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7 Tips for being a Great Dad—Even After January!

If you've been with us since the beginning of the year, you know we've provided readers with tips and tools for being the best dad in 2013! Now that "New Year, New Dad!" is coming to an end, we give you a few ideas to keep your goals this year! Here are seven tips for being a great dad, even after January!

NewYearNewDad banner

1) A Great Dad Stays Focused
When you are at work, remember your goals you identified for what you want to improve in your family this year. By staying focused at work, you can begin to minimize time away from your family. Part of being focused is being in the moment and not being distracted. Determined for yourself that this is the year you keep work at work and when you come home, you keep working! By remembering your goals at home, you will be eager to work on them when you return. 

2) A Great Dad Finds an Ally
Whether it's sharing with your spouse, ex-spouse, or another dad; be intentional about discussing your goals and any progress toward the finish line. By sharing what you want to work on, you can hold each other accountable. 

3) A Great Dad is a Role Model
Pay attention to what you say and how you act around your children, even if you aren't directly talking to them. By being a good role model, you are teaching them how men should act and how they are to take care of their family. For dads with daughters, you are modeling, for good or for ill, how every other man should treat your daughter. 

4) A Great Dad Makes Meals Important
Whether it is breakfast or dinner, sit down to eat at the table with your family and focus on connecting as a family. We know from countless research, but we also know from our own families, that there simply isn't a better time to connect as a family. It's a built-in time if we are intentional and use it as such. 

5) A Great Dad Earns the Right to Be Heard
Take time to listen to your children's ideas and problems. Try to keep from answering questions and allow your kids to open up to you. The more you do this, the more you will learn about your family.

6) A Great Dad is a Teacher
Your child will look to you for guidance and direction. Take some time to teach your children about something you care about, either a topic you are intrested in or something they bring up. Use something from what they are already learning about in school as something you can use to expereince with your child. This will not only form a bond with you and your child, but will also peak your son or daughter's interest in a given subject. For example, as hard as it might be, don't sleep in on Saturday morning, but head to a museum wear you can be a part of making a school textbook come to life.

7) A Great Dad Disciplines with Love
One of a father's most important roles is to discipline his children. Discipline is about teaching and setting reasonable limits. Remind your children that there are consequences for their actions. Remember to affirm their good behavior, too!

What would you add to this list?

We hope you've enjoyed our "New Year, New Dad!" campaign. These are just a few of the tips we'll continue helping you with in the coming year, stay tuned for more tips and tools this year to help you be the best dad you can be in 2013!

Do Fathers Have a Role in Gun Control?

This is a guest post by Jason Bruce. If you are interested in writing for us, send an email.

toypistol smallAre boys obsessed with weapons? Is your home a toy gun-free home? I’ll be first to admit that I’m a toy-weapon tolerant dad. I allow my son to play with toy guns and swords. Boys naturally like to play with toy weapons and there’s nothing wrong with acting out make-believe combat with toy guns and swords.

I grew up without toy weapons at home. My solution was to make my own weapons. I made cardboard machine guns and grenade launchers like a young Sylvester Stallone in Rambo. I made Samurai swords out of tree branches and any L-shape object became a hand gun including my baby sister’s Barbie dolls.

Many parents forbid their children from playing with toys guns. Many view toy weapons as corruptors of children, exposing them to aggressive and violent behaviors and reinforcing gender stereotypes.

The tragic event in Newtown, CT put the debate on gun control in the spotlight again and many parents followed suit imposing their own toy gun control and zero-tolerance policies in their households. But is this the right response to the issue of violence? Should parents keep their sons away from toy weapons and impose a weapon-free zone at home? Should zero-tolerance policies be extended to playgrounds, schools and other public venues?

Boys naturally gravitate toward weaponry not because of their desire to kill or hurt another human being but because of their desire to be heroes. Boys have a natural willingness to do great things, be adventurous and to be rescuers. They need to feel like heroic warriors and toy weapons help bring out their imagination and act out their fantasies. It is one way boys are molded to be mature courageous men.

Play is play and violence is violence. What’s essential is that fathers educate their sons to understand and differentiate the two in their playtime. Their make-believe games are opportunities to teach boys to distinguish between what’s right and wrong and what’s good and evil. Penny Holland, author of "We Don't Play with Guns Here," says toy weapons were "part of...making sense of the world (imitating) timeless themes of the struggle between good and evil."

Parents should recognize and respect what young boys are dreaming to be and experiencing in their play. Fathers were once young boys too and played fierce battles with evil monsters and alien invaders. We usually grow up wanting to be heroes.

Sometimes I wish my son would simply pretend he’s a magician or a race car driver; but right now he wants to be a gun-trotting Pirate and Captain America. All a weapons-tolerant dad like me can do is to play along with my imaginary laser gun and light saber and model to him the right and honorable way to save the day.

Do you let your child play with toy weapons? Why or why not?

Connect with The Father Factor by RSSFacebook and on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

Jason is a blogger and social media specialist for the Colson Center. He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and two kids. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonBruce) and visit his blog The Living Rice.

photo credit: AbrilSicairos

How to Set (and Keep) Your Goals in 3 Simple Steps

We’re a few days into the new year... How are you doing with those new year’s resolutions? Did you decide you wanted to lose weight, eat better, get organized, save money, read and exercise more? I hate to break it to you, but your resolutions probably won’t stick… unless you follow the three simple steps below to help you set and keep your goals.

  • “A goal without a plan is just a dream.” —Smart Person
  • “The difference between a goal and a dream is a deadline.” –Another Smart Person

setting goals

I am a planner. Whether it’s my wiring or something else, I am prone to plan. I like knowing what I’m doing and what I’m going to do. I create my shopping list based on the aisle order in my local grocery store. I know that the bakery is close to the door and dairy is in the back; so at the top of my list is bakery items and at the bottom is dairy. In short, I REALLY plan my trip for groceries! Also, if I’m walking in aisle two and find an item I left off of my list, I place the item in the basket then type that item into my iPhone checklist just so I can place a checkmark on it. Plans make me comfy. It’s an issue I’m dealing with.

However, as in most blog posts I write, I have a confession to make: while I have been a planner for as long as I can remember, I haven’t always been great at sticking to the plans I make. In my experience and especially as a parent, I truly believe that unless we live with a plan, we will not live on purpose. Are you like me? Do you plan but sometimes fall through on the action part? 

Here are the three steps necessary for setting and keeping your goals:

1. Resolve to Take Small, Specific Steps.
Understand that you can’t do everything at once. There’s a saying, “if you chase two rabbits, you’ll end up hungry.” Your path to becoming a new and better person is taking small steps at a time, not giant leaps. 

If you want to lose 50 pounds by running. You don't run for a week and then wonder why you haven’t already lost 50 pounds. Guess what? You lose 50 pounds by losing one pound 50 times. Bam!

I’ll never forget what a friend (who runs marathons) said after I told him I’d love to run as much as him. I was amazed at how much he ran daily. It was nothing for him to run 5 to 10 miles per day and on the weekends run 15 miles. In my amazement, I asked him curiously, “What’s your advice for someone like me, who has never run, to run like you?” His answer was simple yet profound, he replied, “Start walking.” He was right. I wasn’t going to get on a treadmill and run 10 miles if I’d never been on the treadmill and walked one mile.

The point here is to not create a long list of 10 or 20 goals. Stay focused on fewer goals, maybe between three and five of the most important goals. My advice is to not make so many goals that you can't easily remember them. You should definitely write your goals down, but if you have to work to memorize a list, you've probably made too many goals!

2. Resolve to Be SMART.
Being SMART has its requirements! I didn’t create this rule, but I have found this idea useful in the goal-setting process. Make your resolutions this year into SMART goals by following this idea:

  • Specific: Specific goals are more likely to be accomplished than general ones. Answer questions like who, what, when, and why at this step.
  • Measurable: “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Think about how you will know when the goal has been accomplished.
  • Actionable: Do your goals start with words like “write,” “quit,” “run,” and “finish”? If not, they are less likely to be accomplished.
  • Realistic: This may be the hardest step. If you’ve reached this point, you’re getting excited and you’re doing well at setting goals. With that, it’s easy to set your goals too high. Be very honest with yourself and consider what really can be attained.
  • Timely: Put a date at the end of each goal. Some goals may need to have December 31st on them, but even with those goals, consider breaking them into smaller steps and adding a shorter time period to them.

3. Resolve to Go Public.
I admit this isn’t the easiest step—depending on the goal you’ve set. But something happens when you tell the people closest to you about a goal for which you are committed. There’s a built-in accountability that takes place among close friends and family, especially with a spouse and/or family that lives with you. If your goal is to lose a certain amount of weight by a certain time, family will naturally ask you how you’re doing or comment about your progress.

Parents, here are a couple of examples of goals you can re-create in your own words and keep with your family this year:

  • I will create two times to “get away” and be relaxed with my family for 2013.
  • I will make dinner at home with my family an event by making sure every one is present and conversant at the table for at least 20 minutes, twice per week during 2013.

What goals are you "launching" for 2013?

 

photo credit: stevendepolo

Top Posts of 2012: #2 — Is Your Child a Match or a Torch?

matchThe Father Factor Blog closes out the year with our top posts of 2012! We've enjoyed talking parenting tips and tools this year with you. Today is our second most popular blog post of 2012!

Excerpt from the blog:

My 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.

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.

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

Read the full blog post: Is Your Child a Match or a Torch?

Tell us: Which blog post did you like the most in 2012?

photo credit: Leo Reynolds

Connect with The Father Factor by RSSFacebook and on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

Top Posts of 2012: #3 — 8 Things About Disciplining Your Child

disciplineThe Father Factor Blog is closing out the year by revisiting some of our most popular blogs of 2012! We've enjoyed talking parenting tips and tools this year with you. Today is our third most popular blog post of 2012!

From the blog:

Discipline comes from the Latin word “discipulus” meaning “to teach; to guide.” Punishment means to “penalize” for doing something wrong. Sometimes, these get mixed up with each other, resulting in a less than ideal outcome for our children. Therefore, it’s vital us parents know the following eight things about disciplining our children. 

1. Know Your Discipline Style

  • The Dictator. This Dad is always strict and never nurtures. 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.”
  • The King. This Dad is strict and nurtures when needed. 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.”
  • 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.”
  • 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.”
  • 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 wants them to do. This Dad says, “Whatever. Just leave me alone.”

2. Know the Family Rules
Clear communication is vital for understanding right and wrong in your house. You will need to establish clear boundaries for your home.

3. Know Your Reward Options
Many Dads believe discipline means “to control” rather than “to teach or to guide.” As a result, they use fear when they punish. We give examples of rewards in the full blog post. But things like praising your child for correct behavior, certain freedoms like stayin up later at night or reading an extra story at bedtime may prove helpful.

4. Know Your Punishment Options
When the time for punishment happens, it’s vital dads know they have options. We give several examples in the full blog post, but in short, things like actually saying you're disappointed and making your child right the wrong by apologizing for wrong done to someone can go a long way toward teaching your child instead of simply punishing.

5. Know Difference Between Discipline and Punishment
Many Dads define discipline as punishment. In other words, they don’t see punishment as a way to discipline in certain situations. They see punishment and discipline as the same thing.

6. Know Difference Between the Action and the Actor
Always focus on the “Action” not the “Actor.” Talk about what your child did. It’s okay, for example, to say that your child did something “bad” as long as you don’t say your child is “bad” for doing it. Keep the focus on the action.

We offer age-specific ideas for new dads learning to discipline, for kids and for teens in the full blog post.

7. Know the “Why” of Discipline

Always explain why your child is being disciplined. Discipline is meant to guide your child and to teach a lesson. It’s essential you explain to your child why they have to sit in their room or give up TV.

8. Know How to End with Love
No matter what, never end with the discipline; always end with love. Hug your child and let him or her know you are disciplining out of love. 

Read the full blog post for more detailed tips: 8 Things to Know About Disciplining Your Child

Tell us: Which blog post did you like the most in 2012?

photo credit: o5com 


Connect with The Father Factor by RSSFacebook and on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

Top Posts of 2012: #4 — 5 Questions Every Father Should Ask Himself

5 questions every dad should askThe Father Factor Blog is closing out the year by revisiting some of our most popular blogs of 2012! We've enjoyed talking parenting tips and tools this year with you. Today is our fourth most popular blog post of 2012!

From the blog: 

We call him the “24/7 Dad.” We believe that every child needs one. What we are talking about is an involved, responsible and committed father. We are talking about a dad who knows his role in the family. He understands he is a model for his sons on how to be a good man. Likewise, if he has daughters, he models what they should look for in a husband and father for their children. There are five questions every responsible father should answer. These five questions come with a guarantee: if you answer each one honestly and take action, you will become a 24/7 Dad!

The questions fit into five categories:

1. Self-Awareness. The 24/7 Dad is aware of himself as a man and aware of how important he is to his family. He knows his moods, feelings and emotions; capabilities, strengths, and challenges. He is responsible for his behavior and knows his growth depends on how well he knows and accepts himself. So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I know myself?

2. Caring for Self. The 24/7 Dad takes care of himself. He gets annual physicals, eats right, exercises, and learns about the world he lives in. He has a strong connection to his family and community, and chooses friends who support his healthy choices. So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I care for myself? 

3. Fathering Skills. The 24/7 Dad knows his role in the family. He knows he should be involved in the daily life of his children. Consider this: Who dresses and feeds your kids? Who attends parent-teacher conferences? Who supports their sports and other interests/activities? Who helps with homework and tucks them in at night? Said a different way, if you weren’t in the family, would anyone notice based on the daily household tasks? So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I “Father”?

4. Parenting Skills. The 24/7 Dad nurtures his children. Yes, nurturing is for men to do as well. He knows how his parenting skills help to develop their physical, emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, and creative needs. His children trust and feel safe with him because he cares about and nurtures them through the use of proven parenting skills. The 24/7 Dad uses discipline to teach and guide his children, not to threaten or harm them. So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I “Parent”?

5. Relationship Skills. The 24/7 Dad builds and maintains healthy relationships with his children, wife/mother of his children, other family members, friends, and community. He knows and values how relationships shape his children and their lives. So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I relate?

Read the full blog post: 5 Questions Every Father Should Ask Himself

Tell us: Which blog post did you like the most in 2012?

photo credit: Fabiana Zonca

Connect with The Father Factor by RSSFacebook and on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

Top Posts of 2012: #5 — Communicating with Your Child

communicating with your childThe Father Factor Blog is closing out the year by revisiting some of our most popular blogs of 2012!

We've enjoyed talking parenting tips and tools this year with you. From today through December 31st, we'll post our top five blog posts of the year.

Today is our fifth most popular blog post of 2012!

We posted "3 Rules for Communicating with Your Child" and proposed thinking about communicating with our kids as a racecar driver thinks about race tracks! 

From the blog:

Odds are good you didn’t wake up this morning and say to yourself, “You know, I should communicate with my kids better…or more…” No, that has never happened - EVER. Something must change in how we view communication. We understand the importance of communication, but we need something to help us remember that how we do it daily is of utmost importance...

We wrote three rules that can help you as you talk with your child. They are the same ideas that a driver must consider as he approaches:

1. Know Your Racetrack: 

  • Short tracks = Infants and young kids
  • Intermediate tracks = School-aged children
  • Superspeedways = Teenagers
  • Road Courses = College-aged children and beyond

2. Practice, Practice, Practice. And then practice more.
When a NASCAR driver isn’t on the track, he is practicing. A driver’s life is about way more than that short moment on the racetrack. And all of his time leading up to the moment on the track is spent in preparation. When is the right time to practice? Early and often.

3. You Must Make Adjustments. 
If Nascar drivers know anything beyond the track and practicing; they understand the importance of making adjustments. Adjustments are crucial in racing. Likewise, you as a dad will learn by trial and error. It’s good to understand you can learn both when you’re away from your child and during the moments you are with them. Great drivers know the importance of making adjustments, from “Research and Development” to “The Pit Box.”

Read the full blog post: 3 Rules for Communicating with Your Child.

Tell us: Which blog post did you enjoy the most in 2012?

 

photo credit: camille.eric

Happy Holidays from NFI and The 12 Dads of Christmas!

Happy Holidays from our famlies to yours! We've had a great time sharing stories of our most memorable holidays from across the entire nation. We hope you're taking time to enjoy your famliy and create more memories worth writing about! 

The 12 Dads of ChristmasFind our "12 Dads of Christmas" below and enjoy your holiday. Merry Christmas!

Dad 1: Jeff Land, A Generous Christmas:
“Christmas won’t be as big this year,” my mom’s constant reminder rung out in my mind. She and my dad were terribly afraid my brothers and I would be disappointed. She daily reminded us that this year was going to be different... Read more.

Dad 2: Ricky Choi, Holidays at the Hospital:
As a resident physician I spent a Christmas holiday working in the hospital. Because illness and accidents didn’t take a break during the holidays, someone on the physician staff couldn’t either. But I didn’t mind... Read more.

Dad 3: Madison Cowan, Christmas Every Day:
Christmastime for most of us is full on with memories. Whether of religious observances or the thought of gathering with loved ones to share cheer and compliments of the season. I recall as a child the magic of the holidays: playing in the snow, picking out a tree, the joy brought on by an original Marx Rock`em Sock`em Robots game, or the tantalizing aroma of Christmas lunch wafting throughout the house... Read more.

Dad 4: Chris Read, A Canadian Dad's Christmas Story:
If I HAD to pick memorable moments, that I can remember at least, a couple come to mind. The first involves my father and my uncle, who decided to give us kids a Christmas treat by setting up an elaborate scene for us. They set it up so that we all thought Santa had visited while we were there for our annual Christmas dinner. They had set up reindeer prints outside and even created a loud thud on the roof to make us think Santa was there... Read more.

Dad 5: John Wilke, Church, Chocolate and Charlie Brown: How One Dad Makes Christmas Bright:
For many children, the Christmas season is the most special time of year. In their little minds, the holidays brings new toys, candy, cakes, time off from school, parents possibly off from work and maybe even playing in the snow... Read more.

Dad 6: Dave Taylor, Creating Holiday Memories:
I'll be honest. My parents weren't really into holidays, either for themselves or for us kids. We celebrated some American holidays, but as newly minted Americans (I was born in England and didn't become a US citizen until I was 16) a lot of those holidays seemed less than vital. Then there were birthdays, which just weren't much of a big deal, with frankly uninspired present exchanges. Finally, we also celebrated the main Jewish holidays (Passover, Hannukah) but, again, not with great zeal and enthusiasm... Read more.

Dad 7: Jason Bruce, Slowing Down Makes Christmas Memorable:
The Christmas season becomes more hectic as one becomes an adult and a parent. That’s why memories of my childhood always come to my mind first when I reflect on my most memorable Christmases... Read more.

Dad 8: Scott Behson, An Involved Father Shares What's Better Than Being Santa:
Like virtually every child, I LOVED Christmas, especially when I was young enough to believe in Santa. After growing up, Christmas is still special, but it is no longer magic. That is, until you have kids and can now pass the magic along to them- and even better YOU get to be Santa. As a dad, it is never more true than during Christmas that it is better to give than to receive... Read more.

Dad 9: Tim Red, NFI Staff Share Their Favorite Holiday Traditions:
One of my most memorable Christmases as a Dad was held on Thanksgiving in 2005 because two days later I was deploying for a year and would miss Christmas with my Family... Read more.

Dad 10: Erik Vecere, NFI Staff Share Their Favorite Holiday Traditions:
One of the Christmases that I still laugh about occurred when I was boy back in the early 1980’s. I was so excited to get one of those football fields that you placed the little football players on and plugged it in... Read more.

Dad 11: Chris Delgado, First Comes Pizza, Then Comes Proposal: The Christmas She Said "Yes!":
My favorite Christmas marked a transition and a new meaning in my life. It was the year 2001 and this is when I proposed to my girlfriend who is now my wife... Read more.

Dad 12: Dave Sniadak, Reflecting on Christmas Past, Present:
For me, Christmas was always a magical time of year. Where I lived growing up, we almost always had snow - lots of it - but not bitter biting, freeze your nose off cold that kept you locked up in the house. I would spend hours rolling snowmen and exploring the backwoods behind our house, checking for tracks and remnants of elves sneaking around the yard. And while I never went into the holiday season with a set expectation of what I'd get from Santa, he certainly never disappointed... Read more.

The 12 Dads of ChristmasWhat have you enjoyed most from this holiday season and our 12 Dads of Christmas?

Continue connecting with us by sharing your most memorable holiday. You can record a video, share a picture, or post a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor. Use #12DadsofXmas so we see your message!

A Generous Christmas

This is a guest post by Jeff Land. Jeff is Editorial Project Leader for LifeWay Kids. He is married with four children and lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Find Jeff's personal blog at LandLife, follow him on Twitter @JeffLand and Facebook. He writes this post for NFI's "The 12 Dads of Christmas." If you are interested in guest blogging for us, send an email.

christmas giftChristmas wont be as big this year, my moms constant reminder rung out in my mind. She and my dad were terribly afraid my brothers and I would be disappointed. She daily reminded us that this year was going to be different.

It was Fall in Mississippi, just before Thanksgiving break and I was in eighth grade. My big brother Trae picked me up from school and told me that we had to go to Jackson to the hospital. We picked up my little brother, Bobby, and then Trae explained to us that our Dad had to have open-heart surgery. We were scared, but didn’t quite understand the severity of the situation. Trae was very worried. He was the only one that really understood how serious my dad’s condition was. 

Dad came through the quadruple by-pass surgery just fine. He was recovering well, but in the midst of his sickness, he also lost his job. Our family of five was surviving on my mom’s schoolteacher salary. Because my parents had always given us huge Christmases, my mom felt the constant need to remind us that this year would be small.

Christmas morning came and we opened our presents. I honestly don’t think I noticed we had fewer than normal. I was just really thankful for the opportunity God had given us to keep our dad here on earth! We were headed out to my grandparents’ house for breakfast when I noticed a huge box on our porch. 

I yelled for my brothers and we opened the box. Inside was a new Sega™. Still more, our secret Santa had chosen specific gifts for my brothers and me. I got a new “ornament” for my prized aquarium. I don’t know if my parents ever knew who brought those gifts on Christmas Eve but I certainly know we were impressed by the generosity. 

Ive had so many great Christmases over the years, but this one has always stood out as pivotal. It was the Christmas that we were all together and things could have been so different. It was also the year that a generous friend took a few extra steps to make sure the Land boys had an amazing Christmas. 

What's your most memorable Christmas and why?

Join in and share your most memorable holiday by recording a video, sharing a picture, or posting a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

photo credit: allerleirau

Holidays at the Hospital

This is a guest post by Dr. Ricky Choi. Choi is a pediatrician and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He serves on the Board of Directors for the National Physicians Alliance and is a national leader of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and two children. Find him at The Huffington Post and on his blogHe writes this post for NFI's "The 12 Dads of Christmas." If you are interested in guest blogging for us, send an email.

Christmas Memories
xmasnewbornAs a resident physician I spent a Christmas holiday working in the hospital. Because illness and accidents didn’t take a break during the holidays, someone on the physician staff couldn’t either. But I didn’t mind.

One of the many reasons I chose pediatrics as a specialty was the value staff placed on those things that were important to children. And for most kids, Christmas is a big deal. Though the inpatient unit was typically busy during the winter the pediatric staff made every effort to get kids home for Christmas -even if it only meant returning to the hospital 24 hours later.

So the few days before the big day were filled with commotion and hustle in the air. Some of the children required significant accommodations to make sure that they were safe to go home.

My arrival on the pediatric floor Christmas morning was met with silence. Piled high in front of the nurses station were wrapped presents donated by the local fireman which arrived after the mass exodus. Gone was the chorus of monitors beeping and mobs of staff rushing from room to room. The ward was, however, not completely empty.

Scattered throughout the ward were a handful of children who had stayed behind. The children with cancer needed their daily chemo or were too immunologically defenseless to go home. Having endured so much pain and hardship from their illness and the brutal treatment they seemed especially deserving of a holiday. Their families were there bright and smiling, desperate for something to celebrate. They savored each moment knowing that the only Christmas they were certain to have together was that day. The eery quiet in the ward made the laughter seem louder, the wrapping paper shinier, and the celebrations that much more festive. It was a day those children dearly deserved and their parents hoped to never forget. 

New Traditions
After my eldest daughter turned 3 years old, I began taking her to newborn hospital rounds on Christmas morning. After the gifts were opened and the late breakfast eaten we gathered our things, me with my stethoscope, she with her colorful toy doctor’s kit. Then we hopped into the car with the hopes of seeing a Christmas baby at the newborn nursery.

During the ride we talked about caring for babies: washing hands and gentle touching. I described the joy that this family must be feeling to have such a special gift during the holidays. I recalled the immense joy I felt when she was born only a few years before.

This new tradition is a chance for my daughter to build a sense of connectedness with the lives of others. The most amazing part of being a physician is the privilege to be a part of peoples lives at the most meaningful of moments. Hopefully my children too will make caring for others inform their life choices. I can’t think of a better way to plant this seed than bringing her to a celebration for a new life on Christmas morning.

What's your most memorable Christmas and why?

Join in and share your most memorable holiday by recording a video, sharing a picture, or posting a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

photo credit: brooklyn

Christmas Every Day with Chef Madison Cowan

This is a guest post by Chef Madison Cowan. Madison is a dad, husband, CEO of Madison Cowan LLC, author, producer, Food Network's Iron Chef America & Chopped Grand Champion. Find him at Madison Cowan, follow him on Twitter @Madisons_Ave and on Facebook. He writes this post for NFI's "The 12 Dads of Christmas." If you are interested in guest blogging for us, send an email.

madison cowanChristmastime for most of us is full on with memories. Whether of religious observances or the thought of gathering with loved ones to share cheer and compliments of the season. I recall as a child the magic of the holidays: playing in the snow, picking out a tree, the joy brought on by an original Marx Rock`em Sock`em Robots game, or the tantalizing aroma of Christmas lunch wafting throughout the house.

These are just a few traditions I’ve held onto and now share with my own family. It is equally important we not forget all those less fortunate children and families, struggling daily to make ends meet or put food on the table, or who won’t have a Christmas…again. From the age of 2 I’ve exposed my daughter to a life of volunteering and service to others as the spirit of giving extends well beyond this time of year.  

That said, one of my favourite holiday memories is making a large batch of my mum’s 7UP pound cake with my daughter a few years back to donate to a food pantry in London. Buttery, crunchy topping and feather light texture, her secret was to weigh or measure the flour again after sifting then mix everything together at once. Swans Down cake flour, a vintage metal crank sifter and an egg cracking munchkin evoked warmth of Christmases past.

The power is in the present moment, so pop in that Rudolph or Frosty DVD, put on Nat King Cole’s "The Christmas Song" and get stuck in creating new traditions with your lil’ ones…this Christmas and always.  

Jean Bean’s 7UP Pound Cake
 
Unbleached cake flour 3 cups, sifted
Unrefined cane sugar 2 cups
Unsalted butter 1 lb., softened at room temperature
Eggs 6, room temperature
Pure vanilla extract 1 tsp.
Lemon extract 2 tsp.
7up lemon soda ¾ cup, room temperature   

Heat the oven to 375F. Place the flour into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Add the remaining ingredients and blend with an electric hand mixer until smooth. DO NOT OVERMIX.  

Butter and lightly dust with flour a fluted cake tin or 2 to 3 loaf tins. Carefully pour the mixture into the tins as not to pack tight and bake mid-oven for 1 hour 15 minutes or until golden brown and an inserted table knife comes out clean.  

Another tip is to keep the oven door closed and check doneness only after the first 50 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes and remove from tins. Serve simply with fresh seasonal fruit or berries, whipped cream or icing sugar. Serves 12 to 15    

12 dadasWhat family recipe makes the holiday special for you?

Join in and share your most memorable holiday by recording a video, sharing a picture, or posting a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

Is the Sandy Hook Shooting Another Crime of Fatherlessness?

In the wake of the horrific tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, our nation is collectively mourning and trying to figure out how something this terrible could happen. While it is not our job at NFI to figure out how to solve issues around gun control and mental health treatment, we would be remiss not to point out that once again, like in so many tragedies of this nature, there appears to be a significant “father factor” at play.

sandy hook

As we learn more and more about the troubled life of shooter Adam Lanza, it appears that the divorce of his parents had a significant, negative impact on his life.  

It is becoming clear that Adam Lanza suffered from some sort of emotional or psychological disorder that has not yet been specified. It also appears that this mental disorder contributed significantly to the heinous crime he committed. However, we know from research that children from father-absent homes are more likely to have emotional problems and are also more likely to commit crimes.According to this news article, he took the divorce especially hard – “The break up was traumatic, leaving the couple's sons devastated.” His father, Peter Lanza, had moved out and remarried in 2009; and although he had legal access to his child, he had not seen him in 6 months. In other words, there were no legal barriers preventing him from seeing his child, but he had not seen him since June. Adam Lanza was not alone in this – fully one third of children from father-absent homes never see their dads, and another third only see them once per month*. 

This blog has written several times about the father factor in mass murders (the Aurora shooting, the D.C. sniper, and Chardon High School, the Norway terrorist, and Tucson), and the patterns we see in each and every one of these cases is eerily similar. 

Had Peter Lanza been more involved in his son’s life -- helping him deal with the mental anguish it appears he was going through -- would things have turned out differently? Sadly, we will never know.

For now, all we can do is mourn with the families who were affected by this tragedy and start to work together to devise solutions that will reduce the likelihood of this sort of tragedy happening again. And certainly, part of the solution needs to be to ensure that all children have involved, responsible, and committed fathers in their lives who can help them navigate a difficult world, one that is especially difficult for the mentally ill.

*See: 

  • Stewart, Susan D. “Nonresident Parenting and Adolescent Adjustment: The Quality of Nonresident Father-Child Interaction.” Journal of Family Issues, 24 (March 2003): 217-244 
  • Aquilino, W.S. (2006). The noncustodial father-child relationship from adolescence into young adulthood. Journal of Marriage and Family, 68, 929-946

    photo credit: Rickydavid

5 Ways To Say Thanks By Giving

We're finishing up our "Thanks, Dad!" campaign this week. Through November, we’ve given you tips and advise for raising a thankful childshowing thankfulness in your home, creating a memorable Thanksgiving and now we want your family to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness that continues beyond the Thanksgiving holiday!

One of the best ways to express thankfulness is to give to others! Check out our five ways of saying thanks through giving and be intentional about teaching and modeling these ideas with your kids today.

give

  1. Give Your Time: Whether it's volunteering at the local homeless shelter, participating in a community clean-up day or taking an hour to make cookies for your neighbors, investing time to help or encourage others is a great way to cultivate a thankful attitude or to say thanks to those who have helped you. When you take time to get your kids involved in the process, they will have fun and you will connect as a family as well! It's important that you explain to our child what and why are you giving your time to help others. You can explain in more detail depending on the age of your child. The point here is to not only give, but to teach your child about giving in the process.
     
  2. Give Your Talents: If your kids have musical or singing talent, nursing or retirement homes always welcome having young people to play or sing for their residents. If you're a handyman, consider offering help a single mom in your neighborhood with seasonal "honey-dos" and bring your kids along to help. There's an opportunity to serve for every kind of talent!
     
  3. Give Your Things: A couple times a year, encourage your kids to sort their clothes, books, and toys and set aside items in good condition and donate to a homeless shelter. This will help your kids realize how much they have to be thankful for and to experience the joy of giving to others who have less than them. It will also provide you a way of getting your kids to clean their rooms; at least twice per year. Go ahead and mark two cleaning dates on your calendar!
     
  4. Give Your Thoughts: Giving doens't have to mean money. Encourage your children to take a moment to say something thoughtful to the people around them, whether it's "thanks," "you look nice today," or "I appreciate your friendship." Set the example by regularly saying thoughtful and encouraging things to your family members and others. Remember, this attitude starts with you--the parent! How you talk and interact with people teaches your children to react the same manner.
     
  5. Give Your Treasure: For those with more money than time, consider supporting charitable causes and organizations financially. Encourage your children to donate a portion of their allowance or income to a specific cause. Talk with your kids about the charitable organizations you contribute to and why you give to those groups. Again, it's important to give, but it's also very important that you children know the why behind the what. Use giving as a teachable moment for your family.

As you and your children give, you will find it easier to notice all the things you can be thankful for in your life. Start saying "thanks" by giving today!

What's one thing you could change in your weekly schedule to help you and your family show thanks through giving? 

Thanks DadVisit our "Thanks, Dad!" page for more on how you can connect with your family and other dads just like you! Don't forget to say, "Thanks, Dad!" by recording a video, sharing a picture, or writing a short note on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor. Use the hashtag #ThxDad to tell the world why the dad in your life deserves thanks!

photo credit: Tim Green aka atoach

5 Ways Your Family Can Show Thankfulness

Our "Thanks, Dad!" campaign is in full swing. We hope you're learning to be more intentional about creating an atmosphere of thankfulness in your home. We recently gave you helpful tips for raising thankful children. However, thankfulness isn't simply a nice idea to instill in your children - it's something to be acted out daily. If we're intentional and thoughtful, there are many ways we can show our thankfulness as a family each day. Check out our five ideas for how you and your family can show thankfulness. Then, tell us what your family does to model thaknfulness in the comment section below.
thanks dad
1) Do Something Nice: Doing something nice for someone else is a great way to show you are thankful. Be sure to talk with your child and explain that doing something nice for someone shows you are thankful. Consider with your child ways you can do something nice to help someone. Ask your son or daughter, "What do you think so-and-so would appreciate you doing for them?" or "What can you do to show so-and-so you're thankful for how they helped you?" You may be surprised at the answer you get from you child -- children have a way to being more thoughtful than parents in some cases. Be ready to listen and work together with your child to come up with something unique and thoughtful to do for someone else this week.

2) Write a Note: Make thank-you notes a habit in your house. I can't lie, this step isn't easy. I'm the worst at thank-you notes. I love receiving them so much, you'd think I would be better at writing them. In the midst of everything else on the family calendar, writing a note probably isn't near the top. However, as a way to help you, perhaps you can get your kids involved. Have them write thank-you notes after birthday parties or for Christmas presents -- let them use their creativity and create something special for their friends or teacher. Try and see this as a time to let them express their creative side -- not simply a task to mark of your growing to-do list. For instance, younger kids can draw and color pictures while older kids could write a note in their own words. It's never too early to start teaching your children the importance of thank-you notes. Don't think you have that kind of time? Try the cell phone apps that are available for download, you can still get your kids involved in the process by letting them pick the images and/or write the messages. You'll save a ton of time and still have something thoughtful to send someone.

3) Say Something Kind: From a young age, encourage your children to say "thank you" when someone compliments them, gives them something, or does something for them. Don't allow your children to shyly whisper "thanks" with their head down - make sure they look at the person in the eye and specifically thank them for the compliment/item/action. Help them understand that eye contact and a cheerful voice are an important part of genuine thankfulness. 

4) Help Those in Need: There's no better way to model gratefulness to your family (and others) than to do something to help others who can't help you back. Ask your children to pick out food to contribute to a local food drive, spend time serving at a homeless shelter as a family, or encourage your kids to rake the elderly neighbor's yard. The point here is to reach out to someone in need and together as a family to serve. If cleanliness is next to godliness, serving others is next to thankfulness! 

5) Give as a Family: Set up a large jar in a prominent place in your house, let the kids decorate it with stickers or ribbons, and label it "The Thankful Jar." Encourage family members to put extra change or money they earn from their allowance in the jar. When the jar is full, discuss and agree to a charity or organization for which to donate the money. Or, let each family member take turns choosing a different charity to contribute to each month. Explain to your children that part of being thankful is giving to others.

What's one way you and your family show thankfulness every day?

Thanks DadVisit our "Thanks, Dad!" page for more on how you can connect with your family and other dads just like you! Don't forget to say, "Thanks, Dad!" by recording a video, sharing a picture, or writing a short note on on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor. Use the hashtag #ThxDad to tell the world why your dad deserves thanks!

photo credit: mtsofan

Raising a Thankful Child in 4 Easy Steps

If you've been a parent for longer than one second, you understand children have a way of not being satisfied. Most likely, your child will not come out of the womb as a grateful child. And when she learns to speak, her first words will probably not be "please" or "thank you" -- this is life. Trust me on this one, I write from a few years of experience. The time will come when your child isn't satisfied. You bought the green toy -- she wanted the pink -- and only the pink will do!

raising thankful child

Aside from throwing your hands up and saying, "forget it, we have birthed an ungrateful child who will never be thankful!" Take comfort in knowing you are not alone. I repeat: You are not alone. While your child may currently display ungrateful tendencies, he dosen't have to be ungrateful forever. With care and teaching, your daughter or son can learn to be an upstanding lady or gentleman.

How we show thankfulness is vital to whether our children will act and treat others with gratitude. When it comes to teaching your child to be thankful, Gandhi's teaching comes in handy, "Be the change you want to see in the world." Check out our four tips on how to raise a thankful child.

  1. Model Thankfulness. Say "please," "thanks" and "you're welcome" every day. Be sure this vocabulary is used by you and in your home. Parent, if you want your kids to be thankful, they have to see it first. I'm reminded of the saying, "Good manners are not only taught, they can be caught." It's vital that you not only teach your child to say "thank you" and "please" every day and at various moments, you must also use these words yourself. Thank your child for doing his chores well. Make sure your kids, hear you say "Thank you" to their mother. Don't limit thanks for actions - thank your family for being kind, patient, caring, or whatever character quality you notice about them that day.
  2. The "Thankful" Talk. During dinner or in the car driving to and from an activity, ask each member of the family what they were most thankful for that day. Make asking a daily habit. Taking a moment to reflect on the day will help everyone find something positive, even if it was a tough day. Plus, it will give you extra insight into what's going on in your child's life. As the parent, be the one to always stir the conversation to the positive side and give encouragement. Remember the objective of this conversation -- you're teaching your child to be thankful!
  3. Advertise Your Thankfulness. Hang a dry-erase board in a prominent place in your home and call it "The Thankful Board." I once worked at a company that had a "Kudos" board for its employees. This provided a great way to create an environment of encouragement and thankfulness. You can have your family write messages on the board to either say thanks to each other for something big or small. Also, you can use it to share something to your family for which they are thankful.
  4. Teach Thankfulness. Help your child understand why it is important to say "thank you." Explain to your child the "why" behind the "what." Of course, how much you explain will depend on the age of your child, but the point here is to not simply demand and be a dictator, but to teach your child why being thankful is important. With your teenager, try asking how he feels when someone says "thank you" to him. Use this time as a opportunity to teach him that other people also want to feel noticed, appreciated, and valued and that saying "thank you" makes someone else feel happy.

What one thing will you work on that will model thankfulness to your child today?

ThanksDad

Visit our "Thanks, Dad!" page for more on how you can connect with your family and other dads just like you! Don't forget to say, "Thanks, Dad!" by recording a video, sharing a picture or writing a short note commenting on this blog, Facebook or on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

photo credit: Vermin Inc 

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