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The Father Factor


Steubenville Rape Case: When "I Love You" is "Too Little, Too Late"

The internet and social media are buzzing this week with criticism of CNN's coverage of the Steubenville rape trial in which two juvenile males were convicted of raping a severely intoxicated 16-year-old girl.  Trent Mays, 17, was sentenced to two years in a juvenile detention facility and Ma'lik Richmond, 16, was sentence to one year.  Critics charge that CNN's approach is "pro-rapist" and that the anchors and correspondents are showing more compassion for the two perpetrators than they are for the victim.

There is plenty of commentary on CNN's angle on this story, so we won't address that here.  However, in CNN's coverage of the conviction of the two young men, they have unwittingly highlighted the "father factor" in crime that we at National Fatherhood Initiative have repeatedly pointed out. (See previous posts on the Sandy Hook shooting, the Aurora theater shooting, the DC snipers, the Tuscon shooting, and the Chardon High School shooting.)

In her report after the judge handed out the sentence, CNN correspondent Poppy Harlow recounts an emotional moment between Ma'lik Richmond, one of the convicted youth, and his father:

You know, something that came up throughout this sentencing. Ma’lik’s father had gotten up and spoke. Ma’lik has been living with guardians. His father, a former alcoholic, got into to a lot of trouble with the law, been in prison before.

And his father stood up and he told the court, ‘I feel responsible for this. I feel like I wasn’t there for my son.’ And before that, he came over to the bench where his son was sitting. He approached him, he hugged him and whispered in his ear.

And Ma’lik’s attorney said to us in a courtroom, I have never heard Ma’lik’s father before say, I love you. He’s never told his son that. But he just did today.

Read that again.  The first time Ma'lik heard his father utter the words "I love you" was the day that he was convicted as a sex offender and sentenced to juvenile detention. 

Ma'lik Richmond and his lawyerOn the one hand, it is wonderful that Mr. Richmond is affirming his unconditional love for his son at this moment when Ma'lik is emotionally devasted over the consequences of his actions for himself and for others.  (His statement to the family after his sentencing was very emotional and sorrowful.)  Harlow previously noted that when Ma'lik heard the sentence of the judge, he collapsed in the arms of his attorney and said "My life is over. No one is going to want me now.”  He needs to know that his dad still wants him, despite his actions.

However, this seem like "too little, too late." What if Ma'lik had grown up hearing his dad say "I love you" every day?  What if his dad had been a positive role model and an involved, responsible, and committed father?  Would Ma'lik have made the choices that led to his involvement in a drunken party and ugly rape of a young girl if he didn't grow up with an alcoholic father who committed crimes and was absent for part of his life because he was in jail?  What if Ma'lik's dad, while he was in jail, had the opportunity to participate in NFI's InsideOut Dad® program for incarcerated fathers and learn how to build a relationship with his son even while behind bars?

We don't know the whole story, of course, and it seems that Mr. Richmond realizes that his absence has contributed to his son's behavior and is now urging parents to be more involved in their children's lives.  Hopefully he'll start to be more present in his son's life now.  Unfortunately, the Richmonds are yet another fulfillment of the statistic that children with incarcerated fathers are seven times more likely to become incarcerated thesmelves

The Steubenville case is a tragedy for all involved; most certainly for the 16-year-old girl who was victimized.  If anything, the relationship between Ma'lik Richmond and his dad is a sobering reminder to fathers that their involvement in their children's lives shapes the decisions their children make. 

The words "I love you" are powerful - say them now, before it's too late.

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Let #MarchDadness Begin!

march sadnessKing, Jackson, Howard, Rose, Webber…these names conjure up lessons and memories for the sports fan—lessons in greatness and defeat. The names collectlively were "The Fab Five," which was the nickname for the 1991 University of Michigan men's basketball team. They were and still are considered by most to be "the greatest class ever recruited." The team reached two championship games in the early nineties while freshmen and sophomores, which was unheard of before they did it.  

Perhaps bigger than the team playing in championships, they brought the intimidation factor to college sports in a way not previously seen. They were known as a team who changed the style of basketball. They wore their shorts longer than everyone else and wore black shoes with black socks.  

I must confess as a 12- or 13-year-old playing public school basketball, our all-caucasian team in the mountains of Tennessee intentionally stole the Fab Five's style. Yes, our game suits may have been purple and white and said “Eagles” instead the blue and gold of the “Wolverines”; but you couldn’t tell us we weren’t cool enough to wear our shorts below our knees, with black Nike shoes and black socks purchased by our moms.

This is the magic of March Madness: whether you're a sports fanatic, proudly wearing your team colors and never missing a game, or prefer to spend your time doing other things, there's memories wrapped up in these college basketball games. If you don’t enjoy the games, perhaps your child will. The games can be a great time to connect with your kids and family. 

As a dad, you're the coach of your own team and your "players" are looking to you for the strategies and techniques that will help them win in the game. This month, as TVs, computers and mobile devices across the nation tune to the NCAA college basketball tournament, we're getting in on "March Madness" too by bringing you March Dadness!  

Tips for Coach Dad
As you're filling out your bracket and gearing up for the tournament, use our bracket of tips and strategies to build your game plan for fathering.

During the month of March, our Dad Email will follow the March Madness tournament schedule:

  • Sweet Sixteen: 16 Words Your Kid Should Hear from You
  • Elite Eight: 8 Activities Your Kid Should Experience with You
  • Final Four: 4 Character Traits Your Kid Should Get from You
  • The Championship: The Legacy You Pass to Your Kid  

Tools for Coach Dad
Dad Email and The Father Factor Blog: Stay tuned to The Father Factor Blog for stories related to the college basketball season, from stories and memories to tips, tools and advice related to our kids and family.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vine: We'll be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vine with our opinions and pics about March Madness. Whether you’re watching the game alone with a bucket of wings or with your child teaching her how to shoot free-throws, be sure to connect with us using #MarchDadness as the hashtag.

The Community
Speaking of bracketology, you can join National Fatherhood Initiative’s Fantasy League by signing up today (Group Password: Fatherhood).  

Visit our Fatherhood March Dadness Page for more information.

Let the 'Dadness' begin!  

Question: Which team do you think will win it all this year?  

Experience March Dadness to the Fullest — Sign up for the Dad Email Today!

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Date with Dad: What Makes it So Special?

This is a guest post by Angela Patton. Angela is Founder of Camp Diva, which organizes "Date with Dad"; a father-daughter dance connecting fathers to their daughters while in prison. Follow Angela on Facebook and Twitter

I was searching the internet one day for images of fathers and daughters dancing and came across a picture of a father and daughter at a dance that looked like it was from the 60s. It reminded me of something I knew all too well…father-daughter dances are nothing new. They’ve been going on for decades, centuries even. I remember attending one with my own father when I was a little girl. So I asked myself, what makes our (Camp Diva’s) dance so different? What’s so special about the Date with Dad Dinner and Dance? 

camp diva angela patton1) How it began?
One day, I was having a conversation with my girls in Camp Diva. One shared how smothered she felt by her father’s attention, while another shared how much she wished her father, who she hadn’t heard from in years, would pay her any attention at all. This led to a deeper discussion about their various ‘daddy issues.’ And while they all had different relationships with their fathers, they all wanted better ones. So I asked them how they thought they could help themselves, and other girls, develop healthy relationships with their fathers. The reply:  “a dance!” So the “Date with Dad Dinner & Dance” began with the girls doing much of the planning. They spoke. We listened. In the end, we gave them what they said they wanted…quality time with their fathers.

2) We Have Fill-In Dads!
A single mother in Rhode Island complained her daughter was prevented from attending a father-daughter dance. Well, not to worry, Date with Dad has Fill-In Dads! Among the 20 who attended our first Date with Dad in 2008 was a girl whose father was deceased. After helping to set up for the event, the husband of one of our volunteers saw the girl, walked over to her, and asked her to dance. He ended up hanging out with her for the entire evening. Both had a great time, and he volunteered to come back the following year—starting a tradition of “Fill-In Dads” at the Date with Dad. Not having a father or father-figure doesn’t exclude girls from attending.

3) We Go To Prison!
One year, one of the Camp Diva girls told the others she would not be attending the dance because her father was incarcerated. So the girls suggested bringing the dance inside the walls of the city jail! They wrote a letter to the sheriff, the sheriff said yes, and so began “A Dance of Their Own,” which gave 18 incarcerated fathers the chance to connect with their daughters outside of normal visiting hours—minus the glass wall and telephone—enabling them to hug and hold their daughters. No one is left out of the Date with Dad experience.

4) It is Open to ALL!
Traditionally, many father-daughter dances are attended by members of a certain organization, or students in a particular school, of a certain age group. But Date with Dad invites girls, and women, of every age to attend; thus, bringing together women and girls of various backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, and socio-economic statuses, from different areas. Younger girls also get the chance to see older women with their fathers, modeling what they hope will be their future relationships with their own fathers. An equally diverse group of men also come together, from blue collar to professional, single and weekend dads, as well as full time/married dads. Again, the men have a chance to network and connect with each other, and share their trials and triumphs as fathers.      

5) Our Partnerships
We don’t want fathers and daughters to come to the Date with Dad simply to eat, dance, and be entertained. We want to help them connect with each other, heal their relationships, and get them going in the right direction. We want to connect them with community resources to help them strengthen their relationships. To that end, we have cultivated partnerships with various organizations committed to providing that assistance. In addition, we utilize the Richmond Fatherhood Initiative’s “Inside-Out Dads” curriculum for our “Dance of Their Own.” The fathers in the city jail go through the program before and after the dance. Our partners have also fostered within us the desire and opportunity to help others to replicate our model and make changes in their communities. Our next stop: Norfolk, Virginia. It is our hope to expand nationally, as well as internationally, as the issues connected to fathers and daughters are universal.

So you see Date with Dad is not just any father-daughter dance. It’s more than a dance, more than an event. It’s an experience. It’s part of an ongoing conversation between fathers and daughters, or at least the start of one, and it is making a difference!

See Angela's TedxWomen Talk about "A Father-Daughter Prison":

Question: How do you connect best with your child?

The Father Factor Blog  

(Video) Putting Fatherhood Back in The Picture

Recently on FoxNews Live, Lewis Kostiner and Juan Williams spoke to Jonathan Hunt, host of "On the Hunt", on how men from all walks of life are working to be great fathers, all because of NFI's programming.

If you can't see the video, click here

The interview centered around the book titled, "Choosing Fatherhood: America's Second Chance" which contains photographs from Lewis Kostiner's travels and meeting with 150 fathers from all walks of life in 17 states and 39 cities who had at least one thing in common – they were all working hard to be the best dads they could be.  

Kostiner says he became aware of the national crisis of father absense while attending a luncheon with NFI. He then decided he would take photographs and illustrate how NFI's Programming was helping change the father absence problem in America. 

Juan Williams wrote the introduction to the book and calls father absence, "the human tradegy of our time". He writes in the introduction, "No government can hold a child's hand or read to him at bedtime. No child will ever call a government "daddy". Regardless of a man's job status, or the struggles inherant in every romantic relationship, a child ideally needs two parents."

Juan continues, "we need to be child-focused...let's put the dad back in the picture...that's what Mr. Kostiner's book does."

Read More About The Book And How To Order It Here

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(Video) Are Dads the Missing Link in Education Reform?

24 million children without biological fathers in the home. This is a stat we at NFI mention a lot. The number can be so big that it loses its meaning. However, if you take time to break most societal ills down, you find that father absence is a big part of the problem. Fix the state of fatherhood and remedy many ills in society. Education isn't immune to the father absence crisis, both in America and globally.

We recently wrote a column for CNN titled, "The Missing Piece in Education Reform—Dads". You can read our blog on it here.

Vincent DiCaro, National Fatherhood Initiative’s VP of Development and Communication, recently appeared on FoxNews Live to discuss the father-absence crisis and just how critical a fathers' role is in education. 

Gregg Jarrett interviewed DiCaro on the FoxNews Live show "On the Hunt" about the state of education reform and fathers' roles.

If you can't see the video, click here.

Jarrett points out that America's children seem to be in a deficit compared to other nations and asks the question, "What's hurting education in America?"

1) Children growing up in father-absent homes
DiCaro does well to point out that "The biggest change that has taken place in education over the last generation has nothing to do with schools, but everything to do with what has happened to the family... One in three of our children are growing up without their biological father in the home." 

2) Decline in marriage
Jarrett asks what's to blame for the decline of father involvement; unwed mothers or divorce or both? DiCaro makes clear that both contribute to what ends up being a situation where dad is just not there on a regular basis. DiCaro points out, "Out of wedlock childbirths have gone through the roof. We're at about 40% of all births are out of wedlock." He continues by pointing out that divorce is obviously still at a high rate. But DiCaro also mentions the "general mentality in our country that fathers don't play a unique an irreplacable role in their children's lives."

Jarrett asks about father absence and race. DiCaro makes clear that the father-absence issue is a global one. DiCaro says, "Father absence is not unique to any one community...this is a problem happening across the board." DiCaro continues, " isn't just in the United States, there was a global study done from Child Trends called the "World Family Map"; the report found, across the developed world, "children in two-parent homes do better in school than children in single-parent homes and this happens independent of income...this isn't about the haves versus the have-nots in terms of money, but kids who have two parents, and kids who have only one."

Jarrett asks, "do you think the important role that a dad plays in education is underestimated?"

DiCaro says, "Absolutely. Us dads ourselves often underestimate our role. We often think, mom has that covered, she's going to the parent teacher meetings, she's helping with homework, so the kid's gonna be fine. But even if mom's doing these things, it's still critically important for dad to do them as well. You know, dads do things differently. We interact with our children differently. We play a unique and irreplaceable role in our childen's lives, and so we need to be just as hands-on with our kids' education, reading to them every day, helping them with their homework, going to the school, being there, present in the school; a man's presence in a school communicates a lot to his kids and other kids in the school as well.

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Choosing Fatherhood: America’s Second Chance

KostinerCover resized 600At NFI, one of the most common questions we get is “So, what do you guys do?” This question often follows a long explanation of what we do. That was a joke…  

But the question is a fair one, because we are not a “direct service” organization that can simply show you our office’s “underwater fathering” workshop. Instead, we enable direct service organizations to work with fathers. Therefore, it is always a bit harder for the public to visualize how we are strengthening fatherhood across the country.  

But thanks to a new book, our job just got a lot easier. It is called Choosing Fatherhood: America’s Second Chance, a photography collection (and much more) from renowned photographer Lewis Kostiner.  

In 2007, Kostiner began traveling around the country with NFI staff members to document the stories of real dads who had been through NFI’s programs at community-based organizations around the United States. We would choose a city, find out which community-based organizations in that city were using NFI resources, and then go meet with the dads at their homes, places of work, and with the service providers to capture the images and words that would do justice to their fatherhood journeys.    

When all was said and done, Kostiner had photographed more than 150 fathers from all walks of life in 17 states and 39 cities who had at least one thing in common – they were all working hard to be the best dads they could be.  

The visually stunning book tells their stories, and, as a result, NFI’s story. These are dads who were going through NFI’s 24/7 Dad® curriculum at their local social services agency. They are formerly incarcerated fathers learning how to be great dads through NFI’s InsideOut Dad® program. They are “regular guys” benefiting from community resources that NFI helped create.  

Several prominent figures contributed to the book to round out these compelling stories. The foreword is by journalist Juan Williams, who urges our nation and its leaders to take seriously the need to strengthen fatherhood for the sake of our children. The book also includes an essay by NFI board member Roland Warren, who provides practical steps that dads can take to help themselves and others be the kinds of dads our children deserve. David Travis, Shipra S. Parikh, and Derrick M. Bryan also lend their voices to the book.  

Choosing Fatherhood: America’s Second Chance should have come with a box of tissues, as it is hard to keep your eyes dry as you see these dads and hear their voices and their children’s voices. What those voices are telling us -- or, more accurately, screaming to us from the mountaintops -- is that every child needs a great dad.  

But it is one thing for us to tell you that. It is another to look into the eyes of a child and really see that. That is the gift that Choosing Fatherhood gives you.

Choosing Fatherhood: America’s Second Chance will make a great addition to your coffee table or, if you work in a community-based setting, your waiting room. It can be purchased here.


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State of the Union Address: Fatherhood on the Agenda

obama state of the union“And we’ll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples, and doing more to encourage fatherhood – because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one. Stronger families.  Stronger communities.  A stronger America.  It is this kind of prosperity – broad, shared, and built on a thriving middle class – that has always been the source of our progress at home.” -- President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, 2/12/13

Not for the first time, President Barack Obama urged the nation to strengthen the institution of fatherhood. He also made the important connection between marriage and fatherhood; two forces that work together to strengthen families and the economy. 

The President’s timely comments ride on the heels of new research from the Pew Research Center (which we cited in a op-ed on Monday) that shows that marriage is in decline, creating an enormous cultural and economic gap between those who marry and those who don’t. Thus, the President hit the nail on the head in tying the vibrancy of the middle class to the health of marriage.

The President has consistently voiced his support for responsible fatherhood, having formed the Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Task Force in 2007, of which former NFI president, Roland C. Warren, was part. NFI and Roland helped create this report on how the federal government can address fatherhood issues.

For NFI’s part, we are inspired to hear the leader of the free world choose to take time out of his most important speech to voice his support for fatherhood and marriage. Twenty four million children grow up in biological father-absent homes today, and we don’t have a fatherless child to spare!

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photo credit: white house

The Missing Piece in Education Reform—Dads

classroom, education, fatherhoodWriting for CNN’s Schools of Thought blog, NFI's Christopher Brown and Vincent DiCaro reveal the missing piece of education reform. Brown and DiCaro point out that "There is no shortage of answers about how to improve our nation’s schools, including more charter schools, school vouchers, standardized testing, lower teacher-student ratios and performance-based hiring, pay and promotion of teachers. However, what we find lacking in almost every debate about education reform is the role of families - especially fathers - and the support they can and should provide to ensure children’s educational success. If parents, educators and reformers are to make a difference in improving children’s educational success, we must expand our definition of education reform."

They continue, "children in two-parent homes were more likely to stay on track in school and have higher literacy, both of which are critical to overall educational success." 

Pointing to research on marriage from Pew Research Center saying barely one-half - 51% - of adults today are married, down from 72% in 1960, the article says, "The decline of marriage, the rise of divorce and the increase in out-of-wedlock births - now 40% of all births - has contributed to the reality that more than 24 million children in America live in homes absent a biological father."

Brown and DiCaro do not write only to complain, but to offer real solutions for educational improvement. They point out several real-life things fathers can do at home and in school to help their children succeed:

  • Attend school and class events, or even spend a day in the classroom—your presence communicates something to your child and to their teachers. 
  • Read to your children every day. 
  • Help with school work. 
  • Don’t let mom do all the work. 
Some believe that school is “mom’s territory,” but fathers are just as important to their children’s educations as their mothers. Brown and DiCaro add that schools can help to create father-friendly environments by:
  • Including posters, reading materials and visual cues that show dads are welcome. 
  • Distribute parenting resources targeted to dads, as well as moms. 
  • Hold seminars for staff members to remind them how important it is for dads to be involved. 
  • Create dad-centric events, like “Dad and Donuts Day” where fathers join children at school for breakfast.

Brown and DiCaro do well to explain, "Changing parents’ and schools’ views of parental involvement are part of education reform. But most importantly, we must also address and reverse the two most disturbing trends of the past half-century - the increase in the number of children growing up in father-absent homes and the decline in marriage. These two issues are inseparable and have a direct impact on our children’s success in school."

Read the full article at CNN's Schools of Thought.

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photo credit: dcJohn

Advocate for Dads in Washington, DC!

capitol building advocate for fatherhoodOne of NFI’s goals is to be a voice for fatherhood on Capitol Hill. Over the years, for example, we have helped push through funding that supports organizations seeking to equip dads.

So, while there is funding for programs providing needed services to fathers, there is a general lack of funding available for organizations to obtain the “capacity-building” training and services they need to build long-term sustainability.

What is capacity-building? It is what organizations need to be more effective in their service delivery in the present and more viable organizations in the future. Leadership development, organizational development, program development, and community engagement would all qualify as capacity-building services.

That is why we have created an initiative to inform Congress that federal fatherhood grantees should be allowed to use a portion of their funds to procure capacity-building services and training.

While service delivery is the most important use of grant funds, those services need to be delivered by effective organizations – and that is where capacity-building comes in. It will help organizations do a better job serving fathers and ultimately lead to better outcomes for children.

We have set up a page on our website where you and/or your organization can make your voice heard! The grant program for fatherhood programs will be reviewed in Congress later this year, so now is the time to ensure that future grantees will have the flexibility to use some of their grant funds for capacity-building.

Here is what we would like for you to do: 

As an individual – Use our special webpage to send your opinion directly to your members of Congress. The more voices that come on board, the more persuasive we can be!

As an organizationSign on to become an "endorsing organization" of this effort to allow federal fatherhood grantees to use a portion of their funds for capacity-building services. Your organization's name will be listed alongside National Fatherhood Initiative as a supporter or this important advocacy effort.

We will soon inform Congress and the White House of all the people and organizations that are behind this effort. 

Thank you so much in advance for helping us in this important effort. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact Vincent DiCaro, NFI’s Congressional liaison at

Voice Your Support for Fatherhood Today!

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NFI Supplies U.S. Military With Fatherhood Resources

nfiGreat news! NFI has completed the delivery of over 140,000 fatherhood skill-building resources to 47 Air National Guard Airman and Family Readiness Programs and 71 Army New Parent Support Programs across the United States and around the world.

In the Air National Guard, the resources -- which include guides, classroom-based programs, and brochures -- will be used to support and train Air National Guard dads, thereby strengthening and improving the resilience of Air National Guard Families. In the Army, the resources will be used by Army New Parent Support Program Home Visitors to educate and train new and expectant Army dads, resulting in stronger and more resilient Army families.

At a time when thousands of military fathers are returning from long overseas deployments, it is critical that our nation’s military fathers receive the education and inspiration they need to embrace their roles as fathers and to build their relationship and parenting skills.

Tim Red, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, father, and NFI’s Senior Program Support Consultant for the Military, said, “Building resilience in our military families and communities has become a top priority, and there is no better place to start than with building the skills and confidence of our nation’s military dads. Having been there myself, I know firsthand the difference an involved, responsible, and committed father can make in the lives of military children and families.”

Through FatherSOURCE, the Fatherhood Resource Center, NFI has provided a wide variety of skill-building materials to the Air National Guard and Army, including NFI’s flagship 24/7 Dad® curriculum, a classroom-based program designed to help fathers build their communication, fathering, and relationship skills. Other resources include NFI’s Deployed Fathers and Families Guide™, which helps military dads prepare for, endure, and return from deployment. Several of NFI’s fathering skills brochures were also delivered, including “10 Ways to Be a Better Dad” and military-focused brochures such as “10 Ways to Stay Involved with Your Children During Deployment” and “Welcome Home Dad!”, which helps military fathers successfully transition from deployment to every day life with their families.

The Air National Guard will support dads and families with the resources at sites in the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and Puerto Rico. The Army will support dads and families with the resources at sites in the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Korea, Japan, Germany, Italy, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Since launching its Deployed Fathers and Families program in 2001, National Fatherhood Initiative has become the nation’s leading provider of fatherhood-specific resources to the U.S. Military. NFI has delivered nearly 650,000 resources to all five branches of the military on bases all over the world, and has been listed on Military OneSource, the Department of Defense’s support service for military families.

For more information on Military Fatherhood Programming, please contact Tim Red at

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7 Tips for being a Great Dad—Even After January!

If you've been with us since the beginning of the year, you know we've provided readers with tips and tools for being the best dad in 2013! Now that "New Year, New Dad!" is coming to an end, we give you a few ideas to keep your goals this year! Here are seven tips for being a great dad, even after January!

NewYearNewDad banner

1) A Great Dad Stays Focused
When you are at work, remember your goals you identified for what you want to improve in your family this year. By staying focused at work, you can begin to minimize time away from your family. Part of being focused is being in the moment and not being distracted. Determined for yourself that this is the year you keep work at work and when you come home, you keep working! By remembering your goals at home, you will be eager to work on them when you return. 

2) A Great Dad Finds an Ally
Whether it's sharing with your spouse, ex-spouse, or another dad; be intentional about discussing your goals and any progress toward the finish line. By sharing what you want to work on, you can hold each other accountable. 

3) A Great Dad is a Role Model
Pay attention to what you say and how you act around your children, even if you aren't directly talking to them. By being a good role model, you are teaching them how men should act and how they are to take care of their family. For dads with daughters, you are modeling, for good or for ill, how every other man should treat your daughter. 

4) A Great Dad Makes Meals Important
Whether it is breakfast or dinner, sit down to eat at the table with your family and focus on connecting as a family. We know from countless research, but we also know from our own families, that there simply isn't a better time to connect as a family. It's a built-in time if we are intentional and use it as such. 

5) A Great Dad Earns the Right to Be Heard
Take time to listen to your children's ideas and problems. Try to keep from answering questions and allow your kids to open up to you. The more you do this, the more you will learn about your family.

6) A Great Dad is a Teacher
Your child will look to you for guidance and direction. Take some time to teach your children about something you care about, either a topic you are intrested in or something they bring up. Use something from what they are already learning about in school as something you can use to expereince with your child. This will not only form a bond with you and your child, but will also peak your son or daughter's interest in a given subject. For example, as hard as it might be, don't sleep in on Saturday morning, but head to a museum wear you can be a part of making a school textbook come to life.

7) A Great Dad Disciplines with Love
One of a father's most important roles is to discipline his children. Discipline is about teaching and setting reasonable limits. Remind your children that there are consequences for their actions. Remember to affirm their good behavior, too!

What would you add to this list?

We hope you've enjoyed our "New Year, New Dad!" campaign. These are just a few of the tips we'll continue helping you with in the coming year, stay tuned for more tips and tools this year to help you be the best dad you can be in 2013!

Do Fathers Have a Role in Gun Control?

This is a guest post by Jason Bruce. If you are interested in writing for us, send an email.

toypistol smallAre boys obsessed with weapons? Is your home a toy gun-free home? I’ll be first to admit that I’m a toy-weapon tolerant dad. I allow my son to play with toy guns and swords. Boys naturally like to play with toy weapons and there’s nothing wrong with acting out make-believe combat with toy guns and swords.

I grew up without toy weapons at home. My solution was to make my own weapons. I made cardboard machine guns and grenade launchers like a young Sylvester Stallone in Rambo. I made Samurai swords out of tree branches and any L-shape object became a hand gun including my baby sister’s Barbie dolls.

Many parents forbid their children from playing with toys guns. Many view toy weapons as corruptors of children, exposing them to aggressive and violent behaviors and reinforcing gender stereotypes.

The tragic event in Newtown, CT put the debate on gun control in the spotlight again and many parents followed suit imposing their own toy gun control and zero-tolerance policies in their households. But is this the right response to the issue of violence? Should parents keep their sons away from toy weapons and impose a weapon-free zone at home? Should zero-tolerance policies be extended to playgrounds, schools and other public venues?

Boys naturally gravitate toward weaponry not because of their desire to kill or hurt another human being but because of their desire to be heroes. Boys have a natural willingness to do great things, be adventurous and to be rescuers. They need to feel like heroic warriors and toy weapons help bring out their imagination and act out their fantasies. It is one way boys are molded to be mature courageous men.

Play is play and violence is violence. What’s essential is that fathers educate their sons to understand and differentiate the two in their playtime. Their make-believe games are opportunities to teach boys to distinguish between what’s right and wrong and what’s good and evil. Penny Holland, author of "We Don't Play with Guns Here," says toy weapons were "part of...making sense of the world (imitating) timeless themes of the struggle between good and evil."

Parents should recognize and respect what young boys are dreaming to be and experiencing in their play. Fathers were once young boys too and played fierce battles with evil monsters and alien invaders. We usually grow up wanting to be heroes.

Sometimes I wish my son would simply pretend he’s a magician or a race car driver; but right now he wants to be a gun-trotting Pirate and Captain America. All a weapons-tolerant dad like me can do is to play along with my imaginary laser gun and light saber and model to him the right and honorable way to save the day.

Do you let your child play with toy weapons? Why or why not?

Connect with The Father Factor by RSSFacebook and on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

Jason is a blogger and social media specialist for the Colson Center. He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and two kids. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonBruce) and visit his blog The Living Rice.

photo credit: AbrilSicairos

How to Set (and Keep) Your Goals in 3 Simple Steps

We’re a few days into the new year... How are you doing with those new year’s resolutions? Did you decide you wanted to lose weight, eat better, get organized, save money, read and exercise more? I hate to break it to you, but your resolutions probably won’t stick… unless you follow the three simple steps below to help you set and keep your goals.

  • “A goal without a plan is just a dream.” —Smart Person
  • “The difference between a goal and a dream is a deadline.” –Another Smart Person

setting goals

I am a planner. Whether it’s my wiring or something else, I am prone to plan. I like knowing what I’m doing and what I’m going to do. I create my shopping list based on the aisle order in my local grocery store. I know that the bakery is close to the door and dairy is in the back; so at the top of my list is bakery items and at the bottom is dairy. In short, I REALLY plan my trip for groceries! Also, if I’m walking in aisle two and find an item I left off of my list, I place the item in the basket then type that item into my iPhone checklist just so I can place a checkmark on it. Plans make me comfy. It’s an issue I’m dealing with.

However, as in most blog posts I write, I have a confession to make: while I have been a planner for as long as I can remember, I haven’t always been great at sticking to the plans I make. In my experience and especially as a parent, I truly believe that unless we live with a plan, we will not live on purpose. Are you like me? Do you plan but sometimes fall through on the action part? 

Here are the three steps necessary for setting and keeping your goals:

1. Resolve to Take Small, Specific Steps.
Understand that you can’t do everything at once. There’s a saying, “if you chase two rabbits, you’ll end up hungry.” Your path to becoming a new and better person is taking small steps at a time, not giant leaps. 

If you want to lose 50 pounds by running. You don't run for a week and then wonder why you haven’t already lost 50 pounds. Guess what? You lose 50 pounds by losing one pound 50 times. Bam!

I’ll never forget what a friend (who runs marathons) said after I told him I’d love to run as much as him. I was amazed at how much he ran daily. It was nothing for him to run 5 to 10 miles per day and on the weekends run 15 miles. In my amazement, I asked him curiously, “What’s your advice for someone like me, who has never run, to run like you?” His answer was simple yet profound, he replied, “Start walking.” He was right. I wasn’t going to get on a treadmill and run 10 miles if I’d never been on the treadmill and walked one mile.

The point here is to not create a long list of 10 or 20 goals. Stay focused on fewer goals, maybe between three and five of the most important goals. My advice is to not make so many goals that you can't easily remember them. You should definitely write your goals down, but if you have to work to memorize a list, you've probably made too many goals!

2. Resolve to Be SMART.
Being SMART has its requirements! I didn’t create this rule, but I have found this idea useful in the goal-setting process. Make your resolutions this year into SMART goals by following this idea:

  • Specific: Specific goals are more likely to be accomplished than general ones. Answer questions like who, what, when, and why at this step.
  • Measurable: “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Think about how you will know when the goal has been accomplished.
  • Actionable: Do your goals start with words like “write,” “quit,” “run,” and “finish”? If not, they are less likely to be accomplished.
  • Realistic: This may be the hardest step. If you’ve reached this point, you’re getting excited and you’re doing well at setting goals. With that, it’s easy to set your goals too high. Be very honest with yourself and consider what really can be attained.
  • Timely: Put a date at the end of each goal. Some goals may need to have December 31st on them, but even with those goals, consider breaking them into smaller steps and adding a shorter time period to them.

3. Resolve to Go Public.
I admit this isn’t the easiest step—depending on the goal you’ve set. But something happens when you tell the people closest to you about a goal for which you are committed. There’s a built-in accountability that takes place among close friends and family, especially with a spouse and/or family that lives with you. If your goal is to lose a certain amount of weight by a certain time, family will naturally ask you how you’re doing or comment about your progress.

Parents, here are a couple of examples of goals you can re-create in your own words and keep with your family this year:

  • I will create two times to “get away” and be relaxed with my family for 2013.
  • I will make dinner at home with my family an event by making sure every one is present and conversant at the table for at least 20 minutes, twice per week during 2013.

What goals are you "launching" for 2013?


photo credit: stevendepolo

Top Posts of 2012: #4 — 5 Questions Every Father Should Ask Himself

5 questions every dad should askThe Father Factor Blog is closing out the year by revisiting some of our most popular blogs of 2012! We've enjoyed talking parenting tips and tools this year with you. Today is our fourth most popular blog post of 2012!

From the blog: 

We call him the “24/7 Dad.” We believe that every child needs one. What we are talking about is an involved, responsible and committed father. We are talking about a dad who knows his role in the family. He understands he is a model for his sons on how to be a good man. Likewise, if he has daughters, he models what they should look for in a husband and father for their children. There are five questions every responsible father should answer. These five questions come with a guarantee: if you answer each one honestly and take action, you will become a 24/7 Dad!

The questions fit into five categories:

1. Self-Awareness. The 24/7 Dad is aware of himself as a man and aware of how important he is to his family. He knows his moods, feelings and emotions; capabilities, strengths, and challenges. He is responsible for his behavior and knows his growth depends on how well he knows and accepts himself. So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I know myself?

2. Caring for Self. The 24/7 Dad takes care of himself. He gets annual physicals, eats right, exercises, and learns about the world he lives in. He has a strong connection to his family and community, and chooses friends who support his healthy choices. So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I care for myself? 

3. Fathering Skills. The 24/7 Dad knows his role in the family. He knows he should be involved in the daily life of his children. Consider this: Who dresses and feeds your kids? Who attends parent-teacher conferences? Who supports their sports and other interests/activities? Who helps with homework and tucks them in at night? Said a different way, if you weren’t in the family, would anyone notice based on the daily household tasks? So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I “Father”?

4. Parenting Skills. The 24/7 Dad nurtures his children. Yes, nurturing is for men to do as well. He knows how his parenting skills help to develop their physical, emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, and creative needs. His children trust and feel safe with him because he cares about and nurtures them through the use of proven parenting skills. The 24/7 Dad uses discipline to teach and guide his children, not to threaten or harm them. So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I “Parent”?

5. Relationship Skills. The 24/7 Dad builds and maintains healthy relationships with his children, wife/mother of his children, other family members, friends, and community. He knows and values how relationships shape his children and their lives. So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I relate?

Read the full blog post: 5 Questions Every Father Should Ask Himself

Tell us: Which blog post did you like the most in 2012?

photo credit: Fabiana Zonca

Connect with The Father Factor by RSSFacebook and on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

Top Posts of 2012: #5 — Communicating with Your Child

communicating with your childThe Father Factor Blog is closing out the year by revisiting some of our most popular blogs of 2012!

We've enjoyed talking parenting tips and tools this year with you. From today through December 31st, we'll post our top five blog posts of the year.

Today is our fifth most popular blog post of 2012!

We posted "3 Rules for Communicating with Your Child" and proposed thinking about communicating with our kids as a racecar driver thinks about race tracks! 

From the blog:

Odds are good you didn’t wake up this morning and say to yourself, “You know, I should communicate with my kids better…or more…” No, that has never happened - EVER. Something must change in how we view communication. We understand the importance of communication, but we need something to help us remember that how we do it daily is of utmost importance...

We wrote three rules that can help you as you talk with your child. They are the same ideas that a driver must consider as he approaches:

1. Know Your Racetrack: 

  • Short tracks = Infants and young kids
  • Intermediate tracks = School-aged children
  • Superspeedways = Teenagers
  • Road Courses = College-aged children and beyond

2. Practice, Practice, Practice. And then practice more.
When a NASCAR driver isn’t on the track, he is practicing. A driver’s life is about way more than that short moment on the racetrack. And all of his time leading up to the moment on the track is spent in preparation. When is the right time to practice? Early and often.

3. You Must Make Adjustments. 
If Nascar drivers know anything beyond the track and practicing; they understand the importance of making adjustments. Adjustments are crucial in racing. Likewise, you as a dad will learn by trial and error. It’s good to understand you can learn both when you’re away from your child and during the moments you are with them. Great drivers know the importance of making adjustments, from “Research and Development” to “The Pit Box.”

Read the full blog post: 3 Rules for Communicating with Your Child.

Tell us: Which blog post did you enjoy the most in 2012?


photo credit: camille.eric

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