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The Father Factor

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Preventing Child Abuse: The Crying Baby

People tend to think of infant crying and colic as a parenting nuisance. But it is much more serious. In fact, sleep deprivation and blasting the sound of crying babies for hours are used to prepare the Navy elite SEALS to endure torture!

Crying -- and the demoralization and exhaustion it provokes -- trigger a cascade of serious consequences, including marital conflict, postpartum depression, breastfeeding failure, SIDS/suffocation, car accidents, cigarette smoking, maternal obesity... and child abuse.

happy-babyAlmost 580,000 children were reported as abused in 2008, 1,740 of them died of their injuries. In addition to this terrible human cost, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates the financial cost of these abuses at $124 billion/year. 

To rally citizens against this scourge, we observe Child Abuse Prevention Month each April. And, to bring national focus on stopping infant shaking -- the #1 cause of child abuse deaths -- the third week of April is designated Shaken Baby Awareness week.

Unfortunately, infant shaking is not rare. Experts estimate that tens of thousands of infants are abused in this way each year. And two recent studies found that rates of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) have increased by as much as 100% during recession. 

  • The SBS victims are usually 3-4 months of age.
  • On average, one child is killed by SBS every day. 
  • The main SBS trigger is infant crying.

Child welfare leaders are beginning to realize that SBS prevention programs must include showing parents how to effectively and safely calm their babies -- not just teach them never to shake their infants. Adding a baby calming approach may not only stop the vicious cycle of parent frustration leading to child abuse, it may create a virtuous cycle! Empowering parents to calm their babies with effective, evidence-based techniques like the 5 S's may increase parent confidence and nurturing relationships...as well as reduce SBS and other serious problems triggered by infant crying.

The "5 S's" System

According to Dr. Harvey Karp, to sooth a crying infant, recreating the womb environment helps the baby feel more secure and calm. Dr. Karp recommends:

  • Swaddling: Tight swaddling provides the continuous touching and support your baby is used to experiencing within the womb.
  • Side/stomach position: The infant is placed on their left side to assist in digestion, or on their stomach to provide reassuring support. “But never use the stomach position for putting your baby to sleep,” cautions Karp. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is linked to stomach-down sleep positions. When a baby is in a stomach down position do not leave them even for a moment.
  • Shushing sounds: These imitate the continual whooshing sound made by the blood flowing through arteries near the womb.
  • Swinging: Newborns are used to the swinging motions within their mother’s womb, so entering the gravity driven world of the outside is like a sailor adapting to land after nine months at sea. “It’s disorienting and unnatural,” says Karp. Rocking, car rides, and other swinging movements all can help.
  • Sucking: “Sucking has its effects deep within the nervous system,” notes Karp, “and triggers the calming reflex and releases natural chemicals within the brain.”

NFI partners with The Happiest Baby for its potential to reduce child abuse. When you know these techniques for calming a baby (and can teach them to those around you) it means a happier baby—and a happier you!

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More sleep and a happy baby...in just one click. Magic? A miracle? No...it's a reflex! Find details about The Happiest Baby.

Who can use The Happiest Baby?

  1. Health Departments & Home Visiting Programs > An easy "plug and play" tool to enhance existing parenting curricula, programs and services (such as WIC).
  2. Hospitals & Pregnancy Centers > Ideal for use by nurses and childbirth educators with expectant parents or parents with young babies.
  3. Military Bases > New Parent Support Program staff can distribute DVD+CD Combos to military families on base and in military hospitals.
  4. Community Organizations > serving fathers and families
  5. New Parents > If you're a new mom or dad who needs help with a crying baby.

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On Fathers and Their Importance

A famous baseball player, Harmon Killebrew, is credited with saying, “My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, "You’re tearing up the grass." "We’re not raising grass," Dad would reply. "We’re raising [children]." This story sheds light on what some experts say is an important difference between mothers and fathers. Dr. Kyle Pruett, an author and professor of child psychiatry at Yale University, writes, “Fathers do not mother, they father…Fathers tend to do things differently.” Both parenting approaches are important in raising healthy, productive children in safe and stable environments. 

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The FRIENDS National Center on Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) provides training and technical assistance to CBCAP State Lead Agencies (SLAs) in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. CBCAP is a federally funded program managed by the Children’s Bureau within the Administration for Children and Families. This community of federal, state, and local programs aims to reduce child abuse including neglect through evidence-based and evidence-informed programs.

Many populations are targeted and strategies are typically based on building protective factors within individuals, families, and communities. These protective factors include

  • building social and emotional competence in children
  • building resiliency in parents
  • supporting families in need of concrete support
  • helping parents make social connections
  • increasing knowledge of parenting and child development

While the presence of a father in the home has decreased substantially in the last forty years, CBCAP-funded programs know there are many ways to engage fathers who may not be living with their children, and help fathers who are disconnected become reconnected with their children.

When this is not possible, other men become even more important in the lives of children as healthy male role models. These men may be uncles, grandfathers, neighbors, teachers, coaches, and many others. Research indicates father involvement promotes better outcomes for children including increases in

  • self-esteem
  • grades
  • overall academic achievement
  • empathy
  • prosocial behavior
  • lower levels of alcohol and drug use
  • and other high-risk activities  

The field is learning more each year about the importance of both fathers and mothers in children’s lives.

Sam Blue from St. Louis Missouri serves on FRIENDS National Center Parent Advisory Council (PAC) and is a family engagement specialist with Project Launch.

Mr. Blue’s Perspective on the Diversity of Fatherhood

My name is Sam Blue. I am thankful for my wife of 25 years and 9 children. I have 7 daughters, and 2 sons. My children all have unique and different personalities. I’ve learned to appreciate and value diversity through my children. I have daughters that are outgoing, strategic minded, funny, risk-takers, studious, Hollywood quality, and creative. While one son is gifted with music the other brings a curious and adventurous spirit to everything he does. As a community engagement specialist for Project LAUNCH, I’ve learned to appreciate and value diversity in fathers as well. I work with fathers with cultural differences, racial differences, different employment statuses, and all levels of income. Amongst all of the differences, the fathers are each still looking for effective ways for them to grow in their fatherhood.

I’ve learned to appreciate and value the diversity of my children and the many different fathers I work with. I’ve learned to be open-minded, and to celebrate the diversity of fathers and their children.

Resources

For specific resources on engaging fathers’ and their importance in the lives of children, please visit the FRIENDS’ website www.friendsnrc.org.

Whether a father teaches his children to cook, sew, pitch a ball, or work productively, we know what he brings to the table cannot be easily dismissed. A parent and participant on a FRIENDS’ Peer Learning Call once said, ‘Mothers prepare the world for their child, while fathers prepare their child for the world.’ Not many could argue that both types of preparation are critical to growing up healthy and productive in a challenging world.

The balance of having someone help pave the way for you in the world, and being taught how to manage one’s place in the world as it is, is something a baseball player, a parent, and many experts agree on, and is best taught by a mother (or mother-figure) and a father (or father-figure).

Resources from NFI

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month > NFI understands the importance of training fathers to be involved because dads are vital to their child's lives. We recommend two resources, Creating a Safe Home for Your Family and Understanding Domestic Violence Workshop to help the fathers and families you serve.

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Valerie Spiva Collins is the Training and Technical Assistance Supervisor for the FRIENDS National Center on CBCAP. Sam Blue is a member of FRIENDS National Parent Advisory Council, a community engagement specialist for Project LAUNCH in Missouri and a supportive husband of 24 years and loving father of 9 children.

Hyundai's Daddy-Daughter Spot You Must Watch to Believe

This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

Consumer brands continue to focus more on dads. What a concept. It's about time. Here's why Hyundai's new campaign is so important and why others have a lot to learn from this automaker.

If you follow my posts in this blog, you've read about consumer brands that continue to promote a negative image of fathers as bungling, clueless parents in contrast to brands that understand the important role fathers play in children's lives by portraying fathers as they are--competent, compassionate, knowledgeable parents.

Consumer brands, those bell weathers of today's culture, still have a long way to go in consistently portraying fathers as parents worthy of our admiration for everything they do and sacrifice for their children and families. Fortunately, I continue to see more and more examples of brands that understand fathers are critical to the success of their businesses.

Automakers --Toyota, Honda, and Nissan in particular -- have been especially keen to promote a positive image of fathers. Enter Hyundai. The South Korean automaker just released one of the coolest spots I've ever seen, father-themed or not. (It's interesting that all of these automakers are Asian in origin. It seems American automakers are, once again, behind the curve.)

hyundai a message to share

This 4-minute spot -- called "A Message to Space" -- centers on the daughter of an astronaut who works on the International Space Station. The spot opens with the daughter talking about how deeply she misses her father and he misses his family. The daughter and her mother travel to the desert where Hyundai employs a team of drivers that, collectively, uses 11 Genesis models to write a message in the sand (using tire tracks that etch the message) that is large enough for her father to see as the space station passes over the desert. I won't spoil it for you by sharing the message, but it will warm your heart.

 

The skeptic might say these automakers are just trying to make a buck. After all, aren't men primarily responsible for making purchase decisions when it comes to automobiles? Not so fast. Men certainly influence those decisions, but recent surveys (click here and here for examples) point to the growing influence of women in making those decisions. It seems auto-buying decisions have reached gender parity.

Still, men are a major influence on those decisions. What these automakers understand, however, is that beyond these consumers being men, they're fathers. These automakers understand the growing influence of the fatherhood role on today's man and how powerful that identity has become. By appealing to that identity, they know that men will appreciate a brand that understands how important being a father is to men.

Bravo Hyundai. You've joined the Asian block of automakers that get it.

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This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

How to Be the Hero Like Paul Blart

Officer Blart says, "A hero is never off duty." At National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), we agree, fatherhood is never off duty. Earlier this week, we presented Kevin James with NFI’s Fatherhood Award at a special NYC screening with other great moms and dads. Let me tell you about the great event and tell you what it takes to be the hero like Paul Blart. 

NFI co-hosted a special screening in New York City of Columbia Pictures' upcoming film Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 with Paul Blart himself, Kevin James. After NYC moms and dads enjoyed the screening, they were treated to a Q&A with Kevin James and the film's director, Andy Fickman (an NFI Fatherhood Award recipient for Parental Guidance, the 2012 Fatherhood Movie of the Year), followed by a special presentation of the NFI Fatherhood Award to Kevin James.

Check out pictures from the special event and NFI Fatherhood Award presentation.

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NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 13: Actor Kevin James, director Andy Fickman, attend 'Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2' Screening co-hosted by The Moms [Denise Albert (L) and Melissa Musen Gerstein (R)] and Ryan Sanders of National Fatherhood Initiative at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 on April 13, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by J. Countess/Getty Images)

I was struck by the father-daughter story in this film. Between laughing at Paul Blart on screen, I was reminded of the struggle I face as a dad of two young daughters. It’s the contradiction of fatherhood…you raise your child to learn and grow and be independent…but how do you teach yourself to let go once you start succeeding? You’re basically raising your child to leave. Sad, right? I know.

I love my daughters and want the best for them. However, like Paul Blart and his relationship to his daughter in the film, where does the balance of training and love move from discipline and protection to freedom and life lessons? 

Paul Blart is a prime candidate for the loving-but-over-protective dad. Is he a good dad? Yes, he will do anything for his daughter. He loves her. And that’s awesome. But how much protection is too much? I struggle with it. You struggle with it. Where’s the balance between concerned and supportive and over-protective father?

I was reminded as I watched the film of our fatherhood training and resources on discipline. When we understand our role as a dad in relation to discipline, we can learn to model and teach the values we want to see from our children. Many Dads think that discipline means “to control” rather than “to teach or to guide.”

The Hero Knows His Style

pbmc2coverMuch like Superman wears his trademark suit and an officer has a uniform, you must know your discipline style if you're going to get this parenting thing right. We talk about the styles of discipline in our 24/7 Dad® Program. We train leaders and dads to understand the styles and model the proper actions in word and deed.

In case you’re new to this site, here’s a crash-course on the styles of discipline. You most likely exhibit one of these styles more than the other. 

Style #1: Dictator > This dad is always strict and never nurtures. He’s clear about his morals and values. He leads with control and enforces rules with an iron hand. His children know what he doesn’t want them to do but rarely what he wants them to do. This dad says, “My way or the highway.”

Style #2: King > This dad is strict and nurtures when needed. He is clear about his morals and values. He leads by example. His children know what he doesn’t want them to do and what he wants them to do. This dad says, “Let me show you the way.”

Style #3 Joker > This dad is never strict and rarely nurtures. He isn’t clear about his morals and values. He jokes a lot and makes fun of his children. His children don’t know what he doesn’t want them to do or what he wants them to do. This dad says, “Let’s just have fun.”

Style #4: Follower > This dad is sometimes strict and sometimes nurtures. He lets mom take the lead on discipline and backs her up when needed. He is sometimes clear about his morals and values. His children know some of the things he doesn’t want them to do and some of the things he does want them to do. This dad says, “Do whatever mom says.”

Style #5: Dreamer > This dad is never strict and never nurtures. He lets mom take the lead on discipline and doesn’t get involved with it. He is never clear about his morals and values. His children don’t know what he wants them to do. This dad says, “Whatever. Just leave me alone.”

The Hero Knows What To Do in Any Situation

I can’t leave you with only the styles of discipline. I have to give you some tips to help you model the correct behavior. Like Officer Blart, you can succeed at your mission. Here are tips you need to be sure you're teaching and guiding instead of being over-protective and simply punishing your child.

Say You’re Disappointed > Tell your children you expect more of them, and that you expect them to behave the right way. Just be careful to not overuse this one. It can be powerful. Use sparingly.

Pay it Back > Tell your child to make up for bad behavior, such as paying for breaking something, doing the behavior they were supposed to do in the first place, or saying they’re sorry to someone they hurt. 

Time Out > Tell your child to sit in a corner, on the couch, or go to their room for a short period of time. Time out works best with younger children under the age of 10. 

Grounding > Don’t let your child leave the house for some period of time. Grounding works best with older children, such as teens.

Take Away a Freedom > Remove a freedom for a period of time. Note: Make sure the punishment fits the crime. Don’t take away a freedom, for example, when a child does something minor and telling them that you expect more of them the next time will do the trick.

Remember these tips the next time you want to punish the wrong-doer in your house.

Which tip could you use today that would make the most difference in how you discipline your child?

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 was as entertaining as I remember the first one. Yes, it’s a comedy, but with a deep father-daughter story. It’s a fun family film that will have you leaving the theater thinking about how to connect with your child.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 releases in theaters nationwide Friday, April 17th. 

While watching the movie offers lots of opportunities for dads to laugh with their kids, Columbia Pictures also developed a very engaging and highly informative safety program Paul Blart’s Safety Smarts for children ages 7 to 11 that shows kids how to stay safe.

> Visit and share the safety video with the dads you serve. Encourage dads to watch the video with their kids and then participate in the accompanying activities designed to sharpen your dads’ and children’s safety smarts with role-playing, peer-to-peer learning, and critical thinking. There is also a take-home safety quiz that parents and kids can take together to reinforce these important safety topics.

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More Helpful Resources

> Safe Kids Worldwide

> FBI Safety Tips

> National Children’s Advocacy Center

3 Tips for Spring Cleaning Your Life

OK dads, is spring finally on its way? Being from Minnesota, I’m ready to ditch the snow blower for the lawn mower! And, for those of you on the eastern seaboard, I’m sure you’re doubly ready to kiss this winter good-bye…

Regardless of where you live, spring is a natural time to take stock of what you’ve accumulated around your home and life whether that be dirt and grime, general disorganization, or maybe some bad health habits like overeating or…  The good news is, you don’t have to take it on all at once – here are three of my favorite tips to get started:  

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Tip 1 > Make sure your grill is in prime shape to fire up for the warmer months. It can be tempting to use harsh chemicals, but those can affect the finish. Mild soap and water is best. (Just be sure to disconnect the propane tank before doing anything.)  

Tip 2 > No one can feel refreshed when bogged down by financial worry. Make time to sit down with your loved one to revisit your budget and financial goals. This goes for you, the leader, and for the dads around you. Online sites like mint.com can help streamline the process so you can get a better understanding of where your hard-earned money is going. 

Tip 3 > Research shows that getting outside has many positive effects on your health, including improving relaxation and your immune system. Think about planning a camping trip for the summer and bask in the beauty of one of our nation’s great parks. Check out a list of where to go here

Want more spring cleaning ideas?

Spring Clean Your Life: Reorganize, Reprioritize and Reconnect by brightpeak financial is a 21-day email program created to help you tackle the post-winter cleanout – in all areas of life. Focusing on daily tips and activities, the program is designed to help you reorganize your home, reprioritize and revitalize your finances and reconnect to a healthier you. Get started today!

What's one thing you HAVE to do this spring in order to get life together?

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5 Challenges Faced by Fathers in Responsible Fatherhood Programs

What are the primary challenges of fathers who participate in responsible fatherhood programs? The Fatherhood Research and Practice Network (FRPN) recently released a brief that attempts to answer that question. (I sit on the FRPN's advisory committee.) Answering that question is critical because these challenges may be, as the brief notes, strongly associated with lower levels of father involvement in children's lives and lower quality coparenting relationships.

5 Challenges Faced by Fathers in Responsible Fatherhood Programs

FRPN's Dr. Jay Fagan and Rebecca Kaufman interviewed fathers--from 9 responsible fatherhood programs in 5 cities in the northeast that serve primarily low-income, unmarried, non-residential fathers--about the challenges they face.

The top 5 challenges they mentioned in descending order of frequency were:

  1. Unemployment
  2. Lack of money to buy things for their children
  3. Inability to pay child support
  4. Difficulty keeping a job
  5. Inability to pay bills

The other challenges they mentioned were wide-ranging, from physical health problems to their living situation preventing their children from coming to see them to drug/alcohol use to being accused of abusing/neglecting their children. (The brief includes all of the challenges the fathers mentioned, the frequency with which fathers mentioned them, and the severity of those challenges.)

These challenges underscore one of the most vital pieces of guidance National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) has provided to organizations through the years: the importance of helping fathers meet their most immediate, pressing needs as part of or even before enrolling them in a responsible fatherhood program. Meeting these needs is often the hook that encourages fathers to enroll in a responsible fatherhood program and to maintain their participation rather than learning how to be a better father and parent (e.g. through increased knowledge of child development, child discipline, etc.). Indeed, helping fathers overcome these challenges should be a component of a responsible fatherhood program either through the provision of services (often called "wrap-around services") by the organization running the program or the organization's partners.  

The FRPN's findings are similar to the results of research that I conducted with Dr. Keith Cherry, a long-time colleague and friend, when NFI was part of the National Quality Improvement Center on Non-Resident Fathers and the Child Welfare System (QIC-NRF), a 5-year project (2006-2011) funded by the Children's Bureau in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through a contract with the American Humane Association. That research involved interviews with low-income, non-resident fathers involved in the child welfare system in four communities supplemented by interviews with fatherhood program practitioners who worked with these and other child-welfare involved fathers.

Like the fathers interviewed by the FRPN researchers, the fathers Keith and I interviewed also mentioned financial challenges as their most pressing needs. Our research (published in the journal Protecting Children) also involved delving deeper into the impact of these fathers' challenges on the fathers and their perceptions so that child welfare workers and fatherhood practitioners within and who work with the child welfare system could better understand these fathers and, as a result, work more effectively with them and develop better strategies to encourage enrollment in fatherhood programs offered by child welfare agencies.  

We recorded, transcribed, and conducted an in-depth content analysis of the interviews. We identified the following themes in the lives of these fathers:

  • The financial and emotional devastation caused by their own absence from their children's lives.
  • The belief that they are constantly extorted by the mother of their children with their children being bargaining chips in a constant tug-of-war between them and the mother in which the mother has the upper hand.
  • The loss of control over their lives and hopelessness about the future.
  • The belief that the judicial/court system fosters poor fatherhood.

This deep understanding of these fathers' lives is so critical to effective program delivery. Staff of responsible fatherhood programs must look not only at fathers' needs but how those needs affect fathers. It is those affects that drive fathers' behavior. Indeed, the most successful of the programs we studied during our participation in the QIC-NRF were those seen by fathers to meet fathers' needs and care about fathers' welfare. 

What are you doing to understand and solve the most pressing problems of fathers?

What are you doing to better understand the impact of father absence on the fathers you serve?

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Announcement > Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Requests Comments

The Office of Family Assistance at the U.S. Department of Human Services has asked us to share the following information with you. A new set of Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood performance measures have been proposed. Please review this post to learn more information on how to request the proposed measures as well as more information on how to comment on the proposal.

Screen_Shot_2015-04-07_at_11.13.03_AMThe Proposed Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Performance Measures and Additional Data Collection (Part of the Fatherhood and Marriage Local Evaluation and Cross-site [FaMLE Cross-site] Project) is seeking comments on the proposed set of data that will be collected around future grantee projects/programs.

The FaMLE Cross-site project will answer three main research questions: (1) What strategies did grantees use to design well-conceived programs? (2) What strategies did grantees use to successfully implement well-conceived programs? (3) What were the reported outcomes for participants in the programs? In order to answer these questions, they are considering a new set of data collection activities.

Background > For decades various organizations and agencies have been developing and operating programs to strengthen families through healthy marriage and relationship education and responsible fatherhood programming. The Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Office of Family Assistance (OFA), has had administrative responsibility for federal funding of such programs since 2006 through the Healthy Marriage (HM) and Responsible Fatherhood (RF) Grant Programs.

The federal government currently collects a set of performance measures from HM and RF grantees. The purpose of this previously approved information collection is to allow OFA and ACF to carry out their responsibilities for program accountability.

Current request > ACF is engaged in a learning agenda to increase their understanding of Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood programs. This means that they incorporate multiple opportunities and options for learning throughout a program's implementation that provide a range of insights and perspectives. These opportunities help programming constantly develop and advance. For example, data provide the opportunity to feed information back to decision-makers and leaders—both those on the ground and those in management—to inform program design, operation, and oversight.

On November 6, 2014, ACF published a Federal Register Notice (79 FR 65973) requesting public comment on a proposed new set of performance measures to be collected by all grantees, beginning with the next round of HMRF grants. These measures will collect standardized information in the following areas:

  • Applicant characteristics;
  • Program operations (including program characteristics and service delivery); and
  • Participant outcomes (will be measured both at initiation of programservices (pre-test) and completion (post-test)).

To learn more and comment on the proposed peformance measures, please see the full article on the Federal Register detailing comment submission guidelines here

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The Federal Funding Process and Engaging Fathers in Corrections/Reentry [Free Webinars]

Here’s the scoop: Back in January, NFI hosted a webinar titled "Responsible Fatherhood: What’s Mom got to Do with It?" (You can access the webinar recording here in case you missed it.) During that webinar, we surveyed participants on other topics of importance to their work, and learned of two highly requested webinars: 

1) Funding fatherhood programs and other related work

2) Working with fathers in corrections and probation/parole

Armed with these requests, NFI went to bat to find experts to partner with us on these topics. We think you’ll agree that we hit a home run with two, valuable (and free!) learning opportunities coming soon in April.

corrections_webinarNational Fatherhood Initiative is proud to offer the following webinars to anyone interested in the federal funding process and working with fathers in corrections and probation/parole. The two don’t necessarily go together - but they can!

On Thursday April 16th from 2pm-3:30pm EST > NFI is proud to present a funding-related webinar hosted by two staff members of Saint Wall Street: the first being a former federal Branch Chief for discretionary grants and the second, a federal grant reviewer, long-experienced with the federal funding agency. The webinar is titled:

The Federal Grant Proposal: Key Insider Perspectives 

Saint Wall Street is a non-profit organization that helps organizations achieve the highest good and the highest return. Saint Wall Street inspires changed behavior within organizations and helps nonprofit board and executive directors become change leaders who understand, communicate, and leverage the market value of their program’s impacts. This is also commonly known as “program return on investment” or PROI.

The timing of this free webinar is key - as millions of dollars in new federal funding for Responsible Fatherhood Opportunities for Reentry and Mobility and New Pathways for Fathers and Families (formerly titled "Responsible Fatherhood: Improving Relationships and Economic Outcomes for Fathers and Families") will be announced in days.

Learning how to submit a proposal that qualifies is imperative, as the federal Grant Process is highly competitive, has a limited amount of money to be awarded, and receives more qualified applications then can be funded. As you may already know, it doesn’t matter how great your program performs, your proposal will be eliminated from eligibility immediately if it fails to meet submission guidelines. The webinar will cover the following:

  • An overview of the federal grant-making process from the key insider perspectives of a former federal Branch Chief for discretionary grants and a federal grant reviewer long-experienced with the funding agency
  • Share common mistakes to avoid as you prepare your application
  • Provide tips on interpreting the funding opportunity announcement, and insight to prove your program investment-worthy. 

This webinar is a MUST for any fatherhood program interested in receiving federal grants – even those working in corrections and probation/parole. Click here to register.


On Thursday April 23rd from 2pm-3:30pm EST > 
NFI Vice President of Program Support Erik Vecere will be joined by Starlene Smith-Wright, Corrections Program Administrator for the Kentucky Department of Corrections to present a webinar titled: 

Corrections and Reentry: Engaging Fathers Inside and Out

The Kentucky Department of Corrections has long been focused on delivering sustainable fatherhood training to incarcerated fathers via NFI’s InsideOut Dad®, as well as partnering with community-based organizations, via the state’s Probation and Parole Division, to deliver NFI’s 24/7 Dad® program to fathers in transitional facilities and other community-based organizations in the re-entry field. Recently, Kentucky revealed exciting data they have collected around success in working with incarcerated fathers, particularly, a reduction in recidivism and improved behavior.

Kentucky’s data and other anecdotal accounts NFI has received over the years shows that lives are being changed in prison (and out) with father-specific programming and engagement. During this webinar, participants will learn the best approaches and resources for working with incarcerated fathers, including using evidence-based strategies like InsideOut Dad®. It will also cover engaging fathers for successful reentry and what works in Probation and Parole. It will also highlight:

  • Current national best practices—especially recent data from the KY DOC that shows fatherhood programming reduces recidivism and improves behavior
  • The data and rationale for reaching fathers pre and post-release
  • Guidance on specific father engagement strategies and tools. 

Anyone working with incarcerated or previously incarcerated fathers will benefit from this learning opportunity. Click here to register.

Federal Funding Webinar > Click here to register today.

Corrections Webinar > Click here to register today.

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Two Stories that Will Warm Your Heart

We receive a lot of phone calls and emails from dads and moms who seek guidance on father involvement and related issues. The vast majority of these calls and emails are associated with the negative effects of father absence. But every once in a while, a dad or mom, and sometimes a child, shares an uplifting story about how a dad stepped up to the plate to be a great dad and the positive impact of that action. Those stories drive our staff to never stop ensuring that as many children as possible experience the love of an involved, responsible, committed father.

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We also stay on the lookout for such uplifting stories that aren't directly shared with us because we know they can motivate individuals and organizations in their work to connect fathers and children. These stories are often shared by the organizations that use our resources, donors, and dads and moms across the country. (Click here for Stories of Impact shared by our organization partners.) Sometimes we find stories during the course of our work to provide the most useful information and resources. 

While conducting some research recently, I learned about StoryCorps, a nonprofit with the following mission:

StoryCorps' mission is to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share and preserve the stories of our lives. We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters. At the same time, we are creating an invaluable archive for future generations. 

In its more than 10 years of existence, StoryCorps has captured and archived more that 50,000 recordings on an incredible range of topics. Curious, I plugged "fathers" into their search function to see whether I could find stories to use in our work. The result produced a number of recordings that turned up a few gems, two in particular that I hope will uplift you as much as they did me.

The first recording is of a 9-year-old boy, Aidan Sykes, who interviewed his father, Albert, about being a dad. (Albert runs a nonprofit focused on mentoring children. He is not only in a great dad, he has stepped up to help children less fortunate than his own.) Click here to listen.

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The second recording is of Wil Smith telling his now adult daughter, Olivia, what it was like to raise her as a single dad while in college. He recorded the conversation shortly after he was diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, he died just a few months ago. Click here to listen.

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We want to share more stories like these. Please let us know if you have one.

Do you have an uplifting story to share? 

Do you have a Story of Impact that resulted from the use of an NFI resource? If so, click here to learn more about how to share it with us.

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One Thing This Billion-Dollar CEO Does Every Week That You Should Too

I often feel inadequate at managing work and family. Sure, I get home at a decent hour each day. But, I have to start early to accomplish this. By evening, I'm tired or still have my mind on work. Then I read a story like this one. This guy sounds like he has managing work and family figured out. Forbes named him, "America’s Most Promising CEO Under 35." He started a company in his mid-20’s that raised $70 million in 2012. By 2014, he was known as "The Guy Who Turned Down $500 Million For His Startup." Now, with a $1 Billion valuation, Ryan Smith, CEO of Qualtrics, can teach us the one thing he does to be successful with work and family. 

One Thing This Billion-Dollar CEO Does Every Week That You Should Too fatherhood work family balance

After about a decade of bootstrapping, Qualtrics made its way into a profitable company generating $50 million in revenue. In 2012, they had 200 employees and 3,800 customers. Qualtrics helps companies perform employee and customer surveys in the cloud. It was created by Ryan Smith's dad, Scott Smith, a professor of marketing at BYU's school of business. My guess is that Qualtrics is a company that resembles the brands you'll find on our social good page—a brand who cares about fathers and families.

At 33 years old, a company offered to buy Ryan Smith's startup Qualtrics for more than $500 million, he asked his wife to take a drive. Smith ended up turning down the $500 million offer to sell his company. In 2014, Smith had 6,000 customers and 550 employees, and the company is expanding nationally and internationally opening an office in Dublin, Sydney, Seattle, and Washington, D.C..

After he and his wife talked, they felt strongly that earning so much money at once could "negatively impact the way they were raising their children." Smith and his wife had learned to manage work and family life.

"As a founder, you're either the type that gets invigorated with every milestone, or you get less interested. For me the bigger we get, the more scrappier we get, the hungrier I get," Smith told Business Insider in 2014. "I have to keep telling myself to look around and enjoy this," he said. "We sat in a basement and bootstrapped for 10 years so we can do this, be here. Now we have bunch of money, a ton of customers, and we're dominating our market." Together, the Smiths decided to keep their 800-person company private. Qualtrics is currently worth over $1 billion.

With the help of a CEO coach, Smith relates work-life balance to a plane that can "go lopsided and constantly needs to be stabilized." On one wing is his family, on the other is his work. When he's traveling for business, the work side of the plane tilts. Then, when he gets back home to his family, he knows to keep his schedule open for home and family life, in order to tilt the wings of his plane back up.

Smith's CEO coach taught him a strategy for success to be done every week. Smith's coach asked him what jobs he was responsible for in life. Smith replied the following:

  1. Husband
  2. Father
  3. Son
  4. CEO
  5. Boss
  6. Sibling
  7. Grandson
  8. Friend

I'm guessing your list looks like Ryan's. His coach then asked what he could do for each job that week to make him feel successful. For instance, if Ryan dated his wife and bought flowers, that could make him feel like a decent husband. Teach his daughter to ride a bike? Boom, instant better dad for the week.

Ryan found he could combine tasks on his list to achieve everything more efficiently. He learned quickly, if he was really productive, every task on the list starting Sunday could be done by Tuesday. If he took his daughter to his parent's house and taught her to ride a bike, he could be both a good father and son. Bam. 

Smith's weekly list started to look like this:

  1. Husband > Take wife to dinner and buy flowers
  2. Father >Teach daughter to ride a bike
  3. Son > Visit parents. Combine tasks 2 & 3.

Through all of this, Smith has learned people usually plan for one part of life ("I'm going to sell my company by the time I turn 30.") Most times, people "either don't know which steps to take to achieve that goal, or they don't plan what to do after the goal has been achieved."

While we know it takes quantity to ultimately get quality time, I think Ryan's plan of breaking done work and family life goals into weekly tasks is brilliant. We need to work against waking up one day and realizing our dreams and/or priorities have slipped from our radar. This takes a strategic plan. The truth is, what doesn't get scheduled, doesn't get done. This is true in work and with family.

Business Insider points out that after Smith explained this success tactic in an interview with them on Friday evening, he left the conference. While others stayed out late at a local pub, Smith drove three hours to Dublin and booked an early flight home to Utah. When his children woke up on Sunday morning, they spent all day with their father. This story illustrates in real life exactly the type of intention and focus we should have as husbands, fathers, sons, and leaders. It's the kind of focus I want to live out. Thank you, Ryan Smith, not only for having a great first name, but sharing a great strategy for us to follow.

Question > What's one thing you do to help manage work and family? Share your answer in the comment section or on , or  using #247Dad.

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24/7 Dad To Go App allows dads to customize time-sensitive checklists. These checklists can include items related to involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood. You can be an intentional dad too.

> Find the app and start being a better dad here.

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3 Ways to Leverage the Good News about Teen Dads

So much has been written and said about the problems created by teen pregnancy, particularly the problems it creates for teen moms and their children. Teen moms are, for example, much less likely to graduate from high school, or get a high school diploma by age 22, than are teen girls who don't have children. This disparity leads to other long-term disparities between these two groups including fewer employment opportunities and lower earnings for teen moms. And most of them receive little or no child support. These disparities place a burden on society as 63 percent of these moms rely on some kind of public assistance. Teen pregnancy places the children of teen parents at increased risk for a host of poor outcomes too numerous to mention here.

But what about teen dads? What do we know about their interactions with the mothers of their children? Do their interactions make things better or worse for the moms and children? Here's what we know.

Pregnancy_IconWe know they're much less likely to be involved in the lives of their children than are adult fathers. One primary reason is, quite simply, that a teen dad is rarely married to the mother. A whopping 88 percent of these parents are not married. Nevertheless, 20 percent of teen moms live with their "romantic partner" (most likely the father, but not necessarily a teen) within a year of giving birth. Even if all of these romantic partners are the fathers and are also teens, that's still a very low number of them living with their children. And that's unfortunate, because teen fathers who live with their children at the birth of their children are more likely to still live with them when these fathers become adults. 

Fortunately, there is good news about the involvement of teen dads not living with their children and the impact of their involvement.

  • Half of these dads visit with their children at least monthly with most of them spending time with their children frequently. Interestingly, this is about the same rate of visitation among older nonresident fathers. 
  • Some research has shown the quality of the father-child relationship does not differ when comparing teen and adult fathers, contrary to popular belief. Surprisingly, teen dads are more likely than adult dads to feel attached to their children.
  • Additional research finds a positive impact of teen fathers on teen mothers and their children when teen fathers are involved before and immediately after the birth of their children. These teen fathers have a protective effect by reducing the risk of depression of teen mothers and distress of infants.  

So when we take all of these facts into consideration, the picture of teen fathers' involvement in their children's lives is mixed. While the ability of teen dads to be involved in their children's lives is more challenging because of their lack of physical proximity, most of them are involved at some level and, when they are, have a positive impact on their children and the mothers. 

The question, then, for organizations and practitioners is: How can I increase teen fathers' involvement? There are several ways, and NFI's resources can help:

  1. Provide fathering education to teen fathers. NFI's 24/7 Dad® program is an excellent choice as organizations around the country have used it successfully with teen dads.
  2. Provide relationship education to teen fathers. NFI has partnered with The Dibble Institute to provide Love Notes, a program for teen dads (and couples).
  3. Provide education to teen moms on the importance of father involvement and how they can facilitate that involvement. NFI's Mom as Gateway™ workshop and Understanding Dad™ program are excellent choices.

Do you work with teen dads? Do you use a comprehensive approach that involves working with teen dads and teen moms?

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NFI Partners with fodada to Ask: What’s a 24/7 Dad?

For years, 24/7 Dad® Program leaders (including you amazing coordinators, facilitators, father participants and the like) have asked for a T-shirt to reflect your commitment to the 24/7 Dad® program, and to being an involved, responsible, committed father - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That’s why we’re excited to announce a partnership with the clothing line fodada to offer a trendy, high-quality, 24/7 Dad® T-Shirt and to ask a very important question: What’s a #247Dad?

Here's the deal: You buy the T-shirt; fodada donates $5 back to NFI. Boom. That's awesome. But wait, there’s a lot more…

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Why “24/7 Dad”?

Being a dad is a great thing when you know what being a dad is all about, and when you're equipped with the skills to be involved, responsible, and committed to your child. But not every dad knows these things, and that’s ok - we’re here to help.

NFI cares deeply about raising awareness, building knowledge, and increasing skills related to fatherhood. We’ve spent the last 20 years developing top-notch curriculum and resources just for fathers, with 24/7 Dad® being our flagship fatherhood program. We exist to help dads hone their fathering, parenting, and relationship skills 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

We’ve also trained thousands of fatherhood leaders who have helped thousands of fathers be 24/7 dads (as in, live it out every day). Decades of research show the important role fathers play in their children’s lives. We connect fathers to families through organizations across the country. 

That said, the new T-shirt not only reflects the 24/7 Dad® brand, but also the deep meaning of being a #247dad. Not only will the 24/7 Dad® T-shirt allow you to show your commitment to fatherhood, but the clothing brand fodada will donate $5 from each purchase back to NFI to continue our mission of ensuring every child has a 24/7 Dad®. BAM. A match made in the T-shirt gods’ heaven. 

Why fodada?

fodadaOver our 20-year history, we've partnered with many brands for social good. Why fodada? Because the clothing brand “for the best dada in the world,” cares about fatherhood. It’s in their DNA. It’s who they are. Visit their website and you’ll see the care and attention given to their causes and campaigns.

“We are excited to partner with NFI, who has supported so many dads and families throughout the years,” said fodada founder Bobby Barzi. “We are happy to help NFI serve more dads, while making dads feel comfortable and look their best.”  

Christopher A. Brown, President at NFI had this to say about the partnership with fodada:

"Given the severity of father absence in our nation, it's vital we partner with companies that understand the importance of social good. We're excited to partner with a company like fodada that not only understands dads and their importance, but also understands what it means to be a 24/7 Dad. Working with fodada will help our organization-partners more deeply connect the dads they serve to what it means to be a 24/7 Dad, and help dads across the country show just how proud they are to be an involved, responsible, committed dad around the clock."

All of you fine 24/7 Dad leaders > wear this unique t-shirt to show how proud you are to be a 24/7 Dad leader. Give it to dads who attend your program or as a graduation gift.

Dads, Moms, & Children > Wear this shirt to show your passion for fatherhood and inspire those around you to live as responsible fathers. Or, give as a gift to a dad you know.

So, now we’re left with, “What’s a 24/7 Dad?”

We’re glad you asked. Everything we know about being a great father is tied to one or more of the following 24/7 Dad qualities and skills. In the coming months, we’ll unpack the meaning of each of these traits in their very own Father Factor posts. But for now, let’s get started with a brief list to get you thinking:

1. The 24/7 Dad is Self-Aware > The 24/7 Dad is aware of himself as a man and aware of how important he is to his family. 

2. The 24/7 Dad Cares For Self > The 24/7 Dad takes care of himself.

3. The 24/7 Dad Understands Fathering Skills > The 24/7 Dad knows his role in the family. 

4. The 24/7 Dad Understands Parenting Skills > The 24/7 Dad nurtures his children.

5. The 24/7 Dad Understands 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.

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Share pics of yourself or the dad in your life being a 24/7 Dad on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using #247Dad for your chance to win this 24/7 Dad T-shirt for FREE. NFI president Christopher Brown shares a pic with his 24/7 Dad shirt to get you started - share #247Dad-worthy posts and you could win this epic shirt.

> Better yet, go here to buy the shirt!

Question > What's being a 24/7 Dad mean to you?

 

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6 Steps to Becoming the Dad You Wish You’d Had

In my twenty-five years of pastoral, prison, and personal transformation work, I have come face to face with this reality—the most difficult piece of assisting men to heal from the past is actually just recognizing the need. We men tend to be a proud and often stubborn lot. It is not fashionable (yet!) to admit that our dads wounded us and that the wound continues to affect us today.

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It’s a wildly popular theme in Hollywood films (note the recent impact of The Judge [2014], the touching film, Real Steel [2011], the powerful and painful, Warrior [2011], or a classic in this genre, Field of Dreams [1989]), but it’s dramatically unpopular to identify with the wounded son.

Instead, we were told as kids, “just suck it up,” “real men don’t cry,” or other critiques our dads likely heard as they avoided their own sense of inadequacy and shame. The result? Very few of our dads knew how to get close to us, say the loving and affirming things we wanted and needed to hear, or were able to be physically affectionate with us. That cycle has repeated itself long enough. It’s time for real healing and change. 

In my first post on this topic called The Best Way to Build Strong Children, I noted Fredrick Douglas who said, "It's easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." Though this quote is well known in fatherhood circles, I suggested it may not tell the whole story, or point us ultimately in the right direction. In my first post, I proposed that, "The best way to build strong children is to heal wounded fathers." This post helps us implement practical steps we can all take to become more engaged, more emotionally present, and more loving fathers.

Implementing the Solution

In my book, How to Be a Great Dad: No Matter What Kind of Father You Had, I openly and honestly tell my own story of healing as one example. There is no one-size-fits-all pattern for how we men heal, but reading my story has proved helpful for many men who have commented since the book was published. 

In the book, I have space to explain, expand on, and tell real stories about the six important steps I took to overcome the pain in my past with my dad, and to finally become for my three sons (now all teenagers) the dad I always wished I’d had. In the limited space here, I’ll briefly share the steps and encourage you to go deeper.

1. Identify a Father Wound.

Begin noticing the feelings you experience regularly beneath the surface of your life. Are you often sad, anxious, or lonely? Is it difficult for you to identify what you are feeling or to connect with others in a sincere, open, even vulnerable way? Do your relationship patterns indicate something is amiss? Is it hard for you to feel or stay close to people, to your wife, to your children? If any of this feels true for you, there may exist a wound that likely traces back to how your dad fathered you.

2. Embrace Your Father Wound.

Once identified, one of the most challenging steps for us men is to live with it instead of avoiding it. It is sometimes excruciatingly difficult for men to admit, “My relationship with my dad was not all I hoped it would be.” Or in some cases, much worse and more wounding. This step of embracing is one we often tenaciously avoid because it is so damn painful. But it is the key to healing. Alcoholics Anonymous brilliantly places an admission of the addiction as its very first step to overcoming and healing. Until we honestly embrace our wound and admit the difficulties it’s ongoing pain cause us, we cannot move forward. But when do this, healing and freedom are not only possible, they’ve already begun.

3. Grieve the Father Wound.

I wanted to bypass grieving, and did for many years. I was afraid of being overwhelmed by my own sadness. Grieving is not a skill I learned as a child, nor as an adult. Who teaches men to grieve our losses? We avenge them, ignore them, replace them, drown them in booze, sex, or success, but rarely do we feel our way through the pain to the other side. The only way to the other side of grief is through it. I had to learn how to grieve. It’s one of the skills I teach other men in my coaching. Once a man starts to grieve, he is well on his way to the healing and freedom that will allow him to emotionally engage with and stay close to his children.

4. Forgive Your Father.

Though we intuitively know the importance of forgiveness, few of us are good at practicing it. We were taught otherwise in the world of hard knocks. Its substitutes were often modeled by our dads—revenge, anger and outrage, cold neglect or rejection of the offender, or simply ignoring the offense and pretending it doesn’t matter. None of these work. So we attempt to forgive, usually too early in the process, because we know we should, or because we believe God wants us to, but it usually isn’t deep or restorative of relationship, or healing of our own soul because we are not forgiving from the real place of pain. How can we if we haven’t yet identified it, embraced it, and grieved? We try to forgive but it doesn’t do much, and often doesn't last. We stay angry, resentful, cold, or distant. It’s hard to love our children well when we are stuck in this place. We aren’t ready to forgive and move on until we have properly identified the wound and its effects in our life, and until we have grieved. Then forgiveness isn’t all that hard. It grows from a place of empathy and compassion. I illustrate this in my book as I tell my story of forgiving my father.

5. Love Your Children and Heal Yourself.

I teach men how giving the love to our children we may have not received from our dads is actually an extremely powerful means of healing our own wounded hearts. It is exceedingly difficult to give away what we do not possess, but when we reach beyond our past to choose to love our kids, while working out the first four steps above, it truly is remarkable how that act of giving brings healing in our own hearts.

6. Father Yourself.

This may sound a bit strange at first, but I tell my story to men who are moving through this journey that as we re-build a sense of ourselves as men who are healing, and as we learn to give away to our own children what we may not have received from our dads, we can actually learn to father ourselves in ways that we needed and bring further healing now. It’s remarkable. And it’s one of the key pieces of the coaching I do with dads who want to grow.

Has your relationship with your dad affected the way you father your children today? Do you see any impact or perhaps repetitions? Feel free to comment below and I'll respond.

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Post by Keith Zafren, founder of The Great Dads Project > Men who want to be great dads love the stories Keith Zafren tells, the practical skills he teaches, and the personal coaching he offers. Keith has spent seventeen years learning firsthand how to raise three great teenagers and stay close to them, no matter what. He coaches busy dads to not repeat the mistakes their fathers made, but instead, to create fantastic relationships with their kids. Check out his free video training course for men who want to be great dads.

What Makes a Parent a Smart Parent

This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

"I think one of the true ways I've gotten smarter is that I've realized that there are ways other people are a lot smarter than me. My biggest asset as a writer is that I'm pretty much like everybody else. The parts of me that used to think I was different or smarter or whatever almost made me die." —David Foster Wallace

That quote from the American writer David Foster Wallace underscores one of the great lessons of life: There are plenty of people smarter than you, and you need to learn from them. This lesson applies to parenting.

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When I joined National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) 15 years ago, my daughters were 5 and 2. I had only begun my parenting journey. I knew that I had things to learn about being a good father and parent. What I didn't realize was how much I had to learn. As the old saying goes, "You don't know what you don't know."

Fortunately, my boss was Wade Horn, the first president of NFI and a child psychologist. Wade is one of the smartest people I know. He's a smart father and parent who, as a child psychologist, knows a bit about how children are wired. The most important lesson I learned from Wade? Never project your consequences on your children. Just because I didn't have a negative outcome as a consequence of a decision to engage in a risky behavior doesn't mean that my children won't have a negative outcome if they engage in the same behavior. I've applied that lesson so many times I've lost count.

Wade helped me through several difficult parenting situations. One of those occurred about three years into my tenure at NFI. My oldest daughter had become an extremely picky eater. It drove me nuts because, since my mid-20s, I've focused on eating healthy and staying fit. The fact that I had a child who wasn't eating healthily signaled my failure as a parent. I had tried many of the tactics recommended by nutrition experts to get children to eat healthy. Not one of them worked!

I was at my wit's end when I asked Wade for guidance. He smiled and chuckled when I shared my frustration and concern for my child, which initially made the situation worse as he must have thought my concern to be ridiculous. But then he explained that a lot of young children are picky eaters because it's one of the few ways they can exert control over their lives. It's not necessarily the parents' fault.

He identified, however, one way that I might have indirectly contributed to my daughter's choice -- my own picky eating habits. He pointed out that my diligence in eating healthy is type of picky eating that my daughter had undoubtedly noticed at the dinner table and during conversations about eating healthy I'd had with her and my wife, and seen in several other ways I'd reinforced that form of picky eating. He encouraged me to keep trying to expand her tastes, but to also let the situation play out as many children's tastes expand, as they get older. (I'm happy to report that hers expanded.)

In my time at NFI, I've had the benefit of learning from many parents, especially fathers, who are smarter than me. These parents include NFI's second president, Roland Warren. Roland gave me more practical advice than I can share here. What was the most important thing I learned from him? Good fathers do three things well: provide, nurture and guide.

Other parents I've learned from include Stephen Bavolek, author of the internationally-acclaimed Nurturing Parenting Programs, who assisted me in developing the first editions of our 24/7 Dad® and InsideOut Dad® programs. I've applied much of the knowledge and many of the skills we teach fathers in those programs to parenting my own children. I've also learned from the countless fathers and mothers who have contributed their wisdom on parenting in this blog The Father Factor, and the many experts in parenting whose research on parenting effectiveness has informed the programs and other resources I've developed at NFI.

Don't wait until you're at your wit's end before seeking advice on how to be a better parent generally and in specific situations. Part of being a smart parent is realizing you're not as smart as you think.

Question > What's one thing you could use parenting advice on now? Share your answer in the comment section or on , or .

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*The opening quote by David Foster Wallace is from Conversations with David Foster Wallace (Literary Conversations Series)

This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

5 Mistakes Costing You and Your Family Money

As dads and leaders, we know that creating a habit of saving is important for our families’ long-term security. And the list of things to save for is never-ending, from retirement to kids’ education to replacing the water heater that dies in the middle of the night. But when it comes to actually putting money away for them…well, sometimes life gets in the way. If we are going to be the best leaders we can with our families and with other fathers, we need to be good examples when it comes to saving.

5 Mistakes Costing You and Your Family Money

However, the importance of having money saved for your families’ future cannot be overstated. So we’ve compiled some common mistakes people make when it comes to saving their money and ways to fix them to help you start achieving those savings goals.

Mistake #1: Not enrolling in your employer’s 401(k) plan.

Whether you're leading other dads or your family, it’s easy to think retirement is too far off in the future to worry about it now, or thinking that your money would be better off not locked up for retirement. But thinking like that can cost you lots of money (and your lifestyle) in the future. And when it’s so simple to save with your employer’s 401(k) plan, it’s a mistake to pass it up.

Instead: Take full advantage of it! The beauty of enrolling in your employer’s plan is that money can be automatically taken out of your paycheck and invested in your future. If your employer matches your contributions, it’s a good idea to consider contributing at least enough to take full advantage of their match—after all, it’s free money. Who can say no to that?

Mistake #2: Not paying yourself with each paycheck

A common practice is to save whatever is left over from each paycheck, but this can lead to over-spending and under-saving.

Instead: “Pay” yourself a designated amount each month to put in your savings account—if you can set up an automatic transfer, that’s even better. By “paying” yourself first you have a more realistic view of what you can actually spend that month and it’s not as tempting to skimp on the savings in favor of buying things you don’t need.

Mistake #3: Keeping your checking and savings accounts at the same bank

Sure, it seems pretty convenient to keep everything at one bank: easy to monitor, easy to set up, and (here’s the kicker) easy to transfer. When transferring money from your savings account to your checking account is as easy as the click of a button, it becomes much more tempting to spend that hard-saved money on non-emergencies.

Instead: Separate your accounts. If you keep your savings account in a different bank than your checking, the process of transferring funds from savings to checking becomes a tad more inconvenient—and that’s a good thing! That makes you really think about whether that money will be used for an emergency, whether it’s worth the transfer or not, and when the money should just stay put. As a bonus, if you separate your accounts, you can shop around to find the best interest rates for your savings account.

Mistake #4: Paying off your debts with your savings funds

While it’s great that you’re working to pay off debts, it shouldn’t be at the expense of your entire savings account. Depleting your savings in order to work off your debt puts you in a pretty vulnerable position. If your car breaks down or your roof leaks and you don’t have any savings, you may have to take on more debt and could be worse off than before.

Instead: Try to find other spots in your budget that money can come from—it may seem like a drag since the money is sitting right there in your account, but having an emergency savings account is important to ensure you and your family’s financial security. We recommend building up to have at least $1,000 in savings.

Mistake #5: Pretending to understand services (when you really don't)!

It seems like all these banks and financial institutions are always throwing offers your way that sound good but are littered with terms you just don’t understand. All that financial mumbo-jumbo can make your head spin and cause you to either accept an offer that’s not right for you or turn away from one that’s perfect.

Instead: If you’re not sure, just ask. It sounds simple but far too often people are paying way more than they should for something and they don’t even know it. If there’s a term you don’t fully understand, it’s worth a call or email to your bank, insurance agent, or other trusted financial source to ensure you know exactly what you’re getting and how much you’re paying.

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Want more savings tips?

Get your free eBook > Ten Simple Ways to Boost Your Emergency Fund.

It’s full of insider information on how to set savings goals, tips to make saving money easier, and ways to watch your savings grow faster.



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