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The Father Factor

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The Best Dad Advice Around: Download Free eBook & Enter the iPad Air Giveaway

“It was not his words, it was the silence of his voice, the way he was and is always there, ready to help and be a super hero without saying a word.” – Kris

What was the best advice your dad ever gave you?

We learn a lot about life from our dads. Whether it’s how to communicate successfully in our marriages, how to be fathers ourselves, or just some good practical advice on career or finances, dads share with us a special kind of wisdom.

NFI-Giveaway-eBlast_bpfOCHD071714.1_500x500Last month, to celebrate Father’s Day, brightpeak financial launched a campaign to collect the Best Dad Advice from around the U.S.

They challenged moms, dads, sisters and brothers to share with us the best advice they’ve ever received from their dads. The results were inspiring. Hundreds of entries poured in with advice on love, faith, money, parenting and facing adversity.

The submissions were insightful, smart and even humorous, but above all, they were inspirational.

brightpeak then compiled the best entries into the Best Dad Advice eBook. 

CLICK HERE to download your free Best Dad Advice eBook and enter the iPad Air Giveaway!

Check out a few excerpts from the book, below:


CHARACTER & VIRTUE

“It is better to be kind than correct. I use this to relate and connect with my kids on a daily basis.” – Mark

“Don’t take anything for granted, not even a glass of water.” – Deana

"Always be present to those around you.” – Seth

CONFLICT & ADVERSITY

“Wisdom is the ability to put your knowledge into proper action.” – David

“There is no such thing as luck. Luck is what you make for yourself by never quitting.” – Ron

“If one person calls you a donkey, ignore them. If two people call you a donkey, think about it. If three people call you a donkey, you probably are!”
– Amanda

FAITH

“My dad has always told us kids to seek wise and Godly council before we
do anything. Even if it means having to wait a while for an answer. I’m very
grateful to God for giving my dad such a godly character!” – Caitlin

“My father’s best advice was to put God first in your life, then your family,
then others.” – Thomas

PRACTICAL LIFE

“Don’t let your gas go below ¼ tank in the winter.” – Gretchen

“When I was young and got hurt, my Dad would always tell me, ‘It’ll feel
better when it quits hurting.’” – Ron

“Don’t put shiny wheels on your car - someone will steal it.” - Jackie

LOVE

“It all starts with a kiss – so be careful.” – Louise

“If there’s any doubt whatsoever about the man you’re gonna marry, then
he is not the right one for you. You will know without any doubts when you
meet the right man.” – Paul

“Don’t date a woman you wouldn’t marry.” – Mike

PARENTING

“The best thing a Dad can do for his kids is to love his wife. It reminds me that the kids are always listening and they learn from my actions.” – Mike

“Cars, houses and things can be replaced but years gone by can’t. Make time to play with your kids before they are too old to play.” – Anne

“The best and only advice my Dad gave me on raising my children was, ‘Be consistent.’” – Debra

If you would like to read the whole book, including sections on Money & Career, Decision Making, Attitude, Practical Life, Faith, Love, and Family, download the Best Dad Advice eBook below. You’ll also be entered to win a free iPad Air when you sign up!

CLICK HERE to download your free Best Dad Advice eBook and enter the iPad Air Giveaway!

Brightpeak financial is a division of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, a membership organization of Christians, created to help young Christian families build financial strength so they may live life with confidence and generosity. Learn more about brightpeak financial here.

iPad Air Giveaway Terms and Conditions bpfOCHD071714.1

10 Ways to Sneak Spinach into Your Child's Food

Spinach is one of the most potent greens when it comes to overall health and vitamin support. While its raw form can be healthy in its own right, the boiled and cooked versions of the leafy green provide an incredible amount of nutritional value. Unfortunately, it could be incredibly difficult to feed the much-needed veggies to the children. After all, boiled spinach doesn't look all that appetizing. What are ways you can incorporate spinach into daily meals without forcing your child to eat it?

10 ways to sneak spinach into your child's foodAs a reader of this blog, you know NFI takes health and diet seriously. Christopher Brown recently wrote a post called Your Children are What YOU Eat. Us dads need to be intentional about being an example to our children when it comes to diet. For fatherhood leaders, you can not only use these tips in your own life, but be sure to share these tips with the dads you serve. 

1. Salads - Spinach can be added to salads quite easily without making the experience distasteful for the children. Even replacing half of the lettuce with spinach can help your children obtain more vitamins and minerals than by eating it without. Adding grilled chicken, onions and mushrooms to the mix can make an incredibly healthy, and tasty meal.

2. Smoothies - Armed with a good blender, you can make fruity smoothies with a bit of spinach added in order to make a good summer drink. Mixing fruits such as blueberries can help hide the spinach for children who don't like the "look" of certain foods. Make them in the privacy of your kitchen and the children will never know that they are drinking some of the healthiest beverages you can develop.

3. Lasagna - Depending on the recipe, you may already be incorporating spinach in your lasagna. If not, a few cups of chopped spinach gently added to a layer or two can provide a bit of additional nutrition to the dish.

4. Spinach Cake - While the children may not eat a glop of boiled spinach, a great deal of fun can be had by eating a green cake. Blending the leafy green and adding it to your recipe could provide a great way to encourage your children to eat healthier. Of course the sugars in the frosting may not be as healthy as you'd like, but at least the children are eating the spinach.

5. Soups - By finely grinding the spinach, you can add a bit of it to soups to give it more health appeal while making it look like ordinary chives and such. This can be a great addition to homemade turkey noodle soup after Thanksgiving.

6. Egg Rolls - While spring egg rolls can be delicious themselves, using spinach in your chicken or pork recipes can add more health appeal. Chopped spinach lining the egg roll prior to add the rest of the components can provide a way for the children to eat it without realizing what is actually within.

7. Quiche - The overall development of a good quiche can hide all kinds of nutritional foods without the child suspecting spinach is involved. While some use bacon, others will add extra cheese in the development of the dish in order to help hide the fact that spinach is within the meal.

8. Macaroni and Cheese - Using rotini noodles and a homemade cheese sauce, you can add a bit of spinach into this dish with the children being overly concerned. A few chopped pieces of bacon and almost any child will be hooked on this healthy side or meal. Some parents will use garden rotini as one-third of the noodles are green anyway.

9. Chicken Pasta - Using garden rotini again, you can add chopped spinach in with diced tomatoes while mixing in chicken and a garlic marinade to provide a meal that is good hot or cold. The garlic marinade can easily hide a lot of the taste of spinach from the children.

10. Mashed Potatoes - Some parents have had good luck using chopped spinach in a cheesy garlic mashed potatoes recipe. This combines two foods that children seem to love: cheese and mashed potatoes. The added spinach will barely be noticeable as the children are more focused on the cheesy side of the dish.

Providing a nutritional option for children can help them develop physically and mentally. The more intentional you are about child's health, the more healthy they will be. Start by encouraging your children to eat more vegetables and fruits daily. Sneak the veggies in if you have too!

Ken Myers is a father of three and passionate about great childcare. He’s always looking for ways to help families find the support they need to live fuller, richer lives. Find out more about expert childcare by checking out @go_nannies on Twitter.

image: iStockPhoto

Your Children are What YOU Eat

You know what a fast-food diet can do to your waistline, not to mention your thighs, buttocks, arms, etc. But did you know that Baconator® from Wendy's could have consequences for your unborn children and grandchildren? It's time to wake up and smell the coffee (er, bacon) when it comes to your diet. What you eat can have either a positive or negative effect on your unborn child or grandchild. 

diet and fatherhood donut cheese burger

Recent ground-breaking research by Dr. Ian Myles, an allergist-immunologist based in Bethesda, MD, and reported in the Nutrition Journal concluded that it's not just moms whose diets affect their unborn children. Dads' diets matter, too. Specifically, parents' diets affect their children's "mircobiome," the plethora of bacteria that live on our skin and in our gut. A diverse and balanced microbiome is critical to a strong immune system. Unfortunately, our Western diet--marked by an imbalance that favors refined grains, sugar, and too much saturated fat--creates a limited and imbalanced microbiome one that makes it more difficult for us to properly digest food (thus taking advantage of the nutrients that might be present but limited) and ward off disease, not to mention how lethargic such a diet can make us.

Worse yet, our poor diet is a bad gift that keeps on giving as the microbiome it creates in parents (or expectant parents) passes directly to their offspring. When it comes to moms, it's easier to see the connection. Dr. Myles says, for example, "When the mother’s diet causes a harmful imbalance of her bacteria, she passes this imbalance on to her child and thus fails to present the ideal commensals for a proper immune education during her child’s most critical developmental window. This developmental dysbiosis leaves the offspring’s immune system poorly trained to fight off infections and encourages autoimmune and allergic diseases." 

While the mechanism for moms' contributions to their offspring's microbiome is easier to get your arms around, you might understandably wonder what's the mechanism that links dads' diets to their offspring's microbiome. It's DNA that wonder of nature that allows two human beings to create another one. Poor diets can negatively affect men's DNA by altering the genes that men eventually pass to their offspring. Those alterations can affect the development of organs some of which (e.g. the pancreas) are vital to a properly functioning immune system. As Dr. Myles says, "Since the information encoded upon DNA is passed from parent-to-child and even potentially from parent-to-grandchild, cells that learn bad habits like ignoring signs of infection or over-reacting to antigens could combine with microbiome shifts to further worsen a child’s immunologic development." 

This research is quite new. The jury is still out on how strong a link there is between dads' diets and the affects on their unborn children. Nevertheless, there is enough evidence to strongly suggest that what you ingest can have far-reaching consequences for your children. It's not enough to understand and act upon the clear evidence on how your diet directly affects you and indirectly affects the children you might now have (e.g. they learn through modeling what to eat). You also must seriously consider acting on the emerging evidence that you can pass along the impact of a poor diet (or a good one) to the very core of your children's being just like your height, eye color, hair color, or any other heritable trait.

How poor or good is your diet? How much do you care about how your diet affects your children or unborn children?


image: iStockPhoto

The Problem with Parent-Directed Activities

As a parent, you want to see your child happy and healthy. Many parents are buying into the idea that happy, healthy kids are created when the parents arrange a plethora of directed activities. They spend their days shuttling kids from soccer games to gymnastics practice to piano lessons, all in the hopes of keeping their minds and bodies happy. Yet despite your best intentions, these activities may be doing more harm than good for your children's development.

The Loss of Free Play

sergey-nivens-shutterstock_boy_playing_outsideIf you read our blog much, you know we like to provide helpful parenting tips from time to time—both for dads and for those who serve dads. When you were a kid, chances are your parents sent you outside to play for hours. You may have roamed your neighborhood and enjoyed pickup games of baseball or kickball. Do your kids get the chance to do this? If you’re like the average modern family, the answer is no. Free playtime is being lost to adult-directed activities, and this is to the detriment of our children.

Parents cite many reasons that they don't simply let their kids play. Reasons include:

  • Increased academic demands

  • Concerns for safety

  • Lack of other children to play with

  • Lack of time in the schedule

Some of these reasons are legitimate. You do, after all, have a responsibility to keep your children safe. Yet, failing to let them play is bringing on a new set of dangers. Before you assume that hovering over your kids and choosing their activities is the best, consider the dangers of constant parent direction in play.

The Loss of Play Increases Anxiety and Depression

From 1981 to 2006, suicide rates for children under the age of 15 years doubled, according to the American Association of Suicidology. Children are facing serious problems with anxiety and depression. Interestingly, in this same time frame the opportunity for children to play on their own has dropped at an alarming rate.

Why is this? During play, children learn how to take risks. They can mitigate the risk and the fear it brings with the happiness the activity brings. If going down the tall, twisty slide is too frightening, no one pushes them to do it. They can choose the shorter slide for the first few trips until they gain the confidence to try the big one.

This type of self-directed play teaches children how to handle and overcome anxiety. It also brings great happiness, which lessens the chances of depression. Children are more emotionally stable when they get the chance to play free of parental direction.

Free Play Benefits Children in Crucial Areas of Development

Emotional and mental health is just one aspect of free play as it benefits children. Parents who let their children play on their own on a regular basis will also notice:

  • Children learn how to handle emotions

  • Children learn to make friends and get along with peers

  • Children develop better imaginations and problem-solving skills

  • Children learn what they do and do not enjoy

  • Children become more self-aware and self-confident

Children who are constantly directed in their activities don’t get the chance to explore peer interactions, or activities they enjoy that parents might not think of.

How to Incorporate More Free Play Time

If free play is so important to your child's development, what can you do to incorporate more of it in your family? Here are some practical suggestions:

  • Cut down on scheduled activities to make time to play

  • Create a safe outdoor play area where you are comfortable letting your children play

  • Let your children be bored, even if it requires practice for both you and them

  • Limit or eliminate television and video games during the week

  • Meet the neighborhood parents so you feel comfortable letting your kids play together

  • Take action with other local parents to make the neighborhood safe for free play

Sending your children out to play without you at their side, or stepping back when they’re at the playground is not lazy parenting — it’s good for your kids. Find ways to incorporate safe free play times into your life, and watch your children's emotional, mental and social health blossom.

Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? Why or why not?

David Reeves is the Marketing Director of Grounds For Play, a division of Superior Recreational Products in Carrollton, GA. The company is focused on the design of play structures and environments that challenge children mentally and physically.

image: shutterstock

10 Ways To Be a Better Dad

Today, more and more dads like you are experiencing the satisfaction and reward of taking a more active role in the life of your child. Read and discover how these 10 simple ideas can help (or remind) you to start today on a new path—one that will impact your relationships...and your child's future. 

1) Respect Your Children's Mother

One of the best things you, as a dad, can do for your children is to respect their mother. If you are married, maybe this goes without saying, but I'll say it just in case; keep your marriage strong and healthy. Take time, as least weekly, to work on this relationship and keep it strong. If you're not married, it's still important to respect and support the mother of your children. A father and mother who respect each other, and let their children know it, provide a secure environment for the children. When children see their parents respecting each other, they are more likely to feel they are also accepted and respected. Find more on protecting your marriage.

10 ways to be a better dad fatherhood2) Spend Time With Your Children

This is more complicated that is sounds, I know. But, how a dad spends his time tells his children what's important to him. You've no doubt heard us say, Children spell "love": T-I-M-E. If you always seem too busy for your children, they will feel neglected no matter what you say. Treasuring children often means sacrificing other things, but it is essential to spend time with your children. Kids grow up so quickly. Missed opportunities are lost forever. Need ideas for how to spend your time? Here are 7 Ways to Connect with Your Kids

3) Listen First, Talk Second

All too often the only time a father speaks to his children is when they are getting in trouble. That's why many children may cringe when their mother says, "Your father wants to talk with you." Take time and listen to your children's ideas and problems. Listening helps them feel respected and understood. Begin listening and talking with your kids when they are young so that difficult subjects will be easier to handle as they get older. 

4) Discipline With Love

All children need guidance and discipline, not as punishment, but to set reasonable limits. Remind your children of the consequences of their actions and provide meaningful rewards for desirable behavior. Fathers who discipline in a calm and fair manner show love to their children. Get our 8 Things to Know About Disciplining Your Child.

5) Be A Role Model

Fathers are role models to their kids, whether they realize 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. Fathers can teach sons 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.

6) Be A Teacher

Too often we think teaching is something others do at a school building. But a father who teaches his children about right and wrong, and encourages them to do their best, will see his children make good choices. Involved fathers use everyday examples to help their children learn the basic lessons of life. Consider the vital knowledge you, and you only, possess with regard to music and classic movies at this point!

7) Eat Together As A Family

Sharing a meal together (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) can be an important part of healthy family life. In addition to providing some structure on a busy day, it gives kids the chance to talk about what they are doing and want to do. It is also a good time for fathers to listen. Most importantly, it is a time for families to be together each day. 

8) Read To Your Children

In a world where television and technology dominates the lives of children, it is important that fathers make the effort to read to their children. Children learn best by doing and reading, as well as seeing and hearing. Read to your children when they are very young. When they are older, encourage them to read on their own. Instilling your children with a love for reading is one of the best ways to ensure they 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.

9) Show Affection

Children need the security that comes from knowing they are wanted, accepted, and loved by their family. Dad, get comfortable hugging your children. Showing affection every day is the best way to let your children know that you love them.

10) Realize A Father's Job Is Never Done

Even after children are grown and ready to leave home, they will still look to their fathers for wisdom and advice. Whether it's continued schooling, a new job or a wedding, fathers continue to play an essential part in the lives of their children as they grow and, perhaps, marry and build their own families. 

Which one of these 10 ways do you find the most difficult? Why?

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Fatherhood Leader: We have these 10 Ways to Be a Better Dad created as brochures and tip cards for you to use with your group of dads in any setting.

image: iStockPhoto

What's Mom Got to Do With It?

I was at an acquaintance's house the other night, and the inevitable question, "What do you do for a living" led to an unending story of a father who was denied access to his child(ren) by the mother - for all sorts of reasons.

I heard about the endless heartache he suffered trying to be involved in the child's life, which lead to his frustration, and eventual hopelessness and realization that he would never have easy access to his child.

Now, we all know there are two sides to every story, but this scenario is all too common.

what's mom got to do with it fatherhoodWhen I tell people that NFI develops and distributes curricula to help organizations across the nation work with dads to increase their involvement, I often get the follow-on question, "Well, what about the moms who don't let them be involved?"

Enter the discussion of "maternal gatekeeping", which refers to a mother’s protective beliefs about the desirability of a father’s involvement in their child’s life, and the behaviors acted upon that either facilitate or hinder collaborative childrearing (often called “shared parenting” or “co-parenting”) between the parents. Maternal gatekeeping occurs regardless of whether parents are married, divorced or unmarried, and regardless of the parents’ satisfaction with the relationship between them. 

Let me clarify - this is not a discussion about the court system and its challenges. We're talking about the part of the father-child relationship over which a mother has some control - where she has the choice to be a gateway or a gatekeeper to dad's involvement. Specifically: 

  • The cognitive aspects of maternal gatekeeping include preferences or beliefs about the father’s involvement, satisfaction with his involvement, and the mother’s view of the father’s competence as a parenting figure. 
  • The behavioral aspects can include how the mother speaks about the father in the presence of their child; to what extent the father is included or updated on the child’s health, schooling or social life; and the extent to which the mother communicates to the father that she knows what is best for their child and the correct way to do things—while he does not 

How Does this Happen?

In most married or cohabiting American families, mothers and fathers divide their family roles and tasks to achieve maximum efficiency as they raise children. Even when parents expect during pregnancy that they will divide employment and family roles evenly, most new parents take on gender stereotypic roles after the birth of their first child and thereafter (Cowan & Cowan, 2000). Even when both parents work outside the home, fathers more often take on the dominant role as economic provider. Regardless of how much each parent works outside the home, mothers generally assume primary responsibility for childcare and associated responsibilities inside the home. In divorced and unmarried families, mothers most often assume legal guardianship of children. Consequently, children most often reside with them, resulting again in mothers’ assumption of primary responsibility for their care on a daily basis. 

Despite an increase in joint custody and the recognized importance of fathering among divorced, separated, or never-married couples, mothers continue to typically serve as the primary caretakers of children, particularly in their children’s early years. Even when mothers and fathers are equally or near-equally involved in raising children, mothers often feel a sense of ownership or that they have primary rights toward the children in comparison to fathers. This feeling can result from some combination of biology (mothers carry the children in pregnancy and give birth) and social roles selected by many parents—and reinforced by societal expectations—that currently sanction mothers over fathers as primary caretakers of children. 

Why Does it Happen?

The motivations for maternal gatekeeping vary widely. They depend on individual, couple, and familial circumstances and situations. Mothers might have a difficult time relinquishing familial responsibility, might want to validate their identity as “the mother” and garner recognition for their “maternal” or “feminine” contributions to the family, or might view the father as incompetent or even dangerous to the child. This latter view might be based either on actual evidence, the father’s past behaviors, or her personal perceptions of him and his failures in the male familial role.

Furthermore, she might be protective of her child purely as a function of the child’s age. If the child is not old enough to verbalize his or her own needs and desires, she might feel qualified to make decisions and judgments for that child, thus becoming the monitor, supervisor, permission grantor, and controller of all others’ involvement with the child—including the father’s. There are likely "good" intentions here.

However, when the father is less involved in raising his child or finds his access to his child constantly hindered and blocked by the gatekeeping actions of the mother, the ability of the child to adjust to parental divorce is weakened. The gatekeeping can damage the father-child relationship and the parents’ ability to cooperate and keep their conflict levels low and out of the child’s earshot or awareness. It is well established that conflict, low levels of cooperation, and less father involvement contribute to the child’s academic, behavioral, and social difficulties in the short and long term. Maternal gatekeeping therefore poses an important and powerful threat to the vitality of the father-child relationship and the overall well-being and adjustment of the child.

So we're back to helping fathers be involved in their children's lives. We need to discuss positive gatekeeping and its result.

Studies have demonstrated that when mothers perceived their partners as motivated and competent to engage in child care responsibilities, fathers were more involved in childcare (benefitting mom!). The father-child relationship is thus based on a triangle that includes father, child, and mother. In research on divorced parents, positive gatekeeping (that which supports and facilitates shared parenting) is linked to the mother’s beliefs about the importance of the father’s involvement and her duty to help nurture and facilitate it. The fathers’ positive gatekeeping response is linked to his acknowledgment that the mother’s role in his relationship to his child is a real and valid one.

As a Fatherhood Practitioner, What can You do About It?

Begin educating mothers on the importance of father involvement. Work directly on the maternal gatekeeping topic addressed in NFI's popular FatherTopics Workshop Mom as Gateway or in a deeper way with Understanding Dad: An Awareness and Communication Program for Moms. You may even find that your staff members could benefit from a better understanding of maternal gatekeeping, and how to help moms understand the importance of dad's involvement. Your personal and organizational goals to increase father involvement in the lives of children in your community will thank you.

Download your free sample of "Mom As Gateway" here

image: creatas

See How Connecticut is Changing Fatherhood and Why It Matters to You

In a recent issue of Connecticut Magazine, Ray Bendici writes, "The Changing Face of Fatherhood in Connecticut" and takes a look inside the fatherhood program that is literally changing lives. Learn what this group is doing to help dads connect with their children. 

Ray writes for Connecticut Magazine:

it's Monday afternoon at Madonna Place in downtown Norwich, men ranging in age from their early twenties up to mid-fifties trickle into the plain brick building...They greet each other with fist bumps and handshakes, load paper plates with pizza, sit down at the table and start talking about busting their asses at work, trying to negotiate child visitation with ex-wives and girlfriends, navigating legal issues, going fishing with their kids...and motorcycles—you know, guy stuff.

connecticut_magazine_changing_fatherhoodWill Marquez is the leader of the 24/7 Dad® program and leads a dozen men in 90-minute sessions all connected and ready to learn how to be better dads.

Bendici points out that around 90 percent of the men in this program are single dads and are referred either by a social services agency or others who have successfully completed the program.

Some things jumped out at me from Bendici's article that will prove useful and encouraging for you.

U.S. Census data for Connecticut shows that in 2000:

  • 676,467 married households—52% of the state population.

By 2010, that number had dipped to:

  • 672,013—49% despite the overall population of the state having grown from 3.41 million to 3.57 million.

In Bendici words, "there are more singleparents—and singledads—than ever before, which means fatherhood has become an evolving enterprise."

As we know from our years of experience working with community-based fatherhood programs, many point to employment as one of the biggest roadblocks to improved paternal relationsAnthony Judkins, program manager of Connecticut’s Fatherhood Initiative since it started in 1999 says, “When you have children, there are no instructions on being a father...when you have been incarcerated and you are a felon, when you have low education levels, when you have child-support debt that continues to mount—those things are sometimes insurmountable." This is where the fatherhood program comes in.

The fatherhood program in Norwich has been successful:

  • helped 152 fathers (and 302 children)
  • 56% of unemployed fathers obtained employment after program enrollment,
  • 60% of fathers initiated, resumed or caught up on child support payments because of the assistance they received

All of the above positive results have, as you might imagine, translated into better relationships with their children.

As one session at Madonna Place wraps up, Bendici recalls an exercise. Will Marquez poses a scenario of teenage son smoking marijuana, and asks the fathers in the group how they would handle the situation, especially given that many of the dads have used it themselves.

Bendici writes that, "Before the discussion goes too far, a man named Jeff raises his hand—he thinks his 15-year-old son may already be using marijuana. “I was that age when I started smoking, so trust me, I can tell,” he says."

The dads in the group have a wide variety of advice, some common sense and some not-so-common. But, Jeff is happy to have the support of other dads. After listening to the advice, he replies, “I think I have a good idea of how I’m going to address it now.”

As the group breaks for the evening, Travis (a father of three) is seated at a table, completing an exit survey (this was his twelfth and final session to get his certificate of completion).

Bendici recalls overhearing a conversation between Travis and another dad, “So are you done here now that you’ve got it?” someone asks him. “No,” Travis says with a smile. “I’ll definitely be back for more.”

I'm glad Bendici wrote about this fatherhood program. While reading this story, I was reminded of how much work there is to do in helping dads be better dads. Fatherhood work can seem daunting; but, it's encouraging to know groups like this one in Connecticut exist, not only because Connecticut families need it, but every family needs it.

Day 91: Attack of the Clichés! #P90X3Dads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to pics are here

Father Involvement and the Gender Gap in Education

A new column by Christopher Brown in The Huffington Post reveals how a new gender gap has started in higher education. Brown points out that women are enrolling in and graduating from college at much higher rates than men. In this post, get details on the issue so you can help encourage dads around you.  

kids_in_classroomBrown writes in How dads' Involvement Can Address the Gender Gap in Higher Education, which I recommend you read in full, but some insights you should know are as follows:

  • In 1994, the proportion of female and male high school graduates who enrolled in college was virtually the same (63 percent and 61 percent, respectively). By 2012, a sizable gap had emerged with 71 percent of female high school graduates enrolled in college compared to 61 percent of males.
  • The gap doesn't discriminate based on race or ethnicity.
  • Women now represent nearly three-fifths of graduate students.
  • While we should celebrate that more women attend college and obtain degrees than ever before, we should be concerned that men are being left behind and that extremely little is being done about it.
  • This trend has dire economic and social consequences.
  • Men who don't graduate from college earn less money, for example, than men who do. It also makes them more vulnerable to unemployment, which has a host of consequences that include a higher risk for criminal behavior.

What can we do to address this gender gap?

  • Greater father involvement in the lives of high school students.
  • Father absence is at the heart of the educational challenges faced by boys and men.
  • Boys are more likely to drop out of high school, for example, when they grow up without their dads. (Accordingly, My Brother's Keeper acknowledges this fact.)

Brown mentions a recent study on the impact of father involvement on college graduation rates and says it reveals why "greater father involvement is vital to addressing the gender gap specifically and increasing college graduation rates generally because, quite frankly, we should also be concerned that only 1 of 3 young adults, regardless of gender, graduates from college."

Brad Wilcox of the University of Virginia studied children ages 7-12 by dividing teens into four groups based on their fathers' level of involvement:

  1. not involved
  2. less involved
  3. involved
  4. very involved

Wilcox findings were as follows:

  • regardless of socioeconomic status and compared to teens of not involved dads, teens with involved dads were 98 percent more likely to graduate from college while teens with very involved fathers were 105 percent more likely to graduate from college.

Brown summarizes:

more involved fathers contribute to more college success for our nation's young adults and is a much more cost-effective solution than hundreds of programs and initiatives that, while laudable and part of the solution, don't go far enough upstream and cost a ton of money.

Wilcox and Brown make it clear that while the dads in the home are more involved than ever; sadly, more children are growing up without dad in the home. Fixing this education gap means understanding and working to fix the father absence problem.

Read the full article at The Huffington Post

 

7 Brands Who Got Dad Commercials Right

In the hectic schedule of Father's Day, we're catching up to these great videos. Thanks to The Agency Post, we were reminded of some of the brands who got their portrayal of dad right. 

oldtv

I've worked at NFI for over two years now, one thing that still surprises me is the lame portrayal of dads in media and advertising. But, I'm not going to complain in this post, I promise. Keeping positive, these seven brands got fatherhood right this time.

Take note brands, you can be funny, witty, and/or serious, and still show involved, responsible, and committed dads. Thanks Jami Oetting at The Agency Post for reminding us of the positive dad-portrayal in advertising with her post Dads in Advertising: 10 Commercials that Challenge the 'Doofus Dad' Stereotype.

Fatherhood Leaders: use these videos to start a conversation about the portrayal of dads in media. Ask dads: which depiction do you more often see of dads in media: doofus dad or responsible dad?  

Brand 1 > Dove Men+Care "Calling Dads" 
Perhaps you've notice by now, we kind of like this new Dove Men+Care commercial.

Along with the commercial, Dove released new research of 1,000 fathers between the ages of 25 and 54 that found, “Three quarters of dads say they are responsible for their child’s emotional well-being, while only 20% of dads see this role reflected in media.”

Dove Men+Care went the extra mile and asked dads to post using #RealDadMoments on social media. Awesome, and tear-worthy. Go dads, and Dove!  

 

Brand 2 > Extra “Origami”
The smallest gesture can make the biggest impact on a daughter.


Brand 3 > Subaru “Flat Tire”
Dads can’t teach you everything, but they can teach you that you can do anything. 


Brand 4 > Cardstore “Dad Casting – World’s Toughest Job”  
Casting for “dad” can be tough. But being a dad isn’t an act.  


Brand 5 > Ad Council “Cheerleader”
 
Pride goes to a new level when you become a father.  


Brand 6 > Cheerios “Gracie” 
Explaining changes in your family in simple ways can sometimes lead to an even bigger family.  


Brand 7 > Google Chrome “Dear Sophie” 
Remember: Your dad is there from the beginning, witnessing every moment.  


Which commercial is your favorite?

Don’t Leap Before You Look: Properly Preparing to Work with Fathers

I love to see the excitement in participants’ eyes when they complete our Father-Friendly Check-Up™ workshop and realize how many low or no-cost action steps they can take to increase their father-readiness.

I also enjoy helping direct-service providers become aware of things they can do to engage fathers (e.g. letting their negative experiences with their own father or father of their child affect their interaction with dads connected to their services). I have seen these revelations many times over the course of my 12 years at NFI and it never gets old.

father-readiness training kitThis is why I am excited about the release of our new Father-Readiness Training Kit™ because it allows you to do everything I’ve done in the Father-Friendly Check-Up™ workshop for your organization and/or for leaders in your community as many times as you would like. You are receiving the benefit of 15 years of experience in a do-it-yourself kit that includes a step-by-step user’s guide.

So what exactly do I mean by “father-readiness?”

“Father-readiness” refers to a process implemented by:

  • an organization,
  • group of organizations,
  • group of community leaders,

...to create an environment (e.g. an organizational or community culture) that increases father engagement. 

Oftentimes, direct-service providers jump right into providing programs and services for fathers before they address barriers within the organization or community that prevent fathers from accessing and effectively using programs and services in the first place.

In some cases, organizations and communities don’t address these barriers because they might not realize they exist. In other cases, they’re simply more comfortable launching a direct-service effort than undertaking the foundational work that creates a supportive environment.

Unfortunately, this “leap before you look” approach can lead to...

  • low father engagement,
  • poor program and service outcomes, and
  • an unsustainable effort to effectively engage fathers.

The Father-Readiness Training Kit™ provides everything you need to create father-ready organizations via a Father Friendly Check-Up™ training within your organization, with or for other organizations in your community, or for a group of community leaders.

The kit includes the Father Friendly Check-Up™ assessment, which is the tool around which the father-readiness process is built. 

NFI developed the Father-Friendly Check-Up™ in 2000 to respond to the need of organizations for an assessment of their capacity to engage their staff in the delivery of services and programs for fathers, of their organization to increase father-involvement in the families they serve, and for low and no-cost strategies to help them do so.

NFI has refined this tool many times since then. Consequently, this version is the culmination of over a decade of use and responds to feedback from the thousands of staff who have used it in organizations across the country that are as diverse as...

  • Head Starts and Early Head Starts;
  • home-visitation programs (e.g. Circle of Parents and Nurse-Family Partnership);
  • child welfare agencies;
  • schools;
  • public health departments; and
  • family support programs on military installations.

These organizations have used it to effectively engage their fellow staff in delivering fatherhood services and programs and to increase father involvement in the lives of children. 

Of particular significance to the refinement of the check-up is what NFI learned from using it during the five-year (2006 – 2011) National Responsible Fatherhood Capacity-Building Initiative (NRFCBI) funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)/Administration for Children and Families/Office of Family Assistance. During the NRFCBI, NFI worked intensively with each of nearly 125 organizations from across the country for one year (20-25 organizations per year) to build their capacity to serve fathers.

The check-up was the primary tool with which NFI assessed progress toward improving the organizations’ capacity by comparing their capacity before and after their participation in the initiative. NFI has received feedback on the value and usefulness of the check-up and on how to improve it from staff in these organizations and stakeholders (e.g. U.S. DHHS staff and organizations’ board members).

In addition to this assessment, the Father-Readiness Training Kit™ includes a collection of files, included on the CD-ROM, which will help elevate fatherhood work in your organization, other organizations, or in your community no matter the setting in which an organization operates or the kinds of fathers that are the target of a father-engagement effort.

The Father-Readiness Training Kit™ has already been successfully used to increase the father friendliness of agencies and community stakeholders.

A great example of this is highlighted in the following email that was sent to NFI staff from a Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) organization in Odessa, TX that used the training kit to provide their own Father Friendly Check-Up™ training:

The workshop went quite well. Of course, I followed the same agenda as Erik [facilitator from NFI] with only a few modifications. There were four (4) home visitors from HIPPY and three (3) Home Instructors from PAT. Also attending was the recently hired Father Engagement Specialist from Head Start. The PAT coordinator and I led the workshop. A total of eight (8) participants with two (2) coordinators.  

Home visitors loved the icebreaker and shared some interesting information about their fathers. Home visitors were shocked at some of the statistical information. This information about children growing up in fatherless homes and what women think about fathers was an eye-opener to home visitors. I believe that it was the beginning of changing their attitudes about fathers and the importance of including them in HIPPY and PAT.  

Home visitors from PAT and HIPPY were able to share ideas about making both programs more father-friendly. I think that everyone left with a good understanding of the four (4) assessment categories and the future task of our program.  

Ultimately, the Father-Readiness Training Kit™ will establish the “Velcro” that the fatherhood services in your organization and/or community stick to and will also ensure those services are fully integrated into the very fabric of your organization and/or community.

For more information on the Father-Readiness Training Kit™, click here or contact Erik Vercere by at evecere@fatherhood.org or by phone at 240-912-1278.

Day 91: My Journey from Obese to Overweight #P90X3Dads

I know what you're thinking, the title of this post sounds underwhelming. I've gone from obese to overweight in 90 days doing the P90X3 program. While "overweight" doesn't sound like an accomplishment, it is to me. I've experienced many improvements physically and mentally in the last 90 days. Let's talk details...

p90x p90x3 no excuses p90x3dads

Last Father's Day (2013), I made a goal:

Lose 50 pounds by next Father's Day (2014).

Crazy idea? Sure. But a goal without a deadline is just a dream, right?!

I'm happy to report that after one year...I reached my goal! I lost 50 pounds. Typing this doesn't sound true. Last year at Father's Day I weigh 230 pounds. This year, I weighed 180 pounds.

I'm still overweight for my height, but I'm no longer in the obese category. Congratulate me on my fitness in the comments! ; )

Over the last 90 days of doing P90X3 I've learned a few things and I've changed in many ways. At a glance, this was my 90-day journey in blog posts:

  1. Day Zero: Pressing Play on Fit Fathering
  2. Day 37: Dream Bigger Than a Smaller Number
  3. Day 74: Respect Water

What I Have Learned...

  • Habit matters: I'm a creature of habit; so are you. What we do daily is what matters. Don't think in terms of weekly or monthly about your health; think daily. Heck, think hourly. Pick a time of day that works best for you, preferably when you have the most energy, and exercise. Let nothing get in your way. This is you-time! With P90X3 there's one rest day per week. For me, the one day off each week is still a time to be active. If I'm inactive for one day, I want to be inactive for two days.
  • Water is key: I've written and talked so much about water I'll spare here, just know that without drinking massive amounts of H20 you will not reach your goals. Why? Mostly because you'll be hungry and more likely to consume salt, sugar, tables, chairs, lawn equipment and the like. Also, you can forget exercise because you won't have the energy for it.
  • Diet matters too: See my water post, but also, eat about a third of what you are now. If you're obese and reading this post, my guess is that you, like me, became obese by eating too much of too many bad things at too many times—and not drinking enough water. 
  • Oh, and be active: Whether it's 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour, being active changes everything. Trust me, you may not feel like doing anything but sofa-planking, but once you start doing something, you'll feel better. This comes in time, I promise.

How I've Changed...

  • Mentally: I'm pretty sure my wife would tell you I'm happier now than 90 days ago. I say "pretty sure" because I'm still a stressed-out jerk about stupid stuff I can't control. But, daily exercise gives me moments of euphoria you might call "happiness". Eating right for a span of a few meals and snacks has the same affect. If you feel more energetic, you'll probably feel like doing productive stuff. I'm more alert and have noticed moments of deeper concentration. I'm accomplishing more at work and working more efficiently. It's like taking the Limitless pill NZT except I can remember what I've done instead of waking up in a torn suit on the Brooklyn bridge. Y'all have seen that movie right? Nevermind.
  • Physically: I went from 230 pounds to 198 pounds before starting P90X3. But here are several changes I have noticed in the 90 days (from Day Zero to Day 91):
    • Weight: Lost 18 pounds—from 198 to 180.
    • Chest: From XL (Extra-Large) shirts to L (Large). Also, went from super-snug 44 blazer to slim fit 44 (could get away with a regular 42!).
    • Waist: From snug 38-inch pants to loose 34's (almost to size 32's!).
    • Face: My face is no longer round: this is good because my face was never supposed to be round.
    • Feet: My feet no longer hurt. I used to complain about my shoes; but the shoes weren't the issue. Now, even when I spend all day walking in flip-flops, my feet aren't hurting. Hello, barefeet summer!
    • Hands: My wedding ring fits. I was convinced my wedding ring was becoming smaller. Now, it fits like the day Tonia lovingly placed it on my finger. PS: Fingers shouldn't swell or change much over the years unless there are possible health issues. Read the signs, brothers and sisters.

In the last year, but especially in the last 90 days, I have gone from obese to overweight. In the next 90 days (I've already started a second round of P90X3), my goal is to go from overweight to fit. But for now, I have to be excited and feel encouraged (see pics here. sign-in required). Within 90 days, I'm ready to be in the best shape of my entire life. I wish nothing but the same for you.

Note: No dad was paid for this post. We were, however, given a base kit and two kits to giveaway because the Beach Body folks are so awesome. We'll hand-select one winner who uses #P90X3Dads on social media or comments on the blog. Tell us: What would a free copy of P90X3 do for you?

Happy Father's Day!

Father's Day is kind of a big deal when you're National Fatherhood Initiative. 

DOVE-MEN-LOGO_v1[1]When most of today's advertising and media portray dads as stupid, incompetent, bumbling and the like, Dove Men+Care rises above all that noise by showing that a brand can not only move product, but celebrate dads.

Dove Men+Care continues to be on the cutting edge of men's products while showing real, caring dads. We are grateful for such a brand and feel it's worth promoting them. This is not a sponsored email from Dove, we promise. But this Father's Day, after seeing all the negative portrayals of dads, we paused to watch this film again and again this week. Now, watch it and cry with us!

Take a moment today to celebrate the dad in your life. Watch this video from Dove Men+Care and share it with your family and friends. Happy Father's Day! 

New Release: Father-Readiness Training Kit™

DIY Kit helps organizations and communities prepare to serve dads: National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), the nation’s leading provider of fatherhood skill-building materials and training, has released the Father-Readiness Training Kit™, a new do-it-yourself kit to help organizations and communities prepare to serve fathers.

father-readiness training kit The kit captures over 15 years of NFI experience in training organizations on how to implement low- and no-cost strategies and tactics to engage fathers and to create an environment that supports successful fatherhood services and programs. To develop a field-tested and field-ready set of tools, NFI’s fathering experts drew from NFI’s experience running the federally-funded National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse and several national and state-level fatherhood initiatives.

In many communities across the country, there is a dearth of services available to fathers, often in communities where services for mothers and children are abundant. “Father-Readiness” is a process implemented by an organization, group of organizations, or group of community leaders to create an environment that increases father engagement.

Accordingly, the Father-Readiness Training Kit™ helps organizations address the barriers to creating and implementing effective services for dads; undertake the foundational work necessary to create a supportive environment for programs; and address the five Ps: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. 

The kit includes:

  • CD with a User’s Guide 
  • NFI’s Father Friendly Check-Up™ assessment
  • PowerPoint presentation for training staff
  • comprehensive set of planning and implementation documents to conduct and evaluate the father-readiness training and process.

“We are excited about the impact the Father-Readiness Training Kit™ will have on communities across the country working to implement effective fatherhood programs,” said Christopher Brown, president of NFI. “Nothing like this has ever been offered in the field before. It opens new opportunities for organizations to engage fathers in ways they never thought possible. And for organizations that want to have a broad impact in addressing father absence, this tool allows them to train other organizations across their communities.”

Through August 15, 2014, the Father-Readiness Training Kit™ will be available at an introductory price of $759 through NFI’s FatherSOURCE resource center. After August 15, the price will increase to $999.

A Tribute to Gregg Nicklas

In my ten years at NFI, I have never known a more humble, action-oriented, and courageous champion of fatherhood. Aside from Gregg being a man of faith, a devoted husband, father, grandfather, and care-giver, many things could be said to honor his memory. I want to highlight only one here—his diligent stewardship of opportunities.   

GreggNicklasThursday night, May 29th, at 11:00 p.m., Gregg Nicklas, Executive Director of Christian Heritage—a highly respected foster home with a thirty-plus year history in Lincoln, NEwas struck by a car while walking his dog. The driver fled and Gregg was pronounced dead on the scene. We are left heartbroken by this tragedy along with Gregg’s entire family, community, and friends.

In 2007 Gregg, identifying incarceration and father absence as root causes, sensed the need for a fatherhood program. His first activity, with staff, was to launch a Father of the Year award. It was at this time that he learned of the National Fatherhood Initiative, submitted a proposal for a capacity-building grant, and became one of the awardees. This capacity-building grant helped Christian Heritage define their vision and be encouraged by meeting others from around the country who shared a similar passion.

Returning to Nebraska, they began to implement their vision and in October of 2008 sponsored a Leadership Summit on Fatherhood, bringing 56 community leaders together. At this Summit, Larry Wayne, Nebraska Department of Correctional Services’ (NDCS) Deputy Director of Programs and Community Services, requested the implementation of a parenting program at Nebraska’s correctional facilities for men. Gregg moved on this request and, in February 2009, leveraged another opportunity—bringing NFI staff (where I first met Gregg) to Nebraska to train facilitator’s on the evidence-based InsideOut Dad®. This program became the entry point for a new initiative launched by Christian Heritage called Destination…Dad™. 

This is one of the most holistic interventions I have seen nationally and includes the following:

  • Daddy Day Visits—once a month, children spend two hours with their incarcerated dads, who report that “this is the most like being at home.” One mom said, "two hours once a month may not sound like much, but it has changed my son’s life.”
  • DVD’s from Dad—Fathers read books to their children while being video-taped. The books and DVD’s are sent to the children’s caregivers. Children are reported not to want to go to bed or leave for school until their dads have read to them.
  • Peer mentoring/Alumni Program—These are monthly meetings to review curricula and participate in conversations related to being a responsible father.
  • Reentry Family Action Plans—Reentry planning with family members prior to release.
  • Extended Phone Time—Additional 15-minute phone call each day for qualified dads to talk with their children and caregivers. 
  • Parent/Teacher Conferences via Skype—Studies reveal that children do better in school when their dads are involved.

Gregg’s leadership and diligence led to solid outcomes in just five short years: 

  • 930 dads, who have 2,102 children, have participated as of April 2014
  • 486 of these men have been released. Only 68 inmates have been out long enough to be calculated into a three-year recidivism rate. Nevertheless, the recidivism rate for the program participants is 13.2% to date!
  • NDCS projects Destination…Dad™’s long term recidivism rate at 15 percent. Inmate population has been reduced by 40 dads, saving the state $1 million (annual cost per inmate: $28,773).
  • In December 2013 they secured funding through passage of Legislative Bill 483 for the next two years.

I once asked Gregg in an interview what final thoughts he would share with the national fatherhood field and he said, “Encourage your participants to be ‘bold and courageous.’”  

Gregg, we are saddened by your loss but will do our best. Thank you for the great legacy you left us. Be assured, your example will help us make the most of every opportunity and diligently steward all we have been entrusted with.

Visit Christian Heritage for more details.

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