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The Father Factor


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

describe the imageJust 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!

On if this film was personal:

Andy Fickman: I’m a father, I have a 15-year-old son, and I think every day on the set you are bringing your personal life into it... It became a very personal journey for me…

On if he was going in trying to make a “fatherhood film”:

AF: Billy and I spoke so much in development about fathers… we are a little bit in this weird position because, look what the mother lovingly does. The mother helps carry the child in her womb, she goes through all the physical changes while we sit on the couch, she goes through labor, breastfeeds and has that maternal bond that is so beautiful and so specific that every dad knows the look on a child’s face when the child sees the mother. Every dad knows that moment of lighting up, you know, “The nurturer is coming!” So for dads, we have that weird pace, which is, am I the dad who comes home from my 9 to 5 job, and I’ve got my one hour of story time? So entering [into the movie we wanted to explore] what are [dads] hoping to pass on to our children, and what are they learning that they are then going to pass down to their children?

describe the imageOn how his relationship with his dad affected the themes of the film:

AF: My father passed away when I was 16 and I was very lucky that I had an uncle who became a surrogate, and I have three older brothers who became surrogates. But to this day my brothers and I talk about how lucky we were that our father provided such a role model for us, from education to social issues. So our challenge to us is we always feel like our responsibility is we have to pass down to our children what our father probably would have continued passing down to his grandchildren.

On the struggles grandparents sometimes face:

AF: Especially with the stuff in the movie where Billy is really struggling, he has some incredibly personal moments. The hardest thing to admit to anybody is that “I am not comfortable around my grandchildren” or “I don’t know how to talk to them.” I think those are very real things, and what we found throughout promoting the movie how many grandparent or parents have said that just because you have the title of parent or grandparent certainly does not mean you are comfortable with that title or that your relationship with your offspring is always a healthy one.

On helicopter parenting:

AF: That helicopter style of parenting is a very different world. There are whole stores dedicated to just early development of your child, and it’s great. But you also think about the classic line, “I was pretty sure I was just happy with a cardboard box.”

On if things really are better today for parents and kids:

AF: I remember we were talking on set one day about how great people are these days with health. True, I said, but make no mistake, all throughout history and all over the world, there are still kids born in a grass hut… So I definitely feel like it’s hard not to look a little like the marketing sham sometimes in modern society, where if we can come up with something, like the Snuggies commercial. “If putting on a bathrobe is too difficult for you, you need a Snuggies!” They’ll show commercial for things for children, where they’ll be like, “Tired of your child constantly falling off the bed? You need the new Bed Guard 2000!” That’s where we’ve gotten as a society, so when you put those generations together, it’s easy for them to Clint Eastwood squint their eyes at you and wonder, “Really, is that what you need?”

billy crystal bette midler marisa tomei in parental guidanceOn the importance of strong marriages:

AF: From the very beginning, what we wanted to deal with was reality, and anybody’s who’s in a relationship knows that children can pose challenges. And what the husband and wife are dealing with is, I think, so universal. “What do I do for an hour of intimacy?” One of my favorite moments in the movie is when Tom grabs Marisa and takes her out on the patio and the kids are going crazy in the kitchen and he gives her a kiss, and she says, “Oh, that’s like a mini-date!”

Even his grandparents are talking and it’s very real. You don't get the impression that these are couples on the verge of divorce lawyers and dealing with the nastiness. You get the impression that these are two couples who are dealing with life and not always making great decisions, and just because I’m your spouse doesn’t mean I have to support you, and yet I am supporting you.

On the central importance of the relationship between mom and dad for the well being of kids:

AF: Bette has a line that a lot of people have really responded to when Marisa says to her, “You always take dad’s side.” And Bette says, “Yes, because children leave, and I’m gonna be left with him. You hit college and you said goodbye and your father stayed.” And I think that is so relatable to people.

Bette also says to Marisa, “You need to go and show your husband that you support him and believe in him and you want to be with him.” And Marisa’s character is coming up with so many excuses, the children being the entire excuse – the children, the children, the children. And Bette and Billy are saying, you aren’t even giving us a chance; you are assuming we are going to fail with your kids… In those moments, Bette’s trying to point out, especially in a marriage, that the one night away or those two nights away… you really need it.  Two people are in love, they are human and sometimes it’s nice to be in that hotel where the phone’s not ringing, the kids aren’t screaming, and I think that’s important for those relationships, because as we all know, happy parents returning home are only going to be that much better for the kids.

On intergenerational parenting challenges:

AF: The three grandchildren are so raised to be a certain way that when they see the behavioral attitude changes that their grandparents bring to the house, it’s confusing for them because then, are they going to get in trouble with mom and dad for eating the cake. I think that’s what a lot of people deal with because there’s always the sense of, when you’re a kid, you always want to be around your grandparents, because they’re like, “Here's $10.” And you’re like, “Yay!”

any fickman director of parental guidanceOn what he wants today’s dads to take away from the film:

AF: It’s twofold. One is a reminder to dads that we do play a part, we do have a role, and that role never changes. It’s easy to say, let your mom handle that, but it’s important that we’re handling that as well.

And I think it’s also that we have different experiences that we are bringing to the table, and a child lucky enough to have both a mother and father can give them different pieces of wisdom. There’s that great moment in the movie where Billy’s watching baseball with his daughter and it’s a really sweet scene because you can imagine what it was like when she was 11 years old and he says, and then you got all girly on me… So hopefully that’s the sort of thing that we can not escape but continue in trying to learn their world as much as ours.

Get tickets to the very family-friendly and funny, Parental Guidance, rated PG.

The Father Factor Blog  

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Photo credits: Phil Caruso  - TM and © 2012 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and
Walden Media, LLC.  All Rights Reserved.  Not for sale or duplication.

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.

dadandchild320 resized 600In 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!

The questions we ask dads fit into five categories and are as follows:

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

Don’t run by this first category without some self-reflection. Be honest with yourself as a man and father. Do you know what part of the day you are likely to be most tired and annoyed? Be discerning about how you treat your children during these times.

The 24/7 Dad also knows his ability to be with his children is affected by the choices he makes. With your vocabulary, replace “I’m too busy for XYZ” with the words “I didn’t make XYZ my priority.” Hear the difference?

So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I know myself?

2. Caring for Self. The 24/7 Dad takes care of himself. He gets annual physicals, eats right, exercises, and learns about the world he lives in. He has a strong connection to his family and community, and chooses friends who support his healthy choices. The 24/7 Dad models for his children that he respects and likes himself because he makes good choices. When’s the last time you were at the doctor? If your answer to this question is “I go to the doctor every decade whether I need to or not!” you may want to consider modeling a different standard to your son or daughter.

So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I care for myself? 

3. Fathering Skills. The 24/7 Dad knows his role in the family. He knows he should be involved in the daily life of his children. Consider this: Who dresses and feeds your kids? Who attends parent-teacher conferences? Who supports their sports and other interests/activities? Who helps with homework and tucks them in at night? Of course the daily schedules of work factor into this equation; however, if your answer to all of these questions (and more) on a daily basis is “mom,” we have a problem. The 24/7 Dad uses his knowledge of the unique skills he and his wife/the mother of his children brings to raising his children. In other words, he knows the difference between “fathering” and “mothering.” Said a different way, if you weren’t in the family, would anyone notice based on the daily household tasks?

So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I “Father”?

4. Parenting Skills. The 24/7 Dad nurtures his children. Yes, nurturing is for men to do as well. He knows how his parenting skills help to develop their physical, emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, and creative needs. His children trust and feel safe with him because he cares about and nurtures them through the use of proven parenting skills. The 24/7 Dad uses discipline to teach and guide his children, not to threaten or harm them. This is big; don’t miss this point. If and when you discipline, how are you doing it? Are you seen as the executioner of the house who comes down from time to time with his golden rules? Discipline is best done with the idea of instructing a child in the way he or she should go. This isn’t done in anger or simply because you have had a long day and are annoyed in the moment.

So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I “Parent”?

5. Relationship Skills. The 24/7 Dad builds and maintains healthy relationships with his children, wife/mother of his children, other family members, friends, and community. He knows and values how relationships shape his children and their lives. The 24/7 Dad knows how the relationship with his wife/mother of his children affects his children and creates a good relationship with her for the sake of his children. He always looks to improve the skills he uses to communicate with others. 

So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I relate?

Dad, what questions would you add to this list?

The Father Factor Blog

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This post was excerpted and adapted from NFI's 24/7 Dad resource. Read the original post in our For Fathers section.
photo credit: Fabiana Zonca

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.

waiting for fatherhood baby cribFor 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. 

You see, as I get ready to head home tonight after work, I have already planned to spend the evening doing one of my favorite things—brewing beer. It’s a hobby I picked up when I lived in a townhouse with no cable or internet. I’ll have fun tonight. But all the while I will be thinking to myself, “What if”. I will be wondering what if my child were here. Instead of spending the night in the kitchen brewing, I could be putting together a crib. Instead of a quiet night waiting for my wife to get home from working late, maybe I would be giving my baby a bath. The hardest part is not their absence; rather it is in thinking of all the moments we will never have with them. To quote John Greenleaf Whitter, “For all the sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: ‘What might have been’”.

In trying to sort through the emotions of the past few months, I’ve tried to put into words (probably for some healing or comfort) why it has been so difficult to find peace with it all. Strangely enough, I haven’t found any new insight to make it easier. I haven’t found enlightened peace. No, nothing like that. But what I am reminded of is the precious joy that family and children are.

My wife and I have been able to remember that no matter how hard we may try, we can’t just make children happen. Children are not given simply because you want to have them. No, children are gifts to be cherished.

I am so happy to work for an organization that recognizes children are indeed a gift to be cherished.  And that part of this cherishing is to ensure that they have involved, responsible, and committed fathers.  

In grieving, somewhat selfishly, for our loss, we are consoled knowing that our children are in a better place than we could have ever hoped to give them. And as my wife and I continue to wait and see what lies ahead for us, I know the gift will be that much sweeter. I can’t imagine how blessed I will feel when the day finally arrives. And I only hope that when it does that my children will know how much of a gift they are to me. 

Tony is a graduate of the University of Maryland. He and his wife, Lacy, met at Maryland and were married in 2011. In his spare time, you will find Tony rock climbing, cooking and homebrewing.
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photo credit: Jug Jones

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.

The latest smack came in the form of a series of pictures in a book for toddlers. The book, First 100 Words, was sitting innocently on a shelf in my house. I mindlessly opened it and started flipping through, and came across the following picture.

Dad not in family

In case you can’t make out what is going on there, it shows a picture of a family that includes “mommy,” “brother,” and “baby.” Where’s “daddy”? Well, he has his own separate, much smaller picture to the right of the larger “family” picture. (it is probably also worth noting that grandma gets the second largest picture)

Talk about a stark, visual representation of our culture’s general disregard for the centrality of responsible fatherhood. It is as if the editors did not want dad interfering with the pristine image of a mom-child family.

Moreover, this is a book designed to give toddlers their first lessons about the world around them. May as well get to them early with the notion that when we talk about family, we are really talking about a mom and her kids.

One might defend the use of an image of a mother-only family with the premise that we should be cautious about offending such families, or making them feel “left out.” But why is no one ever concerned with offending two-parent families? After all, 2 in 3 children still live in mother-and-father-present homes, and reams of social science research shows it is best, on average, for kids to live in such homes. So, shouldn’t we be “protecting” this family type?

These sorts of images reinforce the false belief that fathers are not as important as mothers. For a boy in a father-absent home, it reinforces the idea that he does not have to worry about being a central part of the family he will one day have. Mom’s got it covered! This attitude “empowers” neither men nor women.

fatherless family bookFor a child growing up with a father in the home, like my son, I am sure this image will be confusing. My 2.5-year-old son is too young to express himself about something as complicated as this, but this book -- along with a lot of other messages he will get from TV commercials, etc -- shows him that fathers are on the periphery of family. When he asks the question, “How now shall I live?” the answer provided by our culture will be vague at best. If it suits you to stick around for your family, that’s fine; but if not, don’t let the door hit you in the rear on the way out.

Now, you may say that it is just one book, and maybe it’s not indicative of what the general belief about fatherhood is in our country. But that is a cop out. If “just one book” published an image of a blonde girl struggling with a math problem, a ruckus would be raised. Or if “just one book” published an image of a minority being belittled by a white person, a ruckus would be raised. Because we know that images and messages matter; they communicate our culture’s values. When such messages are allowed to see the light of day, it is an indication that there is little fear of reprisal for publishing them.

Dads are not a feared demographic; very few people are worried about ticking us off. NFI will do its part to expose negative representations of fatherhood and award positive ones, but until market forces start to move, little will change. We saw a hint of how powerful those forces can be when Huggies made a mistake with dads.

Here’s to hoping that the mistakes are always pointed out and the offenders learn a lesson.

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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.

Child at weddingSeveral 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.

Consequently, we offer support, guidance, and resources to fathers and the organizations that serve them without discriminating based on marital status. As I remarked in the post, my argument isn’t that a specific non-married 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 non-married fatherhood is undeniable. It has moved us away from our society's need to address father absence in a preventive manner.

To better understand NFI’s position, it’s critical to separate personal experience and the emotion attached to it from the cultural experience and evidence attached to it. Non-married fatherhood results from one of two situations—an out-of-wedlock birth (e.g. a never-married father) or a divorce. From a personal perspective, I’ll wager that if you’re a never-married father you didn’t intend to become one. Likewise if you’re a divorced father you probably didn’t marry with the intent to divorce your wife and face the challenges that brings to raising children. But if you’re an involved, never-married or divorced dad, I’ll also wager that, against all odds, you have moved heaven and earth to remain involved in your children’s lives. Remaining involved requires a lot of hard work and emotion especially when considering the evidence that non-married fathers, on average, are less likely to be involved in their children’s lives as their children age. Therefore, the negative responses we received are understandable because they come from fathers who are not the norm. These fathers are involved in their children’s lives despite the challenges they face. All of us at NFI applaud their (your) efforts.

From a cultural perspective, however, it is undeniable that our society has become more accepting of non-married fatherhood. As an applied anthropologist, I have studied cultures across the globe and, in particular (surprise, surprise), the institutions of fatherhood and marriage and their symbiotic relationship. As noted in my post, marriage arose as an institution (across the globe) for raising children and serves as the primary mechanism societies use to connect fathers to their children. The evidence that fathers are the parent disproportionately separated from their children when they are not married (and not just in the U.S.) underscores the importance of marriage as the institution that undergirds father involvement. And, yet, I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve encountered in my personal and professional life who are perfectly fine with non-married fatherhood (and motherhood) becoming an acceptable circumstance in which to parent (i.e. a norm). They don’t even give it a second thought. The evidence, however, for the symbiotic relationship between these two institutions is overwhelming. Being married to the mother of your children is the single greatest predictor of father involvement. Quite simply it is much harder to be involved in your children’s lives when you don’t live with them. From a preventive standpoint, one of the best strategies we can implement at the cultural level to ensure that children grow up with an involved father is to see that more fathers are married before they have children.

If you’re a non-married father and you’re still struggling to come to grips with NFI’s position on the relationship between marriage and involved fatherhood, I ask you to consider the following question. If your son or daughter comes to you one day and asks whether it is better to be married to the mother or father of their children, what will you say?

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photo credit: seanmcgrath

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.

Will you marry me?

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.

Dad Games 12Over 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!

We hope as a result of the last month of challenges, you are a better family man than you were in June! It’s been a blast to be challenged, learn from other dads, and connect through The Dad Games. This closing week of The Dad Games ends on Tuesday August 21 and will be no different! Get details about The Dad Games 2012.

This week’s topic is Gold Medal Dads…Set Goals To Improve.
 Get this week’s Gold Medal Dad checklist.

Now that you completed four weeks to fathering challenges. What does an Olympic athlete do? He or she continues training, right? Just as an athlete would do, we encourage you to keep training as a dad! We are here to help. We have one final week of ideas for how you can keep training for Team Dad!

The seven action steps for the final week of The Dad Games is as follows:

1) Identify areas of fathering where you are "winning gold:" Challenge yourself to write down what you are doing well. You have challenged yourself in The Dad Games, there must be something you are doing well. Write that down for this activity.

2) Identify area of fathering where you need to improve: Through the challenges, you may have found areas where you need to improve. Take time to consider areas you need improvement in and write those down for this step.

3) Set three goals to stay strong where you're already "winning:" You have your areas that you are doing well in as a dad. Take those areas and create specific and if possible numeric goals.

4) Set three goals to help yourself improve in weaker fathering areas: Like you did for areas you are doing well in, take the weaker areas and create specific and quantifiable goals.

5) Talk to your team (mom, kids, and other dads) about your goals: You now have your goals, take them and discuss them with your family and other dads. Look for people to come along and help you in areas where you are weaker. Seek out and learn from mentors. Don't wait for other dads to bring this topic up to you, they won't. Take the lead and talk openly about ways to improve as a dad.

6) Post your goals where you will see them and stay focused: Be intentional about keeping your goals in front of you. Take the effort to post your goals somewhere you will be reminded of them in the coming days.

7) Consider being a Double Duty Dad to a kid who needs a father figure: If you have completed all the challenges and created your goals, you are doing very well as a dad to your kids. You’re basically the greatest dad ever! Now, use those professional dad-skills on your community. NFI challenges you to find a child that may not have a father figure and be that influence for that child. Learn more about Double Duty Dad.

Question: What’s one area you are working on as a result of The Dad Games?


Dad GamesReminder: To honor your efforts in The Dad Games, we're giving away prizes including sports memorabilia signed by celebrity athletes and free prize packs. How can you win?!
 Enter by sharing your experiences and connecting with other dads on FacebookTwitter (#DadGames12), and commenting on our blog (Get more info on how to enter here!).

Visit Gold Medal Dads…Set Goals To Improve for tips on training for Team Dad.

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.

 marriage resized 600

In the article, Roland points out that the quality of the relationship between a child’s mother and father is one of the most important factors in determining how that child will do in life.

He sees an alarming trend in couples not seeing the importance to get married or understanding the difference between what some couples would call a "healthy relationship" and what makes a "healthy marriage?" Roland proposes that couples ask 20 questions that define the relationship in order to know the difference between a healthy marriage and a healthy relationship.

Roland writes, "At a time when marriage rates across the country are down and out-of-wedlock birthrates are at all-time highs, especially in the African American community, we must stop to consider how this trend of equating marriages and “relationships” is affecting children."

He continues, "The reality is that there is an enormous difference between a healthy relationship and a healthy marriage." As Roland points out, every couple eventually has to have that “define the relationship” conversation. This can be accomplished by asking a few thoughtful questions. Your answers to the questions may reveal something you didn't already know about your partner.

It's a problem if you never talk about your relationship status. However, the real problems arise when each partner already knows the answers to the questions, but isn't telling the other partner. It's time to have "the talk."

Read the full article by Roland C. Warren at The Washington Post or get the 20 Questions for Defining The Relationship.  

photo credit: Caucas'

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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!

Get full details about The Dad Games 2012.
Join us tonight at 9PM EST as we share advice and tips for this week's topic of how to intentionally show and tell your children you love them.

An important part of being a Gold Medal Dad is affirming your child and showing affection. Showing affection and expressing praise may or may not come naturally to you, but it's important for your child to experience you demonstrating your love in visible, tangible ways. Affirmation from Dad plays a big role in shaping a child's self-confidence and attitude.

We are connecting at the party with the goal of learning from each other about how best to show our kids we love them and connect with them in an impactful way. It will be a fun time to connect and share ideas for dads of all ages who have children at all stages!

Last week's party was a great time to connect with other dads and be motivated to work through the action steps of the checklist. Remember, we're becoming Gold Medal Dads to our help impact our families.

This week’s topic is Gold Medal Dads…Affirm Their Kids
Make sure you have our checklist with seven ideas of how you can work at your relationship.

Get this week’s Gold Medal Dad checklist.

During tonight’s Twitter party, we’ll walk through some of the challenges for the week and share stories and ideas of how to win Gold by being intentional about affirming and showing our affection to our children.

Bring your advice, tips and questions!

Be sure you’re following @TheFatherFactor and using the hashtag #DadGames12 for all your tweets.

Two prize winners will be selected from among Twitter party participants and notified at the close of party. Must be active at the party to increase your chances of winning!

What can you win? See the Dad Games prizes.

#DadGames12 Prize from Dove® Men+Care®:

Dove® Men+Care® celebrates men who are comfortable in their own skin and understand the importance of caring for themselves and others. One Twitter party participant will win an autographed sports item from a legend and the new collection of Dove® Men+Care® products to keep you literally comfortable in your own skin.

#DadGames12 Prize from Gillette:
Gillette has a series of limited edition Olympic-packaged products in suppport of their ongoing partnership with the Olympic Movement and their 25 Olympic athletes including Ryan Lochte and Tyson Gay. One Twitter party participant will win a gift package of Gillette’s Olympic-themed products - plus a fatherhood book from NFI. 

Dad Games

Host: @TheFatherFactor

When: Thursday, August 2nd at 9PM EST

Hashtag: #DadGames12

Get next weeks Dad Games checklist directly in your email inbox by signing up for our Dad Email. Go Team Dad!

Gold Medal Dads...Affirm Their Kids

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

The Dad Games challenges dads to become “Gold Medal Dads” in five areas of fathering. Each week we provide Dad's with a checklist of seven actions to take in order to connect with the family. This week's challenge is Gold Medal Dads...Affirm Their Kids.

An important part of being a Gold Medal Dad is affirming your child and showing affection. Showing affection and expressing praise may or may not come naturally to you, but it's important for your child to experience you demonstrating your love in visible, tangible ways. Affirmation from Dad plays a big role in shaping a child's self-confidence and attitude.

To honor your efforts, we're giving away prizes including sports memorabilia signed by celebrity athletes and free gift packs of men's skin care products. Learn more about the prizes here. 

We're challenging you to take the seven challenges this week to show (and tell) your kids you love them. 

How can you win?!
You enter to win by sharing your experiences and connecting with other dads in The Dad Games on FacebookTwitter, and commenting on our blog (Get more info on how to enter here!).

Subsribe to the Dad Email™ and get The Dad Games weekly checklist in your inbox.

Question: In your experience, what must you do to show (and tell) your kids you love them?

Dad GamesVisit Gold Medal Dads…Affirm Their Kids for tips on how you can affirm and show affection to your kids intentionally this week.

Remember to share and connect with other dads this week on the blog, Facebook and Twitter (#DadGames12).

Loving Your Spouse More Than Your Kids

keith urban nicole kidman idolA 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?

The Father Factor Blog

photo credit: SynergyByDesign

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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