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The Father Factor

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Have You Looked Under the Hood Lately?

Like cars, your family’s finances need regular maintenance. Get a free 5-point financial inspection today!

Mechanic or not, you probably know the basics of a car safety inspection: Lights and signals, tires and treads, brake system, fluid levels, electrical and safety components. Similarly, you probably know the basics of a financial inspection: 

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  1. Are you spending less than you earn?
  2. Are you saving for emergencies, retirement, and things you need or want?
  3. Are you buying only what you can afford today (and even trying to buy less than you think you can afford)?
  4. Are you paying down credit card debt if you have it and limiting or eliminating your use of debt to finance your lifestyle?
  5. Are you putting a plan in place to protect your loved ones if something happened to you or your spouse?

Unfortunately, we don’t often look under the hood for a good inspection. Like we talked about in a previous post, us dads are often careful about our family's safety; but, when it comes to our family's financial safety, we may fall short. It’s understandable…life is busy and it can feel overwhelming—especially if you’re not sure what exactly to look for!

For the same reason you take your car to a mechanic, brightpeak financial is offering a free financial check-up to all National Fatherhood Initiative readers.

It involves an online questionnaire you can complete on your own terms, plus a follow-up call from a trained financial guide to help you identify opportunities for improvement and an action plan to help you move forward.

Click here to get started! It feels good to get a plan in place and your family might just think you’re a financial genius, too! 

brightpeak financial is a division of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, a not-for-profit membership organization of Christians founded more than a century ago, which is based in Appleton, WI 54919-0001.

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Balance Work & Family: Be a Better Husband & Father with Less Effort

Creating Good Habits Makes It Easier to Be an Effective Parent and Partner

One of the most important aspects of being a good parent and partner is being consistent and reliable. Doing well once can be a great thing. Doing well constantly so that your wife can rely on you is a much greater success. As a parent, “saving the day” is a small accomplishment compared to avoiding the need to do so. To use an analogy–it is better to never run out of gas than to constantly run out of gas within a few blocks of a station.

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As a working father, I am often mentally immersed in my work. Doing well at work pays the bills and sets the stage for future earnings that can make my family’s life better. Like many fathers, however, my commitment to a better tomorrow can get in the way of a better today. NFI recently wrote about protecting your family's financial safety, while I'm interested in all things related to fatherhood, sometimes, it helps me to not only think of the big-picture, but it's helpful to think of the daily picture as well. 

For example, my concern about a presentation that may have lasting impact can explain why I failed to make a phone call that I had agreed to make or why I left crib sheets in the washer rather than remember to dry them. Those mistakes are temporary, but their cumulative impact changes the way that my wife runs her life out of fear that she cannot count on me.

Rather than committing significant time to worrying about all of the little things that I may have forgotten at home, I need to use a simpler tactic to do those things that must be done over and over again. I need to create the mental “ping” that my car gives me when I have 40 miles left before I am stranded. That tactic - that “ping” - is habit. Turning certain responsibilities into habit means that you are more reliable and spend less time “saving the day” (or “saving your bacon”).

As I illustrate in my book Covering Your Bases: Forty Simple Plays to Improve Life for Your Stay-At-Home Spouse habits that take just a few seconds and minimal effort can have enormous impact. During my first few years of work, I found myself forgetting something useful (money clip, phone, checkbook, ID badge) about once per week.Eventually, I created a mental checklist that I went through every morning. My list was only seven items long, but if something was missing I knew it before I left.

Committing a number of low-effort/high-impact tasks to habit or making them part of a checklist will make most fathers more effective and save them considerable stress. Fielding a phone call about the fact that there are no clean baby bottles takes more time and energy than programming yourself to be sure that the dishwasher is clean or running when you leave in the morning.

According to author Stephen R. Covey, “Habit is the intersection of knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do), and desire (want to do).” When competing priorities of work and parenthood squeeze your time, I believe that there is a fourth consideration – bandwidth (how much one can do). The ability to be both a star employee and fantastic parent can demand all of our focus for long periods of time. Occasional failures or omissions are more common than most of us realize. However, some people’s result in more harm than others.In many cases it is not about whether you fail but about what particular mistakes you make.

As noted above and throughout Covering Your Bases, the biggest cost of mistakes can be the time spent dealing with them. The aftermath of a small error can be larger than the mistake itself and result in both wasted time and a negative attitude that further suppresses your productivity. By making the small, repeatable tasks in your life part of a routine, you will find that you avoid not only the consequences of your mistakes but a prolonged drag on your productivity and attitude.

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How Safe is Your Family?

Life is full of unknowns - focus on what’s controllable.

As a dad, you worry about your family’s safety. That includes physical, spiritual, and emotional safety. But way too many dads unknowingly risk their family’s financial safety. The good news is, you can change that—and it’s simpler than you might think!

NFI-Safeguards_500x500_bpfOCHD073014.2(2)To get you started, brightpeak financial put together a free eBook, “How to Protect Your Family Financially.” Download it now.

The book contains important content, questions, and checklists to help make it easy.  

Consider four major categories of uncontrollable events. Realizing that these events happen and knowing how to plan for them can greatly reduce the hardship you and your family may experience if they were to happen. 

1) Unexpected Expenses include events like your car breaking down or a water heater needing to be replaced.  

2) Accident, illness, or injury that requires medical care or attention. One out of every 4 Americans in the workforce will experience an accident, illness or injury that leaves them unable to work for three months or more (Council for Disability Awareness, Disability Statistics, March 2013).

3) Job Loss. One out of every 2 people will experience job loss at some point during their working years, often through no fault of their own (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Projections, 2010-2020).

4) You or your spouse dying while children still depend on you, financially. The probability of death for men between the age of 35 and 65 is 18%. That’s 1 in 6. For women in the same age range its 11%, or 1 in 10. (Milliman, The Changing Face of Mortality Risk in the United States, 2007). 

Want to learn more? Download the free eBook now!  

brightpeak financial is a division of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, a membership organization of Christians, created to help young families build financial strength so they may live life with confidence and generosity. Learn more about brightpeak financial hereThrivent Financial for Lutherans is located in Appleton, WI 54919-0001.

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NFI Board Elects New Board Chairman, Looks to Future of Fatherhood

In July, the Board of Directors of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) tapped Andy Schoka, a 5-year veteran NFI Board Member, as NFI’s next Board Chairman. NFI is grateful to outgoing Board Chairman Carlos Alcazar for his steady leadership. 

Thank you, Carlos!

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We don't get to today without great leaders and great leadership. I can't thank Carlos enough for serving as chairman, especially during the transition between Roland Warren and me as president of NFI. During that time, Carlos served as our interim president and spent a considerable amount of time ensuring that we conducted a thorough search to replace Roland. He went above and beyond the call of duty, and I learned a lot from him during that time that has served me well as president.

The Future Looks Bright, Andy!

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As I look back on NFI's two decades and my 14 years of service to this organization and the thousands of organizations and individuals working with fathers and families, I'm thankful for the great leaders who have been involved on our board. I can't think of a more qualified replacement for Carlos. Andy has been an incredibly dedicated board member who was also intimately involved in the transition from Roland to me. He has a great sense for business that will serve him and NFI well as our business model continues to evolve. I look forward to closely working with him. 

I'm thankful and excited to continue working on this national movement with Andy and all of our board members to educate, equip, and engage the culture. Along with our board members and our dedicated staff, we will continue to work diligently to end father absence and truly connect even more fathers to their children in the years to come.

Learn more about NFI and our mission here. Meet all of our board members here.

How Much Do You Know About the Rights of Unmarried Dads?

If you've kept up with this blog, you know that more children than ever are being born to unmarried parents. We know this fact well at National Fatherhood Initiative as we field a number of calls every month from unmarried parents (dads and moms) looking for information on the rights of unmarried dads who often don't have custody (joint or sole) of their children.

how much do you know about the rights of unmarried dadsIf you work with fathers, I'll bet that many if not most of them fall into this category. Unfortunately, most unmarried, non-custodial dads don't know their rights when it comes to their children. That's why I was so pleased to learn about The Rights of Unmarried Fathers, a comprehensive listing of these fathers' rights in all 50 states available for free download from the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

This resource describes, for each state, the:

  • Legal definition of a father
  • Paternity registry
  • Alternate means to establish paternity
  • Required information to establish paternity

It also describes:

  • How to revoke a claim to paternity
  • How to access information on the paternity registry

Because some of the unmarried, non-custodial dads you serve might be involved in the child welfare system, I encourage you to pair this resource with Finding Your Way: Guides for Dads in Child Protection Cases, a series of free, downloadable guides for fathers (and that you can give to fathers) that help dads understand their rights and responsibilities, their role in and out of court, how to work with their lawyer, and more. Together, these resources will help you educate unmarried, non-custodial dads so they can be as involved, responsible, and committed as possible in the lives of their children.

How much do you know about the rights of unmarried dads? How much do the unmarried dads you serve know about their rights?

image: iStockPhoto

 

The Best Dad Advice Around: Download Free eBook & Enter the iPad Air Giveaway

“It was not his words, it was the silence of his voice, the way he was and is always there, ready to help and be a super hero without saying a word.” – Kris

What was the best advice your dad ever gave you?

We learn a lot about life from our dads. Whether it’s how to communicate successfully in our marriages, how to be fathers ourselves, or just some good practical advice on career or finances, dads share with us a special kind of wisdom.

NFI-Giveaway-eBlast_bpfOCHD071714.1_500x500Last month, to celebrate Father’s Day, brightpeak financial launched a campaign to collect the Best Dad Advice from around the U.S.

They challenged moms, dads, sisters and brothers to share with us the best advice they’ve ever received from their dads. The results were inspiring. Hundreds of entries poured in with advice on love, faith, money, parenting and facing adversity.

The submissions were insightful, smart and even humorous, but above all, they were inspirational.

brightpeak then compiled the best entries into the Best Dad Advice eBook. 

CLICK HERE to download your free Best Dad Advice eBook and enter the iPad Air Giveaway!

Check out a few excerpts from the book, below:


CHARACTER & VIRTUE

“It is better to be kind than correct. I use this to relate and connect with my kids on a daily basis.” – Mark

“Don’t take anything for granted, not even a glass of water.” – Deana

"Always be present to those around you.” – Seth

CONFLICT & ADVERSITY

“Wisdom is the ability to put your knowledge into proper action.” – David

“There is no such thing as luck. Luck is what you make for yourself by never quitting.” – Ron

“If one person calls you a donkey, ignore them. If two people call you a donkey, think about it. If three people call you a donkey, you probably are!”
– Amanda

FAITH

“My dad has always told us kids to seek wise and Godly council before we
do anything. Even if it means having to wait a while for an answer. I’m very
grateful to God for giving my dad such a godly character!” – Caitlin

“My father’s best advice was to put God first in your life, then your family,
then others.” – Thomas

PRACTICAL LIFE

“Don’t let your gas go below ¼ tank in the winter.” – Gretchen

“When I was young and got hurt, my Dad would always tell me, ‘It’ll feel
better when it quits hurting.’” – Ron

“Don’t put shiny wheels on your car - someone will steal it.” - Jackie

LOVE

“It all starts with a kiss – so be careful.” – Louise

“If there’s any doubt whatsoever about the man you’re gonna marry, then
he is not the right one for you. You will know without any doubts when you
meet the right man.” – Paul

“Don’t date a woman you wouldn’t marry.” – Mike

PARENTING

“The best thing a Dad can do for his kids is to love his wife. It reminds me that the kids are always listening and they learn from my actions.” – Mike

“Cars, houses and things can be replaced but years gone by can’t. Make time to play with your kids before they are too old to play.” – Anne

“The best and only advice my Dad gave me on raising my children was, ‘Be consistent.’” – Debra

If you would like to read the whole book, including sections on Money & Career, Decision Making, Attitude, Practical Life, Faith, Love, and Family, download the Best Dad Advice eBook below. You’ll also be entered to win a free iPad Air when you sign up!

CLICK HERE to download your free Best Dad Advice eBook and enter the iPad Air Giveaway!

Brightpeak financial is a division of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, a membership organization of Christians, created to help young Christian families build financial strength so they may live life with confidence and generosity. Learn more about brightpeak financial here.

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Your Children are What YOU Eat

You know what a fast-food diet can do to your waistline, not to mention your thighs, buttocks, arms, etc. But did you know that Baconator® from Wendy's could have consequences for your unborn children and grandchildren? It's time to wake up and smell the coffee (er, bacon) when it comes to your diet. What you eat can have either a positive or negative effect on your unborn child or grandchild. 

diet and fatherhood donut cheese burger

Recent ground-breaking research by Dr. Ian Myles, an allergist-immunologist based in Bethesda, MD, and reported in the Nutrition Journal concluded that it's not just moms whose diets affect their unborn children. Dads' diets matter, too. Specifically, parents' diets affect their children's "mircobiome," the plethora of bacteria that live on our skin and in our gut. A diverse and balanced microbiome is critical to a strong immune system. Unfortunately, our Western diet--marked by an imbalance that favors refined grains, sugar, and too much saturated fat--creates a limited and imbalanced microbiome one that makes it more difficult for us to properly digest food (thus taking advantage of the nutrients that might be present but limited) and ward off disease, not to mention how lethargic such a diet can make us.

Worse yet, our poor diet is a bad gift that keeps on giving as the microbiome it creates in parents (or expectant parents) passes directly to their offspring. When it comes to moms, it's easier to see the connection. Dr. Myles says, for example, "When the mother’s diet causes a harmful imbalance of her bacteria, she passes this imbalance on to her child and thus fails to present the ideal commensals for a proper immune education during her child’s most critical developmental window. This developmental dysbiosis leaves the offspring’s immune system poorly trained to fight off infections and encourages autoimmune and allergic diseases." 

While the mechanism for moms' contributions to their offspring's microbiome is easier to get your arms around, you might understandably wonder what's the mechanism that links dads' diets to their offspring's microbiome. It's DNA that wonder of nature that allows two human beings to create another one. Poor diets can negatively affect men's DNA by altering the genes that men eventually pass to their offspring. Those alterations can affect the development of organs some of which (e.g. the pancreas) are vital to a properly functioning immune system. As Dr. Myles says, "Since the information encoded upon DNA is passed from parent-to-child and even potentially from parent-to-grandchild, cells that learn bad habits like ignoring signs of infection or over-reacting to antigens could combine with microbiome shifts to further worsen a child’s immunologic development." 

This research is quite new. The jury is still out on how strong a link there is between dads' diets and the affects on their unborn children. Nevertheless, there is enough evidence to strongly suggest that what you ingest can have far-reaching consequences for your children. It's not enough to understand and act upon the clear evidence on how your diet directly affects you and indirectly affects the children you might now have (e.g. they learn through modeling what to eat). You also must seriously consider acting on the emerging evidence that you can pass along the impact of a poor diet (or a good one) to the very core of your children's being just like your height, eye color, hair color, or any other heritable trait.

How poor or good is your diet? How much do you care about how your diet affects your children or unborn children?


image: iStockPhoto

10 Ways To Be a Better Dad

Today, more and more dads like you are experiencing the satisfaction and reward of taking a more active role in the life of your child. Read and discover how these 10 simple ideas can help (or remind) you to start today on a new path—one that will impact your relationships...and your child's future. 

1) Respect Your Children's Mother

One of the best things you, as a dad, can do for your children is to respect their mother. If you are married, maybe this goes without saying, but I'll say it just in case; keep your marriage strong and healthy. Take time, as least weekly, to work on this relationship and keep it strong. If you're not married, it's still important to respect and support the mother of your children. A father and mother who respect each other, and let their children know it, provide a secure environment for the children. When children see their parents respecting each other, they are more likely to feel they are also accepted and respected. Find more on protecting your marriage.

10 ways to be a better dad fatherhood2) Spend Time With Your Children

This is more complicated that is sounds, I know. But, how a dad spends his time tells his children what's important to him. You've no doubt heard us say, Children spell "love": T-I-M-E. If you always seem too busy for your children, they will feel neglected no matter what you say. Treasuring children often means sacrificing other things, but it is essential to spend time with your children. Kids grow up so quickly. Missed opportunities are lost forever. Need ideas for how to spend your time? Here are 7 Ways to Connect with Your Kids

3) Listen First, Talk Second

All too often the only time a father speaks to his children is when they are getting in trouble. That's why many children may cringe when their mother says, "Your father wants to talk with you." Take time and listen to your children's ideas and problems. Listening helps them feel respected and understood. Begin listening and talking with your kids when they are young so that difficult subjects will be easier to handle as they get older. 

4) Discipline With Love

All children need guidance and discipline, not as punishment, but to set reasonable limits. Remind your children of the consequences of their actions and provide meaningful rewards for desirable behavior. Fathers who discipline in a calm and fair manner show love to their children. Get our 8 Things to Know About Disciplining Your Child.

5) Be A Role Model

Fathers are role models to their kids, whether they realize 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. Fathers can teach sons 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.

6) Be A Teacher

Too often we think teaching is something others do at a school building. But a father who teaches his children about right and wrong, and encourages them to do their best, will see his children make good choices. Involved fathers use everyday examples to help their children learn the basic lessons of life. Consider the vital knowledge you, and you only, possess with regard to music and classic movies at this point!

7) Eat Together As A Family

Sharing a meal together (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) can be an important part of healthy family life. In addition to providing some structure on a busy day, it gives kids the chance to talk about what they are doing and want to do. It is also a good time for fathers to listen. Most importantly, it is a time for families to be together each day. 

8) Read To Your Children

In a world where television and technology dominates the lives of children, it is important that fathers make the effort to read to their children. Children learn best by doing and reading, as well as seeing and hearing. Read to your children when they are very young. When they are older, encourage them to read on their own. Instilling your children with a love for reading is one of the best ways to ensure they 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.

9) Show Affection

Children need the security that comes from knowing they are wanted, accepted, and loved by their family. Dad, get comfortable hugging your children. Showing affection every day is the best way to let your children know that you love them.

10) Realize A Father's Job Is Never Done

Even after children are grown and ready to leave home, they will still look to their fathers for wisdom and advice. Whether it's continued schooling, a new job or a wedding, fathers continue to play an essential part in the lives of their children as they grow and, perhaps, marry and build their own families. 

Which one of these 10 ways do you find the most difficult? Why?

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Fatherhood Leader: We have these 10 Ways to Be a Better Dad created as brochures and tip cards for you to use with your group of dads in any setting.

image: iStockPhoto

Father Involvement and the Gender Gap in Education

A new column by Christopher Brown in The Huffington Post reveals how a new gender gap has started in higher education. Brown points out that women are enrolling in and graduating from college at much higher rates than men. In this post, get details on the issue so you can help encourage dads around you.  

kids_in_classroomBrown writes in How dads' Involvement Can Address the Gender Gap in Higher Education, which I recommend you read in full, but some insights you should know are as follows:

  • In 1994, the proportion of female and male high school graduates who enrolled in college was virtually the same (63 percent and 61 percent, respectively). By 2012, a sizable gap had emerged with 71 percent of female high school graduates enrolled in college compared to 61 percent of males.
  • The gap doesn't discriminate based on race or ethnicity.
  • Women now represent nearly three-fifths of graduate students.
  • While we should celebrate that more women attend college and obtain degrees than ever before, we should be concerned that men are being left behind and that extremely little is being done about it.
  • This trend has dire economic and social consequences.
  • Men who don't graduate from college earn less money, for example, than men who do. It also makes them more vulnerable to unemployment, which has a host of consequences that include a higher risk for criminal behavior.

What can we do to address this gender gap?

  • Greater father involvement in the lives of high school students.
  • Father absence is at the heart of the educational challenges faced by boys and men.
  • Boys are more likely to drop out of high school, for example, when they grow up without their dads. (Accordingly, My Brother's Keeper acknowledges this fact.)

Brown mentions a recent study on the impact of father involvement on college graduation rates and says it reveals why "greater father involvement is vital to addressing the gender gap specifically and increasing college graduation rates generally because, quite frankly, we should also be concerned that only 1 of 3 young adults, regardless of gender, graduates from college."

Brad Wilcox of the University of Virginia studied children ages 7-12 by dividing teens into four groups based on their fathers' level of involvement:

  1. not involved
  2. less involved
  3. involved
  4. very involved

Wilcox findings were as follows:

  • regardless of socioeconomic status and compared to teens of not involved dads, teens with involved dads were 98 percent more likely to graduate from college while teens with very involved fathers were 105 percent more likely to graduate from college.

Brown summarizes:

more involved fathers contribute to more college success for our nation's young adults and is a much more cost-effective solution than hundreds of programs and initiatives that, while laudable and part of the solution, don't go far enough upstream and cost a ton of money.

Wilcox and Brown make it clear that while the dads in the home are more involved than ever; sadly, more children are growing up without dad in the home. Fixing this education gap means understanding and working to fix the father absence problem.

Read the full article at The Huffington Post

 

7 Brands Who Got Dad Commercials Right

In the hectic schedule of Father's Day, we're catching up to these great videos. Thanks to The Agency Post, we were reminded of some of the brands who got their portrayal of dad right. 

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I've worked at NFI for over two years now, one thing that still surprises me is the lame portrayal of dads in media and advertising. But, I'm not going to complain in this post, I promise. Keeping positive, these seven brands got fatherhood right this time.

Take note brands, you can be funny, witty, and/or serious, and still show involved, responsible, and committed dads. Thanks Jami Oetting at The Agency Post for reminding us of the positive dad-portrayal in advertising with her post Dads in Advertising: 10 Commercials that Challenge the 'Doofus Dad' Stereotype.

Fatherhood Leaders: use these videos to start a conversation about the portrayal of dads in media. Ask dads: which depiction do you more often see of dads in media: doofus dad or responsible dad?  

Brand 1 > Dove Men+Care "Calling Dads" 
Perhaps you've notice by now, we kind of like this new Dove Men+Care commercial.

Along with the commercial, Dove released new research of 1,000 fathers between the ages of 25 and 54 that found, “Three quarters of dads say they are responsible for their child’s emotional well-being, while only 20% of dads see this role reflected in media.”

Dove Men+Care went the extra mile and asked dads to post using #RealDadMoments on social media. Awesome, and tear-worthy. Go dads, and Dove!  

 

Brand 2 > Extra “Origami”
The smallest gesture can make the biggest impact on a daughter.


Brand 3 > Subaru “Flat Tire”
Dads can’t teach you everything, but they can teach you that you can do anything. 


Brand 4 > Cardstore “Dad Casting – World’s Toughest Job”  
Casting for “dad” can be tough. But being a dad isn’t an act.  


Brand 5 > Ad Council “Cheerleader”
 
Pride goes to a new level when you become a father.  


Brand 6 > Cheerios “Gracie” 
Explaining changes in your family in simple ways can sometimes lead to an even bigger family.  


Brand 7 > Google Chrome “Dear Sophie” 
Remember: Your dad is there from the beginning, witnessing every moment.  


Which commercial is your favorite?

Day 91: My Journey from Obese to Overweight #P90X3Dads

I know what you're thinking, the title of this post sounds underwhelming. I've gone from obese to overweight in 90 days doing the P90X3 program. While "overweight" doesn't sound like an accomplishment, it is to me. I've experienced many improvements physically and mentally in the last 90 days. Let's talk details...

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Last Father's Day (2013), I made a goal:

Lose 50 pounds by next Father's Day (2014).

Crazy idea? Sure. But a goal without a deadline is just a dream, right?!

I'm happy to report that after one year...I reached my goal! I lost 50 pounds. Typing this doesn't sound true. Last year at Father's Day I weigh 230 pounds. This year, I weighed 180 pounds.

I'm still overweight for my height, but I'm no longer in the obese category. Congratulate me on my fitness in the comments! ; )

Over the last 90 days of doing P90X3 I've learned a few things and I've changed in many ways. At a glance, this was my 90-day journey in blog posts:

  1. Day Zero: Pressing Play on Fit Fathering
  2. Day 37: Dream Bigger Than a Smaller Number
  3. Day 74: Respect Water

What I Have Learned...

  • Habit matters: I'm a creature of habit; so are you. What we do daily is what matters. Don't think in terms of weekly or monthly about your health; think daily. Heck, think hourly. Pick a time of day that works best for you, preferably when you have the most energy, and exercise. Let nothing get in your way. This is you-time! With P90X3 there's one rest day per week. For me, the one day off each week is still a time to be active. If I'm inactive for one day, I want to be inactive for two days.
  • Water is key: I've written and talked so much about water I'll spare here, just know that without drinking massive amounts of H20 you will not reach your goals. Why? Mostly because you'll be hungry and more likely to consume salt, sugar, tables, chairs, lawn equipment and the like. Also, you can forget exercise because you won't have the energy for it.
  • Diet matters too: See my water post, but also, eat about a third of what you are now. If you're obese and reading this post, my guess is that you, like me, became obese by eating too much of too many bad things at too many times—and not drinking enough water. 
  • Oh, and be active: Whether it's 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour, being active changes everything. Trust me, you may not feel like doing anything but sofa-planking, but once you start doing something, you'll feel better. This comes in time, I promise.

How I've Changed...

  • Mentally: I'm pretty sure my wife would tell you I'm happier now than 90 days ago. I say "pretty sure" because I'm still a stressed-out jerk about stupid stuff I can't control. But, daily exercise gives me moments of euphoria you might call "happiness". Eating right for a span of a few meals and snacks has the same affect. If you feel more energetic, you'll probably feel like doing productive stuff. I'm more alert and have noticed moments of deeper concentration. I'm accomplishing more at work and working more efficiently. It's like taking the Limitless pill NZT except I can remember what I've done instead of waking up in a torn suit on the Brooklyn bridge. Y'all have seen that movie right? Nevermind.
  • Physically: I went from 230 pounds to 198 pounds before starting P90X3. But here are several changes I have noticed in the 90 days (from Day Zero to Day 91):
    • Weight: Lost 18 pounds—from 198 to 180.
    • Chest: From XL (Extra-Large) shirts to L (Large). Also, went from super-snug 44 blazer to slim fit 44 (could get away with a regular 42!).
    • Waist: From snug 38-inch pants to loose 34's (almost to size 32's!).
    • Face: My face is no longer round: this is good because my face was never supposed to be round.
    • Feet: My feet no longer hurt. I used to complain about my shoes; but the shoes weren't the issue. Now, even when I spend all day walking in flip-flops, my feet aren't hurting. Hello, barefeet summer!
    • Hands: My wedding ring fits. I was convinced my wedding ring was becoming smaller. Now, it fits like the day Tonia lovingly placed it on my finger. PS: Fingers shouldn't swell or change much over the years unless there are possible health issues. Read the signs, brothers and sisters.

In the last year, but especially in the last 90 days, I have gone from obese to overweight. In the next 90 days (I've already started a second round of P90X3), my goal is to go from overweight to fit. But for now, I have to be excited and feel encouraged (see pics here. sign-in required). Within 90 days, I'm ready to be in the best shape of my entire life. I wish nothing but the same for you.

Note: No dad was paid for this post. We were, however, given a base kit and two kits to giveaway because the Beach Body folks are so awesome. We'll hand-select one winner who uses #P90X3Dads on social media or comments on the blog. Tell us: What would a free copy of P90X3 do for you?

Happy Father's Day!

Father's Day is kind of a big deal when you're National Fatherhood Initiative. 

DOVE-MEN-LOGO_v1[1]When most of today's advertising and media portray dads as stupid, incompetent, bumbling and the like, Dove Men+Care rises above all that noise by showing that a brand can not only move product, but celebrate dads.

Dove Men+Care continues to be on the cutting edge of men's products while showing real, caring dads. We are grateful for such a brand and feel it's worth promoting them. This is not a sponsored email from Dove, we promise. But this Father's Day, after seeing all the negative portrayals of dads, we paused to watch this film again and again this week. Now, watch it and cry with us!

Take a moment today to celebrate the dad in your life. Watch this video from Dove Men+Care and share it with your family and friends. Happy Father's Day! 

The Surprising Facts about Payments of Child Support

As an observer of trends in attempts at the federal, state, and local levels to engage non-custodial fathers in the lives of their children, one of the trends I'm most pleased to have witnessed is the trend in the realization that most low-income non-custodial dads are "dead broke" instead of "deadbeat."

surprising facts about child support paymentsNevertheless, it's important to continue to ensure that the children of non-custodial dads have access to financial resources. Enforcement and collection of child support has been the primary focus of the federal government and states in this regard. From 2001-2012, the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement reports a whopping increase of 50 percent in child support collections from $21 billion (yes, that's with a "b") to $31.6 billion. Some of the tactics that states and local jurisdictions have employed to increase child support collection among low-income non-custodial dads include: 

  • Making child support payments more affordable.
  • Reducing and, in some cases, forgiving arrears.
  • Increasing access and visitation.
  • Providing parenting classes so that fathers can become more involved in the lives of their children.

Some states, such as Texas, have gone so far as to reconfigure their entire approach to collecting child support by reorganizing the agencies that collect such payments to focus on providing an array of services that strengthen families. In these states, the financial resources provided by non-custodial fathers is seen as only one of the assets that their children need to thrive. 

But what about non-custodial mothers? I've rarely heard mention of the importance of collecting child support from these non-custodial parents (NCPs). Federal and state efforts include collecting payments from non-custodial mothers because they are NCPs, but there is a dearth of efforts that specifically address them. Is that because:

  • There aren't that many of these NCPs to worry about so that the amount of child support they owe is inconsequential?
  • Custodial dads don't need as much financial help as custodial moms?
  • These NCPs are, as some people might assume, more likely to pay child support because they're moms?

Do the answers to these questions suggest that it's not worth the effort to collect what these moms owe even if it would help custodial dads provide adequate financial resources to their children?

The answer to the first two questions is "no." According to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau, custodial dads were owed $3.7 billion in child support in 2011. While that pales in comparison to the 31.7 billion owed to custodial moms in 2011, it's not an insignificant amount, and it's certainly not insignificant from the perspective of the custodial dads and their children. The rate of poverty among custodial-mom families was almost double that of custodial-dad families. Nevertheless, a significant proportion of custodial-dad families (16.2 percent) lived in poverty while even more were undoubtedly "poor."  

The answer to the third question is where these data get really interesting and, depending on your view when you started to read this post, surprising. A slightly lower percentage of custodial dads (41.4 percent) received all of their child support compared to custodial moms (43.6 percent). Moreover, a significantly higher percentage of custodial dads didn't receive any payments (32 percent) compared to custodial moms (25.1 percent). It's striking that it's as much of a challenge to collect payments from non-custodial moms as it is to collect them from non-custodial dads. The likelihood of paying child support is, at best, gender-neutral.

It should be clear by now that the answer to the final question is a resounding "no." It's worth the effort to collect child support from NCPs regardless of gender. Organizations at the federal, state, and local levels should develop, test, and implement strategies and tactics effective at collecting child support from non-custodial moms and dads while acknowledging that some of these strategies and tactics might need to differ based on gender.

What is your agency doing to ensure that children receive financial resources regardless of which parent has custody?

More on Money and TA for Evaluating Fatherhood Programs

I blogged last week about funds that will soon be available from the federal government via the Fatherhood Research and Practice Network (FRPN) to conduct rigorous evaluations of fatherhood program and about free technical assistance (TA) on evaluating fatherhood programs that will be available from the FRPN.

fatherhood research and practice network money for evaluating fatherhood programsAs a member of the FRPN's steering committee of researchers and practitioners, I have a bit of an inside track (legal insider's information) which allows me to give subscribers to this blog a sneak peak into what the FRPN has in store. 

I noted in last week's blog post that an RFP for the first of several rounds of funding would likely be released in later this summer. I learned yesterday during a steering committee meeting that the RFP will be released next week sometime between June 10th and June 12th. So it's time, as they say, to "get on your horse!" All of the tips I offered last week on how to prepare still apply.

Here is the skinny on this round of funding:

  • $300,000 will be available for 2-4 awards of between $50,000 and $150,000. Each award can last up to 30 months.
  • The first step is to submit a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) by June 30th. (That means you need a really fast horse.)
  • The FRPN will notify applicants by August 15th whether they will be invited to submit a full proposal.
  • Invited applicants must submit a full proposal by September 30th.
  • The FRPN will announce awards by October 31st.

Unfortunately, I can't provide any more details (e.g. specific requirements for the LOI or full proposal) because they're still being tweaked and, frankly, that'd be bad form. The good news is that you have to focus only on completing the LOI by June 30th. LOIs are, typically, just a few pages long. Nevertheless, you will need to have all your ducks in a row so that you can clearly describe your proposed evaluation in the LOI. (Hint: Apply the tips I mentioned and include everything the RFP will require of the LOI.)

The FRPN will release the RFP along with the official launch of the FRPN website (the permanent website link isn't active yet) sometime between June 10th and June 12th. After the website is launched, you'll have the opportunity to sign up for an e-newsletter that will keep you informed about funding and TA available from the FRPN.

Good luck!

Massaged Your Baby Today? Study Says Massage Good for Baby & Dad

Historically, mothers have been the primary caregivers of newborn babies. During the last century, fathers went from being banned from the delivery room to being encouraged to attending the births of their babies.

dads and importance of infant_massage for bondingIn the past, care-giving skills were discouraged for little boys during their early childhood due to gender bias, i.e., playing house and dolls, thus denying them of learning about child-care like little girls do, yet when they had their first baby they were suppose to know what to do. In the past, fathering was not recognized as a contribution to children's well being. Now we know that when a child has a significant bond with their father, this bond contributes greatly to child outcomes. We need to do what we can to create an environment where less children grow up with emotionally uninvolved dads. In other words, children do better physically, emotionally and scholastically when both parents are involved in their lives.  

Why I decided to focus this research on fathers

  1. During the last 100 years research on attachment and bonding focused exclusively on mothers and babies, neglecting fathers based upon the "assumption" that the baby only bonded and attached with the mother. Even though researchers are seeking to correct this, they are going about it the wrong way. Researchers concluded that fathers may not attach to their children the same as mothers based upon a test (Ainsworth Anxiety Test) they were using that was developed on mothers and toddlers nearly a hundred years ago. This is important because traditionally fathers did not have the same access to their babies after birth as those mothers did and were not afforded the opportunity to be with their babies to bond right after birth. Therefore these tests results are not valid, it is not appropriate to use this test on fathers. 
  2. Additionally, as I reviewed Infant Massage research I discovered that there were only two studies in the last 20 years that focused on Fathers Massaging their babies. This lapse is important because it affords fathers an intense experience of bonding with their babies' right after birth. 
  3. While completing this research I realized how fathering or lack of fathering had impacted my own life and that of my children. My own father was not allowed in the birth room when I was born, it was an Army Hospital. The Military would do well to delay deployment of parents until their babies are older to support bonding and attachment.
  4. I raised my own three children as a single mother and the impact on my children of being fatherless increased the challenges of raising children alone. Juggling a family, work and my academic career was a juggling act. I was grateful for the men in my life who stepped up on occasion to interact with my children, men from my church, work, University and who I dated socially. I owe them my gratitude! My son is now a single parent and struggles in a society and school system that often does not understand the challenges of a father raising children alone. 

What did dads in my research tell me? 

Opportunity: Fathers' desired time with their babies however, felt like they were competing for time with their newborn babies. When asked what their motivation was for participating in such a study each father replied, "I don’t have a breast.” The mother of their baby was breastfeeding and according to them "a lot." 

Motivation: Fathers stated they wanted to be "more involved to reduce the mother’s responsibility of caring for their infant" and so they could "bond and attach with their infant.

Soothing: Fathers also said they wanted to "soothe" their baby, to care for their baby in a way that made the baby feel better (cry less) and be more comfortable. 

Bonding: Fathers said they wanted to "bond" with their babies.  

Contribution: Fathers stated they "enjoyed knowing they contributed to the baby’s well-being."  

Sensitivity: Fathers decided, on their own, to change the time of day and what body parts they massaged according to how they baby responded to the massage. 

Competency and Pride: Fathers watched two videos of them massaging their infants and reported they were "proud of themselves and their babies." They saw how they improved in their skills over the three weeks and were delighted with their own results and the knowledge that they had a new care giving skill. 

  • Fathers liked knowing they had time they could spend alone with their babies. 

You can find the full research results in a slide presentation here.

Each of these is a categories is an indicator of attachment and supports the finding that fathers can and do attach to their infants. 

The Big Picture: Why this research is important to fathers

  • It is critical fathers understand that their role as a father is just as important as the mothers' role at the very beginning of their baby's life and they contribute to the well-being of their baby’s social and emotional development. 
  • Fathers need to become proactive in getting time with their infants as soon as they are born. In the long term, this benefits the father, the baby and the mother. 
  • When a mother strokes the baby, it stimulates the neural development and the five sensory systems. Babies learn about their bodies through kinesthetic feedback, and their muscles tell their brains where their hands and feet are located and attached to the rest of their body. Massaging a baby increases the baby’s sense of self and provides an opportunity for fathers to contribute to this process. 

Why Infant Massage levels the playing field 

  1. Mothers attach (emotionally) and bond (physically) with their babies at birth through their senses of touching, hearing, seeing, tasting and smelling.
  2. Fathers attach and bond, however, not immediately at the time of the birth unless afforded the opportunity and access. Infant massage provides this opportunity to bond through a sensory experience for the father and the baby. 
  3. Teaching infant massage to expectant parents provides an introduction to a critical skill set that will enhance these experiences at the time of their baby's birth BECAUSE Infant massage provides the opportunity for attachment and bonding through four of the five senses, thus intensifying the experience. (Have you had a massage?).  

Why Infant Massage is important? 

  • Both the person doing the massage and the person receiving massage benefit. Fathers reported they felt more relaxed after massaging their babies.
  • In previous studies, Mothers reported less symptoms of depression regardless of whether they massaged their own babies or watched their babies being massaged. This was a study with professionals massaging their baby. Can you imagine the impact on the mother if they watch the father of their baby massaging the baby? 
  • According to Scholz, & Samuels, 1992, when fathers massaged their babies, the babies initiated contact with the fathers when they came home from work. Seeking attention from the fathers made fathers feel better about interacting with their babies because the babies showed a preference for the fathers. 
  • Fathers who are divorced have become more involved in the lives of their babies even when they did not live with the babies when afforded time with their babies.
  • Multiple researchers recently found that fathers who massaged their babies stayed involved with their babies after learning to massage their babies.
  • Fathers who massage their babies become more emotionally expressive and approving of their babies. 
  • When either parent has the ability to calm a crying baby, their feelings of being a competent parent increases and their feelings about their baby is more approving.   

What is the benefit for your baby?

  • Babies sleep better and longer!
  • Babies who were in the NICU who were born prematurely were sent home sooner because they gained weight quicker and did better than babies who were not massaged!
  • Babies cried less and showed less symptoms of colic and stress (more relaxed)!

The many benefits of massaging infants are documented in a slide presentation from a Critical Review of the Research I conducted for my preliminary exam in 2010.

Infant massage is very cost effective and provides an opportunity for the father to bond and interact with their infant while reducing the mother's and the infant's stress. Infant Massage is a safe activity for fathers and their babies, no research to date, conducted over the last 25 years, has ever reported harmful effects of massaging babies. 

In conclusion, parents are encouraged to include other siblings in the massage class, as well as, grandparents and other caregivers, so they too can soothe the baby. Massage has been shown to be beneficial for older children, children with special needs and developmental delays. Foster parents, adoptive parents, and adolescent parents also benefit from massaging their babies.

Learn more about infant massage and enjoy the many benefits for you and your baby by visiting Infant Massage USA.

 

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