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Is It Finally Time to Put Marriage in the Dustbin?

This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

Recently, economist and long-time promoter of marriage Isabel V. Sawhill made a surprising about face with the release of her book Generation Unbound. As Brigid Shulte wrote in the Washington Post, Sawhill has reversed her position as an unlikely marriage advocate. She's a Democrat, works at the non-partisan, centrist Brookings Institution, and based her support of marriage not on traditional values but on the data that shows children raised by married parents fare better, on average, than children raised in other family forms.

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Sawhill's staunch evidence-informed support of marriage earned her broad-based praise among proponents of marriage. So many marriage advocates, including me, were shocked when she said, as Shulte points out, that it's time to give up. It's time to stop trying to save an institution that's been in decline for so long it's irretrievable. Better to identify what can replace it as a better alternative to stopping and reversing the rise in single parenting which, almost everyone agrees, is bad for children and leads to spending billions of dollars on social programs that address its consequences.

Where to Hang Your Hat

Does she have a point? That depends on where you hang your hat in terms of the argument for or against giving up on promoting marriage. If you hang your hat on trends in marriage rates, you'd be hard pressed not to agree with Sawhill. Consider that:

  • The number of adults who are married has been on a steady decline from 72.2 percent in 1960 (it's peak in the past 100 years or so) to 50.5 percent in 2012.
  • There's a widening "marriage gap" between college-educated adults and those without a college education. Among 35- to 39-year old college-educated adults, for example, 81 percent had ever married compared to 76 in 1950. In contrast, 73 percent of 35- to 39-year-olds without a bachelor's degree had ever married compared to 92 percent in 1950.

So, we're a less-married nation, but some of us are getting married at higher rates than ever before while others of us are less likely to get married. And this decline continues even though the federal government and some state governments have been doing everything they can since the mid 2000s to promote marriage by funding marriage-promotion programs.

If, however, you hang your hat on the impact of the state of marriage -- and depending on the kind of impact that's your focus -- your answer might or might not support Sawhill's new position.

The decline in marriage and the marriage gap has received quite a bit of recent attention and generated some debate about their impacts. Most of the debates focus on the impacts on adults, children, or both. Those that focus on the impact on adults are mixed. (See this piece by the Brookings Institution as an example.) Those that focus on children, however, overwhelmingly conclude that the impacts are not good, especially for the poorest children.

The impact on children is where I have always hung my hat, and is where, not surprisingly, National Fatherhood Initiative hangs its hat when it comes to the negative effects of father absence. What hasn't changed since we started collecting data on marriage rates is the ream of data on the impact on children when they grow up without their married parents that shows these children, regardless of socio-economic status, don't fare as well, on average, as children who grow up with their married parents. Moreover, it's not just children who suffer. Communities also suffer. As I've written elsewhere in this blog, family structure is the most important factor in the upward economic mobility of families. Economic mobility is not only more difficult for children living in single-parent homes. Communities with large percentages of single-parent homes make economic mobility more difficult for everyone in the community.

Can We Afford to Give Up?

These facts, based on boatloads of evidence, should cause everyone to stop and ask whether we can afford to stop attempts that seek to reverse the decline of marriage. While renewing marriage is not a magic bullet that will cure all of the ills related to child poverty and other issues of child well-being, it's the most vital part of the prescription.

So how can we, as Sawhill has concluded, just give up on marriage? She suggests that there is another answer that makes it okay to give up -- that there is a better alternative to stopping and reducing the rise in single parenting, and that it's just a matter of figuring out which one it is.

She offers some ideas, such as marriages with "time limits." They'd end, say, after 5, 10, 15 years. Like moving from one job to another. (Unfortunately, too many people already treat marriage in this way.) Would these contracts create an institutionalized form of a new kind of friends with benefits? Would we call these marriages "contracts without consequences?" Could they be "terminated by either party for any reason with 30 days advanced written notice?" If we go this far, marriage would certainly be dead as it would be reduced to nothing more than a contract stripped of the characteristics that make marriage work, such as love and commitment in the best and worst of times.

She also mentions Scandanavian-style long-term cohabiting. While that might work in Scandanavian countries, that rent-to-own experiment has been underway in the U.S. for some time, so long, in fact, that cohabitation is now the most common pathway to marriage. But it has done nothing to stem the tide in single parenting. The rapid rise in single parenting has kept rolling along despite the just-as-precipitous rise in cohabiting -- no inverse correlation there.

Shulte notes that Sawhill hasn't given up, fortunately, on the need to reduce the impact of single-parent homes on child well-being. So perhaps, to use language borrowed from the Lean Startup movement, she's only "pivoting" on her position, instead of reversing it, when it comes to addressing the problem of child poverty. Just as many technology and consumer product companies have adopted rigorous and rapid testing of products that often result in pivots (i.e. changes) on their features and functions to achieve their ultimate goal of meeting consumers' needs, Sawhill might be suggesting the answer lies in experimenting with and tweaking approaches to solve our nation's need to reduce child poverty.

Where to Start

To identify approaches to solving any problem, it's vital to start with a desired outcome or goal. Her suggested goal is to establish an "ethic of responsible parenthood," which is ironic given that the creation of that ethic is a primary function of marriage. She recommends establishing this ethic through, in part, the use of long-acting, reversible contraceptives (e.g. IUDs) that couples would use until they are ready to have children. Much more effective than the pill or condoms, their use could reduce the likelihood of poorly timed and unwanted pregnancies.

While there are many ideological and practical hurdles to overcome implementing such an experiment and taking it to scale, I seriously doubt it would ever gain enough traction -- short of a mandate that smacks of mass sterilization -- to have a measurable effect on reducing single parenting. Despite the success of efforts to reduce teen pregnancy (the focus of most calls for long-acting contraceptive use), the rise in out-of-wedlock births has continued unabated largely because of the rise in out-of-wedlock births to twentysomethings that is now at an all-time high. It would also require massive amounts of government and private funding to make these contraceptives affordable to the poorest Americans.

The answer to addressing the rise in single parent homes and all of its consequences, not just child poverty, is not to give up on marriage. The answer starts with acknowledging where the problem lies.

The problem is with changing beliefs in America about family: specifically, about the function of marriage and its impact on child bearing. Most Americans now believe the function of marriage is to satisfy their desire for meaningful, life-long connection instead of as an institution for raising children and what children need to thrive. So it shouldn't be surprising that a majority of Americans today don't see anything wrong with unmarried childbearing.

To be clear, my problem with this belief is not that marriage should not satisfy someone's desire for meaningful, life-long connection -- I can't think of a better way to create such a connection. But focusing on that aspect of marriage to the detriment of marriage's primary function of raising healthy children has become a recipe for disaster.

I not only believe the problem lies in Americans' beliefs. I also believe the answer lies in Americans' beliefs: specifically, the belief that children deserve the best chance to succeed. It is that widely held belief that connects to Sawhill's spot-on contention that the institution of marriage is evolving and must evolve. It must evolve by expanding to include two functions, the new and the old. Marriage's function isn't a zero-sum game. It can and should be a "both-and" game. Marriage can serve its new function of providing individuals with deep, life-long connection and be renewed as the primary institution in which to raise healthy children.

If we can agree to focus on the goal of ensuring that children deserve to be raised in an environment that the research shows gives them the best chance to succeed and in which their parents can also thrive, then perhaps we can also agree that the answer to improving child well-being lies somewhere in this expanded function of marriage. To do so, we must challenge our tendency to look at controversial issues as a zero-sum game and collaborate to identify, test, and iterate approaches that respect the evolving function of marriage and redirect its gaze back toward children's well-being.

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This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

5 Easy Ways Dads Can Get Involved in Their Child’s Education

This post originally appeared at NBC News Education Nation.

Parents hear a lot these days about the importance of being involved in their children’s education. Unfortunately, dads often view “parent” as a code word for “mom.” Education, they say, is mom’s domain. So when mom steps up to the plate, dad often stays in the dugout. However, research indicates that a father’s involvement is crucial, and that it plays a key role in a child’s success in school and beyond.

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Most of the discussion on parent involvement focuses on school-related activities, like attending school events and parent-teacher conferences. Does it make a difference when dads are involved in this way? The evidence suggests that it does. A landmark study by the U.S. Department of Education found that children in two-parent families and of non-resident fathers who were highly involved in their children’s education were more likely to get mostly A’s and enjoy school. They were also less likely to repeat a grade than children with fathers who had low or no involvement. Even when dads don’t live with their children, it’s clear that their involvement matters to academic achievement.

NBC's Parent ToolKit has more about how you can provide support as your child progresses through school.

When it comes to a dad’s involvement in education-related activities at home, like reading to a child, we know a lot less. That’s unfortunate because a recent study--covering 30 years of longitudinal studies-- revealed how little parents’ involvement in their children’s schools matters to their academic success. That’s right. Despite the hyper-focus on parents’ participation in children’s schools, the evidence suggests that the focus should be on education-related activities at home. We must know more about a dad’s level of involvement in these kinds of activities.

Nevertheless, the great news is that, regardless of dads’ level of involvement, the study suggests that there are five easy ways dads can get involved that really matter. (Take note, too, moms.)

1. Read daily to a young child. Children who learn to read well at an early age are more likely to succeed in school. Try to read out loud with your young child regularly, and to have books around the house that will inspire the entire family to enjoy the written word. You may also want to connect your reading materials to what your child is learning in school, and check out books at the library that cover those particular subjects. If you need more tips for raising great readers, see our helpful post, 6 Tips on How to Show Your Child Reading is Awesome.

2. As your child ages, encourage him to ask critical questions. As long as they're respectful, allow your child to challenge you at home. As your child becomes more comfortable challenging you, they'll become more comfortable challenging others. Asking lots of questions and challenging the status quo becomes more valuable to children as they move into higher levels of education.

3. Set clear expectations and then take a back seat. Successful college students have parents who are clear about what they expect of their children. Rather than micro-managing your child’s education, talk to her regularly about your expectations, and guide and support her as she finds her own path to success.

4. Help your child get into classes with good teachers. More than choosing the right courses, what matters most is who teaches those courses. If your child’s school has some flexibility in teacher selection, do your homework. Ask parents you know whose children have had certain teachers about the quality of those teachers. By the time children get in middle and high school, they often know who the good and bad teachers are.

Another tip that is hinted at, but not explicitly mentioned in the study, is one that I've found works extremely well.

5. Encourage your child to do homework in groups and with friends who succeed in subjects your child struggles in (or in which your child just needs a little help every now and then). One of the reasons helping your child with homework can backfire is parents are too far removed from their own schooling to help. Many parents often forget how to do certain forms of math, for example, and develop bad grammar and writing habits. Moreover, the ways in which subjects are taught today can differ dramatically from the ways in which they were taught 15, 20, or 30 years ago. A better tactic is for your child to study in a group of peers who are exposed to the same teaching approaches/techniques or with a friend who really understands the subject in which your child needs help.

As you implement these easy steps, get involved in your child’s school anyway. It's still a good idea. It shows your child that you value her or his education because it communicates a high expectation for the importance of school and academic achievement.

Question: Have you tried any of these five ideas? If so, how have you seen it help your child?

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This post originally appeared at NBC News Education Nation.

Fathers Eat Last: What Great Leaders Do That You Should Too

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” I didn’t say this, John Quincy Adams did. Leadership and fatherhood are one in the same. Reading Simon Sinek's new book Leaders Eat Last, I'm inspired by three things great leaders do that you, as a leader and/or father, should do too.

Simon Sinek is best known for his previous work Start with WhyIn his newest work, he reveals that knowing your why, while important, is just the starting point. It’s not enough to know your why. You must know the people around you and realize they are much more than expendable resources.

Sinek is talking about leadership and teams. However, whether you’re a business leader, pastor, program leader, or father, being a great leader doesn’t simply involve professional competence. Great leaders, and dare I say, great fathers, truly care about the people entrusted to their care. 

Here are a three things I was reminded of while reading Leaders Eat Last:

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1) Great Leaders Look "Beyond the Numbers"

"Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t lie," sings Lil Wayne. While you're no doubt amazed by my knowledge of hip hop lyrics, try and contain yourself to read my point. No disrespect to Lil Wayne, but numbers lie. Numbers don't tell the value or worth of a person. Numbers will have you thinking you are worth more than you really are; or less than your worth, depending on how high or low the numbers go.

Sinek is talking about executive leaders who spend their days behind spreadsheets and rarely or never get out among their people. But, the point is true for dads. The more removed you are from your people (be it your organization or your family), the more likely you are be distant physically and mentally. Sinek writes:

We no longer see each other as people; we are now customers, shareholders, employees, avatars, online profiles, screen names, email addresses, and expenses to be tracked...Now more than ever, we are trying to work and live, be productive and happy, in a world in which we are strangers to those around us.

I can't help but read this and think about the dads we serve at NFI—and my life as a dad. Are we strangers in our own homes? If you want to really connect, you have to spend time. You have to physically and mentally be present with your family. Being a great dad is more than buying things, be they gifts or paying the bills. After almost three years of working at NFI, I see dads who are workaholics without purpose at best. At worst, they are indifferent and disconnected. I have to fight this. We have to fight this. Our kids deserve more than more stuff. Our kids deserve us. This means time with us. I don't know about you, but I'm yet to learn a shortcut to connecting with my family. Connecting takes time.

2) Great Leaders Understand the "Awesome Responsibility"

Sinek writes, "Being a leader is like being a parent, and the company is like a new family to join. One that will care for us like we are their own…in sickness and in health." Sinek calls this the "awesome responsibility.” He continues, "every single employee is someone's son or someone's daughter. Like a parent, a leader of a company is responsible for their precious lives.” Have you worked for a boss that lived like this? If so, I’m sure you knew it. If not, I’m sure you knew that too. This idea plays out in business and with family. Did your dad treat you like he was responsible for your precious life? Did he discipline; yet, when all was said and done, you knew he loved you? Better yet, are you treating your child like the precious life that he or she is?

Sinek gives an example of a leader that acts like a great father. The leader, Ken, speaks about his employees, "First and foremost, your commitment to them is for life...ultimately, you want them to become better people." Imagine working for a company where, if you make a mistake, the first step isn't to fire you, but to help you learn the skill your missing. So, how do you parent? Do you discipline your child, or do you simply punish them? Do your actions show love even when your child's doing something wrong? Great leaders and great fathers, the ones who really get it, understand the awesome responsibility of their position. 

3) Great Leaders Eat Last 

Call it patience, a great sense of responsibility, or simply being sacrificial, but the greatest leaders eat last. Just as a military leader will be sure his soldiers eat before he does, the best leader is the one who serves most. Sinek says, and apply this to fatherhood all you want:

We are naturally cooperative animals that are biologically more inspired and motivated when we know we are helping others. Leadership is not a licensed to do list; it is a responsibility to do more. Leadership is always a commitment to human beings...We must all start today to do the little things for the good of others…one day at a time. Let us all be the leaders we wish we had.  

Be sacrificial in all things pertaining to your life as a leader and as a father. The old saying fits here, "How you do anything is how you do everything." I love how Sinek writes of the leader, and how closely it fits with being a dad. He writes:

  • Leaders run headfirst into the unknown
  • They rush toward danger
  • They put their own interests aside to protect us all to pull us into the future
  • Leaders will sooner sacrifice what is theirs to save what is ours
  • And they would never sacrifice what is ours to save what is theirs. 

To make a point, read Sinek's lines on leadership with my slight fatherhood emphasis: 

  • Fathers run headfirst into the unknown
  • Fathers rush toward danger
  • Fathers put their own interests aside to protect us all to pull us into the future
  • Fathers will sooner sacrifice what is theirs to save what is ours
  • And Fathers would never sacrifice what is ours to save what is theirs. 

Reading this book, Sinek inspires me to look beyond the numbers and truly connect, to see my awesome responsibility with fresh eyes, and to eat last in order to be a better leader at home and at work. I want to be the leader and dad who inspires those around me to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more. Let's all go be the leaders, and fathers, we wish we had.

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Free eBook > "The Ultimate Guide to Connecting with your Child"! 


This free ebook is designed to help you and your children become closer and more connected. Use it for yourself or share it with other dads.

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Announcing 24/7 Dad® 3rd Edition > See What's New and Save $200 During the Pre-Sale!

Developed by parenting and fatherhood experts, 24/7 Dad® A.M. and P.M. teaches men the characteristics they need to be good fathers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Used by a wide variety of fatherhood leaders and fatherhood organizations across the country, research shows 24/7 Dad® successfully changes fathers’ attitudes, knowledge, and skills. And now, with research-based enhancements and additions, our flagship fatherhood program is even better than ever in its 3rd Edition!

24/7 Dad® remains based on a philosophy that supports the growth and development of fathers and children as caring, compassionate people who treat themselves, others, and the environment with respect and dignity. This philosophical basis of caring and compassion forms the underlying structure that constitutes the values taught in the 24/7 Dad® A.M. and P.M. programs. Each 24/7 Dad® Program consists of 12 group-based sessions that build on each other and cover a variety of fathering topics - from family history and what it means to be a man, to communication and dealing with anger.

24/7 Dad® 3rd Edition takes the A.M. and P.M. programs to the next level with enhanced content and activities, the addition of an optional introductory session, video integration, a complementary mobile app, and more!

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Here are 10 enhancements to 24/7 Dad® 3rd Edition:


1) More Engaging Content with Video to Increase Dads' Engagement
The addition of more than 30 videos to each program (more than 60 videos combined) means it's more engaging for dads and enhances their learning. We also added over 10 “Stories of Impact"—which are videos facilitators can use to motivate fathers to stay in the program. These stories show the impact of the programs on diverse fathers in diverse settings across the country.

2) More Evidence-Based and Evidence-Informed Content for Habit-Formation and Motivation
NFI staff constantly monitor the latest research and evaluations of fathering and parenting interventions, as well as, evidence from the behavioral and social sciences fields on strategies and tactics that positively influence behavior. The 3rd Edition integrates research and evidence on habit formation and motivation that will help you increase dads’ motivation to be involved in their children’s lives and develop and sustain the habits of an involved, responsible, committed father.

3) The My 24/Dad® Checklist Encourages Dads to Develop Positive Fathering Habits
Research shows the use of checklists increases individuals’ ability to ingrain pro-social habits through deliberate practice. The primary content addition in the 3rd Edition is the My 24/Dad® Checklist, a powerful tool integrated into each session that helps dads develop the habits of an involved, responsible, committed father. This checklist encourages dads to identify actions, based on what they learn during each session, that they can take on a periodic basis (i.e. daily, weekly, monthly, and one time) to increase their engagement with their children. We created versions of the checklist in hard copy, online, and mobile versions for use during the program and after it ends.

4) The FREE 24/7 Dad® To Go Android App Allows Dads to go Mobile with their Fathering Checklist
We produced a mobile version of the My 24/Dad® Checklist that dads can install on their smart phones to use on an ongoing basis—extending the impact of the program. The app allows dads to customize time-sensitive checklists of to-do items related to involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood. The app also includes links to information on NFI’s website (www.fatherhood.org) keeping dads connected to the latest practical advice and guidance on how to be a 24/7 Dad. Access it at the Google Play store for free.

5) ALL Program-Related Materials for Dads Now Provided in Spanish on the CD-ROM
The updated CD-ROM includes all worksheets and evaluation tools for Dads in Spanish (not previously available). And as always, fathering handbooks in Spanish can be purchased separately.

6) Optional Introductory Session on the CD-ROM Eases Fathers Into the Program
This optional session also helps facilitators learn more about the dads that comprise each unique group, including what motivated them to enroll and what will motivate them to continue coming back.

7) Pocket Reference Cards Inside Every Fathering Handbook Lets Dads Keep a Reminder Handy
New Pocket Reference Cards remind dads of The Characteristics of a 24/7 Dad and also offer 10 Affirmations to Give to their Kids. A helpful tool for use beyond the program sessions!

8) Information on the 24/7 Dad® Framework in the New Program Guide
For facilitators interested in learning more about the behavior change theories that underlie the programs and researchers interested in further evaluating the impact of the programs, the new Program Guide in the improved Facilitator’s Manuals describes the behavioral theories that create the overall framework upon which we built the programs.

9) Improved Session Guide Continues to Make Facilitation Easy
We included changes that will help facilitators completely integrate the improvements to the programs.

10) More Practitioner Input Simply Makes the Program Even Better
NFI designed the first editions and second editions with input from practitioners who facilitate fatherhood programs.

  • NFI continued to use practitioner feedback to create the third editions by gathering ongoing feedback from 24/7 Dad® facilitators across the country who work with a diversity of fathers, particularly low-income, nonresidential and/or non-custodial fathers.
  • NFI staff has also conducted training institutes for more than 1,100 organizations on how to use the programs. Practitioners provided feedback on the curriculum during these institutes that NFI incorporated into the third editions.

Save $200 NOW through February 5th!

247Dad_AM__11347Be sure to take advantage of our pre-sale pricing through February 5th. Get the entire 24/7 Dad® 3rd Edition A.M. or P.M. Curriculum Kit for just $449 ($200 less than the regular price of $649)!

Each Curriculum Kit Includes everything you need to facilitate the program “out-of-box”:

  • Facilitator’s Manual with Program Guide
  • 10 Fathering Handbooks with Pocket Cards the dads can keep (also available in Spanish!)
  • CD-ROM with an evaluation tool, marketing resources, and worksheets for the dads (all materials for fathers Spanish too!)
  • DVD with videos to enhance program delivery

Click here to learn more about 24/7 Dad® AM and 24/7 Dad® PM.

Click here to register for a free webinar on January 20 or 21 with NFI President Christopher Brown to learn more about 24/7 Dad® 3rd Edition!  

NFI's Top 20 Blog Posts of All Time

Fatherhood Changes Everything...We repeated this line all year. It's why NFI was created in 1994. This year is an extra-special year because we turned 20 years old. So, you'll find in this post our top-performing posts "of all time" - or at least since we've been tracking views!

20th_Anniv_NFI_LogoI've written for The Father Factor since early 2012, and I can tell you, we've seen steady growth and engagement from our readers each year. We are grateful to serve you with this blog for fatherhood leaders on tips and tools you need to help you and the dads around you. Thank you for reading and sharing our posts!

Here are the top 20 blog posts of all time: 

1) The Father Absence Crisis in America [Infographic] (11/12/13)
24 million children in America grow up without their father at home. Share this infographic and help connect father to child.

2) An Open Letter From a Dad to His Son on His 18th Birthday (12/19/13)
Richard Beaty writes an open letter to his son on turning 18 years old. It's worth a read from all fathers.

3) The Difference Between a Man and a Boy (6/1/12)
New research on the demise of guys and raising boys to become men by Philip Zimbardo reveals more about the issue of father absence.

4) 4 Great Resources for Single Dads (7/12/13)
New research reveals the rise of single father households. Now what? We offer suggestions for single fathers on the blog.

5) Coverage of Celebrity Deaths Always Misses the Mark (2/3/14)
The passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman is sad, but the coverage of celebrity deaths tends to miss the mark when it comes to fathers.

6) 10 Ways To Be a Better Dad (7/2/14)
Today you have a chance to start on a new path. Try these 10 ways to be a better dad. If you're already a great dad, you're welcome for the reminder!

7) 8 Things To Know About Disciplining Your Child (10/31/12)
Discipline means “to teach; to guide.” Punishment means to “penalize” for doing something wrong. Let's get this correct.

8) The Affects of an Emotionally Unavailable Dad (5/6/14)
Elizabeth writes about growing up with a dad at home but emotionally unavailable. Read her story and consider how your dad shaped your view of fatherhood.

9) 5 Questions Every Father Should Ask Himself (10/8/12)
Every child deserves a 24/7 Dad. Here are five questions to ask yourself in order help you become the responsible father you are meant to be.

10) The Challenge of Becoming a Single Father (3/4/14)
Read from one dad's experiences about the challenges (and rewards) of becoming a single father.

11) The Surprising Facts about Payments of Child Support (6/5/14)
Christopher Brown writes about child support and gender on The Father Factor Blog.

12) 5 Ways to be a Horrible Dad (1/22/13)
There are five things every horrible father does. Do them all and you can be a horrible dad too. It's simple, really!

13) Is Your Child a Match or a Torch? (6/4/12)
This post covers different child temperaments from a father's point of view raising a toddler.

14) 7 Things a Great Dad Knows (1/15/13)
Need help being a great dad? We have "7 Things Every Great Dad Knows."

15) 5 Father's Day Commercials that May Make You Shed Man Tears (6/14/13)
We have our picks for the top Father's Day commercials worthy of creating man tears. Thanks for getting fatherhood right brands!

16) 6 Tips on How to Show Your Child Reading is Awesome (3/14/14)
Get six ideas for creating a love of reading in your child and see the new video from LeVar Burton for Read Across America.

17) 3 Rules for Communicating with Your Child (10/17/12)
I say we stop calling “communication” by its name. Let’s call it “racing.” Here are 3 rules for communicating with your child.

18) What's Missing in the Adrian Peterson Story? (9/23/14)
There's a couple of things missing from the Adrian Peterson child abuse allegations. We discuss fatherhood and discipline on today's post.

19) 5 Flu-Fighting Foods for Families (2/7/13)
Get 5 ideas of foods that help fight the flu for your family!

20) Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic] (10/16/14)
Ninety-two percent (92%) of parents in prison are fathers. Read Fathers Behind Bars, The Problem and Solution for America's Children [Infographic].

Here are a few thoughts related to these top 20 posts: 

  • You like numbered lists. 9 of the top 20 are numbered lists. This is good because we like step-by-step lists too! They serve as helpful and easily shareable posts for you to either help yourself or help the dads around you.
  • You care about our mission. Most of these top 20 posts, nay all of the posts, relate directly back to our mission of connecting father to family. Two of the top 20 posts are infographics about the father absence crisis and about fathers in prison. Each of the 20 posts are in someway geared toward helping you be a better fatherhood leader. 
  • You want to be a better leader and/or dad. Most of this list is how-to's related to health, communication, co-parenting, and discipline. Each of these posts point back to how a dad can connect to his child.

2014 was a great year for this blog. I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings! We plan on constantly educating, equipping, and inspiring you to be a better fatherhood leader…because every child deserves a great dad.

Please note, as readers of this lovely blog, one way we are able to offer the weekly posts, the daily social media, and all of the helpful (and free) downloads are because of donations from generous folks like yourself. Please consider donating before the end of 2014. You have a few hours left to give—plenty of time to make a few clicks and donate!

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Question: What's your favorite post from us? Why? What topic(s) would you like to see us cover on this blog in 2015?

What Parents Should Really Fear

This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

In my last post in this blog, I asked parents to identify the top three things they most fear and to rate their level of fear for each one. I then described a study of parents that identified the top 10 fears that most parents have for their children and asked parents how their fears mapped to those top fears.

what_parents_really_should_fear_12092014I made the point that many fears of parents are unfounded. I then laid out six steps that help parents determine whether the fears they identified are ones they should be worried about. Central to these steps is taking the time to examine the evidence for the prevalence of poor outcomes for children related to parents' fears. If a parent fears, for example, that his or her child will drown, the parent should locate data on the prevalence of drowning for children of his or her child's age. I pointed parents to several excellent sources for data on children's health that they could use to examine the evidence.

One of these sources for evidence is the non-profit Child Trends. As luck would have it, Natalia Pane, a Child Trends research scientist and statistician, read my post and sent me an email to draw my attention to a book she's written called The Worry Clock: A Parent's Guide to Worrying Smarter about The Real Dangers to Your Child. I checked it out and realized what a great resource it is for parents. So I asked Natalia whether I could write a follow-up post to draw wider attention to the book, and she gave me her blessing.

I really appreciate when really smart scientists make their research easy to understand using stories, concepts, and analogies. Natalia uses the concept of the Worry Clock to illustrate how much parents should worry about dangers to their children. Specifically, she focuses on the ultimate fear for a parent -- his or her child's death. She uses the Worry Clock to present the data on the leading causes of death for children in different age groups. As a result, there is a Worry Clock for each age group. As Natalia describes it, the Worry Clocks are:

Sixty-minute clocks that present the most common causes of death and their relative importance, based on frequency of death. The idea is that if you are going to worry for one hour, the clock presents the amount of time you might spend on each cause of death, if you were to follow the actual data. For example, if car accidents account for half of all possible ways children die, then the Worry Clock would suggest spending half of the hour -- thirty minutes -- worrying about car accidents.

If you have an infant, for example, you should worry most about suffocation and strangulation (27 minutes). Your next most significant worry should be about homicide (14 minutes). Other causes of death shouldn't worry you much as no other cause represents more than six minutes in the Worry Clock for Infants.

I highly encourage you to read the book. It provides great insights, including:

  • Parents should think twice about where an infant sleeps.
  • A baby's inconsolable crying is common, but it is also a frequent cause of homicide, the second-leading killer of infants.
  • Drowning in a home pool is particularly dangerous for toddler boys.
  • Electrical outlets are less deadly than most parents probably believe.
  • One out of every six preventable deaths throughout childhood is gun-related.
  • Teenage driving is the most significant worry across a child's life.

Perhaps most importantly, Natalia provides practical advice, based on evidence and common sense, for how parents can protect their children from the leading causes of death in each age group. That's another thing I really appreciate -- when scientists help people apply research in practical ways. Bravo, Natalia!

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This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

6 Steps to Deal with Fears for Your Children

This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

What frightens you the most as a parent when it comes to your children's health? Before you read any further, take a few minutes to write down your top three fears using a broad definition of health that includes physical, social and emotional health. Then, rate your level of fear for each one on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being "not fearful at all" and 10 being "very fearful."

fear_dad_11172014
What I fear most is that my children will get in a horrible accident that will change their life for the worse or even end it. When my younger daughter Jillian was 2 years old, we were playing on the living room floor with Daizy, a Labrador-Greyhound mix we had rescued from the pound only days before. This get-to-know-you play session suddenly turned into one of my scariest parenting moments. As Daizy laid down to rest in front of me, Jillian scurried around my back and, in coming around to the front of me, startled Daizy. Daizy lept up and accidentally swiped Jillian's face with her paw. For a moment, it seemed nothing was wrong because Jillian's only reaction was to close her eyes and look stunned. But then, the blood started flowing down her face -- appearing to originate from one of her eyes -- and she began to cry and scream.

After a moment of indecision, I quickly removed my shirt and placed it over her face. Fortunately, a couple of EMTs lived two houses down from us. I grabbed Jillian and ran over to their home and, as I ran, prayed they were home. I knocked on the door and, thank God, both of them were home. I explained what happened and partially removed my shirt from Jillian's face so they could assess the injury. The blood started to flow once more. I reapplied my shirt until one of the EMTs wrapped Jillian's head in so much gauze it looked as though she was wearing a turban that had slid down her face.

By this time, I feared the worst -- Daizy has slashed Jillian's eye and she'd have permanent damage. Being EMTs, my neighbors assured me that they had seen much worse and not to jump to conclusions. One of them rushed us to the nearest hospital for treatment. Fortunately, Daizy had only caused a gash above Jillian's eye and slightly scratched the inside of her eyelid. The eye itself was unharmed.

I'm generally not a fearful parent. Even though I fear accidents the most, I rarely think about whether they might happen. But every once in a while, the scar that Jillian still has from that awful day reminds me how much I love my children and don't want any harm to come to them.

Every year, the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan conducts a national poll on parents' top health concerns. The 2014 poll asked parents to rate how big of a problem 26 health concerns are for children and teens in their community and, separately, for children and teens across the country. They rated each concern as a "big problem," "somewhat of a problem," or "not a problem." The survey is a kind of proxy for what parents fear when it comes to children's health.

According to the 2014 poll, the following eight concerns appeared in the top 10 concerns on both lists:

  • Childhood obesity
  • Bullying
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Drug/substance abuse
  • Child abuse and neglect
  • Internet safety
  • Teen pregnancy

Childhood obesity topped both lists, with the others in each list ranking differently in terms of level of concern.

Now, look at the list of your top three fears. Are they included in the list of eight above?

A much more important question is whether your level of fear for each fear is founded. (That's why I asked you to rate your level of fear.) Fears have a nasty way of working behind the scenes to cause stress and guide our behavior in unproductive and sometimes destructive ways. Parents' fears can cause a ton of stress and lead to behavior that damages their relationships with their children. As I wrote in my last post, parents these days are particularly vulnerable to over-protecting and controlling their children's lives. This behavior results from fears (and concerns) they have that, in many cases, are unfounded.

Follow these steps to determine whether any or all of your fears are founded.

  1. Prepare to be wrong. Recognize that you might not need to be as fearful and maybe don't need to be fearful at all. Most people are overconfident in their views. If you won't entertain the possibility that you might be wrong, there's no reason to take another step.
  2. Step back and separate from the fears. Get some distance from your emotions so that you can objectively assess your fears.
  3. Examine the evidence from a broad perspective. Conduct some research on the prevalence in the broader population of the issues underlying your fears. Use reputable, objective sources and not ones that will simply confirm your fears. (To get you started, I provide a list of relevant sources at the end of this post.) Based on what you learn, how do the issues underlying your fears stack up against the data on prevalence of those issues?
  4. Examine the evidence from a narrow perspective. How prevalent are the issues in your community? Your community might differ markedly from the general population. The sources you used in Step 3 might have data on your community, but you might have to find similar sources at the state or county level (e.g. your state or city health department). How do the issues stack up against the data in your community? Even if you've lived in your community for a long time -- maybe your entire life -- you might be surprised how little you know about the prevalence of issues in your own backyard.
  5. Examine recent exposure to events and information that could create biases that support your fears. Has anything happened in your family, friends' families, or community related to your fears? Have you heard a lot recently in the news about incidents related to the issues underlying your fears? Have you been watching movies or television focused on your fears? If you answered yes to any of those questions, consider whether that exposure reflects reality in terms of prevalence of the issues underlying your fears. Realize that you could suffer from the availability bias in which people rely on recent exposure to specific events and information to form their opinions even when those events and information are out of the norm.
  6. Step back once again and consider all the evidence. If you have a friend who is a particularly objective person, share what you learned and ask him or her for input.

As you read through those steps, you might have thought "Ugh! It's going to take a lot of time to complete them, and I just don't have the time." It will take some time, but not as much as you think. Regardless, when it comes to your children, taking time to examine whether your fears are founded is vital to understanding whether the stress they cause and the behavior that results from them is worth it to you and the relationships you have with your children.

Here are some websites on children's health for further reading:

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This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

Christmas in November

I've never had a bad Christmas. For the most part, they've all been pretty good. Here's the thing, the holidays that haven't been as great as others, have all been for one reason. That reason? Me.

December is the busiest month of the year, am I right? Listen up, this is experience talking. I know before December starts, busy is the only thing that is certain. As I screened Saving Christmas, one character made me think...the brother-in-law. This year, I'm doing something different...something I've never done before. 

kirk cameron's saving christmas

In the film, the brother-in-law is the melancholy, depressed guy who hates everything. He hates the consumerism of the holiday, he hates the "war on Christmas", he hates everything. Are you that guy? I have come to some conclusions after seeing the depressed brother-in-law in the film. I don't want to be that guy. Neither should you. We should want more, for ourselves, for our families, and for this season.

After watching this movie, I plan to do three things differently this year. I plan to proactively fight against the all-consuming stress of the season. Here's how I plan to make this Holiday what it's supposed to be about. Maybe you're like me, and you need this reminder. Feel free to consider this post your very own Christmas miracle:

1) Stop, Reflect & Remember: It's About Giving...Not Getting.
I'm not on my a-game when I'm my super-busy or constantly around humans for social events and whatnot. I know this about myself. This can make December suck for me. I know if I don't take a moment, be it for five minutes, to get alone and be still, I'm sabotaging myself and my family.

Find time to stop and reflect long enough to realize this season is about giving...not getting. Yes, I'm telling myself this too. The more you and I can understand this, the more we will enjoy the season. I just read a quote from Anne Frank, she supposedly said, "No one has ever become poor by giving." That's all...me, Anne Frank, and Kirk Cameron just saved your Christmas. You're welcome.

2) Make it About the Kids...Not Yourself.
My childhood Holidays were awesome. I didn't grow up rich or poor (that I know of), but my memories of the Holiday season are positive. One of my favorite memories is of opening a toy 18-wheeler log tuck. There's no way it cost my parents more that $10 in 1980's currency. I still remember stacking the little logs and pulling that truck around the house and imagining I was crossing over mountains and whatnot—the original Ice Road Truckers. My point is this, not only did I invent Ice Road Truckers, I look back at my kid-self and realize it didn't take much to make me happy. It's the same with your kids. Yes, make it about the children. But also, you don't have to stress about satisfying them. Odds are it takes much less than you're thinking to make them happy. What's the best memory you have as a kid during the holiday? You're probably thinking of a story similar to mine now. If you're not, you're an ungrateful brat and need to refer to the first point of this post! ; )

In the movie, Mr. Cameron says, "sometimes you have to be brought low...to see with new eyes”. This year, see the lights and decorations through the eyes of your child. See your family with fresh eyes. You will no doubt agree with Cameron when he says, "Our lives are so full — if only we had eyes to see them." Don't mess up Christmas for the kids.

3) Tis a New Season
I've went wrong in the past. From not taking time to reflect, to waiting until the last minute to go to the mall. Then, I've had the audacity to complain I can't find parking at the mall on December 23. Hello! There's parking spots open in November, right?! This is a new season, for you and me. A chance to start off different, and right. This said, my holiday season started last week. In the DC area, it's now dark at like 4pm. I drove home and was about to slip into my melancholy-fall-slumber of depression and boredom. Yes, I can be bored and busy, you can't? But something happened, a miracle. After fighting traffic, I walked in my front door to the smell of food cooking, the Etta James Holiday music station playing, and my daughters drawing at the kitchen table. Boom, instant cheer! My point is, you'll never save Christmas for you or your family if you never look at it with new eyes. This isn't last year or that one bad year you had, this is this year. 

Hopefully, you and I will stop and reflect, make it about the kids, and create a new season of traditions this holiday. Let's realize as Mr. Cameron says, "You and I are in the middle of a story. The difference between our story and the one we heard as kids is that we get to write our own story." Whether you hate this time of year, are fighting with your spouse, or you just aren't that into Christmas, you get to pick whether you're Scrooge or not.

So, are you gonna watch everyone have fun or are you gonna actually have fun this season? I was inspired after watching this movie to rearrange my life, to tell my daughters new stories, to not be the husband and dad who frustrates his wife and kids, to make things right...that's Christmas. So, you wanna know my solution for getting past all of the stress of the season? It's something I've never done before. I'm starting Christmas in November. If you need me, I'll be sipping my Chesnut Praline Latte and listening to Christmas music today. I'm not waiting until December.

How will you save Christmas for you and your family this year?

Get the sneak peek of Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas!

Watch  Kirk Cameron's Interview on Access Hollywood Live:

 

Follow Saving Christmas:

  • Follow Saving Christmas on Facebook.

  • Find a theater near you here.

  • See images from the set of the film here

Download "The Ultimate Guide to Connecting with your Child"! 

Connecting_with_your_child_cover

This free ebook is designed to help you and your children become closer and more connected. Use it for yourself or share it with other dads.

In this free ebook we share:

  • The best questions to ask your school-aged child to get him or her talking
  • Great questions you can ask your teenager
  • Questions you can ask yourself to be sure you're doing all you should to be a great dad

Use this ebook to help you and the dads you know connect with your kids in a meaningful way.

download ebook

Faith-Based Film Spotlight: Saving Christmas (In Theaters Friday)

This Christmas, have your family dive headfirst into all the joy, dancing, celebration, feasting, imagination, and traditions that make Christmas, well, Christmas! This film will resonate with our faith-based fatherhood leaders. See the videos and see what I mean...

 

KIRK CAMERON’S SAVING CHRISTMAS is an interesting take on the story providing a basis for our timeless traditions and celebrations. 

This year, it's time to take in the splendor; take in the majesty; take in the story. Take it all in…and realize it's okay to enjoy it all.

The season isn't a time to be sad, depressed or annoyed from all the busy-ness. Okay, you probably will get annoyed if and when you have to find parking at the mall, but still, overall, it's supposed to be a time to truly enjoy family!

KIRK CAMERON’S SAVING CHRISTMAS is in theaters for a limited engagement beginning November 14 for two weeks only!

Stay tuned to The Father Factor Blog, as I will be writing a feature about this upcoming family film on the blog. But for now...

Get a Sneak Peek of Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas!


Watch the first trailer for Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas.

Watch  Kirk Cameron's Interview on Access Hollywood Live:

 

Follow Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas:

  • Follow Saving Christmas on Facebook.

  • Find a theater near you here.

  • See images from the set of the film here

Download "The Ultimate Guide to Connecting with your Child"! 

This free ebook is designed to help you and your children become closer and more connected. Use it for yourself or share it with other dads.

Connecting_with_your_child_cover

In this free ebook we share:

  • The best questions to ask your school-aged child to get him or her talking
  • Great questions you can ask your teenager
  • Questions you can ask yourself to be sure you're doing all you should to be a great dad

Use this ebook to help you and the dads you know connect with your kids in a meaningful way.

download ebook

The How and Why Behind Never Giving Up Hope

Dads and moms aren't perfect. But, if mom understands the importance of involving dad, she will understand that she herself - is a vital factor in connecting father to child. The following story reveals exactly this...

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Jamal recently emailed me with his story of becoming a father overnight...

It’s been eight years since my daughter has come into my life. I say “come into,” because I was not present when she was born. In fact, I didn’t even know that I had a child. Let me explain. I dated my daughter’s mother the spring/summer of 2005 and the relationship ended in the fall of 2005. We did not speak or communicate for months after the break up. During this period of time, I decided to focus on improving my life, so I re-enrolled myself in college to complete my degree. I picked a temp-to hire position with a company with the hopes of working there full time after completing my education. I lived at home with my mother, made very little money, and the only responsibility I had was to myself

The summer of 2006 rolls around and I’m continuing to stay focused on my goals working during the day and going to school at night. One night, I saw a news report which mentioned my ex's name and connected her in some way to an abandoned baby. Feeling a sense of urgency to see if my ex was okay, I immediately called her and we spoke briefly. In my mind I started to count back the months that she and I had been intimate, and it had been almost exactly nine months. So I asked her if the abandoned baby was my child. I was told no, and to stay out of it.   

I just knew I had to know
the truth for me.


After hanging up the phone, you would think I would feel relief, but I did not. My heart was heavy and I could not shake the fact that this abandoned child could indeed be my child. Up to this day, I don’t know what compelled me to investigate further to find the truth. I just knew I had to know the truth for me. I contacted detectives working the case and was given instructions to contact a local children’s organization to take a DNA test. The test was taken on July 17th. I waited for about a week for the results, and the wait seemed like an eternity. Finally the day had come. It was July 21st. I was at work sitting at my desk. An email appeared from children’s of youth organization, with subject line titled paternity test. I opened the email and it turned out I was the father. 

My life had changed overnight. 
I was a father to a precious little girl.


In that moment I felt a whirlwind of feelings: anger, confusion, fear, happiness, excitement, anxiousness - probably ever emotion imaginable. My phone had been ringing off the hook but I could not speak to anyone. I cried at my desk and sat still. My life had changed overnight. I was a father to a precious little girl. Not too long after, I received a follow up call from the children's organization and they only had one question: ”Do you want custody of your daughter?” Without hesitation, I said "Yes." After going through the process and a series of legal events, I was granted custody of my daughter and was given the right to name her. On that day of August 1st, I held my daughter for the first time. I knew then, that everything that I was had to change, and it was step up time for sure. 

It has been 8 years now.


It’s been 8 years now and we are still going strong. Being immersed in the joys and responsibility of fatherhood, I had not opened up publicly about my side of this experience. I now feel an obligation to come forward and talk about my experience with the hopes to inspire others, not just in the arena of parenting but in life to go for what you believe in, even when the odds are stacked against you. If my daughter ever gets a chance to read this, I want her to know that I never gave up on her and never will. I hope my belief in my daughter will inspire her to go forward and believe in her own self and dreams. Becoming a father has taught me so much about life and myself. My daughter has been a teacher to me as I am to her. While I am blessed and proud to be her father, I realize that the victory and glory is not mine, but God’s, as it was his divine plan in the beginning.

Becoming a father has taught me
so much about life and myself.

While this situation isn't easy; sadly, it's not unique. Marriage is difficult. Parenting is difficult. Having a baby is a uniquely difficult time in the life of mom and dad. But, we must remember that it is vital to the baby, that both mom AND dad be involved before and after pregnancy. We know from research that a dad's involvement is vital to a child's well-being.

We at NFI spend a lot of our time creating tip cards, brochures, and pocket guides to help dads and moms understand these very facts - and as I read Jamal's story, I saw the pieces falling into place. There are so many benefits for everyone involved when mom helps to ensure dad is involved from the start:

  1. Think Baby: 
    Your child benefits from Dad's involvement the moment he or she is born and the benefits continue through adulthood.
    • Healthy Development: A child with an involved dad has been shown to do better on tests of emotional, social, and mental development. Involved dads have been shown to increase weight gain in preterm infants (preemies) and increase the change that mom will breastfeed. 
    • Success in School: a child of an involved dad does better in school, on average, than a child who grows up without an involved dad. They're more likely to get A's, behave well, and less likely to drop out of school. 
    • Good Physical Health: Involved dads who are active and have a healthy weight are more likely to have a child who is active and have a healthy weight which is vital to avoiding many diseases such as diabetes.
    • Good Behavior: a child with an involved dad is less likely to smoke, use drugs, become or get someone pregnant as a teen, or engage in violent and other risky behavior. 
    • Well-Being and Success as an Adult: a child with an involved dad is more likely ot have higher self-esteem.
       
  2. Think Mom:
    Mom benefits from dad's involvement from the moment mom becomes pregnant. Really!
    • Good pregnancy: when dad is involved in moms' pregnancy, mom is more likely to attend pre-natal visits. Mom is less likely to have health problems while pregnant, such as anemia and high blood pressure.  
    • Less Stress for Her: an involved dad reduces moms' stress. It's easier to talk with an involved dad about ways to help reduce stress. 
    • Better Family Finances: an involved dad is more likely to work harder and earn more money. 
    • Better Marriage/Relationship: When both parents share the load of raising a child, it reduces the stress on both parents. Less stress leads to a better marriage and relationship.
       
  3. Think Dad:
    Dad benefits from his involvement from the moment mom becomes pregnant. These benefits include some of the sames ones that mom receives, includingbetter family finances and a better marriage relationship.
    • Early Bonding With Child: When dad prepares to be a dad while mom is pregnant, he is better able to bond with his child and more likely to be involved as his child ages. Studies show that when dad is involved leading up to and during the birth of his child, his oxytocin or "bonding hormone" rises while his testosterone or "wandering hormone" declines.
    • Better Health and Well-Being for Him: An involved dad is more healthy emotionally and physically. He is more likely to go to the doctor when sick and for regular check-ups. 
    • More Giving: Being a dad can help dad be  more giving to family and the community. The involved dad is more likely to be social, volunteer, and spend time doing things like attending church and helping the community.
    • Success at Work: The involved dad's child is more likely to succeed, to advance, and advance more quickly in his or her career. The skills dad develops while raising a child is the same skill that helps him succeed at work.

Let Jamal's story encourage and remind you that everyone wins when a child has an involved dad. Oh, and, it's never too late to start being involved.

How involved was your dad? How did his involvement or non-involvement affect you?  

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Like this blog post? Consider our Pocketbook for New Moms™: a Pocketbook Full of Reasons for New Moms to Involve Dads

 

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Note: the story above was submitted solely by Jamal and does not reflect any opinions from NFI.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

There are 2.7 million children with a parent in prison or jail. Ninety-five (95%) of all inmates will eventually be released. Ninety-two percent (92%) of parents in prison are fathers. Most—2 out of 3 inmates—will reoffend and be back in prison.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

When it comes to fatherhood and prison, we are locking too many dads in jail with little to no help. The fathers behind bars are not connecting with their families from behind prison walls or upon release. These dads need help. They need our help or they are likely to reoffend.  

The father absence crisis in America is real. When we talk about father absence, we mention the U.S. Census Bureau's statistic that 24 million children—one out of three—live without their dad in the home. Over 13,000 of you have viewed The Father Absence Crisis in America. We received lots of feedback on that post. Some readers said, "Great, now we know the problem; what's the solution?"

Well, the truth is, there's one answer: The solution to father absence is father presence. Our job here is done. You're welcome. Please visit our donate page....oh wait, that's not enough information, you say? You need more? We thought you might need a more helpful response to this problem. So, we decided to break down the problem into workable numbers and be sure you know what NFI is doing to fix the problem.

Here's what you need to know 

  1. There is a crisis in America. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America—one out of three—live without their biological dad in the home.
  2. There is a “father factor” in nearly all of the societal issues facing America today. We must realize there is a father absence crisis in America and begin to raise more involved, responsible, and committed fathers.

Fathers Behind Bars:
The Problem for America's Children

Here is the problem related to father absence and prison in two stats:

    1. There are 2.7 million children with a parent in prison or jail. Tweet: 2.7 million children have a parent in prison or jail. Here's The Problem & Solution for America's children: http://ctt.ec/P6HqW+
    2. Ninety-two (92%) of parents in prison are fathers.
Having a parent who is incarcerated is now recognized as an “adverse childhood experience” (ACE), which is different from other ACEs because of the trauma, stigma, and shame it inflicts on children.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

The number of children with a father in prison has grown by 79% since 1991.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

Incarceration often spans generations.

  • Fathers in prison are, overwhelmingly, fatherless themselves.
  • Youths in father-absent households have significantly higher odds of incarceration.
  • More than 650,000 ex-offenders are released from prison every year.
  • Fathers are returning to their families without the skills they need to be involved, responsible, and committed fathers.
  • Two-thirds of released prisoners, or 429,000, are likely to be rearrested within three years.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

Recidivism is a huge, national problem. 

Fathers Behind Bars:
The Solution for America's Children

NFI's InsideOut Dad® program for incarcerated fathers connects dads in prison with their children, heart to heart. InsideOut Dad® is the only evidence-based parenting program designed specifically for incarcerated fathers. An evaluation conducted by Rutger's University found that fathers who went through InsideOut Dad® while in prison showed statistically significant increases in fathering knowledge and confidence/self-esteem compared to a control group.

InsideOut Dad® addresses criminogenic needs, a key factor in:

1) Reducing Recidivism: Reentry initiatives that contain NFI's fatherhood programs have been found to reduce recidivism by 37%.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

We can all agree it is ideal for men to get out of prison or jail, become a successful, contributing member of society, and stay out. Giving incarcerated fathers a vision that they have a unique and irreplaceable role in the life of their child along with increased confidence and changes in attitude and skills is a powerful motivator for successful reentry. Fathers who are involved with, and connected with their children and families prior to release are less likely to return to jail or prison. In fact, some individual states have conducted evaluations that connect the use of IoD along with other interventions to reduced recidivism.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

Recidivism WITH fatherhood programs 24% 
VERSUS 
Recidivism WITHOUT fatherhood programs 38%

2) Maintaining Facility Safety and Order

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]


It has been said, “Idleness is a devil’s workshop”. Facility safety is of utmost importance in the corrections environment and benefits the Prison/Jail warden(s) as well as fellow inmates. Fatherhood Programs in particular can help to engage inmates and encourage good behavior. By connecting inmates to their role as a man, and specifically as a father, they are more engaged in that aspect of their life and in turn, can help to create a peaceful, contented environment as much as possible.

In addition, men who participate in fatherhood groups often create a bond among members, which generates good morale. Good morale is important for safety and there are less disciplinary infractions.

By connecting with their children, incarcerated fathers are motivated to maintain good behavior to keep visiting rights, which is beneficial for both the facility and correctional officers working with them. In addition, research shows that fathers who connect with their children (and families) prior to release have a higher likelihood of staying out of jail/prison.

InsideOut Dad® addresses the marital/family domain that is concerned with an offender's family relationships, including:

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

A study by the Vera Institute of Justice found the strongest predictor of success upon reentry was the perception by the person released that he/she had family support.

Why does all of this matter? Well, because you and I are paying for what doesn't work and we have been for years. 

It's time for a solution that's cost effective for taxpayers and facilities: InsideOut Dad® program costs just $600 for the first 10 fathers, then sustained at only $10 per father. Because the program can contribute to reduced recidivism among fathers, the potential cost savings are huge. It costs an average of $29,000 per year to incarcerate a parent.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

It costs an average of $29,000 per year to incarcerate a parent.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

InsideOut Dad® program costs $600 for the first 10 fathers, then sustained at only $10 per father.

Be a Part of The Solution. Visit Fatherhood.org/iod to download a sample of InsideOut Dad®.

Click here to enlarge this infographic.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]


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Download a sample of our popular InsideOut Dad® resource and learn how you can connect an incarcerated father to his child.

 

How to Avoid Being a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Dad

I screened this new family film from Disney last Saturday. Normally it works out that my wife and daughters can join me. But, with all the weekend activities of two kids in school nowadays, this movie got screened by me, myself, and I. Sitting alone in the dark movie theater presented me with an interesting opportunity to not just watch the movie, but to consider my role in the family. Here's what I mean...

alex_profile_03Don't get me wrong, I generally enjoy chasing my youngest daughter down long theater halls, running for the third trip to the restroom or to get popcorn...again. But this alone time provided me with the chance to consider the meaning behind the comedy. This movie is silly. It's funny. Everything goes wrong in one day for this fine family. Think Money Pit but with a family instead of a house. And it's somehow funny because it's happening to another family—not yours. Watching, you somehow connect because it's real. You've seen this day before. 

Although Ben Cooper (Steve Carell) plays the dad and his children are a little older than mine, I watched this film from his eyes. Quick back-story: Ben Cooper is a rocket scientist who's been laid off from his position. He's new to the day job of being home. But, as we watch, he's fumblin' and stumblin' his way through. While he isn't perfect, he's there.

I was reminded throughout the film of my role as dad. This movie says important things about dads. As dads, we can't be perfect, but we can be present. As I watched the Cooper's have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, three things jumped out at me—things to avoid so as not to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad dad.  

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1) Stay Positive.
Mr. Cooper knows how to stay positive. Here's a man who has been unemployed for while and he manages to stay positive with his wife and kids through it all. We see him handling all the family chores like a boss; all while dealing with a teen son, a teen daughter, a young son (Alexander), and an infant son.

His life is hectic like yours and mine. But he manages to keep it positive. Oh how I needed to see this reminder in my life! Let's just say in my family I'm often "the realist" to a fault! I want my home to be a fun atmosphere where my daughters are comfortable talking to me. Right now, I think that's true. But, I tend to be a ball of negativity. If I'm ever postitive, it's probably just because my girls are so young right now. Watching Ben relate to his teen son and daughter gave me hope it's possible to be positive, yet realistic, and parent teens.

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2) Stay Calm.
I don't stay calm well. There, I said it. I'm basically a baby. Shh, don't tell anyone. When something doesn't go as planned, I'm an upset, whiny baby. Many times in this movie, we see Ben isn't in control. Mimicking real life, Ben has to let some things play themselves out. I should better at staying calm. Are you a calm dad? If so, good for you. To be real, by the time I'm home from work and traffic, the smallest thing can really bother me. I think my home would be a much more relaxed place if I was more calm about life in general. Are you able to "take things as they come"? Maybe we can all learn something from Ben here. Whether it's your teens' failed driver's test or an alligator in your living room, Ben seems to be the go-with-the-flow type of dad. This serves him well.

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3) Never Give Up.

Whether you're having the bad day like the Cooper's or not, you as dad should have the mindset of Ben. He is the leader by example. I can't give away the film; but, let's just say, at his personal lowest, he's still the leader of his family. I didn't cry on this one part. Nope. There might have been a lump in my throat. But, no, no tears, promise! Here's the point: never give up! You're the dad. No matter how low you get, you're still the example. How you react to situations is being watched. You can be discouraged. You can be sad. But you can't give up. You can't quit...not if you're trying to avoid being a bad dad.

You are not perfect and you will never be perfect; especially as a dad. But, I left the theater realizing that being perfect doesn't matter. We will fix the father absence crisis by father presence. For all the silly and funny things that happened in this film we see a dad who is present. We see a dad who doesn't have all the answers. He doesn't nor can he fix everything...but he is there. He is present. The longer I'm a dad, the longer I work for this fine fatherhood organization, the longer I hear stories of good and bad dads and situations...and the answer of how to avoid being a bad dad is to show up. Beyond staying positive, staying calm, and never giving up, we must show up! When you are involved, responsible and committed, there is no terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for your child.

Have you ever had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day? We'll offer fatherhood counseling in the comments!

Download "The Ultimate Guide to Connecting with your Child"! 

Connecting_with_your_child_cover

This free ebook is designed to help you and your children become closer and more connected. Use it for yourself or share it with other dads.

In this free ebook we share:

  • The best questions to ask your school-aged child to get him or her talking
  • Great questions you can ask your teenager
  • Questions you can ask yourself to be sure you're doing all you should to be a great dad

Use this ebook to help you and the dads you know connect with your kids in a meaningful way.

download ebook

Fatherhood Leader: How You Can Go Mobile With Your Fatherhood Skills

We call it the 24/7 Dad® To Go eBook Series and it gives you, the fatherhood leader, the opportunity to go mobile with your fathering skills. From health and discipline to communication and co-parenting, these books will help you and the dads you serve with the practical advice you expect.

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We know you're busy. Heck, we're busy too! We're dads, we're leaders, which brings me to this...we've made it as convenient as possible for you to take our fatherhood advice mobile - giving you and the dads you serve the quality fathering and parenting advice you expect from us.

We've asked dads (and organizations) what the most important topics are to them, and have created ebooks to address those topics with field-tested, research-backed advice from our resident fatherhood experts!

The 24/7 Dad® To Go eBook Series is the first of its kind – short, simple, affordable, and practical ebooks tackling specific issues that you and the men in the programs you lead are asking about.

We've been careful to make sure each ebook is based on the principles of NFI’s leading fatherhood program, 24/7 Dad®, which is, and we mean to brag, the most widely used fatherhood program among community-­based organizations in the U.S. Why? Because we know fatherhood is a skill-­based activity dads can get better at with the right mix of knowledge and inspiration.

Go Mobile With Your Fatherhood Skills

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How it Works:

  • Annual subscription for $99.99 gets you 12 fatherhood ebooks
  • The ebooks are provided to you via email, containing a web link to a sharable PDF file.
  • Once purchased, you will receive an email with the link to your first ebook within 24 hours of ordering
  • Then, on a monthly basis, you will receive an email with a link to that month's fatherhood ebook.

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Father Factor Spotlight: Alexander & the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

We like to talk about movies with a fatherhood and family message. Disney's upcoming family flick Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day will have your worst day looking pretty decent. Check out the trailer and learn a little more about this new family film.

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In theaters October 10th, Disney's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day follows 11-year-old Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) as he experiences one of the most terrible and horrible days of his young life - a day that begins with gum stuck in his hair, followed by one calamity after another.

But over family dinner, when Alexander tells his family about his terrible day, he finds little sympathy and begins to wonder if bad things only happen to him. That's when he makes the wish of all wishes...I'll spare you the details here...but...

He soon learns he is not alone when his mom (Jennifer Garner), dad (Steve Carell), brother (Dylan Minnette), and sister (Kerris Dorsey) all find themselves living through their own terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Anyone who says there is no such thing as a bad day just hasn't had one.

NFI will be writing and posting more about this upcoming film in the coming days; but, we know how busy life and family can be. So, we wanted to be sure you watched the trailer and learn some things about the film before we launch into talking about the movie in more detail.

Here's what you need to know now for your child or to share with parents in your circle:

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day opens in theaters October 10, 2014. 

Get the Sneak Peek of Disney's Alexander!

Life couldn't be worse for Alexander until the day that changes everything. Watch the official trailer for Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Follow Disney's Alexander:

About Disney's Alexander

Genre: Family Comedy

Rating: PG

U.S. Release Date: October 10, 2014

Cast: Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Dylan Minnette, Ed Oxenbould, Kerris Dorsey, Megan Mullally, Jennifer Coolidge, Bella Thorne

Director: Miguel Arteta

Producers: Shawn Levy, Lisa Henson, Dan Levine

Executive Producers: Philip Steuer, Jason Lust

Writer: Rob Lieber

Based on the novel by: Judith Viorst

Download "The Ultimate Guide to Connecting with your Child"! 

Connecting_with_your_child_cover

This free ebook is designed to help you and your child become closer. Use it for yourself or share it with other dads.

In this free ebook we share:

  • The best questions to ask your child to get him/her talking
  • Great questions you can ask your teenager
  • Questions you can ask yourself to be sure you're doing all you should to be a great dad

Use this ebook to help you and the dads you know connect with your kids in a meaningful way.

download ebook

Why Peanut Butter Cheerios #HowToDad Wins at Cereal and Fatherhood

My daughters love Cheerios. I've had those little circles in my bed and in my shoes for years now. Today, I'm in love with a new Cheerios, Peanut Butter Cheerios, and I haven't even tasted it yet. Here's why...

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General Mills Canada has managed to connect with a dad's desire to engage with his child in a fun way without degrading dads in their new campaign #HowToDad. The new commercial on YouTube reveals exactly what we at NFI hope other brands will do...show a dad as a fully functioning and capable parent...without degrading anyone in the family.

This campaign is more than a fun commercial; from the executive leadership of General Mills Canada on down to the creative folks behind the idea at Tribal Worldwide Toronto point out, “The Cereal category is traditionally more of a health-oriented “Mom” space – even though recent studies show that men do nearly half of the family’s grocery shopping, nothing in the Cereal aisle has ever truly spoken to Dads,” says Jason Doolan, director of marketing, General Mills. “We’ve set out to change that by celebrating what it means to be an awesome dad.”

The #HowToDad campaign was created by Tribal Worldwide Toronto and features a YouTube video showing dads parent differently. The video points to HowToDad.ca for more dad-content. “It just made sense to declare Peanut Butter Cheerios as ‘The Official Cereal of Dadhood,’ because like great dads, Peanut Butter Cheerios lie somewhere in the intersection of awesome and responsible,” says Josh Stein, creative director, Tribal Worldwide Toronto. “Dads are awesome and it’s awesome to be a dad." The campaign mentions that today, dads play a significant role in raising children, and celebrate their contribution. We are presenting General Mills Canada and Tribal Worldwide our NFI Fatherhood Award later this week. Stay tuned to #howtodad on social for more details.

The new commercial opens with the dad asking, "Why should you be proud to be a dad?" He answers his own question, "You know why...because our kids think we're awesome!" What continues is pure genius in its simplest form. The commercial follows dad as he walks through the house and back-yard explaining how awesome dads are...like Peanut Butter Cheerios! Watch the full commercial here.


At NFI, we know more and more dads like you are experiencing the satisfaction and reward of taking a more active role your child's life...and us dads should be celebrated. I love this commercial for its real portrayal of a dad and family. Tribal didn't pick the dumb dad or the passive dad routine to be "funny".

Much like our 10 Ways to Be a Better Dad, the commercial shows the simple ways dads are awesome. The commercial is a reminder that what us dads do impacts our relationship with our child. Watch the commercial and you'll see why the campaign is awesome. In short, it's because it shows how awesome dads are. Being an awesome dad takes at least these 10 things, maybe more:

Screen_Shot_2014-09-22_at_1.47.41_PM1) An Awesome Dad Respects His Child's Mother

Watch closely as the dad in this commercial grabs coffee and passes it to his wife. He says, "Hot stuff coming through...the wife and the coffee." One of the best things you can do for your child is to love and respect mom.

If you're a single dad, my guess is that respecting your child's mother is still a good idea. We've said it before but it's worth repeating: When a child sees parents respecting each other, he or she is more likely to feel accepted and respected. We've written plenty on protecting your marriage. 

tumblr_n8vec3mUco1tf2ynwo1_r1_5002) An Awesome Dad Spends Time with His Child 

How a dad spends his time tells his child what's important to him. If you're "always" busy, your child will feel neglected. Say, "I love you" all you want, but your child will not feel loved. Loving your child means sacrificing other things, but it is essential to spend time with your child. It also means doing things out of your comfort zone. It means doing things that you aren't super-interested in—but you'll get interested—because your child is. 

Kids grow up quickly; missed opportunities are exactly that—missed. Beyond these 7 Ways to Connect with Your Kids, understand like Cheerios says, "An Awesome Dad 'Never Says No to Dress Up'" and "An Awesome Dad Builds the Best Forts."

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3) An Awesome Dad Listens First, Talks Second

In some cases, the only time a dad talks to his child is when he or she gets in trouble. Take time and listen to your child's ideas and problems. Listening helps them feel respected and understood. Begin listening and talking with your child when he or she is young so when difficult subjects arise, they will be easier to handle as they get older. Or, just tell hilarious jokes...because that's what awesome dad does!

Say hello to my pillow friend. Raise a bowl of new Peanut Butter Cheerios to dadhood!4) An Awesome Dad Disciplines With Love

All children need guidance and discipline, not as punishment, but to set reasonable limits. Remind your child of the consequences of his or her actions and provide meaningful rewards for desirable behavior. 

A dad who disciplines in a calm and fair manner shows he loves his child. Get our 8 Things to Know About Disciplining Your Child. Said another way: An awesome dad knows how and when to discipline. "Because being awesome isn't about breaking rules—it's about making them."

Capes were made for dads. So raise a bowl of new Peanut Butter Cheerios to dadhood.5) An Awesome Dad is A Role Model

A dad is a role model to his child, whether he realizes it or not. A girl who spends time with a loving father grows up knowing she deserves to be treated with respect by boys, and what to look for in a husband. A dad can teach his son what is important in life by demonstrating honesty, humility, and responsibility. Here's a great example of a role-model dad in case you need one. 

Dads teach the fun stuff. So raise a bowl of new Peanut Butter Cheerios to dadhood!6) An Awesome Dad is a Teacher

Too often we think teaching is something others do at a school building. But a father who teaches his child about right and wrong, and encourages his child, will see his child make good choices. An involved dad uses everyday examples to help his child learn the basic lessons of life. Consider the vital knowledge you, and you only, possess with regard to music and classic movies. Consider how a dad can teach about fashion from this commercial: the awesome dad understands the Difference Between a Boy and a Man (see dad in commercial say to his son as he tilts his cap, "Suggestion...that's a Boy...that's a Man...")

Dads are full of wisdom. Let’s raise a bowl of new Peanut Butter Cheerios to dadhood!7) An Awesome Dad Eats With His Family

Sharing a meal together can be an important part of healthy family life. In addition to giving structure to a busy day, it gives your child the chance to talk about what his or she is doing and wants to do. It is also a good time for dad to listen. Most importantly, it is a time for families to be together each day. 

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8) An Awesome Dad Reads To His Child

In a world where television and technology dominates, it is important that dad reads to his child. Read to your child when he or she is young. Instilling in your child a love for reading is one of the best ways to ensure he or she will have a lifetime of growth. We wrote a little something called 6 Tips on How to Show Your Child Reading is Awesome. Let's be honest, it's helpful. In other words, as dads, we "blow their minds." 

Dads never lose. Let’s raise a bowl of new Peanut Butter Cheerios to dadhood.

9) An Awesome Dad Shows Affection

Your child needs the security that comes from knowing he or she is wanted, accepted, and loved. Dad, get comfortable hugging your children. Showing affection every day is the best way to let your child know he or she is loved. Remember as the commercial points out, "They (kids) look at us the same way they do superhero's...up...because we're taller."

Balance: it’s what dads do best. Raise a bowl of new Peanut Butter Cheerios to dads!10) An Awesome Dad Realizes A Father's Job Is Never Done

Even after your child is grown and ready to leave home, he or she will still look to you for wisdom and advice. Whether it's continued schooling, a new job or a wedding, you continue to play an essential part in the life of your child as he or she grows. Work hard. Dad hard. You can submit for #HowToDad here.

What's the one thing on this list you find the most rewarding?

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