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The Father Factor


How to Raise a Resilient Child

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

The discussion today around parenting often centers on "helicopter parents," those parents who hover over every aspect of their children's lives to such an extent that they organize and monitor every minute of their children's lives. As a result, their children have little or no space to explore the world on their own and learn how to effectively navigate life's challenges from one of life's great teachers -- learning from failure.


The fact is that no matter how closely parents try to manage their children's lives they can't possibly protect them from life's trials and tribulations. Indeed, parents shouldn't protect their children from those things. Parents should guide their children instead in how to effectively manage the challenges they'll face on their own. Even then children need the resilience to bounce back from those challenges because, inevitably, they will fail. They will make mistakes. They will get knocked down and, in some cases, knocked out. Although counterintuitive, the sooner parents live with and embrace that their children will fail, the more effective parents become.

One of the greatest gifts parents can bestow on their children is to build their children's resilience. The authors of Stronger: Develop the Resilience You Need to Succeed, one of them a former Navy SEAL, identify five factors that help people become more resilient. Although written as a self-help book for adults, parents can use this knowledge to focus the coaching of their children on building those factors. (After all, a good parent is a good coach.)

Here are five factors that resilient people possess and parents should build in their children:

  • Active Optimism: Resilient people are optimistic even in the face of challenges and setbacks. They're not overly optimistic, but realistic in their optimism that when they continue to move forward and avoid paralysis in making decisions, they will eventually succeed.
  • Decisive Action: Resilient people act on their optimism. They consider their options, decide how to face challenges and act decisively. They don't allow challenges to paralyze them or wait for others to tell them what to do. They don't wait for things to happen, they make things happen.

  • Moral Compass: Resilient people have a moral compass anchored in honor, integrity, fidelity and ethics. They use this anchor to decide which actions to take.
  • Relentless Tenacity and Determination: Resilient people stay true to the paths on which their decisions take them. They don't quit. Not quitting doesn't mean they are so naive or stubborn that they're unwilling to change a path when it becomes clear that a decision was not the best one. It means they won't quit until they find out whether their decisions are the right ones and, if not, to pursue other solutions. It also means that when it's clear they've failed, they won't allow failures to keep them down or negatively affect their self-worth.
  • Interpersonal Support: Resilient people realize and embrace the need for help. As they make decisions, they consider whether they can go it alone or need help. When they ask for help, they don't feel in the least that help is a sign they are somehow inadequate.

I would also add a sixth factor: resilient people lack a victim mentality. There are legitimate situations in which people are victims, a perfect example of which is the recent murders of more than 125 people in France from multiple, coordinated acts of terrorism. But a victim mentality is a state of mind, a trait that someone acquires and leads to blaming external factors (e.g. people) for failures even when no clear evidence exists that external factors played a role. The lack of a victim mentality doesn't mean that someone is never a victim. It means resilient people don't seek to blame someone or something else or for their failures -- even when someone or something else might have contributed to a failure. They accept responsibility for their part and the lack of control they have over external contributing factors. They get up and move on.

A great perspective to take in raising your child to become resilient is the second of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Begin with the End in Mind. (These habits apply to being an effective parent as well.) Who do you want your child to become when she or he is an adult? If you want your child to be a resilient adult -- and to raise your grandchildren to be resilient -- focus on building these six factors.

The Father Factor Blog This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

How to Raise a Charitable Child

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

What's the secret to raising a charitable child? It's simple. Talk to them about charitable giving.

In a recent study of more than 3,100 U.S. families, researchers found that children whose parents talk to them about charitable giving are more likely than others to donate to causes, particularly if the parents themselves engage in charitable giving. These conversations about giving really matter in shaping and nurturing children's altruistic behavior. In other words, parents, preach what you practice when it comes to charitable giving.

There's no better time than the next few weeks to start these conversations with your children. That's because #GivingTuesday is right around the corner. If you're unfamiliar with #GivingTuesday, it's the Tuesday after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the two days of the year when most of the nation's families become mega-consumers clamoring for the best deals on gifts for family and friends during the holidays. #GivingTuesday, which falls on December 1st this year, focuses instead on giving to the thousands of charities that rely on donations to pursue their vital missions, many of which center on helping the less fortunate among us.

#GivingTuesday is now in its fourth year. Started in 2012 by a cultural center in New York City, it has rapidly spread to involve more than 30,000 partners in nearly 70 countries. It provides a fantastic opportunity to start the conversation with your children about the importance of giving to a cause that moves them. #GivingTuesday is not only about financial giving, it's also about giving time and talent, two assets that children can have in abundance. And it harnesses the power of social media, a tool that is oh so familiar to today's children. Connecting your children with #GivingTuesday helps them see charity from that broad perspective during a time of year when they might be focused more on the material aspect of the holidays and what they'll get rather than what they'll give.

Visit the #GivingTuesday website with your children to learn more about how they can get involved. Encourage your children to identify organizations that operate locally or globally that will participate in #GivingTuesday and whose missions align with your children's interests. Then challenge your children to discover how much joy they can experience when they give to others less fortunate than them.

The Father Factor Blog This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

Two Supports Lacking for U.S.Children in Poverty

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

The effects of father absence and the poverty that results from it are exacerbated by two supports lacking in the U.S. -- the lack of extended family and the dismal spending by the federal government on family-benefit programs.

I wrote in this blog last week about the link between father absence and child poverty. The U.S. Census Bureau's recent report on income poverty for 2014 reveals that:

  • Children in father-absent homes experienced poverty at more than four times the rate of children in married-parent homes.
  • Nearly 1 in 2 children in father-absent homes (46.5 percent) were in poverty compared to only 1 in 10 children (10.6 percent) in married-parent homes.
  • The picture is worse for the youngest children. More than 1 in 2 children under age six in father-absent homes (55.1 percent) were in poverty.

I pointed out that increasing the number of children growing up with their two married parents is key to reducing child poverty in this country.

Data provided in the just-released 2015 World Family Map helps explain why U.S. children in particular need to grow up with their married parents. The World Family Map -- an annual report now in its third year -- monitors the global health of families by tracking 16 indicators in 49 countries, representing all regions of the world. Its global focus provides an important perspective on how well, or poorly, the U.S. fares on a range of indicators of family well-being.

When it comes to poverty, families can typically turn to any of three sources for financial and material support -- their social network including extended family, non-governmental organizations (e.g. non-profits) and government programs. The level of support available from each source varies dramatically from country to country and even within some countries. It's vital to consider these supports to gain a clearer understanding of the extent of poverty's negative effects on children.

The 2015 World Family Map includes data on two of those supports -- the proportion of children who live with extended family members (kin) and government funding of family-benefit programs (i.e. cash, services and tax measures) as a percentage of a country's gross domestic product (GDP). How does the U.S. fare on these two indicators?

  • The proportion of U.S. children living with kin (29 percent) ranks 5th lowest among the 32 countries for which data are available. Only Canada, France, Italy and Ireland rank lower.
  • The U.S. government spends a paltry 0.7 percent of GDP on family-benefit programs. That percentage is dead last among the 21 countries for which data are available, and is 36% and 42 percent lower than Mexico and Canada (the other two countries in the North American region), respectively.

Extended family is perhaps the oldest form of support for humans struggling to survive. In addition to financial and material support, extended family can provide emotional and spiritual support in times of crisis and chronic hardship. It's easiest to access that support when kin live together -- the basis of this indicator -- or close by. The increasing mobility of U.S. families and the resulting distance between family members makes it harder to access this support.

When it comes to government support, the sad fact is the U.S. spends a lower percentage of GDP now than it did just a few years ago when it ranked above several other countries rather than at the bottom of the barrel. According to the 2013 edition of the World Family Map, the U.S. spent 1.2 percent of GDP on family-benefit programs. (The 2015 map relies on data from 2011 while the 2013 map relies on data from 2007.)

To be fair, there might be several of the other countries in the World Family Map for which data are not available on either indicator that fare worse than the U.S. So in reality, the picture might not look as bleak for the U.S. in comparison. The access to extended family indicator does not include access to family close by. But even when considering kin who live together, the U.S. has seen a dramatic rise since 1980 in the number of individuals living in multi-generational households, thus giving the poor more of this support. The U.S. is also a fairly charitable nation as it ranks 9th on the World Giving Index, a measure of the percentage of people in 135 countries who donate to charities. There are certainly non-profits to which poor families in the U.S. can turn for help.

Nevertheless, the World Family Map reveals the lack of financial and economic assets poor families in the U.S. can access to alleviate at least some of the negative effects of child poverty. A vast majority of individuals in the U.S., more than 8 in 10, are not in multi-generational households. And the government spending data on family-benefit programs, with its downward trend, sheds light on the lack of importance our country places on government help for those most in need.

The Father Factor Blog This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

Dads Hold Key to Reducing Child Poverty

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

The presence of married fathers in children's lives remains the most vital factor in reducing child poverty. Here's why.

Dads Hold Key to Reducing Child Poverty

The U.S. Census Bureau just released its report on income and poverty for 2014. The good news or bad news, depending on your perspective, is the overall rate for adults and children living in poverty did not change, from a statistically significant perspective, compared to 2013. In 2014, 13.5 percent of people aged 18 to 64 (26.5 million) were in poverty compared with 10.0 percent of people aged 65 and older (4.6 million) and 21.1 percent of children under age 18 (15.5 million). Children represented 23.3 percent of the total population and 33.3 percent of the people in poverty. It's disturbing that children represent more than a third of the people in poverty, especially because they have no control over their economic situation.

Because this proportion of the population in poverty includes all children regardless of family status, it's necessary to dig deeper into the data to reveal why fathers remain key to reducing child poverty. Fortunately, the Census Bureau digs that deeply. The bureau's analyses of the data reveal that: 

  • Children in father-absent homes experienced poverty at more than four times the rate of children in married-parent homes.
  • Nearly 1 in 2 children in father-absent homes (46.5 percent) were in poverty compared to only 1 in 10 children (10.6 percent) in married-parent homes.
  • The picture is worse for the youngest children. More than 1 in 2 children under age six in father-absent homes (55.1 percent) were in poverty.

These disturbing, depressing numbers show that the mere presence of more married fathers in children's lives will, from a population-based perspective, reduce child poverty. 

The only effective, long-term solution to increasing the proportion of children growing up with their married parents is to change cultural norms on the importance of living in a married-parent home for child well-being. The federal government has, with bipartisan support, tried to help by funding healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood programs. But no matter how successful these programs might be or eventually become in helping the children, parents and families they serve, they can't possibly serve enough people to affect the kind of culture change necessary to move the needle. Besides, the level of funding for this effort is minimal as it must compete for dollars with the many other and, frankly, important functions of government, such as funding the social safety net, infrastructure, education and research that are vital to create the vibrant economy in which all families can thrive. As a result, these programs, though important, have only scaled to a level that help some children and families at the highest risk for poverty.

Unfortunately, cultural norms on the importance of children growing up in a married-parent home have been headed in the wrong direction for years. Marriage among the young (age 18 to 32 years) has dropped like a stone during the last four generations, from 65 percent of people in the Silent Generation to 26 percent of Millennials. Moreover, a quarter of all adults age 25 or older have never been married, an all-time high. When they do marry, the average age at first marriage is also at an all-time high of 29.3 for men and 27.0 for women.

As a consequence of these and other trends, a higher proportion of children than ever are born to parents who aren't married. The unfortunate fact is we don't have the cultural will to reverse course. Too many people now see the purpose of marriage as one in which personal fulfillment is paramount and the primary if not sole role of marriage. Marriage has become about "me" and not "we" or "us," as in "family." While it is important that people feel fulfilled in marriage, the problem is far too many of us have separated marriage from its function of providing the ideal environment in which to raise healthy children and, thus, deny its impact on child well-being to the extent that we focus only on personal well-being. 

Can we do anything to reverse course? There is a vigorous debate about whether we should give up and say bye-bye to marriage, if not altogether at least to the importance of it as a vital institution. As I've written elsewhere, we can't give up on marriage. We must start by looking at it in a different way -- not as a zero-sum game between whether its role is personal fulfillment or to raise healthy children, but as an institution that can and should fulfill both roles.

The Father Factor Blog This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

How Training on NFI Programs Helps Organizations be Creative and Effective

I’m constantly amazed at how much our training can help organizations implement our programs in creative, effective ways. Here is one example...

Community Action of Central Texas (San Marcos, TX) recently purchased the 24/7 Dad® A.M. and P.M. programs for use with Head Start and Early Head Start families and as part of the statewide Texas Home Visiting Program. In addition to taking part in the Texas Home Visiting Program, Community Action serves more than 500 children through its Head Start and Early Head Start efforts in two central Texas counties immediately south of Austin.

I recently conducted a two-day training institute for Community Action on NFI’s 24/7 Dad® programs. It was one of the most challenging institutes I’ve conducted because of how much I had to customize it to help Community Action to, in turn, integrate them into their home visiting, Head Start, and Early Head Start efforts. Community Action will implement the program for use in a group-based setting—the specific setting for which NFI designed it—but will also use some of the activities in the program in a home-based setting in which staff will work with dads one-on-one.

Because no two organizations are alike, our staff doesn’t assume that every organization needs exactly the same training institute. Sure, we have a standard training institute for each program that serves as the foundation for every training institute on that program. Nevertheless, we talk with an organization’s staff about their plans for implementing the program before we finalize the content for each training institute. This approach ensures each organization can implement the program as effectively as possible. 

If an organization plans to implement one of our programs exactly as we designed it to be implemented, we don’t have to customize the training institute much, if at all. In the case of Community Action, however, I worked with Father Engagement Specialist David Bryant and Family/Staff Involvement and Development Director Edith Rivera—both of whom have responsibility for overseeing Community Action’s fatherhood efforts—to customize a significant portion of the training institute that involves practice facilitating the program. (Our two-day training institutes emphasize practice facilitation.)

The reason for this level of customization is David and Edith plan to not only run the programs with groups of fathers, staff that are home visitors will use activities from the A.M. and P.M. programs in their one-on-one work with dads during home visits. (David, Edith, the home visitors, and the home visitors’ supervisors attended the training institute.) The beauty of the programs is their flexibility, including the ability to use them in one-on-one settings. The challenge in those cases, however, is picking which parts of the programs to use and exactly how to modify those parts for the specific one-on-one setting associated with an organization’s fatherhood efforts (e.g. case management within an office setting or working with a dad or couple during a home visit).

Because Community Action had not yet determined exactly which parts of the programs to use and how to use them, I recommended to David and Edith that they practice facilitating a couple of sessions (as co-facilitators given that they’ll co-facilitate the group sessions) and pairs of home visitors select parts of the program they thought would be ideal for use during a home visit and role play delivering those parts during a home visit (i.e. one of the home visitors played the part of the home visitor and the other the part of the dad). David and Edith agreed with this approach, but, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. I had no idea whether the approach would work, let alone whether it would help Community Action get started on how to use the programs during home visits. 

Fortunately, the approach worked extremely well. The staff did a fantastic job selecting parts of the programs to use and how to modify them. Some parts required no modification while others required some creative modifications. Because David and Edith were scheduled to meet with the home visitors in the weeks after the training institute to select additional parts of the programs to use, they were off to a great start. The role plays had the effect of helping staff start the process of selecting which parts of the programs to use and how to modify them given the goals of the home visiting program (e.g. covering specific content, such as child discipline) and their knowledge of their one-on-one setting (e.g. how much time they could expect to spend with a dad). They also generated excitement among the home visitors about the potential of the program to help them help families in a new, creative way, thus creating buy-in from staff critical to the effectiveness of the programs.

I’m pleased to report that Community Action has kicked off their fatherhood program with an event attended by some of the families they serve. Check out some of the photos from the event...

I can’t wait to see how their fatherhood program increases the involvement of dads in the lives of their children. This experience was gratifying for me because of the way in which David and Edith helped me understand their needs so I could deliver a valuable training. Moreover, we now have this experience under our belt to use with other organizations that want to use the 24/7 Dad® programs in a one-on-one setting.

If you use or plan to use one of NFI’s programs, I encourage you to consider bringing in one of our staff to deliver a training institute, especially if you use or plan to use them in a unique setting and in novel ways. I also recommend a training institute even if you plan to use one of our programs in the conventional manner. You’ll be glad you did.

Do you use or plan to use an NFI program? Have you received training on the program you use or plan to use?

We have several upcoming trainings, please visit our Training Institutes Page for more information.
  The Father Factor Blog

Netflix's New Parental Leave Policy Lacks Teeth

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

While we should applaud Netflix's recent announcement of paid parental leave of up to one year for moms and dads after the birth or adoption of a child, it lacks the teeth and innovation necessary to encourage dads to take full advantage of this progressive policy and for Netflix to reap its full potential.

Netflix's policy is good for dads, families and our country. It sends a strong message in a country that's far behind others in providing paid parental leave, especially to dads. It recognizes that dads:

  • Spend more time than ever in the daily care of their children.
  • Provide more care to their children after they return to work when they the take more time off from work after the birth or adoption of a child.
  • Are more conflicted than moms in their attempt to balance work and family.
  • Are more likely than moms to scale back at home when they experience family demands and work overload.

Perhaps most important, it recognizes that more involved dads increase the well-being of children, mothers, families and communities.

Netflix's policy is also good for Netflix. Many dads fear taking advantage of parental leave and other work-family benefits. Despite these fears, when dads balance work and family, they are more productive employees who advance farther and faster in their careers. Involved dads--especially Millennial dads--are less fearful of the impact of balancing work and family. They demand jobs that provide paid parental leave. This demand from the newest dads is why it's no surprise that tech companies like Netflix lead the way in providing paid parental leave.

The challenge for Netflix is how to encourage dads to take full advantage of this policy. Dads are not moms. They require efforts that speak specifically to them--that meet their needs and wants as dads broadly and within the context of work-family balance. Dads are much less likely than moms to take parental leave. While 90 percent of dads in the U.S. take some time off from work, most of them take a week or less off.

To help their dads and the company, Netflix must give the policy the teeth it needs. Netflix must proactively encourage dads to take time off. Nothing in Netflix's announcement--or other commentary on the potential challenges of successfully implementing this policy--suggests that it is anything but a passive one. It lacks innovative tactics--any tactics, for that matter--that will give it a better chance to hold value and succeed with dads. This failure to recognize the need for an innovative, proactive effort to encourage dads to take full advantage of the policy is somewhat surprising given that Netflix is synonymous with innovation and the testing of tactics and approaches that disrupted and transformed how Americans consume movies and television shows.

Netflix must develop a campaign for dads that it constantly tests and refines (e.g. using a Lean Startup approach). The campaign must include, at a minimum:

  • Messages for dads, delivered through multiple internal channels and with enough frequency to be effective, that address the fears some dads may have about taking full advantage of the policy, such as it might hurt their career prospects or their job duties will suffer in their absence. These messages must include a value proposition that resonates specifically with dads.
  • Resources that educate dads (before and after the birth or adoption) about how to be involved dads, such as referrals to websites, brochures and other print materials, and on-site workshops/seminars that provide fathering education.
  • Ways to measure the impact of the policy on dads. Netflix must track the impact of the policy, such as the rate at which dads use the policy at all and, if so, how much leave they take. Netflix must analyze the data in a way that identifies the kinds of dads who do and don't take advantage of it using demographic, psychographic, and behavioral characteristics. Netflix must also gather qualitative feedback from dads on the impact of the policy and on the effectiveness of the campaign.

Netflix must also involve dads in shaping the campaign and delivering elements of it. The company should, for example, consider forming an interdepartmental team of dads at different levels of the company to help develop and evaluate potential tactics. It should use dads who work at Netflix as spokespersons to deliver messages that contain the value proposition.

Netflix must approach this effort from the consumer-based mindset that has led to so much of its success. The dads who work at Netflix are, after all, the consumers of its policies. Dads have different needs than moms when it comes to being parents and balancing work and family. They deserve the same dedication to the effective use by dads of this policy that their company makes to create the algorithms that meet the entertainment tastes of its diverse external customers.

The Father Factor Blog This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

NFI's Top 20 Blog Posts of All Time

Fatherhood Changes Everything...We repeated this line all year. It's why NFI was created in 1994. This year is an extra-special year because we turned 20 years old. So, you'll find in this post our top-performing posts "of all time" - or at least since we've been tracking views!

20th_Anniv_NFI_LogoI've written for The Father Factor since early 2012, and I can tell you, we've seen steady growth and engagement from our readers each year. We are grateful to serve you with this blog for fatherhood leaders on tips and tools you need to help you and the dads around you. Thank you for reading and sharing our posts!

Here are the top 20 blog posts of all time: 

1) The Father Absence Crisis in America [Infographic] (11/12/13)
24 million children in America grow up without their father at home. Share this infographic and help connect father to child.

2) An Open Letter From a Dad to His Son on His 18th Birthday (12/19/13)
Richard Beaty writes an open letter to his son on turning 18 years old. It's worth a read from all fathers.

3) The Difference Between a Man and a Boy (6/1/12)
New research on the demise of guys and raising boys to become men by Philip Zimbardo reveals more about the issue of father absence.

4) 4 Great Resources for Single Dads (7/12/13)
New research reveals the rise of single father households. Now what? We offer suggestions for single fathers on the blog.

5) Coverage of Celebrity Deaths Always Misses the Mark (2/3/14)
The passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman is sad, but the coverage of celebrity deaths tends to miss the mark when it comes to fathers.

6) 10 Ways To Be a Better Dad (7/2/14)
Today you have a chance to start on a new path. Try these 10 ways to be a better dad. If you're already a great dad, you're welcome for the reminder!

7) 8 Things To Know About Disciplining Your Child (10/31/12)
Discipline means “to teach; to guide.” Punishment means to “penalize” for doing something wrong. Let's get this correct.

8) The Affects of an Emotionally Unavailable Dad (5/6/14)
Elizabeth writes about growing up with a dad at home but emotionally unavailable. Read her story and consider how your dad shaped your view of fatherhood.

9) 5 Questions Every Father Should Ask Himself (10/8/12)
Every child deserves a 24/7 Dad. Here are five questions to ask yourself in order help you become the responsible father you are meant to be.

10) The Challenge of Becoming a Single Father (3/4/14)
Read from one dad's experiences about the challenges (and rewards) of becoming a single father.

11) The Surprising Facts about Payments of Child Support (6/5/14)
Christopher Brown writes about child support and gender on The Father Factor Blog.

12) 5 Ways to be a Horrible Dad (1/22/13)
There are five things every horrible father does. Do them all and you can be a horrible dad too. It's simple, really!

13) Is Your Child a Match or a Torch? (6/4/12)
This post covers different child temperaments from a father's point of view raising a toddler.

14) 7 Things a Great Dad Knows (1/15/13)
Need help being a great dad? We have "7 Things Every Great Dad Knows."

15) 5 Father's Day Commercials that May Make You Shed Man Tears (6/14/13)
We have our picks for the top Father's Day commercials worthy of creating man tears. Thanks for getting fatherhood right brands!

16) 6 Tips on How to Show Your Child Reading is Awesome (3/14/14)
Get six ideas for creating a love of reading in your child and see the new video from LeVar Burton for Read Across America.

17) 3 Rules for Communicating with Your Child (10/17/12)
I say we stop calling “communication” by its name. Let’s call it “racing.” Here are 3 rules for communicating with your child.

18) What's Missing in the Adrian Peterson Story? (9/23/14)
There's a couple of things missing from the Adrian Peterson child abuse allegations. We discuss fatherhood and discipline on today's post.

19) 5 Flu-Fighting Foods for Families (2/7/13)
Get 5 ideas of foods that help fight the flu for your family!

20) Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic] (10/16/14)
Ninety-two percent (92%) of parents in prison are fathers. Read Fathers Behind Bars, The Problem and Solution for America's Children [Infographic].

Here are a few thoughts related to these top 20 posts: 

  • You like numbered lists. 9 of the top 20 are numbered lists. This is good because we like step-by-step lists too! They serve as helpful and easily shareable posts for you to either help yourself or help the dads around you.
  • You care about our mission. Most of these top 20 posts, nay all of the posts, relate directly back to our mission of connecting father to family. Two of the top 20 posts are infographics about the father absence crisis and about fathers in prison. Each of the 20 posts are in someway geared toward helping you be a better fatherhood leader. 
  • You want to be a better leader and/or dad. Most of this list is how-to's related to health, communication, co-parenting, and discipline. Each of these posts point back to how a dad can connect to his child.

2014 was a great year for this blog. I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings! We plan on constantly educating, equipping, and inspiring you to be a better fatherhood leader…because every child deserves a great dad.

Please note, as readers of this lovely blog, one way we are able to offer the weekly posts, the daily social media, and all of the helpful (and free) downloads are because of donations from generous folks like yourself. Please consider donating before the end of 2014. You have a few hours left to give—plenty of time to make a few clicks and donate!

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Question: What's your favorite post from us? Why? What topic(s) would you like to see us cover on this blog in 2015?

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.


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.

The Father Factor Blog This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

Single White Moms Should Say Yes to Father Involvement

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

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

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

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

Chris says to this point:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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