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Out and About with Trees ...and Books?

This is a guest post by Ave Mulhern, NFI's Director of the National Responsible Fatherhood Capacity Building Initiative. She shares her memories of exploring the great outdoors with her dad as a child as part of NFI's campaign to help Dads "Get Out: Hit the Great Outdoors with Your Kids This Summer."

Being in the great outdoors was not a big part of my upbringing. I tend to be more comfortable in the great indoors.

That being said, I do remember some wonderful times being out and about with my father who had a love of books and trees. I am the sixth child of a family of eight. Five boys first, then three girls - I am the first girl. In a way, we were like two separate families. The wild, older boys were all car fanatics and they worked in my fathers business, a service station. When we girls came along, my dad was obviously an older, kinder and gentler version of a father. Don’t get me wrong, he was always a bit of a grump and in his later years, he was called (to his face) “Grumps.” This probably was due to a disappointing life for a bright and scholarly man on his way to becoming an attorney who ended up owning a service station fixing peoples cars. Life happens, but with this latter, gentler, girl family he was able to leave the grease behind, for a bit, and have an attentive audience of three to spend time with and share his love of learning - and we believed he knew just about everything.

My father Cornelius (aka Connie) was an avid reader. I can barely muster up a mental image of him not reading a book. He loved history books, business and real estate books, biographies, and nature books. In the summer, he literally took us to the library every single week – and if we didn't bicker in the car, we might get an ice cream at Chernoff’s Pharmacy. He took us to quirky old used bookstores and he owned a lot of books. One collection was the little Golden Field Guides - you know, those little pocket sized nature books titled Birds of North America, Rocks and Minerals, and SeaShells of North America? I suppose they have versions for other areas than North America? But the one I remember most is Trees of North America. I still have it around here somewhere.

Dad would drive to nearby Morris Arboretum armed with the little tree book and he would send us off to identify certain trees. I once successfully spotted a Beech tree based on his vivid description of how the enormous and magnificent branches grow out and down to touch the ground like a giant 70-foot-wide shrub - but underneath, those low branches create a sort of “house” or “fort” that you could play in. He reminded us that these trees must be planted with enough foresight to ensure the proper setting and enough room to mature into their magnificence. Dad drove us around town showing us where the township built the sidewalk around a 200-year-old oak tree preserving it for the future. We saw distinctive Horse Chestnut trees with spring flowers and fall conkers (nuts), the toxic but valuable Black Walnut trees, the beautiful star-shaped leaves of the Sweet Gum tree and the really wretched smelling fruit of the prehistoric female Gingko tree. (The male version doesn’t stink!)

To this day, there are two specimens of those magnificent beech trees, properly placed mind you, on the front lawn of a beautiful estate home nearby. I never pass by them without thinking fondly of my dad and our somewhat-outdoor adventures. My own children were not as interested as my sisters and I – but right now I am looking for that little Trees of North America field guidebook so I can take it with me to Wisconsin to share with our grandchildren. Hey, is Wisconsin considered North America?

Did Amy Winehouse have Two Daddies?

Last Saturday, singer Amy Winehouse was found dead in her home. She was 27 years old. Although the police state that her death is unexplained at this time, there is little doubt that her passing is the result of years of alcohol and drug abuse.


It is sadly ironic that Winehouse’s biggest hit and biographical anthem was the bluesy song “Rehab” where she declared “No. No. No.” to anyone who would suggest that she needed that kind of help. Indeed, her life imitated her art to the bitter end.


Given my work with fathers, there was one line in Rehab that I found especially disturbing. It’s when Winehouse croons, “I ain’t got the time and if my daddy thinks I’m fine…” So, I decided to do a little research to find out who’s her daddy. After all, what kind of father would tell a daughter who was spiraling down into a deadly cycle of addiction that she’s fine?


Well, it turns out that her daddy, Mitchell Winehouse, who nurtured her unique vocal style by singing Sinatra songs to her as a child, clearly did not think that she was “fine.” In fact, it was reported that he was very concerned because his daughter exhibited early signs of emphysema and an irregular heartbeat, all linked to her chain smoking and crack cocaine use. It’s also reported that he often admonished saying, “Yes. Yes. Yes.” and encouraged her to stop touring so that she could get the rehab that she desperately needed.


So, if Winehouse’s real daddy was telling her to go to rehab, then who’s the daddy that she was referring to in her song? Could it be that Winehouse had two daddies?


I think that the answer was clearly yes. The other “daddies” were the drug dealers that made it easy for her to get the high that ultimately brought her very low. All the while, they were telling her that she was fine.


But, they weren’t the only ones.


You see, Winehouse certainly was no “candle in the wind,” but rather, she was a brush fire that the winds of fame helped stoke out of control. In her concerts, she was often high, drunk, and disorderly. Most troubling, at most shows, her fans just urged her on, like in this performance of Rehab at Glastonbury. She was barely standing and visibly incoherent. Yet, the people watching were gleefully smiling, singing, cheering, snapping pictures and taking videos. They were having fun at her expense. They were telling her, she was fine.


Yes, Winehouse had two daddies. One who loved her and gave her life. The other who used her and gave her death. And, unfortunately, she said “No, No. No.” to the wrong one.


The Ones that Should Never Get Away...

At NFI, July’s theme is "The Great Outdoors," with the tagline Get Out: Hit the Great Outdoors with Your Kids this Summer. With this in mind, I was reminded of a compelling commercial by Zebco, a leading provider of fishing tackle. It's titled “Don’t let your kids be the the ones that get away." (Check it out here.)

What a powerful reminder to all dads this summer that life is not so much about what you do, but rather, it's about who you’re with, the memories and the relationships that are formed and strengthened.

Do your kids pass the "crash" test?

Some time ago, I was speaking to a gentleman who did a fair amount of consulting for General Motors in the area of auto safety. He recounted how, in recent years, GM had shifted its focus and philosophy for auto safety from crash resistance (making cars that withstand crashes with minimal damage) to crash avoidance (make cars that can sense and avoid crashes before they occur).


As I listened, it stuck me that this was a wonderful and challenging metaphor for fathering. As dads, are we trying to “build” children that can avoid societal crashes (e.g., drugs, crime and teen pregnancy) before they occur? Or are we satisfied to try and salvage their broken lives, hoping for “minimal damage” once the crashes of life occur? Something to think about...

Guest Post: A Reason to Smile

This is a guest post by Sean DeFrehn, the husband of NFI's Manager of Outreach, Brittany DeFrehn. Sean and Brittany just became first-time parents to a beautiful baby girl.

Did you know that infants can imitate expressions in their first few days of life? Not something that really mattered to me until a few weeks ago when I became a father. Since then it's almost all I can think about.

Smiling can effect so much in your life besides your mood; it can boost your immune system, reduce stress, lower your blood pressure, and it even enhances others' perceptions of you and therefore your influence on them.

Being a father is my chance to give someone the best life I can, so I will fill her life with smiles.

Not just my smiles but those of our friends and more importantly her family. I can't control the members of our family, but I can control my interactions with them. To give the most to my daughter, I need to give the most to her family, especially her mother. Our relationship constantly and personally affects our daughter every day, and how I treat her mother will likely be what she looks for in a man.

So as I spend my day giving my all to my wife, our family, and our friends, and as the diaper changes at three a.m. make the days and nights long and difficult, I always keep this in mind: I won't let a moment go by without smiling because there is nothing better than my daughter smiling back.

Fathers, be good to your daughters

This is a post by Hännah Schellhase, NFI's Development Specialist

The secret heartache caused by broken families and father failure is frequently laid bare by the tabloids covering the lives of pop stars. Emptiness caused by divorce and absent or abusive fathers has been the catalyst for the ruin of many of Hollywood’s darlings.

John Mayer’s song “Daughters” won the 2005 Grammy for Song of the Year. The lyrics carry a rebuke to fathers for how they treat their daughters because of the profound influence a father’s actions have on the psyche of a daughter. A portion of the lyrics reads:

I know a girl
She puts the color inside of my world
But she's just like a maze
Where all of the walls all continually change
And I've done all I can
To stand on her steps with my heart in my hands
Now I'm starting to see
Maybe it's got nothing to do with me

Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too

Oh, you see that skin?
It's the same she's been standing in
Since the day she saw him walking away
Now she's left
Cleaning up the mess he made

So fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too

Mayer has captured the cyclical nightmare that is created when a girl is mistreated or abandoned by her father. “Daughters” describes the emotional confusion daughters feel when their fathers are absent or uninvolved, either physically or emotionally.

A woman’s definition of her self-worth and the nature of love is often formed by early impressions of her father’s relationship to both her and her mother. Without a healthy family framework to define these things for her, a girl is often left scrambling to piece together meaning for herself, and has to work through significant emotional barriers in order to commit to a loving relationship or a healthy lifestyle for herself.

Taylor Swift’s new song “Mine” captures this struggle perfectly—learning to trust and love is an incredibly difficult thing for a daughter to learn if her father hasn’t modeled these things well.

The tabloid gossip confirms this in its own typically crass fashion: Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, and Chris Brown have all been made into public spectacles as the paparazzi followed their downward spirals.

Teen star Lindsay Lohan fell into drugs and alcohol and has ruined her career with courtroom scandals and immature behavior. Her mother is always at her side at court hearings—but where is her father? Michael Lohan spent Lindsay’s childhood years in and out of jail and in highly publicized affairs, finally divorcing her mother Dina in 2007. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but Lindsay’s first DUI was also that same year. Fathers, be good to your daughters.

Britney Spears’ meltdown between 2007 and 2008 was highly publicized by the tabloids, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief when she was placed into the conservatorship of her father, James Spears. It was after James became involved that Britney seemed to dust herself off and become stable again. But perhaps if her parents’ marriage had been stable during her childhood, the scandal and psychotic behavior later could have been prevented. When her parents divorced in 2002, Britney told the gossip-mongers that it was “the best thing that ever happened to my family” and “when I was a baby, they argued.”

An involved father committed to a loving relationship with the mother can make all the difference for what sort of woman a girl becomes. "Fathers, be good to your daughters, daughters will love like you do, girls become lovers who turn into mothers…"

R&B singer Chris Brown nearly ruined his career when his girlfriend, pop artist Rihanna, appeared in public with bruises in 2009. It turned out that Chris had beaten Rihanna several times during arguments, and he was later given a restraining order and five years of parole. Many fans were disgusted with his behavior—hitting a woman is despicable.

However, a father’s behavior is often shown to be a predictor of the behavior of his children, and Brown had spoken many times before the incident about how traumatized he had been by how his stepfather abused his mom. Brown grew up in a home where his mom was regularly beaten and verbally abused—and like most children, Brown later learned that it’s nearly impossible to break free from the cycle of "loving" like your family "loved."

Mayer’s song says “So fathers, be good to your daughters, daughters will love like you do,” but sons learn how to treat women from their fathers—sons will love like their fathers do.

If more dads were dedicated to being involved, if more dads were careful with how they loved their daughters, there would be so much less heartbreak as children try to enter adulthood without any idea of what real commitment, unconditional love, or an unbroken family looks like. There would be less need for songs like P!nk’s “Perfect” or Bruno Mars' “Just the Way You Are”, as the women in these songs might have had the chance to understand their worth and beauty from the affirmations of a caring father. So fathers, be good to your daughters too.

Are You Trying to Rob Your Kids?

This month’s focus at NFI is “Dad Cents,” and our plan is to give dads sound advice about ways that dads can improve their kids’ financial literacy.

Since I worked in banking, this area is near and dear to my heart. Indeed, I often use financial lingo when I am discussing fatherhood principles. For example, I talk about how important it is to “invest” in your child’s life and how critical it is for dads to make regular, substantial, and consistent “deposits” in their children’s relationship “bank accounts.” After all, chances are that one day – like when a daughter wants to date a junior member of the Hell’s Angels or a son wants to tattoo the name of his most recent girlfriend across his forehead – you may have to make a huge withdrawal. Frankly, if you have not made these deposits, the conversation could sound something like this…

(Scene—You rush into the lobby of the 'First National Bank of Your 15-year-old Daughter’s Heart' and quickly approach her window.)

Your Daughter: Good afternoon. How may I help you?
You: Hi. I need make a big withdrawal fast!
Your Daughter: Ok, sir. No problem. Could you please let me see some ID?
You: Sure.
(You hand her a copy of her birth certificate where you are listed as “Father.”)
Your Daughter: Everything looks in order, Dad. Please wait just a minute while I check your account.
(She turns away from you but then gets a strange look on her face.)
You: Is there a problem?
Your Daughter: Yes, sort of. I clearly see that you opened an account here a long time ago, but it doesn’t appear to have a sufficient balance for you to make a big withdrawal. When was the last time that you made a deposit?
You: Well, I don’t remember. I guess it’s been a while. You know, I have been very busy working and stuff like that. But, my wife has been making lots of deposits. Seems like every time I turn around she is heading here. Since we are married, can’t I just make a withdrawal from her account?
Your Daughter: Dad, no you can’t because we don’t offer joint accounts here.
You: Oh yeah…That’s right…I remember hearing that. What about a loan? Can I get one of those?
Your Daughter: I’m sorry…We don’t offer loans either. You can only withdraw what you have deposited.
(You start to get a bit upset…)
You: Well that just doesn’t seem fair! I clearly have an account. And, well, I need to make a withdrawal. Can’t you make an exception? After all, I am DAD.
Your Daughter: Dad. I am sorry. I just can’t help you...
(You are becoming more upset…)
You: Well, doggone it, I am not going to take no for answer.
(Your daughter gets a concerned and stern look on her face and you can see her reaching under the counter to push the button for security.)
Your Daughter: As I said, I can’t help you. You knew the rules when you opened the account. How can you expect to withdraw funds that you didn’t deposit? That’s just not the way it works here. All you had to do was make consistent deposits. Even small ones would have been fine because “interest”—your interest—would have compounded these deposits substantially over time. Taking deposits that don’t belong to you is, well, robbery. So, I need to ask you to leave now. Or, do I need to call security?

A Dad's Lesson: The Price of Fame

There is a verse from the Bible that says, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” I was reminded of the wisdom of these words recently after reading this Billy Ray Cyrus GQ interview where he shared his regret about how he has been raising Miley Cyrus.

Ironically, several weeks ago, I wrote “For Father's of Older Children—No Time for an Achy Breaky Heart” when the report came out about Miley doing bong hits of salvia at her 18th birthday party. Recently, I have found a few blog posts like this one from Jim Daly of Focus on the Family and this one by Melissa May for “Modestly Yours” to be quite compelling as well.

In any case, Billy Ray’s regret is a poignant reminder of how critical it is for all fathers to protect their children. Indeed, many will come along to sell our children the “whole world.” But, as Billy Ray unfortunately discovered too late, the price is just too high.

Of Metal Mouths and (Hopefully Not) Pedals to the Metal

This is a post by Chris Brown, NFI's Executive Vice President

Check out this beautiful, joyful face! If you knew how my daughter and I spent most of a recent day together, you might be surprised that she ended that day in this state.

Lexi and I spent most of that fateful day toiling away at the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS is Texas’ version of a DMV) for her to take the road test for her driver’s license. Spending most of the day there, let alone an hour, isn’t what most people would call joyful. In fact, most people liken it to getting a tooth pulled without anesthesia. The DPS “examiners” aren’t exactly a friendly bunch. They stoke fear in even the most confident teen. But I must confess to the joy I felt in seeing my 16-year old as she experienced—to use her words—the best day ever!

This face is the result of a child reaching perhaps the most significant milestone before becoming an “official” adult. Lexi is now released from the shackles of her house arrest. Her new-found freedom is the culmination of hours spent driving around with her parents as she learned the rules and skills of the road, including the most fun skill of them all—how to parallel park.

And notice that smile! It’s not just any smile...it’s a $4,000 smile, baby! She not only got her driver’s license, she got her braces removed the same day. And that’s not all. It was her 16th birthday! A triple treat that our family will never forget.

Unfortunately, if you have raised a teen you know that the joyful days are fleeting. Her mom and I now we get to worry about her driving alone. No sooner had we arrived home from the DPS than she cajoled us into allowing her to drive to a friend’s house and share her freedom. I’ve also spent the last few days getting insurance quotes to add her as a driver to our policy. (I can hear the sucking sound of the vacuum cleaner attached to our bank account getting louder day by day.)

As I came crashing back down to earth, I could only lament the fact that in just a few years, I have another daughter to take through the same process. Indeed, I’ve already started to save for her “mouth o’ metal.” But I can also look forward to seeing her smile in the same way, and that makes it all worth it, except I can still hear that vacuum...

Are you an Angry Dad? If not, well maybe you should be!

A few nights ago, while I was doing my P90X workout (yes, that’s a shameless plug.), I decided to check out the latest “The Simpsons” episode on Hulu. Ironically, the title of the show was “Angry Dad: The Movie,” so I knew that I was in for a treat…not. You see, The Simpsons show has made millions for decades “buffoonorizing” dads in the form of Homer Simpson. Thanks to the show’s handy work, when millions of adults and kids are asked to name a TV dad, Homer is sure the top the list. Not Cliff Huxtable. Homer.

Let’s face it. When it comes to TV dads, we have gone from “Father Knows Best” to father knows nothing. The vast majority of dads on TV, in series or commercials, are portrayed as dumb, dangerous or disaffected. Generally, fathers are not just the butt of the joke, they are the butt…

In any case, in the episode, an executive visited the Simpson home because he came across an animated cartoon that Bart created titled “Angry Dad,” which chronicled Homer’s immature antics. The executive thought this cartoon was great, so much so that he convinced a Hollywood studio to make it into a movie. So, the family headed to Hollywood to get it done. Interestingly, as Bart and the executive were heading in to see the movie producers, the executive assured him that the movie had real potential. In fact, he said, “Everyone has an angry dad…even me.” And then the scene showed a flashback 'thought bubble' of the executive’s dad yelling at him as a small boy.

Well, it turned out that the executive was right. The Angry Dad movie won a Golden Globe and an Oscar, of course, with Homer playing the part of the angry and inconsiderate dad through each award show.

Now, I like a good joke as much as anyone. After all, I recently blogged about my deep affection for the much-maligned fanny pack. But, I really think that there is a problem here, especially since the show's success is built upon the notion of the “idiot” dad that is so prevalent and damaging in our culture. Indeed, media has power to shape norms, attitudes and behaviors. (Just think about how many glee clubs have formed recently due to the success of “Glee.”) Also, it’s worth noting that in our recent national survey of fathers called “Pop’s Culture,” dads cited media/pop culture as the second biggest obstacle to good fathering.

Moreover, as I have watched the show over the years, I have detected a very clear pattern. If you rank the characters based on who is responsible and competent, the list goes like this:

1. Marge
2. Lisa
3. Maggie (a non speaking infant)
4. Bart
5. Homer
6. Abe (Homer’s father)

Interestingly, in a non-fiction book called “The Psychology of The Simpsons: D'oh!,” which analyzed the psychological themes in the show, authors Alan Brown, Ph.D. and Chris Logan described Abe Simpson as follows:

“Abe has the least amount of "power" in the Simpson family, and he is treated as little more than a child and is often ignored.”

D’oh! Indeed. And, come to think of it, the one dad on the show that really cares about his kids, Ned Flanders, is often made to look like an idiot as well, even by Homer.

So, before the legions of The Simpsons fans tell me that I am overacting and “Don’t have a cow, man,” I need to hear from the fathers. Are you an angry dad? I wasn’t before watching this The Simpson episode. Now…I am not so sure.

One Dad's Limerick in Praise of the Fanny Pack

There once was a dad named Roland
Whose name sounded a bit like Holland
He often wore a pack
Near his fanny, in fact
And now the fashion world says
That he’s stylin'
Last week, this WSJ article informed us that the much maligned “fanny pack” is all the rage on catwalks from New York to Paris. NFI posted this article on Twitter and the tweets began flying quickly about how no self respecting dad would be found dead or alive in one of these.

Well, as a dad and fan of said pack, I felt compelled to come clean and "represent."

Now, it has been a few years, but when my sons were young and we were traveling, I proudly called the fanny pack my faithful and convenient friend. Granted, our relationship was more about substance than style. It enabled me to always have exactly what I needed for my very active sons at my finger tips, yet still be hands-free.

Let’s face it. The fanny pack has some other impressive and quite manly fans, such as rock climbers and first responder EMTs. It makes sense. As a dad (especially a new one) on many occasions I certainly felt like I was hanging on for dear life. And, good dads are nothing if not first responders to their children’s needs.

So, there you have it. I have laid myself bare--with my fanny pack strategically positioned, of course. And, in the slightly modified famous words of Martin Luther, as he stood before an inquisition, I say: “Here I stand. I can do no other…”

For Father's of Older Children--No Time for an "Achy Breaky" Heart

For the last week or so, folks have been “buzzing” about this video of Miley Cyrus taking a “hit” of salvia from a bong. No doubt, images like this are disturbing to many, especially the millions of parents whose children have regularly supported Miley and her squeaky clean alter-ego, Hannah Montana. Ironically, Miley’s Disney show is called “Hannah Montana Forever," but it certainly appears as if, now that Miley is an 18 year-old “adult,” she is intent of getting out of Montana as fast a possible.

Of note, there is one special parent that is quite disappointed with Miley's recent behavior, her dad, Billy Ray Cyrus. Check out what he tweeted after he first saw the video:

“ Sorry guys. I had no idea. Just saw this stuff for the first time. I’m so sad. There is much beyond my control right now.”

Now, as a father of adult children, my heart really goes out to Billy Ray. But, I want to encourage him—and all dads of older children—to stay engaged. Indeed, this is no time for him to get paralyzed by an “achy breaky” heart and two-step out of Miley’s life. She needs him now more than ever and he must not succumb to the catcalls from the peanut galley of pop culture that wrongly counsel dads to “lean out” of an adult child’s life at the very moment that they must “lean in.”

Let’s face it. The very same folks that are encouraging Miley to draw deep from the bong and tell them what she is feeling will have little use for her when she can no longer get them into the “A-list” parties. These kinds of “friends” are much like parasites. They have no use for the dead. Indeed, as Billy Ray knows well. Fame is fleeting. Paternity is not…

That said; let me give a few more reasons why Billy Ray needs to do whatever he can to help his daughter before it’s too late. First, there are the sad sagas of Britney Spears (Enough said) and Lindsay Lohan (More than enough said).

Second, there is Noah Cyrus, Billy Ray’s 10 years-old daughter, who idolizes her big sister and clearly hopes to follow in Miley’s star-studded footsteps. A few weeks ago, I came across this video on YouTube where Noah is begging Miley to perform her version of singer Akon’s hit “Smack That.” Just in case you can't fully understand what Noah is saying, here are the lyrics:

“Smack that, all on the floor. Smack that, give me some more. Smack that, ’til you get sore. Smack that, oh ooh.”

(By the way, if you are confused about what “that” is, you can click here to see Akon’s video. It clears things up nicely.)

True, there are "things" that are beyond Billy Ray’s, and every father’s, control and influence. But, his children are not one of them. Enough said.

Where's her daddy?

Kristy Choby, NFI's Research and Development Specialist, shares an observation from her wise-beyond-her-years daughter.

My little girl, Julia, is two-and-a-half years old and every time she sees someone that looks sad or alone -- whether in a book, on the street, or in a movie (and sometimes if she thinks I'm sad) -- she asks or states one of the following: "Where is her daddy?" "They need their daddy." This doesn't just happen once in a while, but almost every time she notices sadness or loneliness.

For instance, if she sees a woman walking alone on the street, a child crying in the store, or a cartoon character lost in the woods, she comments that they need their daddy. Each time she says it, I either smile thinking of how wonderful her dad is, how involved he is, and how he is there for his children when they are sad and lonely. Or I start to cry thinking about the reality that so many of those that she points to don't have their dad to run to when they are sad and lonely.

I am very thankful to work for an organization that is committed to helping more children have an involved, responsible, and committed father in their lives. We all need our daddies!

Julia and her daddy

Guest Post: Bonding With Books

This is a guest post from daddy blogger Chris Singer, a stay-at-home dad in Lansing, MI. You can find him on twitter @tessasdad and at http://sahdinlansing.com/

As a stay-at-home dad to a precocious 19-month-old toddler, I spend a good amount of time during the day fixing and tending...to my own screw-ups. Whether it's forgetting to keep doors closed and gates up (especially to the bathroom, or risk finding my toothbrush in the toilet), or it's letting my daughter play with something she probably shouldn't (like the house keys, which can easily end up in my daughter's favorite hiding spot: the garbage can), I swear I've made enough mistakes to get fired from most jobs.

Seriously though, as much as I might screw up during the day, one of the things I've been successful at has been helping my daughter develop a love of books. As a child I loved being read to and really had a passion for books. It's been amazing for me to see Tessa enjoy books so much already at such a young age. Reading books and visiting the library twice a week has become a big part of our daily and weekly routines.

Reading is also an excellent way to bond with your child. I've been reading to Tessa since she was born, and I'm convinced that this has been a key component to the strong bond we have formed. Here are some things I've figured out over time which I think played a huge role in Tessa developing a love for books:

Don't force it - One of the early frustrations I had as a dad was that I really felt it was important to read to Tessa but I could hardly ever get her to sit still for a book. I don't know how I was able to do it, but I never forced her to sit for a story. When she wanted to be done with a book, we were done with that book. At times, we might try another one, but if she wasn't into it, I didn't force the issue.

Small books for small hands - I had all these lists of the best children's books I would take with me to the library. I would sign out three or four at a time and bring them home only to find that Tessa wasn't interested in any of them. I decided to stop taking the list with me and see what books Tessa would grab for herself. She kept going over to the baby board books and picking them off the shelf. At first I thought they were just easier to pull off the shelf until I saw her sitting there and holding the book in her hand and flipping through the pages. At home Tessa does the same thing and will pick up books and flip through them. We've even given her the small board books to keep her busy in the car and they've worked like a charm.

Let her ask or tell you she wants to read
- This is similar to my first tip in that I don't make any demands of Tessa when it comes to books. When she's interested in reading I know she'll either bring books over to me or will ask me to read to her. I will occasionally ask her if she wants to read books and she will usually respond by saying yes, but I want her to develop the initiative to read and look at books on her own.

Make reading fun
- When I read books out loud to Tessa, I make up voices for the different characters and try to make the stories fun. I do a pretty good Grover voice actually, so this could be why her favorite book right now is "The Monster At The End of This Book."

Daddy Chris and daughter Tessa reading together

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of National Fatherhood Initiative.

Dads must help deal with bullies...

There has been quite a bit in the news lately regarding the impact of bullying on our nation's children. Accordingly, I thought that you would find of interest this article that I wrote about my personal experience of being bullied as a kid as well as how I handled a situation when my son was bullied. Dads have a key role to play on this issue.

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