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The Father Factor

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5 Tips for Committing and Recommitting to Fatherhood

At National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), we focus on helping fathers to be involved, responsible, and committed to their children and families. I've reflected a lot on that mantra over my more than 13 years at NFI. Most recently, I've wondered what is the relative importance of these characteristics of a great dad. 

commitment istockphotoI've realized that exercise is a bit of a fool's game because each one of them is critical to being a great dad. Their importance is like our need for food and water. We can't do without one and rely only on the other. Nevertheless, there is one characteristic that the other two depend upon if dads are to realize their full potential as fathers--commitment. Commitment drives involvement and responsibility. It's where good fathering begins. Great dads are "hatched" when they become truly committed to being involved and responsible in the lives of their children and--just as importantly--in their relationships with the mothers of their children. 

In The Dark Knight Rises, the last installment of the Batman trilogy starring Christian Bale, Bruce Wayne faces a commitment challenge. He (as Batman) is beaten almost to the point of death by a villain named Bane who takes control of Gotham City. After the beating, which left Wayne broken physically and spiritually, Bane sends Wayne to a subterranean prison in a foreign country that only one person has ever escaped from. Wayne faces a choice. He can wither away and die or recommit to becoming an even better Batman. He chooses the latter, of course. He first rebuilds his body to become even stronger than before. Then he faces a life-threatening challenge that is vital to escaping the prison. 

Escaping the prison requires a symbolic but very real leap of faith. For an inmate to escape, he must climb the circular, slippery wall of an open hole that leads to the surface. If an inmate gets to a certain point on the wall, he must jump across the hole and grab onto a small ledge on the other side and pull himself up. From there, it's a piece of cake. The standard approach is to tie a rope to the waist so that if in attempting to jump to the ledge the inmate falls short and falls, his fall is stopped by the rope. Wayne tries the jump several times with the rope tied to his waste. He fails each time. After he is challenged by a confidant in the prison to completely commit to the jump by not using the rope, he tries again and succeeds. 

Dads must be vigilant about their commitments to children and families because those commitments are constantly challenged. These challenges can arise in the form of work-life balance, the ups and downs of marriage, and personal struggles such as addictions. Life has a nasty way of constantly challenging dads to commit to their children and families. Dads who didn't plan to have children must do the right thing and commit to their children and the mothers of their children. These dads must rise up and take a leap of faith that they can become great dads, partners and husbands in the first place. In other cases, great dads lose their way and must, through a leap of faith, rise again as committed fathers. Dads must do this even in the absence of a safety net.   

Here are 5 tips for staying vigilant in your commitment to your children and family.
1) Create habits that put your commitment on auto pilot. Research shows that establishing habits is vital to behaving in consistent, healthy ways. Establish habits, such as eating regular meals with your children and mom, that achieve work-family balance. (For tips on work-family balance, click here.) 

2) Find another dad who will agree to be your "commitment partner" and you his. Schedule regular meetings in person or over the phone. Avoid using e-mail or texts if possible to keep these meetings as intimate as possible. Meet no less than once a month. Focus your discussions on what each of you have done to stay committed since your last meeting. Agree that if either of you spots a lack of commitment in the other to challenge that lack of commitment and develop a plan for getting back on track. 

3) Agree with the mother of your children to call out each other on a lack of commitment. Parenting is a team sport. Just as teammates call out each other when they're not pulling their weight on the field, you and mom must be willing to call each other out (in a respectful way) when either of you aren't fully committed. Applying this tip is one of the most difficult because it can push your and her buttons. Have an open posture and mind so you can receive her feedback without feeling threatened or resentful. 

4) Take advantage of NFI's free resources. Keep reading this blog, subscribe to NFI's Dad Email™, keep track of your child's growth and development using Countdown to Growing Up, and access our articles, podcasts, and other tools.

5) Get back on your feet when you stray. Realize that you will lose your way at some point in your fatherhood journey. How far you stray depends in part on how well you apply the previous tips. You'll have to step up, be a man, lick your wounds (getting help, if necessary, to heal them), and move on. 

Question: Have you strayed in your commitments? What do you need to do to become even more committed?

5 Questions Every Working Father Should Ask

Gone are the days where working fathers spent most of their time in the office. Today, there is increasing demand, both on the part of working fathers individually and on the part of society, to find more work-life balance.

The role of the working father is drastically changing, and it's important to assess your own thoughts and ideas for what you want as a working father.  

5 Questions Every Working Father Should Ask

In order to assess what you really want is a working father, here are five questions to ask yourself.  

1. What does work-life balance mean to me?

Work-life balance is different for everyone and the balance between work and your personal life will look different for you than it will for your friends and colleagues. It's important to assess what balance means to you, in terms of the hours that you work, where and how you work, the hours that you spend with your family and friends, and what the mix of the two is. Some people prefer to keep work and life completely separate, while others are okay with some overlap, and still others are okay with a lot of overlap. So, what does work-life balance look like to you?  

2. Do I know what my priorities are?

In order to find work-life balance and be the type of working father that you want to be, you need to sort out your priorities. At work, are you happy with your career level? Do you have ambitions to rise higher in the company? What specific steps will that entail and what sort of commitment are you making? How does your boss feel about the idea of work-life balance and is it something that you want to make a priority?  

At home, ask yourself questions about the time that you spend with your family and friends. Is it a priority for you to make all of your children's school events? Or to be home for dinner every night? Or is it more important to have your weekends free for family time? Essentially, you're doing an evaluation of your priorities to see if where you are spending your time is where you want to be spending your time.  

3. In my industry, what options are available to me?

Most people are surprised when they find out about the flexible work options available for them in their chosen profession. With advances in technology over the last decade, more people than ever are taking advantage of work flexibility options like working from home, working a flexible schedule, or even working part time. Do some research to determine what work-life balance options might exist in your industry.  

4. Does your current employer have any sort of flexible work options?

If you haven't checked in a while, now is a great time to look at your employee handbook or talk to HR about the possibilities open in your job. If you started a job before you had a family or other work-life balance needs, you may have overlooked these options, but they are often available. Check to see if telecommuting or flextime are supported, or if your company offers paid family leave for things like child and elder care. Basically, know your options.  

5. Can I make my job more flexible?

If you've done some research and found that there isn't a specific flexible work policy at your job, or you are unsure of the options available to you, you can always propose a flexible work arrangement to your boss. Think about the type of flexibility that would most help you reach your goals and priorities. Would you like to work from home some or all of the time? Or do you want the flexibility to come in earlier so that you can leave work earlier? Is it possible to work an alternative schedule that saves you from rush hour? There are many different types of flexibility to consider, so before you propose anything to your boss, make sure you know what you're asking for. The second key component to proposing a flexible work arrangement is to understand how this will impact your employer, and to emphasize all of the positive impacts--better productivity, fewer unexpected absences, and potentially even lower operating costs for them.  

If, after asking yourself these five questions, you realize that your current role or career is out of line with your priorities as a working father, you might have to make a difficult decision to find a new job or a new career. Career change for the sake of work-life balance is not uncommon these days, nor is requesting and being granted a more flexible work arrangement.

As a working father, you have a responsibility both to your employer and to your family to be honest about what it is that you want and how you're going to get it. Don't be afraid to ask these questions of yourself in the future, because re-evaluation as life changes is an excellent way to make sure that you are meeting your priorities as a working father.

Question: What's one thing that helps you better manage work and family life?

This post is from Sara Sutton Fell. Sara is the CEO and Founder of FlexJobs, an award-winning, innovative career website for telecommuting, flexible, freelance, and part-time job listings, and Founder of 1 Million for Work Flexibility, an initiative dedicated to promoting flexible work options for all. Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.

(Book Giveaway) Bad Dads of the Bible by Former NFI President Roland Warren

As the former President of NFI, current President and CEO of CareNet, the nation’s largest network of pregnancy resource centers, and a father who grew up in a fatherless home, Roland Warren has a unique and personal understanding of the challenges fathers face and the common mistakes they make.

In his new book, Bad Dads of the Bible: 8 Mistakes Every Good Dad Can Avoid, Warren shares eight stories of godly fathers making familiar yet costly mistakes and brings them into a contemporary setting so today’s dad can know how to avoid—or sometimes handle—these same mistakes. 

warrenrol author photo resized 600

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, more than 24 million children live apart from their biological fathers. With little to no preparation, many dads are consumed by worry of failing parenthood and sadly end up quitting. Bad Dads of the Bible equips dads by learning from the mistakes of others and offering encouragement and hope. Dads will learn key ways to communicate better with their children, deal with sibling rivalry and much more so they become the best dads they can be.

Can't view the above video? Click here.

Details for Bad Dads of the Bible 
Bad Dads of the Bible: 8 Mistakes Every Good Dad Can Avoid
By Roland Warren (9780310337164)
On Sale Date: January 28, 2014 
$11.95, 208 pages
The book is available for preorder today. Check out what people are already saying about the book by visiting the link above. Readers are saying this book is filled with "practical advice" and is "easy to read."  

About Roland
Roland C. Warren is the former President of the National Fatherhood Initiative and currently the President & CEO of CareNet, the nation’s largest network of pregnancy resource centers. He has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, CNN, Focus on the Family, Dateline NBC, BET, Fox News Channel, Janet Parshall's America and others speaking on issues of marriage and fatherhood. His writing has also appeared in numerous publications such as The Washington Post, Christianity Today, and The Wall Street Journal. He has served on the Fatherhood Task Force of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He lives in Maryland with his wife, Yvette; together they have 2 grown sons, Jamin and Justin.

Bad Dads of the Bible Synopsis
Eight mistakes of godly men of the Bible...and how you can become the father God intended...

Some of the most noted, celebrated and godly men in the Bible made some very big mistakes when it came to raising their children. Roland Warren calls these errors “bad dad” mistakes.

Bad Dads of the Bible examines these mistakes, brings them into a contemporary setting, and gives today’s dads much-needed advice on how to avoid them. Moreover, should a dad unfortunately make some of these common mistakes, this book will give him practical advice and an easy-to-follow roadmap to help him repair his relationships with his children before it’s too late.

As dads study the examples of the fatherhood legacies of men such as Abraham, David, and Eli—men who loved God deeply—they will learn from their missteps. More importantly, this book can serve as a clarion call for men to take action now to be the fathers that God designed them to be.

Each chapter includes Reflection, Correction, and Connection sections at the end to help dads easily apply what they have read, as well as a “Good Dad Promise” to pave the way for future good parenting decisions.

This book isn't just for the Christian dad, because the fatherhood principles a dad can learn from this book are timeless. 

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Endorsements for Bad Dads of the Bible
“As an eyewitness to the poverty and despair of millions in America and around the world, I can say with conviction that a remarkable proportion of the world's social problems can be traced to a single cause: the dysfunction of men as fathers, husbands and leaders. Roland Warren has a big idea in this book: help men become better fathers and we can not only change our country, we can change the world.”  Richard Stearns, President of World Vision US and author of UNFINISHED

"Bad Dads of the Bible is a fantastic book that takes a much needed look at key men in the Bible through the important lens of fatherhood. No doubt, this book will be helpful to many. Let's face it. To be a Kingdom Man, a father must avoid mistakes that can damage his children for generations. Bad Dads of the Bible is a practical guide that can help a father do just that." —Dr. Tony Evans, President, The Urban Alternative, Senior Pastor, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, Author-Kingdom Man: Every Man's Destiny, Every Woman's Dream

"Roland Warren has been an amazingly courageous crusader for Fatherhood in the midst of what some have called the Fatherless Generation. Now he has created a valuable resource focused on the reality of the men in scripture who were disasters when it came to being a Dad. Read this and follow his examples of bad Dads so you can become a good one.  If you know a less than wonderful father who has a difficult time seeing himself and where he could improve, this very insightful work just might do the trick." —Stephen Arterburn, Founder of New Life Ministries and Women of Faith, Best selling author of Every Man's Battle, The Seven Minute Marriage Solution and The Life Recovery Bible. 

“A great read. Roland Warren has 30 years working on “Dads”. He gives great insight on life with dads and life without dads. You will love the book but be appalled by the problems without dads. Pass the book on. Each of us can be a part of the solutions. Kudos to Roland for this eye-opener.” —Red McCombs, Owner, McCombs Enterprises, Co-Founder,  Clear Channel Communications, Former Owner - San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Vikings 

“In a society where dads are often absent either physically or emotionally, there are countless dads who want to be great fathers but just don’t know how. Roland Warren offers powerful insight to ALL fathers in his book, Bad Dads of the Bible: 8 Mistakes Every Good Dad Can Avoid, through the examples of dads in Scripture that didn’t always get it right. As dads everywhere learn about avoidable mistakes, they will celebrate having the insight they need to lead their homes as God intended.” —Alex Kendrick, writer and director  

“There are few men in our nation that are more tuned in to the present demands of fatherhood. Roland serves every dad with his keen insights from Scripture on how to avoid costly mistakes and instead build a godly legacy through rich relationships with our precious children.” —Brian Doyle, President, Iron Sharpens Iron

Bad Dads of the Bible Give-a-Way!
We're giving away 10 copies of Roland's new book. Be among the first to download the first chapter of Bad Dads of the Bible and you could win one of 10 copies for free. Once you download the first chapter, you will automatically be entered to win this book. Winners will be contacted by email.  


Question: Why would you like a copy of this book?

You Can Not Out-Exercise a Bad Diet

A few years back, I was beginning to notice a bit of weight-gain creeping in around my waistline. It wasn’t anything drastic, but as I neared my thirties, I was concerned that the steady buildup of poundage would be something that would continue unless I did something about it.

So, I decided to change my life. I purchased a gym membership, stepped up my home exercise routine, and made a vow to “get back into shape.”

And at no point did I even consider a change in my diet.

how to lose weight diet

This was unfortunate, considering just how unhealthy my food intake was. I’m not kidding; most of my meals were purchased through a drive-through window, and even the slightly less calorie-heavy meals I made at home were usually accompanied by a sugary soft drink. And yet, despite this, I was surprised and discouraged when the extra weight didn’t melt right off of my bones from the exercise. Sure, I was eating unhealthily, but the extra exercise was supposed take care of that. I’d binge on fast food, and then justify it by saying “I’ll make up for it in the gym tomorrow.”

How often have you heard this? The idea that exercise can somehow solve all of our health problems is one that has become incredibly prevalent in our society. Gyms, personal trainers, exercise equipment—all of these seem to exist based on the notion that as long as a person is active enough, then they’ll be able to consume whatever they want and still look trim and healthy.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually work that way. I want to make my point in no uncertain terms, and at the risk of oversimplifying, let me just say this: you can not out-exercise a poor diet.

Certainly there is a connection between exercise and weight loss. After all, weight gain is a result of caloric intake. Exercise, on the other hand, burns calories. So how is it that I can say that exercising can’t trump unhealthy eating habits? Well, because most people don’t have a very clear idea of exactly how many calories a large meal can supply, and how few are burned while exercising.

For example, let’s say that you eat a Whopper meal from Burger King (and don’t think that I’m picking on them; I’ve chosen this particular meal because it’s my personal favorite) with a medium-sized fries, and a medium vanilla shake for dessert. Finishing the whole thing will net you a staggering 1,844 calories. Ok, so you decide to do some intense exercise to make up for it. You hit the weights and start a vigorous lifting session. After 30 minutes of intense workout, you feel as though you’re about ready to collapse. And what about those calories you’re trying to burn away, are they taken care of? No, not really, because your vigorous weightlifting has only burned about 190 of them. That leaves you with 1,654 calories that aren’t going anywhere, and every meal is another chance to pile on a few thousand more.

No, if you really want to lose some weight and look better, you’re going to need to approach the problem from the other end. Studies suggest that one pound of fat is equal to approximately 3,500 calories. So, in order to lose weight, you’re going to have to start cutting those extra calories from your diet. By reducing your calorie consumption by as little as 500 per day, you’ll be able to lose weight at a rate of one pound per week. And although that may not sound like much, it’s better than the alternative.

Keeping track of calories, monitoring food intake, and avoiding foods that are high in fat and sugar are all necessary if you want to actually start seeing results along your waistline. Take it from me—I exercised like it was an obsession, but I didn’t begin to see noticeable results until I took responsibility for my eating habits. 

Working out is a wonderful thing. It can prolong your life, increase the health and efficiency of certain organs such as the heart and boost the immune system. (As always, consult a doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen. If you don't have one, find the best ones around you with a service like ZocDoc or Yelp. You can also find more helpful articles at Fatherhood.org/Fathers.) While exercise is extremely important, it simply won't make up for a bad diet. When it comes to weight loss, the real battle is one that occurs in the kitchen, not the gym.


This post is from 
Paisley Hansen. Paisley is a freelance writer and expert in health and fitness. When she isn’t writing she can usually be found reading a good book or hitting the gym. Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.

Have 20 Minutes? You Can Manage Your Work-Family Life

Be honest, with the New Year upon us, spending more time with family has crossed your mind. But how can you make your work folks and your family happy? Is that really possible?!

Are there people who actually live feeling confident that they are giving ample time to both? If they exist, are they delusional?! Let's talk, I have some suggestions for helping you get at managing work and family this year on beyond. I'm sure you will tell me in the comments whether I'm delusional or not!

workfamilybalancepic

I conducted some research on Facebook just the other day. I asked you, our fans:

What's your number one resolution for 2014 as parents? Is it related to one of the following: 

1) Health? 2) Money? 3) Other? 

I received many great responses...here are a few responses from loyal fans of NFI:

—"It's not quite a resolution but more of a dedication to spend quality time with each daughter in a mixture of both exercise and 1:1 conversation. The tricky bit will be the arrival of child 3 in May." 

—"The best parent I can be to my babies."

—"Be a good father."

—"My children are grown....but as a grandparent, my resolution is training my grandchild in the way she should go, so when she is old she will not depart from it."

—"Commitment to family"

—"...my resolution is family and friends...they need me..."

Here's the deal. I'm constantly battling that feeling of being too busy and yet regretting that I'm neglecting "the other side." When I'm at work, I'm thinking about my wife and daughters. When I'm home, I'm thinking about work. Am I alone?

This year, I've done something that is helping me feel like I have it togehter. I wrote How to Manage Your Work-Family Life in the Next 20 Minutes over at Manilla.com's blog if you want the full column. However, here's the cliff notes version for you...

Rule number one, use one calendar. Enough of this business of checking several different calendars. No more keeping a work calendar AND a personal calendar. One life, one calendar (Let's get #OLOC trending, y'all). I use my iPhone calendar and the Reminders app with daily tasks and deadlines for everything. Simple step one, right?

Next, think in big chunks first and then get more detailed with smaller, daily tasks. If you read our handy-dandy 7 Habits of a 24/7 Dad it was this: Put First Things First. Remember, big rocks then pebbles, then sand. If you put sand first, nothing gets in!

With this idea in mind, spend the next 20 minutes and schedule these items on your calendar. Doing so will help you feel more like you're managing your time: 

1) Schedule Annual Events (5 minutes)

Work: Think ahead a year in advance. Go ahead and carve out blocks of time for those things you know are going to take place. Here are a few examples: staff retreats, fiscal year-end stuff, vacation, holidays at your place of business. Add each of these items as repeating events to your calendar. You will thank me next year too!

Family: You're going to take some vacation or you'll lose it the time. So, put that on your calendar now. And work or travel items, add them. It helps me to think seasonally here. I have certain trips I like to make during certain times of the year. Fall leaves in the mountains? Yes, thank you, I'll have some of those! Check. More ideas: holidays with one side of the family? Get these things on your calendar. No surprises for you in 2014.

2) Schedule Monthly Events (5 minutes)

Work: Add any and all monthly reports. Add those to your calendar now. Tip: Also add as the prep time you need these meetings. No more last minute anxiety!

Family: I have a few ideas for this one: date night with your spouse. Put the event on repeat. Tip: how about buying concert tickets for 2014 now? Trust me, it’s more difficult to cancel a concert you and your spouse want to attend. You'll certainly find  childcare for a “big event.” Also note, the item is litterally on your calendar as "Date Night with my (your wife, not mine) wife" so you will feel bad if you manually replace said date night with something less meaningful.

3) Schedule Weekly Events (5 minutes)

Work: You know you have weekly “TPS reports” that must be finished by 9am on every Monday. Get it down on the calendar once and for all.

Family: Add “Family Night” to your calendar on a weekly basis. Maybe this is family dinner and playing Xbox 360 Kinnect. But the idea is to have it on your calendar. You don't forget what's important.

4) Schedule Daily Events (5 minutes)

Work: What tasks do you do every single day? From lunch to checking email. Add these 15 minutes blocks to your calendar. This includes personal breaks. Why? Your calendar shows up as “busy” when someone tries to schedule another meeting. You're "busy" because you're meeting with an important person: you!

Family: Here are a few things to add to your repeating daily reminders: I have “7 p.m.: Bath and read to my girls.” Yeah, I tend to multi-task bathtime. I have a captive audience at bathtime. For the Sanders Girls, bath time is when we learn all the fine literature that dad brings to the bathroom—wait—this came out wrong. But seriously, for those of you with younger kids, redeem the time! For us bathtime is a great time for me to indoctrinate my girls into the musical sounds of John Mayer and Johnny Cash. Okay, I've landed in the weeds, but only a little. You get my point, right? Add items to your calendar or your reminder app. This way, and this is strictly hypothethical, if a friend wants to play tennis late in the evening, I have to manually replace "bath and reading time for my precious girls" with "tennis time with friend." Guess what? Chances are pretty good that I will decide to play that match earlier in the evening or save it for the weekend. Here's the point: Your time is accounted for, you're intentional about how you use your time.

You'll notice having the above items on your calendar and in your tasks list has a unique way of showing what you value — for good or ill. You can’t control everything in life every day, but often, if you're paying attention, you can learn to manage your time.

What's one thing you do to help you feel like you're managing work and family? 

Celebrating 20 Years of Changing Fatherhood: John Thomas (Video)

Fatherhood Changes Everything… And We’ve Changed Fatherhood!

20 year fatherhood changes everything2014 is a special year for us at National Fatherhood Initiative. It marks our 20th year of working to “change fatherhood” by ending father absence and connecting fathers to their children, heart to heart.

To celebrate the fathers and families whose lives we’ve turned around, we are launching a series of videos, blog posts, photographs, and stories to highlight how our work has strengthened fatherhood since 1994.

At NFI, we truly believe that Fatherhood Changes Everything. From poverty, to crime, to school achievement, to child abuse – every issue we care about is affected by whether or not a child has an involved, responsible, and committed father in his life. So, we are convinced that when we connect a father to his child, heart to heart, lives change, communities change, and our entire nation is transformed.

Celebrating 20 years of fatherhood: John Thomas.

Since that is a lot to get your head around, we’ve made it a lot easier for you to understand NFI’s impact through the stories we will tell you throughout the year. Each story will show how NFI’s programs affect an individual life.

On that note, here is our first video of our “Fatherhood Changes Everything” series. Each of the videos in this series was created from the book “Choosing Fatherhood: America’s Second Chance,” a photography book created by Lewis Kostiner. Lewis spent years going around the country, photographing dads who were going through NFI’s programs at community-based organizations in their neighborhoods. The result was a compelling photo essay telling the stories of dads working hard to make their children’s lives better.

In this first video, we spotlight John Thomas (father of five), who attended an NFI workshop in his community to help himself be the best dad he could be. His powerful statement is a great reminder to dads, as we start off a new year, about the vital role we play in the lives of our children and our society.

 Can't view the video? Click here.

"There is a certain point in our lives where we really need to come to grips with who we really are. And, by doing that, I believe that we as men, globally, would then be better understood or begin to present ourselves in a fashion to where people would respect us more as being men and fathers. If we begin to encourage the things that the fathers are doing and not so much beat up on them with what they are not doing, I can guarantee encouraging a man releases some stressors in our lives that we will be more effective as men and fathers. So I encourage all men to come out—fathers, fathers-to-be, and men thinking about becoming a father. There is nothing like preparation now. Something may take place in a man's life, and they have a child. It wasn't planned, but they have a child or a seed. So let's get hold of the concept of what a father is. And if men marry into a family where a woman already has children, they know how to be a father." —John Thomas (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

How has fatherhood changed you? How have you changed the perception of fatherhood in your community? 

The Father Factor's 5 Most Popular Blog Posts in 2013

You have spoken by number of pageviews to our blog posts. 2013 has been a fun year. Thank you for reading our posts. We look forward to connecting with you in 2014. Happy New Year! Now, see our five most popular blog posts for 2013.

1) The Father Absence Crisis in America [Infographic]
There is a crisis in America. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America—one out of three—live without their biological father in the home. Consequently, there is a “father factor” in nearly all of the societal issues facing America today.

2) The Difference Between a Man and a Boy
You know the guy. He’s a friend of yours. Everyone knows the guy who’d rather play video games 24/7 and live in his parents’ basement. You know, the guy who takes the storyline behind his favorite board game a wee bit too seriously. Yeah, you know the guy, as do I. I think I’ve figured out what makes this guy different from the one not living in his parents’ basement.

3) 7 Things a Great Dad Knows
In hopes of making sure your goals are in check and you've considered everything you need to for your family, use the seven questions below to help you assess the needs of your family and be sure you're setting the right goals for the coming year.

4) 5 Father's Day Commercials that May Make You Shed Man Tears
Much like Chuck Norris, I don't cry. Every so often, around Father's Day-Month, I may or may not "shed man tears." But I don't cry—ever. Shedding man tears is something wholly other—yet emotionally significant. June is a tough month for we dads to watch commercials. It seems for a few days, the world stops and turns, then turns more and lands on fathers for a few hours before rotating to Fourth of July sales. While we dads like our Fourth of July sales too, hardly have Independence Day commercials made us cry, er, shed man tears, which is different, not crying, no.

5) 5 Ways to be a Horrible Dad
Let’s face it; connecting with your child is difficult. It’s much easier to be a horrible dad. NFI is here to help you be the best at being horrible. Here are five tried and true ways to be a horrible father to your children.

The “Tale of Two Fathers” Confirmed by New Study

I am having a hard time deciding how to respond to this report from the Associated Press on a new survey of fathers.

dad feeding baby bottle

One the one-hand, I am encouraged by the positive spin put on the survey’s results, as reflected in the headline, “Dads Do Diapers and More, Myth-Busting Survey Says.” Indeed, the nationally representative survey of American fathers shows they are more involved in their children’s lives than they were in 2002. Moreover, the report points out the many positive effects this increased involvement has on child well-being. 

Specifically, the AP report says:

The results are encouraging and important "because others have found the more involved dads are, the better the outcomes for their children," said researcher Jo Jones of the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control Prevention. She co-authored the report released Friday.

However, a part of me is discouraged by what I see as a glossing over of the elephant in the room. The story goes on to explain how “most” of the survey’s respondents lived with their kids. Ding, ding, ding! The alarm bells sounded in my head. I knew it was too good to be true. So, what are things like for the 24 million children who DON’T live in the same homes as their dads? Well, the AP report points out that, “Not surprisingly, men who didn't [live with their kids] were less involved with parenting activities.”

Right – that is not surprising. But the next line did surprise and disappoint me: “Even so, several times weekly, at least 1 in 5 still managed to help bathe, diaper, dress, eat or play with their kids.” I understand putting a positive spin on the news about dads who live with their kids. But to put a positive spin on that? In other words, 80 percent of dads who don’t live with their kids are NOT doing these things regularly.

This is not encouraging news for the state of fatherhood in America, and reflects the theme that NFI has been driving home for at least a decade – that it is the best of times and the worst of times for fatherhood in America. Essentially, this new survey does not tell us anything we don’t generally know already – fathers who live in the same homes as their children are more involved than ever, but there are also record numbers of children living in father-absent homes, and they generally have very limited contact with their fathers.

Putting the AP’s spin aside, this survey is why NFI is doing the work we are doing – providing community-based organizations around the country (such as military bases, prisons, Head Starts, etc), with the tools and training they need to help fathers connect with their children, regardless of their living arrangements. Moreover, we work to engage the culture around the importance of fathers in children’s lives so that we can start to rebuild a “culture of responsible fatherhood” that values the irreplaceable contributions fathers make to child well-being.

What do you think of the new survey’s results? Were you surprised by them?

image: iStockPhoto

5 Ways to Raise Disagreeable Children

One of my favorite authors is Malcolm Gladwell. If you're not familiar with his name, perhaps you've heard of his books. They include The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, and What the Dog Saw. His latest book is David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. What draws me to his work is his insane ability to see what most people miss when it comes to what makes people and organizations successful.  

raising childrenIn David and Goliath, Gladwell describes why underdogs win so often. (For a great summary of the insights in the book, read this interview of Gladwell.) Underdogs include, oddly enough, successful entrepreneurs. Why? Because entrepreneurs often succeed against formidable odds.  The typical entrepreneur fails many times before they succeed, and often take a lot of flack from family, friends, and society before they succeed.  

One of the characteristics of successful underdogs is that they have "desirable difficulties." In the case of entrepreneurs, it might surprise you to learn that a great number of them are dyslexic. Gladwell points out that dyslexic entrepreneurs often see their dyslexia as an advantage despite it difficulties. Overcoming dyslexia, they say, helped them to face the challenged inherent in starting and growing their businesses. They learned to see their dyslexia as a desirable difficulty, quite a difference from how most people see it. 

Another desirable difficulty of successful entrepreneurs is that they're usually "disagreeable." What Gladwell means is that they don't seek the social approval of others—they don't need anyone's approval to forge ahead in pursuit of their dreams. I am convinced that this insight has an important lesson for parents.  

As parents, we should cultivate disagreeableness in our children. Does that seem odd to you? It should given that most parents would bristle at the notion their children should be anything but agreeable. Disagreeableness is a characteristic that smacks of a child who is an embarrassment to their parents—a  child a parent can't control, a "problem child" that will act up in class, a teenager who will never find a date to the prom. Basically, every parent's worst nightmare.  

But do you want children who are captive to what others think of them and who won't pursue their dreams in spite of the difficulties they'll face? Exactly. Unless you cultivate disagreeableness, you might end up with children who are, dare I say it, wimps. Here are 5 things you can do to raise disagreeable children: 

1) Take every opportunity to ask your children what they think. Parents are so often enamored with their own thoughts that they fail to ask their children what their children think. As soon as their children ask a question, their parents blurt out an answer and think, "Wow! I'm so smart!" Instead, ask your children what they think are the answers to their own questions. Simply asking your children what they think sends a clear message that their views matter. This approach takes patience because children, especially young ones, don't always have an answer. If they don't have an answer, it's vital to ask them what they think before you answer. If they don't have an answer, throw out some possibilities for them to consider so that they come to their own conclusions. If they still don't have an answer—and an answer isn't an immediate need—tell them to think about it and come back to you with their answer.   

2) Encourage them to challenge you and their other parent. Tell your children that it's okay if they disagree with you, but that they must do so respectfully. Children who are comfortable with challenging their parents are more likely to be comfortable challenging others. Tell your children that they must respect your guidance for them if, ultimately, you can't come to a resolution that everyone agrees with.  

3) Create a safe environment for disagreement. Tell your children in clear terms that it is okay and safe for them to share views that are different from yours. When your children disagree, listen to what they have to say, let them say it, and then respond in a normal voice and calm manner. Watch your body language. Avoid harsh reactions even if you're surprised or shocked at their views. If you find your blood pressure rising, take a deep breath or two before you respond. 

4) Encourage your children to not worry about what others think. This advice doesn't mean that you teach your children that the views of others don't matter. You don't want to raise children who are insensitive and inconsiderate. It means that you should tell your children to listen to and respect others' views but that they should be comfortable in their own skin and stand behind their beliefs even when others don't approve. 

5) Encourage your children to pursue their dreams. While this might be obvious advice, it's easier said than done. Children often want to pursue interests their parents disapprove of. When your children want something for themselves that you don't necessarily want for them, you must let go of your expectations for their lives. Unmet expectations have a nasty way of damaging relationships. 

What's the most recent thing you've done to cultivate disagreeableness in your children?

image: iStockPhoto

Poverty Sucks—How Father Involvement Alleviates It

Poverty sucks. It places adults, families, and, saddest of all, children at risk for a host of poor outcomes. If you're at all familiar with the literature on father absence, you're well aware that children in father-absent homes are much more likely to grow up in poverty.  

poverty brain fatherhoodA recent study published in the journal Science sheds more light on just how much poverty sucks. The researchers concluded that poverty reduces the "cognitive bandwidth" poor people need to make the kinds of decisions and engage in the kinds of activities necessary to lift them out of poverty. Poverty's negative effects on the brains of poor people only adds to the burden imposed by a lack of money. The researchers noted that these negative effects are likely to include a negative effect on parenting in part because of the chronic stress created by living in a constant state of scarcity.

Chronic stress "short circuits" parenting. A child in a father-absent home is at a greater risk of being raised by a parent under chronic stress. This kind of stress—as opposed to situational stress—debilitates the body's natural response to stress. Just as a circuit that gets overloaded can no longer handle its normal function of allowing an electrical current to pass through it, parents who are under chronic stress become overloaded with the activities required of day-to-day survival, which leaves little or no time for the critical function of parenting their children. Parents who are under constant stress can react with "harsh, highly reactive parenting" or "disengage" from their parenting duties and "ignore" their children.  

Father involvement is a vital part of the solution to poverty and the chronic stress and poor parenting it creates. We know, from a macrolevel perspective, that communities with higher levels of father absence have higher levels of poverty. We also know, from a microlevel perspective—and common sense, that an involved father provides the human capital families need to perform the parenting functions that parents, children, and families need to avoid chronic stress and thrive.  

But it's not enough just to have fathers present in their children's lives. They must be involved, responsible, committed fathers. That's where the resources of National Fatherhood Initiative help. Whether you're a father looking for tips and guidance, you work in a community-based organization, correctional facility, or military installation that serves families and need an effective fatherhood program to facilitate, or a mother who wants to share fathering information with your husband or partner, we have the resources you need to be successful. Visit fatherhood.org and fathersource.org to get this help. 

When was the last time you thought about poverty's effects on parenting and children? What are you doing about it?

image: iStockPhoto

Different Faces of Fatherhood

This post is from Torrey Maldonado. Torrey is a teacher and author with a passion for Young Adult & Middle Grade literature. His debut novel is based on his and his students’ struggles with masculinity, their dads, and has inspired Fatherhood series by bloggers, book clubs and in schools. Visit him online at TorreyMaldonado.com. Follow Torrey on Twitter @torreymaldonado. Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines                             

My upbringing was similar to my dad’s.

As boys and tweens, we both were drowning, socially, academically—you name it. We both were on-course to becoming our dads. We both didn’t want that, but felt it was inevitable.

My father became his dad. I didn’t.

brooklynnycsubway

[image: iStockPhoto]

Today, I’m different than them, and my father told me before he died that he was proud of who I became.

Throughout my life, my father regularly disappeared. He routinely “disappeared” into jail. When he returned, he lived with us but “disappeared” into the streets, returned and “disappeared” into his bedroom. From daycare to my first gray hair, he consistently “disappeared” from doing fatherly things with my sisters and me. 

One song reminds me of him: Poppa was a Rolling Stone. He also was what people call a “hard rock”, usually tough-as-nails. Those are two more prominent memories of him: he either wasn’t around enough or came on too strong.

I’m describing my father, his father, and a lot of my friends’ fathers. If we toured my old neighborhood, you’d see the number of dads who “disappear” and who are “hard rocks” is so huge that if they sat on each other’s shoulders, a guy-ladder would tower into space. 

Is this way of being guys’ faults? Across the U.S. a stereotype of macho manliness is celebrated that puts down guys as effeminate if they’re open and affectionate. It’s not a current phenomenon; in 1963 Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons had a hit, Walk Like a Man. That song made “hard rock” manliness as stylish as it is today. Before that, music and other media stylized macho-manliness—cowboys in black-and-white movies, knights in fairy tales, and so on. For maybe centuries now, men have embraced a popularized masculinity while leaving women to be emotional caregivers.

I was born and raised in Brooklyn’s Red Hook projects. A timeless rule there and in other tough neighborhoods is that the strong survive. Being a “hard rock” and projecting strength isn’t just stylish—it’s a survival tactic. In the 1980s, males felt they needed hard bravados as a flood of drug-activity made Life magazine call us “The Crack Capital of America.” Our neighborhood still has a major drug problem, which means males still need to project strength to avoid surrounding violence.

On one hand, the ethos “Walk Like a Man” helps guys survive; on the other hand, that prompts us to shelve being emotional caregivers. That motto helps continue what I call “The Boy Crisis” (the widespread retarding of male development—socially, academically, and professionally—by discouraging males from being affectionate and showing all sides of ourselves).  

I survived "The Boy Crisis"; my father didn’t. 

My dad didn’t marry women he impregnated; I married one woman, then we planned our parenthood. 

My father disappeared—physically and emotionally—on his children; I have one child for whom I am very present.

My dad was a “hard rock” 24/7; I work hard to show my daughter my soft-side, scared-side, and all-sides. 

I love my father despite the conscious and unconscious hurt that came from his absence and stoniness. His few good sides show in things I do.

One factor that helped me steer in a different direction was “Uncles.”

My mom introduced me to men who weren’t blood-related, but helped me weather storms of limiting messages about manhood. 

These “Uncles” were unlike my dad.

They didn’t disappear. They let me sit with them for as long as I wanted, and I did—sometimes just to watch them interact with each other and the world.

On the corner, my Puerto Rican Uncle Danny had only four fingers on one hand from a Vietnam-injury. He had the strongest handshake and the gentlest heart. (My mom hoped I would pick up his gentleness.) 

At a local garage, my African American Uncles—Archie and Joe—modeled routines, wearing their work-uniforms even afterhours. (My mom hoped I would embrace their solid work ethic). 

At the cleaners, my mobster-sounding Italian Uncle Carmine described females with complete respect (My mom hoped I would absorb his pro-feminism.).

These “Uncles” were different from each other, yet similar. 

They shared a common belief about fathering: Dads shouldn’t withdraw from their children, even if they leave their child’s mother. They said to admire males on TV or from the street, but to ultimately be you. They gave me “change”—probably fifty cents one day, one dollar another—but, wow, the comics, candies, and things I bought! 

It all added up. Despite my dad disappearing, my community in crisis, and societal pressures to conform, each man gave me more than “change”—they gave me safe spaces and guidance for me to change.   

They presented different sides of manhood and added the best of themselves to the best my father could model and I eventually created a mosaic of masculinity from their examples.  These “Uncles” helped me transform from an academically and socially drowning boy to becoming a celebrated teacher, a published novelist, and a present husband and father.

As a boy, I once told my mom that I wanted to be like my uncles—all of them—White, Black, and Latino. She said I could. I wondered how.  

In time, I learned a man doesn’t have to be one-sided. That idea drives my fathering and threads through my novel, Secret Saturdays. That idea is what made my upbringing similar to my father’s, but not my outcome. Our boys could benefit from fathers but if their dads disappear or model what ultimately stifles their growth, then positive “Uncles” are a great tool to ensure boys become men and fathers with many good sides to show.

Father Facts are Pesky Things

We get a lot of inquiries here at NFI about “trends in fatherhood.” One of the most common “trends” people want to know about is the rising number of single fathers in the country. I hear this inquiry so often that I started to believe it was true, until I actually looked at the data.  

According to the US Census Bureau, 4.2 percent of children lived in “father only” homes in 2000. In 2012, that number dropped, yes dropped, to 3.96 percent. Not a huge drop, but a drop nonetheless.  

To put these numbers in even broader context, the percent of children who live with neither parent stands at 3.6 percent, virtually the same as those living with single dads. It’s interesting that I have never received an inquiry about the “huge” numbers of children living without their parents.  

As most people can probably guess, the number of single-mother homes still dwarfs the number of single-father homes—24.3 percent of children live in mother-only homes. The percent in 2000 was 22.4 percent. Yes, it is single-mother homes that have become more common in the last decade, not single-father homes.

Why am I pointing this out? Because it is critical that discussions about the family are based on facts, not impressions. We don’t have to guess about most of this stuff; we have good, free, abundant data at our fingertips.  

We often see the same thing happen when people are thinking about the impact of father absence. Does it make a difference? How can we really know for sure? Based on at least 30 years of research, father absence does make a difference. Take a look at this small sample of very persuasive data to get an idea of the great scholarship available on this topic.  

Moreover, it can indeed be dangerous if the media (or whoever) is creating news by manufacturing impressions that are not based on facts. Even I, someone who works in this field, was under the (false) impression that there has been a rise in single fatherhood. I mean, everyone is writing about it, right?! The fact that the real story is actually the opposite—that more children are living in single-mother homes, which are of course father-absent homes—is critical. We (NFI, our culture, you and I!) need to be focused on reducing father absence, not weaving fantastical tales about single dads.  

So, the next time I get a call asking me about the rise in single fatherhood, I'm going to burst someone’s bubble and tell him he should write about the rise in single motherhood (read: father absence) instead. I would then be happy to give him more facts, if he doesn't hang up on me. 

(Video) Film Students + 2 Odysseys = Surprise Film Fest #DadsDoingGood

This is the fifth video in the series featuring dads getting help from the 2014 Honda Odyssey as they "do good" around their communities. We call it #DadsDoingGood.   
honda, dads doing good, life of dad, whit honea

National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) and Life of Dad (LoD) partnered with Honda on the “Dads Doing Good” campaign, which features groups of dads "doing good" in their community.  

Here's a recap of each video by week:

Week 1 > Mobile Library > Watch as the dads load up the Odyssey with books and surprise preschool children.

Week 2 > Lemonade for Charity > A great example of how you, dad, can help educate and serve a much-needed cause in your community. The proceeds from the lemonade stand raised awareness for congenital heart defects.

Week 3 > Little League Surprise > Dads use the 2014 Honda Odyssey to remake a little league field by replacing the pitcher's mound, backstop, & batter's box with help from a contractor, coaches, & players.

Week 4 > Surfing SensationDads bring the Odyssey to the beach, where they help a volunteer group teach kids with cystic fibrosis how to surf. Watch as one child takes her first wave EVER!

Week 5 > The New Drive-In TheaterDads arrive at a film school and with help from two Odysseys, host an extraordinary movie screening to unveil the student films with popcorn, soda and the red-carpet treatment.

Watch the video from NFI's facebook page:

Can't view the video? Click here.

Please share this video using the hashtag #DadsDoingGood. Remember, an involved father changes everything.

Visit NFI's Dads Doing Good page for details and #DadsDoingGood on Facebook and Twitter. 

NFI and LoD partnered with Honda for this campaign. The Odysseys were returned to Honda after the videos—and all dads involved wept.

Father-Daughter Bonding: Fears, Myths and Reality

The following is a post from Hugh O. Smith. Hugh is a proud dad, freelance writer and executive at a New York City consulting firm. You can find his blog at hughosmith.com and on Twitter @hughosmith. Interested in blogging a father-son bonding article for us? Read our guest blog guidelines. 

At about 10:00pm on a cold February night I found out I was going to be a father. At 10:01pm, I was a wreck. My biggest concern wasn’t about bringing a baby into our small apartment, or how to pay for the endless procession of stuff a baby needs. It was that I might be a bad father. Every movie or talk show I’d seen with an out-of-control child came back to me in HD. 

Father playing with his happy and smiling baby daughterMy fears intensified a few months later when an ultrasound revealed we were expecting a healthy girl. I was happy she was healthy but the news brought with it a new dimension of worry. What did I know about girls? 

“Perhaps the father’s most difficult challenge today lies in being able to bond with his daughter,” says author Michael Gurian, in The Wonder of Girls.

I knew this all too well. As “only” a dad, could I compete with a mother’s natural bonding mechanisms? Built during pregnancy, this bond would intensify after birth, especially during breastfeeding. According to the New Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding, 2002 American Academy of Pediatrics, “This emotional bond is as vital as the nutritional benefit. Breastfeeding promotes a growing attachment that will continue to play an important role in your baby’s development for years to come.” 

One night as I lay awake my wife stirred as the baby moved and kicked. Instinctively, I placed my hand on her stomach and spoke to my daughter. Amazingly, her restless kicking and moving stopped. That night marked a turning point. I realized that I was far from being “only” the dad. There were things I could do, even at this early stage, to ensure there would be a bond between my daughter and I. It was a huge relief to realize I had only to be myself, love my daughter and the bond would take care of itself.

Bonding myth #1: You’re “only” the dad.

The reality: “A father’s love can make or break a girl,” says Mr. Gurian. A daunting statement made less so when you examine the research. According to Dr. Meg Meeker, author of Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters;

  • Girls who are close to their fathers exhibit less anxiety.
  • Girls with doting fathers are more assertive.
  • Girls with good fathers are less likely to flaunt themselves to seek male attention.

Myth busting strategy: Spend time with her. The proof of how important dads are is on your daughter’s ecstatic face when you return home after a long day and in her hugs when you tell her you love her.


Bonding myth #2:
You have to be perfect.

The reality: You don’t have to be a perfect parent in order to bond. There’ll be times when your child drives you crazy and it seems like you can’t do anything right. Step back and give yourself some breathing room. Realize this is a small blip in the vast radar screen of your lives together. After all, your parents weren’t perfect and you turned out fine.

Myth busting strategy: The intimidating job of parenting becomes easier once you realize mistakes are inevitable. Once I realized that it freed me to be the best father possible and not be so hard on myself.


Bonding myth #3:
I don’t have enough bonding time. Mom gets to stay home with the baby for months and I only get a couple of weeks. I can’t compete.

The reality: Moms and dads often bond on different timetables. While it’s true that the mother-child bond may be facilitated by breastfeeding and a greater amount of time together, the fact is the father-child bond is no less strong or relevant. Bonding takes effort and time, there’s no magic that speeds the process. 

Myth busting strategy: Don’t try to recreate the relationship your daughter has with mom. Dads bring a particular set of skills to the relationship. By creating daddy time early on, your daughter will recognize your unique gifts and come to love them. Walks and errands are great ways to get time alone and serve the dual purpose of giving mom a much-deserved break. Mundane tasks may seem, well, mundane but changing diapers or wiping her face (and yours) when the food goes flying is invaluable in the bonding process.

As dads, we don’t have mom’s soft touch or graceful finesse. We might not know how to make waffles just so, or soothe a boo-boo in mom’s magical way. Often, when we’re out with our daughters, socks are mismatched, colors clash and the hair…well let’s just say it’s good that afros are back in style. Still, a father’s love is no less beautiful. As a dad, I know that I am the most important man in my daughter’s life, her first love, guide, and protector. Our daughters need our strength and wisdom to help navigate the long-winding road from the little girl who squeals with delight when you throw her in the air, to the poised, confident woman she will become. If we support and love them unflinchingly, there is nothing our amazing girls cannot accomplish.

iStockPhoto

(Video) Dads Teach Kids How to Surf > #DadsDoingGood

This is the fourth video in the series featuring dads getting help from the 2014 Honda Odyssey as they "do good" around their communities. We call it #DadsDoingGood.   
honda dads doing good national fatherhood initiative

National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) and Life of Dad (LoD) partnered with Honda on the “Dads Doing Good” campaign, which features groups of dads "doing good" in their community.  

Here's a recap of the previous videos by week:

Week 1 > Mobile Library > Watch as the dads load up the Odyssey with books and surprise preschool children.

Week 2 > Lemonade for Charity > A great example of how you, dad, can help educate and serve a much-needed cause in your community. The proceeds from the lemonade stand raised awareness for congenital heart defects.

Week 3 > Little League Surprise > Dads use the 2014 Honda Odyssey to remake a little league field by replacing the pitcher's mound, backstop, & batter's box with help from a contractor, coaches, & players.

Week 4 > Surfing SensationDads bring the Odyssey to the beach, where they help a volunteer group teach kids with cystic fibrosis how to surf. Watch as one child takes her first wave EVER!

Watch the video from NFI's facebook page:

Can't view the video? Click here.

Please share this video using the hashtag #DadsDoingGood. Remember, an involved father changes everything.

Visit NFI's Dads Doing Good page for details and #DadsDoingGood on Facebook and Twitter. 

NFI and LoD partnered with Honda for this campaign. The Odysseys were returned to Honda after the videos—and all dads involved wept.

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