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The Father Factor

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The Director's Guidance on "Parental Guidance" — Interview with Andy Fickman

Just before Christmas, we had the pleasure of speaking with Andy Fickman, director of the new film Parental Guidance, in theaters now, starring Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei, and Tom Everett Scott. Crystal and Midler play Tomei’s character’s parents, and are grandparents to her and her husband’s three children. Mom and dad have to go away for the weekend, and they struggle with leaving the kids with their grandparents. Much intergenerational hilarity ensues, driven by the great comedic acting of Crystal and Midler.

The film does a great job of exploring issues around parenting, grandparents, and marriage. Take a look at what the film’s director had to say about it. We are hopeful his wisdom, insights, and humor will inspire you to go see the film this weekend!

5 Questions Every Father Should Ask Himself

We call him the “24/7 Dad.” We believe that every child needs one. What we are talking about is an involved, responsible and committed father. We are talking about a dad who knows his role in the family. He understands he is a model for his sons on how to be a good man. Likewise, if he has daughters, he models what they should look for in a husband and father for their children.

In our fathering handbooks and training, there are five questions we think every responsible father should answer. As you read, ask yourself these questions. These five questions come with a guarantee: if you answer each one honestly and take action, you will become a 24/7 Dad!

Waiting for Fatherhood

The following is a post from Tony Prebula, Administrative Coordinator, Marketing and Communications at National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). If you would like to blog for us, email here.

Back when I joined NFI, I blogged about the lessons passed down from my grandfather. And I enjoyed being able to share the hope and excitement my wife and I had for having a family of our own one day.

It has been 7 months since then, and over a year since we started trying to have children. We’ve experienced loss, pain, disappointment, and at times despair. On more than one occasion over the last year, my wife and I have lost a child.

For the longest time I’ve imagined what it would feel like to hold my child with the hopes of the kind of person they would grow up to be. I imagine teaching them to ride a bike. Maybe even what the first fishing trip would be like. I imagine teaching my son how to honor his mother and all women. Or showing my daughter how she should be loved and respected in how I love my wife. I imagine being able to tell my children how proud I am for the kind of people they are. I don’t stop imagining these things. I remain hopeful, but it can get tough. 

When Daddy Isn't in the "Family" Picture

For all the talk we hear these days about how “families can take many forms,” it seems there is one particular form that, if there was a popularity contest for family types, would be losing. It’s the one where dad is involved.

Every time I think NFI is in danger of exaggerating our claims around the prevalence of father absence and the lack of respect for the institution of fatherhood, a good reminder of our pinpoint accuracy smacks me right in the face.

More on The Moral Rationalization of Non-Married Fatherhood

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative. This post is his response to feedback from his original post The Moral Rationalization of Non-Married Fatherhood.

My most recent blog post titled “The Moral Rationalization of Non-Married Fatherhood” generated a lot of feedback, some positive and some negative. I argued that as a society we have rationalized non-married fatherhood to the point that it is no longer a moral transgression. It has become excusable and, thus, we no longer need to worry about children growing up without their fathers despite reams of data that show when children grow up in single-parent homes—the vast majority of which don’t include fathers—it is detrimental to children and our society.

Several of the responses we received indicated that some non-married fathers—primarily divorced fathers—took the post personally because they thought National Fatherhood Initiative doesn’t appreciate the yeoman’s work they do to be involved in the lives of their children. Nothing could be farther from the truth. NFI recognizes the contributions of and efforts that all fathers make to be involved in whatever circumstances they father.

The Moral Rationalization of Non-Married Fatherhood

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). If you would like to blog for us, email here.  

I’m an avid reader of business articles (e.g. what works in business) because they spark ideas that NFI has implemented to help us effectively pursue our mission. But rarely do I read such an article that helps build my knowledge about the cultural challenges we face in promoting involved, responsible, committed fatherhood. Recently, however, I read an article on research conducted by professors at the Wharton School (the preeminent business school at the University of Pennsylvania) that examines how people react to scandals of celebrities with huge brands, and it provided me with additional insight on how our society has dealt with the crisis of father absence.

The researchers conducted several studies on how people react to “moral transgressions” by public figures (e.g. athletes and politicians) and whether they were more likely to react with “moral rationalization” or “moral decoupling” to those transgressions.

In moral rationalization a person downplays the moral transgression. “It’s not so bad,” they say. “Everyone else does it.” Thus, the transgression becomes excusable.

Moral decoupling, in contrast, involves separating the transgression from other acts. It preserves the person’s outrage at the transgression and allows them to believe that it doesn’t affect other parts of the transgressor’s life, profession, etc.

Remember the Tiger Woods sex scandal? (Unless you live under a rock, I’m sure you do.) What about the Michael Vick dog-fighting conviction? What has happened since those two athletes came under scrutiny for their transgressions? They’re just as, and perhaps more popular, than ever. 

Forgiveness aside (and I don’t discount the importance of forgiveness), these athletes have probably benefitted from a branding standpoint because of those transgressions. (Note how Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation has seen its donations rise in the wake of him dropping his fight against doping allegations.)

The researchers found that people engage more often in moral decoupling because it allows them to maintain their view that the act was immoral and that it had or has no effect on their performance (in whatever way they perform—on the field, in Congress, etc.). Fans of Tiger and Michael say, “Sure. What he did was wrong, but I see no reason why that should affect whether I’m a fan.”  

So what does this research have to do with fatherhood? Do people engage in moral decoupling when they react to non-married fatherhood? Nope. The reason is that we no longer look at non-married fatherhood as a moral transgression. Consequently, we don’t have to separate a father not being married to the mother of his children from his ability to be an involved, responsible, committed father despite the reams of evidence that marriage arose in cultures across the world in large part to connect fathers to their children, and that it provides the best environment in which to reduce the risk that children will grow up facing a host of risks.

You see, non-married fatherhood (and motherhood, by the way) has become excusable. As we’ve seen a rise in the number of out-of-wedlock childbirths leading to more and more children growing up without fathers, we’ve engaged in moral rationalization rather than moral decoupling. We say, “It’s not so bad. So many people are doing it that it doesn’t really matter.” (You only have to watch one episode of the hugely-popular Jersey Shore or the many other reality shows and sitcoms that celebrate out-of-wedlock child bearing to see my point.)

Don’t get me wrong. My argument isn’t that a specific unmarried dad can’t be a good father to his children. But when viewed through the lens of our culture and population at large, the conclusion that we have rationalized away the morality of unmarried fatherhood is undeniable. It has moved us away from our society's real need to address it in a preventive manner.

Unfortunately, the consequences of this rationalization are a huge burden on our society as noted in NFI’s 100 Billion Dollar Man study. But perhaps even more frightening is that it has, sadly, set the stage for the current debate about whether fathers are even relevant any longer.

photo credit: JakeBrewer

Closing Week of The Dad Games

The Dad Games challenged you for four weeks to be a “Gold Medal Dad.” Each week we provided a checklist of seven actions to help you connect with your family. The final week's challenge is Gold Medal Dads...Set Goals To Improve.

Over the last few weeks, you have been challenged to spend time connecting with your kids, working on your relationship with your spouse/mom of your children, affirming your children, and balancing work and family. Dads, after a month of challenges, you have gold medaled in fathering!

20 Questions for Defining The Relationship

Is there a difference between a "healthy relationship" and a "healthy marriage?" Roland C. Warren, president of National Fatherhood Initiative, recently published a column for The Washington Post discussing current trends related to marriage and relationships. He proposes couple's ask themselves "20 Questions" to define the relationship.

Join #DadGames12 Twitter Party and Win Prizes - Tonight 9PM EST

Week 2 is in the books and week 3 is here. We had a blast last Thursday as many dads joined our Twitter party with questions, answers, tips and advice. Join National Fatherhood Initiative (@TheFatherFactor) as we host a Twitter Party for week 3 with great prizes to get dads ready to Affirm Their Kids this week!

Gold Medal Dads...Affirm Their Kids

With week two of The Dad Games of 2012 is complete, and we are ready for week 3! 

Loving Your Spouse More Than Your Kids

A few years ago, Ayelet Waldman wrote an article in the New York Times about how she loves her husband more than her children. It caused quite an uproar in the community of moms who called her a "bad mother" (and a lot worse) because of this.

Well, it's happened again, but this time, it is a dad saying he loves his wife more than his children. It also happens to be a very famous married couple, Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman. Urban recently revealed in an interview that he loves Nicole more than their two children. To do justice to what he said, I have copied the entire quote here:

"We're very, very tight as a family unit and the children are our life, but I know the order of my love. It's my wife and then my daughters. I just think it's really important for the kids...There are too many parents who start to lose the plot a little and start to give all their love to the kids, and then the partner starts to go without. And then everybody loses. As a kid, all I needed to know was that my parents were solid. Kids shouldn't feel like they are being favoured. It's a dangerous place."

Urban may not even realize it, but what he said is incredibly profound. His family is in Australia, so things may be different there, but here in the U.S., we have become so child-centered that you are attacked when you make such statements (Editor's note: I realize this sentence can be misconstrued. Being child-centered is great. The point is that the most child-centered thing you can do is have a great marriage. So maybe "child-centeredness" is not the problem as much as "anti-marriageness" is). Some respondents to Urban's statement suggested that it is inappropriate to not love your own flesh and blood more than your spouse.

But research seems to back Urban's mentality. Generally speaking, the most important relationship in the home is the one between mom and dad. As Urban states, if their relationship fails, everyone loses. While we don't yet have research that shows specifically that marriages in which the spouses love each other more than the kids produce "better kids," we do know that kids who grow up in married homes do better, on average, across every measure of child well-being. We also know that divorce is not good for children. We also know that parents who are married to each other are closer to each other and to their kids than parents in any other family structure. Put that all together, and what Urban says looks pretty good.

Back in 2005, Ms. Waldman appeared on Oprah to defend this notion of loving one's spouse more than one's children. Our very own president, Roland Warren, was on the show to affirm her position. It was very much her (and Roland) against the world. None of the moms on the show agreed with them. But I would ask those who are angered by this notion if they have "checked it" with their children. As Urban so eloquently states above, the only thing that mattered to him was that his parents were "solid." That is where children get their sense of identity and stability from.

So, when we dote on our kids at the expense of our spouse, are we doing so because we know our kids want that, or are we really just fulfilling our own selfish needs? After all, it is "easier" to love a child, who typically loves you back without question. Things are messier with adults and they take more work.

So, before we jump on the Ayelet Waldmans and Keith Urbans of the world, let's at least consider this question from the perspective of what kids really need.

What do you think? Who do you love more, your spouse or kids?

2012 Super Bowl Ads Still Not Ready To Grow Up

There are two reasons people watch the Super Bowl every year. Mainly, the championship game is the centerpiece for diehard football fans. For those casual watchers of the sport, the expensive and typically entertaining commercials in between happen to be the draw.

Over the years, some companies have pandered to the mostly male audience with images that gratuitously cater to the oversexed nature of our world today. However, some noble attempts were made to steer away from the typical fare offered on Super Bowl Sunday.

Ronald McDonald House Charities offered a moving commercial centered on a family rallying around a young boy who is suffering with leukemia. With images flashing of the boy’s family members all showing support as he goes through therapy in images, the clip ends sweetly with the young man backed with love, as he should be.

Another great commercial was that of perennial tough guy Clint Eastwood and his classic gruff voice talking about America’s resolve in tough times for Chrysler Auto. One of the longer commercials at just over two minutes, the impression left behind is lasting.

A nice change of pace was Kia Optima’s “Dream Car For Real Life” spot in where the mythical sandman comes in to sprinkle dream dust on a sleeping couple. While the figure douses the wife just a dab of the magic powder, an accident has the sandman dumping half a bucket on her husband. The result: the husband’s macho dreams are amped up to ridiculous levels while his wife’s dreams are sweet and simple. A neat twist was at the end; the husband breaks past his dreams to crash his wife’s serene party and whisks her off into the sunset – all while driving the Kia, naturally.

According to Boston ad agency Mullen and their fourth annual Brand Bowl, Go Daddy was the least liked brand shown during the Super Bowl. The Internet domain name provider applied its typical lowbrow antics, employing longtime spokesperson Danica Patrick scantily clad in a version of heaven most likely conjured by the dream of high school aged boys. Once again using sex to sell its product, Go Daddy saw a huge number of negative tweets with replies growing tired of the company’s shtick.

Go Daddy has the dubious distinction of using a word in their company name – “daddy’ – and cheapening it to the point that it nearly derails the power of the title. Real daddies don’t sit around objectifying women at every turn or are consumed by lust. Some daddies are content to save that energy for the woman they love and to share only his best for his children. Instead of “Go Daddy,” perhaps more “Stay daddy” in the mainstream could help eliminate some of the negative connotation that the company applies to the word.

Let’s hope next year that companies like Go Daddy realize fathers are at home watching the game with their families, and perhaps use their platform for something other than cheap visual gags and silly humor.

Lessons From My Grandfather

I joined the National Fatherhood Initiative in early December as a recently married man of five months. Coming to work for NFI as a newlywed has given me a pretty unique experience. Before getting married, my wife and I had talked about our hopes for a family and being parents. Working in an environment that affirms and builds up the role of the father, I’ve had time to “think ahead” and prepare for my hopefully growing family.

Hearing and sharing stories in the NFI office of our experiences at home, and also of our fathers, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my youth and childhood. I had a very happy childhood and am blessed with the parents I have. But there is one thing that I keep to myself mostly—how much I wish I could have known my grandfather better.

I only had the privilege of seeing my grandfather a couple times before he passed away. He was, as I remember, a quiet man. Not serious, but quiet. He had experienced a lot in his life. In hindsight, what I thought was a serious grandfather was more a man, who in seeing his son happy with his children, found peace in reflecting on his own life.

Perhaps he found consolation or healing in seeing his son carry on a tradition. I think he found joy and was proud of my dad for all that he had accomplished. He was a man who knew that it was not the material things that make a man wealthy, but the richness in his love for and from his family. I’m sure my grandpa was proud of my dad.

I owe a lot to my grandfather. Listening to my dad talk about him, I can see that he showed my father how to be a man, how to be a father, and how to love. My grandfather taught my dad everything that my father has passed on to me. Because of my father's example and his daily service to his children, I learned what fatherhood is. My father laid down his wants, desires, needs, and sacrificed his own life for us. I hope I can be the same kind of father to my children as my dad was to my brothers and I.

The most important thing my father taught me was how to love my wife. Yes, like all families, my parents disagree from time to time. But there has never been a doubt about just how much my father loves my mother. I’ve heard it said, "The greatest thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother." I believe that to be true. My dad showed me how to love my wife by his loving and steady example. And again, I hope I can love my wife, Lacy, as well as my dad has loved my mom.

While I give great thanks to my dad and grandpa, I also am deeply grateful to my mother. Witnessing her gentleness, mercy, and care for my father, I have learned how to be loved. My mother "completed the picture" and witnessed to me how I should accept love from my wife. I saw how happy she made my dad, and she showed me that as a husband, I too one day deserved to be loved in the same fashion.

I am excited for what lies ahead. With the great examples my parents have given me and by God’s will, I feel that I will be ready and prepared to be a father for a growing and loving family.

Nagging, the Marriage Killer

A teaser headline on this morning's Wall Street Journal reads, "Meet The Marriage Killer." As I picked up the paper at the front door of our office building, a co-worker and I started to guess as to what the article would reveal as this "marriage killer." Money? Kids? Sex? I then quipped that if you have two of those and lack one, your marriage is in trouble. We laughed. But we were both wrong. Turns out that the great marriage killer is... nagging!

So, I started reading the article, and the first example it gave was of a wife nagging her husband. Yes, it is true that wives nag more than husbands (read the article here). But I had to laugh again because I probably nag my wife more than she nags me. I think we are in the minority on that one, but the article did get me thinking - what if all of my nagging is really putting a serious drain on our relationship?

I apparently have reason to be concerned. Researchers are now referring to nagging as a "toxic" way of communicating that can cause serious relationship problems. As I reflect on this, I do realize that when I nag my wife about leaving clutter on the kitchen counter, or leaving dresser drawers open, or the various other things that annoy me, she does tend to shut down and feel as if I am focusing too much on things that don't matter.

Again, we are probably in the minority. According to the article (and most of the stories I have heard from friends and family), it is often husbands who feel as though they are being talked down to and harassed about stuff that does not matter.

And while I certainly do more nagging, the one area in which my wife has me beat is with, you guessed it, our son. Something tells me this may be fairly common, as moms tend to be more focused (on average) on the day-to-day care of kids.

She asks me to do this or that for our two-year-old, and if I don't jump out of my seat immediately, she thinks I don't care or am ignoring her. My defense is typically something like, "Does it really matter if I refill his juice cup right now or in 30 seconds during the commercial break in Jeopardy?" After all, I have to continue proving to myself how smart I am by answering as many Double Jeopardy clues as possible (with two witnesses in the room no less!).

The bottom line is that we both have to stop nagging each other because our marriage is too important (to our son especially) to be derailed by a stray paper towel or open sock drawer.

Tell us about the nagging that happens in your marriage. Who nags more, wife or husband? What do each of you nag about? Chores? Kids? And given the above, how do you plan on reducing the amount of nagging taking place? Let us know.

Being A Dad Is Just As Tough As Anything Else

Greetings, Father Factor readers!

To quote a song “I Know You Got Soul” from legendary 80s rap duo Eric B. & Rakim, “It’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you” – but we’re back to regularly updating our blog after the holidays shifted everyone’s schedules around a bit.

Speaking of rap music, have you seen NFI’s nifty new Daily Dad News section? It’s the latest feature on our homepage full of daily news bits about dads, families and related stories. One of the news items posted last week focused on popular Atlanta rapper T.I. and how he balances his career with his family time. During an interview with MTV News, the rapper born Clifford Harris spoke proudly of being a dad but carefully stating that he has to still maintain an edge to his character due to the industry’s he’s in.

“When I go home, that's who I am, what you see on the show. Now, what you're gonna hear through them records is when I hit the streets, when I'm out movin' and groovin' — this is the person that must maintain this personality because it's a cold world out here,” T.I. offered in the interview.

Now I’ll admit that I’ve listened to a bit of his T.I.’s music in my spare time, and a lot of it isn’t family friendly stuff. However, on his cable reality show with his wife, T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle, T.I. reveals his softer side as a doting and devoted dad. T.I. and his wife have also given to charity, provided scholarships to the Boys and Girls Club and he even famously talked down a suicidal man from committing the fatal act.

The flip to T.I.'s good and giving side is that he raps in songs about his violent past as a former drug dealer nestled deeply "in the trap" – what some in Atlanta refer to as the open air drug market. Since having found fame, T.I. has been long removed from the trappings of the streets but his music at times serves as the soundtrack for those still in that lifestyle.

T.I.'s jail record and federal gun charges also haunt him, being sent to prison just after performing a star turn in the Hollywood action flick Takers alongside another beleaguered male entertainer Chris Brown. He was well on his way to mainstream stardom and chose to "hug the block" (as the kids say) instead of focusing on his budding acting career and music. T.I. has injected positive messages in some of his work, no less energetic and infectious as his normal fare.

The question is, which is really tougher? Is it tougher to still rap about guns and what you'll do to someone if they cross you in the streets? Or, is it tougher to rap about being a devoted husband and father, writing a few lines about how you went to see your sons play Pee Wee football? Is it tougher to rap about how you sold drugs or would it be tougher to drop a few verses about how you love coming home to your wife?

I don't happen to think T.I.'s a bad person, but I do think he's caught up in the hype of being tough when in actuality, he'd be seen as a greater figure if he promoted his family life more. Perhaps his television show is his pathway to doing so, but a man of T.I.'s responsibility and fame would appear tougher to me if he paused to "hit the streets" less often and revealed that there's nothing soft about being a father who loves the family life.

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