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The Father Factor


3 Popular Questions When Working With Fathers

At NFI we recieve many questions asking how organizations can better reach and help the fathers going through our fatherhood programs they run. The following are three popular - but tough - questions that are important to wrestle with as individuals and organizations seek to provide greater support to fathers and their respective families.

person stands thinking beside questionmarkHow do we reach dads that are not interested in being involved in their children's lives?

This is a question that we receive often.  It’s important to acknowledge on the front end that despite our best efforts, some dads will be very challenging to reach.  While many dads have a strong interest in their children, some fathers are apathetic towards their role.  The key in reaching these fathers is to not write them off, but to always make them feel welcome and to try to understand why they feel that way.  Also, discern whether someone else is in a better position to speak to them about the importance of their role.  Do not feel like you have to carry the burden alone.  And remember, it’s important not to divert too much time and energy away from the dads that are ready and willing to increase and improve their involvement with their children.  In an effort to connect with the hard to reach dads, we don’t want to lose sight of the ones that are showing an interest in their children. 

For more suggestions on Recruiting and Retaining Fathers, contact NFI’s Program Support Team.

describe the imageHow can I help a father who is having significant issues with the mother of his children?

This too is a great question.  There are several principles to keep in mind here.  First, it’s important to start small.  The common principle in paying off credit card debt is to pay off the smallest debt first and then work towards the larger debts.  The same principle applies to relationships.  Remember to first focus on the issues that you have the best chance of resolving.  Once you see success in those areas, mutual respect and confidence in the relationship will grow.  Then it becomes more likely that you’ll see success with the more significant and complex issues.  But, remember to coach the dads to focus on what they have contributed to the conflict, rather than on what “she” needs to do differently.  By taking greater ownership of the situation, dads will be putting themselves in the best possible position to reconcile with the mother of their children.

For more information on working with dads and moms on resolving conflicts, please download our Talking with Mom and Mom as Gateway workshops. 

man standing by question markWhat advice can I give a non-residential father who is trying to communicate with his children, but is not hearing anything back?

This is indeed a tough scenario.  First, it’s important for dads to separate their efforts from the results.  Certainly, the goal of communication is for it to be a two way street. But in some cases, letters and phone calls (and other means of communication) will go unanswered. The reasons why are as complex as the relationships themselves.  But here’s what dads need to remember: the more sincere and consistent communication you have with your children, the more likely you will eventually see results. This may take days, months, and even years.  It will be critical for dads to have a resolve to stay consistent in their communication efforts, even if they never hear back.  That will give dads the peace knowing that they did what they could to move beyond the past and heal their relationship.  NFI has heard many stories of reconciliation taking place after countless years of separation and silence.  You too can see that result!  Remember, two keys to reconciliation are owning what you did wrong and forgiving the other person for their mistakes. 

Want to help fathers connect with their children? Download NFI's "The Ultimate Guide to Connecting with Your Child"

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Help Us Give a Second Chance to Dads Like Marvin

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National Fatherhood Initiative is nearing the close of our fiscal year at the end of September.  We have a lot of exciting things planned for FY-2013 and we’re looking forward to bringing you more expert advice for dads, fatherhood perspectives on events in pop culture and the news, and practical resources to help you in your fathering journey.

But we can’t do this without your support.  We need to raise an additional $20,000 by the end of the month to enable us to activate the plans we have to change the lives of more dads and families next year. 

describe the imageMarvin Charles of Seattle, Washington, (pictured here with his wife, son, and father) is one of the dads whose life has been touched by National Fatherhood Initiative’s work.  His example as a role model and his commitment to helping others is impacting dads in his community who need a second chance.

Marvin’s story was captured by Lewis Kostiner, a photographer who traveled around the country at his own expense to meet dads who participated in NFI’s fathering programs through their local communities.  Mr. Kostiner’s photographs and the stories of these families are collected in an inspiring book, Choosing Fatherhood: America’s Second Chance.

Mr. Kostiner describes the role that Marvin plays in the lives of other dads and his own son:

Marvin Charles [...] spent most of his time keeping tabs on all the fathers and children in the National Fatherhood Initiative program whom he helped in his district. He picked them up and dropped them off and told them how to do this and how to do that. He never looked down on any of them, and his presence helped organize and prepare the children for their everyday journeys and, for the men, fatherhood. His clients struggled daily to survive, and he knew it. He did what he could to help them along. […] Marvin was a real community organizer, in the true sense. He was […] [there] to help kids and their dads. In his son's eyes, Marvin could easily have been elected Mayor of Seattle. Marvin carried his family's picture around with him all day long on his T-shirt, right in front of his heart.

Marvin and the dads he helps represent real-life families whose lives have been changed through NFI's work.  These "second chances" are possible because of the support of people just like you.  

Donate now and get a free book!Will you help us give a second chance to more families in the next year? 

Donate $100 or more today and we will send you a FREE copy of Choosing Fatherhood: America's Second Chance.

If you can't donate $100 or more, any amount will make a difference in helping us reach our goal for the fiscal year and start next year on the right foot!  Thanks for your support!

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Ryan O'Neal Not Alone as a "Lost" Father

In a depressing interview on The Today Show yesterday, actor Ryan O'Neal spilled his guts about the multitude of problems he's had with his children and with his romantic partner of many years, Farrah Fawcett.

In the interview, Matt Lauer listed the various problems O'Neal's four, now grown, children have had, and then the conversation went like this:

Lauer: "Were you a bad parent?"

O'Neal: "Looks like it... Sure looks like it... I suppose I was."

Lauer: "Why did you fail as a parent?"

O'Neal:"Well, I wasn't trained."

Lauer: "Nobody's trained."

O'Neal:"Nobody's trained, so I found out..."

First, I can't imagine how difficult it would be as a man in my later years (O'Neal is now 71) to have to face the fact that I was a failure as a father. After all, being a dad is the most important role a man will ever have (along with being a husband). If you fail at that, then, in many ways, your life is a failure. At least that is how I think I would feel.

So, I felt a mix of pity, pride, and anger at O'Neal as I watched him make this admission. Part of me felt terrible for the guy; what a tough thing to face. Part of me was "proud" of him for having the courage to make this admission publicly; it is a hard thing for a man to admit he failed at something, especially in public. But another part of me was screaming, "Why didn't you realize this 40 years ago when your kids were young and you still had a chance! It's too late now, you jerk!"

Second, there is much wisdom, but also an omission in Lauer's statement that "nobody's trained" to be a good father. While this is true (our own research shows that about half of men do not feel prepared to become fathers), it is also true that many sons learn how to be good fathers by watching their own dads. I don't know anything about O'Neal's father, but it would appear that O'Neal did not feel like he learned anything from him. He may not have been trained, but wasn't there the possibility he could have learned by watching? Apparently not... 

That said, O'Neal's experience should be a lesson to our culture -- we need to make sure we are doing more to prepare men to be good dads, especially in an era of mass father absence. One in three kids grows up without his or her father in the home. And they are not being "trained." What kinds of fathers do we expect boys to become? It's hard to be what you don't see. And what kinds of fathers will our girls decide they need to have for their children?

From that perspective, it is hard to be mad at the Ryan O'Neals of the world who grow up in a culture that de-emphasizes the importance of dads and then expects them to be good fathers. While he should certainly be held accountable for not being as responsible as he should have been, there is at least an explanation that provides context.

What did you feel when you watched O'Neal's interview?

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