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The Father Factor

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On Safety and Similarities with Our Kids

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

I was born in 1976, which means I had the honor of seeing Mr. Mom a number of times over the years. One of Michael Keaton’s more hilarious roles (you may disagree, but something about that movie catches my funny bone just right), the 1983 film had so many great ‘80s actors in it that it makes your head want to explode.  

best things in life arent things medium resized 600One of my favorite parts of the movie is when Michael Keaton’s character, Jack, finally gets one of his sons to give up his favorite blanket, or ‘Woobie’ as it’s referred to in the movie.  It’s a hilarious scene in which is son, Kenny, looks at Jack after he’s handed over his blanket and says, ‘Can I have a moment to myself please?’ After all, Kenny took his Woobie everywhere for years.  

This scene went through my head the other day as I realized that I’m not that much unlike Kenny. Why you ask?   

I have a sweatshirt that by all accounts is now 20 years old. No holes, no stains, no logos… just a plain black sweatshirt. I wear it once or twice every other week, and to this day it stands as one of my favorites.  

I drove my car for 180K miles and for 11 years, and as much as I like cars, it was hard to sell it. During a particularly rough period of my life, that car was one of few constants, and the logical side of my brain had a hard time coping with the fact that I was spending more in repairs than the car was worth. I knew that meant I had to get rid of it, but it wasn’t easy.  

I’m not a fan of things, to be honest. I like quality over quantity. I’d rather have 10 really nice things than 100 average things. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have my 20-year-old sweatshirt. Or that getting rid of my car wasn’t truly difficult.   

We all have our Woobies. It’s just human nature. Things we gravitate to. Things we hold onto. Things that have value well beyond what someone might pay us for them.   

And so do our kids.   

Our kids teach us so many things. As they are constantly growing, learning, and developing, they hold onto those things that make them feel safe and that are dependable. They know that their favorite blanket, teddy bear, or pacifier is going to make things better, and they latch to those.  

Are we that different as dads and adults? We’re still growing, learning, and developing. We don’t know everything. Things around us exist that we don’t have the answers to. So we look for ways, and things, to keep us safe. We have our favorite sweatshirt or car because we all need something that reminds us that things will be OK.  

The next time you’re being Dad, talking with or watching or playing with your kids, and you see those elements playing out with them, think to yourself about how you can help each other be safe and comfortable. Instead of throwing out your old sweatshirt, or disposing of the Woobie too soon (we all know that eventually they might have to go), maybe revel in the similarities between you and your child.  

Then throw on your favorite sweatshirt, get under their favorite Woobie, and spend some quality time getting to know each other. The safety then lies with your relationship, not the ‘things.’ And the world will be a much better place when we all feel safe with the people around us rather than the things around us.  

What's something you/your spouse/kids have held on to for too long?!

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photo credit: Lili Vieira de Carvalho

Home Run Twitter Chat with Prizes! Tonight 8pm EST #HomeRunMovie

Home RunBaseball all-star Cory Brand knows what it takes to win in the big leagues. But off the field, with memories of his past haunting him, his life is spiraling out of control.  

Hoping to save her client’s career and reputation after a DUI and a team suspension, Cory’s agent sends him back to the small town where he grew up. Forced to coach the local youth baseball team and spend eight weeks in the only recovery program in town, Cory can’t wait to return to his old life as quickly as possible.

As his young players help him experience the joy of the game, Cory discovers his need to find freedom from his past and hope for his future...and win back the love he left behind. With this unexpected second chance, Cory finds himself on a powerful journey of transformation and redemption. 

To celebrate the opening of Home Run, we’re tweeting live with the Celebrate Recovery Pastor at Saddleback Church, Johnny Baker.

Tweet now with your questions using #HomeRunMovie or leave a comment on this post. Johnny Baker will also be answering questions live during tonight's Twitter Chat, but getting your question out there now increases the chances of having it answered.

Home Run Twitter Chat

When: Thursday, April 18th from 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. Eastern

Where: #HomeRunMovie on Twitter

How: To participate, follow host @TheFatherFactor (in case host gets blocked during chat, follow @RyanSanders) and tweet using the hashtag. 

Who: Johnny Baker (@JohnnyCR), Celebrate Recovery Pastor at Saddleback Church will be live during the Chat to anwer questions and talk about the film and parenting. Please tweet questions using the hashtag provided throughout the day and/or place your questions in the comment section of this post. 

Sponsors of the #HomeRunMovie Twitter Chat are Propeller (@flypropeller) and Home Run (@homerunthemovie)

Get more details about Home Run and follow the film on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube

Prizes

  • 4 (four) winners will receive a $25 theater gift card.
  • 10 (ten) winners will receive Home Run swag complete with: cap, t-shirt, baseball card packs & official soundtrack cd from the film.
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RSVP

Planning on joining us? Let us know here by adding your Twitter URL (http://twitter.com/username). An RSVP is not required to participate or to be entered to win.

Watch the Official Trailer

 

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New Movie: Home Run! Opens in Theaters April 19th!

home runNFI is proud to support the upcoming film, Home Runopening on April 19. 

Baseball all-star Cory Brand knows what it takes to win in the big leagues. But off the field, with memories of his past haunting him, his life is spiraling out of control. Hoping to save her client’s career and reputation after a DUI and a team suspension, Cory’s agent sends him back to the small town where he grew up. 

Forced to coach the local youth baseball team and spend eight weeks in the only recovery program in town, Cory can’t wait to return to his old life as quickly as possible. As his young players help him experience the joy of the game, Cory discovers his need to find freedom from his past and hope for his future…and win back the love he left behind. With this unexpected second chance, Cory finds himself on a powerful journey of transformation and redemption.

Watch the Official Trailer!

Home Run releases next Friday, April 19. Get more information on our Home Run page and stay tuned for details on our Home Run Twitter Chat next Thursday, April 18 with great give-a-ways!

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

The Masters, Tiger Woods and Fatherhood

tiger woods masters golf

It doesn't get much better than this; The Masters Tournament starts today and it's Throwback Thursday! Can you believe it?! Today we go back to 1997. It was Tiger Wood's first major tournament. Tiger had won three consecutive U.S. Amateur titles and a NIKE endorsement. But winning The Masters was his stamp on a new generation of golfer.

If you recall, Tiger not only won The Masters, he dominated it. He set several tournament records including the scoring record for shooting an 18-under-par 270. In case you weren't counting, that was 12 shots lower than second place finisher. 

In the embedded video, you hear the great CBS announcer Jim Nantz say as Tiger's putt lands in the cup, "There it is...a win for the ages!" Tiger didn't misstep—he walked directly to his father.

Tiger would say later in an interview that they didn't think his dad would attend the tournament due to health issues. What a great moment in sports history! Our video ends by saying, "A father can change the world. One child at a time."

Tiger's father influenced Tiger's golf game. Tiger's dad studied the game of golf and taught it to his son. With the involvement of his father, Tiger has changed the game of golf. 

Remember dads, as our video says, "It takes a man to be a dad." As you watch The Masters Tournament today and through this weekend, know that you can change the world by being an involved father. 


 

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photo credit: rich_w

(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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The Championship Legacy You Pass to Your Kids

The NCAA Championship game is finally here! You know your team isn't playing...but you can still salvage something good from all the college basketball over the last month! If you've followed us on social media or here at the blog at all, you know we've been working hard to provide you with real-life tips throughout the madness.

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Throughout March Dadness, we've given you the following tips:

Sweet 16) 16 Phrases Your Child Needs to Hear

Elite 8) 8 Amazingly Easy Activities You Can Do With Your Child

Final 4) The 4 Magical Steps to Making Your Child a Winner in Life

We hope you have not only enjoyed the games, but have enjoyed getting tips and tools for your role as "Coach" in your family. 

Today, we have one more idea to leave you with as you gear up for the Championship game.

Our mission at NFI is to improve the well-being of children by increasing the proportion of children who grow up with involvedresponsible, and committed fathers. Involved, Responsible, and Committed are qualities that we think are essential for fathers, and they make up the foundations of the legacy you pass on to your children and generations to come. Leave a legacy of a champion by living out these qualities every day.

The Championship Legacy You Leave Your Kids

  • Involved: Be involved in your child's life - change diapers, read bedtime stories, discipline with gentleness, go to sporting events and extracurricular activities, talk to your teens about important topics. Here's a thought: get to know their friends. Or how about the parents of your child? Do you know them. Have you ever talked to them? Two of our favorite sayings at NFI are "The smallest moments make the biggest impact in the life of a child" and "Kids spell love T-I-M-E." Your mission as father is to be involved in the big and small moments of your child's life.
  • Responsible: We like to say that responsible dads do three things for their children: provide, nurture, and guide. Provide for your children's needs (this is more than putting food on the table; make sure they are safe, healthy, and loved). Nurture your children by calling out their best qualities, encouraging them to reach their potential, and demonstrating your love by words and actions. Guide your child by teaching them values, coaching them when they make mistakes, and helping them find their own direction in life.
  • Committed: Be committed to lifelong fathering. Your job as a dad doesn't start when you get home from work and it doesn't end when your kids graduate from high school. You are a dad 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of your child's life. When you're 80 and your child is 50, you will still be a dad. Also, be committed to the institution of fatherhood. In a time when 24 million children in America are growing up without their fathers, good dads like you need to be shining examples of fatherhood by mentoring other dads and children who don't have fathers.

As you strive be an involved, responsible, and committed father every day, you will create a Championship Legacy that will have generational impact in the lives of your children and their families.

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4 Ways a Dad Can Make His Child "R-I-C-H"

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The Final Four is upon us! As you're gearing up for this weekend, review these four values and see which you can work on with your child. Below are four values we think your child should learn from you. Bring it home to the championship, coach!

Roland Warren, NFI's former president and now board member, is fond of saying:

  • If you give your children money and no values, you give them everything they need to fail; if you give them values and no money, you give them everything they need to succeed.

While there are a lot of values that are important for you to pass to your child, we came up with a helpful acronym to help you remember the four values. 

To stick with Roland's quote, help your kids become R-I-C-H in life by modeling and teaching these values.

Responsibility
Take ownership for your actions. This isn't easy. Believe me, I'm the guy who likes to say "freaking" a lot. But I'm also the guy who would rather my six-year-old daughter not go to school and say "freaking." Therefore, on the occasion that I insert "freaking" into a sentence, I need to show responsibility and say, "You know, daddy shouldn't have used that word. Daddy makes mistakes too sometimes..." Does it sound like I've done this before? Yeah. I have. And you know that kids are the best at pulling out EVERY word they hear! The point is, when you make a mistake—and you will—apologize and fix it. Just as your child hears—and probably repeats everything she hears—she can also spot a phoney. If you don't model responsibility, who will?

Integrity
This goes well with the first point. But, it's important to stress, always do what is right and tell the truth, even if it costs you personally. When you child sees this modeled in you, he will learn more from the example than the speech! Know what your values are and stand by them. Be reliable and trustworthy. How does this work in a father-child relationship? For starters, don't say, "I'll be home in time to take you to the park." Then you either a) don't show up in time to go to the park or b) you show up but let something fall through so you don't end up going to the park. Your word is your word. It means something—and it should. You start with a clean slate with your child. Be trustworthy and you will be great in your child's eyes. Making promises you don't keep is a sure-fire way to have you child not trust you—and even worse—have your child not feel loved.

Compassion
As your child's leader, be sure you are treating others with respect, even if you disagree with them or don't really like them. Reminder: your child is listening and watching you! Listen and seek to understand others. Be willing to sacrifice to help someone else. As you are helping, explain to your child the "why" behind the help. As your child ages, you can discuss with him or her why you care so deeply about helping take food to the neighbor, volunteer at church or donate money to certain causes. Look for opportunities to explain to your child the motivation behind your sacrifice.

Humility
Give credit to others when it's due. Show appreciation for praise and compliments. You can model humility to your child by teaching them to point out other people's good that they see. Humility is another value that must be taught by word, but also by action. 

Dad, talk about what these values look like in real life to help your children understand why these traits are important. Praise your child when they show these qualities or when you see them displayed in their siblings or friends. When your child makes a mistake, talk with them about how their actions violated these character traits and what they can do differently next time. Most importantly, model these character qualities consistently. Your children will learn more from what you do than from what you say. With these character traits, your children will be truly R-I-C-H in life.

What do you find works for teaching these four values to your child? Experienced dads, please share your wisdom in the comments. 

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Campaign Ends Today: Help NFI Support Military Families

military family resized 600There are 1.8 million children and families of military dads are affected by the unique stress of military life, particularly during deployment. Help us support them!

If you can help NFI achieve its target of $1,000 we can provide fatherhood resources to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune!

The dads of military kids will benefit from National Fatherhood Initiative's unique educational materials for dads - to help them stay involved with their kids, and be there for them, even while deployed. 


Unfortunately, research shows that the kids of military dads can experience similar unfortunate outcomes as children in father-absent homes - such as doing poorly in school, emotional/social issues, maltreatment, and more. Your support means a military child gets the dad they need to be prosperous and successful.

Watch this video for more information on our work with military families: 

  • Approximately 593,000 active-duty service members and nearly 300,000 U.S. reservists are dads.
  • 150,000 military fathers are currently deployed, with deployments ranging from 30 days to 15 months.

This campaign ends today. Please consider giving today if you wish to help us support deployed dads and their families.

Here are four ways you can help today:

  1. Visit the Campaign Page.
  2. Donate to NFI's campaign. 
  3. Share NFI's campaign on your social media accounts.
  4. Invite your friends and contacts to support NFI's campaign.

Thank you for understanding the importance of connecting military fathers with their families. We want all kids to have an involved, responsible and committed dad—your support helps make this happen.

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

(Video) Moms Should "Lean In" to Fatherhood

NFI's Vince DiCaro was interviewed yesterday on Fox News Live's "On the Hunt" with Jonathan Hunt to discuss mothers and "leaning in" to fatherhood.

DiCaro points out that culture seems to tell mothers that they have to pick between career and motherhood. However, it's a good idea to consider a third option, and "lean in" to fatherhood.

Too often, mothers do most of the share of work in the home and fathers go to work—end of story. Perhaps mothers should consider supporting and encouraging, not discouraging, more father involvement. Several real-life examples are pointed out in this interview between DiCaro and Hunt. There are several ideas worth considering.

For instance, in some cases, moms simply do not trust the father to be involved. DiCaro says moms and dads need to "work together as parents." Moms can sometimes have a way of "knowing and doing all" when it comes to kids and the home. Therefore, in a sense, they set up a situation where they make the father feel he isn't needed. Then, he checks out, only focuses on his career, and does less at home and with the children.

DiCaro says, "If moms recommit themselves, in a sense, to strengthen the institution of fatherhood, it's only going to help them be better at their careers and be better moms." 

 


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A Scary Confluence of Trends

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

A dangerous crossover has occurred in marriage and childbearing in the U.S.  

kidweddingkiss resized 600A recent report called Knot Yet documents the rise in the historic and still-climbing average age of first marriage at nearly 27 for women and 29 for men. This trend has benefitted women in helping them to reach their life goals and, for couples, reduced the risk of divorce. By delaying marriage, many women have had the opportunity to complete college and establish themselves in their careers before marching down the aisle. Research shows that couples who marry after their mid-twenties are less likely to divorce than are people who marry earlier.  

While that trend has benefits, there is another trend interacting with it that should put a scare into us all. The age at which men and women have their first child hasn’t kept pace with the average age of first marriage. Women give birth nearly a year, on average, before they marry (25.7 vs. 26.5). It is twentysomethings that have driven the increase in out-of-wedlock births to an all-time high of 48 percent of all births.  

As a father of two girls (ages 18 and 15), this is a scary confluence of trends. It increases the risk that my daughters will have children out of wedlock, that my grandchildren won’t have involved, responsible, committed fathers in their lives, and that my grandchildren will be at increased risk for a host of poor outcomes.  

According to a 2009 report by the non-partisan Pew Research Center, a majority of Americans don’t see anything wrong with unmarried childbearing despite their belief that it is bad for society (i.e. it has negative economic consequences). This disconnect between what is right and wrong and evidence is one of the major problems I have seen in my 13 years of work with NFI. As you’ve undoubtedly read many times in this blog and in publications from NFI, there are reams of evidence that having children out of wedlock is, on average, bad for children, mothers, fathers, and our society. And yet, we continue to see more and more children born without the benefit of marriage between their parents, the primary connection that societies have used for thousands of years to connect fathers to their children.        

So why does the disconnect persist? A primary reason, as noted in Knot Yet, is the decoupling of marriage and childbearing as most Americans have come to view marriage as a means to satisfy their desire for meaningful, life-long connection instead of as an institution for raising children and what children need to thrive. To be clear, my problem with this view is not that marriage should not satisfy someone’s desire for life-long connection—I can’t think of a better way to create such a connection. But focusing on that aspect of marriage to the detriment of marriage’s primary function of raising healthy children has become a recipe for disaster.  

The problem with this view is that it ignores the evidence that human biology, specifically the drive in humans to procreate, has not changed along with that view. As an anthropologist, I’ve learned that the interplay between culture change and human biology is not straightforward. In some cases, it can be positive or, at the very least, innocuous. Take the average height of humans, for example. As humans moved from living in nomadic tribes, where food was scarce and humans lacked knowledge of proper nutrition, to post-industrial societies, with 24/7 access to food and improved nutrition (particularly childhood nutrition), the average size for humans increased. (Much of this increase in height occurred in only the past 150 years.) On the other hand, as humans became more sedentary in post-industrial societies, obesity rates increased as did rates of type 1 and type 2 diabetes and other diseases related to a sedentary lifestyle.  

As long as people ignore the simple, indisputable fact that men and women have a biological drive to procreate that does not change—the oil in the water of the new view of marriage’s role in our lives—mothers, fathers, children, and our society will continue to pay a hefty price. Unless the age of puberty miraculously increases, we will continue to see an ever-widening gap between the time men and women start to feel their drive to procreate and the time they put the pieces in place that their children need to thrive—a gap that now spans more than a decade. The sad fact is that girls and boys are more driven to act on that drive when they grow up in homes without their fathers.  

What do I tell my girls? I will continue to tell them to delay sex until marriage for the simple reason that it is the right thing to do not only for them, but for everyone else. I want them to know that their actions have consequences for them and for us all.

 

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photo credit: clappstar

Help NFI Support Deployed Dads and Military Kids

  • "The hardest part...when you're gone for six months, your family grows without you...you come home to strangers. And then after you get home, if there aren't resources it makes it that much harder." —US Navy Chief Quartermaster John Lehnen.

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Approximately 1.8 million children and families of military dads are affected by the unique stress of military life, particularly during deployment. Help us support them!

If you can help NFI achieve its target, together we can provide a complete Fatherhood Resource Center for a military base in need!

The dads of military kids will benefit from National Fatherhood Initiative's unique educational materials for dads - to help them stay involved with their kids, and be there for them, even while deployed. 

Unfortunately, research shows that the kids of military dads can experience similar unfortunate outcomes as children in father-absent homes - such as doing poorly in school, emotional/social issues, maltreatment, and more. Your support means a military child gets the dad they need to be prosperous and successful.

  • Approximately 593,000 active-duty service members and nearly 300,000 U.S. reservists are dads.
  • 150,000 military fathers are currently deployed, with deployments ranging from 30 days to 15 months.

NFI is running this 10-day campaign ending next Thursday April 4 to help support deployed dads and their families.

You can help. Here's how:

  1. Visit the Campaign Page and follow the instructions.
  2. Donate to NFI's campaign. 
  3. Share NFI's campaign on your social media accounts.
  4. Invite your friends and contacts to support NFI's campaign.
  5. Create a personal fundraising page for NFI's campaign.

Thank you for understanding the importance of connecting military fathers with their families. We want all kids to have an involved, responsible and committed dad—your support helps make this happen.

8 Amazingly Easy Activities You Can Do With Your Child

MarchDadnessTwitter 520x260 resized 600While you're tracking your March Madness bracket this week, be sure you have the details of March Dadness. We started our bracket with the Sweet 16: Phrases Your Child Needs to Hear and are now moving on to the next round with the "Elite 8". Today we have eight activities every child needs to experience with his or her dad.

At NFI, we say "the smallest moments make the biggest impact in a child's life." While not all "the smallest moments" HAVE to include an activity; in most cases, shared experiences can create times for lasting memories.

Here are eight activities you can use to create memories with your child this week. 

  1. Teach Your Child a Sport: Take an afternoon to teach your son or daughter how to dribble a basketball. If your child can already do a crossover, consider teaching the rules of the game or studying the dimensions of the court. Go on, you don't have to be a pro player, practice that jumper with your child. Remember, the important thing is you're spending time together. Not at all a fan of basketball? Well, you're probably not the greatest dad you can be. However, replace basketball with the sport you like. Play catch with a baseball or better yet, what better reason to get on the golf course than to teach your child about the game?!
  2. Teach Your Child to Ride a Bike: From first learning to ride or taking the training wheels off, riding a bike is a big deal for kids. I'm thinking now of my three-year-old riding her tricycle all over our house. She gets the biggest kick out of it—especially if she knows I'm watching and interested. Her whole demeanor changes as she pedals. Her eyes light up and her chin raises as she glides through our living room and stops crashing into the kitchen. This may sound like a simple thing—and it is—but be sure not to miss it.
  3. Go Camping with Your Child: Camping is a great way to connect with your family. Whether it means tent and fire under the stars or on the living room floor with covers and pillows every afternoon like at our house. Use the time to disconnect from work at the office (or around the house) and connect with your child.
  4. Take Your Child on a Date: Set aside a couple of hours to spend just you and your child. This can be as planned or as cheap as you make it. Go to the playground, stop for lunch or simply take a walk and talk in your neighorhood. By doing this, you connect with your child on a deeper, more meaningful level. If you have more than one child; simply schedule various times for each child. This may not be a weekly occurance for your family. However, it's an invaluable tool that can show how much you cherish your children. Trust me, with two daughters, I speak from experience, this isn't easy to make time for. I don't do this as often as a should, but when I do it, it's some of the most valuable time I spend with my girls.
  5. Volunteer with Your Child: Whether you're serving at your church or helping at a local homeless shelter, there's great opportunities for you and your child to give your time to a good cause together. Your child will enjoy spending time with you and you'll be setting a good example for a lifelong habit of service.
  6. Read with Your Child: Your child is never too young (or too old) to read with you.  From reading Llama Llama Red Pajama for the hundreth time or The Hobbit with your teen, great books (and the conversion that happens during this time) will last you a lifetime. Make it a regular habit to read aloud with your child.
  7. Take Your Child to the Bank: Remember real banks? Yeah, I barely can either. While this activity may seem odd. We mention it here because it's a great oppotunity to create a memory with your child. How often do you open a bank account in life? I'm guessing—not very often. Depending on the age of your child, this could be a great time of connecting. The experience of opening an account can be awesome. But also, the whole process of teaching your child about money and responsibility is really where we're going with this idea—an ongoing opportunity of connection! It's a connection point that you and your child will not forget. I remember my mother taking me into our local bank branch when I was young. I haven't forgotten the formal building, the leather chairs, the large desks and me signing my life away for my first acount! The excitement was intense—to see money in my account was unforgettable. Well, perhaps I haven't forgetten about having money in my account because that was the last time I would have money in my account! But I digress...on to the last activity ideas...
  8. One Last Activity Idea: (for sons) Teach your son to tie a tie and/or shave: Boys need their dads to coach them through these "rites of passage" in manhood. Heck, every time I shave, my daughters "shave" with me. Although time consuming, I often remind myself that there will come a time when my girls no longer care about their dad shaving! 
    (for daughters): Go dancing. Whether it's a silly dance in the living room or a daddy-daughter dance held locally, girls need their dad to show them how a guy treats a girl.
Question: What would you add to this list?
 

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Moms Should “Lean In” …to Fatherhood

business woman 320 resized 600The mommy wars continue. Should today’s women dedicate themselves more to their careers so they can “catch up” to men – to “lean in” as Sheryl Sandberg suggests – or should they dedicate themselves more to motherhood because their kids need them?  

How about a third way?  

I propose that if moms want to do better at both parenting and work, they have to “lean in” to fatherhood.  

Yes, moms should do as much as they can to support the involvement of their children’s fathers in their children’s lives, because it will help them thrive at both home and in their careers.  

How?  

Research shows that two of the most powerful predictors of father involvement are mom’s perception of dad’s competence and the quality of their relationship with each other. In other words, moms can act as gatekeepers or gateways; they are largely responsible for either facilitating father involvement or holding it back.   

When fatherhood is “held back” – when fathers are unable or unwilling to embrace the fullness of their roles – moms become disproportionately responsible for what is happening at home. And, logically, if mom is responsible for a disproportionate share of the tasks at home, it is going to be harder for her to dedicate herself at work as much as she may need to.  

My own situation paints a picture. My wife and I both work full time, and my wife is fully supportive of my role as a dad. She lets me do things my way. I typically leave for work later than her and get home earlier than her, so I usually take our son to daycare and pick him up at the end of the day, I usually give him breakfast in the morning, and I usually cook dinner at night. He has Type 1 Diabetes, so I have to do what is needed to care for that complicated disease.   

Because my wife trusts me to do these things with a level of competence, she is thriving in her career. When the daycare calls and there is an issue with our son, I usually take care of it, not because my wife is a bad mother, but because she is an hour away, and I am 5 minutes away. In other words, my wife rarely has to take off from work or leave work early to care for our son during the workday.   

As an auditor who has to travel around the region quite a bit, if she was forced by circumstance (my absence) or choice (a belief that she parents better than me) to be the go-to parent for our son’s needs, her career would suffer. Neither her boss nor her clients would be able to count on her to be where she needs to be, when she needs to be there.  

Furthermore, when she comes home from work, she doesn’t have to do all the housework and childcare by herself. We work together; she lets me contribute even though I do things differently. Thus, she is able to focus not just on “housekeeping,” but on being a mommy.  

You may be thinking that moms obviously want help from dads. I think you are right, but it is part of human nature that we don’t always behave in a way that will get us what we really want. For example, mom wants dad to help at bath time, but vehemently criticizes him for using too much soap, so he is now reluctant to ever help at bath time again (this is a true story).  

So, the key then is to help moms align their desires (more help from dad so she can thrive at home and work) with their behaviors (acting as gateways to father involvement rather than gatekeepers) so that moms, dads, and most importantly, kids, are getting what they need.  

understanding dadWell, NFI has “an app” for that. We just launched a new line of products and services designed to help mothers support father involvement.  

Based on feedback from hundreds of organizations around the country using NFI’s signature fatherhood programs, the new materials will help mothers successfully navigate their relationships with the fathers of their children. Specifically, it will give moms the knowledge and skills they need to effectively communicate with the fathers of their children and to understand the critical role fathers play in children’s lives. Understanding Dad™: An Awareness and Communication Program for Moms is the flagship curriculum anchoring this new initiative.  

This is just another way that NFI is responding to what is happening in our culture with practical, timely solutions that move people from inspiration (something needs to be done!) to implementation (here is an actual program that we can start using today!).

Question: What do you think is the most difficult thing about parenting? 

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photo credit: Victor1558

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