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The Father Factor

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Fatherhood Programs: Facilitating for Change

This is a guest blog post from Scott Lesnick, author, speaker, trainer, and 24/7 Dad® facilitator at The Parenting Network located in Milwaukee, WI.

Since 1977, The Parenting Network has served the greater Milwaukee community through its mission to strengthen parenting and to prevent child abuse with programs such as home visiting, parent education and support, fatherhood programs, and more.

 

The parenting Network Logo

Raising my children was a 24/7 job. And as a volunteer facilitator of the 24/7 Dad® Program at The Parenting Network in Milwaukee, I’ve heard from thousands of fathers who agree.

Every group of fathers I work with teaches me something new, and after ten weeks, we all feel better and even wiser. Parents who came in with a chip on their shoulder often graduate with a smile, extend a warm thank you (which isn’t easy for some) and say that they’ve learned some valuable and positive lessons that they WILL use in parenting their children.

I am confident that participant fathers are not only better equipped with positive, hands on ways to parent when they leave, but they also have a greater understanding of how their childhood shaped their adult lives as it pertains to parenting. Yes, really connecting to our children and treating each as the individual they are is the key to their growing up with good self-esteem. It takes a daily interest, a commitment that some did not see when they were young. Talking, listening, setting proper boundaries and playing are wonderful.

Further, breaking the cycle of physical and verbal abuse is a challenge, but many parents are able to, for the first time, really understand how they would feel if it happened to them. Anger, remorse and contemplation often set in, but the group is always supportive.

It’s also a pleasure to watch the group’s reaction as I offer up how parents are always on their children’s radar. Children watch us like a camera making mental notes and comparisons hundreds of times a day. When you look at us adults from a kid’s perspective and realize were being “recorded” by them both consciously and subconsciousl,y it allows us to focus on what we say and how we react. This makes for better relationships with our children and strengthens our parenting skills.

Of course, I’m not under the assumption the fathers we work with are angels. Some have served serious time behind bars and others are completing the class in order to spend more time with their children. But nonetheless, they open up about things I never imagined I’d hear and it takes the breath out of many in the class. But, we talk. We discuss. Some even grow- maturing before my eyes. We stay on topic as it pertains to that week’s lesson and these parents are engaged! They’re thinking, talking, and debating all things parenting. That’s the golden ticket!

To make sure that the dads are getting tangible, applicable skills they can apply to their relationships (with mom and kids), I ask for 1-3 takeaways from each before he leaves the session. As a result, I can know if the handbook, our classroom discussions, my facilitating, and/or their peer interaction is moving them forward by how they answer. Some talk for five seconds and others 30 minutes! For example, I have heard: “Man. You opened my eyes. I’m not going to be like how “so-and-so was to me growing up.”  “I never knew why I acted like that - why I hit my kids instead of talking more. I get it now!”

I wanted to give back. I wanted to help fathers become better parents. The Parenting Network allows me to connect to parents who not only leave the course a better and more knowledgeable parent, but often remind me of some things I did well in raising my two children. I wish programs like this were made available to all those who want to improve their parenting skills. I know I could have definitely used it when my children were younger, and I suspect most of us could.

Surprisingly, some participants come back to the fatherhood program observe, add content and opinion, plus continue to grow. How can I say no? Their kids deserve nothing but the best.

Facilitating groups isn’t always easy. But being there to facilitate and watch groups connect, understand and add positive content is

If you have any questions for Scott about his experience as a 24/7 Dad® Facilitator, he can be reached at scott@scottlesnick.com.Scott is also a member of the National Speaker’s Association and his speaking engagements center around parenting topics, increasing performance, focusing on what’s important, and useful tools in overcoming life’s challenges.

When Dad's in Jail—He's Still Dad

At NFI, we implement two main strategies for 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® program that helps prisoners to be better dads.

“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® skill-building program for incarcerated fathers. 

First Things First of Greater Richmond, a nonprofit organization focused on strengthening families, presented the course. “Nobody else can take this from you,” said Dennis Fries, who facilitated the program for First Things First of Greater Richmond. Fries is with AmeriCorps, a federal agency that enlists volunteers and paid employees to work in local communities.

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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 continued. 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 soon.

The InsideOut Dad® group-based program can be easily shortened for use in jails and other short term stay facilities. Download our new FREE InsideOut Dad Guide for Jails which provides a road map for modifying the program to either 12 or 8 hours.

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.

The Telling Side of Parenting Humor

This is a blog post by NFI's Senior Program Support Consultant, Ave Mulhern. If you would like to guest blog for us please email us.

Just like everyone else I suppose, I love to laugh! I am ever on the lookout for the humor in things especially when they have to do with parenting or dads in particular. 

Recently someone sent me an email. You know the kind, with funny stories and they ask you to pass it on, etc. This one was labeled WHY GOD MADE MOMS.

The answers were given by 2nd grade school children to a number of questions such as:

Why did God make mothers?
1. She's the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.
2. Mostly to clean the house.
3. To help us out of there when we were getting born.

Why did God give you your mother and not some other Mom?
1. We're related.
2. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people's moms like me.

You get the picture, and of course they made me laugh, or smile at least and I actually identified with the statements these kids were making.  Here is the link to the entire list.  But as I read through the list, the questions asked about the dads specifically - although funny -are quite telling.  I noticed a bit of a theme like we also see on television today, that mom is smart and the “boss” and dad is a kind of “goof” to quote one of the kids.  There was another statement from one child’s grandma who had something negative to say about dad.

I grew up in the 60’s and in contrast, thought of the old TV shows likeKids Say The Darndest Things KidsSay The Darndest Things(then with Art Linkletterlater with Bill Cosby) it is clear there was a kind of reverence for both parents.  

Now I know I look at things from a fatherhood lens so to speak, because of what I do here at NFI.  For a moment, I thought maybe I was being hypersensitive.  So I read on to the "Mommy Test."

THE MOMMY TEST
I was out walking with my 4-year-old daughter. She picked up something off the ground and started to put it in her mouth. I took the item away from her and I asked her not to do that. "Why?" my daughter asked. "Because it's been laying outside, you don't know where it's been, it's dirty and probably has germs" I replied. At this point, my daughter looked at me with total admiration and asked, "Wow! How do you know all this stuff?"
"Uh," ...I was thinking quickly, “All moms know this stuff. It's on the Mommy Test. You have to know it, or they don't let you be a Mommy."
We walked along in silence for 2 or 3 minutes, but she was evidently pondering thi
s new information.
"OH...I get it!" she beamed, "So if you don't pass the test you have to be the daddy"
"Exactly" I replied back with a big smile on my face and joy in my heart.

When you're finished laughing, send this to a Mom.

I wondered about mom’s comment about having “joy in her heart” to have gotten the message across to her 4 year old daughter.  But was that message actually "moms know everything, and those that don’t pass the test—are those (dumb?) dads"?  And why is it important to send this on to another mom? Because, oh yes, we (moms) all will get it too?  Again, am I being hypersensitive because of the work we do here at NFI?  

In our country, one in three children are growing up in homes without a father.  Why is that bad or even a tragedy?  There are numerous statistics  linking father absence to so many unfunny social issues like teen pregnancy, incarceration, crime, etc. Even more alarming in Research Studies with dads AND moms – shows that more than half of moms and dads believe dads are replaceable!  

As I have learned through experience and the research NFI provides, dads don’t do things the same way we moms do.  Ah hah!  I sadly reflect now on how many times I verbally expressed how dad didn’t do something correctly or “my way” in front of our children. We (moms) want dads interaction with our children --but we want them to interact the same way that we interact.

What the research actually shows is that the wonderful blend of parenting approaches or styles from both parents is beneficial and enriching for children. And involved fathers and involved mothers are beneficial to each other! See our recent Blog Moms Should “Lean In” …to Fatherhood about this very topic.

Which leads me to this: 

While we have developed countless resources for fathers; emails like thePocketbook for Moms™: A Pocketbook Full of Ways to Communicate with Dad one described above illustrate the very real perception a lot of mothers have about the fathers of their children. In case you haven’t heard, NFI recently launched a new series of  Resources for Moms – and yes there are a lot of resources out there for moms.

But what is unique is these are for moms…About Dads! Our new low intensity resources include the Pocketbook for Moms™: A PocketbookPocketbook for New Moms™: A Pocketbook Full of Reasons for New Moms to Involve Dads Full of Ways to Communicate with Dad as well as the Pocketbook for New Moms: A Pocketbook Full of Reasons for New Moms to Involve Dads.These pocketbooks are filled with tips and advice for moms on how to communicate with dads.

I believe that these resources and programs can be a great way for organizations working in our communities to help both parents vastly improve child-rearing skills and expand the enjoyment of their personal relationship as well.  And speaking of personal relationships, I believe humor is a key component to keeping good relationships for sure. It is important to be way more aware of the deeper messages to that humor. 

Now, have you heard the one about

NEW! Resources from NFI to Help Moms Involve Dads

It's an exciting day at National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) as we just launched a new line of products and services designed to help mothers support the involvement of fathers in their children’s lives!Resources for moms, communication, co-parenting, new moms

This new line of products and services for mothers complements NFI’s longstanding, industry-leading work to equip community-based organizations around the country with the tools and training needed to effectively serve fathers for the well-being of their children.

Today, over 24 million children in America live in in homes where their biological father is absent. All too often, a mothers' gatekeeping behavior can prevent or reduce fathers' access to their children - when fathers' involvement in their children's lives would actually benefit their children. In addition, mothers can lack the self-awareness and communications skills they need to improve their relationships with the fathers of their children.

It's important to note that we devised our new programming for moms based on feedback from hundreds of organizations around the country using our signature fatherhood programs and other NFI low and medium intensity resources. These organizations identified a great need to involve mothers in their efforts to connect fathers to their children, but saw no programming available to help them do so. And, they were seeking resources to encourage communication and co-parenting. Accordingly, NFI’s new programs – the first of their kind – will help moms become gateways, rather than gatekeepers, between their children and their children’s dads.

Understanding Dad™: An Awareness and Communication Program for Moms anchors the new line of resources. This complete program kit helps mothers successfully navigate their relationships with the fathers of their children in a group-based program over 8 sessions. 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.

“Research shows that two of the most powerful predictors of father involvement for a child are the quality of the mother-father relationship and the way the child’s mother perceives the child’s dad,” said Christopher A. Brown, executive vice president of NFI. “NFI’s new programming aims to help moms develop the knowledge and skills they need for effective communication and come away with a positive impression of the role of fathers in children’s lives.”

Understanding Dad™ increases mothers’ self-awareness about the impact of their personal histories on their relationships with men and fathers, how their histories have shaped their communication with the fathers of their children, and provides them with research-based skills to overcome negative communication styles and replace them with positive ones.

Other products in the new line include Pocketbook for Moms™: A Pocketbook Full of Ways to Communicate with Dad and Pocketbook for New Moms™: A Pocketbook Full of Reasons for New Moms to Involve Dads. Pocketbook for Moms™ contains practical tips and strategies to help mothers build trust and positive communication patterns with dads. Pocketbook for New Moms™ helps moms understand the benefits of father involvement during pregnancy and during their children’s infant and toddler years and beyond.

Lastly, our popular FatherTopics Workshop: Mom as Gateway is already being used by oragnizations across the country to address mom's gatekeeping behavior, and is an excellent complement as an add-on to our new Understanding Dad Program.

All of the new resources are now available through FatherSOURCE™ along with customized NFI trainings and technical assistance that organizations can choose to help them effectively implement the new programs. And don't forget, NFI’s team of program support consultants, are here to help you start or enhance your fatherhood programsor create a custom program to meet your needs! 

Nominate a dad for the 2013 Military Fatherhood Award!

Military Fatherhood Award: Honoring Military Fathers and Families
Every year, National Fatherhood Initiative honors a military dad who goes above and beyond in his service to the nation and his responsibility as a dad.

NFI's Military Fatherhood Award™ recognizes and celebrates a dad who:

  • demonstrates ongoing dedication to his children
  • puts in extraordinary effort to stay connected with his kids
  • successfully balances his military duties and family life
  • invests in other military fathers and children

If you know a great military dad, nominate him for the 2013 Military Fatherhood Award™ today!  Nominations close on Monday February 4 at 12:00 p.m. EST, and we can only accept the first 600 nominations, so submit yours quickly!  (See Terms and Conditions to answer most questions about the award program.)

Share this blog post using the buttons at the top of the post to let other military friends and family know about this opportunity to nominate their dad or a dad they know!

 

Sponsors of the 2013 Military Fatherhood Award:
as of January 17, 2013

Protect and Defend Sponsors

Nissan USA   Acumen Solutions, Inc.

Supporting Friends

Boy Scouts of America

 

If you are connected with a company that would be interested in sponsoring, contact Renae Smith at rsmith@fatherhood.org.  Download the sponsorship kit here.

Will you join the 12 Dollars, 12 Months, 12 Dads challenge?

We have exciting plans for 2013 to reach more dads, help more families, and advocate on behalf of responsible fatherhood - with the ultimate goal of improving child well-being and creating a world in which every child has a 24/7 Dad ℠.  But we need your help.

As we start 2013, will you join our 12 Dollars, 12 Months, 12 Dads challenge?  

It costs $12 to provide a dad with one of NFI's evidence-based fatherhood handbooks to help him build his fathering skills.  We are looking for 100 people to commit to donate $12 a month to help one dad every month.  If we reach that goal, together we will equip 1,200 extra dads in 2013 with resources to help them connect with their children heart-to-heart!

Will you be one of our team of 100 giving $12 a month to help a dad?

InsideOut DadFor example, 24/7 Dad$12 gives an incarcerated father an InsideOut Dad™ handbook to help him connect with his child even while behind bars and build a successful reentry plan for when he returns to his family.

Or, $12 gives a dad in a community like yours a 24/7 Dad™ handbook to help him build fathering skills like communicating with his child, working with mom, and understanding the impact of his relationship with his own father.

Each time a dad completes one of NFI's evidence-based, tested and proven programs, a child is more likely to benefit from a dad who is involved, responsible, and committed.  You can help make that happen.

Joining the 12 Dollar challenge is an easy but significant way to make a difference in the lives of kids.  Plus, all donations are tax deductible!

Will you take the challenge?

 

Donations represent a gift to the entire mission of NFI. To help the most number of children and families, we use your gifts where they can do the most good by pooling them with the gifts of others. And, because you are helping to change children’s lives, your gift is tax deductible!

End Father Absence: Give a Second Chance to Dads Like Steven

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NFI’s fiscal year ends on September 30 and we are celebrating the end of an impactful year by sharing stories of real-life dads and their children who have found second chances through our work in their communities. 

Steven Gonzales of Sacramento, California, is one of those dads.  Photographer Lewis Kostiner met him as he traveled around the country at his own expense photographing and interviewing dads who participated in NFI’s fatherhood programs in local communities.  Mr. Kostiner shared his impressions of Steven’s relationship with his son in his book Choosing Fatherhood: America’s Second Chance.

describe the imageSteven Gonzales worked fourteen-hour days, seven days a week.  He lived amongst the ghosts of bygone eras of vintage cars.  Steven was the owner of the body shop that consumed him.  He also was a father who taught his children by example.  He told me that he regretted not being home for dinner every night, sometimes having to run out to give an estimate.  He told him his heart hurt when he had to do this.  Steven and his son took me on a tour of the body shop.  We visited the paint shop, rich in the aroma of the freshly sprayed paint.  His son was so proud of his dad.  My presence with the camera made the young boy feel important.  He knew his father to be a very special person and that I was sent there to take this famous person’s picture.  Steven and his son posed so proudly in front of the blue, beat-up Cadillac.  I envied that boy and the life he had with his father.  When I was done, they gave me a red t-shirt with the name “RED STAR California Original” [the name of the body shop] on the front of it.  I felt as special as the son when I left.

NFI is active in communities like Steven’s, helping dads in all walks of life build their fathering skills and connect with their children.  In some cases, the support and inspiration these dads find through our presence in their communities is the second chance they and their families need.

Your financial support is crucial to reach more families like Steven’s.  As we end the fiscal year on September 30, will you make a donation to help us finish this year and start next year strong?  We have almost reached our fundraising goal for the year, and your contribution will get us across the finish line and help even more dads and families next year.

describe the imageAs a special “thank you,” we will send a FREE copy of Choosing Fatherhood: America’s Second Chance to anyone who donates $100 or more.  Of course your gift of any amount helps us reach our goal for the fiscal year and start our next year of work strong.

Thanks for your help!

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What Should We Do About Men?

question mark resized 600The latest sortie in our culture’s “men are unnecessary” phenomenon has come from a Boise State University biologist named Greg Hampikian.

In an op-ed published recently in the New York Times, Dr. Hampikian makes a biological argument against men: because the male role in reproduction has been made obsolete by technology, men are unnecessary.

However, he uses this biological argument to make a cultural one. He does a cost-benefit analysis and concludes, based on the fact that men are more violent and live fewer years than women, that we don’t need men anymore. Another underpinning to his argument is research that shows that children being raised in single-mother households are “doing fine.”

Dr. Hampikian’s argument is flawed for several reasons, but I will address two of the more important ones.

First is the lack of logic in the whole thing. If what Dr. Hampikian argues is true – that men contribute nothing unique or valuable to the human race – then wouldn’t his very article be dismissed as irrelevant and unnecessary? After all, he is a man and had his opinion published, implying that there is something unique and valuable that he has contributed to society. Therefore, his argument is self-defeating.

Second, and most important, is Dr. Hampikian’s glossing over of the three-plus decades of social science research that have all but proven that fathers play a unique and irreplaceable role in their children’s lives. He cherry picks research from Sarah McLanahan, which, when inspected closely, is not as cut and dried as Dr. Hampikian wants you to believe. Dr. McLanahan’s research was on low-income, high-risk families – referred to as “fragile families” – so, of course, poverty was a primary concern for these families. But in her large body of research over many years, McLanahan explores, in depth, the contributions of fathers beyond another paycheck.

Furthermore, there is an enormous body of academic research out there, readily accessible by someone like Dr. Hampikian, that shows that across every measure of child well-being, independent of family income, fathers contribute something important. We cite a small sample of that research here.

The most troubling part in all of this is where this sort of logic can lead us – ideas have consequences. Could we not argue, using Dr. Hampikian’s scary and flawed cost-benefit analysis model, that there are “unnecessary” races or groups on the planet that could be eliminated? Isn’t that the calculus the Nazis used to justify the elimination of the handicapped? As a black man, this sort of thinking sounds all too eerily familiar.

Or can we afford, in a world where hundreds of millions of children are growing up in father-absent homes, to give men yet another reason to check out of their responsibilities as dads, even if those responsibilities are only financial? Take the black community. In too many of our neighborhoods, astronomical rates of father absence – over 80% in the worst cases – are making life very challenging for too many children. They are more likely to be poor, use drugs, fail in school, be abused, and face a whole host of other risks. If Dr. Hampikian takes a closer look at those neighborhoods, I am certain his vision of a men-free, and consequently father-free utopia, would take a big hit.

Since the chances of us ever seeing a women-only world are extremely low, the important question is not “are men necessary?” but “what does society require of the men who inevitably will exist?” It is a binary choice – we either encourage and inspire them to take seriously their responsibilities to society and to their families, or we expect nothing of them because they are essentially useless. I would not want to live in a world in which we decide the latter.

But, then again, if Dr. Hampikian had his way, I won’t have to.

When the Principal's Name is Dad

As a graduate of home education, I often get two common reactions when people learn that I was homeschooled through 12th grade.  "Wow, I would have never guessed - you don't act like a homeschooler!"  I believe this is meant to be a compliment on my social skills and fun, outgoing personality... I think.  Or, "How you did learn advanced math and science at home?!" 

Actually, yes; I stand before you as proof that calculus and chemistry can be successfully mastered without a full-fledged laboratory and a professor with a specialized degree.  (While my AP test scores will prove this, please don’t ask me to solve any differential equations right now.  It’s been 8 years and I’m a little rusty.)

So when I came across Quinn Cumming’s article in the Wall Street Journal about her experience home-schooling her daughter, I resonated with what she shared about the evolving nature of homeschooling.  It is becoming a more widespread and respected form of education.  There are countless resources and opportunities available to amplify home education curricula and extra-curricular activities. 

describe the imageAnd just because a child spends normal school hours at home does not mean that he or she is deprived of all opportunity for socialization with peers.  Church activities, neighborhood playmates, and competition in sports leagues afforded lots of interaction with other kids.  I turned out fine, and so did my brother.  (That's him on the right at his high school graduation in 2007. He's now a 2nd Lieutenant serving in the U.S. Air Force. Please humor my proud-big-sister bragging indulgence!)

But, what stood out to me in Ms. Cumming’s article was the role that her husband played in the decision to homeschool their middle school daughter and in the day-to-day responsibility of educating her.  Together, the couple reviewed a variety of educational programs for their daughter, and after settling on home-schooling, the father plays a continued role in teaching.  Ms. Cummings admitted that math is not her forte, so her daughter takes an online math class “with great lashings of help from her father.”

As a homeschool graduate, I am familiar with “great lashings of help from dad,” administered graciously and patiently to me and my siblings.  While Mom was heavily invested in hands-on teaching during elementary school, Dad always said that Mom was the teacher and he was the principal.  That was code for “If you give Mom a hard time with school, you’ll have to answer to me.” 

Then, as we advanced to the more challenging aspects of school, Dad became more involved.  It wasn’t that Mom couldn’t handle the advanced subjects, but with seven children, she and Dad took a “divide and conquer” approach.  Dad has been our math tutor, proofread our papers, and coached the sports teams we played on (our “P.E. credit”). When the time came to look for a different form of education for another younger brother to meet his unique needs, my dad played a leading role along with my mom in determining that public school was the best option for this particular sibling.

Research clearly shows that there’s a father factor in education.  Children who grow up with involved fathers are more likely to get A’s, less likely to repeat a grade, and more likely to be read aloud to as a child.  I appreciate the investment my Dad made in my education and that he continues to make with my younger siblings, regardless of the format of the education.  He is genuinely committed to helping us achieve the potential he sees in us.

But perhaps the most poignant father factor in homeschooling that Ms. Cumming’s article pointed out was the importance of dads in socializing boys into men.

“Homo sapiens have walked the Earth for at least 130,000 years and, in this time, they learned to be human from their elders, not from their peers. Mandatory education in the U.S. is less than 150 years old. Learning to be a productive adult human by spending a third of every day with other kids might be a good idea, but it's too soon to tell. I'm still unsure that the people best equipped to teach a 14-year-old boy how to be a man are other 14-year-old boys.”

As my younger brother has begun attending public school and enjoyed increased socialization with his peers, the change in his behavior has me sharing this uncertainty Ms. Cummings expressed in the last sentence. Boys learn what it means to be a man not from their mothers, teachers, or buddies at school.  They learn this from their dads. 

Home education is certainly not the only way to socialize children into adults and to provide a robust education, and countless students of all types benefit from dads who invest in their education.  For my family, I can attest to the benefits of having a principal / teacher / coach whose name is also Dad.

Pampers Gets Pops

Pampers Gifts to GrowLast month at Pampers Cincinnati, OH headquarters, NFI president Roland C. Warren presented the big baby care brand with a Fatherhood Award™ for its “A Parent is Born,” “Welcome to Parenthood,” and “Love Comes Early” video series.

If you haven’t seen these online mini-documentaries, check them out as a Father’s Day treat. They really do an incredible job of showing how important it is for fathers to be involved in the “peri-natal period” (the time right before and after the birth of a child).

Pampers is a rare breed in the baby care world in that they are one of a few brands that understands the role dads can and should play in this area. Sure, moms still buy more diapers than dads do, but according to all the research we’ve done and seen, moms are more likely to support brands that support fathers. Moms don’t want brands letting dads off the hook.

To celebrate and commemorate the Fatherhood Award™ recognition, Pampers is unveiling new rewards in its “Pampers Gifts to Grow” catalog that are very dad-centric - BBQ tool sets, professional-caliber golf balls, stainless steel water bottle gift sets, and headphones, to name a few.

pampers NFIThis quote from Fama Francisco, Pampers General Manager perfectly sums up Pampers enlightened understanding of this issue: "Pampers recognizes that today’s fathers want to be involved in the very important role of nurturing their babies and acknowledges that it is just as important for dad – as it is for mom - to bond with baby too. With all the attention on expectant and new moms, the role of an expectant or new father can sometimes be overshadowed. That's why this Fatherhood Award™ honor is a special thrill. Whether it's been via our web-based real parenting video series or our past partnerships with the likes of great dads, Pampers is committed to honoring and celebrating dads for the unique role they play in their babies lives!”

We love this! Especially the part about the “unique role” that dads play. Again, research shows that the different approaches that moms and dads take to child care have a significant, positive impact on child well being.

We thank Pampers for their dedication to fatherhood, and commend them for doing work that will last far beyond this Father’s Day.

Fatherhood: An Act of Valor that Takes Zeal and Knowledge

Last night, Justin, my 26 year old son and I were having a conversation about how father absence is affecting his generation. He told me that many of his friends who grew up without fathers are very committed to being good dads. However, he offered that they don’t know how to be good fathers. He said that they have “zeal without knowledge.”

Zeal is an old English word that you don’t hear often these days, especially from a 26 year old. But, it’s a concept that is very contemporary because it means to have an intensity for a cause, an eager desire and enthusiastic diligence. Alas, there is zeal aplenty in our culture today, so having a bit of it for fatherhood is certainly a good thing. That said, I think that my son was on to something by linking zeal with knowledge. Here’s why…

Early in the week, I spoke at an event and when I finished a guy about Justin’s age approached me. He told me that he had grown up without a father and he recently had gotten married and was going to be a father soon. He then got a very strange look on this face and said, “Everyone keeps telling me that I am going to be a great dad and I really want to be…But, honestly, I’m struggling with how they can know this or how I can do this… I never had a dad.”

He had zeal without knowledge…

So, I sent him an email with links to several of NFI’s low cost products for new dads like, “When Duct Tape Won’t Work”, an interactive CD designed to improve his understanding of how to help his infant through the toddler years, and “24/7 Dad Interactive”, an interactive CD designed to help him with everything a good dad needs to know, from maintaining a strong relationship with mom to effectively disciplining his children.

I was delighted that this new dad-to-be had the wherewithal to understand his problem and proactively seek help. But, frankly, I am amazed at how many dads, especially ones older than this father, will spend $50 bucks or more to watch a pay-for-view sporting event but won’t invest less than $20 for resources, like the ones that I mentioned above, to help themselves become better dads. And, some dads who will spend hours researching and drafting the perfect fantasy football roster—as if it was “real”—but would consider it a fantasy to join a small group of other dads for just an hour a week for 6 weeks and use the "24/7 Dad Power Hour" to hone their fathering skills. Of course, these fathers say that they want to be good dads. But, discipline, not just desire, determines a dad's destiny. Indeed, they have zeal but they lack the discipline to get the knowledge.

And, that’s a real problem. Let me give you an example to better illustrate this point.

A few weeks ago, a movie called “Act of Valor,” which featured the heroics of real Navy Seals, hit movie theaters nationwide. The film was an instant box office hit. In fact, it was the top grossing movie during the opening weekend and continues to do well. No doubt, thousands of dads lined up to see the film. And, I can see why. Here you have a bunch of guys, many who are fathers, doing amazing things that make us proud to be Americans. Plus, lots of stuff gets blown up!

However, here’s the interesting thing about the Navy Seals in this movie. They have zeal…lots of it. But, they also have knowledge. Why? Because a Navy Seal without both is dangerous. He’s the type of guy on the mission who would kick a door in, guns blazing, and shoot the hostages and rescue the terrorist! In fact, others in his unit can’t count on him to have their backs. So, no one wants this guy on their team. It’s too risky. They would just as soon do the mission one man short.

So, am I saying the untrained dads are dangerous? Of course not. But, I am saying that these dads are less effective and are not prepared for the most important “mission” of their lives--raising their children. This is unacceptable. But, it is also fixable because a guy can learn to be a better dad. Accordingly, if you are a dad with zeal, like that young unprepared dad that I spoke to, I want to encourage you to do as he did. Zealously seek knowledge. Get the resources and training that you need to be the best dad that you can be. After all, being a good dad is the ultimate act of valor.

Devoted And Heroic Dads Should Inspire Us All

Once a man takes on the important task of becoming a father, it suddenly stops being just about his life from that moment. You are now responsible for an entire person, even as they grow from infancy into adulthood. When a father is involved, responsible and committed, the bond established with your child is unbreakable. Sometimes in times of danger or emergency, a father’s automatic instinct is to protect. Most fathers I know who have good relationships with their children all share this innate trait.

The story of Erik Chappell, the Michigan attorney who leapt into action to save his two boys after a car bomb attack, inspired me to recall other tales of fathers who became knights in shining armor for their children.

In 2010, David Anderson and his daughter Bridget, just two at the time, and their scare in New York was an example of a father thinking of nothing more than saving his child. His little girl fell into a cold East River after which a brave Frenchman and Anderson dove into the water to rescue the toddler.

Joe Gutierrez proved his heroic mettle after rescuing three babies from a burning fire in Texas last month. Treating his actions like another day in the office, Gutierrez responded coolly, “I’m a regular guy. I’m not a hero, I’m a father. That’s what fathers do.”

Although I didn’t leap into freezing waters or burning buildings, I received a call today from my daughter while she was at school. Calling from the nurse’s office, I could tell something was amiss with her. I immediately stood up, and began walking towards the door to leave, not even regarding that I had a lot more work to do for the day. Whenever I hear my child in despair, she’s no longer the tiny little person of 11 years ago. I harken back to holding her just out the womb. I don’t see a tweener, I just see my baby.

Even now when she coughs too loud or says ouch, I get right up to see what the situation is. I’ve been told by dads of older girls that eventually, she’ll tire of my doting ways and will want some independence. I know I can’t always don a cape and take care of her problems, but I can’t imagine being any other way for the rest of my life. I hope and pray that my daughter will always know that while I can’t fix everything, I’ll do anything I can in my power to give her the best and safest life.

Like Mr. Gutierrez said, that's what fathers do.

Father Absence And School Discipline

Before I joined NFI’s staff, I never heard of the term "father absence," but I was most certainly a product of it.

Raised by a single, African-American mother in a tough neighborhood, I had to navigate the dangers of my environment and still be a well-behaved student. My mother worked late five days a week, and I was left alone often. Naturally, I modeled my behavior after the tough guys in the neighborhood, carrying that attitude into school. I was in trouble frequently for insubordination and not following instructions. Mom attributed much of my actions to my father not being around to help guide me.

A national survey conducted by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) points to a glaring gap between the discipline students of color faced compared to their white counterparts. The numbers showed that while the collected data counted for just 18 percent of African-American students, Black males were shown to have nearly twice as many suspensions and even higher numbers for expulsion.

According to recent reports compiled using Census data and other sources, it was found that last year just 33 percent of Black children lived in a two-parent household compared to 85 percent of Asian children, 75 percent of White children and 60 percent of Hispanic children. Nearly all children living in single-parent homes lived with their mothers, with over half of those being Black children.

While the OCR survey is said to be expanding its research categories in the ongoing survey, it hasn’t been said to include data regarding the number of parents in the home. Education Secretary Arne Duncan addressed reporters in an open call on Monday ahead of the release of the data, asserting that the numbers are not directly a result of discrimination. Educators, obviously invested in what the data means ultimately, wisely noted that race, poverty and struggling school districts plays a part in what’s happening.

I scoured a lot of text while writing this blog entry, and not one person mentioned the family structure, at least in my searches. There is nothing said on whether these students of color are in two-parent homes or not. According to research, children from father-absent homes are more like to have behavioral problems. Why are commentators ignoring this reality?

In my own experiences, not having my father present in the home directly impacted how I behaved when I was not under my mother’s care. I’m not a statistician or researcher, but other numbers mesh with this report. 24 million children live apart from their biological fathers, with two out of three Black children and one of three Hispanic children dealing with father absence.

That alone points to something I’d like to see the OCR address in their further collection of data. While it’s not the Department of Education’s aim to offer a counter to the problem of father absence, I’m a living example of how the issue of academic failure could also be attributed to growing up in an unbalanced home environment.

Regardless of race and other societal factors, you can’t always expect well-behaved children in the face of father absence. In fact, the more the gap widens between fathers and children, the more we can expect numbers like this to spike even higher, and that’s truly a shame.

Fathering For A Lifetime

Last week, NFI’s Director of Military Program Support Services Tim Red sent out an email to our staff in where he bravely and candidly spoke of a moment shared with his oldest son, Travis. After attending the funeral of his son’s good friend, it gave Tim and Travis a moment to reflect and reconnect the bond between father and son. Inspired by his bravery, I too shared a bit of my own fears and concerns regarding fatherhood with the staff and felt enlightened by Tim’s ability to open up about such a private matter.

When I think of devoted dads like Tim, I always imagine they have all the answers and because of his background, I expected that he handled tough times with flair. With 30 years of military service, I was certain Tim had seen it all. I originally asked Tim if I could share his story on our blog and he was gracious enough to allow me to do so. I called Tim last evening and what was initially meant to be a quick phone call turned into a 30-minute conversation that changed my life.

Tim and I had an honest and open discussion, which allowed me to learn that part of being a father is also realizing your shortcomings and showing vulnerability. To hear from Tim that raising his oldest child had been difficult for him just astounded me. I was listening to this strong man admitting that even after being a dad of 21 years, he’s continuing to learn lessons about fatherhood.

I had to fight back my emotions hearing Tim tell his story of the trials he faced with Travis although I hung on to every word. Tim’s fearlessness inspired me to devote myself to what I do here at NFI, and to also apply the lessons he shared with me in my own life. Being an involved, responsible and committed father became an even greater responsibility to me by way of our chat.

Although tragedy had to happen in order for Tim and Travis to find a new way to reconnect, stories like this are precisely why I’m proud to be a part of the National Fatherhood Initiative family. As I grow as a father and as a man, I can always look back fondly to the chat Tim and I had, realizing that you can never learn it all in one lifetime. Dealing with the ups and downs of fathering can make even the mightiest of us feel stretched thin. However, it’s good to know that we have an entire lifetime to get it right.

Being A Dad Is Just As Tough As Anything Else

Greetings, Father Factor readers!

To quote a song “I Know You Got Soul” from legendary 80s rap duo Eric B. & Rakim, “It’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you” – but we’re back to regularly updating our blog after the holidays shifted everyone’s schedules around a bit.

Speaking of rap music, have you seen NFI’s nifty new Daily Dad News section? It’s the latest feature on our homepage full of daily news bits about dads, families and related stories. One of the news items posted last week focused on popular Atlanta rapper T.I. and how he balances his career with his family time. During an interview with MTV News, the rapper born Clifford Harris spoke proudly of being a dad but carefully stating that he has to still maintain an edge to his character due to the industry’s he’s in.

“When I go home, that's who I am, what you see on the show. Now, what you're gonna hear through them records is when I hit the streets, when I'm out movin' and groovin' — this is the person that must maintain this personality because it's a cold world out here,” T.I. offered in the interview.

Now I’ll admit that I’ve listened to a bit of his T.I.’s music in my spare time, and a lot of it isn’t family friendly stuff. However, on his cable reality show with his wife, T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle, T.I. reveals his softer side as a doting and devoted dad. T.I. and his wife have also given to charity, provided scholarships to the Boys and Girls Club and he even famously talked down a suicidal man from committing the fatal act.

The flip to T.I.'s good and giving side is that he raps in songs about his violent past as a former drug dealer nestled deeply "in the trap" – what some in Atlanta refer to as the open air drug market. Since having found fame, T.I. has been long removed from the trappings of the streets but his music at times serves as the soundtrack for those still in that lifestyle.

T.I.'s jail record and federal gun charges also haunt him, being sent to prison just after performing a star turn in the Hollywood action flick Takers alongside another beleaguered male entertainer Chris Brown. He was well on his way to mainstream stardom and chose to "hug the block" (as the kids say) instead of focusing on his budding acting career and music. T.I. has injected positive messages in some of his work, no less energetic and infectious as his normal fare.

The question is, which is really tougher? Is it tougher to still rap about guns and what you'll do to someone if they cross you in the streets? Or, is it tougher to rap about being a devoted husband and father, writing a few lines about how you went to see your sons play Pee Wee football? Is it tougher to rap about how you sold drugs or would it be tougher to drop a few verses about how you love coming home to your wife?

I don't happen to think T.I.'s a bad person, but I do think he's caught up in the hype of being tough when in actuality, he'd be seen as a greater figure if he promoted his family life more. Perhaps his television show is his pathway to doing so, but a man of T.I.'s responsibility and fame would appear tougher to me if he paused to "hit the streets" less often and revealed that there's nothing soft about being a father who loves the family life.

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