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The Father Factor


5 Ways Fathers Can Use Science and Nature to Bond with Their Children

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

The connection between nature and mothers is pretty obvious. From the moment of conception, mothers are inextricably, biologically linked to their children. Mothers’ hormone levels continually fluctuate during pregnancy as their bodies partner with nature to give their children the ultimate environment in which to grow. This connection continues when mothers breastfeed as their bodies release oxytocin, the “bonding hormone,” thus providing a way for mothers’ biological connection to their children to continue well after birth.  

5 ways fathers can   the male brainBut what about fathers? Science now reveals that mothers don’t have the market cornered when it comes to being biologically connected to their children. Nature also provides a way for men to prepare for the arrival of their children and to bond with them well after birth. In her ground-breaking book The Male Brain, neuropsychologist Louann Brizedene points out that men’s hormone levels change during the pregnancy of their partners. Specifically, men’s levels of cortisol (the “stress hormone”) increase. This change puts men’s brains on “alert” for the arrival of their babies. In contrast, men’s levels of testosterone (the “wandering hormone”) decrease. This change lowers their competiveness, aggression, and sex drive.  

After their children are born, men’s oxytocin and prolactin levels increase with their prolactin levels falling to “pre-arrival” levels only after their babies start to walk (12 to 16 months, on average). Prolactin further decreases men’s testosterone levels. Researchers in Israel took this knowledge a step further when they measured oxytocin levels in 80 first-time parent couples shortly after the birth of their children. They found that fathers’ oxytocin levels were just as high as mothers’ when their children were 6 weeks and 6 months, suggesting that fathers’ hormone levels “dance” in harmony with mothers’.  

But they didn’t stop there. The researchers also observed how the increased bonding driven by high levels of oxytocin affected the way that fathers and mothers play with their children. What they found is that higher levels of oxytocin do not equate with the same kinds of parenting behaviors. Indeed, it seems to enhance the unique ways in which mothers and fathers play with their children which, as research shows, benefits children. The researchers discovered that when they compared mothers’ oxytocin levels that those with higher levels exhibited the most "affectionate parenting behaviors." When they compared fathers’ levels they found that those with the highest levels exhibited the most "stimulatory parenting behaviors."  

What’s the kicker? For all of these changes to occur, fathers have to be involved during mothers’ pregnancies and after the birth of their children. They have to view nature as their partner by engaging in activities that create close physical and emotional connections with mothers during pregnancy and with mothers and their children after their children are born. Here are 5 ways that a father can do just that:  

  1. Live with the mother. This advice might seem painfully obvious, but in today’s world of increasing out-of-wedlock childbirths (now at a record level) the chances of fathers not being around are all too real. The best way for a father to ensure constant physical proximity is to be married to the mother of his children.
  2. Spend as much time with the mother as possible. This advice might also seem painfully obvious, but one of the reasons time together is so important is that the exchange of pheromones between a father and mother during and after pregnancy might contribute to the father’s hormonal changes. This exchange can only happen when the father and mother are around each other on a consistent basis.
  3. Prepare to be a dad. During the pregnancy, a father should deepen his involvement in the pregnancy by reading books about becoming a dad and what it takes to be a great dad, attending as many of the mother’s prenatal visits as possible to support her, and enrolling, with the mother, in childbirth education classes.
  4. Encourage the mother to breastfeed. A father should encourage the mother to breastfeed while she is still pregnant. Breastfeeding will help the mother and baby to bond and benefit them in many other ways. A father can be involved in this effort by helping the mother to freeze her breast milk. He can warm it and feed it to his child in the middle of the night to allow the mother to catch some extra, needed sleep and, in doing so, further bond with his child.  
  5. Attend well-child check-ups and use NFI’s Countdown to Growing Up™. A father can deepen his involvement after the birth by attending well-child check-ups. A father can track his child’s development from birth to age 18 with NFI’s free Countdown to Growing Up™ child growth and development tracker. A father enters his child’s age and gender and the tool generates a chart of physical, mental, and social milestones appropriate for his child. He can use this information to more effectively dialogue with the mother and his child’s doctor about his child’s growth and development. NFI also has a number of free articles with advice on how to be a new dad and a great dad.

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image: istockphoto

Why Do People Continue to Believe Children Don’t Need Fathers?

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

i <3 You

I continue to struggle with the fact that so many people in our country deny that fathers play a distinct, irreplaceable role in children’s lives. Despite reams of data to the contrary, people believe that fathers are replaceable—that they simply fulfill a role that any man or any woman can fulfill. Indeed, National Fatherhood Initiative’s Pop’s Culture and Mama Says surveys reveal that a majority of American men and women, respectively, believe that another man or a woman can replace a child’s father. The resulting conclusion that a majority of Americans have reached is that dads are dispensable. As W. Brad Wilcox pointed out in a recent article in The Atlantic, many scholars and writers have come to the same conclusion, which gives further credence to a view that is refuted by decades of research.  

Then why does this belief persist? Wilcox, who directs the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, says that it “has a lot of intuitive appeal in an era where millions of women have children outside of marriage, serve as breadwinner moms to their families, or are raising children on their own.” He goes on to point out that this belief ignores not only the evidence that fathers are indispensable, it also ignores the evidence that fathers parent differently than mothers and that the difference is good for children. In Gender and Parenthood: Biological and Social Scientific Perspectives, a new book that Wilcox co-edited, he covers four distinct ways in which fathers parent, each of which are supported by substantial evidence:  

  • Physical (“roughhouse”) play characterized by arousal, excitement, and predictability,
  • Encouraging risk through embracing challenges and encouraging independence,
  • Protection of children through physical size, strength, and “public presence” (a deterrent to would-be predators), and
  • More frequent and firmer discipline.

Moreover, Wilcox notes that these distinct forms of parenting lead to positive outcomes for children that are also supported by research. Children with involved fathers are, for example, less likely to engage in delinquent behavior and become pregnant (or get someone pregnant) as teens.  

While I agree with Wilcox’s assertion for the persistence of the belief that fathers are indispensable, we have to dig deeper to further understand why so many people ignore the evidence and, frankly, the common sense that fathers are not replaceable. Two additional reasons, one cultural and the other psychological, contribute to this ignorance.  

First, American culture is individualistic rather than collectivistic. It is marked by rugged individualism, the belief that individuals can overcome almost any challenge and rise to greatness, and that people should focus on improving their own lives rather than improving society if doing so comes at their own expense. Our constitution and laws are primarily designed to protect and give freedom to individuals. The fact that our culture focuses on the individual does not mean that Americans don’t come together and sacrifice their interests for each other or the common good (e.g. to defend our country against invaders). But when push comes to shove, the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many.  

As a result of living in such a culture, Americans tend to ignore population-based evidence. A body of evidence is necessarily population-based because it considers the impact of an issue on a large group of people to reach conclusions about the impact of an issue on the broader population, country, culture, etc. That’s the problem. It’s not a problem with the evidence—it’s clear. The problem is that we live in a culture that makes it difficult for people to accept even a large body of evidence, not to mention act on it. People rely instead on their own experiences (and, sometimes, those of family or friends) to draw broad conclusions about a variety of issues, not just this one. If their experiences don’t match up with the evidence, they simply ignore it and erroneously conclude that their experiences also apply to our society. They might also use “outliers” (exceptions) to ignore the evidence. If they are a child from a father-absent home and turned out fine, raised a child in a father-absent home who turned out fine, or know of someone from a father-absent home who turned out fine, then, clearly, fathers must not be important.  

Second, people are drawn to sources of information that confirm what they already believe and ignore information that doesn’t fit with how they see the world. Psychologists call this tendency “confirmation bias.” As Chip and Dan Health mention in their book Decisive, confirmation bias negatively affects decision-making. “Researchers have found this result again and again. When people have the opportunity to collect information from the world, they are more likely to select information that supports their preexisiting attitudes, beliefs, and actions…The tricky thing about the confirmation bias is that it can look very scientific.” The effects of confirmation bias increase with the emotional nature of the issue—the more emotionally-charged an issue is the more likely someone will experience this bias. When people search for evidence that supports the belief that fathers are irreplaceable, they seek out sources that support this belief, which further concretizes it in their minds. They become even harder to convince, especially because this issue is so emotionally-charged.  

National Fatherhood Initiative started nearly 20 years ago because its founders recognized and acted upon population-based evidence—evidence that has only continued to accumulate. We continue, and write blog posts like this one, because so many people ignore this evidence. Frankly, I wish this country didn’t need our organization. But we will continue as long as it does and, most importantly, as long as there are children who need their dads. 

The Father Factor Blog


Teach Your Own Child To Swim—Or Let A Swim Teacher Do It?

The following is a post from Becky Flanigan. Becky writes for and is married with 3 kids and 2 golden retrievers. So she knows a thing or two about kids and swimming! Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

Parents of young children will have to address the issue of their child learning how to swim. The question then becomes – who can do a better job of teaching the child to swim – the parent, or a swim instructor? A parent can do a lot to prepare their child for the water. On the other hand, a swim instructor can teach swimming strokes and advanced lessons more thoroughly.

No Swimming

So which way is best – the parent teacher, or swim instructor lessons?

Why not do both? Have the parent start the process, and then finish with swim lessons.

Preparing the toddler. According to, a parent can do a lot for a child to get them more comfortable with the water. It is recommended that formal lessons not begin until age 4 – when a child has physically developed enough to stay afloat. Up to that age, a parent can spend time allowing the child to get used to being in the water. While holding the child at all times, the parent can let a baby splash in the water, bob around, and play gentle games in the water. Aside from bonding time, the child begins to develop a positive attitude about water.

When the child is a bit older. By age 2 to 3 years, the child may be more active and curious in the water – but will still need to be held at all times. The parent can allow the child reach for a ball, kick his legs and begin learning to float. As the child learns to blow bubbles in the water, he’s learning to get his face wet without ingesting water. Pool safety can be addressed – emphasizing not running at the pool, and only going into the water with the parent.

It’s time for lessons. By the time a child is 4 to 5 years old, they should have developed the coordination needed to swim by themselves. They should be able to float independently, submerge their head under water for several seconds, and go from a standing to swimming position without help. As well, research for revealed that children should be able to glide through the water, and begin to use coordinated movements with their arms and legs.

The advantages of lessons. Bonding with your child while teaching them water skills can be fun, but there are some significant reasons to sign up for swim lessons. As described by 247moms, there are a number of benefits of swim lessons:

  • Proper techniques taught by experienced instructors. While a parent may be limited in their knowledge of proper swim techniques, an instructor who has been certified knows the proper swimming strokes and how to teach them.
  • Reducing the fear of water. Lessons can help the child develop skills which will reduce their fear of water. A child who has to sit by the side of the pool while others swim is only adding to fears they might have about the water. With a solid knowledge of swimming strokes, that fear is reduced.
  • Building confidence. An experienced instructor who is committed to the success of their students can greatly increase a child’s self confidence, by helping them master swimming skills, and by honoring each success.
  • Promoting physical activity. By developing swim skills, swim lessons encourage a child into a more active  lifestyle than sitting in front of the TV playing video games. Especially if those lessons are taught in a group, they model how fun water activities can be, and encourage social development.
  • Reduced chances of drowning. The American Academy of Pediatrics has done research which suggests that kids who had formal swim training had lower chances of drowning.

Especially during the baby and toddler years, there are many things a parent can do to promote their child’s enjoyment of the water. Once that child has reached 4 to 5 years of age, swim lessons with an experienced instructor build a child’s abilities and confidence, preparing them for a lifetime of safe enjoyment of the water.

Parents: Who taught you how to swim?

Becky Flanigan was an English major in college, and now uses those skills when writing freelance articles for She spends many happy hours at the family swimming pool, watching the kids and dogs splash and play.

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Building a Better Dad—Should We Start Earlier?

The following is a post from Tim Wright. Tim is Pastor at Community of Grace and author of Searching for Tom Sawyer: How Parents and Congregations Can Stop the Exodus of Boys from Church. A version of this post originally appeared in Huffington Post. Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

These are interesting days to be a dad. On the one hand, research overwhelmingly tells us that dads play an essential role in the lives of their sons and daughters. On the other hand, certain voices in culture not only question the necessity of a dad, but insist that dads are obsolete. This past Father's Day, CNN featured a debate on this question: Are some kids better off without a dad? (Can you imagine a similar debate about motherhood on Mother's Day?)

medium 8553474140Deadbeat dadsAbsent dads. Father wounds. Dumbed-down TV sitcom dads. The labels are not handsome. But increasingly, they seem to ring true. Too many dads have dropped the fatherhood ball. Perhaps we need to start the process earlier -- in fact, much earlier, when potential dads are still boys.

Much of what a father does or does not do is "built" into him as he grows into manhood. The values he embraces, the parenting he receives and the decisions he makes are the materials of future fatherhood. Denny Coates (Conversations with the Wise Uncle) reminds us that the thinking, reasoning, critical part of the brain develops in kids in their teen years. How they use their brain and what they put into their brain during those years will set the course for the rest of their lives, including parenting.

Sadly, the building process for boys is often counter-productive to equipping them for great manhood, let alone fatherhood:

  • 70% of all D's and F's are given to boys
  • 85% of stimulant addressing drugs prescribed throughout the world are prescribed to US boys
  • Boys have fallen behind girls in virtually every area of education
  • One in three boys is now considered a "heavy" porn user, with the average boy watching nearly two hours of porn every week.
  • Boys spend 13 hours a week playing video games. As a result, boys brains are being digitally rewired in a totally new way to demand change, novelty, excitement, and constant stimulation...That means they are becoming totally out of synch in traditional school classes, which are analog, static, and interactively passive.
  • According to Kathleen Parker, author of Save the Males, young men now in their twenties have never experienced a culture in which men were respected or expected to be gentlemen.
  • One in three U.S. children live without a father.
  • Some 40% of boys will spend at least a part of their growing up years without a dad.

The good news: We can reverse that storyline. In addition to giving men the tools they need to be great dads, we can start building great dads now by training our boys in the art of fatherhood.

Here are a few ways to get started:

Give boys a heroic vision for manhood. A vision built on honor, courage, commitment, sacrifice, love, compassion, forgiveness, wisdom and grace. This happens through mentoring, teaching, correction and rites of passage programs.

Give boys purpose. As we see a boy's emerging gifts and talents, affirm them in him. What he's good at is a powerful clue to his purpose for life. (See Michael Gurian: The Purpose of Boys)

Give boys masculine energy. In their report, Wayward Sons: The Emerging Gender Gap in Labor Markets and looks, in part, at the impact of boys being raised without dads. In addition to listing the often cited downsides for boys without a dad, the authors offer this unique perspective: If children aim to emulate adult roles of their same-sex parent, then girls may increasingly expect to fully support both themselves and their children, whereas, conversely, males may come to anticipate a less central or more transient role. (p. 47). In other words, girls being raised by mom see that raising children and working outside of the home are what women do. Boys raised by moms see no role for the male in the family and more often than not live down to that level. Dads are built by dads. So, the key to building great dads is to surround our boys with great dads -- their own dads and/or other men -- who can model responsibility, love, compassion, and fatherhood to these dads in the making.

Give boys the chance to interact with children. When age-appropriate, give boys the chance to mentor younger children, either by helping out in a church Sunday School class or nursery, or through connecting with local organizations that offer kids clubs.

Imagine a world where deadbeat dads are replaced by life-enhancing dads; where absent dads are replaced by fully-engaged dads and where fathers are no longer the source of deep wounds, but the source of strength, affirmation, love and hope.

The secret to that kind of a dad: Start building him early, when he's still a boy.

Is the answer to creating a better dad 'starting earlier'? Why or why not?

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photo credit: the UMF

6 Summer Reading Tips for You and Your Child

Summer is a great time to slow down and connect with your kids. Stop laughing, I'm serious! You can slow down! Whether it's a vacation or evenings at home, Summer is a great time to connect with your child through reading.

My oldest daughter reads on her own now, so she rarely wants me to read aloud to her. In fact, when I try to read aloud to her, she quickly takes the book and starts reading aloud herself! Realizing how quickly she's growing up, this Summer may be the last one my other daughter (just a little younger) is young enough to need me for reading.


I am determined to make the most of reading to my girls this Summer. Hopefully, they will learn how important reading is from watching me. If you read my list and think of something I missed, tell me in the comment section.

"The man who does not read good books is no better than the man who can't." —Mark Twain

Here's my plan for connecting with my kids through reading during the Summer break...

1.  Be the Example.
When your kid sees you reading, he will understand reading is important and fun. The younger your child, the better this works. This doesn't mean you have to be seen walking around the house with an encyclopedia (remember those?). But, be sure you can be found reading the newspaper (remember those?) or a magazine on your iPad. The important thing is to model to your child the importantance of reading.

2. Read Aloud with Your Child.
This probably won't work if you have older kids, but if you have young kids, be sure to red aloud to them. Reading together brings you and your child close and allows for a connection unlike any other. Reading usually opens opportunities for conversation as well. Simply asking questions like, “Why do you think he did that?” or “What else could she have said?” can create meaningful conversation between you and your child. For the older kid, try reading the same book as your teen and seek out ways to talk about the book together. 

3. Make Books Easily Available.
No brainer? Not really. Think about this: Are your child's books on the low self where he can reach them? Simply having books around the house with all kinds of topics may help your child get curious about a topic he wouldn't have otherwise considered. Be sure you have several topics of possible interest around the house, from space and flight to geology and geography. In general, the more pictures the better. Remeber, you're developing curiosity for reading, the books need not be all text!

4. Let Your Child Pick the Book.
Ask your child what her favorite topic is; after discussing it, spend some time together shopping for the best book on that topic. You could search and buy online or simply visit your local library. The point here is to be simple and be together. This doesn't have to cost you anything other than time. And I'm pretty sure you won't regret the time spent!

5. Make Reading a Habit.
Depending on your schedule, the best time to read may be morning, evening or at bed time. Whatever time you pick, try and create a routine over the Summer. If you're child is human, he will probably say, "I'm bored!" over the long Summer days. Try setting a daily time to read so you avoid telling your kids, "Oh, you're bored, read a book!" Let's work to not equate boredom with reading! Evening tends to work at my house. Mornings are busy and at night, well, my kids are wild at night. It's often difficult to get my girls settled down before bed enough to pay attention and read a book. However, Kids love routine, even if they hate it at first, trust me!

6. Connect Books to Life. 
Going camping or to the beach this Summer? Find a book that talks about camping or the ocean and read it a few days before traveling. I promise, the book will come alive to your kid. Then, while on the trip, you can refer back to the book to create more interest in reading and learning.

Try these places for age-specific books and activities related to reading:

What are you and your child reading this Summer?

photo credit: Simon Cocks

'Despicable' Daddy-Daughter Trip at Universal Orlando: Minion Mayhem & VIP Experience

A three-day weekend that involves flying with your six-year-old daughter to Universal Orlando for a special Despicable Me 2 and VIP Experience weekend is time well spent.

despicable me, daddy-daughter, #dm, #dm2, #despicableme, minion, #minion, universal, #universal, gru

Bella and I connected over the weekend like never before. We attended a special screening of the upcoming Despicable Me 2 (in theaters July 3!), rode "Minion Mayhem", went on a scavenger hunt across both parks and were given a special VIP Experience of Universal Orlando.

First, there were "Blue Men"... From the paint, colors and audience interaction, I enjoyed seeing Bella's amazement at all the interesting visuals of the show.

After the show, we met one of the "Blue Men." Bella was scared and wasn't excited to have her picture taken with him. Noticing Bella's tentative stares, the Blue Man slowly walked over to us, and without a word, slowly took my iPhone from my hand and proceeded to snap a selfie. This may be something the Blue Men do every night, but for Bella and I, we felt like rockstars as we left the show!

Here's the pic...this Blue Man is not only an on-stage talent, he's pretty good with an iPhone too.

despicable me, daddy-daughter, #dm, #dm2, #despicableme, minion, #minion, universal, #universal, gru, blue man group,

The Blue Man is actually holding my iPhone for this picture!

Minion Mayhem
This ride starts in Gru’s living room! Gru recruits you for one of his latest villian experiments. This experiment? He wants to turn you into a Minion!

despicable me, daddy-daughter, #dm, #dm2, #despicableme, minion, #minion, universal, #universal, gru, minion mayhem,

Here's Bella standing in Gru's living room!

despicable me, daddy-daughter, #dm, #dm2, #despicableme, minion, #minion, universal, #universal, gru, minion mayhem,You wait in line in Gru's living room. The ride hasn't started yet!

After surviving "Minion training" you are now a minion. Margo, Edith and Agnes' Adoption Anniversay is coming up and the girls aren't sure Gru's remembers. I won't give away much of the ride; but know the storyline of Gru adopting the girls plays a major role. As a dad who works for NFI, I was blown away by the creative and powerful adoption theme in this ride.

After the Minion Mayhem ride, Bella fell in love...

despicable me, daddy-daughter, #dm, #dm2, #despicableme, minion, #minion, universal, #universal, gru, minion mayhem, fluffy unicorn,

Scavenger Hunt
Bella and I were on a mission! We received our clues and with iPhone in hand, we set off to find our treasures. The clues from our hunt took us all across Universal Orlando and Universal Islands of Adventure.

We gathered clues at Crusty Land, found the Transformers Allspark and much-much-much more across the both theme parks. As you can see, we are quite the dynamic duo!

despicable me, daddy-daughter, #dm, #dm2, #despicableme, minion, #minion, universal, #universal, gru, minion mayhem,

VIP Experience
We were treated like rockstars during the Universal Orlando VIP Experience. We didn't wait in a single line. We were personally escorted with a tour-guide on a walking tour of both parks. And just to brag, we had exclusive backstage access and learned all kinds of interesting stories from our tour guide! Note: this was Bella's first-ever trip to a theme park. She is now spoiled and doesn't yet know about standing and waiting in lines!

On the VIP Experience, we rode Shrek 4-D, where the only thing I remember is getting donkey snot sprayed on three times. Donkey snot is cold, in case you're wondering.

The Spider-Man ride is amazing. All Bella talked about after it was the flames and how she felt the heat from the fire! I honestly raised my 3-D glasses a couple of times during the ride to see what was a screen and what wasn't. 

Our adventure took us through Dr. Seuss Land too! The Cat in the Hat™ ride takes you through the pages of Dr. Seuss's great book. You'll spin like crazy as Thing One and Thing Two make a mess and try to clean up before mom gets home!

We rode The High in the Sky Suess Trolly Train Ride and the Seuss Caro-Suess-El, too! 

And as you can see from the pictures below, Bella met Big Time Rush!

despicable me, daddy-daughter, #dm, #dm2, #despicableme, minion, #minion, universal, #universal, gru, minion mayhem, vip tour, big time rush,

Transformers: The Ride 3-D
This ride wasn't for Bella...this ride was for me! As a boy who grew up pretending to be Optimus Prime (yes, I just dated myself!). It was awesome to ride with the Autobots against the Decepticons. I was surprised when Universal announced we could have a private ride of this new adventure before it was to open this summer. This ride did not disappoint. I honestly couldn't tell what was real and what was the 3-D screen. And the simulated speed of flying through the air and working with Optimus Prime and Bumblebee was something the 10-year-old boy inside of me wants to do again!

despicable me, daddy-daughter, #dm, #dm2, #despicableme, minion, #minion, universal, #universal, gru, minion mayhem, vip tour, transformers the ride,

I mentioned Miss Bella fell in love after riding Minion Mayhem earlier. Well, The Sanders Family is happy to announce a new member of our family: Fluffy Unicorn Sanders! Please know Fluffy Unicorn is well taken care of! She can been seen below in our return luggage—my bag to be exact, at the hotel for a late night of cards (Despicable Me cards!) and buckled safely for our return flight! 

Since returning from Florida, Fluffy Unicorn has been busy with her new life in DC. She has camped out with Girl Scouts and enjoys multiple snuggles per day and night. Fluffy Unicorn is currently spending the weekend with my parents in Tennessee. Fluffy Unicorn Sanders is a great addition to our family. We need only adopt an additional Fluffy Unicorn for Bella's younger sister, Gabby!

despicable me, daddy-daughter, #dm, #dm2, #despicableme, minion, #minion, universal, #universal, gru, minion mayhem, fluffy unicorn, travel

This three-day daddy-daughter weekend was time well spentBella and I not only have the memories to look back on, but we have the pictures and Despicable Me swag to prove it! I am grateful to Universal for the opportunity to be a rockstar dad for my Bella. Thank you, Universal, for understanding the importance of family and fatherhood. 

Be sure to check out trailers of the upcoming Despicable Me 2 in theaters July 3 and follow the minions online.

So, how are you and your kids spending the summer?
The Father Factor Blog

This post is part 2 of 2 of my daddy-daughter weekend visiting Universal Orlando for a very special Despicable Me 2 experience. Post 1 covered the movie and special "Despicable" parties. This post covers Minion Mayhem and Universal Orlando VIP Experience. 

Dad Tips from "White House Down" Stars Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum at DC Screening

White House Down reveals what a dad will do to protect his daughter. While on a tour of the White House with his young daughter, a Capitol policeman must take action to save his daughter and protect the president.

white house down poster

As a dad of two young daughters, I can't help but like the stars in this film. This special screening was Channing Tatum's first public apperance since becoming a new dad (to a daughter). Jamie Foxx is a dad of two daughters. So, of course I was excited to attend the special Mamarazzi® event in Washington, DC for their new film White House Down. 

White House Down is a film about a dad trying to save his daughter. As a dad, I enjoyed the film and think it's worth watching for several reasons:

1. It's All Action.
Think Bruce Willis and Die Hard! Enough said. Yeah, that whole "White House Down" thing isn't just a cute title. They mean it.

2. It's Really Funny.
Of course the explosions are amazing. That's why the "total destruction" part made number one on my list. However, the film's comedic delivery, for me, helps make the whole idea and storyline even more believable. If this film didn't include the real-life humor—it wouldn't be half as entertaining.

3. It's All About A Dad Trying to Save His Daughter.
White House Down shows a strong example of fatherhood in John Cale. Cale will stop at nothing to try and save his daughter—all while saving the President.

I enjoyed watching the film and hearing Jamie and Channing talk fatherhood and parenting tips at the special screening was a major bonus. Interested in Channing and Jamie's dad tips? Watch this clip from The Moms and get to the theater June 28!     

Can't view the video? Visit here.

From White House Down: Capitol Policeman John Cale (Channing Tatum) has just been denied his dream job with the Secret Service of protecting President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). Not wanting to let down his little girl with the news, he takes her on a tour of the White House, when the complex is overtaken by a heavily armed paramilitary group. Now, with the nation's government falling into chaos and time running out, it's up to Cale to save the president, his daughter, and the country.

Watch the official trailer of White House Down:

 Can't see the video? Visit here.

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We are Watching You Daddy

The following is a post from Michael Yudt, Senior Director, Program Support at National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Michael's last day at NFI is tomorrow. Thank Michael for his work at NFI over the last decade and wish him well in the comments! Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

Yudt Family Feb 2013As I write this blog, I am fast-approaching the end of a nearly 10-year stretch with National Fatherhood Initiative.   

I’ve served in many different capacities at NFI and will always look favorably upon my time here. God is calling me into a new season of life, but fortunately, I will still be involved in the fatherhood movement (both personally and professionally).  

As a married father of three boys (ages 5, 3, and 1), I often find myself reflecting on the great responsibilities that come with being a dad. I was reminded of that fact the morning of September 13, 2012.   

I was at home getting ready to leave the house to lead a training on our 7 Habits of A 24/7 Dad workshop. While brushing my teeth, I had the sense that another set of eyes was on me. As it turns out, it was two sets of eyes—that of my oldest son (Caleb) and my middle son (Joshua).  You see, they share a room, which is adjacent to the bathroom.   

It was pretty early in the morning and both boys were sitting up in their beds watching me as I brushed my teeth. I was a bit caught off guard and asked them what they were doing. My oldest son responded, “Daddy, we’re watching you.” He didn’t stop there though as he proceeded to say, “We watch everything you do.”  

Make no mistake… The meaning of that moment did not escape me. I thought to myself about the irony of getting ready to head out the door to lead a fatherhood training, only to have one of my sons make a statement like that.  

You see, children have a way of speaking the truth in such a simple, but often times, very profound way. As fathers, our responsibilities are great… because our children are watching us.   

Whether we live at home with them or not, whether they can literally see us or not, they are “watching” what we do with our lives. They are watching how we treat their mom (or don’t treat her for that matter). They are watching what we say and how we say it. They are watching how we spend our time and who we spend it with. The truth is men, they are watching every detail of how we live our lives.  While this may scare some men (and understandably so), there is also a great opportunity for my generation of fathers to stand up and give our children something that is worthy to watch.   

As men, we must ask ourselves what kind of legacy we want to leave behind. Each dad must spend time wrestling with the question, “What is the most important thing we want our children to see and remember about us?” For me, as a Christian, the number one thing I want my sons to see is my relationship with Jesus Christ.

How would you answer that question?

Don’t rush to an answer if you’re not sure, but don’t delay either. As you think about this critical question… remember that National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) is a great resource for you along the way. Check out the For Fathers section of NFI's website. NFI deeply cares about helping all dads succeed. Take advantage of the wealth of information on our website and find another man who can encourage you in your role as a dad. 

And remember, regardless of what your children have seen so far in you, it’s never too late to paint a different picture. And when you do, remember, your children will be watching…..

How do you think your child would answer the question: "What's the most important thing in your dad's life?"

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'Despicable' Daddy-Daughter Trip at Universal Orlando: Despicable Me 2 Adventure

When Universal contacted me about flying my daughter and I to Florida, it took me seconds to respond in the affirmative. Once all was squared away and I knew we were flying to Florida, I had to tell my six-year-old daughter. But how much should I tell her?

despicable me, daddy-daughter, #dm, #dm2, #despicableme, minion, #minion, universal, #universal, gru

After announcing plans for our Despicable Me 2 weekend at a hotel—I realized I needed to be careful so as not to give too many details. To keep the surprises, I decided to give Bella one clue per day leading up to our big weekend. Her questions clearly reveal what was on her six-year-old mind that particular day. My answers are in parenthesis:

  1. How are we getting there? Car or plane? (Plane)
  2. What state is it in? (Florida) 
  3. Do they have oranges there? Maybe like, an orange tree?! (Yes)
  4. Can I take golf clubs and tennis racquet? (No) 
  5. Does Florida have plant & coconut trees?! Can we make a coconut drink?! (Yes)
  6. Will there be tv in our hotel? (Yes)
  7. Can we stay up all night? (Yes) 
  8. Will there be soda? (Yes)
  9. May I drink soda while there? (Yes) 
  10. Does Florida have poison ivy? (Yes)
  11. Does Florida have blue skies? Is it rainy? (Yes)
  12. Does Florida have Popsicles? (Yes)
  13. Does Florida have spooky houses? (Yes, probably.)
  14. Does Florida have Despicable Me costumes or statues? (Yes) 
  15. Does Florida have showers? (Yes)
  16. Does Florida have toilets? (Yes)
  17. Does Florida have any flowers? (Yes)
  18. Does Florida have any pizza? (Yes)
  19. Does Florida have any birthstone stores? (I'm not sure—probably.)
  20. Does Florida have any palm trees? (Yes) 
  21. Does Florida have any water? (Yes, most likely.)
  22. Does Florida have dirt? (Yes)
  23. Does Florida have any leaves? (Yes, bunches of them.)
  24. Does Florida have any big leaves? (Yes, lots.)
  25. Does Florida have people? (Yes, lots.)
  26. Does Florida have water bottles? (Yes)
As you can see, this "26 Questions" game was the perfect plan! I was able to give her some information, but the entire weekend was still a surprise to Bella. She simply knew we were flying in a plane to Florida, watching Despicable Me 2 and staying in a hotel. That's pretty much it. Everything that follows was a surprise! Yay for parenting secrets!

We first found Florida on our map, Orlando to be exact:
IMG 4670 resized 600Then, we packed. Ever packed with a six-year-old? Yeah, it's fun. Bell packed as if she wanted daddy to get frisked. She wanted to take her collection of 50 state quarters and upward of 15 fluffy bears. I managed to get the fluffy bear count to three. :
despicable me, daddy-daughter, #dm, #dm2, #despicableme, minion, #minion, universal, #universal, gru
We arrived in Florida at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel (only the best for us!). This "Minion Basket" greeted us in our room and we were handed these (VIP badges):
despicable me, daddy-daughter, #dm, #dm2, #despicableme, minion, #minion, universal, #universal, gruThen, we were whisked away to the Despicable Me 2 premiere at Universal Studios where very large popcorns and sodas awaited. We enjoyed the film. I've never seen a human consume so much popcorn and drink without using the restroom... Bell had lots of soda too!
After the show, it was the after party. The Minion Party:
despicable me, daddy-daughter, #dm, #dm2, #despicableme, minion, #minion, universal, #universal, gru


We partied with characters from the film:

despicable me, daddy-daughter, #dm, #dm2, #despicableme, minion, #minion, universal, #universal, gru

The next morning, we had a sensible, Despicable Breakfast:

despicable me, daddy-daughter, #dm, #dm2, #despicableme, minion, #minion, universal, #universal, gru

We enjoyed a full day at Universal Studios, including a scavenger hunt and VIP Tour on Saturday (stay tuned for blog post 2!). Then, we attended a special reception...Despicable Dessert:

despicable me, daddy-daughter, #dm, #dm2, #despicableme, minion, #minion, universal, #universal

Our daddy-daughter weekend was an absolute blast. The opportunity to hop on a plane and fly to Florida with Bella (not her first flight—but her first time traveling to Florida!) and spend quality time creating memories, just us two, was an experience Bella may never forget—I know I won't. Every time we see the "Universal" branding at the start of a film or advertisement; we will both be reminded of our 'despicable' trip. Thank you, Universal, for making me look like the best dad ever to my Bella.

Check out trailers of the upcoming Despicable Me 2 in theaters July 3 and be sure to follow all the "despicable" social online.

Despicable Me 2 Trailer

Despicable Me 2 Clip: Never Get Older 


About Despicable Me 2
Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment’s worldwide blockbuster Despicable Me entertained audiences around the globe in 2010, grossing more than $540 million and becoming the 10th-biggest animated motion picture in U.S. history. In summer 2013, get ready for more Minion madness in Despicable Me 2. Chris Meledandri and his acclaimed filmmaking team create an all-new comedy adventure featuring the return of super-villain Gru (Steve Carell), his adorable girls, the unpredictably hilarious Minions...and a host of new and outrageously funny characters. Release Date: July 3, 2013 Genre: 3D-CG comedy adventure Cast: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand, Steve Coogan, Ken Jeong, Elsie Fisher, Dana Gaier, Moises Arias Directed by: Chris Renaud & Pierre Coffin Written by: Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio

The Father Factor Blog

Follow Despicable Me 2

This post is part 1 of 2 of a daddy-daughter weekend visiting Universal Studios Florida for a very special Despicable Me 2 experience. Post 1 covers the movie and the "Despicable" parties at Universal Studios. Post 2 covers the "Minion Mayhem" ride and the Universal Studios Florida VIP experience

#DadsWay Twitter Party Tonight (6/20) at 8pm EST—Win an iPad Mini & Raise Money for NFI

In a unique partnership with Tide + Downy, NFI announces the #DadsWay Twitter Party! 

#dadsway tide downy

Let's get together and discuss how “dad’s way” of doing things—being a more engaged parent, household purchases, household chores (including laundry)—have changed among modern dads. 

For every tweet using #DadsWay @Tide & @Downy will donate $1 to @TheFatherFactor .

Date: Thursday, June 20, 2013

Time: 8-9 PM EDT
Hashtag: #DadsWay
Lead: @DadaRocks



Each tweet with #DadsWay hashtag will enter you for a chance to win...

  • One (1) iPad mini
  • Two (2) Amazon $50 gift cards

RSVP by commenting with your Twitter URL ( over at An RSVP is not required to participate or to be entered to win.

Catch NFI's Vince DiCaro on Fox News Live being interviewed about the Twitter Party tonight:  

For over 60 years, Tide has been caring for the clothes of American families and helping to provide the everyday miracle of clean clothing. To meet consumers’ diverse laundry needs, Tide offers its cleaning in a variety of products including Tide Total Care, Tide with Febreze Freshness, Tide Coldwater, Tide with a Touch of Downy, Tide with Bleach Alternative, Tide Stain Release, Tide High Efficiency and 2X Ultra Tide Liquid. For consumers’ on-the-go stain removal needs, Tide to Go helps remove fresh food and drink stains on the spot. Visit for helpful product information, practical tips on laundry care, special offers and promotions and more. You can become a fan on Facebook at

Can't see the video? Visit here.

This post is a part of the Tide + Downy #dadsway promotion.

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Ever Wonder What The Sims™ has to Say about Marriage, Fatherhood & Children?

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog—heck, if you know anything about NFI—you know that we’re not shy about sharing the research on the importance of marriage to responsible, involved, committed fatherhood. Just in case you aren’t aware of this compelling research, children raised in a home with their two biological, married parents do better, on average, on measures of physical, emotional, social, and financial well-being compared to children who grow up in single-parent homes. Moreover, marriage is the primary institution in all cultures that connects fathers to their children.  

photo[3]While growing up in a home with a single parent doesn’t doom a child to a life that lacks any semblance of well-being (I am the child of divorced parents), the evidence for the increased risk is overwhelming. And yet popular culture continues to send messages that it’s no big deal for unmarried couples to have children. So it wasn’t a surprise to me when my wife shared a sponsored ad that appeared on one of my daughter’s Facebook account for a relatively new game in The Sims family of games called The Sims™ FreePlay. (Yes, we have access to and monitor our kids’ social-media accounts.)    

If you haven’t already examined the screen shot in this post, do so now. (Please pardon the poor quality of the image.) What did you notice? That’s right! Baby is already here—before dad pops the question. In defense of the creator of The Sims™ franchise, Electronic Arts (EA), part of the description of the game indicates that marriage should come before having children: “Create up to 31 customized Sims from head to toe. Let your Sims get married, make babies, and then watch them grow into toddlers and pre-teens.” Even the text at the top of the screenshot mentions marriage before children. Still, a picture says a thousand words and burns a message in people’s minds much more effectively than does the written word.  

Being the curious guy that I am, I wondered whether I might be missing something given the disconnect between the image in the screenshot and the accompanying text. That’s because The Sims™ franchise is known the world over. It is, dare I say it, the most successful group of family-themed video games in history. Look at the screenshot again. Did you notice that 1 million people play The Sims™ FreePlay?! And it just came out this year, so that number is likely to grow into a much larger player base. The image indicates that players can create babies before their characters marry and do so “wherever they go.” (What a frightening thought! A baby here, a baby there, a baby everywhere! Oh look, honey. Remember when we created this one? I completely forgot about him!)  

I did some searching through Google and found that EA installed a “governor” in this new game that prevents players from having babies before their characters marry! How cool is that?! In fact, players must proceed through a series of goals before they reach the “Get Engaged” goal. They must attain the engagement goal before they can choose the “Propose Marriage” option at which time the proposing “Sim” presents a ring. The romantic partner must accept the proposal, of course, and then the couple can marry. (I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the chance of the partner saying “yes” increases with the cost/expensiveness of the ring—not exactly a positive message, but that’s fodder for another post.) Only after they marry can the player choose the “Crib” option to create a crib for the couple’s home. The player can then create the baby. And apparently, the player has to have saved enough money for the couple to have a baby, thus sending the message that kids are expensive, so be prepared.  

With the ubiquity of consumer products in our culture, the ads and images from companies—indeed, the products themselves—send critical messages about what’s acceptable in our culture. That’s why NFI partners with companies, such as Dove® Men+Care™ sponsor our NFI’s Dads Club™, to send positive, constructive messages about responsible fatherhood.

We also work with movie-production companies, such as 20th Century Fox and Sony Pictures, to engage the culture by discussing fatherhood in movies. (For information on our work with companies, click here.) Unfortunately, some companies aren't concerned about the messages they send related to fatherhood. That’s why we applaud when companies like EA create products that send constructive messages that benefit our nation’s children and, in this case, children the world over. I still haven’t figured out how the couple can have babies “wherever they go,” but in the interest of time, I’ll leave that research for another day.

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If You Have a Daughter, #DadsWay Means Dancing

I don't dance. So you can imagine the nervousness and anticipation I experienced upon hearing that Bella, my six-year-old daughter, was to attend her first (and annual) Winter Formal Daddy-Daughter Gala for her Girl Scout Troop.

As I read the invitation, several words leaped out at me and I knew—this was it—this was the moment wherein lies the difference between good dads and great dads. Looking back on the Winter Formal Daddy-Daughter Gala Dance Thingy, there were words that leaped from the invitation and seemed to strangle me in a choke-hold. Words like:


"Winter Formal"
Honestly, the committee couldn't make this "informal"?! Was the Gala-committee sitting back thinking of ways to make this event more uncomfortable for non-dancing dads?! Answer: yes. Yes, the committee was doing exactly that. 

"Dress: Suit & Tie"
Now, I'm not the guy who never wears a suit and tie. But, when "suit and tie" are the minimum dress a dad is to wear, there's a certain ante that's upped—uppped to the level of "maxed-out uncomfortableness" for a Friday night.

"Masquerade Masks"
Great. Not only was there gonna be dancing all uncomfortably and in a formal way, there was to be crazy, creepy masks. Awesome. Add this to the column: "Ways to make dad uncomformtable and not attend your dance."

Fast forward to the dance. Once we stepped into the Winter Formal Daddy-Daughter Gala, things weren't so bad. There was a dance floor—ugh. But, there were also tables in the dance vicinity—score. And a long table with food and desserts—score, again.

We snacked, chewed gum and blew bubbles. Bubbles were a hit for a few minutes. There were brownies on the dessert table. Brownies kept me from the dance floor for a few minutes. Cookies and lemonade did the same. Boy, was I glad they had cookies and lemonade. I knew the "dance" was to last for two and a half hours. My strategy? Spend time doing other things besides dancing! Any few minutes off the dance floor meant a few mintues not dancing.


Then there were the raffles. I spent several minutes in line guessing the number of jelly beans in hopes of winning a pink princess tent. After several guesses and $20 later—we didn't win the tent.

Also, and I hadn't originally thought of this, but there were other dads at this daddy-daughter event. I immediately found two wingmen-dads. One dad was a Gala-newbie like myself. But one dad, he was a Gala-pro. We kept one another comfortable while our daughters ran around the dance floor. The Gala-pro's daughter had taken off her shoes. My daughter soon followed.

Turns out, Gala-pro dad had an older daughter, age 8 or 9 or something. This was like his fourth Gala. His daughter was doing her own thing at this point. All Gala-pro dad had to do was show up and watch. The daughter had friends and other things to keep her busy. She didn't have to dance with her dad the whole night. This led me to two conclusions:

  1. Oh no, there's gonna be more Gala's?! and...
  2. Wait, there won't be many more Gala's were Bella actually wants to dance with me. I'd better actually dance.

The next song plays...I grab Bella...we twirl and dip...dip and twirl. That's pretty much my entire repertoire. After the song, there was a break for raffle-winner announcments. They actually called "Isabella Sanders" over the speakers. Out of the millions of girls (well dozens of girls) in attendance, Bella won a big raffle prize. She won a wooden jewelry box. They must have seen me placing all that cash in the jelly bean raffle.

There were more dances. Then, more standing hand-in-hand at the juice line. I talked more with my wingmen-dads about life and how quick the time flies. We talked about how much we hated dancing.

Then, there was the last dance call. I found barefooted Bella and held her. The emcee said something special (I don't remember what, I was nervous). Then, Whitney Houston music started. You know, slow-jam Whitney.

If you're me, you've spent your life caring little about Whitney's slow jams. Why? Well, because those said slow jams didn't involve you dancing. At grade school dances, you could sit on the bleachers. In middle school, you could stand by the wall. In high school—outside in the car. In college, well, who attends dances in college?!

But this last-dance was different. This last-dance was Whitney Houston's "I will always love you". It was a rallying cry to hold my sweet, formally dressed, barefooted Isabella. This was really a "last dance" in many ways. How often do you dress formally and dance? Oh, now I get it. The mom-steering committee had it right all along. This night was really special.

Thankfully, I've been able to dance in the living room and in retail store aisles many times with my six-year-old princess. And I hope to dance a few more times before she turns seven in a few months. Each dance has its own special quality, but this one was different.

This dance had as a background a room full of dads singing off key, and as loud as they could. You see, most of the dads had been there before. They weren't as nervous as me. They knew something I didn't. That as dads, you don't get many of these nights. You don't get enough of these dances. I'm still not certain if the dads were shouting off-key to be funny or to keep themselves from tearing up. I'm guessing the latter.   

Me, I picked Bell up and held her in my arms until after Whitney's long last note. I've never been so grateful for Whitney's ability to hold a long note! Bella rested her head on my shoulder and I took a mental snapshot. We held hands as we walked off the dance floor, we grabbed more gum from the center pieces on the tables and I put Bella's shoes back on. Then, we walked slowly to the car—just me and Bell.

By the time we were buckled safely in the car, Bell was thinking about fries at the Burger King next door. Me? I was thinking about a line from a Tim McGraw song, "Someday you'll be looking back on your life at the memories, this is gonna be one of those nights..."

Why is the hashtag #DadsWay in this blog title? Through June 23, every time you Tweet using the hashtag #DadsWay, Tide and Downy will donate $1 to National Fatherhood Initiative. So, if you are on Twitter, tell us what #DadsWay means to you. To me, #DadsWay means dancing.

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"Man of Steel" and Fatherhood

"You will give the people of earth an ideal to strive towards, they will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall, but in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders." —Jor-El

man of steelAs a guy who grew up watching Christopher Reeve and Dean Cain fly through the air as Superman, I was excited to see the new Man of Steel that was released Friday.

Fans of Superman will love the film. The film has been ridiculed for the seemingly extra 45 minutes of excess explosions — of which I can't disagree. But all in all, the film is better than any previous Superman and places the franchise firmly in same line with other great superhero films of the last few years.

Aside from all the lengthly explosions, there's a real story that sticks with how Superman was originally conceived. We learn the "Man of Steel" was born on Krypton to Jor-El (Russell Crowe), has an adoptive earthly dad (Kevin Costner), and must save the planet all while figuring out whether to use the gifts he has to help people or not.

When I watched the previous Superman movies, I was not a father myself. Now that I'm a dad, I watched Man of Steel through the eyes of Jor-El and Jonathan Clark. Watching as a dad, I was reminded of two things.

1)  Great Fathers Guide Their Kids.
Throughout the film, Superman has flashbacks to Smallville, Kansas and in doing so, he finds his true self. Meanwhile, the audience gathers information to aid in understanding the depth of his “Man of Steel” character.

We watch as Clark finds his “Fortress of Solitude”. It is there he finds his suit and learns the crest on the suit is a symbol of hope. In this same scene, Jor-El explains exactly how Clark has been given certain powers. It is only after this moment that Clark begins to push his own limits—eventually learning to fly. Without such guiding from Jor-El, it's debatable that Superman would ever learn to fly, literally and figuratively. 

"Every person can be a force for good, free to forge his own destiny."  —Jor-El

In another flashback, Clark talks with his earthly father, Jonathan. Jonathan, in explaining how he came to live with "The Kents", says to Clark, “I have to believe you were sent here for a reason…Even if it takes the rest of your life, you owe it to yourself to find out why that is.” In a great father-son moment, Jonathan says to Clark, “You have to decide what kind of man you want to be. Good character or bad, that man will change the world.”

“You have to decide what kind of man you want to be. Good character or bad, that man will change the world.” —Jonathan Clark

2)  Great Fathers Put Their Kids First.
Superman had a great biological father in Jor-El and a great adoptive father in Jonathan Kent. Superman/Clark Kent struggles to live as a human/super-human throughout the film. This tension unfolds in the two fatherly relationships of the film.

With Jor-El, the idea of living and using super powers is a given. In stark contrast, Jonathan struggles to keep his son's powers from the scrutiny of public for fear of misunderstanding or unneeded attention. Living in that tension between being human and super-human is where Man of Steel wins.

In the end, Man of Steel depicts a man whose biological father and adoptive father sacrifice themselves to save their son. It's a film that depicts sacrificial love and selflessness as the true nature of fatherhood, making it a movie worth watching...dare I say...a "symbol of hope" for our generation.

“Man of Steel" is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). 

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Fatherhood Supports Strong Moms & National Family Month

nfiWe often say at NFI, we are about the business of "increasing the proportion of children who grow up with 24/7 dads." What does this mean? Well, it means we are happy to align ourselves with people and organizations which work promote protecting children and stengthening families.

It’s not easy to be close as a family today. In today’s world, moms, dads and kids all have things tugging at their calendars. We must work together as families in order to stay close and connect with any true meaning.

In this busy world, moms and dads sense the pressure to make the “perfect” parenting decisions, only to be judged or criticized by other parents. Moms get the attacks of judgement on topics and personal decisions like going back to work and feeding the baby. Dads get judged on things like their position at the company, whether to stay home and/or how their kids act in public. From styles of discipline to 8pm bed times, I'm reminded of the saying, "opinions are like armpits—everyone has one and well...(you may know the rest!)."

Take the StrongMoms Empowerment Pledge

This is why we promote the StrongMoms Empower™ campaign by Similac® (a call-to-action to create a more supportive and less judgmental environment to empower moms to be confident about the decisions they make for their children and their families) and National Family Month (NFM) (which occurs every year between Mother’s and Father’s Day).

National Famliy Month's goal is to "Build a nation of confident kids by growing stronger and healthier families and encouraging families to support one another." Anything we can do to shed light on this movement, we stand ready. 

national family month

We thought it was a perfect time to consider our families and how to make them stronger. Strong families share many of the same qualities. Here are a few examples:.

Build Trust
Strong families build trusting relations by following through with promises.

Show Commitment
Strong families feel like a team. They share traditions like having a family picnic on the Fourth of July or taking walks together after dinner. Family members show commitment to the family by making time for family events and making sacrifices for one another.

Members of strong families talk to one another about important decisions and daily plans. They discuss feelings as well as day-to-day activities at school or work. When there are conflicts, strong families take time to cool down before responding. They don't bottle up their anger or let it get out of hand. They talk about possible solutions to problems and work together to carry out the best solution.

Grow Through Crises
All families experience crises. Strong families use these experiences to learn and grow. They know even bad experiences can bring about good changes and help them to become closer. They admit problems instead of hiding them. They seek help when needed.

Spend Time Together
Strong families spend time together, talking, reading, playing games, taking walks, cooking. Some special times involve closeness, like reading a good-night story and tucking children into bed with a kiss.

Have Fun as a Family
Strong families know that having fun is important and make plans to have fun together. They plan family trips or parties. Strong families know that laughter is important and use humor to help reduce stress. Family members laugh with one another, not at one another.

Show Love and Affection
No matter what children say or do, they need to know that their parents love them. Strong families show caring in many ways. Family members say to each other, "I love you" or "I'm happy we're in this family together." They give hugs and show affection in other small ways. They may call each other nicknames and enjoy remembering family stories.

Here are some ideas for how to celebrate the month with family:

  • Take a walk together.
  • Watch a favorite movie.
  • Meet eyes when you speak.
  • Say "please" with your requests.
  • Say "thank you."
  • Discipline in private.
  • Let your "no" mean no.
  • Let your "yes" mean yes.
  • Praise events.
  • Go to a ballgame together.
  • Have family dinner at home at least twice a week.
  • Listen. Listen. Listen.
  • Make free time.
  • Laugh out loud.
  • Say, "I'm proud of you."
  • Smile.
  • Be home when they are home.
  • Hug often.
  • Make "I love you" the last thing you say every night.
  • Say, "Good morning!" cheerfully every morning.
  • Make a dinner date for just you and your child.
  • Turn off the TV.
  • Make a campfire and sing songs.
  • Stop what you are doing and listen.
  • Take your child to work.
  • Lie on your backs and look for shooting stars at night.
  • Teach your kids how to save money.
  • Show enthusiasm.
  • Develop a kid's-eye view of the world.
  • Make family traditions.
  • Take a family vacation every year.
  • Go fishing.
  • Sing songs.
  • Show and tell your love for your spouse.
  • Read a best-selling children's book aloud.
  • Listen to music.
  • Share memories.
  • Tell childhood stories.
  • Attend religious services together.
  • Say "I love you."
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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.

mickelson medium 5688393965

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 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

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