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The Father Factor

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NFI Presents 2013 Military Fatherhood Award™ to RPC Patrick Mondragon

RPC Mondragon Chosen From Among Hundreds of Nominees to Receive Prestigious Annual Award for an Exemplary Military Dad

At a ceremony this morning at the Third Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) presented the 2013 Military Fatherhood Award™ to RPC Patrick Mondragon, US Navy.

rpc mondragon navyMondragon, a husband and father of two, had to act as a solo parent during his wife’s recent life-threatening health complications. During that time, he cared for his wife and children while continuing to fulfill his military duties. In a display of amazing work-family balance, he recorded over 20 videos of himself reading stories to his children so that they could see and hear him while he was onboard the USS Bunker Hill and forward deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

In addition to caring for his own family, he dedicates himself to supporting other military families. As a religious program specialist on his base, he counsels dads and families on handling the challenges of military life. He was also the United through Reading Program Coordinator on the USS Bunker Hill, helping hundreds of dads stay connected to their children while deployed.

One of RPC Mondragon’s fellow sailors said, “I am not surprised that RPC Mondragon was selected. He is absolutely the father, man, sailor, RPC of the year, every year, in my book. I wish him and his family the best and I am so proud to serve along side of Patrick in the sea services.”

Earlier this year, NFI received hundreds of nominations for the Military Fatherhood Award™ from the wives, children, friends, and colleagues of our nation’s military dads, and then narrowed them down to four exemplary finalists, including RPC Mondragon.

The four finalists’ families then submitted home videos of why they thought their dad should be the recipient of the award. From mid-April to mid-May, the public was able to choose the recipient of the award by visiting National Fatherhood Initiative’s Facebook page and casting their votes for their favorite of the four finalists.

In RPC Mondragon’s video, his wife, Violet, said, “Patrick is so deserving of this award, and I can’t think of anyone more qualified for the Military Fatherhood Award™.”

The three other finalists were Maj. Kevin Billups, U.S. Air Force; Ssgt Charlie Linville, U.S. Marine Corps; and Ssgt Jorge Roman, U.S. Army.

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Each year, the Military Fatherhood Award™ is given to a military dad who displays an ongoing commitment and dedication to his children, makes extraordinary efforts to father from a distance when deployed, successfully balances military and family life, and makes an effort to mentor other military fathers and/or military children who are separated from their fathers.

Several past Military Fatherhood Award™ recipients have been officially recognized by the White House. The 2012 awardee, 1st Lieutenant William Edwards of the U.S. Army, had lunch with President Obama and received his award at a “Champions of Change” event at the White House on June 13, 2012.

In addition to the award, NFI supports the U.S. Military as its #1 provider of fatherhood-specific resources. NFI has distributed nearly 300,000 fatherhood skill-building materials to bases all over the world for all five branches, and has trained family support services on how to deliver our numerous fatherhood curricula and programs.

The sponsors of the 2013 Military Fatherhood Award™ are Huggies®, Nissan USA, Acumen Solutions, Inc, Sandy Cove Ministries, and Boy Scouts of America.

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Phil Mickelson Skips US Open Practice for Daughter's Graduation

If you follow professional golf, you know the U.S. Open Championship is kind of a big deal. ESPN reports that Phil Mickelson skipped US Open practice to attend his daughter's eigth grade graduation.

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ESPN says:
Mickelson was not at Merion Golf Club on Tuesday preparing for the U.S. Open because he headed home to San Diego, where he will attend his daughter's eighth-grade graduation.

Mickelson arrived at Merion on Monday but was unable to get in much practice due to the severe weather conditions that twice caused United States Golf Association officials to close the course.

Mickelson was quoted in a statement released Tuesday he always planned to attend his daughter's graduation ceremony. But with the bad weather at Merion, he left early so he could practice at home.

Mickelson said in a statement:

  • I was scheduled to return to San Diego after my 2:30pm press conference Tuesday. I came back Monday...my daughter Amanda is speaking at her 8th grade graduation ceremony and I always planned on being here for that, but since it was raining so much Monday and we didn't know if we'd even be able to play a sloppy course, I came home last night to practice in great weather on my range and greens. I'll be ready to go Thursday.

The ceremony is scheduled to take place in the late afternoon Wednesday in California, and Mickelson plans to return to Merion (in Pennsylvania) sometime overnight. He has a 7:11 a.m. starting time on Thursday off the 11th tee (4:11 a.m. California time)

As CBSSports makes clear: say the graduation ends at 5 p.m. on Wednesday (8 p.m. in Pennsylvania) -- Mickelson will probably eat a cookie and drink some juice at the after-party and be out the door by 6:30 p.m. (9:30 p.m. in Pennsylvania). It's a 4 1/2-hour (or so) flight.

Even with a private jet, like I'm sure Mickelson has. He will hit the tee box like any sleepy dad would! To that we say, go Philly Mick, you're doing things #DadsWay!

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photo credit: zzazazz

3 Super Simple Ways to Support Fathers this Father's Day

As you can imagine, June is quite a special month for NFI. As we serve fathers, we thought we should remind you of three ways you can support our aim of creating better dads and give you extraordinary ideas for gifts. Here are three ways you can support fathers this Father's Day: 

1. Join NFI's Dads Club™
DadsClub RotatorWith a one-time $20 membership fee (Now through Father's Day—regularly $35), you get:

  • awesome set of Dads Club™ swag - including a set of men's grooming products from Dove® Men+Care™ 
  • connect with other Dads Club™ members who care about fatherhood.

Plus, your membership fee supports National Fatherhood Initiative's mission to create a world in which every child has a 24/7 Dad℠! Join now!

2. Donate in Honor of Dad for Father's Day
Give $25 or more between now and Father's Day and we will send you a customizable, framable certificate you can present to your dad! Donate now!

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3. Tweet Using #DadsWay Hashtag
Here is the easiest $1 you will ever donate to National Fatherhood Initiative. If you are on Twitter, every time you use the hashtag #dadsway, Tide/Downy will donate $1 to NFI. Talk about the dad in your life or share something unique about your dad. Dads, you can tweet about being a dad. We will make it even easier for you. Here is an example tweet:

  • For every tweet using #DadsWay @Tide & @Downy will donate $1 to National Fatherhood Initiative @thefatherfactor. Have at it!

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Just Be a Dad

This is a guest post by Clay Brizendine. Clay is a CPT, a personal and corporate trainer, father of two daughters and author of Shoebox Letters – Daughters to Dads. Follow Clay on the web and Twitter. Interested in guest blogging for NFI? Send us an email.

Screen Shot 2013 06 05 at 8.06.24 PMA good friend of mine, Kash Shaikh, is starting a movement called #besomebody. What is it? In his words, ‘whatever you want it to be.’ He’s starting to get good momentum, and as I see and hear more about it, it got me to thinking about the ways in which I want to #besomebody. One of the biggest? In my role as dad to my 2 daughters. In Shoebox Letters – Daughters to Dads, I point out nine key themes that can direct you to being the best dad you can be. The question is – how will you use these to #besomebody? Use Father’s Day as a time to reflect on what it means to you to be Dad.  

Love Unconditionally
I am very much a believer that strong foundations are what make the impossible possible. Loving your daughter unconditionally turns dreams to realities. It unlocks potential. It makes trying new things without fear-of-failure something that your daughter does rather than just thinking about. Loving unconditionally sets the strongest foundation for a unique bond between dad and daughter.  

Be Patient
How can any of us grow if we’re not stretched beyond what we’re capable of today? Patience is truly a virtue, and as a parent, it’s tested. It’s downright hard sometimes to be patient with your daughter when your job, others in your family, and other priorities all comingle. Patience is further tested when it’s hard to see an end in sight. But the bigger picture tells us to have faith, to be patient, and to recognize the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t as far away as we think.  

Be Mindful
Being your daughter’s dad is an art, not a science. With no manual, we test some things, see if they work, and then try again. Sometimes we work so hard over here… that we forget about what’s over there. Sometimes it’s by choice, and sometimes by accident. But in either case, as a dad, it’s our job to be mindful of our actions and the consequences that can come from them. 

Be Amazing
A dad is human. A dad is a person. You’re not just a dad. You have interests & hobbies, likes & dislikes. Some of those revolve around your daughter, and some of those were formed long before she came along. Letters in the book tell the stories of dads who played what is sometimes the hardest role to play as a dad – themselves. What came from that was… well, amazing.  

Be THE Example
Hundreds of books have argued over what the exact traits are of great leaders. Parents are the leaders of their family, and what has shown to be true through countless generations of these leaders is that setting the right example is critically important. Walking the talk, living your ideals, and recognizing that actions speak louder than words is a sure-fire way for you to have a profound influence on your daughter.  

Be There and Be Accountable
Themes that naturally arose from these letters – unconditional love, patience, being amazing, and setting the right examples – are all challenging enough for a dad. They’re even harder to do when dad isn’t around.  

Be Dependable
de·pend·a·ble. Adjective: Trustworthy and reliable. Synonyms: reliable – trustworthy – trusty – sure – certain – safe. Being dependable is more than just showing up… it’s being there when it counts to your daughter, creating a sense of security. When she can’t count on anything else, as will happen on occasion, she needs to know she can count on you.  

Be Their Hero
Being a hero to your daughter takes everything you have as a dad. But how would you know if you lived up to that billing? You’re on the right path if your daughter describes you like some of the ones from the book describe their dads.  

Love Forever
Love Unconditionally. Be Patient. Be Mindful. Be Amazing. Be THE Example. Be There and Be Accountable. Be Dependable. Be Their Hero. Why? So that when you’re gone, you can Love Forever.

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Special Rate for Dads Club™ Now Through Father's Day: $20!

 MADE POSSIBLE BY DOVE® MEN+CARE™" target="_blank">Join or Give the Gift of the Dads Club™ > MADE POSSIBLE BY DOVE® MEN+CARE

Are you proud to be a dad? Do you want to promote responsible fatherhood in society? Are you looking for a community of other committed dads? Then the Dads Club™ is the place for you!  

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With a one-time $20 (regular price is $35) membership fee, you get an awesome set of Dads Club™ "swag" - including a set of men's grooming products from Dove® Men+Care™ - and can connect with other Dads Club™ members who care about fatherhood. 

Plus, your membership fee supports National Fatherhood Initiative's mission to create a world in which every child has a 24/7 Dad℠!

Exclusive Dads Club Member Benefitsdescribe the image

  • Gift from Dove® Men+Care™ - the latest products from Dove® Men+Care™ provide superior grooming maintenance for men by caring for their skin, face and hair
  • Dads Club™ t-shirt - to proudly sport your commitment to fatherhood
  • Dads Club™ photo magnet - to hold a picture of your kids
  • A 5-pack set of NFI's Dad's Pocket Guide™ - pocket-sized advice for dads - share some with other dads you know!
  • "No Ifs" commitment band - to remind yourself that being there for your kids is an unconditional decision
  • Exclusive monthly e-newsletter for Dads Club™ members - featuring tips for dads, member spotlights, and special messages from Dove® Men+Care™!
  • NFI's twice-weekly Dad Email™ - practical tips, resources, and ideas for dads
Moms: Get the dad in your life the perfect Father's Day gift—you know he needs a new shirt and products to make him smell fresh!
 
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Treat Dad Like a Gentleman on Father's Day—Gifts from $19 to $500

“Being a man is a matter of age. Being a gentleman is a matter of choice.” —Edwin Louis Cole

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Don't know what to get dad this year?

Writing as a father myself, my family doesn't usually know what to get me either. But it's my fault, because I don't typically have anything I want—until now!

Dads, you can review this list and actually have something you want. Heck, after seeing these ideas, you may have several ideas to hint about for the next few holidays!

Moms and families wanting something special for dad? Check out our list for ideas to make this Father's Day special. But most importanly, treat the dad in your life like the gentleman he is.

We have your go-to list of great gift ideas. How do we know? Well, we're pretty much dad experts—at least as it involves to gifts we would like to receive!

Here are a few ideas to get you started making this Father's Day special. Most of the gifts mentioned below can be engraved and/or personalized and can be found at Red Envelope Gifts for Dads

I was sent the Leather Excursion Messenger Bag. I'll give you a review later—keep reading...

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First, know that Red Envelope has every dad-gentleman in your life covered—whether he's:

As I mentioned above, I recieved the Leather Excursion Bag a couple of weeks ago. I'm finding it to be a great bag for daily use. 

Excerpt from Red Envelope will make you want the bag: Inspired by wartime cavalry bags and map satchels, this everyday workhorse is crafted from the finest quality top-grain leather and develops a luxurious softness and patina over time. Pen, cell phone and wallet compartments keep the necessities in reach.

Allow me to share a few things that stood out about my experience with Red Envelope:

1. My gift was shipped very carefully and with a special, personalized letter.

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2. The smell of leather! When I opend the box to my new bag, the lovely smell of leather filled my office. I still smell manly after walking around with my bag for the last couple of weeks.

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3. The details and stitching are eye-catching.

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4. The bag has plenty of storage for everyday use.

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Some details on the bag:

  • crafted from soft, full-grain leather
  • antiqued bronze hardware
  • interior includes pen holders, 2 pockets large enough for a cell phone and a wallet
  • dust cover included
  • may be personalized with up to three characters
  • 50"L shoulder strap
  • 16 1/2" x 5 1/2" x 12"H
Whether a bag is on your list or not—be sure you treat the dad in your life like the gentleman he is—for these special and personalized gift ideas and many more—find Red Envelope on Twitter and Facebook.
 
 

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Disclosure: Red Envelope provided NFI with the bag and sponsored this post.

NFI and Life of Dad Present Fatherhood Movie of the Year Award™

"The Fatherhood Movie of the Year Award is given each year to the film that “best communicates the importance of involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood in children’s lives."

Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) May 31, 2013—At a ceremony yesterday at Ulysses S. Grant High School, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) and Life of Dad (LOD) presented the 2012 Fatherhood Movie of the Year Award™ to director Andy Fickman for his work on Parental Guidance.

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The public chose Parental Guidance -- via a contest on NFI’s Facebook page -- to receive the Award, which is given each year to the film that “best communicates the importance of involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood in children’s lives.”

NFI nominated Parental Guidance (directed by Fickman; starring Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei, and Tom Everett Scott) for its realistic depiction of the generational struggles of a pair of loving grandparents, for its positive portrayal of the importance of marriage, and for the important roles the father and grandfather play in their families’ lives.

On NFI’s blog, The Father Factor, Fickman said that the takeaway for dads from the film is twofold: “One is a reminder to dads that we do play a part, we do have a role, and that role never changes. It’s easy to say, let your mom handle that, but it’s important that we’re handling that as well,” said Fickman.

Fickman also said, “I think it’s also that we have different experiences that we are bringing to the table, and a child lucky enough to have both a mother and father can give them different pieces of wisdom.”

After accepting the Award, Fickman took questions from Grant High School students interested in pursuing careers in entertainment.

andyfickmanstudents resized 600Throughout the month of February, voters were able to watch the trailers of the four nominated films and vote for their favorite once per day through Oscar night. The contest is part of NFI's efforts to shine a light on cultural messages that highlight the unique and irreplaceable role that fathers play in their children's lives. Given the power of film in shaping public perceptions, NFI applauds the makers of Parental Guidance for their efforts in depicting fatherhood in a realistic, positive, and powerful way. NFI started the Fatherhood Movie of the Year™ contest in 2012, when Courageous was selected by the public as the winner for the 2011 movie year.

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This award ceremony also marks the first event hosted by the newly established partnership between Los Angeles-based Life of Dad and Washington, DC-based National Fatherhood Initiative. The organizations will help promote entertainment media productions to their large audiences of fathers, families, and family-serving organizations through events in Los Angeles and Washington, DC; social media promotions; and audio and video production.

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Embracing Fatherhood Within Addiction Recovery

This is a guest blog post by Jeff Spencer, M.Ed., ALC of IMPACT Family Counseling. Jeff works as the Fatherhood Coordinator and outpatient therapist. Before working at IMPACT he worked as addiction treatment counselor and case manager in an inpatient treatment facility. 

IMPACT fam counselingIMPACT Family Counseling, located in Birmingham Alabama, has the unique privilege of working with fathers in two area residential addiction treatment programs.  Clients in both programs are typically low-income individuals whose substance abuse problems greatly exacerbate the challenges of single parenting and economic instability. Family relationships in general have often been severely damaged by addiction-driven behaviors, contributing to a sense of guilt, shame, and discouragement.

24/7 Dad Handbook CoverIMPACT has been successfully working with addiction treatment clients and 24/7 Dad® since 2012, however, there is one main difficulty in working with this population: the danger of sending mixed messages about priorities. Treatment programs typically stress the importance on self-focus as a prerequisite of recovery.  (Alcoholics Anonymous calls this “keeping our side of the street clean”). While at the same time, fathers in our program are encouraged to prioritize their roles as fathers (which naturally incorporates an “others-focus”), which for many clients may be a new and overwhelming paradigm shift. 

Specifically, clients enrolled in our treatment programs are immersed in a recovery culture based largely on the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, a program that stresses the importance of consistency, honesty, and present-focused self-awareness as keys to recovery. We have found that drawing from these concepts as part of our fatherhood program allows group members to embrace their roles as fathers within the context of their recovery. 

In fact, we frequently reference the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous to strengthen the connection between participants’ roles as fathers and their recovery. In other words, becoming a better father does not happen as a result of, but rather as a part of their continued recovery. In teaching from the 24/7 Dad® curriculum, we highlight the fact that characteristics of the 24/7 Dad® begin with adequate self-care. I encourage my facilitators to read the Big Book (especially “Bill’s Story” and “How It Works”) to gain a better understanding of recovery concepts and how they relate to concepts presented in 24/7 Dad®.

We place heavy emphasis on the Fourth Step (a “fearless and searching inventory of ourselves”) during the co-parenting section of 24/7 Dad®. Using the fourth step in context of the practical methods presented in the curriculum helps to strengthens the concept of personal responsibility and empathy when relating to co-parents. 

In addition, exploration of family history in the 24/7 Dad® curriculum has been a beneficial concept for dads in recovery. Many clients have shared emotional stories of their own fathers’ absences due to addiction or other problems. This contributes not only to a better understanding of how these patterns repeated in their own lives, but helps clients to realize how breaking the cycle can benefit their own children. 

We also place heavy focus on the Getting Involved section in 24/7 Dad®. Discussions of practical ideas for becoming more involved seem to lessen the overwhelming prospect of reestablishing connections severed by drug addiction. Dads are challenged to complete Involvement Plans and reminded that even phone calls or letters can lead to stronger connections with their children. Family members of addicts become painfully familiar with the erratic nature of substance abuse. Constructing specific involvement plans and maintaining consistency, even in the smallest things, can help dads in recovery rebuild trust in their children.

The great news is that by using the concepts already presented in a program of recovery, along with integration of the 24/7 Dad® program, we are yielding positive results in participants' in recovery. Clients have reported renewed understanding about their roles as fathers and how consistency and self-awareness (both recovery concepts) can rebuild broken relationships with children. 

If you have further questions about IMPACT Family Counseling’s effective integration of 24/7 Dad®, please contact Jeff Spencer at JS@ImpactAL.org

What Kind of Dad Are You?

“He does not need a commanding officer; he needs a father.” —Faia Raige, Wife of Cypher Raige, Mom of Kitai Raige in the new film, After Earth.

At NFI, we often talk about discipline. It comes with the territory. It’s worth pointing out that “discipline” comes from the Latin word discipulus meaning “to teach; to guide.” Dads often mistake “discipline” for “punishment”, which means to “penalize” for doing something wrong. In the new film After Earth, we get a glimpse of what happens when a dad must learn how to connect with his son.

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In the film, under Cypher Raige’s (Will Smith) command is a young recruit named Kitai (Jaden Smith), a rebellious teen. Kitai is also Cypher's son, and the father is frustrated at what he thinks is a lack of discipline.  

Cypher's wife, Faia, urges Cypher to see Kitai's behavior as a plea for his father's love and attention. At her request, Cypher takes Kitai along with him on a mission, but an asteroid storm interrupts their course and a crash landing leaves teenage Kitai and his legendary father stuck on earth.  But “Earth” isn’t as you may think. This is Earth 1,000 years after cataclysmic events have forced humanity’s escape.  

This film forced us to think about what kind of fathers we are and what kind we should be. If we’re being honest, most dads think that discipline means “to control” rather than “to teach or to guide.”

As a result, we use fear when we punish. Our role as a dad is to be a model. Modeling is one of the most important ways we dads teach our children. Dads who say one thing but do another confuse their children because they don’t “walk the walk.” Dads, we must understand what kind of parent we are so we can make the correct adjustments. Chances are, you’ll fall into one of five fathering styles:

1. The Dictator.
This Dad is always strict and never nurtures. He leads with control and enforces rules with an iron hand. His children know what he doesn’t want them to do, but rarely what he wants them to do. This Dad says, “My way or the highway.”

2. The King.
This Dad is strict and nurtures when needed. He leads by example. His children know what he doesn’t want them to do, as well as what he wants them to do. This Dad says, “Let me show you the way.”

3. The Joker.
This Dad is never strict and rarely nurtures. He jokes a lot and makes fun of his children. His children don’t know what he doesn’t want them to do or what he wants them to do. This Dad says, “Let’s just have fun.”

4. The Follower.
This Dad is sometimes strict and sometimes nurtures. He lets Mom take the lead on discipline and backs her up when needed. His children know some of things he doesn’t want them to do and some of the things he does want them to do. This Dad says, “Do whatever Mom says.”

5. The Dreamer.
This Dad is never strict and never nurtures. He lets Mom take the lead on discipline and doesn’t get involved with it. His children don’t know what he wants them to do or what he doesn’t want them to do. This Dad says, “Whatever. Just leave me alone.”  

When considering which discipline style you most associate with, ask yourself, “Is this the best style for my children/my family/my involvement?”  

In After Earth, we see a glimpse of a “dictator” dad who learns to be a “king”. We are reminded that even if we aren’t perfect fathers, we can be better.  

Question: What style of discipline did your father use? What style do you use? Why? 

Visit NFI’s After Earth page for the trailer and more information. See the new film in theaters May 31.

25 Tips for Being a Great Dad

The following is a post from RPC Patrick Mondragon, US Navy, recipient of NFI's 2013 Military Fatherhood Award. Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

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  1. Try to eat dinner together as a family as often as possible. I always try to make sure that I’m home by dinner and we all eat together, almost always. There are occasions where I’ll have to work late, but we try not to make that a norm. And when we eat dinner, we turn off the television and spend good quality time talking about our days.
  2. Take at least one day off from work each month. Use this day to take and pick up your kids from school. You can also use the time while your kids are in school as a date-day for you and your wife. See a movie, have lunch together, go shopping, etc.
  3. Take at least one family vacation each year. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but more deliberate. Be faithful about this.
  4. Spend one-on-one time with your kids. Have a Father-Son day, or Father-Daughter day. Try to get each child one-on-one though. This allows you to learn more about your children, allows them to open up to you, and makes them feel special.
  5. Turn chores into family time. Let your kids help you wash your car, take them on errand trips to go pick up your dry cleaning or get groceries. Involve them in the process. 
  6. Get Outdoors. Do fun things outdoors. Take the family camping, go swimming, play sports or go for a bike ride.
  7. Make sure you deposit enough into the “family bank account.” I’m not talking about money, although that helps too. What I’m talking about is the emotional bank account. We all know that being in the military means deployments and time away from our families. This is what I call making a “withdrawal” because it takes away from the family. These withdrawals are often unavoidable and there is nothing we can do about them. We can, however, make plenty of deposits so that we don’t end up in the negative. By deposits, I mean spending quality time with the family, telling them you love them, leaving them sticky notes, taking your kids to school, spending quality time with your spouse. You never want to be in the negative, but rather the positive.
  8. Make time for your spouse. This is so important because if you and your spouse are not in sync and are not truly happy, your children will definitely notice. Don’t think you can keep it from them, they notice everything! They are so observant. It’s important to make investments for your spouse as well, and get quality time with your husband/wife. Have a mini vacation, attend a marriage enrichment retreat together, go away for the weekend and arrange for someone you know and trust to watch your children. This will pay dividends in your marriage and will keep the love alive.
  9. Give plenty of encouragement to your children. Assure them they are doing well, compliment them when they do something right, reward them when they deserve it. Make them feel special, appreciated and important. This also builds their sense of security and confidence.
  10. Laugh often. Tell funny jokes, tickle your kids, play fun games or sports. Don’t be so serious all the time. Of course, there is a time and place for everything, but by having a sense of humor and laughing often, you help your kids feel secure. This also helps them develop many things like sense of humor, gift of gab, public speaking and more.  
  11. Take your kids to work. Try this at least once. Let them visually see where you work and what you do. Give them a tour of your base, including your office. Introduce them to fellow employees. This helps your children understand what exactly it is that mommy or daddy does during the day.  
  12. Be involved. Know when your daughter has a report due, how they did at tennis practice, which of their friends made them upset or hurt their feelings that day, how they like their teacher, etc. Be active in their school.  
  13. Attend Important Events. Examples would be your kids Open House night, school field trip, back to school picnic, award ceremonies where they are recognized, first day of school, speech or spelling contest, school sport championships or big games. The list could go on, but I think you get the idea.  
  14. Read a bedtime story to your kids. Now I understand that there is a time limit for this, and you probably won’t be reading them bedtime stories after they are 11 or 12 years old. But when they are young this is so important. For one, it’s great bonding time. For two, it makes them feel special. Three, it’s a great way to end the evening and four, it develops their reading skills and can make them enjoy reading. As your kids grow older, instead of reading them books, you can spend 5-10 minutes talking with them before they go to bed. Lay in bed with them for a bit. Ask them about their day.     
  15. Learn together. Take your kids to museums, historical landmarks, nature centers, zoos and more. Make it a point to learn one or two new facts about something you didn’t know before.   
  16. Make videos for your kids. This is mainly for when you dads are deployed. Make a few recordings even before you leave on deployment. For example, if you know that you are going to be deployed over Christmas, or Easter, or your kids birthday, make a video recording for this special event ahead of time, and then you can have your wife play it for your kids at the appropriate time. Buy special books to match the occasion and you can read those books to them. Take advantage of the United Through Reading program while you are deployed. If you really want to get the full-circle effect, have your wife videotape the kids watching your video, and then send that back to you. Then you can see their reactions to your recordings. We did this when I was deployed on the ship, and it was so rewarding.  
  17. Tell your family you love them. Do this often! And don’t stop there by just telling them, SHOW THEM as well!  
  18. Randomly buy something for them. This is fun and they will love it. It doesn’t have to be something expensive. My son Adam loves paper airplanes and things that fly through the air. The other day while taking them to the Flying Leatherneck Museum at MCAS Miramar, I saw these cool flyers where you spin them in the air and watch them fly. They were only $3 each, so I got one for each child. My daughter loves flavored chapstick, so sometimes I’ll go to the store and pick out a few new fun flavors for her, like Dr. Pepper, or Orange Cream. She loves that. She also loves to write, so while at the Dollar Store, I found a journal and some cool pens, and brought those back for her. She loved that as well.   
  19. Read the "Five Love Languages" and "Five Love Languages for Kids".  These books are a great investment and help you learn the “language” of both your spouse and your kids. Everybody has a different love language.  What is your kids love language? As a matter of fact, most military Chaplains order these books, or can order them through the command supply system, and then you won’t even have to pay for them. I know that we keep several copies of this great book at my command.  
  20. Make fun traditions for your family. A few years back, I started this cool Christmas tradition in my family that was never done when I was little.  We call it the 25 days of Christmas activities. I make a Christmas activity calendar and have my kids help me. We pick out something to do every day from December 1st all the way up to Christmas Day. I like to incorporate activities and sight-seeing. Some of our favorites are making marshmallow snowmen, something I call the pillow surprise where I place a little present under their pillow, watch a Christmas movie with popcorn, hot cocoa by the fire, drive around looking at Christmas lights, listen to Christmas music while decorating the tree and more. This is so fun and our family really enjoys it. Another fun tradition we have is to have breakfast for dinner at least once per month. We will make waffles, bacon, pancakes with whip cream and all their favorite toppings, etc. Also, usually once a month we will let the kids each pick out what they want for dinner that night and will make it for them. My daughter loves sushi, so I’ll buy her some sushi. My son loves macaroni and cheese so I’ll make that for him.   
  21. Play board games. These are great family-time things. My kids love monopoly. We like to make popcorn or have cookies and milk while we sit around the living room. We’ll have like a mini indoor picnic while we play. I’ll even get out my iPhone and put on music so we can jam out while playing. They love to do this. Recently, we bought the Monopoly City WII game. That’s really fun.  
  22. Practice your faith. That old saying “A family that prays together, stays together” is still true today. Teach your kids how to pray, say grace before a meal, teach them about the bible. I realize this may not be for everyone, but for those who have a faith, practice it. What better way to build values in your children which they in turn will model for their future families some day.  
  23. Teach/Model Etiquette. I always make it a point to open the car door for my wife so that my kids can see what a gentleman should do. I also open the car door for my daughter Olivia, and then I tell her that a real man/gentlemen should do the same for her as well. I teach my son Adam by asking him to help me open the doors for my wife and daughter when we go to restaurants or to stores. Then both of them learn. We practice etiquette by asking one another politely to "please pass the salt or napkins". We have them each put their own plates in the sink, they ask to be excused from the table and they make sure that everyone has a napkin before we eat.   
  24. Let your kids plan out their day. Some weekends I’ll have both of my kids make a list of the top three things they want to do that day. Then we will compile the list, and start from the top. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive either. For example, the other weekend when we did this: my son Adam’s top three things were to draw together, play monopoly and go for a bike ride. My daughter Olivia’s was to play tag, watch a movie with popcorn and make homemade pizza for dinner. It was a busy but fun-packed day and we did all of those things. While I did this with the kids, my wife was able to go out and get a mani/pedi and have some nice “alone” time. This gave her a much-needed break and everyone had a good day. Then at the end, we all came together for dinner.   
  25. Plan surprise events. This is a great way to switch things up. Fortunately, we live in San Diego where there are tons of things to do and places to go. Every once in awhile, we will surprise our kids by taking them somewhere fun. When they wake up in the morning, we’ll tell them “hurry up and get ready, we are going to Sea World.” They get so excited and it makes for such a fun day.   

Well, that was my list of “Tips” for being a great dad, and how to maximize time with your family whenever you can. I hope you enjoyed reading these. Even more, my hope is that you might incorporate some of these things into your family routine. Take care and “GO GET EM DADS!

What would you add to this list?

President Obama Talks Fatherhood in Morehouse College Speech

"Be the best father you can be to your children. Because nothing is more important." —Barack Obama, President

President Barack Obama recently delivered the commencement address at Morehouse College and talked personally about fatherhood and family.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the commencement ceremony at Morehouse College

Here are excerpts from President Obama's speech: 

  • ...I sure wish I had had a father who was not only present, but involved. Didn’t know my dad. And so my whole life, I’ve tried to be for Michelle and my girls what my father was not for my mother and me. I want to break that cycle where a father is not at home -- where a father is not helping to raise that son or daughter. I want to be a better father, a better husband, a better man.
     
  • It’s hard work that demands your constant attention and frequent sacrifice. And I promise you, Michelle will tell you I’m not perfect. She’s got a long list of my imperfections. Even now, I’m still practicing, I'm still learning, still getting corrected in terms of how to be a fine husband and a good father. But I will tell you this: Everything else is unfulfilled if we fail at family, if we fail at that responsibility.
  • I know that when I am on my deathbed someday, I will not be thinking about any particular legislation I passed; I will not be thinking about a policy I promoted; I will not be thinking about the speech I gave, I will not be thinking the Nobel Prize I received. I will be thinking about that walk I took with my daughters. I'll be thinking about a lazy afternoon with my wife. I'll be thinking about sitting around the dinner table and seeing them happy and healthy and knowing that they were loved. And I'll be thinking about whether I did right by all of them.

Watch President Obama's full address and read President Obama's commencement speech transcript.

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Image credit: (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Google Doodle Literally Draws Attention to Fatherhood

Have you Googled anything today?! If you visit Google today, you'll notice a special drawing from a high school teen. The doodle is literally drawing attention to fatherhood!
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Sabrina Brady of Sparta, Wisc. was selected to be featured on Google for her doodle, “Coming Home.” 

Students in all 50 states doodled for the Google contest. This year’s theme was, “My Best Day Ever...” Sabrina’s doodle was picked because as Google says, "it tells the story of her reunion with her father as he returned from an 18 month deployment in Iraq. Her creative use of the Google letters to illustrate this heartfelt moment clearly resonated with voters across the country and all of us at Google."

Sabrina was awarded a $30,000 college scholarship and Google will also give her school a $50,000 technology grant. Congratulations, Sabrina...welcome home, dad...and nice work, Google! 

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Help Families in Oklahoma: Give to the Red Cross Now

"...As a father it's humbling...it's heartbreaking...to know that we still may have kids over there that's possibly alive..." —Volunteer with search & rescue post-tornado last night

Our thoughts and prayers are and will continue to be with the families involved in this storm. Please take time to help to the people of Oklahoma. Below are a couple of videos from CNN.com that tell the story on the ground in Oklahoma. Please consider giving to the Red Cross—they are on the ground now helping Oklahoma with food, shelter and support [details below.] 

Can see the video? Visit CNN.com for more details.

This video from CNN.com shows moments after the storm in Moore, Oklahoma...

The American Red Cross issued this statement following the tornado in Oklahoma yesterday afternoon, excerpts below: 

People in Oklahoma near the tornado area are encouraged to connect with one another and let loved ones know that they are safe. This can be done through the I’m Safe feature of the free Red Cross tornado app. In addition, if you have access to a computer, go to redcross.org/safeandwell to list yourself as safe. If not, you can text loved ones or call a family member and ask them to register you on the site.

This has been a major disaster, and the Red Cross will be there for the people in this state and this community. People who wish to make a donation can support American Red Cross Disaster Relief, which helps provide food, shelter and emotional support to those affected by disasters like the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma and Texas as well as disasters big and small throughout the United States by visiting redcross.org, dialing 1-800-REDCROSS or texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

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New Father-Son Adventure: "After Earth" Opens May 31

"Danger is real. Fear is a choice." —Cyper Raige (Will Smith), father in After Earth

after earth danger is real fear is a choice will smith jaden smith

National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) is proud to support the upcoming father-son adventure, After Earth, opening May 31. 

A crash landing leaves teenager Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith) and his legendary father Cypher (Will Smith) stranded on Earth, 1,000 years after cataclysmic events forced humanity’s escape. With Cypher critically injured, Kitai must embark on a perilous journey to signal for help.

Facing uncharted terrain, evolved animal species that now rule the planet, and an unstoppable alien creature that escaped during the crash, father and son must learn to work together and trust one another if they want any chance of returning home. 

Although the film is set in a future world filled with evolved creatures and alien enemies, at its core is the relationship between a father and son whose bond has been strained by past trauma.

The film is set at that inevitable time when a father has to let his child go, and watch them live out the lessons they’ve been taught.

Fathers will leave the theater with a better understanding of the pressures of being a son, and sons will empathize with just how trying it can be for a parent to watch their child come of age. Stay tuned to our After Earth page for more details on the upcoming film.


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When Dad's in Jail—He's Still Dad: NFI Connects Father to Family

“I never had my dad or nobody tell me they were proud of me until this program..." —William Jones, recent graduate of NFI's InsideOut Dad, the skill-building program for incarcerated fathers. 

At National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), we often speak of our two approaches to engaging society about fatherhood. 1) Top-down: through communications campaigns and social media and 2) Bottom-up: our "boots on the ground" -- our work with community-based organizations and other civic partners to train and equip leaders to better serve the fathers in their communities.

One such example is our work in jails and prisons. The Richmond Times-Dispatch recently featured a program that's impacting the capital city of Virginia. The city jail uses our InsideOut Dad material that helps prisoners to be better dads. Read the following story; it shows what we really do.  

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“The goal is to get everybody to communicate with their kids, to relearn some parenting skills you never knew you had,” Fries said. At the completion ceremony, the men shared how the program affected them. Below are excerpts from the news article:

  • Ronnell Glasgow, 26, said he grew up without his father in his life and was repeating that pattern with his own children, daughters ages 7 and 9.
  • Glasgow is behind bars at the Richmond City Jail, but even when he was out he said he thought giving them material things was enough.
  • Just weeks into a fatherhood skills training program at the jail, Glasgow said he had reached out to his own emotionally distant father and was communicating more with his daughters, who he said are no longer shy around him.
  • “I understand the importance of not having a father,” Glasgow said, adding that with his own father he was “building a relationship as a father and a man.”
  • One man described having a 15-minute telephone conversation with his daughter, who he rarely spoke to before. 
  • Another described overcoming fear of rejection and reaching out to an adult daughter and his surprise at her welcoming response. 
  • Another talked about writing to his 6-year-old son and getting a reply.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that one recent graduate said after the program, “Being there for my kids is better than any gift,” said William Jones, 22, father of four children. Jones is in jail on a probation violation and plans to enter an addiction-treatment program when he is released.

A new 12-week session of InsideOut Dad at the Richmond City jail starts tomorrow (Tuesday). What's the prison nearest you doing to teach fathers the skills they need to be better dads?

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Image: [Daniel Sangjib Min/TIMES-DISPATCH] Dennis Fries (left) an instructor for the InsideOut Dad program, gets a hug from William Jones, a participant in the class who wants better relationships with his four children.

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