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The Father Factor

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The 7 Steps to Starting a Successful Fatherhood Program

You know there's a need and you want to help. But how? Many of you have told us you want to help create more involved, responsible and committed fathers. But, you've also expressed you don't know where to start. The task seems too big to handle. Creating a successful and sustainable fatherhood program right from the start is difficult yet vital. This task isn't for everybody. But, some of you can do it. For those with a passion to connect a dad to his child, I have this to tell you: you can do it...we can help. 

how-to-start-a-fatherhood-program
You may have noticed, I borrow the phrase "you can do it...we can help" from The Home Depot. Think of National Fatherhood Initiative as The Home Depot of fatherhood. Or don't, if you dislike that hardware store. My point is, we have the experience and tools for you to tackle the work of connecting fathers to their kids.

Here are seven (7) steps for how you can start a fatherhood program:

Step 1: Make the Case for a Fatherhood Program

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America – one out of three – live without their biological father in the home. This means there is a father factor in nearly all of the societal ills facing America today. Research shows when a child is raised in a father-absent home, he or she is affected in many ways. Children are more likely to have behavioral problems, more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, two times more likely to suffer obesity, and two times more likely to drop out of high school… and more. 

There is a father factor in nearly all
societal ills facing America today. 
How you address this issue matters. 


You and/or your organization may already be in agreement on the need for fatherhood programs. However, it's important to remember there is still debate about the necessity of fathers. Our point of view, based on research, is that good biological or adoptive fathers perform functions that cannot be performed by anyone else, even though others such as male teachers and family friends can be partial substitutes for good fathers. 
Let’s look at some research.

In a study examining father involvement with 134 children of adolescent mothers over the first 10 years of life, researchers found that father-child contact was associated with better socio-emotional and academic functioning.

  • The results indicated that children with more involved fathers experienced fewer behavioral problems and scored higher on reading achievement. This study showed the significance of the role of fathers in the lives of at-risk children, even in case of nonresident fathers. Source: Howard, K.S., Burke Lefever, J.E., Borkowski, J.G., & Whitman, T.L. (2006). Fathers’ influence in the lives of children with adolescent mothers. Journal of Family Psychology, 20, 468-476.
  • Children in father-absent homes are almost four times more likely to be poor. Source: U.S. Census, Bureau, Children’s Living Arrangements and Characteristics: March 2011, Table C8. Washington D.C.: 2011
  • Even after controlling for income, youths in father-absent households all had significantly higher odds of incarceration than those in mother-father families. Youths who never had a father in the household experienced the highest odds. Source: Harper, Cynthia C. and Sara S. McLanahan: Father Absence and Youth incarceration. “Journal of Research on Adolescence 14 (September 2004): 369-397.

Father absence data will help you educate others on the importance of father involvement, and how father involvement is at the base of numerous societal issues that community organizations and social service agencies are seeking to combat or solve. It stands to reason that building the skills of fathers – giving them the specific, targeted tools and skills they need to be involved – will lead to their increased involvement in the lives of their children, and reduce the chance of the ill-effects of father absence for that child.

Father involvement/father absence data can help you write stronger grant proposals and bolster support for your program in your community. Father involvement/father absence data can also inform your mission, and help establish goals you may want to reach to demonstrate marked improvement in your community as a
result of your work.

“With this tool in your “belt”, you will
be equipped to make the case
for fatherhood work in your organization.

ff6-father-facts-6_sample-cover
There is plenty of research and statistics available on the positive effects of father involvement and negative effects of father absence. NFI has a book called, Father Facts 6. Father Facts 6 is the reference manual for anyone interested in promoting responsible fatherhood.

Step 2: Assess the Father Friendliness of Your Organization

Just because you're passionate about father involvement and think it’s important, doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone around does or will. Each person carries with them their own understanding of what it means to have (or not have) a father in their lives, and their own opinion about whether or not having an involved father is even important to children today. These opinions and attitudes can play into their everyday work with families you serve. Assessing the father friendliness of your organization is a vital step to serving fathers and startinng a fatherhood program. In order to head in the right direction, you must know where to start.

How father-friendly are you? 
How about your organization?


fatherfriendlycheckupNFI’s Father Friendly Check-Up™ (FFCU) is a free tool to help you successfully engage dads and strengthen the families in your community. This assessment allows you to analyze your physical environment, location, organizational philosophies, staff attitudes, and more. Without the full “buy-in” from all of your staff members, your fatherhood program and father-involvement plans may come to a screeching halt.

The FFCU will help you examine the structure of your organization and whether it has the foundation on which to build a successful service or program. Without that foundation, your organization risks failure in its ability to effectively serve fathers.

“Wouldn’t it be terrible to put all this work into starting
something and find out later that it didn’t
have “legs to stand on” for success?


In the full ebook How to Start a Fatherhood Program, you can review an organizational case study highlighting use of the Father Friendly Check-Up™ to launch a strategic plan using NFI resources.

Step 3: Focus Your Efforts on the Type(s) of Fathers You Will Engage

There are a great number of fatherhood programs with dedicated staff, curriculum, a facility, and community support – but lack participants.

Your fatherhood program doesn’t
really exist 
without dads to serve.


Marketing a program or service is the greatest challenge. Unfortunately, some fatherhood program practioners are very skilled in the business of program operations but do not know the location of their target population or how to get them in the door. 

Marketing your fatherhood program not only involves recruitment, it involves retention and creating a positive image of your program or service in the community to generate referrals. The "Field of Dreams" quote, “if you build it, they will come” does not apply for this! Just because you are passionate, your staff is ready to work with fathers, and you have a plan in mind, doesn’t mean they will come. It is with careful planning that you must proceed.

You may have heard the old saying, “Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.” That’s why successful fatherhood practioners plan ahead by strategizing how they will draw fathers in, what other services they will offer as “hooks”, and lay out the demographics and location of their target population. It is ideal to do this prior to choosing the curriculum for your fatherhood program.

START with these questions: 

  • What kind of other “wrap-around” resources do we offer that have a “draw” for potential participants?
  • What could be the “hook”?
  • What kind of fathers are we targeting? (e.g.: New fathers, teen fathers, single fathers, non-custodial fathers, and so on.)
  • What is our target father’s age range? Children’s age(s)? Marital status?

NEXT, answer these questions:

  • Where can we find the specific types of fathers we want to reach (that we listed above)?
  • Where are the fathers that have the “need” we serve? Where would they hang out?
  • Where can we post a flyer? (e.g. bulletin board in community center or grocery store; flyer on pizza boxes or other food delivery service, etc.
  • Do we already serve mothers and can we get the message to fathers through them?
  • What are some other creative things we can offer to attract the fathers to our center? (food, prizes, credits, etc.)

“Successful fatherhood practitioners plan ahead
by strategizing how they will draw fathers in
by determining the other services they will offer as “hooks.”


Regarding effective hooks, NFI’s own research has found most fathers enroll in a fatherhood program because it helps them address their immediate needs (e.g. job training and placement, access and visitation with their children, getting a GED, etc.) Often, fathers only realize the benefits of learning fatherhood skills after they’ve been enrolled in a program for a while. 

So from a marketing and recruitment standpoint, it’s more important to stress how your program or organization can meet the fathers’ immediate needs and then introduce them to the fatherhood program. Ultimately, make the fatherhood program an integral part of a larger set of programs or services fathers receive.

24_7_Dad_handbookFor example, NFI’s 24/7 Dad® program is an ideal compliment to wrap around services such job training, support, and financial literacy because the program speaks to why men do what they do. Fatherhood can provide men with a greater context and purpose for life, and when you tap into that, you can make significant in-roads in the other service areas as well.

Depending on your location and types of fathers you will serve, you may find fathers in different places.

For example:

  • If your program is located in a rural setting, you may find program participants in locations such as hunting lodges, fire stations, fishing equipment stores, and sporting events.
  • If your setting is urban, you might recruit program participants at shopping malls, libraries, social service buildings, business venues, and sporting events.
  • If you’re looking to recruit teen and younger adult fathers, skate parks, shopping malls, computer gaming facilities, and coffee shops may serve as prime locations for recruitment.

Step 4: Select the Right NFI Resources and Programs for Serving Fathers

NFI resources offer you the ability to customize programs to engage fathers in a way that is unique to your organization and setting.

I’m ready to serve dads… 
but with what resources?


After you have determined which type of fathers you will target, it will become to select the fatherhood skill-building resources that best fit your needs. To start, NFI uses “intensity levels” to help you understand the amount of staff involvement and monetary investment needed to offer/facilitate categories of products and resources. You choose your implementation strategy – NFI provides you with an approach and tools to create a cohesive, effective fatherhood plan.

  • Low Intensity Resources: NFI fatherhood skill-building resources that require minimal staff time and monetary investment, and are easily incorporated into your other organizational offerings for fathers, such as Brochures, Tip Cards, Pocket Guides, and Posters. 
  • Medium Intensity Resources: Fatherhood skill-building workshops and resources that require moderate staff involvement and monetary investment, and are generally shorter in delivery length, such as The 7 Habits of a 24/7 Dad™, DoctorDad® Workshop, The InsideOut Dad® Guide to Family Ties, FatherTopics™ Workshops. 
  • High Intensity Resources: Group-based Fatherhood curricula programs that require the highest level of staff time and monetary investment, and run for 12 weeks, such as 24/7 Dad® A.M. and P.M., InsideOut Dad®, and Understanding Dad™

Step 5: Prepare for a Sustainable Fatherhood Program 

It’s time to start thinking about how you can create a program or initiative that you can sustain. Now that you have completed the Father Friendly Check-Up™ and have determined you are ready to tackle the next steps toward starting your fatherhood program, it’s time to start thinking about how you can create a program or initiative that you can sustain. Sustainability refers to the long-term ability to keep your fatherhood program alive and thriving. From the foundation of the program to ensuring long term funding, a good place to start is to create a logic model. 

Keeping your fatherhood program alive & thriving
for the long-term requires sustainability.


Developing a program requires a process for planning, implementing, and measuring the success of all the organization’s efforts. A logic model is simply a picture of how your program works. It keeps your goals in view and shows the processes and activities connected to achieving that goal. It is a valuable aid to show potential partners and funders that solid, systematic planning backs your program.

Remember how we spoke in Step 3 about using wrap around services as a hook for your fatherhood program? This is where you will plan how that will look.

 Components of a Logic Model

  • Inputs (what we invest)
  • Outputs:
    • Activities (the actual tasks we do)
    • Participation (who we serve; customers & stakeholders)
    • Engagement (how those we serve engage with the actvities)
  • Outcomes/Impacts:
    • Short Term (learning: awareness, knowledge, skills, motivations)
    • Medium Term (action: behavior, practice, decisions, policies)
    • Long Term (consequences: social, economic, environmental etc.)

“The goal of a Logic Model is to help you get started
on “the right foot” with your fatherhood program,
and help everyone involved understand
what’s needed, and where you’re headed.”


Learn the 6 ways to create a useful logic model in the full ebook How to Start a Fatherhood Program.

Step 6: Fund Your Fatherhood Program

So you have an awesome logic model for your fatherhood program. Great! Now what? We understand you want to do everything you can to promote the well-being of children through father involvement and fatherhood programs. But, organizational budgets are tight and funding can be difficult to secure. The good news is that there are a variety of ways you can fund - or find funding – to work with fathers and take advantage of NFI’s wide range of affordable skill-building resources and out-of-the box fatherhood programs.



How are you going to find funding
for all this much needed fatherhood work?


Funding from Your Own Budget


The first option to consider is how you can find funding within your own organizational budget - which can certainly be difficult. Consider pulling a small amount of money from a program or two that is not as successful as expected, or from a budget where, with some shrewd planning, costs could be reduced. Of course, when you have the opportunity to plan budgets for the next fiscal year, be sure to include fatherhood in your planning, and earmark funds for fatherhood skill-building resources, just as you would for other handouts/brochures for other types of clients you serve.

Whichever fatherhood programming level you choose, providing father-specific, skill-building materials at some level is a step in the right direction.

Funding from Outside Sources

Funding from outside sources is an option that your organization – in addition to starting fatherhood work on a smaller scale using funds from your own budget. With some planning, hard work, and dedication, you may be able to find an outside funding source that will provide for all aspects of your work with fathers.

From training your fatherhood program facilitators, to providing funding to sustain your program (staff stipends, ongoing fathering handbook costs, and other materials needed to run fatherhood program classes), outside funding could open up doors for your fatherhood program that you may have never imagined. And, you may be able to serve even more fathers than you ever thought possible

Your organization may want to seek outside funding from:

  • Individuals
  • Foundations
  • Corporations
  • Local, State & Federal Government
  • Special Events/Fundraisers

Here are a few websites where you can research funding opportunities:

Federal Grant Resources

  • Grants.gov - A federal site that aggregates all federal grant opportunities. You can search for grants currently being offered and access grant writing resources.
  • Office of Management & Budget (OMB) Circulars - Provides direction on federal budge0ng and expensing for nonprofits, education institutions and state, local and Indian Tribe governments.
  • Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Grants – This is an ongoing, $150 million per year funding stream provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families to provide grants to organizations seeking to run fatherhood and/or marriage programs. 


Foundation / Grant Funding

  • The Grant Station - An online funding resource for organizations seeking grants throughout the world. Providing access to a comprehensive online database of grant makers, as well as other valuable tools, Grant Station can help your organization make smarter, be`er-informed fund raising decisions.
  • The Grantsmanship Center - Offers a variety of training such as The Grantsmanship Training Program, Earned Income Strategies and Competing for Federal Grants.
  • Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training (GIFT) - Provides a range of training programs and webinars to help you raise money from your community. Additionally, they offer articles and subscription-based services to aid in your fund raising efforts. 

Step 7: Launch Your Fatherhood Program and Measure the Results

Ready to Launch? Once you’ve made the case to your director/board/boss about starting a fatherhood program, planned for a sustainable program, selected your fatherhood skill-building resources, and have even recruited the dads to come to class -- it's time to start leading! Now, you may be asking questions such as where to hold each session, what should be included, do you need training, and should you have more than one facilitator. 

Plan to evaluate your program’s success.


Fatherhood skill-building sessions can be held anywhere: community centers, churches, library meeting rooms, or even in the home for home visitation agencies. Little things, such as including food and drinks, are a great way to keep dads coming back. While receiving training on NFI’s core fatherhood programs is not required -- since they are considered “out of the box” curricula (a Program Guide, Logic Model, and marketing materials are provided with each Complete Program Kit) -- we do offer curriculum training for facilitators.

Once you have been running your fatherhood program for several weeks or months, your director might want to know how it’s going, and may ask questions such as:

  • Are you retaining the dads who are coming to class?
  • Is the program proving to have a positive impact?
  • Are the dads enjoying what is being taught?
  • Are the dads learning the key points and objectives laid out for each session?

Planning to evaluate your program will allow you to get the best results, and correct your course if something is not working. An evaluation is like a GPS – it tells you whether you’re headed in the right direction and helps you to correct your course if necessary.

Evaluations are critically important for program credibility, accountability, improvement, sharing of best practices, and to prove to funders that their dollars were well spent. You don’t need a complicated design to effectively evaluate your program. To help you with this step, NFI includes evaluation tools with many of our fatherhood programs such as 24/7 Dad® and InsideOut Dad®.

“Evaluations are critically important
for program credibility, accountability,
improvement, sharing of best practices,
and to prove to funders that their dollars were well spent.”


Starting a fatherhood program will be incredibly rewarding for you, your staff/program facilitators and the dads you serve. Now that you’ve read this blog, download the full ebook and start with Step 1! NFI is here help you create a fatherhood program that works! 

 

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Download the full eBook How to Start a Direct Service Fatherhood Program for free!

Global Review Shows Parenting Interventions Need Gumption

A recent global review concluded that parenting interventions must do a better job of including and engaging fathers. It also concluded that evaluations of interventions' impact should include separate analyses of fathers and mothers rather than parents in general. 

Screen_Shot_2014-10-13_at_1.18.36_PMReally? I don't mean to be crass, but these conclusions are not exactly revelations. The review does, however, lend additional credibility to what National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) has said for 20 years--that it is vital to engage fathers in parenting interventions separately from mothers (we call them "fatherhood" or "fathering" programs) and that more funding needs to be focused on the impact of father-specific or father-inclusive parenting interventions. 

The team of UK and US researchers examined 199 published articles on parenting interventions that included at least some discussion of father engagement and impact. The researchers uncovered three specific problems when it comes to interventions' inclusion of fathers:

  • Despite the evidence of fathers substantial impact on child development, well-being, and family functioning, parenting interventions rarely target men, or make a dedicated effort to include them.
  • Parenting interventions that have included men as parents or co-parents give insufficient attention to reporting on father participation and impact.
  • A fundamental change in the design and delivery of parenting interventions is required to overcome pervasive gender biases and to generate robust evidence on outcomes, differentiated by gender and by couple effects in evaluation.

It is the final problem that is most damning. It has has led to parenting interventions, focused on mothers, that will never reach their full potential to improve child well-being. There is a gender bias in parenting interventions that reflects a broader, global, damaging bias that says fathers aren't as important as mothers when it comes to child well-being. It is the most pervasive barrier we've encountered in our 20 years of existence. 

How does NFI address this barrier? The first part of that answer is evident to most people. We've created evidence-based and evidence-informed programs, workshops, and other resources designed specifically for and that engage fathers. 

The second part of that answer is not as evident. We've created workshops and other resources that build the capacity or organizations to engage fathers, such as our recently-released Father-Readiness Training Kit™, that transform the culture of those organizations to value fathers as much as mothers in improving parenting behavior and, consequently, child-well being. We've said for many years--preached, really--that because the culture, infrastructure, and staff training of most organizations are designed to serve the needs of women and mothers that they are ill-suited for effectively engaging fathers. They create a mindset that focuses programs, services, and staff on mothers. As a result, organizations must examine and, as is the case in almost every instance, change their norms, the attitudes and beliefs of staff, and improve infrastructure to effectively serve all parents. 

Parenting interventions will never truly be parenting interventions until they are implemented within organizational cultures that value fathers as partners in parenting who are critical to child well-being. The sad fact is it isn't that difficult to do. It simply takes what my grandparents called "gumption." Gumption involves courage, initiative, aggressiveness, and good old common sense. 

The good news is that more organizations than ever are rolling up their sleeves to take a hard, long look at their efforts to improve parenting and child well-being. Several examples include state and local government agencies that have worked with us to integrate fatherhood programming among the organizations they fund. In Texas, for example, we recently completed a project that integrates father engagement in home visiting programs. We helped the state design an approach that, in turn, helped the human service organizations it funds to design customized approaches to engaging fathers. These approaches improved the organizations' use of evidence-based programs, such as Nurse-Family Partnership, Parents as Teachers, and Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, while maintaining fidelity to the programs' models which, not surprisingly, are focused on mothers. (For other examples of how organizations are rolling up their sleeves, click here and here.)

What is your organization doing to build a foundation for effectively engaging fathers?

How much do you know about the range of father-specific resources and customized solutions NFI provides?

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

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

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

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

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

alexander-and-the-terrible1

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

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

alexander-and-the-terrible

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

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3) Never Give Up.

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

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

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

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

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

In this free ebook we share:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Mobile With Your Fatherhood Skills

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How it Works:

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

2014 Progress Report: Serving you. Serving Fathers. Serving Families.

National Fatherhood Initiative turned 20 years old in 2014. We understand that measuring effectiveness is key to making a difference in the lives of children and families. We use a variety of methods to measure our impact. We want to be good stewards of the resources we’ve been given to do this important work, and we want to make sure we are using the best approaches to accomplish our mission. Please review our 2014 Progress Report to learn how we are connecting fathers to their children.

NFI is a Second-Question Organization in a First-Question World


20th_Anniv_NFI_LogoNFI’s mission is to improve the well-being of children by increasing the proportion of children with involved, responsible, and committed fathers. Sounds like an easy job, right? After all, doesn’t everyone want fathers to be great role models?

However, NFI is a second-question organization in a first-question world. Most people who want to help children ask the “first question”: What can I do to help that child in need? That’s an important question. But, if you really want to make a positive, long-term difference in the life of a child, you need to ask the “second question”: How did the child get there in the first place? Why does he need my help?

More often than not, you will find that the child does not have the love, nurture, and guidance of an involved, responsible, and committed father. Children from father-absent homes are two to five times more likely to use drugs, live in poverty, fail in school, and suffer from a host of other risks.

No other single factor hurts children more than father absence. Therefore, NFI is committed to addressing the second question by connecting fathers to their children heart to heart.

In our first question world most people are focused on intervention, which is good and noble and must happen. But NFI is also committed to prevention. We seek to create a world in which fewer and fewer children need our help because they have great dads who have been given the skills and encouragement they need, via NFI’s efforts, to be the kinds of dads their children need them to be.

NFI Accomplishes This By

  • Developing and distributing evidence-based and evidence-informed fatherhood skill-building resources and programming designed for all types of fathers, used by community organizations, organizations in the corrections arena, and military installations across the United States.
  • Helping build the capacity of organizations seeking to begin or enhance fatherhood programs through father-friendly assessments, skills training, technical assistance, strategic planning, and community mobilization around fatherhood.
  • Executing state, local, and governmental contracts, subcontracts, and projects related to building and implementing sustainable fatherhood programs and services in a high-quality manner.

View NFI's Progress Report.

 

 

NFI's Community-Based Fatherhood Initiatives

Learn more about What Happens When 120+ Fathers Become Trained Dads in San Diego

NFI's Solutions for Incarcerated Fathers

Read about 381 Dads and Counting: How Kentucky Department of Corrections is Changing Fathers from the Inside Out

NFI's Solutions for Fathers in the Military

Find details on Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State and how NFI is helping support deployed dads. 

NFI's State and Local Government Agency Fatherhood Initiatives

Learn how NFI is helping New Jersey Focus on Fatherhood.

Resources Distributed and Practitioners Trained

NFI is the #1 provider of fatherhood resources and the #1 trainer of fatherhood program practitioners in the country. One way to measure our impact is to ensure that we are continuing to distribute hundreds of thousands of resources and training hundreds of new practitioners each year. To date, we have distributed over 6,627,468 fatherhood resources and we have trained over 13,700 individuals from over 6,300 organizations on how to deliver our programs to dads.

Testimonials

Finally, NFI collects stories from around the country from the dads and organizations who have been impacted by our work. This may not be the “hardest” measure of success, but it is certainly the most satisfying to read. Here are some examples that help us know our work is making a difference.

“I’ve seen a positive change in my life during this program…I now know what I need to do to break the cycle and help my children become productive, well-balanced adults.”

“I’ve taken a good look at my role as a father and how important my role is, as well as how much of an impact I am to my children whether I’m in their life or not.”

“Because of your resources, more fathers are trying to be better fathers by spending family time together, showing affection to their children and they realize that a father’s job is never done.”

“My husband (after being home alone with a vomiting infant and needing some practical help in being a dad)…said it best when he said, 'I thought common sense would be enough.' Thank you, NFI, for offering the tools to help this new father add the most important letters to his…titles, DAD!!!”

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Keep up with the latest news, products, tips, and more with NFI's FatherSource™ email

 

How Your Vote in November Could Harm or Help Children

This post was originally published in The Huffington Post.

As we approach the culmination in November of yet another election cycle, I decided to stake stock of what so many people these days are voting against -- marriage.

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A recent analysis of census data by the Pew Research Center reveals that a record share of Americans have never married. In delving deeper into this milestone, the researchers found:

  • In 2012, 1 in 5 adults ages 25 and older (about 42 million people) had never been married. In 1960, only about 1 in 10 adults (9 percent) in that age range had never been married.
  • About half of today's 25- to 34-year-olds (49 percent) have never been married, a fourfold increase since 1960 (12 percent).
  • When today's young adults reach their mid-40s to mid-50s, it is likely that a record high share (25 percent) is likely to have never been married. And this is despite young adults' lack of opposition to marriage. Only 4 percent of never-married adults ages 25 to 34 say they don't want to get married.

Unfortunately, the best intentions often go unrealized. Despite this lack of opposition to marriage among young adults, the "baby train" keeps rolling down the track. As I've noted elsewhere, out-of-wedlock births and age at first marriage are at all-time highs. Moreover, the average age of women when they marry has surpassed the average age at which they give birth to their first child. A primary cause of these trends is that Americans have increasingly "decoupled" marriage and child bearing so that marriage is no longer viewed as a necessary or even desirable context in which to bear and raise children.

The decoupling of marriage from raising children is, however, only one cog in the engine that has driven us to this point. A host of other changes in values, economics, and gender patterns have contributed as well. Many of those changes are good, needed. But what a cog this decoupling is because, sadly, it is children who ultimately suffer from and have no control over it. My concern is that the adults who have control over it now believe that the primary function of marriage is to benefit the adults who enter into it and not to raise the next generation of children. Far too many Americans continue to ignore (or not care about) the evidence that growing up in home with a single, never-married parent, with a once-married but now divorced parent, or with cohabiting parents places children at a higher risk of poor physical, social, and emotional outcomes, which primarily result from father absence. As the Pew Research Center report notes, fewer than half of the public believes we're better off when marriage and children are a priority.

The improvement of child well-being is why National Fatherhood Initiative exists and is why we're so adamant in our support of marriage as the ideal context in which to raise children. Whether a father is married to his children's mother is the most important predictor of his involvement in his children's lives.

It's also why we're non-partisan. Does that sound odd or surprise you? It shouldn't because this position is not just a conservative or a progressive one. It's both. Encouraging couples to marry before they have children is a cause everyone who considers themselves to be a conservative or a progressive (or anywhere in between) should rally around. A conservative should support this cause because it will help re-establish an institution that is in steep decline. Re-establishing marriage as a vital social institution will save government the money it spends on dealing with the consequences of the decline of marriage and the increase in father absence. A progressive should support this cause because it involves the social reform of an institution that is vital to advancing and improving our society. It would allow the government to shift the money spent on the consequences of the decline of marriage and high rate of father absence to improving our society in other ways, such as improvements to our nation's infrastructure and the environment.

So regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, I encourage you to "vote yes" for marriage in the broad, societal sense. And as you consider for whom to vote this November, delve into how the candidates stand on the institution of marriage, and vote accordingly.

This post was originally published in The Huffington Post.

Why Peanut Butter Cheerios #HowToDad Wins at Cereal and Fatherhood

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

tumblr_n8vec3mUco1tf2ynwo1_r1_5002) An Awesome Dad Spends Time with His Child 

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

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

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3) An Awesome Dad Listens First, Talks Second

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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8) An Awesome Dad Reads To His Child

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

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

9) An Awesome Dad Shows Affection

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

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

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

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

What's Missing in the Adrian Peterson Story?

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

What in the world was Adrian Peterson thinking when he took a switch -- specifically, a tree branch -- to his 4-year-old son? He wasn't thinking, and that's part of his problem. But there's more to this horrible situation than meets the eye.

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I decided to wait nearly a week after this story broke to write this piece because I've learned that these stories are like the proverbial layers of the onion. We learn more and more as the layers peel away over the days, weeks and, sometimes, months after such a story becomes public. This story still has some legs, especially as we wait to see how the legal system will judge Peterson's action. But as is typically the case, the court of public opinion is moving at light speed to render judgment on Peterson, no doubt fueled by the Ray Rice and Greg Hardy domestic-violence incidents, and the lack of appropriate NFL policies that address domestic and family violence perpetrated by its players.

Even though this story continues to unfold, I decided to write this piece now because of what's been absent from coverage of this story -- two vital reasons Peterson acted in such a stupid, harmful manner.

First, Peterson was and still is ill prepared for being a father. Let me be clear. I'm not talking about whether he loves or genuinely cares for his son. I'm also not saying he lacks any knowledge or skill in being a father. What he clearly lacks, however, is an adequate base of knowledge and skills required of a nurturing, loving father, particularly in the area of disciplining a child.

Second, Peterson lacks even a basic understanding of the difference between discipline and punishment. I'll unpack this second reason before I return to the first one.

The evidence for this lack of understanding first appeared in a statement issued by Peterson's attorney, Rusty Hardin, who said, "Adrian is a loving father who used his judgment as a parent to discipline his son. He used the same kind of discipline with his child that he experienced as a child growing up in east Texas."

The evidence mounted several days later when Peterson spoke for the first time about the abusive act and said:

"I never imagined being in a position where the world is judging my parenting skills or calling me a child abuser because of the discipline I administered to my son... I have to live with the fact that when I disciplined my son the way I was disciplined as a child, I caused an injury that I never intended or thought would happen. I know that many people disagree with the way I disciplined my child."

(Click here for the full text of Peterson's statement.)

Count me in with the crowd who disagrees as you notice how Peterson and Hardin harp on the notion that Peterson "disciplined" his child.

He did not discipline his child. He used a violent, fear-based, abusive form of punishment that was, tragically, used on him as a child.

That Peterson never questioned how he was punished as a child is also part of his problem.

Discipline, which originates from the Latin word "discipulus," means "to teach or guide." To punish means, no pun intended, to "penalize" someone for an offense through pain, loss, confinement, or even death. Taking a switch to a 4-year-old in today's world, or in the world of the recent or distant past, is simply a form of abusive, fear-based punishment meant to inflict pain. It in no way teaches or guides. Anyone who doesn't realize this kind of punishment can injure a child is not in his or her right mind.

Too many fathers, and parents in general, confuse discipline and punishment. They use the terms interchangeably. (Peterson and Hardin clearly fall into this camp.) They default to punishment because they either lack knowledge of effective ways to discipline their children or, if they know of alternatives; they take the easier, swifter path because, quite simply, discipline requires more work than punishment. Discipline requires skill in applying proven techniques. It also requires parents to be calm, patient, and nurturing before, during and after disciplining children, a quality some parents sorely lack. It also requires comfort with failure as parents learn how to effectively apply the techniques of child discipline and which ones work best with their children.

Moreover, when these parents punish -- and there are times when it is appropriate to punish children -- they use violent forms that are unnecessary and place their children at risk for injury, not to mention the damage these forms have on parent-child relationships. These parents lack the knowledge of effective, non-violent forms of punishment.

This specific lack of knowledge and skill in the discipline of children underscores a larger problem, particularly as it concerns fathers and our culture in general. Too many men become fathers without an inkling of how to be a good father. Our culture does a pitiful job of preparing men to be good fathers, and fathers know this. Several years ago, researchers from the University of Texas and Rutgers University conducted the most significant national study to date on fathers' attitudes on fathering. Only slightly more than half of the fathers surveyed "agreed," and less than a fourth "strongly agreed," that they felt adequately prepared for fatherhood when they first became fathers.

As this story continues to unfold, we must not only examine Peterson's culpability and the appropriateness of the actions taken by the NFL and the Vikings in punishing him. We must also examine the culpability of our society for its inadequate preparation of men to be fathers and lack of training for fathers in the knowledge and skills required to be involved, responsible, committed fathers. (National Fatherhood Initiative tried for years, with no success, to work with the NFL in providing fathering training and resources for its players.) While that latter examination doesn't absolve Peterson of his individual responsibility in abusing his child, it at least acknowledges that his action didn't occur in a vacuum. Fortunately, and encouragingly, the legal authorities and the citizens in east Texas who indicted him recognized his action for what it is. Let's hope Peterson will eventually do the same.

How were you disciplined and/or punished as a child? How does how you were raised help (or harm) your style of discipline as a parent today?

For fatherhood leaders, we're here to help you serve the dads you lead. You can subscribe to our ebook service; where we share "How to Discipline Your Child" along with other helpful topics for dads.

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

Parental Incarceration Might be Worse for Children than Parental Divorce or Death

The longer I'm at National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), the more evidence piles up that shows how devastating having an incarcerated parent is for children.

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Last month researchers released a study that shows having an incarcerated parent might be worse for children than if their parents divorced or died. As reported in USA Today, the study found:

"That significant health problems and behavioral issues were associated with the children of incarcerated parents, and that parental incarceration may be more harmful to children's health than divorce or death of a parent...'These kids are saddled with disadvantages,' said Kristin Turney, the author of the study and an assistant professor of sociology at UC-Irvine. 'They're not only dealing with parental incarceration, but also mental health issues. It might make finding a job more difficult, or they may be forced to grow up faster than peers.' Compared to children of similar demographic, socioeconomic and familial characteristics, the study found that having a parent in prison was associated with children's behavioral problems and conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities, speech or language problems and developmental delays."

We've known for decades that having an incarcerated parent places children at a greater risk for a host of poor outcomes compared with children whose parents aren't incarcerated. That's the primary reason NFI has equipped hundreds of correctional facilities, halfway houses, and re-entry programs and organizations with programs and other resources to help connect incarcerated fathers to their children and families prior to and after release. The fact that 25 states have standardized our InsideOut Dad® program across their facilities for men is a testament to how vital this work truly is. 

But when I add the results of this study to what we already know about the devastating impact of parental incarceration, I want to ensure that every state department of corrections standardizes on our InsideOut Dad program. I also want every county or city jail that houses fathers and every re-entry program that helps incarcerated fathers reenter society to understand how much impact they can have on improving child well-being by using our programs and resources to help incarcerated fathers be better dads. Unrealistic? Perhaps. But it's an objective worth pursuing. Please join me in achieving that objective.

What are you doing to help the children of incarcerated fathers?

What are you doing to help incarcerated fathers be better dads?

That Time When Ray Liotta Punched Me in My Fathering Face

I don't know "Goodfellas" Liotta. I know "Field of Dreams" Liotta, "Corina, Corina" Liotta, and "Bee Movie" Liotta. As an actor, Liotta is known for punching people in the face. His newest work as the dad in The Identical punched me in the face. His character reminded me of how I can get so many things right as a dad; yet fall prey to the sin of being distant and detached.

Liotta made me think about the root problem of connecting with our kids; the real struggle is managing work and family. If we can learn to manage work and family; we can better connect to our child, and not be like how we see Liotta's character for most of the movie—as a doubting and detached dad.

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At NFI we talk a lot about absent fathers. Our research and mission is all about the effects of father absence. We train leaders so they in turn train dads to be better dads. In The Identical, Ray Liotta's character is a decent dad. He's not phyically absent. He's a country preacher who’s home at night, provides food on the table, a roof over his family, and stability. But, he's missing a crucial piece of the great-dad puzzle. He's cold and emotionally detached from his son. Us dads can get a lot of things right as dads, yet miss the point; that is, to really connect with our kids. Being an involved, responsible and committed father is not just about being physically present, it’s about connecting with your child. 

The Identical is about a son (played by Blake Rayne) of a preacher (Liotta), who rejects his father’s desire for him to join his line of work. Instead of preach, the son loves music and wants to do that silly stuff that people from Tennessee do—like write and sing music. We follow Ryan Wade as he struggles to live out his dream all the while his father is disappointed. There’s secrets to uncover and successes and failures all along the way; but after all is said and done, this is a father-son film. 

As a dad, I can get some things right. I can have an honorable career, provide a roof and food and come home at a decent hour each night. Yet if I'm not careful about how I value my relationship between work and family; I risk having a real relationship with my daughters. Watching the father-son relationship in this movie reminded me to be careful about how I manage work and family. Basically, Ray Liotta punched me in my face.

After watching The Identical, I had to come back to our training programs. We train leaders to teach dads how to manage work and family. Managing work and family means you are able to show you value work AND family. It’s easier to meet both responsibilities if we get these eight things right.

1) Avoid taking work home
Challenge yourself to either not take your work home or do it after the kids are in bed. Train yourself to unplug mentally and physically before you get home. Some days I do this well—some days I don't. The days I do this best are the days I make myself stop in the driveway, and detach from the day's work; so I'm not detached from my girls when I step in the house.

2) Get focused while at work
Every week there's something to attend—a practice or family game night. I have two children in school now. Trust me, I know from experience, it's busy. If you look at your kid’s schedule, there’s probably something you’re missing. Try getting to the office earlier or closing your door. Be careful about how you spend your time at work. Reminder: the point is to get your job done AND get home to be with your family.

3) Put your work and family schedule on one calendar
A wise man once said if you don’t plan to succeed you plan to fail. Prioritize your duties at work and home. Not that I’m perfect at this, but something that seems to work for me is that I use one to-do list for work and home and one calendar for work and home. Take a moment to review the upcoming week. Be intentional about adding the events to your calendar. Don't forget to mark time on your calendar for down time on a regular Thursday evening at home with your kids too. Time marked "busy" doesn't have to be the big events like recitals and dances and whatnot. 

4) Learn when to say yes and when to say no
Be strategic about being a team player and pitching in on tasks. On the other hand, be careful because if you're the guy who says yes to everything you may simply be horrible at delegating—or worse—horrible at being with your family.

5) Put your commitment to family on display 
Take a look at the pictures in your office. My guess is that if you have teenagers, your pictures aren’t of teenagers. If I walked into your office, I’d probably think you had a newborn! Update your pictures. Think about it: if your child is young, display their artwork. It will serve as a reminder to you and guess what everyone will use for small talk and connection? Exactly, you will be reminded of that great artist you have at home!

6) Learn about your office's work-family balance policies
You may have extra time you can use to re-prioritize and be with your family. From use of sick time to flex-time, there may be ways to take time off from work and be with your child when he or she has to go to the dentist.

7) Make career choices with the family in mind
This may sound funny to some, but it happens (or doesn't happen). Consider stress-level and what it takes to gain a promotion before changing roles or positions. Consider your family on all things from location of the job to benefits.

8) Try and be with your family everyday.
Unless you're in prison or deployed, there isn't many more reasons for not seeing your family daily. But, I’m constantly hearing of dads who sell out for position and money over time with his child. There may exist a time and place for this; but it should always be the exception and not the norm. Being a dad means taking time. If you aren’t physically available daily, then consider phone and email as great options. The point is to be available and connected. Know how your child is doing so when something comes up, they can talk to you.

What I saw in watching The Identical was dad who didn’t know how to connect with his child. Of course he loved his son; but for various reasons from his past on down to his own interests, he spent years not really connecting with his son. He spent years disapproving of his son's successes and being detached. Living as a connected dad requires we learn how to value our work AND family. A good dad manages both. Connecting with your child may seem difficult; but let Ray Liotta's character remind you it shouldn't take a lifetime to learn.

What’s one thing from this list where you needs the most help?

Learn more about The Identical and get started connecting with your child by downloading "The Ultimate Guide to Connecting with your Child".

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This free eBook is designed to help you and your child become closer and more connected. Use it for yourself or to help other dads. In this eBook we share:

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

 

 

What Great Leaders Know That Others Don't

I never played high school football. My football career took place over a short span of four years, from the age of 9 to 12. Some call this peewee football; but not me. Peewee isn't accurate for what I learned about football, leadership, and life in those short years. As I watched When the Game Stands Tall, I was reminded of three things great leaders know that others don't.

Coach Lad knew what great leaders know. After winning 151 games in a roll, the film starts at the end of this great win streak. The Coach suffers a heart attack and the team loses game one of the following season. All seems lost for the "perfect" team. Oh, but no. Coach Lad knows what great leaders know. As he motivates his team about the importance of perfection, commitment, and accountability, we are reminded that playing football is about way more than just playing football. I found his lessons on leadership a helpful reminder of what it takes to be a good husband, dad, employee, and friend. 

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This movie and Coach Lad's example of leadership reminded me of three things great leaders know—in good times and in bad times—that others don't:

1) Great Leaders Know Leadership Starts in the Home

Leadership and fatherhood are one in the same. Watching as a husband and father, I was reminded when watching Coach Lad suffer a heart attack that try as I may, I can do everything necessary to be a great leader in my job and with friends, but if I neglect my home and family, all is pointless. 

Coach Lad's wife points to the fact that over the 151-game winning streak, Coach hasn't been around much for his own kids. We watch when Coach Lad suffers a heart attack, he breaks down and refers to himself as a "lousy husband and the worst dad." From the hospital bed, Coach Lad asks his wife, "what do I do now?" His wife responds caringly, “spend as much time with your family as you do with the team." We then walk with Coach Lad through his recovery and watch as he works to build a relationship with his son; who's now in his senior year of high school. This one lesson was clear: if you want to be great at something, be great at being around your family.

2) Great Leaders Know Leadership is about Commitment

At the start of the movie, the high school football players are in street clothes holding a meeting. Back when I practiced football, I don't recall having practices in street clothes talking like we were in a small group study. But Coach Lad had his athletes holding index cards and reading the other teammates goals aloud and verifying whether they completed their goals for the week. 

When it comes to commitment, we have to teach our children the importance of sticking to our word. When I was 9 years old, there were practices I didn't want to go to. I "just wanted to play" in the games and wear the jersey on Friday's. I hated it at the time, but I have learned after two decades to respect what my dad told me when he said, "you made your commitment they day you signed up to play; that means practice and all. You don't play on Saturday without practicing on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday." Kind of sounds like Coach Lad now that I think about it!

"We’re not asking you to be perfect on every play,
what we are asking you and what you should be asking of
each other is to give a perfect effort from snap to whistle.” 

—Coach Lad


3) Great Leaders Know Leadership is about Serving Others: 

When you're a dad, you quickly realize that life isn't about you. Coach Lad makes clear to his team that, "Love means I’ll be there for you in good times and bad." Basically, Lad is saying, whether it's convenient for me or not, I'll be there for you. See the application here in marriage? fatherhood? work? life? The power of showing up is real. Great leaders understand that while they may not have all the answers, they'll show up and serve no matter what. Showing up is in the job description.

"Growing up is tough, it’s not easy, it ain’t about football or scoring touchdowns, it’s about helping you grow up so that when you so when you take your place out in the community, you can be depended on.” —Coach Lad


When I played peewee football, I didn’t realize how much I was learning about leadership and life. It takes vigilance to be a great leader. It takes being faithful with what you have. It takes showing up. It takes placing others before yourself. This film was a great reminder for me that I’m an example, for good or for ill, to my wife, daughters, co-workers and how I do on these three tests determines how good or bad of a leader I am. Look, being a dad is hard work; but it's worth it. Oh, and as Coach Lad would say, "Family isn't just blood relatives." Get your home right so you can help serve those outside of your home.

What to see the trailer for this film? Check out our When the Game Stands Tall? page for more details.

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Become a Double Duty Dad Today! 

In this film, we see Coach Lad is what we at NFI calll a "Double Duty Dad". He knows how to lead in the home and outside of it. With 24 million children growing up in America without their biological father in the home, you can make a much-needed difference in your home and outside your home in two ways:

1) to a fatherless child in your circle of influence or
2) mentoring another dad.

Your commitment to be a Double Duty Dad will change everything. Visit here to get our helpful eBook.

Never Forget, You are a Father!

Here’s something to put on your wall at work or your bathroom, where you will see it every day. A reminder of the important things in life, as a father. 

Most of us men are good people, but too many of us are not as adept at being good fathers. The difference lies in everyday life and our priorities. Some men are intentional about placing a career ahead of ‘Dadhood’. Many more of us do the same thing, but we do it subconsciously. When your children grow up, they will most likely think of you with love--but will they have your respect? We must occasionally stop, look, and listen to our children and our role as their father.

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Some Things to Ponder:

  • When you’ve been in the office for 60 hours this week, don’t forget you’re a father.
  • When your buddies want you to stop by after work for a drink, do it, maybe. But don’t forget you are a father. 
  • When you are watching the ballgame, and your child asks you a question, remember, you are a father.
  • When you are trying to catch up with maintaining your house, and your young son wants to ‘help’, don’t forget you are his father.
  • When your daughter asks you to take her to the mall, take her. But ask a lot of questions and place limitations first. Remember, you’re her father.
  • When your child needs a hug, or a smile, or a stare-down, remember, you’re their father.
  • When a dance recital is scheduled during the Master’s tournament, remember to record it. The Masters--not the dance recital! After all, you are a father.
  • When you don’t live with your children, at least live for your children. After all, you are their father and they need you.
  • Never forget to be around for the milestones. Is work really more important than the first day of school? Maybe so, around .1 percent of the time!
  • Never forget to discipline your kids when they need it. Be firm but do not yell or shake! 
  • Never forget to ask them how they are doing, at school, with friends, with their siblings, etc. Talk with them--not at them. 
  • Never forget to be respectful to their mother and to be a partner to her, especially for your kids’ needs. 
  • Never forget that neither you, nor your children are perfect. Be patient.
  • Never forget that they are not you. Let them be the person they are, but guide them as their father.

Many of these reminders are reminders your kids may want you to ignore, like disciplining or asking too many questions of them. They want you to ignore those actions for that moment, but they want you to be interested enough to be concerned for them and to mold them.

Understand that you don’t fail as a father if you don’t comply with these reminders 100 percent of the time. It’s the attitude you have as a dad, not 24/7 perfection. For instance, if it were the ninth inning of the World Series and my daughter asked me to do something with her, I would say, “Okay, but wait until this game is over.”  You can explain later why you asked her to wait, if necessary.

As long as you are aware that you are a father, never feel guilty about time to yourself! You need it! You deserve it! And you will definitely be a better father for it! Just carefully balance your children’s need with yours.

For a further look into your role as a dad, see my “Dads Self-Inspection Checklist”. It will help you to decide where and if you may need to improve your fatherly skills.

image: iStockPhoto

 

 

Football, Family, and Fatherhood: Learn About When The Game Stands Tall

Inspired by a true story, When The Game Stands Tall shows the real-life De La Salle High School's incredible football winning streak and exactly what created the victories. This film is about football, but make no mistake about it, this film is about fatherhood. Let it inspire you to be a better leader for your home and for those around you.

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It's in theaters now, I'll write more about the leadership lessons from this film in an upcoming post. But first, you have to see the trailer! Coaches and parents who watch will be motivated by being reminded of the real reason you put in the time and effort to lead your children—in good times and bad.

“Winning a lot of football games is doable. Teaching kids there’s more to life? That’s hard.” —Coach Bob Ladouceur in the movie
When The Game Stands Tall

About When The Game Stands Tall

Inspired by the true story, When The Game Stands Tall brings to life the incredible winning streak of the De La Salle High School football team: 151 straight victories over 12 years. All along the way, as Coach Bob Ladouceur builds his seemingly invincible national powerhouse, he has emphasized purpose and significance rather than streaks and titles.

But when real-life adversity leaves the team reeling, the Spartans must decide if the sacrifice, commitment, and teamwork they have always trusted in can rebuild what is now disintegrating around them.

Get a Sneak Peek of When The Game Stands Tall

Check out these scenes from the new family film that show the real-life world of coaching, football, and leadership.

 

Endorsements

"WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL has the best football action I have ever seen in a movie—and I have seen a lot of great football movies over the years! Coaches, players, parents, and fans are all going to stand up and cheer for this powerful film."
—Bobby Bowden, Retired Florida State head football coach

"When I saw WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL, I thought of a great outline of what high school athletics should be. It shouldn’t be about the statistics, it shouldn’t be about the touchdowns—it should be about the team and the effort that a team puts forth together."
—Amani Toomer, Super Bowl champion and former De La Salle receiver

See more endorsements here.

Follow When The Game Stands Tall!

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Become a Double Duty Dad Today! 

In this film, we see Coach Lad is what we at NFI calll a "Double Duty Dad". With 24 million children growing up in America without their biological father in the home, you can make a difference:

1) to a fatherless child in your circle of influence or
2) mentor another dad.

Your commitment to be a Double Duty Dad will change everything. Visit here to get our helpful eBook.

How You Can Directly Help NFI Help Organizations that Serve Dads

Headline: Twenty-fifth Edition of KIDS COUNT Data Book Highlights Improvements Since 1990.

As someone who has dedicated his career to improving the well-being of children, that headline caught my attention to say the least. Late last month, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released the 25th annual edition of its KIDS COUNT Data Book, the most comprehensive collection of data on the state of children's well-being. If you're not familiar with KIDS COUNT, it includes data on 16 indicators of child well-being for all 50 states grouped into four areas: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. Click here to find out how children in your state fare on the indicators. 

nfi-logoWhile there are certainly improvements, the news continues to be grim regarding father absence. Since 1990, when the foundation released the first edition of KIDS COUNT, the proportion of children growing up in single-parent homes increased by 40 percent! As we've chronicled numerous times in this blog, that's not good for kids. Recently, I highlighted new research in an article for The Huffington Post titled, The Proof Is In: Father Absence Harms Child Well-Being. This new study reveals what National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) has known for two decades: the most consequential social trend of our time is widespread father absence in the lives of our nation's children. Father absence actually causes poor outcomes for children. It's not just associated with them.

There is a "father factor" in nearly every social ill facing our children and society. NFI addresses these ills head-on, every day, in the work we do with organizations across the nation. 

But we can't do it alone. We need your help to do this vital work.

NFI isn't government funded. We rely on donations to provide organizations like yours with the free tips and tools they need to help dads. 

Through our Father Factor Blog, social media feeds, the FatherSource™ e-newsletter, downloadable ebooks, and other free resources, we directly equip organizations with practical, actionable information and guidance on fathering that's based on what the latest research shows is effective. 

In just the past few months, for example, we released How to Start a Direct-Service Fatherhood Program, a free downloadable ebook that captures much of NFI's two decades of experience in helping organizations start programs. We also launched the free Research to Application series which provides guidance on how to apply the latest research on human behavior to working with dads. And in September, we'll launch the free FatherSource™ Locator, the first searchable database of more than 1,500 organizations across the country that serve fathers using our resources and programs. It will directly connect fathers to the organizations that can help them.

If you're like me, you want to improve your community by connecting dads with their children. By helping organizations like yours that serve dads, we help you improve your community. Your donation will make your community a better place as we partner with your organization to serve dads.

As we wrap up our fiscal year, please make a donation online by September 30 to help us serve fathers and families through educating, equipping, and engaging all sectors of society to build more and better fathers.

Thank you for understanding how vital it is that fathers have a place to go for help and to locate organizations in their communities that can also help. And thanks most of all for your service to families in your community.

Assistance Needed: Fatherhood Research & Practice Network Poll

In June 2014, the Fatherhood Research and Practice Network (FRPN) launched to promote rigorous evaluation of fatherhood programs. The FRPN will announce its first grant awards to researcher and program/practitioner teams this fall.  

If you read The Father Factor Blog, you know that NFI's president Christopher A. Brown has written about funding fatherhood research as he serves on the FRPN steering committee. NFI is committed to helping you help fathers. In addition to funding new research, the FRPN plans to offer free technical assistance (TA) to fatherhood programs to strengthen their ability to do evaluation research.

Screen_Shot_2014-05-29_at_12.39.39_PM-1What types of TA for evaluation do fatherhood programs need? The FRPN would like to hear from programs and practitioners.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Develop a computerized management information (MIS) system to track client enrollment, service delivery and outcomes. This is designed for programs that don’t have a system in place and will include a low-cost monthly hosting fee.
  • Offer consulting services for programs to improve use of their MIS.
  • Provide one-on-one consulting services on evaluation for interested programs.
  • Develop measurement tools and research instruments targeted to father engagement, co-parenting and other important outcomes.
  • Create an Institutional Review Board (IRB) for fatherhood programs that do not have access to one or are not connected with a university.
  • Develop a certificate program on evaluation research for fatherhood program staff that qualifies for continuing education credit.
  • Continue to develop videos, webinars and other resources focused on program evaluation and post them on the FRPN website (www.frpn.org). 
  • Develop an evaluation self-assessment tool for programs.
  • Help programs connect with researchers in close proximity who are interested in doing evaluation research projects.

Help the FRPN determine what types of TA the fatherhood field needs by completing the FRPN TA poll! Visit here to get started. We appreciate your time and feedback!


The FRPN seeks to:

  • Promote rigorous evaluation of fatherhood programs.
  • Expand the number of researchers and practitioners collaborating to evaluate these programs.
  • Disseminate information that leads to effective fatherhood practice and evaluation research.

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