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The Father Factor

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Dwyane Wade: All-Star Guard, All-Star Dad

Earlier this month, ABC News profiled Miami Heat star basketball player Dwyane Wade before the start of the NBA season. This time however, the high-flying Chicago native wasn’t showcasing his crafty moves on the court. Instead, Wade’s dedication to fatherhood was the centerpiece of the story.

While fans across the globe gleefully counted down the days leading up to the Christmas Day start of the NBA season as a gift, Dwyane Wade kept true to his Twitter bio line which I absolutely love: “I'm a father first and everything else after that” – and D-Wade’s devotion was hard to ignore in the ABC News clip.

What stood out to me was Wade’s unflinching pride about being a father, even under the tough circumstances that led him to becoming a single dad. Marrying his high school sweetheart Siohvaughn, the couple had two sons together, Zaire and Zion. After a bitter and very public divorce, Wade won sole custody of his boys back in March of this year. Fighting hard to remain in his children’s life, Wade proved that his sons were a top priority.

Along with Zaire and Zion, Wade’s nephew also lives with the hoops star full time. The ABC clip showed D-Wade and his family bonding via horseplay, but there are some ground rules and a focus on schoolwork that is also enforced with care. And while Wade’s hefty NBA contract is often fodder for discussion, he is clear in letting folks know that he’s much more than a sports millionaire. “It is not about the money I have or don't have," shared Wade. "It is about the time I am willing to sit down across the table from my kids and if they don't get something right, helping them get it right.”

Through various community programs and his own Wade’s World Foundation non-profit group, D-Wade takes time out to assist other fathers wishing to bridge the gap between themselves and their children. Another highlight from the news segment was that of Wade and his ex-wife’s willingness to co-parent, despite the media fallout from their divorce proceedings and emphasizing that his sons still needed their mother.

D-Wade is aggressive, brash and downright intense on the court, but away from the game the 29-year old gives off a serene calm – especially when talking about his dad duties with glowing pride. Although he can employ a dizzying catalog of spin moves and perform fearless drives to the basket, Dwyane Wade already hit the game-winning shot as far as fatherhood goes.

Fathers and Testosterone: Lowered Levels Not So Bad After All

An interesting video report appeared on ABC News’ site the other day regarding men who become new dads, stating that the responsibilities that go along with the job caused lowered testosterone levels in men. Earlier this year, NFI’s Vincent DiCaro wrote a blog post in response to a New York Times piece regarding the very research that led to this discovery. Vince’s blog highlighted key points that affirmed why this hormonal development may in fact aid fathers in their parental duties.

ABC’s report follows the same angle in showing that dads who dote on their children have lowered testosterone levels but state that science supports this being good for the family unit. In generations past, men were often cast as pillaging nomads intent on exacting their aggressive will upon women and challenging other men in silly egotistical contests. Rare was it that fathers were shown to be in the house with their children, cooing to them or caring for their progeny.

Emmy-winning London-based ABC News correspondent Nick Watt led the latest report, injecting himself into the story as a father of two small boys himself. Watt playfully jabbed at himself for having lowered hormone levels, with various shots of the reporter playing lovingly with his boy. Harvard professor Peter Ellison, also quoted in the Times piece, reacted to Watt’s assertion that his “modern day” dad duties were making him less of a man. Ellison refuted the thought, simply saying that it’s an incorrect way to look at this startling phenomenon.

The action then cuts to Watt profiling a local rugby team, one of the most brutal sports on the planet. Highlighting a star player and coach who were both dads, Watt reported that their testosterone levels, while lowered after fatherhood, spiked back to normal while engaged in their contests. Watt also mentioned aptly that human parenting is easier when mom and dad are both involved. Watt was also candid in sharing that his own father was not as caring as he is with his sons, noting that dads in the 70s modeled themselves into alpha-male caricatures instead of involved parents.

Watt closed out his report mentioning his wife just had a second baby and that with two small children, he joked that his testosterone levels were in the “basement”. Watt ended the segment with two really awesome quotes I’d like to share with the Factor Father readers.

“This is, in fact, more manly than leaving wife and kids at home to go skydiving and skirt chasing,” said Watt while being shown spinning his eldest son around. Watt ended the clip by saying, “I’m at home in the nest, as nature says I should be.”

Amen to that, Mr. Watt.

Fatherhood By the Numbers

Greetings, Father Factor readers! My name is D.L. Chandler, a recent addition to the National Fatherhood Initiative staff in the capacity of Web Editor. I joined NFI officially on December 5, and it has been a wonderful experience so far. Everyone on the staff is not only committed to our core mission of increasing the viability and visibility of involved and responsible dads, but it’s such an inviting environment as well.

The Thankful Campaign: A T-I-M-E to Be Thankful

This Thanksgiving, I had a few conversations that made me especially thankful.

During a car ride to my church’s Thanksgiving eve service, my 26 year-old son, Justin, told me that he knew that sometimes it must be especially challenging to keep motivated doing the work that I do. But, he offered that he wanted to encourage me to keep doing it. He said that I have touched so many through my time at NFI. He also said that it really matters that I have been a “father-figure” for several of his friends. And, interestingly, it really meant a lot to him that I attended nearly all of his football games, from Pop Warner through college. He said, “Dad, you are laying up treasure in heaven…”

Then, as we were cleaning up from Thanksgiving dinner, my 29 year-old son, Jamin, told me that so many of his many friends tell him that they don’t really “know” their parents. He offered that their parents spent so much time working to give his friends material things that they failed to give them the most important thing of all…their time. He said, “Dad, you struck the right balance…”

Kids do say the darndest things.

Ironically, my sons’ comments could not have been better timed. You see, I turned 50 years old in October and, frankly, I have been reflecting quite a bit about the choices that I have made in my life, especially when it dawned on me that I likely have more yesterdays than tomorrows. I have often wondered if I have invested my life wisely so far. Social change, like parenting, is hard work that requires steadfastness.

Alas, one can grow weary of doing good, no matter the rightness of the cause. So, it was good to hear this type of affirmation from my sons. Their words were a tremendous encouragement to me and I am hopeful that they will serve as a motivation for other dads, especially those with young children, who read this.

As I am fond of saying, kids spell love “T-I-M-E.” And I know that being a dad, at times, can seem like a thankless job. But if you hang in there and choose to be a father who provides, nurtures and guides, there is a wonderful “treasure” that awaits you.

And for this, like me, you will be thankful.

A Mom's Perspective: Appreciating an Involved Husband

I got coffee last week with a friend of mine – a woman who’s a few years older than me, married, and a stay-at-home mom of three young kids, including a 4-month-old. I love talking with this lady and hearing about her life. As a single working woman, I appreciate getting perspective on a different lifestyle than my own.

My friend asked me to tell her more about what I do with National Fatherhood Initiative. As I explained our mission and work, she shared that she has recently experienced how much of a difference having an involved father makes for her as a mom.

She said her husband sometimes didn’t seem to know how to be involved with the kids when they first became parents – largely because his own father had not contributed much to housework or childcare – but now that they’re on kid #3, he’s really shown a lot of initiative. Especially during her difficult pregnancy, he had to do pretty much everything in the home and for the two children. His wife expressed how much she appreciated that he has cheerfully taken on extra responsibility.

My friend said that three great things have happened because her husband is helping more with the kids and the housework. #1 Their marriage is stronger. She is more attracted to him and has more energy to spend time with him. #2 Their home is more peaceful. She doesn’t have to constantly be giving directions – “Okay, this needs to be taken care of right now,” “Honey, can you brush the kids’ teeth?” – because he is noticing and doing things that need to be done. #3 The kids have a closer relationship with their dad. Instead of constantly going to Mom for what they want, they have started choosing Dad to help them or play with them.

I know, theoretically, that all of those things happen when dads are more involved. Everything my friend said was in synch with what NFI’s research has shown. And, as a daughter, I know that having an involved dad made a huge impact in my life. But it was really neat to hear a first-hand perspective from a mom/wife on how much she values the support she has from her husband and how their family benefits from his involvement as a dad.

Moms, how has your husband made a difference in your family by becoming more involved in helping around the house and taking care of the kids? What do you appreciate most about him?

Dads Playbook Podcast with NFL quarterback, Mark Brunell. Week 2: Dealing with Disappointment

Welcome to the second installment of our 10-week podcast series, Dads Playbook featuring NFL quarterback, Mark Brunell.

This week, NFI president Roland C. Warren sits down with Mark to talk about helping your children deal with disappointment.

We all know that disappointments are not a question of “if” but of “when.” But we can use the disappointments our children will face as opportunities to teach them how to pick themselves up and go forward. Listen to Mark talking with Roland about “failing well.”

Click here to download the podcast on Mark’s game plan for being an All-Star Dad when it comes to dealing with disappointment.

Guest Post: Kids need an Open Door Policy with Dad

This is a guest post from Dr. Clarence Shuler. Dr Shuler is an author, marriage counselor, speaker and life & relationship coach. He is President/CEO of BLR: Building Lasting Relationships, a non-profit helping individuals and organizations develop mutually-beneficial relationships. Dr. Shuler and his wife Brenda have three college-aged daughters.

More than a few fathers and mothers gave me a warning when my three girls were young. Their warning was that as soon as my girls became teenagers that they wouldn’t want to spend time with me. Their warning troubled me.

Unintentionally, I almost made their prediction come true. It hit me in two ways. First, while on our family vacation to Disney World, I realized that my girls were getting what was left over in my time. My girls deserved and needed my best, so I changed my priority to focus on my girls after their mother and then my job.

Secondly, as a self-employed struggling new writer, I kept the door of my home office closed. My little girls love me, so they wouldn’t even knock on the door because they didn’t want to disturb me. Maybe it was the grace of God that had me move my office to the basement and keep my office door open.

Like clockwork, with an open door, all my girls from elementary school through high school as soon as they came home would come down to my office to say, “Hello” and touch base with me. It was a little humbling initially because they only wanted five minutes or so to say, “I love you Dad.” I responded, “I love you too. How was your day?” I didn’t ask yes/no questions.

My girls knew with my “open door” policy that they were and are more important than anything I’m writing. They said it gave them security knowing they had access to me. Even when I travel for a speaking engagement or consulting, my girls know that if they call, I’m going to answer my cell. I may ask, “Can we talk later?” But I’m going to answer their call.

I also began taking my girls on some of my trips so we could have some one-on-one time. This was more work because when I finished working, there was no down time, but I made memories with them forever! It was good use of those frequent flyer miles and hotel points!

Teaching and coaching my girls in basketball and tennis resulted in bonding more with them. Children and wives spell love: T-I-M-E!

The payoff has been my girls asking me to come see them in college and calling to share their lives with me. I often text them: “I LOVE YOU.”

With my twins being 22 years old and my baby 21, I’m glad they want me in their lives. It isn’t about being perfect. I’ve certainly blown things; but forgiveness is a wonderful thing. It is about consistency. Often, I asked my girls how I was doing as their dad. We had some relevant discussions. They helped me father them better. We all made some changes. They appreciated me apologizing when I was wrong. It is about quantity time, not quality time. QUALITY TIME comes out of QUANTITY TIME.

What I’m trying to say is that my daughters love spending time with me, which is one of the greatest gifts that I continue to treasure.

Respecting Presidents

This is a post from National Fatherhood Initiative’s Executive Vice President, Christopher Brown.

I’ve thought a lot recently about the value Americans place on respect and the role that parents and the media play in communicating the importance of respect to our nation’s children.

What brought this issue home to me recently is the behavior of my daughter’s high-school classmates during a speech that President Obama gave last week to students across the country.

This isn’t the first year that the President has delivered a speech to the nation’s school children on the importance of school and a good education. While President Obama has made it an annual address, previous Presidents also addressed our nation’s school children on the importance of school and a good education (including both George W. and George H.W. Bush).

When Obama first started his speeches, I thought it strange that parents were given a form they could sign to “opt out” their children from hearing the speech. Why would I not want my child to hear the President of the United States deliver a speech on the importance of school and getting a good education? Perhaps only that I have an unfounded, paranoid fear that the President would deliver a partisan speech and that, as a result, my child would be co-opted into a way of thinking that I disagree with. If a President had that level of influence, I’d tell him to talk about the importance of eating your vegetables.

At any rate, my daughter reported that her classmates were so disrespectful—hooping and hollering and calling the President names—that she couldn’t even hear parts of the speech. She was genuinely disgusted with the behavior and wondered why these kids—some of whom are her friends—would show such disrespect simply because they don’t agree with or like the President (similar stories emerged of a lack of respect for President George W. Bush as well)

Should we be surprised by this behavior? Not when we live in a nation that has become so polarized politically that words like “respect” and “compromise” and “moderate” have become nostalgic words, at best. In a media-saturated world in which partisan radio, TV, and Internet outlets have grown in number and influence, it is critical that fathers teach their children that they can respect and disagree with someone at the same time without attacking the person’s character.

Fathers have much more influence on their children than any President, and they should help their children develop values necessary for a democracy to thrive, such as the values of compromise and common courtesy. In fact, one of the core values of NFI’s 24/7 Dad™ program is to respect others, teach children to do the same, and extend respect through common courtesy—a cultural value that appears to be slowly, sadly disappearing.

Do involved fathers = smarter, better behaved children?

According to findings from a recent study from Concordia University, the answer to that question is yes. Compared to children whose fathers were absent, the study found that children who had present and actively involved fathers had higher IQs and demonstrated fewer behavioral problems.

Erin Pougnet, the study’s author, noted that programming for fathers is an important application of the findings of this study:
Programs that teach fathers positive parenting skills and that are attractive and accessible to families from a range of socioeconomic strata, "could go a long way to enhance children's later development."

Another expert in child research, Dr. Mariana Brussoni of the Child & Family Research Institute and University of British Columbia, noted that many programs neglect to specifically focus on fathers:
It is crucial for policies and programs to consider how they can support fathers to remain involved in children's lives. Many of the existing programs are more focused towards mothers and their needs, which is undoubtedly important. However, fathers cannot continue to be relegated to a secondary parenting role.

These statements are no surprise to us at NFI. We’ve long recognized that fathers take a different approach to parenting than mothers and need resources that are specifically designed for them. In fact, this matches what dads and moms are telling us in our national surveys, Pop's Culture and Mama Says:
  • Almost 50% of dads felt like they did not have the skills to be a father when they first became a dad
  • "Lack of knowledge about how to be a good father” ranked highly on dads’ list of obstacles to good fathering
  • 1 in 3 moms also agreed that the “lack of parenting resources specifically designed for fathers” is a significant obstacle to dads’ parenting

That’s where NFI comes in. NFI is the #1 provider of fatherhood resources and the #1 trainer of organizations and fatherhood practitioners. Here’s just a few of the highlights of our work to make sure dads have the resources they need to help them be involved fathers:
  • NFI offers over 100 resources designed specifically for fathers (brochures, fathering handbooks, curricula for fatherhood programs, etc.)
  • We have distributed over 5.8 million fatherhood skill-building resources
  • We have trained over 7,600 fatherhood program practitioners and over 3,500 organizations on how to deliver fatherhood skill-building programming to dads
  • Independent, third-party evaluations of our fatherhood curricula have shown statistically significant increases in pro-fathering knowledge, attitudes, and skills

You can learn more about the fatherhood skill-build resources we offer at our FatherSOURCE™ Resource Center. Ultimately, we strive to provide the very best skill-building resources for fathers because, as research like the Concordia University study have found, kids thrive when they have involved, responsible, and committed fathers. That is what is at the heart of NFI’s mission.

Dad is Carpool King

A recent survey conducted by Chevrolet found that dads are taking a more active role in carpooling their kids to school, extracurricular activities, or daycare – 70% of dads are involved in this responsibility. Unsurprisingly, the survey also found that Dads prefer utility vehicles over minivans, the traditional choice for carpooling, opting for a more masculine / cool vehicle. Dads also value safety, fuel economy, versatility, and passenger capacity as top vehicle features.

At NFI, it’s no surprise to us that Dads are more involved in carpool duties. This is right in line with recent trends showing that Dads are taking more and more hands-on responsibility in caring for their kids and helping around the house. In fact, we’ve blogged about how dads and moms do the same amount of work and how dads are key influencers in family purchase decisions. NFI’s own Vince DiCaro certainly would agree with Chevrolet’s findings because he choose his SUV for the practicality of carrying a car seat, dog, two adults, and lots of equipment.

The fact is, despite record levels of father absence in our country now – 24 million kids or 1 out 3 grow up without their father in the home – when dads are involved, they are more involved than they have ever been in almost every category. Take a look at these statistics (taken from "Marketing to Dads”, August 2010, Mintel.):
  • Dads have tripled the amount of time they spend on child care since 1965.
  • Dads have become key influencers and decision makers in all categories of family purchasing, including groceries, financial investments, child and baby care items, and toys.
  • One-third of men are the primary shopper in the home – in fact, 7 out of 10 disagree that mom does most of the shopping for the kids.
  • Dads are spending a significant amount of time with their children engaging in play, cooking, and planning healthy and educational activities for their families.
Not only is this increased involvement good for kids – research shows that children who grow up with involved fathers fare better on almost all social, economic, educational, and physical measures and are less likely to be involved in crime, get pregnant, experience abuse, or drop out of school – but it’s also good for moms. In Mama Says, NFI’s survey of mothers’ attitudes about fathering, a significant majority of moms said they could balance work and family better if they had more support from dad. Most likely, the extra help with carpooling from dads is a big plus for moms.

Props to Dads for stepping up and adding “taxi driver” to the many hats they already wear. And props to Chevrolet for taking the time to recognize dads’ increased role in taking responsibility for ensuring their kids get to where they need to go safely!

Are Good Dads Wimps? Fathers and Testosterone

This is from a recent New York Times article about an important new study: "Testosterone, that most male of hormones, takes a dive after a man becomes a parent. And the more he gets involved in caring for his children ... the lower his testosterone drops."

In other words, good dads are wimps.

I am kidding of course. We at NFI firmly believe that one of the most courageous, and therefore manly, things a guy can do is to take care of his children. The easy, and therefore wimpy, way is to not shoulder that responsibility and walk away. You may walk away with more testosterone coursing through your veins, but you are certainly much less of a man.

But what was more interesting to me about this new study was not necessarily the science of testosterone levels, but the interpretation of the results. Here are a few snippets from the story:
  • “The real take-home message,” said Peter Ellison, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard who was not involved in the study, is that “male parental care is important. It’s important enough that it’s actually shaped the physiology of men.”

  • “My hope would be that this kind of research has an impact on the American male. It would make them realize that we’re meant to be active fathers and participate in the care of our offspring.” (also from Peter Ellison; emphasis mine)

  • “But this should be viewed as, ‘Oh it’s great, women aren’t the only ones biologically adapted to be parents.’" (Lee Gettler, an anthropologist at Northwestern University and co-author of the study; emphasis mine)

  • Historically, the idea that men were out clubbing large animals and women were staying behind with babies has been largely discredited. The only way mothers could have highly needy offspring every couple of years is if they were getting help.” (also from Lee Gettler; emphasis mine)
I don't think I am overstating it when I say that these are truly remarkable statements about fatherhood.

First is the "who." The fact that academia is drawing these very strong conclusions about the necessity of fathers is a positive sign that our culture is getting closer and closer to giving a real "stamp of approval" to the irreplacability of fatherhood.

Since fatherhood (or so we thought until this study came out!) is largely "constructed" by the culture - in other words, dads get cues from the culture (not their bodies) about what they are supposed to do - it is critically important that the culture send clear messages about the importance of dads. If we expect good fathering, we are more likely to get it.

Second is the "what." As I stated above, we have largely believed that fatherhood is a cultural imperative - if the culture says we need good fathers, we get them. If the culture says fathers are not important, then we are less likely to get them. This is less true with moms, since their biology is so intimately tied with their having (pregnancy and childbirth) and caring for (breastfeeding, female hormones) their children.

But now, the gentlemen quoted above are suggesting that, much like motherhood, there is a clear biological imperative to fatherhood - that men's bodies "tell" them to be good dads. This is huge. We don't have to "make up" reasons for dads to get involved. Clearly there are tons of good ones; research has been abundantly clear that children are much better off when they have involved fathers.

But now that we can point to biology and say that dads are meant to be involved, and perhaps even more importantly, that moms are meant to have male help, the argument is all the stronger for it. At a time when 1 out of every 3 children in the country is growing up without their biological father in the home, we need all the help we can get to show that kids need their dads.

And there is nothing wimpy about that.

Addicted to Fathering Children? The Definition of a Feckless Father.

It’s so interesting when fatherhood stories like these hit the news: Is this Britain's most feckless father? People are shocked by stories like this, yet at the same time, many don’t think we have a “fatherhood crisis” in America, or other countries for that matter.



Clearly this guy could have benefited from some of our fatherhood skill-building resources! Perhaps his view of procreation would have taken a different path and he’d be more responsible to bring children into the world that he could actually have the time (and interest for that matter) to be involved with.



Even his mother is “sick” about his choices. Lorraine Cummings says about her son, “'I love Jamie and I love all of my grandchildren. But enough is enough. It is time for my son to stop fathering babies and start being a father.'



I can only image how difficult it is for this man to actually to be an involved, responsible, committed father. With 13 mothers of his children, he’s got quite a “harem” to attend to. Imagine the drama! And his poor kids –being a father is spelled T-I-M-E. And how much of that does this guy really have to give? I mean, he’s busy having his 15th baby with his 13th lover.



The article mentions, “He [Jaime] often spends Christmas day flitting between each of the women and will sometimes spend his money buying lavish gifts rather than buying food and clothes.” Talk about priorities out of order. Does this guy have a care in the world for the children he’s fathering?



From birthdays and holidays, to children’s school needs and a desire for their dad to be there to see them play sports, perform in a school play, or be at some other event they’re participating in, Jaime certainly can’t be there in a way that matters most to his children: time.



Every child deserves an involved, responsible, and committed father.



What are you doing to prepare young men to make responsible fathering decisions and equip them with attitudes and skills regarding marriage to the mother of their children?

Did Amy Winehouse have Two Daddies?

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?

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