truth for me. I contacted detectives working the case and was given instructions to contact a local children’s organization to take a DNA test. The test was taken on July 17th. I waited for about a week for the results, and the wait seemed like an eternity. Finally the day had come. It was July 21st. I was at work sitting at my desk. An email appeared from children’s of youth organization, with subject line titled paternity test. I opened the email and it turned out I was the father. 

My life had changed overnight. 
I was a father to a precious little girl.


In that moment I felt a whirlwind of feelings: anger, confusion, fear, happiness, excitement, anxiousness - probably ever emotion imaginable. My phone had been ringing off the hook but I could not speak to anyone. I cried at my desk and sat still. My life had changed overnight. I was a father to a precious little girl. Not too long after, I received a follow up call from the children's organization and they only had one question: ”Do you want custody of your daughter?” Without hesitation, I said "Yes." After going through the process and a series of legal events, I was granted custody of my daughter and was given the right to name her. On that day of August 1st, I held my daughter for the first time. I knew then, that everything that I was had to change, and it was step up time for sure. 

It has been 8 years now.


It’s been 8 years now and we are still going strong. Being immersed in the joys and responsibility of fatherhood, I had not opened up publicly about my side of this experience. I now feel an obligation to come forward and talk about my experience with the hopes to inspire others, not just in the arena of parenting but in life to go for what you believe in, even when the odds are stacked against you. If my daughter ever gets a chance to read this, I want her to know that I never gave up on her and never will. I hope my belief in my daughter will inspire her to go forward and believe in her own self and dreams. Becoming a father has taught me so much about life and myself. My daughter has been a teacher to me as I am to her. While I am blessed and proud to be her father, I realize that the victory and glory is not mine, but God’s, as it was his divine plan in the beginning.

Becoming a father has taught me
so much about life and myself.

While this situation isn't easy; sadly, it's not unique. Marriage is difficult. Parenting is difficult. Having a baby is a uniquely difficult time in the life of mom and dad. But, we must remember that it is vital to the baby, that both mom AND dad be involved before and after pregnancy. We know from research that a dad's involvement is vital to a child's well-being.

We at NFI spend a lot of our time creating tip cards, brochures, and pocket guides to help dads and moms understand these very facts - and as I read Jamal's story, I saw the pieces falling into place. There are so many benefits for everyone involved when mom helps to ensure dad is involved from the start:

  1. Think Baby: 
    Your child benefits from Dad's involvement the moment he or she is born and the benefits continue through adulthood.
    • Healthy Development: A child with an involved dad has been shown to do better on tests of emotional, social, and mental development. Involved dads have been shown to increase weight gain in preterm infants (preemies) and increase the change that mom will breastfeed. 
    • Success in School: a child of an involved dad does better in school, on average, than a child who grows up without an involved dad. They're more likely to get A's, behave well, and less likely to drop out of school. 
    • Good Physical Health: Involved dads who are active and have a healthy weight are more likely to have a child who is active and have a healthy weight which is vital to avoiding many diseases such as diabetes.
    • Good Behavior: a child with an involved dad is less likely to smoke, use drugs, become or get someone pregnant as a teen, or engage in violent and other risky behavior. 
    • Well-Being and Success as an Adult: a child with an involved dad is more likely ot have higher self-esteem.
       
  2. Think Mom:
    Mom benefits from dad's involvement from the moment mom becomes pregnant. Really!
    • Good pregnancy: when dad is involved in moms' pregnancy, mom is more likely to attend pre-natal visits. Mom is less likely to have health problems while pregnant, such as anemia and high blood pressure.  
    • Less Stress for Her: an involved dad reduces moms' stress. It's easier to talk with an involved dad about ways to help reduce stress. 
    • Better Family Finances: an involved dad is more likely to work harder and earn more money. 
    • Better Marriage/Relationship: When both parents share the load of raising a child, it reduces the stress on both parents. Less stress leads to a better marriage and relationship.
       
  3. Think Dad:
    Dad benefits from his involvement from the moment mom becomes pregnant. These benefits include some of the sames ones that mom receives, includingbetter family finances and a better marriage relationship.
    • Early Bonding With Child: When dad prepares to be a dad while mom is pregnant, he is better able to bond with his child and more likely to be involved as his child ages. Studies show that when dad is involved leading up to and during the birth of his child, his oxytocin or "bonding hormone" rises while his testosterone or "wandering hormone" declines.
    • Better Health and Well-Being for Him: An involved dad is more healthy emotionally and physically. He is more likely to go to the doctor when sick and for regular check-ups. 
    • More Giving: Being a dad can help dad be  more giving to family and the community. The involved dad is more likely to be social, volunteer, and spend time doing things like attending church and helping the community.
    • Success at Work: The involved dad's child is more likely to succeed, to advance, and advance more quickly in his or her career. The skills dad develops while raising a child is the same skill that helps him succeed at work.

Let Jamal's story encourage and remind you that everyone wins when a child has an involved dad. Oh, and, it's never too late to start being involved.

How involved was your dad? How did his involvement or non-involvement affect you?  

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Like this blog post? Consider our Pocketbook for New Moms™: a Pocketbook Full of Reasons for New Moms to Involve Dads

 

 

Note: the story above was submitted solely by Jamal and does not reflect any opinions from NFI.

Evaluation: When Mom Involves Dad, Children Win

Over the years, NFI has been asked, "What do you have for Mothers?" In response, we surveyed our customers and partners regarding creating a resource for mothers. With overwhelming support, we proceeded to create a program designed specifically for mothers, to help them improve the relationships they have with fathers, for the benefit of their children. Now, thanks to a recent study, our ground-breaking program Understanding Dad: An Awareness and Communication Program for Moms has been shown to be successful in a number of ways. 

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Temple University evaluated the effects of mothers’ participation in Understanding Dad as part of an eight-week intervention program on mothers’ relationship awareness, knowledge of healthy relationships, and relationship self-efficacy.

Key Results:

  • Thirty-four (34) mothers were recruited from four (4) sites to participate in a study that used a pretest/post-test one-group design. Over the course of this eight-week program, mothers demonstrated moderate to large gains in each of the outcome measures, after controlling for mothers’ educational level. 
  • Moreover, there was one significant within-subjects interaction effect for time × location. That is, mothers made significantly greater gains in pro-relationship knowledge in one of the intervention sites. 
  • The findings are also consistent with the idea that co-parenting interventions may be effective when only one parent, and not both parents, attend the program. However, future evaluations should use more rigorous methods to assess whether programs are equally effective when only mothers are involved versus when mothers and fathers attend a program.

View the full Temple University evaluation here.

The great news is that many other organizations have run Understanding Dad™ and have had similar success. Mothers who were previously uninterested in involving dad in their child(ren)'s lives better understand his importance for the benefit of the child, and become open to the idea of involving him.

As you are probably aware, research shows that one in three children in the U.S. grow up in a home without his or her biological father, and the lack of father involvement increases the risk that children will suffer from a range of social, emotional, and physical ills. Unfortunately, many times it's the mothers' gatekeeping behavior that can prevent or reduce fathers' access to their children - when fathers' involvement in their children's lives would actually benefit their children. In addition, mothers can lack the self-awareness and communications skills they need to improve their relationships with the fathers of their children.

By engaging moms in father involvement, you can increase your success in supporting families and make a huge difference in the lives of children.

When mom involves dad, children win. 

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Do you serve mothers who struggle to understand and communicate with the father(s) of their child(ren)? 

The Understanding Dad™ program helps mothers improve the relationships they have with fathers, for the benefit of their children. View the full product information here.

Or Download a Sample of Understanding Dad:

 

The 7 Steps to Starting a Successful Fatherhood Program

You know there's a need and you want to help. But how? Many of you have told us you want to help create more involved, responsible and committed fathers. But, you've also expressed you don't know where to start. The task seems too big to handle. Creating a successful and sustainable fatherhood program right from the start is difficult yet vital. This task isn't for everybody. But, some of you can do it. For those with a passion to connect a dad to his child, I have this to tell you: you can do it...we can help. 

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You may have noticed, I borrow the phrase "you can do it...we can help" from The Home Depot. Think of National Fatherhood Initiative as The Home Depot of fatherhood. Or don't, if you dislike that hardware store. My point is, we have the experience and tools for you to tackle the work of connecting fathers to their kids.

Here are seven (7) steps for how you can start a fatherhood program:

Step 1: Make the Case for a Fatherhood Program

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America – one out of three – live without their biological father in the home. This means there is a father factor in nearly all of the societal ills facing America today. Research shows when a child is raised in a father-absent home, he or she is affected in many ways. Children are more likely to have behavioral problems, more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, two times more likely to suffer obesity, and two times more likely to drop out of high school… and more. 

There is a father factor in nearly all
societal ills facing America today. 
How you address this issue matters. 


You and/or your organization may already be in agreement on the need for fatherhood programs. However, it's important to remember there is still debate about the necessity of fathers. Our point of view, based on research, is that good biological or adoptive fathers perform functions that cannot be performed by anyone else, even though others such as male teachers and family friends can be partial substitutes for good fathers. 
Let’s look at some research.

In a study examining father involvement with 134 children of adolescent mothers over the first 10 years of life, researchers found that father-child contact was associated with better socio-emotional and academic functioning.

  • The results indicated that children with more involved fathers experienced fewer behavioral problems and scored higher on reading achievement. This study showed the significance of the role of fathers in the lives of at-risk children, even in case of nonresident fathers. Source: Howard, K.S., Burke Lefever, J.E., Borkowski, J.G., & Whitman, T.L. (2006). Fathers’ influence in the lives of children with adolescent mothers. Journal of Family Psychology, 20, 468-476.
  • Children in father-absent homes are almost four times more likely to be poor. Source: U.S. Census, Bureau, Children’s Living Arrangements and Characteristics: March 2011, Table C8. Washington D.C.: 2011
  • Even after controlling for income, youths in father-absent households all had significantly higher odds of incarceration than those in mother-father families. Youths who never had a father in the household experienced the highest odds. Source: Harper, Cynthia C. and Sara S. McLanahan: Father Absence and Youth incarceration. “Journal of Research on Adolescence 14 (September 2004): 369-397.

Father absence data will help you educate others on the importance of father involvement, and how father involvement is at the base of numerous societal issues that community organizations and social service agencies are seeking to combat or solve. It stands to reason that building the skills of fathers – giving them the specific, targeted tools and skills they need to be involved – will lead to their increased involvement in the lives of their children, and reduce the chance of the ill-effects of father absence for that child.

Father involvement/father absence data can help you write stronger grant proposals and bolster support for your program in your community. Father involvement/father absence data can also inform your mission, and help establish goals you may want to reach to demonstrate marked improvement in your community as a
result of your work.

“With this tool in your “belt”, you will
be equipped to make the case
for fatherhood work in your organization.

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There is plenty of research and statistics available on the positive effects of father involvement and negative effects of father absence. NFI has a book called, Father Facts 6. Father Facts 6 is the reference manual for anyone interested in promoting responsible fatherhood.

Step 2: Assess the Father Friendliness of Your Organization

Just because you're passionate about father involvement and think it’s important, doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone around does or will. Each person carries with them their own understanding of what it means to have (or not have) a father in their lives, and their own opinion about whether or not having an involved father is even important to children today. These opinions and attitudes can play into their everyday work with families you serve. Assessing the father friendliness of your organization is a vital step to serving fathers and startinng a fatherhood program. In order to head in the right direction, you must know where to start.

How father-friendly are you? 
How about your organization?


fatherfriendlycheckupNFI’s Father Friendly Check-Up™ (FFCU) is a free tool to help you successfully engage dads and strengthen the families in your community. This assessment allows you to analyze your physical environment, location, organizational philosophies, staff attitudes, and more. Without the full “buy-in” from all of your staff members, your fatherhood program and father-involvement plans may come to a screeching halt.

The FFCU will help you examine the structure of your organization and whether it has the foundation on which to build a successful service or program. Without that foundation, your organization risks failure in its ability to effectively serve fathers.

“Wouldn’t it be terrible to put all this work into starting
something and find out later that it didn’t
have “legs to stand on” for success?


In the full ebook How to Start a Fatherhood Program, you can review an organizational case study highlighting use of the Father Friendly Check-Up™ to launch a strategic plan using NFI resources.

Step 3: Focus Your Efforts on the Type(s) of Fathers You Will Engage

There are a great number of fatherhood programs with dedicated staff, curriculum, a facility, and community support – but lack participants.

Your fatherhood program doesn’t
really exist 
without dads to serve.


Marketing a program or service is the greatest challenge. Unfortunately, some fatherhood program practioners are very skilled in the business of program operations but do not know the location of their target population or how to get them in the door. 

Marketing your fatherhood program not only involves recruitment, it involves retention and creating a positive image of your program or service in the community to generate referrals. The "Field of Dreams" quote, “if you build it, they will come” does not apply for this! Just because you are passionate, your staff is ready to work with fathers, and you have a plan in mind, doesn’t mean they will come. It is with careful planning that you must proceed.

You may have heard the old saying, “Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.” That’s why successful fatherhood practioners plan ahead by strategizing how they will draw fathers in, what other services they will offer as “hooks”, and lay out the demographics and location of their target population. It is ideal to do this prior to choosing the curriculum for your fatherhood program.

START with these questions: 

  • What kind of other “wrap-around” resources do we offer that have a “draw” for potential participants?
  • What could be the “hook”?
  • What kind of fathers are we targeting? (e.g.: New fathers, teen fathers, single fathers, non-custodial fathers, and so on.)
  • What is our target father’s age range? Children’s age(s)? Marital status?

NEXT, answer these questions:

  • Where can we find the specific types of fathers we want to reach (that we listed above)?
  • Where are the fathers that have the “need” we serve? Where would they hang out?
  • Where can we post a flyer? (e.g. bulletin board in community center or grocery store; flyer on pizza boxes or other food delivery service, etc.
  • Do we already serve mothers and can we get the message to fathers through them?
  • What are some other creative things we can offer to attract the fathers to our center? (food, prizes, credits, etc.)

“Successful fatherhood practitioners plan ahead
by strategizing how they will draw fathers in
by determining the other services they will offer as “hooks.”


Regarding effective hooks, NFI’s own research has found most fathers enroll in a fatherhood program because it helps them address their immediate needs (e.g. job training and placement, access and visitation with their children, getting a GED, etc.) Often, fathers only realize the benefits of learning fatherhood skills after they’ve been enrolled in a program for a while. 

So from a marketing and recruitment standpoint, it’s more important to stress how your program or organization can meet the fathers’ immediate needs and then introduce them to the fatherhood program. Ultimately, make the fatherhood program an integral part of a larger set of programs or services fathers receive.

24_7_Dad_handbookFor example, NFI’s 24/7 Dad® program is an ideal compliment to wrap around services such job training, support, and financial literacy because the program speaks to why men do what they do. Fatherhood can provide men with a greater context and purpose for life, and when you tap into that, you can make significant in-roads in the other service areas as well.

Depending on your location and types of fathers you will serve, you may find fathers in different places.

For example:

  • If your program is located in a rural setting, you may find program participants in locations such as hunting lodges, fire stations, fishing equipment stores, and sporting events.
  • If your setting is urban, you might recruit program participants at shopping malls, libraries, social service buildings, business venues, and sporting events.
  • If you’re looking to recruit teen and younger adult fathers, skate parks, shopping malls, computer gaming facilities, and coffee shops may serve as prime locations for recruitment.

Step 4: Select the Right NFI Resources and Programs for Serving Fathers

NFI resources offer you the ability to customize programs to engage fathers in a way that is unique to your organization and setting.

I’m ready to serve dads… 
but with what resources?


After you have determined which type of fathers you will target, it will become to select the fatherhood skill-building resources that best fit your needs. To start, NFI uses “intensity levels” to help you understand the amount of staff involvement and monetary investment needed to offer/facilitate categories of products and resources. You choose your implementation strategy – NFI provides you with an approach and tools to create a cohesive, effective fatherhood plan.

  • Low Intensity Resources: NFI fatherhood skill-building resources that require minimal staff time and monetary investment, and are easily incorporated into your other organizational offerings for fathers, such as Brochures, Tip Cards, Pocket Guides, and Posters. 
  • Medium Intensity Resources: Fatherhood skill-building workshops and resources that require moderate staff involvement and monetary investment, and are generally shorter in delivery length, such as The 7 Habits of a 24/7 Dad™, DoctorDad® Workshop, The InsideOut Dad® Guide to Family Ties, FatherTopics™ Workshops. 
  • High Intensity Resources: Group-based Fatherhood curricula programs that require the highest level of staff time and monetary investment, and run for 12 weeks, such as 24/7 Dad® A.M. and P.M., InsideOut Dad®, and Understanding Dad™

Step 5: Prepare for a Sustainable Fatherhood Program 

It’s time to start thinking about how you can create a program or initiative that you can sustain. Now that you have completed the Father Friendly Check-Up™ and have determined you are ready to tackle the next steps toward starting your fatherhood program, it’s time to start thinking about how you can create a program or initiative that you can sustain. Sustainability refers to the long-term ability to keep your fatherhood program alive and thriving. From the foundation of the program to ensuring long term funding, a good place to start is to create a logic model. 

Keeping your fatherhood program alive & thriving
for the long-term requires sustainability.


Developing a program requires a process for planning, implementing, and measuring the success of all the organization’s efforts. A logic model is simply a picture of how your program works. It keeps your goals in view and shows the processes and activities connected to achieving that goal. It is a valuable aid to show potential partners and funders that solid, systematic planning backs your program.

Remember how we spoke in Step 3 about using wrap around services as a hook for your fatherhood program? This is where you will plan how that will look.

 Components of a Logic Model

  • Inputs (what we invest)
  • Outputs:
    • Activities (the actual tasks we do)
    • Participation (who we serve; customers & stakeholders)
    • Engagement (how those we serve engage with the actvities)
  • Outcomes/Impacts:
    • Short Term (learning: awareness, knowledge, skills, motivations)
    • Medium Term (action: behavior, practice, decisions, policies)
    • Long Term (consequences: social, economic, environmental etc.)

“The goal of a Logic Model is to help you get started
on “the right foot” with your fatherhood program,
and help everyone involved understand
what’s needed, and where you’re headed.”


Learn the 6 ways to create a useful logic model in the full ebook How to Start a Fatherhood Program.

Step 6: Fund Your Fatherhood Program

So you have an awesome logic model for your fatherhood program. Great! Now what? We understand you want to do everything you can to promote the well-being of children through father involvement and fatherhood programs. But, organizational budgets are tight and funding can be difficult to secure. The good news is that there are a variety of ways you can fund - or find funding – to work with fathers and take advantage of NFI’s wide range of affordable skill-building resources and out-of-the box fatherhood programs.



How are you going to find funding
for all this much needed fatherhood work?


Funding from Your Own Budget


The first option to consider is how you can find funding within your own organizational budget - which can certainly be difficult. Consider pulling a small amount of money from a program or two that is not as successful as expected, or from a budget where, with some shrewd planning, costs could be reduced. Of course, when you have the opportunity to plan budgets for the next fiscal year, be sure to include fatherhood in your planning, and earmark funds for fatherhood skill-building resources, just as you would for other handouts/brochures for other types of clients you serve.

Whichever fatherhood programming level you choose, providing father-specific, skill-building materials at some level is a step in the right direction.

Funding from Outside Sources

Funding from outside sources is an option that your organization – in addition to starting fatherhood work on a smaller scale using funds from your own budget. With some planning, hard work, and dedication, you may be able to find an outside funding source that will provide for all aspects of your work with fathers.

From training your fatherhood program facilitators, to providing funding to sustain your program (staff stipends, ongoing fathering handbook costs, and other materials needed to run fatherhood program classes), outside funding could open up doors for your fatherhood program that you may have never imagined. And, you may be able to serve even more fathers than you ever thought possible

Your organization may want to seek outside funding from:

  • Individuals
  • Foundations
  • Corporations
  • Local, State & Federal Government
  • Special Events/Fundraisers

Here are a few websites where you can research funding opportunities:

Federal Grant Resources

  • Grants.gov - A federal site that aggregates all federal grant opportunities. You can search for grants currently being offered and access grant writing resources.
  • Office of Management & Budget (OMB) Circulars - Provides direction on federal budge0ng and expensing for nonprofits, education institutions and state, local and Indian Tribe governments.
  • Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Grants – This is an ongoing, $150 million per year funding stream provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families to provide grants to organizations seeking to run fatherhood and/or marriage programs. 


Foundation / Grant Funding

  • The Grant Station - An online funding resource for organizations seeking grants throughout the world. Providing access to a comprehensive online database of grant makers, as well as other valuable tools, Grant Station can help your organization make smarter, be`er-informed fund raising decisions.
  • The Grantsmanship Center - Offers a variety of training such as The Grantsmanship Training Program, Earned Income Strategies and Competing for Federal Grants.
  • Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training (GIFT) - Provides a range of training programs and webinars to help you raise money from your community. Additionally, they offer articles and subscription-based services to aid in your fund raising efforts. 

Step 7: Launch Your Fatherhood Program and Measure the Results

Ready to Launch? Once you’ve made the case to your director/board/boss about starting a fatherhood program, planned for a sustainable program, selected your fatherhood skill-building resources, and have even recruited the dads to come to class -- it's time to start leading! Now, you may be asking questions such as where to hold each session, what should be included, do you need training, and should you have more than one facilitator. 

Plan to evaluate your program’s success.


Fatherhood skill-building sessions can be held anywhere: community centers, churches, library meeting rooms, or even in the home for home visitation agencies. Little things, such as including food and drinks, are a great way to keep dads coming back. While receiving training on NFI’s core fatherhood programs is not required -- since they are considered “out of the box” curricula (a Program Guide, Logic Model, and marketing materials are provided with each Complete Program Kit) -- we do offer curriculum training for facilitators.

Once you have been running your fatherhood program for several weeks or months, your director might want to know how it’s going, and may ask questions such as:

  • Are you retaining the dads who are coming to class?
  • Is the program proving to have a positive impact?
  • Are the dads enjoying what is being taught?
  • Are the dads learning the key points and objectives laid out for each session?

Planning to evaluate your program will allow you to get the best results, and correct your course if something is not working. An evaluation is like a GPS – it tells you whether you’re headed in the right direction and helps you to correct your course if necessary.

Evaluations are critically important for program credibility, accountability, improvement, sharing of best practices, and to prove to funders that their dollars were well spent. You don’t need a complicated design to effectively evaluate your program. To help you with this step, NFI includes evaluation tools with many of our fatherhood programs such as 24/7 Dad® and InsideOut Dad®.

“Evaluations are critically important
for program credibility, accountability,
improvement, sharing of best practices,
and to prove to funders that their dollars were well spent.”


Starting a fatherhood program will be incredibly rewarding for you, your staff/program facilitators and the dads you serve. Now that you’ve read this blog, download the full ebook and start with Step 1! NFI is here help you create a fatherhood program that works! 

 

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Download the full eBook How to Start a Direct Service Fatherhood Program for free!

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

There are 2.7 million children with a parent in prison or jail. Ninety-five (95%) of all inmates will eventually be released. Ninety-two percent (92%) of parents in prison are fathers. Most—2 out of 3 inmates—will reoffend and be back in prison.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

When it comes to fatherhood and prison, we are locking too many dads in jail with little to no help. The fathers behind bars are not connecting with their families from behind prison walls or upon release. These dads need help. They need our help or they are likely to reoffend.  

The father absence crisis in America is real. When we talk about father absence, we mention the U.S. Census Bureau's statistic that 24 million children—one out of three—live without their dad in the home. Over 13,000 of you have viewed The Father Absence Crisis in America. We received lots of feedback on that post. Some readers said, "Great, now we know the problem; what's the solution?"

Well, the truth is, there's one answer: The solution to father absence is father presence. Our job here is done. You're welcome. Please visit our donate page....oh wait, that's not enough information, you say? You need more? We thought you might need a more helpful response to this problem. So, we decided to break down the problem into workable numbers and be sure you know what NFI is doing to fix the problem.

Here's what you need to know 

  1. There is a crisis in America. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America—one out of three—live without their biological dad in the home.
  2. There is a “father factor” in nearly all of the societal issues facing America today. We must realize there is a father absence crisis in America and begin to raise more involved, responsible, and committed fathers.

Fathers Behind Bars:
The Problem for America's Children

Here is the problem related to father absence and prison in two stats:

    1. There are 2.7 million children with a parent in prison or jail. Tweet: 2.7 million children have a parent in prison or jail. Here's The Problem & Solution for America's children: http://ctt.ec/P6HqW+
    2. Ninety-two (92%) of parents in prison are fathers.
Having a parent who is incarcerated is now recognized as an “adverse childhood experience” (ACE), which is different from other ACEs because of the trauma, stigma, and shame it inflicts on children.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

The number of children with a father in prison has grown by 79% since 1991.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

Incarceration often spans generations.

  • Fathers in prison are, overwhelmingly, fatherless themselves.
  • Youths in father-absent households have significantly higher odds of incarceration.
  • More than 650,000 ex-offenders are released from prison every year.
  • Fathers are returning to their families without the skills they need to be involved, responsible, and committed fathers.
  • Two-thirds of released prisoners, or 429,000, are likely to be rearrested within three years.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

Recidivism is a huge, national problem. 

Fathers Behind Bars:
The Solution for America's Children

NFI's InsideOut Dad® program for incarcerated fathers connects dads in prison with their children, heart to heart. InsideOut Dad® is the only evidence-based parenting program designed specifically for incarcerated fathers. An evaluation conducted by Rutger's University found that fathers who went through InsideOut Dad® while in prison showed statistically significant increases in fathering knowledge and confidence/self-esteem compared to a control group.

InsideOut Dad® addresses criminogenic needs, a key factor in:

1) Reducing Recidivism: Reentry initiatives that contain NFI's fatherhood programs have been found to reduce recidivism by 37%.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

We can all agree it is ideal for men to get out of prison or jail, become a successful, contributing member of society, and stay out. Giving incarcerated fathers a vision that they have a unique and irreplaceable role in the life of their child along with increased confidence and changes in attitude and skills is a powerful motivator for successful reentry. Fathers who are involved with, and connected with their children and families prior to release are less likely to return to jail or prison. In fact, some individual states have conducted evaluations that connect the use of IoD along with other interventions to reduced recidivism.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

Recidivism WITH fatherhood programs 24% 
VERSUS 
Recidivism WITHOUT fatherhood programs 38%

2) Maintaining Facility Safety and Order

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]


It has been said, “Idleness is a devil’s workshop”. Facility safety is of utmost importance in the corrections environment and benefits the Prison/Jail warden(s) as well as fellow inmates. Fatherhood Programs in particular can help to engage inmates and encourage good behavior. By connecting inmates to their role as a man, and specifically as a father, they are more engaged in that aspect of their life and in turn, can help to create a peaceful, contented environment as much as possible.

In addition, men who participate in fatherhood groups often create a bond among members, which generates good morale. Good morale is important for safety and there are less disciplinary infractions.

By connecting with their children, incarcerated fathers are motivated to maintain good behavior to keep visiting rights, which is beneficial for both the facility and correctional officers working with them. In addition, research shows that fathers who connect with their children (and families) prior to release have a higher likelihood of staying out of jail/prison.

InsideOut Dad® addresses the marital/family domain that is concerned with an offender's family relationships, including:

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

A study by the Vera Institute of Justice found the strongest predictor of success upon reentry was the perception by the person released that he/she had family support.

Why does all of this matter? Well, because you and I are paying for what doesn't work and we have been for years. 

It's time for a solution that's cost effective for taxpayers and facilities: InsideOut Dad® program costs just $600 for the first 10 fathers, then sustained at only $10 per father. Because the program can contribute to reduced recidivism among fathers, the potential cost savings are huge. It costs an average of $29,000 per year to incarcerate a parent.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

It costs an average of $29,000 per year to incarcerate a parent.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

InsideOut Dad® program costs $600 for the first 10 fathers, then sustained at only $10 per father.

Be a Part of The Solution. Visit Fatherhood.org/iod to download a sample of InsideOut Dad®.

Click here to enlarge this infographic.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]


Share this Image On Your Site
IOD_2nd_kit_500

Download a sample of our popular InsideOut Dad® resource and learn how you can connect an incarcerated father to his child.

 

Global Review Shows Parenting Interventions Need Gumption

A recent global review concluded that parenting interventions must do a better job of including and engaging fathers. It also concluded that evaluations of interventions' impact should include separate analyses of fathers and mothers rather than parents in general. 

Screen_Shot_2014-10-13_at_1.18.36_PMReally? I don't mean to be crass, but these conclusions are not exactly revelations. The review does, however, lend additional credibility to what National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) has said for 20 years--that it is vital to engage fathers in parenting interventions separately from mothers (we call them "fatherhood" or "fathering" programs) and that more funding needs to be focused on the impact of father-specific or father-inclusive parenting interventions. 

The team of UK and US researchers examined 199 published articles on parenting interventions that included at least some discussion of father engagement and impact. The researchers uncovered three specific problems when it comes to interventions' inclusion of fathers:

  • Despite the evidence of fathers substantial impact on child development, well-being, and family functioning, parenting interventions rarely target men, or make a dedicated effort to include them.
  • Parenting interventions that have included men as parents or co-parents give insufficient attention to reporting on father participation and impact.
  • A fundamental change in the design and delivery of parenting interventions is required to overcome pervasive gender biases and to generate robust evidence on outcomes, differentiated by gender and by couple effects in evaluation.

It is the final problem that is most damning. It has has led to parenting interventions, focused on mothers, that will never reach their full potential to improve child well-being. There is a gender bias in parenting interventions that reflects a broader, global, damaging bias that says fathers aren't as important as mothers when it comes to child well-being. It is the most pervasive barrier we've encountered in our 20 years of existence. 

How does NFI address this barrier? The first part of that answer is evident to most people. We've created evidence-based and evidence-informed programs, workshops, and other resources designed specifically for and that engage fathers. 

The second part of that answer is not as evident. We've created workshops and other resources that build the capacity or organizations to engage fathers, such as our recently-released Father-Readiness Training Kit™, that transform the culture of those organizations to value fathers as much as mothers in improving parenting behavior and, consequently, child-well being. We've said for many years--preached, really--that because the culture, infrastructure, and staff training of most organizations are designed to serve the needs of women and mothers that they are ill-suited for effectively engaging fathers. They create a mindset that focuses programs, services, and staff on mothers. As a result, organizations must examine and, as is the case in almost every instance, change their norms, the attitudes and beliefs of staff, and improve infrastructure to effectively serve all parents. 

Parenting interventions will never truly be parenting interventions until they are implemented within organizational cultures that value fathers as partners in parenting who are critical to child well-being. The sad fact is it isn't that difficult to do. It simply takes what my grandparents called "gumption." Gumption involves courage, initiative, aggressiveness, and good old common sense. 

The good news is that more organizations than ever are rolling up their sleeves to take a hard, long look at their efforts to improve parenting and child well-being. Several examples include state and local government agencies that have worked with us to integrate fatherhood programming among the organizations they fund. In Texas, for example, we recently completed a project that integrates father engagement in home visiting programs. We helped the state design an approach that, in turn, helped the human service organizations it funds to design customized approaches to engaging fathers. These approaches improved the organizations' use of evidence-based programs, such as Nurse-Family Partnership, Parents as Teachers, and Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, while maintaining fidelity to the programs' models which, not surprisingly, are focused on mothers. (For other examples of how organizations are rolling up their sleeves, click here and here.)

What is your organization doing to build a foundation for effectively engaging fathers?

How much do you know about the range of father-specific resources and customized solutions NFI provides?

How to Avoid Being a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Dad

I screened this new family film from Disney last Saturday. Normally it works out that my wife and daughters can join me. But, with all the weekend activities of two kids in school nowadays, this movie got screened by me, myself, and I. Sitting alone in the dark movie theater presented me with an interesting opportunity to not just watch the movie, but to consider my role in the family. Here's what I mean...

alex_profile_03Don't get me wrong, I generally enjoy chasing my youngest daughter down long theater halls, running for the third trip to the restroom or to get popcorn...again. But this alone time provided me with the chance to consider the meaning behind the comedy. This movie is silly. It's funny. Everything goes wrong in one day for this fine family. Think Money Pit but with a family instead of a house. And it's somehow funny because it's happening to another family—not yours. Watching, you somehow connect because it's real. You've seen this day before. 

Although Ben Cooper (Steve Carell) plays the dad and his children are a little older than mine, I watched this film from his eyes. Quick back-story: Ben Cooper is a rocket scientist who's been laid off from his position. He's new to the day job of being home. But, as we watch, he's fumblin' and stumblin' his way through. While he isn't perfect, he's there.

I was reminded throughout the film of my role as dad. This movie says important things about dads. As dads, we can't be perfect, but we can be present. As I watched the Cooper's have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, three things jumped out at me—things to avoid so as not to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad dad.  

alexander-and-the-terrible1

1) Stay Positive.
Mr. Cooper knows how to stay positive. Here's a man who has been unemployed for while and he manages to stay positive with his wife and kids through it all. We see him handling all the family chores like a boss; all while dealing with a teen son, a teen daughter, a young son (Alexander), and an infant son.

His life is hectic like yours and mine. But he manages to keep it positive. Oh how I needed to see this reminder in my life! Let's just say in my family I'm often "the realist" to a fault! I want my home to be a fun atmosphere where my daughters are comfortable talking to me. Right now, I think that's true. But, I tend to be a ball of negativity. If I'm ever postitive, it's probably just because my girls are so young right now. Watching Ben relate to his teen son and daughter gave me hope it's possible to be positive, yet realistic, and parent teens.

alexander-and-the-terrible

2) Stay Calm.
I don't stay calm well. There, I said it. I'm basically a baby. Shh, don't tell anyone. When something doesn't go as planned, I'm an upset, whiny baby. Many times in this movie, we see Ben isn't in control. Mimicking real life, Ben has to let some things play themselves out. I should better at staying calm. Are you a calm dad? If so, good for you. To be real, by the time I'm home from work and traffic, the smallest thing can really bother me. I think my home would be a much more relaxed place if I was more calm about life in general. Are you able to "take things as they come"? Maybe we can all learn something from Ben here. Whether it's your teens' failed driver's test or an alligator in your living room, Ben seems to be the go-with-the-flow type of dad. This serves him well.

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3) Never Give Up.

Whether you're having the bad day like the Cooper's or not, you as dad should have the mindset of Ben. He is the leader by example. I can't give away the film; but, let's just say, at his personal lowest, he's still the leader of his family. I didn't cry on this one part. Nope. There might have been a lump in my throat. But, no, no tears, promise! Here's the point: never give up! You're the dad. No matter how low you get, you're still the example. How you react to situations is being watched. You can be discouraged. You can be sad. But you can't give up. You can't quit...not if you're trying to avoid being a bad dad.

You are not perfect and you will never be perfect; especially as a dad. But, I left the theater realizing that being perfect doesn't matter. We will fix the father absence crisis by father presence. For all the silly and funny things that happened in this film we see a dad who is present. We see a dad who doesn't have all the answers. He doesn't nor can he fix everything...but he is there. He is present. The longer I'm a dad, the longer I work for this fine fatherhood organization, the longer I hear stories of good and bad dads and situations...and the answer of how to avoid being a bad dad is to show up. Beyond staying positive, staying calm, and never giving up, we must show up! When you are involved, responsible and committed, there is no terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for your child.

Have you ever had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day? We'll offer fatherhood counseling in the comments!

Download "The Ultimate Guide to Connecting with your Child"! 

Connecting_with_your_child_cover

This free ebook is designed to help you and your children become closer and more connected. Use it for yourself or share it with other dads.

In this free ebook we share:

  • The best questions to ask your school-aged child to get him or her talking
  • Great questions you can ask your teenager
  • Questions you can ask yourself to be sure you're doing all you should to be a great dad

Use this ebook to help you and the dads you know connect with your kids in a meaningful way.

Fatherhood Leader: How You Can Go Mobile With Your Fatherhood Skills

We call it the 24/7 Dad® To Go eBook Series and it gives you, the fatherhood leader, the opportunity to go mobile with your fathering skills. From health and discipline to communication and co-parenting, these books will help you and the dads you serve with the practical advice you expect.

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We know you're busy. Heck, we're busy too! We're dads, we're leaders, which brings me to this...we've made it as convenient as possible for you to take our fatherhood advice mobile - giving you and the dads you serve the quality fathering and parenting advice you expect from us.

We've asked dads (and organizations) what the most important topics are to them, and have created ebooks to address those topics with field-tested, research-backed advice from our resident fatherhood experts!

The 24/7 Dad® To Go eBook Series is the first of its kind – short, simple, affordable, and practical ebooks tackling specific issues that you and the men in the programs you lead are asking about.

We've been careful to make sure each ebook is based on the principles of NFI’s leading fatherhood program, 24/7 Dad®, which is, and we mean to brag, the most widely used fatherhood program among community-­based organizations in the U.S. Why? Because we know fatherhood is a skill-­based activity dads can get better at with the right mix of knowledge and inspiration.

Go Mobile With Your Fatherhood Skills

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How it Works:

  • Annual subscription for $99.99 gets you 12 fatherhood ebooks
  • The ebooks are provided to you via email, containing a web link to a sharable PDF file.
  • Once purchased, you will receive an email with the link to your first ebook within 24 hours of ordering
  • Then, on a monthly basis, you will receive an email with a link to that month's fatherhood ebook.

Father Factor Spotlight: Alexander & the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

We like to talk about movies with a fatherhood and family message. Disney's upcoming family flick Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day will have your worst day looking pretty decent. Check out the trailer and learn a little more about this new family film.

alexander

In theaters October 10th, Disney's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day follows 11-year-old Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) as he experiences one of the most terrible and horrible days of his young life - a day that begins with gum stuck in his hair, followed by one calamity after another.

But over family dinner, when Alexander tells his family about his terrible day, he finds little sympathy and begins to wonder if bad things only happen to him. That's when he makes the wish of all wishes...I'll spare you the details here...but...

He soon learns he is not alone when his mom (Jennifer Garner), dad (Steve Carell), brother (Dylan Minnette), and sister (Kerris Dorsey) all find themselves living through their own terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Anyone who says there is no such thing as a bad day just hasn't had one.

NFI will be writing and posting more about this upcoming film in the coming days; but, we know how busy life and family can be. So, we wanted to be sure you watched the trailer and learn some things about the film before we launch into talking about the movie in more detail.

Here's what you need to know now for your child or to share with parents in your circle:

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day opens in theaters October 10, 2014. 

Get the Sneak Peek of Disney's Alexander!

Life couldn't be worse for Alexander until the day that changes everything. Watch the official trailer for Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Follow Disney's Alexander:

About Disney's Alexander

Genre: Family Comedy

Rating: PG

U.S. Release Date: October 10, 2014

Cast: Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Dylan Minnette, Ed Oxenbould, Kerris Dorsey, Megan Mullally, Jennifer Coolidge, Bella Thorne

Director: Miguel Arteta

Producers: Shawn Levy, Lisa Henson, Dan Levine

Executive Producers: Philip Steuer, Jason Lust

Writer: Rob Lieber

Based on the novel by: Judith Viorst

Download "The Ultimate Guide to Connecting with your Child"! 

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This free ebook is designed to help you and your child become closer. Use it for yourself or share it with other dads.

In this free ebook we share:

  • The best questions to ask your child to get him/her talking
  • Great questions you can ask your teenager
  • Questions you can ask yourself to be sure you're doing all you should to be a great dad

Use this ebook to help you and the dads you know connect with your kids in a meaningful way.

2014 Progress Report: Serving you. Serving Fathers. Serving Families.

National Fatherhood Initiative turned 20 years old in 2014. We understand that measuring effectiveness is key to making a difference in the lives of children and families. We use a variety of methods to measure our impact. We want to be good stewards of the resources we’ve been given to do this important work, and we want to make sure we are using the best approaches to accomplish our mission. Please review our 2014 Progress Report to learn how we are connecting fathers to their children.

NFI is a Second-Question Organization in a First-Question World


20th_Anniv_NFI_LogoNFI’s mission is to improve the well-being of children by increasing the proportion of children with involved, responsible, and committed fathers. Sounds like an easy job, right? After all, doesn’t everyone want fathers to be great role models?

However, NFI is a second-question organization in a first-question world. Most people who want to help children ask the “first question”: What can I do to help that child in need? That’s an important question. But, if you really want to make a positive, long-term difference in the life of a child, you need to ask the “second question”: How did the child get there in the first place? Why does he need my help?

More often than not, you will find that the child does not have the love, nurture, and guidance of an involved, responsible, and committed father. Children from father-absent homes are two to five times more likely to use drugs, live in poverty, fail in school, and suffer from a host of other risks.

No other single factor hurts children more than father absence. Therefore, NFI is committed to addressing the second question by connecting fathers to their children heart to heart.

In our first question world most people are focused on intervention, which is good and noble and must happen. But NFI is also committed to prevention. We seek to create a world in which fewer and fewer children need our help because they have great dads who have been given the skills and encouragement they need, via NFI’s efforts, to be the kinds of dads their children need them to be.

NFI Accomplishes This By

  • Developing and distributing evidence-based and evidence-informed fatherhood skill-building resources and programming designed for all types of fathers, used by community organizations, organizations in the corrections arena, and military installations across the United States.
  • Helping build the capacity of organizations seeking to begin or enhance fatherhood programs through father-friendly assessments, skills training, technical assistance, strategic planning, and community mobilization around fatherhood.
  • Executing state, local, and governmental contracts, subcontracts, and projects related to building and implementing sustainable fatherhood programs and services in a high-quality manner.

View NFI's Progress Report.

 

 

NFI's Community-Based Fatherhood Initiatives

Learn more about What Happens When 120+ Fathers Become Trained Dads in San Diego

NFI's Solutions for Incarcerated Fathers

Read about 381 Dads and Counting: How Kentucky Department of Corrections is Changing Fathers from the Inside Out

NFI's Solutions for Fathers in the Military

Find details on Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State and how NFI is helping support deployed dads. 

NFI's State and Local Government Agency Fatherhood Initiatives

Learn how NFI is helping New Jersey Focus on Fatherhood.

Resources Distributed and Practitioners Trained

NFI is the #1 provider of fatherhood resources and the #1 trainer of fatherhood program practitioners in the country. One way to measure our impact is to ensure that we are continuing to distribute hundreds of thousands of resources and training hundreds of new practitioners each year. To date, we have distributed over 6,627,468 fatherhood resources and we have trained over 13,700 individuals from over 6,300 organizations on how to deliver our programs to dads.

Testimonials

Finally, NFI collects stories from around the country from the dads and organizations who have been impacted by our work. This may not be the “hardest” measure of success, but it is certainly the most satisfying to read. Here are some examples that help us know our work is making a difference.

“I’ve seen a positive change in my life during this program…I now know what I need to do to break the cycle and help my children become productive, well-balanced adults.”

“I’ve taken a good look at my role as a father and how important my role is, as well as how much of an impact I am to my children whether I’m in their life or not.”

“Because of your resources, more fathers are trying to be better fathers by spending family time together, showing affection to their children and they realize that a father’s job is never done.”

“My husband (after being home alone with a vomiting infant and needing some practical help in being a dad)…said it best when he said, 'I thought common sense would be enough.' Thank you, NFI, for offering the tools to help this new father add the most important letters to his…titles, DAD!!!”

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Keep up with the latest news, products, tips, and more with NFI's FatherSource™ email

 

How Your Vote in November Could Harm or Help Children

This post was originally published in The Huffington Post.

As we approach the culmination in November of yet another election cycle, I decided to stake stock of what so many people these days are voting against -- marriage.

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A recent analysis of census data by the Pew Research Center reveals that a record share of Americans have never married. In delving deeper into this milestone, the researchers found:

  • In 2012, 1 in 5 adults ages 25 and older (about 42 million people) had never been married. In 1960, only about 1 in 10 adults (9 percent) in that age range had never been married.
  • About half of today's 25- to 34-year-olds (49 percent) have never been married, a fourfold increase since 1960 (12 percent).
  • When today's young adults reach their mid-40s to mid-50s, it is likely that a record high share (25 percent) is likely to have never been married. And this is despite young adults' lack of opposition to marriage. Only 4 percent of never-married adults ages 25 to 34 say they don't want to get married.

Unfortunately, the best intentions often go unrealized. Despite this lack of opposition to marriage among young adults, the "baby train" keeps rolling down the track. As I've noted elsewhere, out-of-wedlock births and age at first marriage are at all-time highs. Moreover, the average age of women when they marry has surpassed the average age at which they give birth to their first child. A primary cause of these trends is that Americans have increasingly "decoupled" marriage and child bearing so that marriage is no longer viewed as a necessary or even desirable context in which to bear and raise children.

The decoupling of marriage from raising children is, however, only one cog in the engine that has driven us to this point. A host of other changes in values, economics, and gender patterns have contributed as well. Many of those changes are good, needed. But what a cog this decoupling is because, sadly, it is children who ultimately suffer from and have no control over it. My concern is that the adults who have control over it now believe that the primary function of marriage is to benefit the adults who enter into it and not to raise the next generation of children. Far too many Americans continue to ignore (or not care about) the evidence that growing up in home with a single, never-married parent, with a once-married but now divorced parent, or with cohabiting parents places children at a higher risk of poor physical, social, and emotional outcomes, which primarily result from father absence. As the Pew Research Center report notes, fewer than half of the public believes we're better off when marriage and children are a priority.

The improvement of child well-being is why National Fatherhood Initiative exists and is why we're so adamant in our support of marriage as the ideal context in which to raise children. Whether a father is married to his children's mother is the most important predictor of his involvement in his children's lives.

It's also why we're non-partisan. Does that sound odd or surprise you? It shouldn't because this position is not just a conservative or a progressive one. It's both. Encouraging couples to marry before they have children is a cause everyone who considers themselves to be a conservative or a progressive (or anywhere in between) should rally around. A conservative should support this cause because it will help re-establish an institution that is in steep decline. Re-establishing marriage as a vital social institution will save government the money it spends on dealing with the consequences of the decline of marriage and the increase in father absence. A progressive should support this cause because it involves the social reform of an institution that is vital to advancing and improving our society. It would allow the government to shift the money spent on the consequences of the decline of marriage and high rate of father absence to improving our society in other ways, such as improvements to our nation's infrastructure and the environment.

So regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, I encourage you to "vote yes" for marriage in the broad, societal sense. And as you consider for whom to vote this November, delve into how the candidates stand on the institution of marriage, and vote accordingly.

This post was originally published in The Huffington Post.

Why Peanut Butter Cheerios #HowToDad Wins at Cereal and Fatherhood

My daughters love Cheerios. I've had those little circles in my bed and in my shoes for years now. Today, I'm in love with a new Cheerios, Peanut Butter Cheerios, and I haven't even tasted it yet. Here's why...

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General Mills Canada has managed to connect with a dad's desire to engage with his child in a fun way without degrading dads in their new campaign #HowToDad. The new commercial on YouTube reveals exactly what we at NFI hope other brands will do...show a dad as a fully functioning and capable parent...without degrading anyone in the family.

This campaign is more than a fun commercial; from the executive leadership of General Mills Canada on down to the creative folks behind the idea at Tribal Worldwide Toronto point out, “The Cereal category is traditionally more of a health-oriented “Mom” space – even though recent studies show that men do nearly half of the family’s grocery shopping, nothing in the Cereal aisle has ever truly spoken to Dads,” says Jason Doolan, director of marketing, General Mills. “We’ve set out to change that by celebrating what it means to be an awesome dad.”

The #HowToDad campaign was created by Tribal Worldwide Toronto and features a YouTube video showing dads parent differently. The video points to HowToDad.ca for more dad-content. “It just made sense to declare Peanut Butter Cheerios as ‘The Official Cereal of Dadhood,’ because like great dads, Peanut Butter Cheerios lie somewhere in the intersection of awesome and responsible,” says Josh Stein, creative director, Tribal Worldwide Toronto. “Dads are awesome and it’s awesome to be a dad." The campaign mentions that today, dads play a significant role in raising children, and celebrate their contribution. We are presenting General Mills Canada and Tribal Worldwide our NFI Fatherhood Award later this week. Stay tuned to #howtodad on social for more details.

The new commercial opens with the dad asking, "Why should you be proud to be a dad?" He answers his own question, "You know why...because our kids think we're awesome!" What continues is pure genius in its simplest form. The commercial follows dad as he walks through the house and back-yard explaining how awesome dads are...like Peanut Butter Cheerios! Watch the full commercial here.


At NFI, we know more and more dads like you are experiencing the satisfaction and reward of taking a more active role your child's life...and us dads should be celebrated. I love this commercial for its real portrayal of a dad and family. Tribal didn't pick the dumb dad or the passive dad routine to be "funny".

Much like our 10 Ways to Be a Better Dad, the commercial shows the simple ways dads are awesome. The commercial is a reminder that what us dads do impacts our relationship with our child. Watch the commercial and you'll see why the campaign is awesome. In short, it's because it shows how awesome dads are. Being an awesome dad takes at least these 10 things, maybe more:

Screen_Shot_2014-09-22_at_1.47.41_PM1) An Awesome Dad Respects His Child's Mother

Watch closely as the dad in this commercial grabs coffee and passes it to his wife. He says, "Hot stuff coming through...the wife and the coffee." One of the best things you can do for your child is to love and respect mom.

If you're a single dad, my guess is that respecting your child's mother is still a good idea. We've said it before but it's worth repeating: When a child sees parents respecting each other, he or she is more likely to feel accepted and respected. We've written plenty on protecting your marriage. 

tumblr_n8vec3mUco1tf2ynwo1_r1_5002) An Awesome Dad Spends Time with His Child 

How a dad spends his time tells his child what's important to him. If you're "always" busy, your child will feel neglected. Say, "I love you" all you want, but your child will not feel loved. Loving your child means sacrificing other things, but it is essential to spend time with your child. It also means doing things out of your comfort zone. It means doing things that you aren't super-interested in—but you'll get interested—because your child is. 

Kids grow up quickly; missed opportunities are exactly that—missed. Beyond these 7 Ways to Connect with Your Kids, understand like Cheerios says, "An Awesome Dad 'Never Says No to Dress Up'" and "An Awesome Dad Builds the Best Forts."

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3) An Awesome Dad Listens First, Talks Second

In some cases, the only time a dad talks to his child is when he or she gets in trouble. Take time and listen to your child's ideas and problems. Listening helps them feel respected and understood. Begin listening and talking with your child when he or she is young so when difficult subjects arise, they will be easier to handle as they get older. Or, just tell hilarious jokes...because that's what awesome dad does!

Say hello to my pillow friend. Raise a bowl of new Peanut Butter Cheerios to dadhood!4) An Awesome Dad Disciplines With Love

All children need guidance and discipline, not as punishment, but to set reasonable limits. Remind your child of the consequences of his or her actions and provide meaningful rewards for desirable behavior. 

A dad who disciplines in a calm and fair manner shows he loves his child. Get our 8 Things to Know About Disciplining Your Child. Said another way: An awesome dad knows how and when to discipline. "Because being awesome isn't about breaking rules—it's about making them."

Capes were made for dads. So raise a bowl of new Peanut Butter Cheerios to dadhood.5) An Awesome Dad is A Role Model

A dad is a role model to his child, whether he realizes it or not. A girl who spends time with a loving father grows up knowing she deserves to be treated with respect by boys, and what to look for in a husband. A dad can teach his son what is important in life by demonstrating honesty, humility, and responsibility. Here's a great example of a role-model dad in case you need one. 

Dads teach the fun stuff. So raise a bowl of new Peanut Butter Cheerios to dadhood!6) An Awesome Dad is a Teacher

Too often we think teaching is something others do at a school building. But a father who teaches his child about right and wrong, and encourages his child, will see his child make good choices. An involved dad uses everyday examples to help his child learn the basic lessons of life. Consider the vital knowledge you, and you only, possess with regard to music and classic movies. Consider how a dad can teach about fashion from this commercial: the awesome dad understands the Difference Between a Boy and a Man (see dad in commercial say to his son as he tilts his cap, "Suggestion...that's a Boy...that's a Man...")

Dads are full of wisdom. Let’s raise a bowl of new Peanut Butter Cheerios to dadhood!7) An Awesome Dad Eats With His Family

Sharing a meal together can be an important part of healthy family life. In addition to giving structure to a busy day, it gives your child the chance to talk about what his or she is doing and wants to do. It is also a good time for dad to listen. Most importantly, it is a time for families to be together each day. 

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8) An Awesome Dad Reads To His Child

In a world where television and technology dominates, it is important that dad reads to his child. Read to your child when he or she is young. Instilling in your child a love for reading is one of the best ways to ensure he or she will have a lifetime of growth. We wrote a little something called 6 Tips on How to Show Your Child Reading is Awesome. Let's be honest, it's helpful. In other words, as dads, we "blow their minds." 

Dads never lose. Let’s raise a bowl of new Peanut Butter Cheerios to dadhood.

9) An Awesome Dad Shows Affection

Your child needs the security that comes from knowing he or she is wanted, accepted, and loved. Dad, get comfortable hugging your children. Showing affection every day is the best way to let your child know he or she is loved. Remember as the commercial points out, "They (kids) look at us the same way they do superhero's...up...because we're taller."

Balance: it’s what dads do best. Raise a bowl of new Peanut Butter Cheerios to dads!10) An Awesome Dad Realizes A Father's Job Is Never Done

Even after your child is grown and ready to leave home, he or she will still look to you for wisdom and advice. Whether it's continued schooling, a new job or a wedding, you continue to play an essential part in the life of your child as he or she grows. Work hard. Dad hard. You can submit for #HowToDad here.

What's the one thing on this list you find the most rewarding?

What's Missing in the Adrian Peterson Story?

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

What in the world was Adrian Peterson thinking when he took a switch -- specifically, a tree branch -- to his 4-year-old son? He wasn't thinking, and that's part of his problem. But there's more to this horrible situation than meets the eye.

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I decided to wait nearly a week after this story broke to write this piece because I've learned that these stories are like the proverbial layers of the onion. We learn more and more as the layers peel away over the days, weeks and, sometimes, months after such a story becomes public. This story still has some legs, especially as we wait to see how the legal system will judge Peterson's action. But as is typically the case, the court of public opinion is moving at light speed to render judgment on Peterson, no doubt fueled by the Ray Rice and Greg Hardy domestic-violence incidents, and the lack of appropriate NFL policies that address domestic and family violence perpetrated by its players.

Even though this story continues to unfold, I decided to write this piece now because of what's been absent from coverage of this story -- two vital reasons Peterson acted in such a stupid, harmful manner.

First, Peterson was and still is ill prepared for being a father. Let me be clear. I'm not talking about whether he loves or genuinely cares for his son. I'm also not saying he lacks any knowledge or skill in being a father. What he clearly lacks, however, is an adequate base of knowledge and skills required of a nurturing, loving father, particularly in the area of disciplining a child.

Second, Peterson lacks even a basic understanding of the difference between discipline and punishment. I'll unpack this second reason before I return to the first one.

The evidence for this lack of understanding first appeared in a statement issued by Peterson's attorney, Rusty Hardin, who said, "Adrian is a loving father who used his judgment as a parent to discipline his son. He used the same kind of discipline with his child that he experienced as a child growing up in east Texas."

The evidence mounted several days later when Peterson spoke for the first time about the abusive act and said:

"I never imagined being in a position where the world is judging my parenting skills or calling me a child abuser because of the discipline I administered to my son... I have to live with the fact that when I disciplined my son the way I was disciplined as a child, I caused an injury that I never intended or thought would happen. I know that many people disagree with the way I disciplined my child."

(Click here for the full text of Peterson's statement.)

Count me in with the crowd who disagrees as you notice how Peterson and Hardin harp on the notion that Peterson "disciplined" his child.

He did not discipline his child. He used a violent, fear-based, abusive form of punishment that was, tragically, used on him as a child.

That Peterson never questioned how he was punished as a child is also part of his problem.

Discipline, which originates from the Latin word "discipulus," means "to teach or guide." To punish means, no pun intended, to "penalize" someone for an offense through pain, loss, confinement, or even death. Taking a switch to a 4-year-old in today's world, or in the world of the recent or distant past, is simply a form of abusive, fear-based punishment meant to inflict pain. It in no way teaches or guides. Anyone who doesn't realize this kind of punishment can injure a child is not in his or her right mind.

Too many fathers, and parents in general, confuse discipline and punishment. They use the terms interchangeably. (Peterson and Hardin clearly fall into this camp.) They default to punishment because they either lack knowledge of effective ways to discipline their children or, if they know of alternatives; they take the easier, swifter path because, quite simply, discipline requires more work than punishment. Discipline requires skill in applying proven techniques. It also requires parents to be calm, patient, and nurturing before, during and after disciplining children, a quality some parents sorely lack. It also requires comfort with failure as parents learn how to effectively apply the techniques of child discipline and which ones work best with their children.

Moreover, when these parents punish -- and there are times when it is appropriate to punish children -- they use violent forms that are unnecessary and place their children at risk for injury, not to mention the damage these forms have on parent-child relationships. These parents lack the knowledge of effective, non-violent forms of punishment.

This specific lack of knowledge and skill in the discipline of children underscores a larger problem, particularly as it concerns fathers and our culture in general. Too many men become fathers without an inkling of how to be a good father. Our culture does a pitiful job of preparing men to be good fathers, and fathers know this. Several years ago, researchers from the University of Texas and Rutgers University conducted the most significant national study to date on fathers' attitudes on fathering. Only slightly more than half of the fathers surveyed "agreed," and less than a fourth "strongly agreed," that they felt adequately prepared for fatherhood when they first became fathers.

As this story continues to unfold, we must not only examine Peterson's culpability and the appropriateness of the actions taken by the NFL and the Vikings in punishing him. We must also examine the culpability of our society for its inadequate preparation of men to be fathers and lack of training for fathers in the knowledge and skills required to be involved, responsible, committed fathers. (National Fatherhood Initiative tried for years, with no success, to work with the NFL in providing fathering training and resources for its players.) While that latter examination doesn't absolve Peterson of his individual responsibility in abusing his child, it at least acknowledges that his action didn't occur in a vacuum. Fortunately, and encouragingly, the legal authorities and the citizens in east Texas who indicted him recognized his action for what it is. Let's hope Peterson will eventually do the same.

How were you disciplined and/or punished as a child? How does how you were raised help (or harm) your style of discipline as a parent today?

For fatherhood leaders, we're here to help you serve the dads you lead. You can subscribe to our ebook service; where we share "How to Discipline Your Child" along with other helpful topics for dads.

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

Parental Incarceration Might be Worse for Children than Parental Divorce or Death

The longer I'm at National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), the more evidence piles up that shows how devastating having an incarcerated parent is for children.

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Last month researchers released a study that shows having an incarcerated parent might be worse for children than if their parents divorced or died. As reported in USA Today, the study found:

"That significant health problems and behavioral issues were associated with the children of incarcerated parents, and that parental incarceration may be more harmful to children's health than divorce or death of a parent...'These kids are saddled with disadvantages,' said Kristin Turney, the author of the study and an assistant professor of sociology at UC-Irvine. 'They're not only dealing with parental incarceration, but also mental health issues. It might make finding a job more difficult, or they may be forced to grow up faster than peers.' Compared to children of similar demographic, socioeconomic and familial characteristics, the study found that having a parent in prison was associated with children's behavioral problems and conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities, speech or language problems and developmental delays."

We've known for decades that having an incarcerated parent places children at a greater risk for a host of poor outcomes compared with children whose parents aren't incarcerated. That's the primary reason NFI has equipped hundreds of correctional facilities, halfway houses, and re-entry programs and organizations with programs and other resources to help connect incarcerated fathers to their children and families prior to and after release. The fact that 25 states have standardized our InsideOut Dad® program across their facilities for men is a testament to how vital this work truly is. 

But when I add the results of this study to what we already know about the devastating impact of parental incarceration, I want to ensure that every state department of corrections standardizes on our InsideOut Dad program. I also want every county or city jail that houses fathers and every re-entry program that helps incarcerated fathers reenter society to understand how much impact they can have on improving child well-being by using our programs and resources to help incarcerated fathers be better dads. Unrealistic? Perhaps. But it's an objective worth pursuing. Please join me in achieving that objective.

What are you doing to help the children of incarcerated fathers?

What are you doing to help incarcerated fathers be better dads?

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