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4 Great Resources on How to Deal with Bullies

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.

Bullying continues to receive a lot of attention in schools and the media, and for a good reason.

angrychild bullying istockphoto

It takes many forms ranging from traditional, physical bullying to the more recent and harder-to-spot form called “cyberbullying”. Regardless of form or medium, it can devastate its victims and has led some children to kill themselves. It might surprise you to learn, however, that children who bully aren’t necessarily the mean kids who tower in height over everyone else and lie in wait for your child to walk by and steal his or her lunch money through sheer intimidation.

According to Child Trends’ 5 Things to Know about Kids Who Bully, bullies:  

  1. Don’t fit a specific profile.
  2. Are sometimes bullied themselves.
  3. Play a wide range of roles in bullying (e.g. they might actively or passively assist or encourage or a bully rather than do the bullying themselves).
  4. Need help, too.
  5. Can be reinforced (and, alternately, discouraged) in their bullying by parents, peers, and schools.  

The latter point is particularly relevant to our work at National Fatherhood Initiative.

According to Child Trends:

"Children who have less-involved parents are more likely to bully others, as are those who have siblings or parents who model or endorse aggressive behavior. Parenting styles linked to social bullying include those lacking nurturing or that rely on psychological control of children; children with parents who manipulate relationships to assert power or gain attention are also more likely to engage in social bullying.”  

If you’re wondering whether your child is a victim of bullying or know that your child is a victim and need some guidance in how to help your child, check out these four great resources that provide definitions of and data on bullying, as well as, advice on how to deal with bullies.    

  1. KidsHealth (Parents Helping Kids)  
  2. KidsHealth (Teens Helping Themselves)  
  3. Violence Prevention Works  
  4. Bullying Statistics  

When was the last time you talked with your child about bullying?

3 Family Habits to Start Before Going Back to School

This is a guest post by Clay Brizendine. Clay is a CPT, a personal and corporate trainer, father of two daughters and author of Shoebox Letters – Daughters to Dads. Follow Clay online and on Twitter. Interested in guest blogging for NFI? Email us.

The weather is a little hotter, vacations are coming to an end, and ads everywhere are talking about school supply lists. All of this is to say that there's just a little time to go before school starts, and for a lot of us, that's a great time to cement some good family habits that will carry you throughout the school year.

back to school computer key

Setting your family up for success in these ways is no different than anything else at which you would want to be great—practice makes perfect. It’s often said that it takes between 30-60 days to create a habit, so practicing certain routines now will make the school year easier.  

Here are three key things you can do now:

  1. Treat the rest of the summer as a test drive. Practice new routines and habits as a family, and see what works best so that once the school year begins, you have something in place you know works. Kids are great at trying something new, and if it doesn't work, trying something different. Use that to your advantage. For example, if there’s a nighttime routine that you want your kids to follow rather than the very loose summer hours that some of us keep, start easing into that now. It might be at a later time, but it’s the actions and activities like showers, teeth brushing, etc. that will signal when it’s time to go to bed. Bring those activities forward little-by-little each week until you're at a time that will work once school starts.
  2. Pick your family meeting spot. Meet as a family on equal turf, as this will be critical throughout the school year. Sitting your child on the couch while you stand over him doesn't create a great environment for sharing. Pick a spot like the kitchen table, where everyone sits at an equal level, to talk through anything important that's happening. The more your child feels like he can participate, the more he will. Exercise caution on this point. You don’t want him feeling like he owns conversations, but you don’t want him feeling like he isn't valued either. It’s a fine balance, but one that can be helped be having a family spot—something like the kitchen table.
  3. Make your conversations positive and about the child. Positive thinking opens up possibilities. Keeping topics on things surrounding your child shows you care. If your family sits down at dinner, for example, be the first to set a great tone for conversation by asking your daughter what the best thing was that happened that day. This focuses a child on the positive, which will often create more positive emotions during the conversation (Find more back-to-school ideas at 10 Tips to Help Your Child in School). When school is back in session, the chances of less-than-ideal situations happening increases, but knowing that you’ll look for the positive and show genuine interest in what’s happening allows for possibilities that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.

Think back mom and dad: What did your parents do to help you transition from summer break to starting school?

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image: iStockPhoto

6 Tips to Prepare Your Kid for College: It’s Not All Academic

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

As I prepare to send my oldest daughter off to college in a few weeks, I can’t help but wonder whether her mother and I prepared her well enough for the challenges she’s about to face.

6 tips to prepare your kid for college

These challenges aren’t just educational, they’re also emotional and social. So when I read a recent blog post from Andrew McAfee at MIT on how our higher education system is failing our children, I couldn’t help but wonder whether part of the problem is that parents aren’t preparing children for success in school and, ultimately, in their careers. After all, only a little more than half of students who start college graduate—and that’s in six years! Can we place all the blame at the feet of our higher education system? Nope.  

I recall not knowing what hit me when I started college. I was ill-prepared for it. I went from a high school of 2,000 to a college of more than 25,000. I carried a full load and joined a fraternity. It was like stepping out of the proverbial frying pan and into the fire. In retrospect, I made a smart decision to ease into college. I took a couple of the tougher basic college courses in the summer before my freshman year. That decision allowed me to start off with good grades and take a smaller but still full load in the fall, making it easier for me to handle the study load and the time commitment of pledging a fraternity.  

Unfortunately, I can’t remember a conversation with my parents about college—either before or after high school graduation—other than where they could afford to send me. It wasn’t that they weren’t supportive of going to college. Quite the opposite. My father has a Ph.D. and my mother a master’s. I knew they expected good grades and that I would attend. But they didn’t give me much if any guidance on how to achieve those objectives. I can only assume that they thought my success in grade school would magically transform into success in college.

Fortunately, I did well in undergraduate and graduate schools and graduated on time, despite switching majors twice as an undergrad. I graduated with honors at both levels and earned a scholarship to attend grad school. So, to some degree (pardon the pun), I have to give props to my parents for at least instilling in me the value of good grades and higher education.

Nevertheless, I made a lot of mistakes, especially as an undergrad, trying to juggle the educational and social aspects of college life in large part because I lacked an emotional and social compass. It was my first experience with on-the-job training untethered to my home, and I sometimes wonder how I survived.    

In reflecting on how well my wife and I have prepared our daughter, I definitely learned from my collegiate mistakes. I also read articles by people smarter and wiser than me on getting children college-ready. While I agree with McAfee’s advice to recent high school grads (and their parents) to “work hard, take tough classes, and graduate on time,” it is a bit lacking, simplistic, and short-sighted. Parents must start much, much earlier. By time they graduate, it could be too late or, at the very least, a much tougher haul in college.  

Consider the following tips as you prepare your children for the rigors of college life:  

1) Save early and often. 
It might surprise you (or not) that this first tip focuses on money. I can’t tell you how good a decision it was that my wife and I set aside money for our children’s education. While we don’t have it all paid for, we’re a good way down the road. Sending our two girls to college will be financially manageable, barring something unforeseen, because, when our children were very young, we purchased contracts for a portion of our girls’ tuition through our state’s guaranteed tuition plan. Many states offer such plans and other education-specific investment vehicles (e.g. 529 plans). Start saving now even if you can only set aside a small amount of money.

2) If one parent wants to manage your children’s school lives, let them go for it.
 
My wife comes from a family of teachers—her grandmother, mother, and both sisters are or have been teachers. So when my children entered school, my wife started to manage that part of their lives like a fish takes to water. I let her dive right in. That’s not to say that I abdicated responsibility. I made every parent-teacher meeting, school play, and sporting event that I could. (A key role of mine has been to manage my children’s athletic endeavors.) Indeed, research shows that when fathers are involved in their children’s education—broadly speaking—children get better grades than when fathers aren’t involved. But given my wife’s knowledge and skills in this area, it was a no-brainer to let her take the lead.

3) Focus as much—and more when necessary—on the social and emotional aspects of school life. 
School is a laboratory for life. As such, it teaches children—for good or ill—how to interact with peers and authority figures. Children, as they say, can be brutal. Middle school is a particularly difficult time for girls because of their physical, social, and emotional development at this time in their lives. My daughters hated middle school not because of the academics but because of the way girls treated one another. I had a lot of long, intimate conversations with them about how to navigate friendships that change and dissolve, how to deal with the formation of cliques, how to better understand boys, and how to avoid drugs and alcohol. When children don’t effectively navigate the emotional and social aspects of school—regardless of school level—their academic performance can suffer. If your children need professional help, don’t hesitate to get it for them. Don’t wait for something bad to happen—expect it to happen and be proactive.

4) Stalk your children’s grades as if they were a Facebook account.
 
Let’s face it, grades and GPA matter when it comes to competing for a spot in the freshman class at many colleges. Moreover, good grades and a high GPA can help pay for college through public and private scholarships. This fact is especially important if your family won’t qualify for financial grants or aid (e.g. free grants or low-cost loans). Many school systems have an online service that allows parents to monitor their children’s grades throughout the year and in real time. This service helps parents know immediately when their children struggle, get their children help (e.g. tutoring) when needed, and to correct grading mistakes, which occur more often than you might think.   

5) Help with subjects you’re good at, and get your children help in others.
 
My wife and I have different strengths when it comes to helping our children with school subjects. Unfortunately, neither of us are whizzes at math, so we’ve encouraged our children to get help in that subject from teachers, tutors, and peers (e.g. in study groups). There’s no shame in telling your children you don’t have the answers and getting them help from elsewhere.

6) To ease the transition into college, enroll your children in college courses while they’re in high school.
 
Fortunately, my daughter made the same decision that I did to take college courses before starting college, but she started her junior year of high school. She’ll carry a full load as a freshman, but not as full as she would have otherwise. That’s critical because she’ll have to achieve balance between her school work, holding down a job, and using her spare time to take advantage of the growth opportunities her program will offer that are outside of class time. This tactic saved us money, as well, because she took the courses at a local community college that had a lower per-hour fee than the college she’ll attend. Before enrolling your children, make sure that the colleges your children are interested in will accept the coursework (i.e. it will transfer) and on what basis (e.g. pass-fail or a minimum grade).

What advice did your parents give you about college?

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image: iStockPhoto

The Risks of Teen Driving & What Dad Can Do (Infographic)

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S., killing more teens than suicide and homicide combined. Understanding how to prevent these crashes is critical, particularly right now. The days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are known as the 100 deadliest days for teen drivers.  

home 21

I don't remember exactly how old I was, maybe 17. I had not been driving for longer than a year. It was my junior year of high school. Driving home from school, the weather was beautiful and sunny. I had four people in my '89 Honda Accord and thought I was so cool. That faithful day, I learned two lessons about teen driving.

  1. Don't follow too closely: I ran smack into the car in front of me that day. I was quickly told by the kind police officer that—pretty much anytime a person runs into another car—it's the person driving the car with the crashed front bumper's fault.
  2. Don't have a car-load of people in your car. You can't be responsible for all of those people if you have an accident.

So, my point in telling you this is to point out that, as parents, there is more to teaching your child about driving than simply passing a driving test. Dad, you must be intentional about teaching your teen to be responsible with his/her vehicle.

The National Safety Council explains driver safety in two ways:

1. Know the Teen Driving Risks

  • Driving is dangerous: The year your teen get his driver's license is the most exciting—and dangerous—year of his life.
  • Lack of practice: Inexperience is the leading cause of teen crashes.
  • Distractions: From cell phones to applying makeup, it's vital your teen stay focused on driving.
  • Scanning the road: There's only about three seconds—one to recognize the hazard—two to react. But you can't react to something you don't see. Discuss the importance of looking out for potential hazards constantly.
  • Unsafe speed: Teens often break the speed limit just for fun, but it's vital he/she understands the importance of knowing the speed limit wherever he/she drives.
  • Passengers: How many teens can safely ride with new drivers? None!
  • Seatbelt use: Seatbelts save lives. That is all.
  • Night driving: 16 and 17 year olds are three time more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash at night.
  • Impaired driving: From drinking, drugs and drowsiness—all 50 states have zero tolerance laws for underage drinking and driving for a reason

2. Know What You Can Do

You can help reduce your teen's driving risk. Simply staying involved with your teen goes a long way toward keeping your teen safe. Here are five things to keep in mind:
  • Practice with your teen: sit beside them often as they drive—both before and after your teen gets her license. 
  • Set a good example: drive the way you want your teen to drive. Remember, they don't stop learning once they get their license.
  • Sign a parent-teen agreement: a written agreement can help define expectations—for you and your teen.
  • Let your teen earn privileges: one of the best ways your teen can show he is ready for new privileges is to show they can handle the ones you have already given.
  • Let other parents know how you feel: once you know all the stats and ways to be more careful, get the word out by telling your friends. You will help your community by helping let others know what to watch out for regarding teens and driving.

The National Safety Council (NSC) has also recently launched a website for parents of teen drivers at DriveitHOME.org. Through videos, weekly driving tips and more, NSC wants to help parents navigate their teens driving experience.

Can't see video? Click here.

Please help spread the word about how to keep our teen drivers safe on our roads. Share this infographic with everyone you know who has teen drivers.

Teen Driving infographic

Connect with other dads of teen drivers:

Have you ever been involved in a car accident? How old were you?

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Prince George’s County Council Member Mel Franklin Partners with NFI to Strengthen Fatherhood

Two-year project aims to increase father involvement and reduce the possibility of father absence in the lives of children in the 9th District of Prince George’s County, Maryland.

nfi logo

In a press release today from PRWeb, Prince George’s County Council Member Mel Franklin (D)-District 9 and the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) have partnered to create a multi-sector initiative to strengthen fatherhood in southern Prince George’s County.

Using its Community Mobilization Approach™, NFI will work with Council Member Franklin and County leaders to engage 11 sectors in District 9, with a goal of increasing the involvement of fathers and father-figures in the lives of Prince George’s County children. The 11 sectors are government, faith-based, social service, education, health, law enforcement, philanthropic, community activist, civic, business, and media.

“Responsible fatherhood directly impacts quality of life issues in Prince George’s County. We must take action to promote and support strong fathers in our households and neighborhoods,” said Council Member Franklin. “The District 9 Fatherhood Initiative is an opportunity for a true public-private partnership to achieve this important goal. With NFI’s outstanding expertise and research-based methods, we will be better able to measurably improve the lives of children and families in southern Prince George’s County.”

“Responsible fatherhood directly impacts quality of life issues in Prince George’s County. We must take action to promote and support strong fathers in our households and neighborhoods.” —Council Member Franklin

NFI’s Community Mobilization Approach™ (CMA) consists of three phases:

  1. a needs and assets assessment of the community’s ability to promote responsible fatherhood; 
  2. a Leadership Summit on Fatherhood attended by community leaders; and 
  3. implementing an action plan for a fatherhood initiative that uses NFI resources and solutions generated by the district.

“NFI’s Community Mobilization Approach™ will help District 9 create new fatherhood champions within the 11 sectors, while leveraging the great work that existing programs are already doing for fathers and families,” said NFI Vice President of Program Support Erik Vecere. “It will also provide the structure for Prince George’s County Government to lead a mobilization effort and establish model direct-service providers in different sectors to serve as benchmarks on how to involve more fathers in the lives of their children.”

“NFI’s Community Mobilization Approach™ will help District 9 create new fatherhood champions within the 11 sectors, while leveraging the great work that existing programs are already doing for fathers and families.” —NFI Vice President of Program Support Erik Vecere

Over the course of the next two years, NFI will lead the residents of District 9 through the three phases with in-person training, technical assistance, web-based support, events, and other initiatives. At the conclusion of this set of activities, leaders and organizations will be identified in District 9 to comprise a Fatherhood Advisory Committee (FAC) and a plan to guide the FAC in continuing to mobilize the district.

As the premier fatherhood renewal organization in the country, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) works in every sector and at every level of society to engage fathers in the lives of their children. NFI is the #1 provider of fatherhood resources in the nation. Since 2004, through FatherSOURCE, its national resource center, NFI has distributed over 6.3 million resources, and has trained over 12,900 practitioners on how to deliver programming to dads. NFI is the most quoted authority on fatherhood in America. Since 2009, NFI has been mentioned in over 2,400 news stories, and makes regular appearances in national media to discuss the importance of involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood.

Prince George’s County is a diverse community of nearly 900,000 residents located in Maryland, adjacent to Washington, DC. District 9 comprises the southeastern third of Prince George’s County’s land mass, including much of the Rural Tier and the communities of Accokeek, Aquasco, Baden, Brandywine, portions of Camp Springs, Cheltenham, Clinton, Croom, Eagle Harbor, portions of Fort Washington, Piscataway, and portions of Upper Marlboro, as well as Joint Base Andrews. Council Member Mel Franklin has represented District 9 since his election to a four-year term in November 2010. Council Member Franklin chairs the County Council’s Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development Committee. He is married. He and his wife have two children.

Prince George’s County Council Member Mel Franklin Partners with NFI to Strengthen Fatherhood

Two-year project aims to increase father involvement and reduce the possibility of father absence in the lives of children in the 9th District of Prince George’s County, Maryland.

In a press release today from PRWeb, Prince George’s County Council Member Mel Franklin (D)-District 9 and the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) have partnered to create a multi-sector initiative to strengthen fatherhood in southern Prince George’s County.

nfi logo

Using its Community Mobilization Approach™, NFI will work with Council Member Franklin and County leaders to engage 11 sectors in District 9, with a goal of increasing the involvement of fathers and father-figures in the lives of Prince George’s County children. The 11 sectors are government, faith-based, social service, education, health, law enforcement, philanthropic, community activist, civic, business, and media.

“Responsible fatherhood directly impacts quality of life issues in Prince George’s County. We must take action to promote and support strong fathers in our households and neighborhoods,” said Council Member Franklin. “The District 9 Fatherhood Initiative is an opportunity for a true public-private partnership to achieve this important goal. With NFI’s outstanding expertise and research-based methods, we will be better able to measurably improve the lives of children and families in southern Prince George’s County.”

“Responsible fatherhood directly impacts quality of life issues in Prince George’s County. We must take action to promote and support strong fathers in our households and neighborhoods.” —Council Member Franklin

NFI’s Community Mobilization Approach™ (CMA) consists of three phases:

  1. a needs and assets assessment of the community’s ability to promote responsible fatherhood; 
  2. a Leadership Summit on Fatherhood attended by community leaders; and 
  3. implementing an action plan for a fatherhood initiative that uses NFI resources and solutions generated by the district.

“NFI’s Community Mobilization Approach™ will help District 9 create new fatherhood champions within the 11 sectors, while leveraging the great work that existing programs are already doing for fathers and families,” said NFI Vice President of Program Support Erik Vecere. “It will also provide the structure for Prince George’s County Government to lead a mobilization effort and establish model direct-service providers in different sectors to serve as benchmarks on how to involve more fathers in the lives of their children.”

“NFI’s Community Mobilization Approach™ will help District 9 create new fatherhood champions within the 11 sectors, while leveraging the great work that existing programs are already doing for fathers and families.” —NFI Vice President of Program Support Erik Vecere

Over the course of the next two years, NFI will lead the residents of District 9 through the three phases with in-person training, technical assistance, web-based support, events, and other initiatives. At the conclusion of this set of activities, leaders and organizations will be identified in District 9 to comprise a Fatherhood Advisory Committee (FAC) and a plan to guide the FAC in continuing to mobilize the district.

As the premier fatherhood renewal organization in the country, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) works in every sector and at every level of society to engage fathers in the lives of their children. NFI is the #1 provider of fatherhood resources in the nation. Since 2004, through FatherSOURCE, its national resource center, NFI has distributed over 6.3 million resources, and has trained over 12,900 practitioners on how to deliver programming to dads. NFI is the most quoted authority on fatherhood in America. Since 2009, NFI has been mentioned in over 2,400 news stories, and makes regular appearances in national media to discuss the importance of involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood.

Prince George’s County is a diverse community of nearly 900,000 residents located in Maryland, adjacent to Washington, DC. District 9 comprises the southeastern third of Prince George’s County’s land mass, including much of the Rural Tier and the communities of Accokeek, Aquasco, Baden, Brandywine, portions of Camp Springs, Cheltenham, Clinton, Croom, Eagle Harbor, portions of Fort Washington, Piscataway, and portions of Upper Marlboro, as well as Joint Base Andrews. Council Member Mel Franklin has represented District 9 since his election to a four-year term in November 2010. Council Member Franklin chairs the County Council’s Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development Committee. He is married. He and his wife have two children.

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Teach Your Own Child To Swim—Or Let A Swim Teacher Do It?

The following is a post from Becky Flanigan. Becky writes for PoolCenter.com and is married with 3 kids and 2 golden retrievers. So she knows a thing or two about kids and swimming! Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

Parents of young children will have to address the issue of their child learning how to swim. The question then becomes – who can do a better job of teaching the child to swim – the parent, or a swim instructor? A parent can do a lot to prepare their child for the water. On the other hand, a swim instructor can teach swimming strokes and advanced lessons more thoroughly.

No Swimming

So which way is best – the parent teacher, or swim instructor lessons?

Why not do both? Have the parent start the process, and then finish with swim lessons.

Preparing the toddler. According to Parents.com, a parent can do a lot for a child to get them more comfortable with the water. It is recommended that formal lessons not begin until age 4 – when a child has physically developed enough to stay afloat. Up to that age, a parent can spend time allowing the child to get used to being in the water. While holding the child at all times, the parent can let a baby splash in the water, bob around, and play gentle games in the water. Aside from bonding time, the child begins to develop a positive attitude about water.

When the child is a bit older. By age 2 to 3 years, the child may be more active and curious in the water – but will still need to be held at all times. The parent can allow the child reach for a ball, kick his legs and begin learning to float. As the child learns to blow bubbles in the water, he’s learning to get his face wet without ingesting water. Pool safety can be addressed – emphasizing not running at the pool, and only going into the water with the parent.

It’s time for lessons. By the time a child is 4 to 5 years old, they should have developed the coordination needed to swim by themselves. They should be able to float independently, submerge their head under water for several seconds, and go from a standing to swimming position without help. As well, research for PoolCenter.com revealed that children should be able to glide through the water, and begin to use coordinated movements with their arms and legs.

The advantages of lessons. Bonding with your child while teaching them water skills can be fun, but there are some significant reasons to sign up for swim lessons. As described by 247moms, there are a number of benefits of swim lessons:

  • Proper techniques taught by experienced instructors. While a parent may be limited in their knowledge of proper swim techniques, an instructor who has been certified knows the proper swimming strokes and how to teach them.
  • Reducing the fear of water. Lessons can help the child develop skills which will reduce their fear of water. A child who has to sit by the side of the pool while others swim is only adding to fears they might have about the water. With a solid knowledge of swimming strokes, that fear is reduced.
  • Building confidence. An experienced instructor who is committed to the success of their students can greatly increase a child’s self confidence, by helping them master swimming skills, and by honoring each success.
  • Promoting physical activity. By developing swim skills, swim lessons encourage a child into a more active  lifestyle than sitting in front of the TV playing video games. Especially if those lessons are taught in a group, they model how fun water activities can be, and encourage social development.
  • Reduced chances of drowning. The American Academy of Pediatrics has done research which suggests that kids who had formal swim training had lower chances of drowning.

Especially during the baby and toddler years, there are many things a parent can do to promote their child’s enjoyment of the water. Once that child has reached 4 to 5 years of age, swim lessons with an experienced instructor build a child’s abilities and confidence, preparing them for a lifetime of safe enjoyment of the water.

Parents: Who taught you how to swim?

Becky Flanigan was an English major in college, and now uses those skills when writing freelance articles for PoolCenter.com. She spends many happy hours at the family swimming pool, watching the kids and dogs splash and play.

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image: http://flic.kr/p/dCiQHB

NFI on C-SPAN's Washington Journal

NFI's Vincent DiCaro was interviewed on C-SPAN's Washington Journal this weekend and talked about the goal and mission of the NFI and the public policy issues we promote to improve the well-being of children by increasing the proportion of children growing up with involved, responsible, and committed fathers. 

While the video embedded below is almost 40 minutes, the first five minutes will help viewers understand the vital work NFI is doing to strengthen fatherhood in America.


Can't view the video? Visit here.


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President Obama Talks Fatherhood in Morehouse College Speech

"Be the best father you can be to your children. Because nothing is more important." —Barack Obama, President

President Barack Obama recently delivered the commencement address at Morehouse College and talked personally about fatherhood and family.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the commencement ceremony at Morehouse College

Here are excerpts from President Obama's speech: 

  • ...I sure wish I had had a father who was not only present, but involved. Didn’t know my dad. And so my whole life, I’ve tried to be for Michelle and my girls what my father was not for my mother and me. I want to break that cycle where a father is not at home -- where a father is not helping to raise that son or daughter. I want to be a better father, a better husband, a better man.
     
  • It’s hard work that demands your constant attention and frequent sacrifice. And I promise you, Michelle will tell you I’m not perfect. She’s got a long list of my imperfections. Even now, I’m still practicing, I'm still learning, still getting corrected in terms of how to be a fine husband and a good father. But I will tell you this: Everything else is unfulfilled if we fail at family, if we fail at that responsibility.
  • I know that when I am on my deathbed someday, I will not be thinking about any particular legislation I passed; I will not be thinking about a policy I promoted; I will not be thinking about the speech I gave, I will not be thinking the Nobel Prize I received. I will be thinking about that walk I took with my daughters. I'll be thinking about a lazy afternoon with my wife. I'll be thinking about sitting around the dinner table and seeing them happy and healthy and knowing that they were loved. And I'll be thinking about whether I did right by all of them.

Watch President Obama's full address and read President Obama's commencement speech transcript.

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Image credit: (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The Precipitous Drop in Teen Birth Rates & What it Means for Dads

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

Last week the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released astounding data on the precipitous decline in the teen birth rate. The birth rate for teens 15-19 years of age fell 25 percent from 2007-2011 to an all-time low. The most significant drop, 34 percent, occurred among Hispanic teens.  

medium 5549214174Dr. Howard Koh, the Assistant Secretary of Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, notes in the Huffington Post that this is an acceleration of the decline we’ve witnessed for more than two decades. Dr. Koh points to a number of key factors that have led to this decline that include stronger pregnancy-prevention efforts (e.g. most notably those spearheaded by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy), teens choosing to delay sex (i.e. abstinence), and contraceptive use among sexually-active teens. The good news from NFI’s perspective is that this decline helps prevent father absence in the lives of children and the range of poor outcomes that these children experience, on average.  

As I reflected on these data and read Dr. Koh’s article, I couldn’t help but wonder why, despite this long-term trend, we see rates of unwed childbearing at an all-time high. The reason is that, more than ever, women in their twenties are having children out-of-wedlock. As I pointed out in an earlier post, nearly half of all births to twentysomethings (48 percent) occur outside of marriage. Coupled with the increase in age among women marrying for the first time exceeding the age at which they give birth to their first child, fathers should be very concerned about the prospects of our grandchildren growing up without involved, responsible, committed fathers in their lives.  

So what are fathers to make of all this good and not-so-good news? One thing for certain is that fathers can breathe a little easier knowing that their teens are less likely to become pregnant or get someone pregnant than when they (fathers) were teenagers. (Can you hear a big “Whew!” coming from this father of two teenage daughters?) But none of us should be under any illusion that there aren’t the same temptations for teens today to have sex than when we were in their shoes. In other words, don’t let any grass grow under your feet as you consider when to send your daughters or sons the message to not have sex until, ideally, they are married.  

What these data reinforce for every father is that the job of a father never ceases. When it comes to ensuring that our grandchildren grow up in homes with involved, responsible, committed fathers—regardless of whether we have daughters or sons—our work extends beyond adolescence and into our children’s twenties. We can’t breathe easy when we realize that so many children in our country are still at risk of growing up without involved, responsible, and committed fathers in their lives because of trends to which many Americans are oblivious. 

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photo credit: imagineerz

When Dad's in Jail—He's Still Dad: NFI Connects Father to Family

“I never had my dad or nobody tell me they were proud of me until this program..." —William Jones, recent graduate of NFI's InsideOut Dad, the skill-building program for incarcerated fathers. 

At National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), we often speak of our two approaches to engaging society about fatherhood. 1) Top-down: through communications campaigns and social media and 2) Bottom-up: our "boots on the ground" -- our work with community-based organizations and other civic partners to train and equip leaders to better serve the fathers in their communities.

One such example is our work in jails and prisons. The Richmond Times-Dispatch recently featured a program that's impacting the capital city of Virginia. The city jail uses our InsideOut Dad material that helps prisoners to be better dads. Read the following story; it shows what we really do.  

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“The goal is to get everybody to communicate with their kids, to relearn some parenting skills you never knew you had,” Fries said. At the completion ceremony, the men shared how the program affected them. Below are excerpts from the news article:

  • Ronnell Glasgow, 26, said he grew up without his father in his life and was repeating that pattern with his own children, daughters ages 7 and 9.
  • Glasgow is behind bars at the Richmond City Jail, but even when he was out he said he thought giving them material things was enough.
  • Just weeks into a fatherhood skills training program at the jail, Glasgow said he had reached out to his own emotionally distant father and was communicating more with his daughters, who he said are no longer shy around him.
  • “I understand the importance of not having a father,” Glasgow said, adding that with his own father he was “building a relationship as a father and a man.”
  • One man described having a 15-minute telephone conversation with his daughter, who he rarely spoke to before. 
  • Another described overcoming fear of rejection and reaching out to an adult daughter and his surprise at her welcoming response. 
  • Another talked about writing to his 6-year-old son and getting a reply.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that one recent graduate said after the program, “Being there for my kids is better than any gift,” said William Jones, 22, father of four children. Jones is in jail on a probation violation and plans to enter an addiction-treatment program when he is released.

A new 12-week session of InsideOut Dad at the Richmond City jail starts tomorrow (Tuesday). What's the prison nearest you doing to teach fathers the skills they need to be better dads?

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Image: [Daniel Sangjib Min/TIMES-DISPATCH] Dennis Fries (left) an instructor for the InsideOut Dad program, gets a hug from William Jones, a participant in the class who wants better relationships with his four children.

(Video) Dads Club Strengthens Fatherhood

NFI's Vince DiCaro was interviewed today on Fox News Live about our new Dads Club™ and our partnership with Dove® Men+Care™.

Jonathan Hunt of the "On the Hunt" program discussed how NFI's partnership with Dove® Men+Care™ will strengthen fatherhood by helping fathers be better dads.

Learn how you can connect with other dads and share parenting tips today!


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NFI and Dove® Men+Care™ Team Up to Launch Dads Club™

New Club Will Be Place for Fathers Who Care for What Matters to Support Each Other and the Cause of Responsible Fatherhood
In a national press release posted this morning, National Fatherhood Initiative and Dove® Men+Care™ have partnered to launch the Dads Club™, a membership club where dads can come together to support each other and bolster efforts to strengthen fatherhood.

National Fatherhood Initiative and Dove Men Care Dads ClubToday’s dads are finding that social media and the Internet are providing unprecedented opportunities to network, share stories, and support each other in their fathering journeys. However, there is no “hub” where fathers can come together to not only help each other become better dads, but to also make a meaningful contribution to the cause of strengthening the institution of fatherhood in America.

A corporate-nonprofit partnership is an ideal mechanism to meet this need, and Dove® Men+Care™ and National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) are the ideal partners. NFI has worked since 1994 to strengthen the institution of fatherhood through public education campaigns, research, and the distribution of fatherhood skill-building materials to individuals and organizations around the country. Dove® Men+Care™ has demonstrated a true commitment to creating a more positive and inspirational image of men and fathers through its “Real Moments” campaign (www.dovemencare.com)

“NFI is delighted to have a committed partner like Dove® Men+Care™ to not only help us provide a safe place for dads to help each other, but to become a partner in our work to ensure that every child has an involved, responsible, and committed father,” said Vincent DiCaro, NFI’s vice president of development and communication. 
 

Members of the new Dads Club™ will receive various benefits upon joining, including:

  • samples of Dove® Men+Care™ products 
  • Exclusive monthly e-newsletter with expert fathering advice or funny stories and encouragement for dads plus special messages from Dove® Men+Care™
  • a co-logoed Dads Club™ t-shirt 
  • a Dads Club™ photo magnet 
  • and a copy of NFI’s “Dad’s Pocket Guide” 

“Dove® Men+Care™ is proud to partner with National Fatherhood Initiative to launch Dads Club™ in our continued effort to help men care for what matters most,” said Rob Candelino, vice president marketing for Unilever Skincare.  “Research shows that men today are prioritizing taking care of their families, and as a dad, I understand the importance of having dedicated resources and tools on which men can rely as they continue to embrace fatherhood. This program is one important way Dove® Men+Care™ aims to support the dedicated, caring, dad community.” 

Through the partners’ Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, web properties, a members-only e-newsletter, and use of the hashtag #dadsclub, Dads Club™ members will have various spaces in which to come together as fathers, receive advice, and support the cause. Over time, NFI and Dove® Men+Care™ will engage notable dads to become inspirational figures for fathers and ambassadors for the cause of strengthening fatherhood. Dads Club™ membership will be available for a one-time $35 contribution to NFI, a portion of which will be a tax-deductible, charitable donation to support NFI’s work. This one-time contribution entitles dads to a lifetime membership in the Dads Club™. Fathers can join at http://www.fatherhood.org/dadsclub. 

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A Working Woman's Response to 'Leaning In' to Fatherhood

This is a guest post by Claire M. Fraser, PhD. Claire is a Professor of Medicine and Director, Institute for Genome Sciences, University of Maryland School of Medicine. If you are interested in guest blogging, send us an email. 

As a successful professional woman who has risen to the top of the ranks in the male-dominated field of academic science, I have been on the receiving end of many questions in the past couple of weeks asking my opinion about Sheryl Sandberg’s advice to women to “lean in” more in the workplace - to speak up, to self-promote, and to move outside a perceived comfort zone in order to climb the professional ladder.

balancing work and family can be tricky for both genders“Leaning in” has been essential to my career success, and for many years I did it reluctantly, feeling like I was a fraud whenever I dared to express my thoughts and opinions. Today, I encourage my junior female faculty members to “lean in” every chance they get, no matter how awkward or uncomfortable it may feel. This is not an option – it is essential if we are to realize our full career potential.

While this seems like straightforward advice, we should also consider what it means to “lean in” outside of the workplace. I was fortunate to hear Vince DiCaro’s Fox News interview on March 28, in which he encouraged moms to “lean in” to fatherhood. This is indeed good advice.

From my own experience, and in speaking with many colleagues over the past 20 years, I have come to believe that a healthy work-life balance - which taps into the best that we and our partners have to offer to ourselves, each other, and our families - must be a goal. From what I‘ve observed, professional women often take on an enormous burden when they try to do it all at work and at home, and end up feeling that they do nothing well. I’ve had many tearful conversations with talented and accomplished young women in academia who think that they must assume the lion’s share of responsibility for their children because this is what’s expected of them as women, while at the same time they know that they must secure as many grants and publish as many research papers as their male colleagues in order to be successful.

I’ve also had a more limited number of conversations with male colleagues who would like nothing more than to spend additional time with their children, but fear that their value as a parent is not fully appreciated by their wives or partners, and their reputation as a hard-working, committed professional will suffer if they work anything less than a 60-hour week.

Just as women have demanded equal consideration in the workplace, it is time to make sure that men are afforded equal consideration in areas that have traditionally been “owned” by women. Collectively, we must do more to frame discussions about work-life balance in terms of a broader, gender-inclusive context.

Seeking a more balanced life is not just a women’s issue. Balance is good for all of us, most of all our children, who will then hopefully grow up to be committed and caring members of society.  

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photo credit: adesigna

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. If you are interested in guest blogging for us, send an email.

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 Dance...in Prison":

Question: How do you connect best with your child?


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