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The Father Factor


4 Factors for Successful Father Involvement

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Are you looking to help the fathers you work with be more involved in their children's lives? Michael Lamb, who has conducted research on father involvement for many years, identified four factors that influence the level of a father's involvement. They are: social supports, skills and self-confidence, institutional/cultural factors, and motivation. 

Your organization can have a direct impact on the first three factors by using father-specific curricula, such as our 24/7 Dad™ program, to help dads build strong peer mentoring supports, improve their fathering skills, and give them the confidence in their ability to be a good dad. You can improve the institutional/cultural factors for dads by becoming a father-friendly organization in your community. A great way to do that is to assess your father-friendliness by using the Father-Friendly Check-Up™.

By addressing these first three factors in an intentional way, your organization will ultimately have a direct impact on each father's motivation to be an involved, responsible, and committed dad.

New Dads Really Do Affect Infant Behavior!

Dad with Infant Girl

Have you ever wondered how important father involvement is for infants?


I mean, does a two-month-old really notice the differences between a dad and a mom, and do those differences even matter?

Apparently, they do.

A new report from The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (April, 2012), found that “disengaged and remote interactions between fathers and their infants were found to predict externalising behavioural problems at the age of 1 year.”

Based on this finding, the researchers conclude that “these [disengaged] interactions may be critical factors to address, from a very early age in thechild’s life, and offer a potential opportunity for preventive intervention.” 

The key phrase there is “preventive intervention;” that is the “business” National Fatherhood Initiative is in. And we have been especially mindful of the need to provide hospitals and community-based organizations with the tools and skill-building materials they need to educate and inspire fathers in the earliest stages of a child’s life. More on that in a moment.

Regarding the research findings above, the researchers defined disengaged or remote interactions as ones “where a father is silent or not engaged with the infant.” I think all parents have been there. There are times when parents are caring for their baby out of obligation, but they are just not that into it --- they may be tired, stressed, or just in a bad mood. Amazingly, infants notice this! They sense the lack of interest and engagement, and it has an impact on them. Dads can be especially vulnerable to pulling the “silent treatment” when they are doing something they don’t want to do. But this research is another powerful reminder of just how important their active engagement is in their children’s lives, even when their children are infants. 

But how do you get fathers to the point where they know how to interact in an engaged fashion? Many of the dads you work with grew up in father-absent homes and have never seen a good dad in action. 

It starts with knowledge and confidence. When dads have those two tools at their disposal, their level of engagement with their infants skyrockets. 

NFI’s Doctor Dad™ workshops help build this confidence and knowledge by increasing fathers’ health literacy in the areas of infant and toddler health and safety. There are four workshops: The Well Child, The Sick Child, The Safe Child, and The Injured Child. Presented as 60-90 minute stand-alone workshops, or as supplemental sessions to your current fatherhood programming, Doctor Dad™ Workshops can be presented individually or as a series of four to cover all the areas of need your clients have.

Take it from me: When men feel like they know how to do something well, they do it with passion!  

Tell Us: What are you doing to address the health literacy of the dads you work with?


Help Us Reach Dads and Help Kids Through Texting

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Did you know that 25% of Americans access the Internet through their smartphones instead of a computer?  That means millions of dads are not accessing National Fatherhood Initiative's web-based resources.
We want to deliver our expert fathering advice directly into dads’ hands through a brand new text messaging campaign, but it will cost $2,750 to create and maintain the new platform.

As a reader of this blog, you know how important it is that children have involved, responsible, and committed fathers.  You also know that our resources are making a difference across the nation by helping men learn how to connect with their kids heart-to-heart.
Texting LDD graphWe're looking for 110 people to donate just $25 each by August 12 to help us raise funds needed to create this new tool to reach more dads who currently don’t have access to our information.  Not only that, but if you are part of that 25% of who prefers to use your phone instead of the computer, your donation will go towards a resource that you can use too!  

Will you be one of the 110?  Donate $25 (or more!) today.

Is Your Child a Match or a Torch?

match 0009 resized 600My son was sitting in his car seat as we drove home from day care at the end of a long day. He was holding his lunch bag in his hand. He always has to have something in this hand… Then, something about the lunch bag suddenly annoyed him, so he frantically threw it down, it landed on his legs, and he kicked vigorously to make sure it ended up on the floor of the car. Then he was quiet. We listened to music in silence for the rest of the 15-minute drive home.

This happens a lot with Little Vinny. He is a bundle of emotions, needing only the slightest prompt for him to erupt into an emotional – happy, sad, angry, annoyed – storm for the next… 5 seconds.

Yes, it is true. My son has the shortest emotional outbursts I have ever seen in a human being. He is a “match.” Doesn’t take much to light it, it burns bright and hot for a few seconds, and then it is out, with little sign that anything ever happened.

I have only had one two-year-old son in my life, and I have never spent more than a few minutes with any other two-year-old, so I am certainly not an expert on toddler temperaments. But my guess is that there are lots of two-year-olds like mine.

But I have also heard stories of two-year-olds who are not matches, but “torches.” They are not set off too easily, but when they are, they burn for a long time. They stew and fuss and are moody and unbearable for minutes or hours.

I am not sure what is “better,” a match or a torch. The good thing about my son is that he rarely is in a bad mood for more than a few minutes. But he can go from being in a good mood to a bad mood so quickly and for the silliest reasons. On the other hand, he can go from bad mood to good mood quickly, too.6910flaming torch

A torch on the other hand would be “easier” in that his or her moods would be more stable. No emotional roller coasters from minute to minute. “Oh, Johnny is in a good mood today. Great.” At our house, it’s, “Vinny is in a good mood right now. Great.” But with torches, I would imagine it could be stressful to know that your child is in “one of his moods” that may last for hours. We never have that problem with Vinny.

What is your child – a match or a torch? What do you think is easier to handle for parents?

The Father Factor Blog

Parenting is Still a Code Word for "Mothering"

This post was authored by Chris Brown, NFI's Executive Vice President.

I’ve been involved in promoting involved, responsible, committed fatherhood for more than a decade in my role at NFI (and for several years prior to that with the Texas Department of State Health). Although I’ve seen a lot of movement in this country in general and among service providers specifically to recognize the indispensable role fathers play in raising healthy children, I am still amazed when I see evidence of how much more work we still have to do to help people realize that we must "call out" dads specifically rather than simply as part of the monolithic group of parents.

I am even more amazed when I see that some of the most well-known icons in our culture treat dads as second-class parents and, worse, incompetent parents as you might have read recently in this blog about the dad-bashing Huggies® commercials that were revised by the company only after backlash from dads and NFI. But I digress.

One of the most successful parenting programs in the world is called Triple-P Positive Parenting®. Developed by a group of researchers in Australia more than 30 years ago, the program has ample evidence that it helps parents to be, well, better parents. Based on this evidence, the program has expanded across the globe with offices in several countries that are dedicated to spreading the program in those domestic markets. Only recently, however, has the program been examined for separate affects on mothers and fathers, and this is where the story becomes interesting.

Researchers in Australia published a study in a recent edition of the American journal, Fathering, that found that Triple-P is—surprise, surprise—more effective with mothers than fathers. This study of nearly 5,000 parents who participated in the program found a large, positive effect on mothers’ parenting and a much smaller albeit positive effect on fathers’ parenting.

What struck me most, however, was the following finding: only 14 percent of the participating parents were fathers. The real problem here is not so much with the program or its impact—although I would certainly like to see it have the same degree of impact on fathers—it is with the lack of outreach and promotion to get fathers in the door. The Australian government spent more than $5 million to train facilitators in the program to, basically, train moms under the illusion that it would reach both sets of parents.

To be fair, the study found that even when the dad didn’t participate and the mom did, the program reduced the conflict between the couple which, no doubt, improved their parenting. And I have no doubt that the facilitators and the organizations they work for made some attempt to recruit dads into the program. But this is the same problem I see over and over again—a lack of commitment in our culture generally and among service providers specifically to call out dads as dads and not as parents.

Trust me when I say, “Parenting is a code word for ‘mothering.’” Until recently, Parenting magazine's tagline was “What Matters to Moms” (they changed the tagline but not the emphasis on moms). The New York Times parenting blog is called Motherlode.

One of the best ways to make this call to dads is with marketing strategies and materials designed specifically to reach fathers about programs specifically designed for fathers, such as NFI’s 24/7 Dad™ program. Simply making parenting programs “father-friendly” won’t do. I realize that statement might make some folks wriggle in their chair and, perhaps, stand up and shake their finger in disapproval. But also trust me when I say that based on nearly 20 years experience in helping organizations to make this call that it makes a huge difference in showing dads they matter as first-class parents, that they are competent parents.

Dads absolutely appreciate a program that addresses their unique needs because it makes them a better parent. Moreover, it helps service providers to recruit and retain fathers in programs specifically designed to help them be better dads, which, ultimately, helps us to achieve our ultimate goal of improving the lives of children.

Isn’t that what parenting is all about?

The Father Factor Blog > Where Fatherhood Leaders Go To Learn.

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