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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.

When Dad's in Jail—He's Still Dad

At NFI, we implement two main strategies for engaging society about fatherhood.

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.

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!

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.

Nominate a dad for the 2013 Military Fatherhood Award!


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.

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!

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

What Should We Do About Men?

The 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.

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?!" 

Pampers Gets Pops

Last 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.

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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