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The Father Factor

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Are you a New Dad? Tell Us Your Thoughts Today!

We're excited to partner with the fine folks over at What To Expect, the experts on all things mom and pregnancy. We are conducting a survey about pregnancy and baby's first year. We've heard from the moms, now we want to hear from the dads!

WTENFISurveyIf you're a new dad or dad-to-be, please take a moment to respond to a few questions. All of the opinions will be revealed soon in brand new infographic in partnership with the wonderful folks over at What to Expect. Don't worry, dads, we won't use names or faces for with your honest answers!

Questions on the survey range from number of children to asking about thoughts to questions like—well—we can't say too much or we'll mess up the survey. Just go take it, please! 

Hoping for “Style Points” With Baby #2

My wife and I are expecting our second child in April! Woo hoo! But…  

stork

Yes, there is a “but.” For some reason, I am more nervous about child #2 than I was about the first, who is almost 4 years old. Maybe it was the sheer excitement and novelty of a first child that overshadowed any fears or anxiety I may have had. I knew everyone would be stepping in to help. But now that my wife and I are “old hands” at this parenting thing, we won’t need any help with the second child, right?

Part of my anxiety about the coming baby could also stem from the fact that our first son, God bless him, was a VERY difficult baby. He cried all the time. He always had ear infections. He didn’t poop regularly. The list goes on.  

We love our son to death. He is a wonderful, funny, beautiful child. But he was a pain in the neck. And he still is VERY emotional.  

So, as April approaches, I am selfishly hoping for an “easy” baby. I know this wish will come back to haunt me. I am going to have the most difficult child ever. Therefore, it is best that I am prepared, and I understand baby “styles.”  

So, I cracked open a copy of NFI’s Doctor Dad™ Well Child Father’s Handbook, and turned to the page on “Temperament (Style).”  

Here is what I learned.  

It is important to know your baby’s temperament, because it is often a blueprint for what their personality will be for their whole life. I have seen this with our first son – he is very much the same child he was from day 1, just a more mature version.  

Knowing your child’s style will help you temper your expectations and avoid getting frustrated by their behavior. If you know you have a difficult child, when they act difficult it is a little easier to swallow. If you have an easy-going child and he is acting up, it could be an indication that he is getting sick, for example.  

So, here are the three main “styles” of babies:  

The Easy Child

  • This child can easily handle change, in both people and places.
  • This child is biological regular. He eats, pees, and poops on a regular schedule and without much fuss.
  • This child’s intensity level is mostly moderate. She doesn't need much to entertain or comfort her.

The Difficult Child

  • This child is the reverse of the easy baby. This child is “strong willed.”
  • This child finds change difficult and is biologically irregular. She eat, drinks, sleeps, pees, and poops whenever she does or doesn’t want to.
The “Slow to Warm Up” Child
  • This child is shy and is slow to warm up and adapt to change.
  • This child usually cries when faced with change, but the intensity is low and you can calm this child.  

My first son was indeed the difficult baby. Can the stork please deliver an easy one in April?  

What style was your baby? Do you have any advice on handling difficult babies? Please share!


Father-Daughter Bonding: Fears, Myths and Reality

The following is a post from Hugh O. Smith. Hugh is a proud dad, freelance writer and executive at a New York City consulting firm. You can find his blog at hughosmith.com and on Twitter @hughosmith. Interested in blogging a father-son bonding article for us? Read our guest blog guidelines. 

At about 10:00pm on a cold February night I found out I was going to be a father. At 10:01pm, I was a wreck. My biggest concern wasn’t about bringing a baby into our small apartment, or how to pay for the endless procession of stuff a baby needs. It was that I might be a bad father. Every movie or talk show I’d seen with an out-of-control child came back to me in HD. 

Father playing with his happy and smiling baby daughterMy fears intensified a few months later when an ultrasound revealed we were expecting a healthy girl. I was happy she was healthy but the news brought with it a new dimension of worry. What did I know about girls? 

“Perhaps the father’s most difficult challenge today lies in being able to bond with his daughter,” says author Michael Gurian, in The Wonder of Girls.

I knew this all too well. As “only” a dad, could I compete with a mother’s natural bonding mechanisms? Built during pregnancy, this bond would intensify after birth, especially during breastfeeding. According to the New Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding, 2002 American Academy of Pediatrics, “This emotional bond is as vital as the nutritional benefit. Breastfeeding promotes a growing attachment that will continue to play an important role in your baby’s development for years to come.” 

One night as I lay awake my wife stirred as the baby moved and kicked. Instinctively, I placed my hand on her stomach and spoke to my daughter. Amazingly, her restless kicking and moving stopped. That night marked a turning point. I realized that I was far from being “only” the dad. There were things I could do, even at this early stage, to ensure there would be a bond between my daughter and I. It was a huge relief to realize I had only to be myself, love my daughter and the bond would take care of itself.

Bonding myth #1: You’re “only” the dad.

The reality: “A father’s love can make or break a girl,” says Mr. Gurian. A daunting statement made less so when you examine the research. According to Dr. Meg Meeker, author of Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters;

  • Girls who are close to their fathers exhibit less anxiety.
  • Girls with doting fathers are more assertive.
  • Girls with good fathers are less likely to flaunt themselves to seek male attention.

Myth busting strategy: Spend time with her. The proof of how important dads are is on your daughter’s ecstatic face when you return home after a long day and in her hugs when you tell her you love her.


Bonding myth #2:
You have to be perfect.

The reality: You don’t have to be a perfect parent in order to bond. There’ll be times when your child drives you crazy and it seems like you can’t do anything right. Step back and give yourself some breathing room. Realize this is a small blip in the vast radar screen of your lives together. After all, your parents weren’t perfect and you turned out fine.

Myth busting strategy: The intimidating job of parenting becomes easier once you realize mistakes are inevitable. Once I realized that it freed me to be the best father possible and not be so hard on myself.


Bonding myth #3:
I don’t have enough bonding time. Mom gets to stay home with the baby for months and I only get a couple of weeks. I can’t compete.

The reality: Moms and dads often bond on different timetables. While it’s true that the mother-child bond may be facilitated by breastfeeding and a greater amount of time together, the fact is the father-child bond is no less strong or relevant. Bonding takes effort and time, there’s no magic that speeds the process. 

Myth busting strategy: Don’t try to recreate the relationship your daughter has with mom. Dads bring a particular set of skills to the relationship. By creating daddy time early on, your daughter will recognize your unique gifts and come to love them. Walks and errands are great ways to get time alone and serve the dual purpose of giving mom a much-deserved break. Mundane tasks may seem, well, mundane but changing diapers or wiping her face (and yours) when the food goes flying is invaluable in the bonding process.

As dads, we don’t have mom’s soft touch or graceful finesse. We might not know how to make waffles just so, or soothe a boo-boo in mom’s magical way. Often, when we’re out with our daughters, socks are mismatched, colors clash and the hair…well let’s just say it’s good that afros are back in style. Still, a father’s love is no less beautiful. As a dad, I know that I am the most important man in my daughter’s life, her first love, guide, and protector. Our daughters need our strength and wisdom to help navigate the long-winding road from the little girl who squeals with delight when you throw her in the air, to the poised, confident woman she will become. If we support and love them unflinchingly, there is nothing our amazing girls cannot accomplish.

iStockPhoto

Teach Your Own Child To Swim—Or Let A Swim Teacher Do It?

The following is a post from Becky Flanigan. Becky writes for PoolCenter.com and is married with 3 kids and 2 golden retrievers. So she knows a thing or two about kids and swimming! Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

Parents of young children will have to address the issue of their child learning how to swim. The question then becomes – who can do a better job of teaching the child to swim – the parent, or a swim instructor? A parent can do a lot to prepare their child for the water. On the other hand, a swim instructor can teach swimming strokes and advanced lessons more thoroughly.

No Swimming

So which way is best – the parent teacher, or swim instructor lessons?

Why not do both? Have the parent start the process, and then finish with swim lessons.

Preparing the toddler. According to Parents.com, a parent can do a lot for a child to get them more comfortable with the water. It is recommended that formal lessons not begin until age 4 – when a child has physically developed enough to stay afloat. Up to that age, a parent can spend time allowing the child to get used to being in the water. While holding the child at all times, the parent can let a baby splash in the water, bob around, and play gentle games in the water. Aside from bonding time, the child begins to develop a positive attitude about water.

When the child is a bit older. By age 2 to 3 years, the child may be more active and curious in the water – but will still need to be held at all times. The parent can allow the child reach for a ball, kick his legs and begin learning to float. As the child learns to blow bubbles in the water, he’s learning to get his face wet without ingesting water. Pool safety can be addressed – emphasizing not running at the pool, and only going into the water with the parent.

It’s time for lessons. By the time a child is 4 to 5 years old, they should have developed the coordination needed to swim by themselves. They should be able to float independently, submerge their head under water for several seconds, and go from a standing to swimming position without help. As well, research for PoolCenter.com revealed that children should be able to glide through the water, and begin to use coordinated movements with their arms and legs.

The advantages of lessons. Bonding with your child while teaching them water skills can be fun, but there are some significant reasons to sign up for swim lessons. As described by 247moms, there are a number of benefits of swim lessons:

  • Proper techniques taught by experienced instructors. While a parent may be limited in their knowledge of proper swim techniques, an instructor who has been certified knows the proper swimming strokes and how to teach them.
  • Reducing the fear of water. Lessons can help the child develop skills which will reduce their fear of water. A child who has to sit by the side of the pool while others swim is only adding to fears they might have about the water. With a solid knowledge of swimming strokes, that fear is reduced.
  • Building confidence. An experienced instructor who is committed to the success of their students can greatly increase a child’s self confidence, by helping them master swimming skills, and by honoring each success.
  • Promoting physical activity. By developing swim skills, swim lessons encourage a child into a more active  lifestyle than sitting in front of the TV playing video games. Especially if those lessons are taught in a group, they model how fun water activities can be, and encourage social development.
  • Reduced chances of drowning. The American Academy of Pediatrics has done research which suggests that kids who had formal swim training had lower chances of drowning.

Especially during the baby and toddler years, there are many things a parent can do to promote their child’s enjoyment of the water. Once that child has reached 4 to 5 years of age, swim lessons with an experienced instructor build a child’s abilities and confidence, preparing them for a lifetime of safe enjoyment of the water.

Parents: Who taught you how to swim?

Becky Flanigan was an English major in college, and now uses those skills when writing freelance articles for PoolCenter.com. She spends many happy hours at the family swimming pool, watching the kids and dogs splash and play.

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Special Rate for Dads Club™ Now Through Father's Day: $20!

 MADE POSSIBLE BY DOVE® MEN+CARE™" target="_blank">Join or Give the Gift of the Dads Club™ > MADE POSSIBLE BY DOVE® MEN+CARE

Are you proud to be a dad? Do you want to promote responsible fatherhood in society? Are you looking for a community of other committed dads? Then the Dads Club™ is the place for you!  

dads club national fatherhood initiative

With a one-time $20 (regular price is $35) membership fee, you get an awesome set of Dads Club™ "swag" - including a set of men's grooming products from Dove® Men+Care™ - and can connect with other Dads Club™ members who care about fatherhood. 

Plus, your membership fee supports National Fatherhood Initiative's mission to create a world in which every child has a 24/7 Dad℠!

Exclusive Dads Club Member Benefitsdescribe the image

  • Gift from Dove® Men+Care™ - the latest products from Dove® Men+Care™ provide superior grooming maintenance for men by caring for their skin, face and hair
  • Dads Club™ t-shirt - to proudly sport your commitment to fatherhood
  • Dads Club™ photo magnet - to hold a picture of your kids
  • A 5-pack set of NFI's Dad's Pocket Guide™ - pocket-sized advice for dads - share some with other dads you know!
  • "No Ifs" commitment band - to remind yourself that being there for your kids is an unconditional decision
  • Exclusive monthly e-newsletter for Dads Club™ members - featuring tips for dads, member spotlights, and special messages from Dove® Men+Care™!
  • NFI's twice-weekly Dad Email™ - practical tips, resources, and ideas for dads
Moms: Get the dad in your life the perfect Father's Day gift—you know he needs a new shirt and products to make him smell fresh!
 
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The 4 Magical Steps to Making Your Child a Winner in Life

At NFI Headquarters, we call him the “24/7 Dad.” If you hang around us long enough, you'll hear us talk about how we think every child needs one. What we're really talking about is an involved, responsible and committed father. A dad who knows his role in the family. One who understands he is the model for his sons on how to be a good man. Likewise, if he has daughters, he models what they should look for in a husband and father for their children.

communicating with child, fathering tipsIn our fathering handbooks and training programs, there are four ways we think every responsible father should interact with their child. These four steps come with a guarantee: if you implement them, you will be a 24/7 Dad!

If you do these four things, you'll be the dad who communicates his thoughts, feelings, and actions on a daily basis in a way that respects others. Say this aloud: "The problems with communication start with me and no one else." Repeat this to yourself. Now, you're ready for the four magical steps!

1. You Should Encourage Your Child. 
Kids can sometimes send themselves bad messages. As your child grows, he or she may learn to think and say things like they’re no good, they’re not smart, they’re too short or too tall.They hear these messages from friends, from parents, and pick them up from watching TV and on that ole world wide web. Teach your child to send good messages to himself, such as “I’m smart,” “I’m going to do well on this test,” “I can become anything I want to become.” This is a skill that will last a lifetime. Odds are good that if you are doing this for yourself—it will come out in your words to your children. So get yourself in front of a mirror alla Stuart Smalley (google "Daily Affirmation With Stuart Smalley" after reading this post) if you must. 

2. You Should Honor Your Child's Wants. 
Kids are by nature the most impatient human beings alive—rivaled only by teens. Kids want things or want to do things the exact moment it enters their minds. My beautiful and precious daughters will ask for a cup of milk and wonder why the cup of milk doesn't appear in their hands as they are making the request for said milk. Kids don’t like
to wait. Depending on the age of your child, you can try telling him or her that you hear what they want and that you know it’s important to them.

Hearing what someone says honors them. This doesn’t mean that you give in to their every wish, only that you hear them. Check in to make sure you know what they want and then respond. Hearing what they want will “soften the blow” in case you need to tell them they can’t have it, can't do the thing they want, or that they’ll have to wait longer for what they want.

3. You Should Avoid Bad Labels.
Don’t give your children a bad label based on what they want, say, or do. Dads often label what they want, say, or do as bad, lazy, dumb, and crazy. Worse, Dads often label their children as bad, lazy, dumb, and spoiled to describe their children as a whole. Bad labels only create more of what you don’t want to see.

When your children want, say, or do something you don’t agree with, don’t put a label on it. Here's an example of what not to say, “That’s dumb to want a bike right now.” Instead say, “I understand you want a bike right now. Bikes are awesome. Your dad loves bikes. Let's try and get you a bike in a few weeks. There are some things a rider of bikes must do in order to get a bike.” Okay, you get the point. Good labels will create more of what you want to see. Labels such as good, smart, special, and caring will go a long way to helping you and your child enjoy your talks. 

Bad labels only create more of what you don’t want to see. When your children want, say, or do something you don’t agree with, avoid putting a label on it.  

4. You Should Focus on Teaching Your Child.
This step isn’t as easy for us dads. We can tear down our children after our children do something wrong; or, we can point out what our children did wrong again and again without saying what our children did correctly. This approach doesn’t help our child learn from his or her mistakes.

If you don't point out the good a child does, the child will most likely only hear the bad labels instead of seeing the lessons. When your children do something wrong, ask, “What did you learn?” or “What should you do differently the next time?” If your child doesn't see the lesson, point it out after you give him a chance to say what he learned. This approach honors your child and makes it more likely he will listen to you. Besides, you might be surprised at how much your child will learn from his own mistake. Use this tip not only when your child does something wrong, use it when they do something right. Perhaps he can do even better the next time.

What's missing from this list? What have you found really works in talking with your child? Age specific examples are always appreciated!

This post was excerpted and adapted from NFI's 24/7 Dad resource. Connect with The Father Factor by RSSFacebook and on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

photo credit: liveitupwithus

How to be a Horrible Dad

Let’s face it; connecting with your child is difficult. It’s much easier to be a horrible dad. NFI is here to help you be the best at being horrible. Here are five tried and true ways to be a horrible father to your children.

horrible dad

Please share your ideas of how to be a horrible dad in the comment section.

1) The Horrible Dad ALWAYS Works Late. 

There are folks who say, “Meals are the perfect time to connect with family.” Well, not if your goal is to be a horrible father. Forget mealtimes and stay late at work. Typically, the horrible dad is great “yes man.” Your boss needs something? Great, you can do it—you’re a horrible dad to your children. There’s nothing of importance at home for you. Heck, spend time after work socializing with old friends and colleagues. Because what’s more important than connecting with coworkers you already see all day for five days per week?! Answer: nothing. Nothing is more important for you, horrible dad.

2) The Horrible Dad Talks About Himself ALL the Time.
If you end up making it home before 8pm, be sure you talk to your kids and spouse about your day at work and never ask your family about their day. There’s so much that can be learned about dad during family mealtime. You filed a TPS report today? Awesome. Your family really cares and wants to know every detail. You can also use dinner to argue with all family members present. Trust us, it’s what horrible dads do, and you can do it too! Your kids can learn so many things from you about selfishness at mealtime, which they can carry into adulthood.

3) The Horrible Dad Thinks READING to His Child is a CHORE.

Reading to your kids takes time and effort. The horrible father need not worry about this problem. 
From dads with younger kids to dads with college-aged kids, reading should NOT be a major part of the horrible dad’s life. Wouldn’t it be great for your kids to think of their dad as a lover of books?! Nope, says the horrible dad. Imagine talking with your high school or university student about a character from the same book they are reading—because you’re reading it with them! “Ha, that’s hilarious,” thinks the horrible dad!

4) The Horrible Dad ONLY Cares About His Interests.
You have a daughter who likes playing with Barbie dolls? Well, you think Barbie dolls are silly so you can’t spend time playing with them. The horrible dad only cares about what he likes. From watching his favorite movies and TV shows, you don’t waste time on something you don’t like. Be intentional about hating whatever your kids like. Have a son who plays with blocks? Boring. You get extra points for only talking about things that interest you at the dinner table.

5) The Horrible Dad NEVER Spends One-On-One Time with His Kids.
Listen up, dads. To be a truly horrible dad, be sure you NEVER connect one-on-one with your children. Good dads have reported that this is the best way to connect with their children. The horrible dad doesn’t bother taking his son or daughter out for ice cream. Taking a walk to discuss life with your teen? Who has time for that when you could be practicing your golf swing or working late?! Again, just another thing the horrible dad doesn’t have to think about.

What’s one thing from this list that you need to work on? Talk to us on social using #247Dad.

 

photo credit: dontshoot.me!

7 Things a Great Dad Knows

We're already midway through January; if you're like us, you're in disbelief! However, we're still committed to helping you be the best dad you can be in 2013! After our first post for "New Year, New Dad!;" hopefully you've had time to reflect on your goals and are ready to tackle the year. In hopes of making sure your goals are in check and you've considered everything you need to for your family, use the seven questions below to help you assess the needs of your family and be sure you're setting the right goals for the coming year.

Here are seven questions that great dads ask themselves:

1. A Great Dad Knows the Importance of Improving His Family.
Take the time to write down three things and post them in an area where they can be easily referenced. These things can be areas of weakness or things that you simply want to do more. These areas of improvement need not be statements; simply write one word to help you keep the ideas in mind this year. 

2. A Great Dad Knows the Importance of Communicating with His Spouse/Ex-Spouse.
This will be much easier if your living with your child's mother. But admittedly, it's often easy to not communicate with your child's mother regardless of where she resides! Be intentional about asking your spouse what she thinks of your goals and work together to agree about those goals. Single dads: the idea here is to work toward being on the same page as your ex-spouse with where you want to take the family regarding goals.

3. A Great Dad Knows What His Child Needs.
If you're a new dad, or the father of a teenager, you may find your children have different needs. Assess what those needs are by age. If we make goals at all, we tend to focus on ourselves. Be sure you are considering where your children are in developement when creating goals and making plans. For instance, you will find your travel plans change drastically depending on the age of your children. 

4. A Great Dad Knows His Child's Favorite Experiences.
Ask your children what their favorite memory was for 2012 and begin brainstorming other similar activities you can do this year. Work to create a time, perhaps over dinner, to let the kids not only talk about their favorite memories but come up with a list of things they would enjoy doing this year.

5. A Great Dad Knows His Schedule. 
A schedule is beneficial for children and parents. Consider stopping unnecessary routines and starting better ones. This may be one of the most difficult steps in the process. The point here is to reflect on your daily or weekly routine and see where changes could be made.

6. A Great Dad Knows His Family's Schedule. 
With school, dance, theater, and/or sports in full effect, check in with your family on how they are handling things. As a leader in the home, create appointments with yourself on your calendar to remind you about checking in periodically. It's too easy to get too busy and often consider EVERYTHING as IMPORTANT when in reality, not everything is important. Depending on your assessment, consider cutting back on activities as a family.

7. A Great Dad Makes Time for His Family. 
Schedule time each day to be intentional about being face to face with your spouse. Additionally, be intentional about being face to face with your kids daily. Of course this isn't easy. Strive to be creative and caring this year. If you can change daily routines with family priorities in mind, you'll notice a difference in your marriage and/or relationships with your kids.

Knowing these things will help you focus on being the best dad you can be this year. What would you add to this list?

Top Posts of 2012: #2 — Is Your Child a Match or a Torch?

matchThe Father Factor Blog closes out the year with our top posts of 2012! We've enjoyed talking parenting tips and tools this year with you. Today is our second most popular blog post of 2012!

Excerpt from the blog:

My son was sitting in his car seat as we drove home from day care at the end of a long day. He was holding his lunch bag in his hand. He always has to have something in this hand… Then, something about the lunch bag suddenly annoyed him, so he frantically threw it down, it landed on his legs, and he kicked vigorously to make sure it ended up on the floor of the car. Then he was quiet. We listened to music in silence for the rest of the 15-minute drive home. 

This happens a lot with Little Vinny. He is a bundle of emotions, needing only the slightest prompt for him to erupt into an emotional – happy, sad, angry, annoyed – storm for the next… 5 seconds.

Yes, it is true. My son has the shortest emotional outbursts I have ever seen in a human being. He is a “match.” Doesn’t take much to light it, it burns bright and hot for a few seconds, and then it is out, with little sign that anything ever happened.

But I have also heard stories of two-year-olds who are not matches, but “torches.” They are not set off too easily, but when they are, they burn for a long time. They stew and fuss and are moody and unbearable for minutes or hours.

What is your child – a match or a torch? What do you think is easier to handle for parents?

Read the full blog post: Is Your Child a Match or a Torch?

Tell us: Which blog post did you like the most in 2012?

photo credit: Leo Reynolds

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Top Posts of 2012: #3 — 8 Things About Disciplining Your Child

disciplineThe Father Factor Blog is closing out the year by revisiting some of our most popular blogs of 2012! We've enjoyed talking parenting tips and tools this year with you. Today is our third most popular blog post of 2012!

From the blog:

Discipline comes from the Latin word “discipulus” meaning “to teach; to guide.” Punishment means to “penalize” for doing something wrong. Sometimes, these get mixed up with each other, resulting in a less than ideal outcome for our children. Therefore, it’s vital us parents know the following eight things about disciplining our children. 

1. Know Your Discipline Style

  • The Dictator. This Dad is always strict and never nurtures. His children know what he doesn’t want them to do, but rarely what he wants them to do. This Dad says, “My way or the highway.”
  • The King. This Dad is strict and nurtures when needed. His children know what he doesn’t want them to do, as well as what he wants them to do. This Dad says, “Let me show you the way.”
  • The Joker. This Dad is never strict and rarely nurtures. He jokes a lot and makes fun of his children. His children don’t know what he doesn’t want them to do or what he wants them to do. This Dad says, “Let’s just have fun.”
  • The Follower. This Dad is sometimes strict and sometimes nurtures. He lets Mom take the lead on discipline and backs her up when needed. His children know some of things he doesn’t want them to do and some of the things he does want them to do. This Dad says, “Do whatever Mom says.”
  • The Dreamer. This Dad is never strict and never nurtures. He lets Mom take the lead on discipline and doesn’t get involved with it. His children don’t know what he wants them to do or what he wants them to do. This Dad says, “Whatever. Just leave me alone.”

2. Know the Family Rules
Clear communication is vital for understanding right and wrong in your house. You will need to establish clear boundaries for your home.

3. Know Your Reward Options
Many Dads believe discipline means “to control” rather than “to teach or to guide.” As a result, they use fear when they punish. We give examples of rewards in the full blog post. But things like praising your child for correct behavior, certain freedoms like stayin up later at night or reading an extra story at bedtime may prove helpful.

4. Know Your Punishment Options
When the time for punishment happens, it’s vital dads know they have options. We give several examples in the full blog post, but in short, things like actually saying you're disappointed and making your child right the wrong by apologizing for wrong done to someone can go a long way toward teaching your child instead of simply punishing.

5. Know Difference Between Discipline and Punishment
Many Dads define discipline as punishment. In other words, they don’t see punishment as a way to discipline in certain situations. They see punishment and discipline as the same thing.

6. Know Difference Between the Action and the Actor
Always focus on the “Action” not the “Actor.” Talk about what your child did. It’s okay, for example, to say that your child did something “bad” as long as you don’t say your child is “bad” for doing it. Keep the focus on the action.

We offer age-specific ideas for new dads learning to discipline, for kids and for teens in the full blog post.

7. Know the “Why” of Discipline

Always explain why your child is being disciplined. Discipline is meant to guide your child and to teach a lesson. It’s essential you explain to your child why they have to sit in their room or give up TV.

8. Know How to End with Love
No matter what, never end with the discipline; always end with love. Hug your child and let him or her know you are disciplining out of love. 

Read the full blog post for more detailed tips: 8 Things to Know About Disciplining Your Child

Tell us: Which blog post did you like the most in 2012?

photo credit: o5com 


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Raising a Thankful Child in 4 Easy Steps

If you've been a parent for longer than one second, you understand children have a way of not being satisfied. Most likely, your child will not come out of the womb as a grateful child. And when she learns to speak, her first words will probably not be "please" or "thank you" -- this is life. Trust me on this one, I write from a few years of experience. The time will come when your child isn't satisfied. You bought the green toy -- she wanted the pink -- and only the pink will do!

raising thankful child

Aside from throwing your hands up and saying, "forget it, we have birthed an ungrateful child who will never be thankful!" Take comfort in knowing you are not alone. I repeat: You are not alone. While your child may currently display ungrateful tendencies, he dosen't have to be ungrateful forever. With care and teaching, your daughter or son can learn to be an upstanding lady or gentleman.

How we show thankfulness is vital to whether our children will act and treat others with gratitude. When it comes to teaching your child to be thankful, Gandhi's teaching comes in handy, "Be the change you want to see in the world." Check out our four tips on how to raise a thankful child.

  1. Model Thankfulness. Say "please," "thanks" and "you're welcome" every day. Be sure this vocabulary is used by you and in your home. Parent, if you want your kids to be thankful, they have to see it first. I'm reminded of the saying, "Good manners are not only taught, they can be caught." It's vital that you not only teach your child to say "thank you" and "please" every day and at various moments, you must also use these words yourself. Thank your child for doing his chores well. Make sure your kids, hear you say "Thank you" to their mother. Don't limit thanks for actions - thank your family for being kind, patient, caring, or whatever character quality you notice about them that day.
  2. The "Thankful" Talk. During dinner or in the car driving to and from an activity, ask each member of the family what they were most thankful for that day. Make asking a daily habit. Taking a moment to reflect on the day will help everyone find something positive, even if it was a tough day. Plus, it will give you extra insight into what's going on in your child's life. As the parent, be the one to always stir the conversation to the positive side and give encouragement. Remember the objective of this conversation -- you're teaching your child to be thankful!
  3. Advertise Your Thankfulness. Hang a dry-erase board in a prominent place in your home and call it "The Thankful Board." I once worked at a company that had a "Kudos" board for its employees. This provided a great way to create an environment of encouragement and thankfulness. You can have your family write messages on the board to either say thanks to each other for something big or small. Also, you can use it to share something to your family for which they are thankful.
  4. Teach Thankfulness. Help your child understand why it is important to say "thank you." Explain to your child the "why" behind the "what." Of course, how much you explain will depend on the age of your child, but the point here is to not simply demand and be a dictator, but to teach your child why being thankful is important. With your teenager, try asking how he feels when someone says "thank you" to him. Use this time as a opportunity to teach him that other people also want to feel noticed, appreciated, and valued and that saying "thank you" makes someone else feel happy.

What one thing will you work on that will model thankfulness to your child today?

ThanksDad

Visit our "Thanks, Dad!" page for more on how you can connect with your family and other dads just like you! Don't forget to say, "Thanks, Dad!" by recording a video, sharing a picture or writing a short note commenting on this blog, Facebook or on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

photo credit: Vermin Inc 

8 Things To Know About Disciplining Your Child

Discipline comes from the Latin word “discipulus” meaning “to teach; to guide.” Punishment means to “penalize” for doing something wrong. Sometimes, these get mixed up with each other, resulting in a less than ideal outcome for our children. Therefore, it’s vital us parents know the following eight things about disciplining our children.

8 things to know about disciplining your child discipline1. Know Your Discipline Style

  • The Dictator. This Dad is always strict and never nurtures. His children know what he doesn’t want them to do, but rarely what he wants them to do. This Dad says, “My way or the highway.”
  • The King. This Dad is strict and nurtures when needed. His children know what he doesn’t want them to do, as well as what he wants them to do. This Dad says, “Let me show you the way.”
  • The Joker. This Dad is never strict and rarely nurtures. He jokes a lot and makes fun of his children. His children don’t know what he doesn’t want them to do or what he wants them to do. This Dad says, “Let’s just have fun.”
  • The Follower. This Dad is sometimes strict and sometimes nurtures. He lets Mom take the lead on discipline and backs her up when needed. His children know some of things he doesn’t want them to do and some of the things he does want them to do. This Dad says, “Do whatever Mom says.”
  • The Dreamer. This Dad is never strict and never nurtures. He lets Mom take the lead on discipline and doesn’t get involved with it. His children don’t know what he wants them to do or what he wants them to do. This Dad says, “Whatever. Just leave me alone.”

When considering which discipline style you most associate with, ask yourself, “Is this the best style for my children/my family/my involvement?” And consider something more middle of the road.

2. Know the Family Rules
Clear communication is vital for understanding right and wrong in your house. You will need to establish clear boundaries for your home. We have written about Creating Family Rules in the past. Check them out and consider adding rules in your home today.

3. Know Your Reward Options
Many Dads believe discipline means “to control” rather than “to teach or to guide.” As a result, they use fear when they punish. It’s vital you know your child and what he/she considers a reward when it comes to discipline. 

Some examples of rewards include:

  • Praise: Tell your child how much you like their correct behavior and that they’re a good person for doing it.
  • Encouraging Touch: Give your child a hug, pat on the back, or high five. It's never too early to teach your child the fistbump.
  • Freedoms: Give your child a new freedom she or he can do one time or all of the time, such as stay up or out later, read an extra story at bedtime, have a bowl of ice cream, or money for doing an extra chore.
  • Gifts: Give your child a toy, stickers or some extra cash.

4. Know Your Punishment Options
When the time for punishment happens, it’s vital dads know they have options. Some examples include:

  • Say You’re Disappointed: Tell your children you expect more of them, and you expect them to behave the right way.
  • Pay it Back: Tell your child to make up for bad behavior, such as paying for breaking something, doing the behavior they were supposed to do in the first place, or saying they’re sorry to someone they hurt.
  • Take a break: Tell your child to sit in a corner, on the couch, or go to their room for a short period of time. This works best with children under the age of 10.
  • Grounding: Don’t let your child leave the house for some period of time. Grounding works best with teens.
  • Take Away a Freedom: Remove a freedom for a period of time or forever.

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

5. Know Difference Between Discipline and Punishment
Many Dads define discipline as punishment. In other words, they don’t see punishment as a way to discipline in certain situations. They see punishment and discipline as the same thing. Discipline means to teach or guide. Punishment means to “penalize” for doing something wrong.

6. Know Difference Between the Action and the Actor
Always focus on the “Action” not the “Actor.” Talk about what your child did. It’s okay, for example, to say that your child did something “bad” as long as you don’t say your child is “bad” for doing it. Keep the focus on the action.

Here are ideas for age-specific discipline:

For Dads of Infants and Toddlers:

  • Discipline as a way to protect: At this age, guidance and discipline are about protecting your little one from hurting themselves. Say “no” firmly, but not harshly, when your child does something dangerous and move him or her away from the object or area immediately.
  • Consistency is important: Be consistent with enforcing the boundaries you set in your home – inconsistency will confuse your child and give him the “ok” to push the limits if he thinks he can get away with it.  

For Dads of School-Aged Children:

  • Discipline as a way to nurture: When your child does something inappropriate, talk with him or gently about why the behavior was wrong – explain how it hurt other people, or is rude.  
  • Take a break if you’re frustrated: Never discipline out of anger. Do your best to always discipline calmly.
  • Make the discipline fit the child: Different children will respond to discipline differently. One of your children might learn better through being deprived of a privilege (such as watching TV or a favorite toy); another child might respond more to being sent to his or her room or having to do extra chores.

For Dads of Teenagers:

  • Discipline as a way to guide: At this point, your teen is becoming an adult and wants to be treated as such. You still need to be your teen’s parent, not best friend, and that means setting rules to help your teen make good decisions and firmly enforcing consequences when those rules are violated.  
  • Let them make mistakes: While your teen still needs to honor your family’s rules, giving your teen the freedom to make their own choices can be a valuable learning experience. Always make sure your words and actions communicate to your teen that you will always love them even if they make mistakes.

7. Know the “Why” of Discipline
Always explain why your child is being disciplined. Discipline is meant to guide your child and to teach a lesson. It’s essential you explain to your child why they have to sit in their room or give up TV. It’s the lesson you teach them through the discipline that is most important.

8. Know How to End with Love
No matter what, never end with the discipline; always end with love. Hug your child and let him/her know you are disciplining out of love.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about disciplining your child?

Image: iStockPhoto

5 Questions Every Father Should Ask Himself

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

dadandchild320 resized 600In our fathering handbooks and training, there are five questions we think every responsible father should answer. As you read, ask yourself these questions. These five questions come with a guarantee: if you answer each one honestly and take action, you will become a 24/7 Dad!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dad, what questions would you add to this list?

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

Feeding Fish? Take the Nightcrawlers. Leave the Fake Bait.

I cheapened fishing for my daughters. New Dads, learn from my mistake. Don't use artificial bait on your first fishing trip with your kids. I don't know what I was thinking. In my attempt to curb drama and avoid the Sanders Beauties seeing a nightcrawler and jumping headfirst into the lake, my girls’ interest in fishing may be forever scarred.

bgfisin resized 600From now on, when I take the girls fishing, they will get the full fishing experience. They will use real worms. This way, even if no fish are caught, they will still remember something interesting about the experience.

This was the first fishing trip with my two young daughters. We picked our spot on the dock and started readying ourselves to fish. Then came the ducks. Except to call these ducks “ducks” isn’t descriptive enough. Let’s call them “starving ducks.” So the starving ducks, no sooner than we sat down with our fishing gear, headed our way from the center of the lake.

Not only were these ducks starving. They were large. When I say “large” I mean the size of my second-born. These large, starving ducks decided we weren’t feeding them at the correct pace and jumped on the dock to eat our breadcrumbs faster, or eat my youngest daughter. Either way, after all the duck commotion, my five-year-old had readied herself to make her first cast.

To be sure Bella knew how to cast, I did a practice cast to show her how a professional does it. On that cast, something broke inside the fishing pole and the hook landed on the side of the dock. Five minutes in and we have starving, large ducks on the attack and a broken fishing pole…nice.

After spending a good 10 minutes (reminder: 10 minutes is 100 minutes in toddler time) dissembling and dissecting the Shakespeare Barbie Fishing Pole, we have working fishing poles and the ducks are starting to scatter. I didn’t get video, but Bella’s first cast was video worthy. Her cast was absolutely breath-taking; just like she had practiced in our house (yeah, that’s a separate blog post).

No sooner than the floater-thingy landed on the water, the starving, large ducks decided to try and eat my second-born. Now, no ducks were harmed on this fishing trip, but I may have cast in their direction a few times, to keep them safe. My youngest called it “hitting the ducks on the head” but I promise the number of duck heads hit on my watch was zero.

Maybe 10 minutes goes by, we get zero bites. The ducks were starving but the fish weren't. The duck-drama has mellowed out and boredom begins to seep in.

Dads of older kids, perhaps you’ve forgotten, but a five-year-old and a two-year-old at a lake with fishing poles doesn’t mathematically work unless something interesting is happening. If nothing interesting -- like catching fish -- is happening, the kids get bored really quickly and start thinking of things to toss in the body of water appearing in front of them. 

In an effort to keep the intensity and interest up about actually fishing in the lake instead of wanting to swim or toss objects in the lake, we decide to locate a second port of call on the lake. We find this great wooden dock. It’s perfect. Gabby learns to cast like her sister. Well, sort of; she caught the wooden dock and nearly submerged her fishing pole. She's the only one who can say she caught something on this trip.

The story doens't end there. On the return walk home, I’m carrying fishing poles and my wife wants to exchange fishing poles so I can carry our youngest. In our exchange, my wife gets pierced in the hand with both hooks from the fishing poles. Thus making our perfect fishing trip even better.

Once home and settled, the conversation with my five-year-old went like this:

Me: “Bella, did you have fun fishing?!”

Bella: “It wasn’t so great. It was boring.”

Me: “Did you like anything about fishing?!”

Bella: “No.”

That was the entire conversation. Maybe the evening would have been better spent watching Ice Age for the fifty-eleventh time. Bella was “bored” and we didn’t catch anything but bug bites, a wooden deck and mommy’s hand. But as the wise man Trace Adkins sings about spending time fishing with his young daughter, “...she thinks we're just fishing.”

I’m glad my wife and I managed to keep a five- and two-year-old dry and alive on our first fishing trip. Aside from Bella having a “not so great” time (as evidenced by the smiling picture above) and my lovely wife suffering minor injuries. We spent time connecting and creating a memory that will last for years. I agree with Mr. Adkins on fishing, “I better do this every chance I get...'cause time is ticking.”

But next time I'll remember -- take the nightcrawlers, leave the fake bait.

What did you do this week to connect with your kids?

This fishing trip was part of week one’s challenge to Gold Medal Dads to "Spend Time With Their Kids" from The Dad Games 2012.

dad games 12

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