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Spotlight > Washington State Dept of Corrections Teaches Fathers from Prison [Video]

I often complain about all that's broken with America's "corrections" system. But, after seeing this video, I know one correctional officer living up to the title. Imagine a uniformed correctional officer getting off work, changing into his normal street clothes, and then volunteering to teach dads how to be better dads from prison. That's who you will meet in this post. Read and watch how Washington State Department of Corrections is connecting father to family.

Screen_Shot_2015-08-24_at_3.32.58_PMYou know about the father absence crisis in America and you know a big part of this crisis is Fathers Behind Bars, but here's a few reminders:

  • There are 2.7 million children with a parent in prison or jail.
  • Ninety-two percent (92%) of parents in prison are fathers. 
  • 650,000+ ex-offenders are released from prison every year.
  • Two-thirds of ex-offenders, or 429,000, will likely re-offend within three (3) years.

This problem is one the Department of Corrections in Washington State is addressing. On any given evening, you'll find dads meeting to talk fatherhood and family.

"There's no facilitators. There's no students. What it is is 16 participants trying to become better dads and learning about ourselves." —Joseph Nunan (Correctional Officer, Washington State Penitentiary)

Can't view the video? Watch here.

Derrick Jones, an offender in the Washington State Penitentiary says of the Inside Out Dad® Program:

Primarily, the program is really geared toward men learning to communicate. Really, learning how to communicate with our children, learning how to communicate with ourselves, reflect back on our past, and try to understand why I think the way that I think.

The InsideOut Dad® Program is offered at several prisons in Washington State. The goal of the program is to offer the skills that fathers in prison need to help connect them to their children and families—both while in prison and once released.

We are encouraged by Officer Nunan and what he has to say:  

What the program does is to let the inmates know why they're there, to make them understand what happened to them to get there, and to be able to say you've got things to offer to your children. 

Can you imagine the sense of purpose this can give to father behind bars? To understand that he matters. That he can correct mistakes made in life. That he can work to restore what may be broken in his family or with his child.

The video shows John Radzikowski, a volunteer, explain the importance of having a program like InsideOut Dad® for inmates:

The prison culture itself does not allow for men to talk about their children in an intimate way. What this has done is we can together collectively to talk about our parenting, and not only our parenting skills, but also if we had parents in our own lives. And what that led to is dealing with issues of the heart.

In the West Complex, the correctional officers who volunteer for InsideOut Dad® come in plain clothes, during non-work hours, and they volunteer their time to help these dads become better fathers.

Officer Nunan says of the program:

We can see a direct correlation between this course and the inmate attitudes on the outside of this course...There's a positivity in there (during a program session) that I never expected. And it's something that should be harnessed and encouraged to grow.

We agree with you, Officer Nunan. This program should be encouraged to grow!

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Whether you work in corrections or would like to volunteer leading dads to be better dads, you can download the free sample > InsideOut Dad®


InsideOut Dad® is the nation's only evidence-based fatherhood program designed specifically for incarcerated fathers. Please consider volunteering to help connect father to family.

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

Netflix's New Parental Leave Policy Lacks Teeth

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

While we should applaud Netflix's recent announcement of paid parental leave of up to one year for moms and dads after the birth or adoption of a child, it lacks the teeth and innovation necessary to encourage dads to take full advantage of this progressive policy and for Netflix to reap its full potential.

Netflix-logo
Netflix's policy is good for dads, families and our country. It sends a strong message in a country that's far behind others in providing paid parental leave, especially to dads. It recognizes that dads:

  • Spend more time than ever in the daily care of their children.
  • Provide more care to their children after they return to work when they the take more time off from work after the birth or adoption of a child.
  • Are more conflicted than moms in their attempt to balance work and family.
  • Are more likely than moms to scale back at home when they experience family demands and work overload.

Perhaps most important, it recognizes that more involved dads increase the well-being of children, mothers, families and communities.

Netflix's policy is also good for Netflix. Many dads fear taking advantage of parental leave and other work-family benefits. Despite these fears, when dads balance work and family, they are more productive employees who advance farther and faster in their careers. Involved dads--especially Millennial dads--are less fearful of the impact of balancing work and family. They demand jobs that provide paid parental leave. This demand from the newest dads is why it's no surprise that tech companies like Netflix lead the way in providing paid parental leave.

The challenge for Netflix is how to encourage dads to take full advantage of this policy. Dads are not moms. They require efforts that speak specifically to them--that meet their needs and wants as dads broadly and within the context of work-family balance. Dads are much less likely than moms to take parental leave. While 90 percent of dads in the U.S. take some time off from work, most of them take a week or less off.

To help their dads and the company, Netflix must give the policy the teeth it needs. Netflix must proactively encourage dads to take time off. Nothing in Netflix's announcement--or other commentary on the potential challenges of successfully implementing this policy--suggests that it is anything but a passive one. It lacks innovative tactics--any tactics, for that matter--that will give it a better chance to hold value and succeed with dads. This failure to recognize the need for an innovative, proactive effort to encourage dads to take full advantage of the policy is somewhat surprising given that Netflix is synonymous with innovation and the testing of tactics and approaches that disrupted and transformed how Americans consume movies and television shows.

Netflix must develop a campaign for dads that it constantly tests and refines (e.g. using a Lean Startup approach). The campaign must include, at a minimum:

  • Messages for dads, delivered through multiple internal channels and with enough frequency to be effective, that address the fears some dads may have about taking full advantage of the policy, such as it might hurt their career prospects or their job duties will suffer in their absence. These messages must include a value proposition that resonates specifically with dads.
  • Resources that educate dads (before and after the birth or adoption) about how to be involved dads, such as referrals to websites, brochures and other print materials, and on-site workshops/seminars that provide fathering education.
  • Ways to measure the impact of the policy on dads. Netflix must track the impact of the policy, such as the rate at which dads use the policy at all and, if so, how much leave they take. Netflix must analyze the data in a way that identifies the kinds of dads who do and don't take advantage of it using demographic, psychographic, and behavioral characteristics. Netflix must also gather qualitative feedback from dads on the impact of the policy and on the effectiveness of the campaign.

Netflix must also involve dads in shaping the campaign and delivering elements of it. The company should, for example, consider forming an interdepartmental team of dads at different levels of the company to help develop and evaluate potential tactics. It should use dads who work at Netflix as spokespersons to deliver messages that contain the value proposition.

Netflix must approach this effort from the consumer-based mindset that has led to so much of its success. The dads who work at Netflix are, after all, the consumers of its policies. Dads have different needs than moms when it comes to being parents and balancing work and family. They deserve the same dedication to the effective use by dads of this policy that their company makes to create the algorithms that meet the entertainment tastes of its diverse external customers.

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

Research to Application: Cognitive Biases

In the third installment in this series (Framing and the “No Choice Option”), we introduced you to the work of Daniel Kahneman in which he captures the research on the cognitive biases humans suffer from in making decisions, regardless of the decisions they make.1 He describes how we rely on two cognitive systems when making decisions. System 1 “operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control.” We often call it our “gut instinct.” System 2 “allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations” and involves deliberate choice. We often call it our “rational side.”

We primarily rely on System 1 to make most of our decisions. Unfortunately, it often leads us astray and gets us into trouble. The reason it leads us astray is that it relies on rules of thumb that give us a starting point from which to base our decisions. The problem is these rules of thumb can bias our thinking in ways that lead to poor decisions in many instances because we don’t spend adequate time and energy thinking through those decisions. 

This installment focuses on how you can use the knowledge of cognitive biases to improve your work with fathers. While the number of biases is large, this installment focuses on several of the most common ones you might encounter in your work with fathers.

research-to-application-cognitive-biasesConfirmation Bias

The confirmation bias refers to people’s tendency to seek evidence that supports their current views. People naturally want reassurance that their views are correct. They don’t typically challenge their own views by seeking evidence to disprove them. It’s threatening to people’s sense of whom they are to admit when they’re wrong. That threat makes the confirmation bias one of the most potent cognitive biases in work with fathers because most fathers don’t actively look for evidence that their views might be wrong. If they rely primarily on punishing their children rather than disciplining them, for example, they won’t look for evidence that they should use punishment as a last resort, not a first option.

When fathers suffer from the confirmation bias, it can be difficult to introduce new concepts about how to be a good father. Using the punishment versus discipline example once again, fathers can find it difficult to swallow the notion that guiding and teaching their children with effective discipline techniques is more effective, and better for their children’s overall well-being, than taking away cherished privileges or using corporal punishment. 

Availability Bias

The availability bias refers to people’s tendency to recall information that is most readily available. It causes people to overestimate the probability that events will occur. Child abductions and plane crashes, for example, tend to generate lots of coverage in the mass media. As a result, people commonly overestimate the frequency of child abductions and plane crashes.

When fathers suffer from the availability bias, it can be difficult to know the accuracy of the information they provide. That difficulty is not caused by a conscious decision on the part of fathers (e.g. they lie) but because they don’t know they might be misled by their most recent experiences. If you ask a father how happy he is in his relationship with the mother of his children, for example, his answer will most likely hinge on the nature of the most recent experiences with her—perhaps even the most recent one—not on the breadth of the experiences with her over the course of the relationship. If the most recent experience was a poor one, he will be more likely to say he is unhappy, and vice versa, than he is.

Hindsight Bias

You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase “hindsight is 20/20,” which refers to our ability to more clearly evaluate a choice after it happens, and know the outcome of that choice, than before we made the choice. The problem with that phrase is it’s misleading. It assumes that we should have known, or did know all along, what would happen even though we could not possibly or accurately predict the outcome.

This hindsight bias refers to people’s tendency to create narratives (stories) about past events so they can make sense of unpredictable outcomes. Regardless of how sound decisions made or processes put in place were at the time of the choice, this tendency causes people to more readily blame good decisions and processes related to poor outcomes than give credit to good decisions and processes related to good outcomes, a bias all its own called the outcome bias. In other words, people have difficulty understanding that good decisions and processes can result in unpredictable, poor outcomes just as easily as they can lead to unpredictable, good outcomes.

When fathers suffer from the hindsight bias, it can be difficult to help them understand that they are not necessarily to blame (or to blame as much) for specific outcomes. When a father assesses a failed relationship with the mother of his children, for example, he might disproportionately attribute the failure to himself or to her. Perhaps he made mostly good decisions as they tried to work through their issues, but factors beyond his control had a major contribution to the failed relationship. The father may think he knew all along that the relationship was headed to a poor conclusion when he didn’t know and couldn’t have known the outcome. 

On the other hand, when fathers suffer from this bias they take more credit than they deserve for good outcomes. A father might take more credit for raising a healthy, well-adjusted child, for example, than he gives to the mother.  He may say that his firm discipline was the key factor in how his child turned out when many other factors contributed just as much or more.

Ideas on Application

When it comes to working with fathers individually or in groups, you can use knowledge of cognitive biases to more effectively work with them. Here are a few general examples from which you can develop specific approaches or tactics that best fit the context in and fathers with whom you work:

  • Confirmation Bias: Knowing that many fathers will seek evidence to confirm their existing beliefs, attitudes, and behavior—and that they will resist changing the way they think and behave—better prepares you to work with fathers, especially on challenging topics such as masculinity, child discipline, and healthy relationships (e.g. communication with their spouse or partner). When you help fathers tackle these challenging topics, take extra care to prepare yourself for what can be a long process of change around certain issues.
  • Availability Bias: Knowing that many fathers will rely on recent events and experiences to shape the information they provide can help you broaden your thinking and approach to dig more deeply into what contributes to fathers’ thoughts and feelings. Ask probing questions to determine what fathers use as the foundation (evidence) for the information they provide. If a father says he is unhappy in his relationship with the mother of his children, for example, you can ask questions to determine whether he is narrowly framing his feeling based on a recent experience(s) with her or the breadth of the relationship. If the former, you can challenge him to re-evaluate his feeling based on the breadth of the relationship.
  • Hindsight Bias: Knowing that many fathers will create stories about past events to explain unpredictable outcomes, you could ask them, for example, to create timelines that include the decisions they made and processes they put in place and examine with them how much those decisions and processes contributed to good and bad outcomes. Help them evaluate the quality of the decisions and processes separate from the outcomes. In some cases, they might learn they should not abandon a good tactic to become a better father or partner, for example, just because it didn’t lead to the desired outcome. Help them understand that the good tactic becomes the means and the end—even though the father hopes it will lead to a good outcome—and that it might contribute to a good outcome the next time.

Regardless of how you apply the knowledge of cognitive biases, approach your effort as an experiment. Keep track of what works with fathers in general and with specific kinds of fathers (e.g. custodial and non-custodial) so that you can apply what works in future work with fathers one-on-one or in groups, and avoid what doesn’t work. 

Resources

As you consider using the knowledge of cognitive biases to improve your work with fathers, consider the following resources: 

  • The book Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.
  • The book Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  • The book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
  • The book Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape our Decisions by Dan Ariely

Don’t forget to look for more posts and reference guides in this series!

1) Research to Application > Cues, Triggers, and Nudges

2) Research to Application > Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose

3) Research to Application > Framing and the "No Choice Option"

4) Research to Application > The Power of The "Deviant Dad"

5) Research to Application > Keystone Habits

Click here for the full PDF of the this post. 

(1) Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

About the "Research to Application" Series

As the nation’s #1 provider of fatherhood skill-building programs and resources, NFI provides guidance for practitioners and organizations on how they might be able to use to use the latest research on human behavior to enhance the effectiveness of their work with fathers. NFI provides this guidance in a series of blog posts called Research to Application: Guidance for Practitioners and Programs. The series is also available in the form of quick reference guides that you can download by clicking on the button at the end of the posts.

The series offers a platform for generating dialogue among NFI, organizations, and practitioners on ways that research can be applied to addressing pain points in serving fathers. This post is the sixth one in the series. It provides ideas on how you might integrate research on cognitive biases. Integrating this research could make you more effective in your work with fathers (e.g. facilitating a fatherhood program or working with fathers one-on-one).

If you implement any of the ideas in this post, or develop and implement your own ideas, please share them with us at info@fatherhood.org. We’ll use your experiences to update this guide so it is even more useful.

3 Rules You're Breaking When Talking with Your Child

I know all you want to talk about is relationships. You want to sit around communicating all day long. Not. Here's the deal though, when we talk about relationships, we could talk about many different things, but the most important topic when it comes to relationships is communication. In our work with dads, we see communication issues play out when it comes to their children and with the wife and/or mom of the children. Communication is often a big issue when it comes to marriage, coparenting, and fatherhood. That said, let's talk about communication...

3 Rules You're Breaking When Talking with Your Child communication relationships

Last time to good luck, let's recall the five traits of the 24/7 Dad:

  1. The 24/7 Dad is Self-Aware: The 24/7 Dad is aware of himself as a man and aware of how important he is to his family. Read more about The Importance of the Self-Aware Father.
  2. The 24/7 Dad Cares For Self: The 24/7 Dad takes care of himself. Read more about The Oxygen Mask Rule of Fatherhood.
  3. The 24/7 Dad Understands Fathering Skills: The 24/7 Dad knows his role in the family. Read more about the 3 Things You Should Do > Because You're Being Watched.
  4. The 24/7 Dad Understands Parenting Skills:  The 24/7 Dad nurtures his children. Read Pretty Much Everything You Should Know to be a Master Nurturer
  5. The 24/7 Dad Understands Relationship Skills: The 24/7 Dad builds and maintains healthy relationships with his children, wife/mother of his children, other family members, friends, and community.

Recall the great news? These five traits have a guarantee: master each of them and you are a 24/7 Dad. Let's talk about trait five, a dad and his relationship skills. Well, let's keep this realistic. We can't fix everything related to relationships in one post. But, we can make progress on communication.

For the last several posts, we've talked about how you, dad, are unique and irreplaceable in your child's life. When it comes to parenting and your relationship to your child and your child's mom, it's no different. 

The 24/7 Dad Understands Relationship Skills.

The 24/7 Dad builds and maintains healthy relationships with his children, wife/mother of his children, other family members, friends, and community. 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.

The 24/7 Dad communicates his thoughts, feelings, and actions on a daily basis in a way that respects others. Still, one of the greatest challenges 24/7 Dads face in raising their children is how to better communicate. 

What makes the 24/7 Dad different from other dads is that he understands problems with communication start with him and no one else.

Here are 3 rules to follow for communicating with your child...

Odds are good you didn’t wake up this morning and say to yourself, “You know, I should communicate with my kids better...” While you know the importance of communication, you probably need a reminder every now and then that how you communicate daily is of utmost importance. 

Comparisons are sometimes helpful for tough topics. Let’s try one. Instead of calling this tough topic “communication,” let’s call it “racing.”

Reframe your idea about what communication is and change the word “communication” to “racing.” With racing, there are three rules professional drivers follow that totally apply to talking with your child. 

Rule #1—Know Your Racetrack

How you race depends on the track. Drivers know there are four types of racetracks, and they treat each track differently—mainly because each track requires a different strategy.

Likewise, the age or “track” your child is on should change how you communicate. Consider applying the four different racetracks to the stage of your child as follows:

1) Short tracks > These tracks are shorter than one mile and take a more physical strategy.
 In short-track racing, there’s more bumping of cars. If you’re the dad of a new baby, one of your main strategies should be physical touch. Hold your baby as much as possible. Communicating during this stage in your child’s life is as much about cuddling than it is about talking.

2) Intermediate tracks > These tracks are usually between one and two miles. They’re challenging, but somewhat “routine” in that all of these tracks are made up of four left turns. The dad of a school-aged child understands the importance of establishing daily routines when it comes to connecting with his child. During this time, you’re busy and so is your child. So every moment must count.

3) Superspeedways > These tracks are usually two miles or more. They’re the fastest of all the tracks in professional racing. The dad of a teenager understands just how fast time passes at this stage of his child’s life. Communication during this stage must take on great quality; because often, the fast pace of life as the dad of a teen may seem to reach speeds of over 200 miles per hour.

4) Road Courses > Only the most experienced drivers do well on road courses. As a dad of a college-age child and/or beyond, you will have more “turns” than the other three dads. At this stage, it will be how well you maneuver through the turns that will give you a successful outcome.

Become an expert on the track you are racing for each stage in your child’s life. While you can prepare somewhat for what will happen, you must complete many laps around the track to gain the experience you need for effective communication with your child at any age.

Rule #2—Practice, Practice, Practice. And then Practice Some More.

When drivers aren’t “on the track,” they practice. Their work is about more than that short moment on the racetrack. All of their time leading up to the race is spent on practice.

When is the right time to practice? Early and often. Just like the best drivers raced cars when they were young, you must spend time and talk with your child early and often. 

It’s never too early to talk and listen to your child. Spend time with your child and have a purpose in what you do during your time together. Seize every moment to get practice. 

Rule #3—Make Adjustments

Drivers know success isn’t simply about practice and performing well on the track. The best drivers know the importance of making adjustments. 

Adjustments are crucial in racing. A driver that can’t lead his team to make mid-race adjustments won’t win. Likewise, you will learn to be a dad by trial and error. You will make mistakes. Things will go wrong. Great drivers know the importance of making adjustments, from research and development in the off-season to communicating the necessary adjustments to his team during the race. 

Research and development is the science behind the racing. If you toured a NASCAR research facility, for example, you typically won't see the driver and the car together.

Likewise, you will need to study fatherhood, even if you don’t live with your child. Become a student of fatherhood. Learn from books, articles, magazines, and more experienced dads. 

As a racecar driver, how you race depends on your knowledge and skill of the track, the amount of time you practice, and the amount of effort you use to make adjustments. With the right skills, experience, and practice, you can be successful with any track...err...with any child! 

The 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I relate?

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Please go here to buy the shirt! Then, share pics of yourself or the dad in your life using #247Dad on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Fatherhood leaders > Wear this unique t-shirt to show how proud you are to be a leader. Give it to dads who attend your program or as a graduation gift.

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

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

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

What are the Global Challenges to Father Involvement?

The challenge to create a world in which every child has a 24/7 Dad is underscored by a new report entitled, "The State of the World's Fathers." Recently released by MenCare, a global fatherhood campaign, this unique report provides insight into the challenges we face across the globe to encouraging father involvement.

What are the Global Challenges to Father Involvement? state of the world's fathersAs the report points out, 80% of the world's men will become fathers. We must do everything we can to ensure as many of these fathers as possible are responsibly involved in the lives of their children. With that backdrop, this report:

"...brings together key international research findings along with program and policy examples related to men’s participation in caregiving; in sexual and reproductive health and rights; in maternal, newborn, and child health; in violence and violence prevention; and in child development."

Here are the major findings and six recommendations for increasing father involvement across the globe. I encourage you to download the executive summary and full report to better understand these findings and recommendations. If you work with fathers from countries outside the U.S., you will find this report especially helpful.

Findings

  • Involved fatherhood helps children thrive.
  • Involved fatherhood allows women and girls to achieve their full potential – now and in future generations.
  • Involved fatherhood makes men happier and healthier.
  • Men’s involvement in caregiving is increasing in some parts of the world, but nowhere does it equal that of women.
  • Fathers want to spend more time with their children.
  • Men’s participation and support are urgently needed to ensure that all children are wanted children. 
  • Engaging men – in ways that women want – early on in prenatal visits, in childbirth, and immediately after the birth of a child can bring lasting benefits.
  • Promoting fathers’ involvement must include efforts to interrupt the cycle of violence.
  • Children, women, and men benefit when fathers take parental leave.
  • Men’s greater involvement in care work also brings economic benefits.

Recommendations

  • Create national and international action plans to promote involved, non-violent fatherhood and men’s and boys’ equal sharing of unpaid care work.
  • Take these action plans and policies into public systems and institutions to enable and promote men’s equal participation in parenting and caregiving.
  • Institute and implement equal, paid, and non-transferrable parental leave policies in both public and private sectors, as well as other policies that allow women’s equal participation in the labor force and men’s equal participation in unpaid care work.
  • Gather and analyze data on men’s involvement as fathers and caregivers and generate new evidence from programs and policies that work to transform the distribution of unpaid care, prevent violence against women and against children, and improve health and development outcomes for women, children, and men.
  • Achieve a radical transformation in the distribution of care work through programs with men and boys, as well as with women and girls, that challenge social norms and promote their positive involvement in the lives of children.
  • Recognize the diversity of men’s caregiving and support it in all of its forms.

After you read the report, I'd love to hear from you about how it might have helped you better understand the global challenges we face in encouraging father involvement and how it might help you in your work.

How much do you know about the global challenges to father involvement?

Do you work with fathers from other countries? How do their cultural norms and values hinder or facilitate father involvement?

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

 

How You and Your Fatherhood Program Can Get Found Online

In my over three years working with fatherhood leaders and programs, I know you. You're well-intentioned and care about people. You're doing great work with great heart. But, you're too busy doing this great work to talk about the great work. You don't have time, staff, or energy to get started online. So you don't...and no one is seeing your great impact. It bothers me that you aren't getting the attention you deserve. 

I don't have all of the answers. But, it seems to me, if you can get a small start with blogging and social media, you and others can quickly start to see the impact you're having on fathers and families. I'm not talking about celebrity stuff here. I want you and your program to be seen. I want folks around you to see what you're doing and I want it to inspire others to help dads. Let's talk about how you, the super busy fatherhood leader, can get started online.

Fatherhood Leader > How You Can Get Started Online > How You and Your Fatherhood Program Can Get Found Online

First, let's talk about the why. Why does "getting found" online matter? Because your work inspires other folks to serve dads. It's also nice for you to show your work to potential investors and/or the people who may attend or volunteer for your program. If you can start blogging and doing social media, you will make more impact in your community. Basically, I want folks to see your work and think of you when they think about fatherhood. You are the authority in your area when it comes to fatherhood and family.

Consider this:

  • Do dads in your community know you as the helpful authority you are? How? How can they contact you right now?

When I get word of a group doing awesome things to serve dads, I usually can't find them through Google search. This is a problem. If I can't find you, and I know about you, how will a dad who needs your help, but doesn't know about you, find you?

Consider your blog like New York City. There are several major highways running through NYC. NYC has three major airports, major bus transportation, two train stations...you get the point.

Conversely, in the small town in Tennessee where I grew up, there's one highway. My hometown is great—unless you're planning on enjoying access to transportation once you visit. There are no airports in my hometown. You can't catch a bus. There isn't a train. I've never seen a cab.

Here's the point: the highways, trains, buses and planes are the things that can bring folks to you. All of the links from other sites, all of the mentions of you and your fatherhood program on social media, that's how folks find you. All of this is what turns your blog into a thing that pulls folks in to your program. There should be lots of ways for folks to find you. The more the better!

Here are two ways you can get started online without a ton of effort and time. 

1) Get Started by Blogging

One of the best ways to get found online is through blogging. Make it so you can post updates easily and on a regular basis. Think weekly rather than daily. Your readers are busy too. But try to create and/or re-purpose content on a regular basis.

There are a few things that most folks recommend when getting started blogging: 

  1. Create your blog with an easy-to-remember name. Don't get too cute. Think long-term and and error on the side of conservative rather than on fads. 
  2. Create helpful content. Stuff that dads in your area care about. What are the dads you serve asking you. Answer those same questions on your fancy new blog.
  3. Read parenting and leadership blogs to fuel your content. 
  4. Be sure to comment on other folks' blogs.

Doing these things should get your blogging off to a great start. See, that wasn't bad was it? Now to tackle social media...

2) Get Started Using Social Media

Can people find you on social media? Do you have a Facebook page? What about other social media platforms like twitter? Consider starting an account on the popular platforms where dads in your area are. Here are a few tried and true tips when it comes to social media.

It all starts with a good profile. There are a few best practices that apply to all social media platforms. Beyond these things, what you do depends on the platform. Here we go...

What to do on most social media platforms:

  1. Pick the right username > 
    • Use your real name when possible.
    • Make your username as simple as possible. Try to stay away from numbers and symbols.
    • Pick a name that’s available on most social sites. Reminder, the goal is to build engagement so folks recognize you
  2. Pick the perfect profile image > this image will show up everywhere.
  3. Write a good bio/summary > don’t skip this step. What can you say to instill confidence with your reader? Consider the folks who you are interested in connecting with. 
  4. Website links > be sure to add your blog or link to social sites when possible

Now that you're armed with this knowledge, you can rock out any of the following social media platforms. You're ready to go, I can feel it...

Getting Started on Facebook

  1. Create a Facebook business page (Here's NFI's Facebook page). Team Dad is great on Facebook. We share their posts a lot. They post graduation pictures. We love seeing fatherhood program graduations.
  2. Post a link to your business page from your personal profile.
  3. Promote your Facebook page within your existing channels (website, blog, email, LinkedIn profile, etc)
  4. Next time you host a local event (like a conference, webinar, and/or training) use Facebook events to invite people. (Consider inviting NFI, that way we know about it!)

Getting Started on LinkedIn

  1. Build a LinkedIn group (and connect with NFI on LinkedIn).
  2. Make sure your linked profile is 100 percent complete.
  3. Search through groups to find ones focused in your area. Don't overdo it on the groups. There's a maximum number you can join. Consider future partnerships in the community at this point.

Gathering Started on Twitter

  1. Create an account (follow NFI's Twitter account).
  2. Start tweeting. Talk about what's going on behind the scenes. 
  3. Follow folks in your network using the search feature in Twitter.
  4. Monitor other fatherhood, leadership and/or parenting accounts and retweet them.

Getting Started on YouTube

  1. Create a channel. (Here's NFI's YouTube account.)
  2. Consider posting your stories: things like "what we do here" and "get to know a staffer" can be helpful
  3. Consider interviewing local people for tips on parenting and the like.
  4. Create and share how-to videos on all things fatherhood.

Question > Are you doing any of these steps online? Where can I find you and your fatherhood program? Post the links to your website/blog and social media accounts in the comments and I'll like them, follow them, and/or connect with them.

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

The First Lesson for Every New Dad: Be CLASSY

Owner’s manuals come with about anything you can buy these days--from cameras and lenses to Mercedes Benzes. These manuals tell you all you need to know about the product--how it opens and closes, how to change batteries, what to troubleshoot and so much more. I doubt many of us read these manuals as thoroughly as we should, but they are there if we need them. You might even say babies come with an owner’s manual since Dr. Spock’s “Baby and Child Care” first came out in 1946. Actually, you have to buy this manual and of those who do, who do you think is most likely to read it? That’s right—moms!

first-lesson-for-every-new-dad-be-classy

Often new fathers are clueless about childcare. With time, most new dads pick up the basics—holding their children, changing diapers, and feeding them. However, a few never do and this is a huge mistake. It’s not only an opportunity to help the mother, but an opportunity to bond with his child. What can we do to minimize this situation? A father is a necessary piece of the parenting puzzle. He complements and helps the mother with his different strengths. He is the male influence and masculine example for his children. It is important for him to be there for his kids through his love, discipline, and support.

Unfortunately, about 30%-40% of future fathers will have been raised without a father in their home.

  • Where do they go for advice?
  • What memories can they fall back upon to know how to handle a situation?
  • Do they know how important they are in their kids’ development?

While I would like every father to read a dad’s parenting ‘owner’s manual’, it’s not going to happen--especially by the very fathers that need the knowledge the most. What we can do is meet them halfway with something they can catch onto quickly, and remember! Something that will give them a baseline approach about what to do, so they have the potential to be a good dad!

The new father could be a young man who finds himself in a situation he has never really comprehended and certainly didn’t prepare for. It may be a confused father who is having difficulty fulfilling his role and doesn’t know where to turn. It could even be for the father who is away from home too often, traveling or busy with work, and doesn’t know how to perform his role as a parent. They all need a simple fathering philosophy to go by, or a quick reminder to re-calibrate when they feel lost. I have a suggestion.

Be C.L.A.S.S.Y.

My simple lesson in Dadhood can be remembered by the acronym, C.L.A.S.S.Y. Every father should be C.L.A.S.S.Y. While this lesson will take a lifetime to perfect, the knowledge can carry a dad through many perilous and indecisive situations as a father.

There is no magic in these words. They are not invented here. It is common knowledge for successful parents. The value in these words mean nothing unless they are conveyed to those who need to hear and heed them. Any new father that follows this advice will be aware of about 95% of all he needs to know to be an excellent father. That doesn’t mean he will necessarily have successful, productive children because they are their own individuals and must do their part. But the odds of success increase dramatically!

Be CLASSY--Consistent, Loving, Available, Sincere, Silly, and Yourself.

  • Consistent > A father must be consistent. He must say what he means and mean what he says. He must also be consistent in applying the CLASSY principle. Just about every dad wants to do the right thing. They’re just afraid they don’t know what to do. Being CLASSY tells them what to do and that is to be:
  • Loving > Except in very rare circumstances, all fathers love their children. Many, however, are afraid to show it or don’t know how to express it. This is often caused by the fact they were never shown that kind of love and have no model to go by. To be loving is to show your love!
  • Available > This is another way of saying “Be There” for them. Some fathers are “there” but not really available because they are emotionally distant or unapproachable. The most important thing you can do for your children is to give them your attention!
  • Sincere > A sincere father is genuine, honest, and serious. He gives truthful answers and has a demeanor, backed up by his trustworthiness, which says “trust me”--and his children do. A sincere dad believes in himself. He doesn’t have to believe he has all the answers, but he believes he will sincerely do his very best.
  • Silly > One of the best characteristics of a good dad is to have a sense of humor with his kids. Have fun with them! Be silly sometimes--not all the time, but often. Play games, pretend, juggle, make faces, have races, just interact in a fun way. There are times to be serious, for sure, and a sincere dad knows automatically when to be serious and when he can be fun or funny. To be silly at the wrong time can be devastating, while being serious all the time does not create healthy relationships.
  • Yourself > I saved maybe one of the most important pieces of advice for the end. A dad must be himself! He can’t be authoritarian if he is not that type. He must be sincere. He can’t be a comedian if he doesn’t have the knack. But he can be lighthearted. He can still be a good dad while avoiding diapers or combing his daughters hair--but he better be good at helping in some way. Sporting dads can do outdoor things with their kids. Reading dads can read with their kids. Dads who like baseball can take their kids to the game and play catch. Incorporate your fathering into your personality. Just be yourself while remembering your Dadhood! 

Summary

Print this article and/or save it somewhere, and every time you see a young man who is about to have a child, especially a first child, give it to him. It just may change his outlook for the better and provide the confidence he will certainly need for the most precious responsibility he will ever have. No doubt it will make life much better for his child.

Any dad that wants more depth or more information on fathering can get my book on this topic: The Power of Dadhood: How to Become the Father Your Child Needs

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

Syzygy

Somewhere I read that raising a child is like playing a game with the child, but a long, complex game in which roles change over time. This is a story called "Syzygy" from my book. There are many ways to communicate and throwing a ball back and forth is one of them. See if you agree.

syzygyphotoNight in the town where we live is especially dark. This is because the streets are not electrified. Instead, we have gas lamps. 

The gas lamps give the town a feeling of elegance, but they don’t give much light. The combination of low light and uneven sidewalks has sent more than one new resident sprawling. The standing joke is that you need a miner’s hat with a beacon to keep from falling. Many a pizza delivery boy has spent precious minutes hopelessly searching for the right house while the pie cooled off. 

For a few hours on one evening, a celestial event changed all of this. 

In our house, we had just moved into a new phase called adolescence. Parents experiencing adolescence undergo physical changes. They begin to feel old, so old that they can’t remember their own adolescences.  They’re prone to exaggeration and wild mood swings. They begin to doubt themselves and ask if they are the only ones feeling these massive changes.

For me, one change symbolized everything – my son was ambivalent about having a catch. How many times had we taken out the ball and two gloves in his short life – two hundred, five hundred, a thousand?

How many times had he come to me with the question: “Wanna have a catch?” I always wanted to have a catch. Throwing a baseball was for me one of the most life-affirming acts on the globe. Each throw recognized our separateness; each catch confirmed our connection.

We threw softballs, hardballs, tennis balls, a cloth ball we called the crooked ball, even a frisbee on occasion. We kept track of our streaks – how many throws we could make without dropping the ball? He asked me to throw him hard grounders, and he responded with spectacular leaping throws to my first baseman’s stance. He asked me to throw him high pop-ups, which I did the way my cousin had shown me many years ago, looking up and throwing overhand.

There may have been one or two or a dozen times in his life when I was too preoccupied to say, “Yes, I’ll have a catch with you,” and now I regret every one of them, but not as much as I regret the day I came to him and said, “Wanna have a catch?” and he answered me with: “That’s alright,” which in his new, relaxed lingo meant simply “No.” I was devastated.

The dictionary defines syzygy as an event in which three or more celestial bodies are in perfect alignment. On one night in the recent past, the northeastern United States experienced a syzygy and our town, one of the darkest places in the universe, was flooded with light at 9:30PM.

Earlier in the evening, I had persuaded my son to come out at the appointed time to see something he might never see again. Once out, we did something it seemed as if we had not done since the mornings in New York City when I would bring him to pre-school. We went for a walk.

It only lasted five minutes, but it was full of a sense of discovery under that impossible light, just as it had been back then, when we ran from the two-headed monster drainpipes, avoided the cracks in the sidewalk, and jumped up from the street over each curb with both feet together.

We found ourselves back in front of the house. The same thought rushed to our lips: “Wanna have a catch?”

And so we did, adding a fourth celestial body to the perfect alignment of this evening – the orb traveling between us.

Like this story? You can read more stories like this from my book here.

What one tip could you give younger dads for how to grow a strong bond with their child before those special teen years?

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child  

photo credit: here

Pretty Much Everything You Need to Know to Be a Master Nurturer

What? Being a "Master Nurturer" not on your bucket list? It should be. Let's talk about it...

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Just to keep everything on track, let's recall the five traits of the 24/7 Dad. Here's the quick rundown:

  1. The 24/7 Dad is Self-Aware: The 24/7 Dad is aware of himself as a man and aware of how important he is to his family. Read more about The Importance of the Self-Aware Father.
  2. The 24/7 Dad Cares For Self: The 24/7 Dad takes care of himself. Read more about The Oxygen Mask Rule of Fatherhood.
  3. The 24/7 Dad Understands Fathering Skills: The 24/7 Dad knows his role in the family. Read more about the 3 Things You Should Do > Because You're Being Watched.
  4. The 24/7 Dad Understands Parenting Skills:  The 24/7 Dad nurtures his children.
  5. The 24/7 Dad Understands Relationship Skills: The 24/7 Dad builds and maintains healthy relationships with his children, wife/mother of his children, other family members, friends, and community.

Here's the great news...these five traits have a guarantee: master each of them and you are a 24/7 Dad. Let's talk about trait four, a dad and his nurturing. Remember, we've been talking about how you, as dad, are unique and irreplaceable in your child's life. When it comes to parenting and your relationship as a caring nurturer to your child, it's no different. We often say here at NFI a good dad does three things well: provides, nurtures, and guides. Let's talk about how we can do all three better. 

The 24/7 Dad Understands Parenting Skills

The 24/7 Dad nurtures his children. Yes, nurturing is not just for mom. You should know how your parenting skills help to develop your child's physical, emotional, intellectual, and social needs. Your child trusts and feels safe with you because you care about and nurture through the use of proven parenting skills. Basically, you should be a Master Nurturer. 

There are four ways every dad should interact with his child. If you do these four things, you'll be the dad who shows his thoughts, feelings, and actions on a daily basis in a way that respects folks.

1. The Master Nurturer Encourages His Child.

Don't rush passed this first point. It sounds simple, right. I bet you're saying to yourself sarcastically, "Oh, Ryan is telling us to encourage our kids, great. Thanks for the tip, Ryan. Great, helpful stuff!" Well, stop being sarcastic, it's ugly and rude! Also, please understand why I mention it. Kids often send themselves negative messages. Who doesn't?!

As your child ages, 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, online, did we say friends and TV yet?

Teach your child to send good messages, 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 if you must and tell yourself: "I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And doggone it, people like me."

2. The Master Nurturer Listens to His Child.

Kids are by nature the most impatient human beings alive—rivaled only by teens—or so I hear. 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. Saying, "I hear ya, you want milk. Awesome. I'll get you that delicious milk shortly. But right this second, I'm busy writing a blog post that's way more important than your cup of milk. If I can't write this post, then daddy doesn't get paid. If daddy doesn't get paid, you don't enjoy sipping delicious milk." Okay, perhaps I derailed here.

My point is, saying that you hear your child's request honors him or her. It shows that you're listening. 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. The Master Nurturer Avoids Negative Labels.

This point is a tough one. It takes looking inside yourself. Don’t give your child 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 may 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.” Hear the difference? 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.

4. The Master Nurturer Focuses on Teaching His Child.

This step isn’t as easy either. 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 your 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 child does 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, but only after you given ample time for your child to express what he or she learned. This approach honors your child and makes it more likely your child 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.

The 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I “Parent"?

Our friend Kevin of Double Trouble Daddy knows what being a 24/7 Dad means. He wrote a post on caring for his twins here. Kevin gets 24/7 dadding. I encourage you to read the full post, but here's part of it. He writes: 

What you don’t realize about me is that I’ve been changing my sons’ diapers since before they even came home from the NICU. I’m a stay-at-home father and proud of it. I’m downstairs drinking coffee before they even open their eyes in the morning, and I am listening to them on the baby-monitor roll around mid-dream long after they’ve gone to bed. I’m a dad twenty-four hours per day, seven days a week. There’s a lot of us out there….more than you realize. I’m not just talking about stay-at-home fathers…I also mean working dads as well. Dads are more involved in their children’s lives than ever before and it’s awesome to see and be part of. The days when the only role we played in the family dynamic was that of the breadwinner are over.  


*****

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Please go here to buy the shirt! Then, share pics of yourself or the dad in your life using #247Dad on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Fatherhood leaders > Wear this unique t-shirt to show how proud you are to be a leader. Give it to dads who attend your program or as a graduation gift.

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

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

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

TEDxTalk: First Time Fathers: A Candid View of Their Experiences (Video)

Earlier this year, I was invited to a TEDxTalk, interviewed and then presented. I dedicate this talk to fathers everywhere who play equally critical roles in the lives of their children. 

Fathers are not always biological and sometimes men who father are not in the family of the child. Fathers maybe men who are mentoring a child of a single mother or an uncle, or grandfather who is there to role model what a man is to a fatherless child. I also dedicate this talk to the men who may have desired to be fathers and for whom this may not have been their privilege. May they know their dream was important! I encourage comments on the TEDxTalk and I hope you enjoy it and find it beneficial.

tedxplay
Having trouble viewing this video? Click here to watch.


My own father was diagnosed with a rare form of aggressive cancer in December of 2013. A month before my TEDxTalk he died (February, 2015). My dad was not perfect. He made many mistakes. He was a military man and we grew up in the military. I spoke at his funeral and this is what I thanked him for before he died.  My father taught me to tie my shoes and I learned competence, my father taught me to ride a bike and I learned skill mastery, my father taught me how to play baseball (not softball) and I learned girls were important too! May he rest in peace.

As a Family Life Mentoring Coach, a certified international infant massage instructor, and a researcher, I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with men over the years, who have shared candidly with me about their experiences fathering and their relationships with the woman in their life. It has broadened my perspective and has been a privilege to be trusted with their stories, I am deeply grateful.

About the TEDxTalk

What this TEDxTalk is about is the research I conducted at Florida State University with first time fathers. I will give a brief overview, as the many benefits that fathers and their perceptions of the benefits to their babies, were discussed in detail in a prior post.

Just a short recap: I taught fathers infant massage and then gathered data through video recordings, interviews, and diaries fathers kept while massaging their infants throughout the study. What I learned while writing up the research and from fathers outside of the research who spoke with me about the topic was as valuable as the actual research.

 

Behind the TEDxTalk

What was not in the TEDXTalk that you can view here—I believe is as important—is what I learned writing up the research. In the historical development of attachment theory and bonding (prior 90+ years) only mothers and their infants were included in the studies.

Indeed even the preliminary studies of the 1920's Hammett and the mommy and baby rats, 1930's Harlow and the baby monkeys, 1940's - 1950's Ainsworth and Bowlby human mothers and babies all centered on studying the relationship between the mothers and the babies.

What was in this research was just as important as what was not in the research, as while the research assisted us in understanding how important this first relationship was to babies, it also was responsible for a backlash to mothers. Everything that went wrong in a child's behavior and development was construed by society to be the direct result of "bad mothering."

I am not proposing that there are not less than optimal mothers; however, optimal mothers who were raising children without fathers in the pictures were not granted the benefit of consideration of how hard it was to raise a child without the father in the home. Nor were fathers credited for their equal contribution to the positive outcomes in their children. It was a discredit to mothers, fathers, and most importantly to children. 

The first attempt at a longitudinal study of fathers in the late 90's resulted in the conclusion that fathers did not bond and attach, as did mothers. In reviewing this particular research I discovered that the tool developed by Ainsworth in the middle of the last century to classify babies' attachment behaviors towards their mothers, was the tool was used in this longitudinal study.

Additionally it was used to classify behaviors of older children after spending what would be a considerably short period of time with the fathers. To be perfectly clear, it was inappropriately used in the study considering the original design and development and negates the conclusions of that study.

We need to gather this information from fathers who are involved from the beginning of the pregnancy (babies hear their fathers voices in utero) and at the time of the birth when they have had bonding experiences with their babies (fathers also experience increased levels of oxytocin when they care for the baby) and throughout the development of the child before we make assumptions about bonding and attachment between babies and fathers. As a side note, infant massage provides for an intense bonding experience (chemistry) between the baby and a caregiver as it engages 4 of the 5 senses which are how bonding occurs. 

Since the TEDxTalk

Recent studies at the University of Notre Dame indicate that fathers who sleep near their babies have drops in their testosterone levels and make assertions that this may mean fathers are more responsive to their babies indicating that mothers are not the only parent who can respond to the babies needs. Prior care giving studies indicated that fathers' levels of oxytocin increases the more time they spend in childcare activities such as bathing, changing, feeding and playing with their babies.

In conclusion

As a society when we treat men like they are outsiders and those babies are exclusively the mothers' domain, then, we do children and fathers a disservice. Considering how they were deprived of fathering play as children (dolls were off limits) and deprived of dual custody, based upon gender rather than merit, it most certainly has been the child that suffered.

Fathers who participate in child care classes spend more quality time with their babies and report feeling confident and competent in their role as a father. Both competency and confidence are scientific indicators of long term involvement in the lives of their children. After publishing articles on this research, I wrote the first of many books to come and published it on Amazon, "Hassle Free Bedtime," that includes information from my research and the research of others to support fathers in their journey of acquiring new skills.

Caution on "our parental rights."

Children have a need to be protected from exposure to violence. Neither gender has a right to expose a child to neglect or violence or sexual exploitation as children require a higher standard of responsibility because they are developing and vulnerable. Any parent who claims a right to raise a child or be in the life of the child and who has exposed a child to violence or sexual exploitation has a responsibility to seek treatment before expecting access to their child. 
  The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

Spotlight > The Ohio Commission on Fatherhood [Video]

Several groups in Ohio are doing amazing work to connect fathers and families, and we think you should know about them. The following post and video describe the exciting, state-wide work being done by the Ohio Commission on Fatherhood.

Keep reading to be inspired by Ohio. You could do something similar for fathers (and children) in your state or county.

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The Ohio Commission on Fatherhood is a state-wide commission housed within the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services. Their mission is to enhance the well-being of Ohio's children by providing opportunities for fathers to become better parents, partners and providers.

As the lead agency for the Commission, they offer training and guidance to help county organizations design programs to engage fathers and promote responsible parenting. This gives organizations across the state a solid support system for intentionally offering programs and services for fathers.

In fact, the groups you see on this video came together because Ohio brought in NFI to conduct our Community Engagement and Mobilization Planning Approach, helping to rally Ohio state organizations around fatherhood in a cohesive way. In the video you'll see NFI's very own Erik Vecere facilitating the planning sessions.

View the full video here.

What is the goal of the Ohio County Fatherhood Initiative? 

"We believe we can raise the level of father involvement, creating opportunities to train fathers so they can be engage in employment." —Burl Lemon, Executive Director “Forever Dad” Muskingum County

“One of the biggest things is community mapping and being able to get some insight in terms of how our county is laid out, what the initiatives that already exist in our county are, so that we are not reinventing the wheel, and actually be able to map out where the different agencies are, community partners, and who our key stakeholders are in our county to be able to launch this initiative." —Ann Ream, Director of Protective Services, Summit County Children Services

Why participate in the Ohio County Fatherhood Initiative?

“Weve allowed fathers to take a back seat and I think what this will do will heighten the awareness of the tremendous value that a father plays in a child's life. And because of that, our communities are betterour countrys better." —Kelly Lynch, Executive Director, Guernsey County Children’s Service

"On a bigger level, its been able to connect me as a stakeholder with childrens services, with our county leadership, and to know that this is an initiative that is important on both the local and state and federal level and what a concern it is a problem I think we all own…but the solution we can all own as well.” —Ann Ream, Director of Protective Services, Summit County Children Services

“When you help a dad, youre really helping out the whole family. Its not just a moms versus dads thing. If you help the dad get his act together, then he can be a better father and then also be a little bit more cooperative with the mother, so it helps everybody. —Michael Newsom, Social Program Coordinator, Montgomery County

Would you recommend other counties to participate? 

“I would recommend this training to others. Its unfortunate that everybody cant be a part of this. So Im very fortunate to be a part of todays session here. I think its important to know how to mobilize one another in your community and at a state level too." —Ann Ream, Director of Protective Services, Summit County Children Services

I think it would be a good program for business leaders. I think it would be a good program for civic leaders and government officials. I think it would be an excellent for service providers and a cross-spectrum of people who are working with families.” —James McDonald, Director of Muskingum Counseling Center

Interested in mobilizing your community? Visit here for more information on bringing responsible fatherhood training to life in your community. Read more about how we work with state/county initiatives here

Tell us > What would you like to see your county or state do for fathers?

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

How Mass Media Portray Dads & What You Can Do About It

It's easy to complain about the negative fatherhood stereotypes that mass media often portrays. But, rarely do I see the depth of information and application of research into practical tips for leaders than what can be found in the following article from NFI's president, Christopher A. Brown.

Brown recently wrote a fasinating article titled, "Americans' View of Fathers' Competency as Parents Through a Mass Media Lens" at the request of Zero to Three Journal. Chris has over a decade of experience working with fathers at NFI, and in this article you can see his gift of applying science and research to explain culture and help individuals and organizations encourage more involved fathers. Let's talk about it...

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Brown's article was written to raises awareness among professionals in the field of infant mental health. But, you will no doubt see this information can be used by a much wider audience. Brown points out from the research that TV is still one of the major forms of mass media shaping our values and perceptions, from sitcoms to advertising and commercials.

He reveals some telling stats on America's use of TV, particularly: 

  • Nearly every home (97%) has at least one TV
  • The average home contains nearly 3 TVs.
  • Americans watch TV 3-5 hours a day.
  • Adults watch nearly 38% more TV than children.

The Fatherhood Image in TV and Advertising
From Jim Anderson in Father Knows Best to Al Bundy in Married...With Children and Jay Pritchett of Modern Family, TV dads are usually portrayed as foolish, no matter what race or socioeconomic status is depicted.

The portrayal of fathers in commercials and advertising play a huge role in how we see fathers. Studies show commercials rarely portray men as nurturers. Brown points out one study found "when fathers were included in commercials, none of them were portrayed as nurturers whereas half of mothers were portrayed as nurturers (Gentry & Harrison, 2010)." 

Brown says that fathers are still often portrayed by consumer brands as one extreme or the other. On the one side fathers are shown as incompetent, foolish, and emotionally disconnected as parents. "The double standard involves competent, wise, emotionally connected mothers who must often rescue those fathers," says Brown. He cites Lowe's and LG for his research

But thankfully, there's the other extreme. Brands who show dads as competent, nurturing, and emotionally healthy parents. Brown cites General Mills Canada and Toyota as two such brands. General Mills' #HowToDad and Toyota's 2015 Super Bowl campaign "One Bold Choice Leads to Another" campaign promoted positive fatherhood images. The General Mills and Toyota campaigns show the reality of parenting today. As Chris points out: 

"The influence of parents as partners in raising children is all aspects of domestic life has continued to grow. Fathers have taken on a steadily increasing share of the parenting load in recent decades (USA Today, 2013). Fathers spend more time than ever with their children generally, grocery and retail shopping for the family, and doing housework (e.g., cooking and cleaning). Fathers are also more focused than ever on the desire to balance work and family. Indeed, they're often more conflicted than mothers in this regard (Aumann, Galinsky, & Matos, 2011)."

Why is Fathers' Portrayal Important?
Research is clear that a child needs the presence and involvement of his/her father. We know that kids who grow up with involved fathers are better off across all physical, emotional, mental, and social outcomes than a child who grows up without his/her father. So, we can deduct that fathers' involvement is as least as important as mothers' involvement to the healthy development of the child. 

Sadly, parents and professionals are often not aware of this evidence, and so their views aren't informed and shaped by this education. If mass media is getting fatherhood wrong, what about parents and professionals who've had negative experiences with their fathers/husbands/partners of their own children?

This kind of negative slide is what Chris says can lead to the "ultimate detriment of children and families." He says:

"When professionals hold a negative view of fathers, they are reluctant to engage fathers and may unwittingly support negative maternal views of fathers by not encouraging the mothers to involve fathers. Professionals also reinforce fathers' negative view of themselves by not proactively engaging fathers to show them they can be good parents."

What You Can Do?
Brown writes more in depth in his article about how we view fathers and how that view effects us. But he doesn't stop there. He closes his article with helpful ideas of what professionals (like you!) can do to counteract the negative portrayals of fathers.

Remember, this is all about the well-being of children. So, the message that dad can be competent and involved only helps the cause -- it does not hurt. If you are a professional (educator or not) you have a special role in shaping the view of fathers' competency. 

From TV portrayals, to mass media advertising, and even digital and social media, seeking to counteract whatever bad or negative portrayals you've seen from dads in your life is important—for you and for those around you.

The following list will prove helpful in seeking to view fatherhood as you should—as important and vital to children. The following tips can be found in more detail in the full article here:

  • Identify whether parents have a positive or negative view of fathers' competency and potential competency. Brown suggests asking non-threatening, open-ended questions to identify the parent's view of the father and fathers in general.
  • Identify whether the TV shows and advertising parents watch support or don't support a positive view of fathers' competency. Ask parents about the ways in which fathers are portrayed in the TV shows and advertising parents watch. Ask whether those portrayals are realistic and how they support or don't support parents' view of fathers competency.
  • Encourage parents to watch TV shows that portray fathers as competent, nurturing parents. Make a list of TV shows to watch. Identify shows that portray fathers as competent and nurturing. It's fine if the father struggles in his role as long as he is competent and nurturing. You can also look for shows that include a healthy relationship between the father and mother, even if the parents aren't together. 
  • Encourage parents to pay attention to the TV shows their children watch and how those shows portray fathers. Children's shows can contain negative portrayals of fathers. These shows shape children's views of fathers in general. They can also reinforce a negative view a child might have of his own father, especially if the child's mother talks negatively about the father to or in front of the child. Encourage parents to talk with their children about the portrayals of fathers in the shows their children watch. Tell parents to expose their children to shows with positive portrayals and even to watch those shows together. 
  • Engage fathers right from the start. There are a number of ways professionals can engage fathers from their very first encounter with clients. Simple acts like including information on program intake forms that capture the father's information and more involved acts like requiring the father's presence (when feasible) at initial and subsequent parent engagements (e.g., home visits) send an important message—the father is important and valuable.
  • Provide parents with access to information, such as literature (e.g., brochures and guides) and websites, which discuss the importance of father involvement in children's lives or provide advice on how fathers can become more involved generally and in specific areas of children's lives (e.g., education and sports). Professionals should ensure that the sources of information are appropriate for a parent's literacy level and informed by research.
  • Conduct programs or workshops for fathers on father involvement or refer fathers to organizations that provide such programs or workshops. Increasing father involvement doesn't happen overnight. Some fathers need training on how to be a better father. There are fathering programs that last several months and workshops that last a day to a few days. Ensure that the programs and workshops are based on or informed by evidence on what works to increase father involvement. 
  • Provide literature or conduct programs or workshops for mothers on improving the relationships they have with the fathers of their children. Maternal gatekeeping is when a mother can inhibit a father's access to his child. A mother can do so consciously or unconsciously whether she and the father are married, cohabitating, or never married. There are resources, programs, and workshops that seek to address maternal gatekeeping by raising mothers' awareness of this phenomenon and encouraging mothers to loosen unnecessary restrictions on fathers' access to their children.
  • Assess the "father readiness" of professionals' organizations and implement strategies and tactics to increase father readiness. Professionals rarely practice in a vacuum. They are usually part of an organization that is dedicated to or has a focus on infant mental health (or another specific area) and work with parents. The culture and practices of an organization influence the professional's work with parents. An organization that believes, for example, in the value of fathers will encourage a professional to engage fathers and, hopefully, provide resources (e.g., funds and training) to help the professional with that task. An organization that doesn't value fathers will erect barriers to a professional's attempts to engage fathers. Tools exists that help professionals—indeed, entire organizations—assess an organization's willingness and readiness to engage fathers and create no-cost and low-cost strategies and tactics to increase father readiness (see NFI's Father Friendly Checkup). 

The culture and mass media messages we see daily create a challenging atmosphere in which to engage fathers and create a culture where father involvement is important. Digital and social media increase this challenge. Whether you are combating negative portrayals of fatherhood in media, in your place of work, or in your own family, you can be a positive impact on a child. You can send a powerful message about the importance of fathers to the well-being of children in your life. Whether you've seen a great dad or not—you no doubt understand that creating more dads who are involved is a vital mission.

Please read our president, Christopher A. Brown's, full article by downloading the PDF here. It's only available for only a limited time.

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

How to Effectively Engage Fathers: The 5th Competency

Funding. Funding. Funding. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about recruitment and retention as being the bane of practitioners’ existence. That’s only half the story. The other half of practitioners’ bane, if you will, is funding fatherhood programs.

fundraising 

This post is the fifth and final in a weekly series in which I highlight the five core competencies you need to effectively engage fathers, and how you can develop each competency with NFI’s Father Engagement CertificateTM (FEC), an affordable on demand training that will help you develop those competencies.

Click here to read the post on the 1st competency: How to Create a Father-Friendly Organization

Click here to read the post on the 2nd competency: How to Design a Best Practice Fatherhood Program

Click here to read the post on the 3rd competency: How to Think Like a Marketer

Click here to read last week’s post on the 4th competency: How to Involve Moms 

Fundraising

The key to raising funds to start and maintain a fatherhood program is identifying diverse funding sources and securing funds from those sources that, when combined, provide multiple funding streams. All too often practitioners and organizations rely on one or two funding sources, which places the program at risk when those sources dry up as most eventually do. And all too often they’re involved in “crisis fundraising” that is reactive rather than proactive.

The fifth competency in effectively engaging fathers centers around the development of a well thought out, comprehensive Fund Development Plan for your fatherhood program that involves:

  • Identifying and securing of funds for the program.
  • How to position the fatherhood program within a larger context (i.e. related issue such as child abuse prevention).

Such a plan: 

  • Focuses on activities/tactics for raising funds.
  • Answers:
    • How you will identify funding sources?
    • How you will secure funds from sources?
    • Who will help identify and secure funds?
  • Limits crisis fundraising by:
    • Identifying opportunities to meet current program needs.
    • Identifying opportunities to meet future program needs.

To create an effective plan, you need to learn how to research, select, and engage (initially and ongoing) individual donors and other funding sources (e.g. family foundations). 

FEC Session 5: How to Develop a Funding Plan for a Fatherhood Program

This session helps you think through how you will fund your fatherhood program, and covers the importance of a Fund Development Plan. You will learn about the nuances of raising funds from individuals and foundations, as well as how to profile, research, select, and engage different types of funders/funding streams. Thinking through your funding options will help you prepare to launch a successful, sustainable fatherhood program.

Click Here to Start Your Father Engagement Training

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Don’t delay. Click here to start the process of earning your Father Engagement Certificate

Do you have a funding plan for your fatherhood program?

Does your plan include current needs and anticipate future needs?

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The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

How to Stretch Your Dollars for Children [Infographic]

NFI stretches your dollars through our capacity-building approach.

Every child deserves a 24/7 Dad. From free fatherhood resources to fatherhood products, programs and trainings, your donation supports our mission.

In fact, our free fatherhood resources now out number the products and resources we sell in our store. Today, we have 105 free resources that can be downloaded, read, watched, and reviewed. For instance, our free resource The Ultimate Guide to Connecting with Your Child has been downloaded almost 5,000 times! That's 5,000 fathers that are now armed with questions they can ask their child to generate meaningful conversations.

Just as we exist to create more involved dads, we serve fatherhood programs and organizations. Your donation also helps us create free resources for fatherhood leaders and organizations. Basically, you can think of us as a Cisco Systems or IBM of the family-strengthening arena. Just like IBM helps other businesses and governments build their technology infrastructures, we help other organizations and governments build their family-strengthening infrastructures.

Let's look at the problem of father absence, what NFI does to remedy this problem, and just how much your support truly matters...

How to Stretch Your Dollars for Children [Infographic] donate to fatherhood.org

The Root

How to Stretch Your Dollars for Children [Infographic] donate to fatherhood.org

One out of three American children live without their dad. That’s 24 million children, enough to populate New York City three times! These children are in every community, including your own. You can help these children by ensuring your dollars have maximum impact on child well-being.

How to Stretch Your Dollars for Children [Infographic] donate to fatherhood.org new york city nyc

NFI Connects Fathers and Children

How to Stretch Your Dollars for Children [Infographic] donate to fatherhood.org

  • We are the go-to source for thousands of organizations to obtain effective fatherhood training, programs, and other resources.
  • We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization relying on contributions from individuals and foundations to improve child well-being and prevent father absence.
  • NFI builds the capacities of those organizations to offer programs and services for dads, moms, and families.

NFI's Partners Include:

6-military-icon How to Stretch Your Dollars for Children [Infographic] donate to fatherhood.org
Military > 
All branches of the U.S. Military, National Guard, and Reserve Units

 

corrections prison jail How to Stretch Your Dollars for Children [Infographic] donate to fatherhood.orgCorrections > State, county, and private prisons/jails; Federal Bureau of Prisons; and state, county, and local reentry programs.

 

8-agency-icon How to Stretch Your Dollars for Children [Infographic] donate to fatherhood.org state local county government agency

State and Local/County Agencies > Health and Human Services; maternal and child health and welfare programs; and child abuse prevention organizations.

 

9-community-based-icon How to Stretch Your Dollars for Children [Infographic] donate to fatherhood.orgCommunity-Based Organizations > Community action agencies; head start and healthy start programs; grassroots fatherhood and family service organizations; and schools.

We track our success and impact through: U.S. Census data; program and project evaluations; number of resources distributed and organizations trained; and case studies, stories of impact and testimonials.

NFI’s Impact:

More than 7 Million NFI RESOURCES have been distributed to dads and momsNFI programs are used in all 50 states, Washington D.C, and U.S. Territories. 

NFI has trained more than…

  • 6,300 Organizations In-Person
  • 14,100 Staff In-Person
  • 15,000 Staff Online
10-NFI-impact-7-million How to Stretch Your Dollars for Children [Infographic] donate to fatherhood.org

 

A child raised with a dad is:

  • 4X less likely to live in poverty
  • 2X more likely to graduate high school
  • 7X less likely to become or get someone pregnant as a teen
  • 2X less likely to have emotional or behavioral problems
  • 7X less likely to be incarcerated as an adult
11-child-raised-with-dad-image stats fatherless home stats research How to Stretch Your Dollars for Children [Infographic] donate to fatherhood.org

NFI stretches your dollar through our national network that reaches into your backyard.

Fathers matter. Your support matters.

Begin making a difference for children everywhere. 
Donate today. Visit fatherhood.org/donate

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Click here or anywhere on the infographic to enlarge, download or share.

Stretch-Your-Dollars-For-Children-with-NFI How to Stretch Your Dollars for Children [Infographic] donate to fatherhood.org

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The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

How to Effectively Engage Fathers: The 4th Competency

Mom and dad don’t get along. Maybe they hate each other. Perhaps there is, unfortunately, a history of abuse in the relationship. Mom might not even realize that she restricts dad’s access to his children. Do any of these descriptions ring true in your work with fathers, mothers, families?

stressed-mom

This post is the fourth in a weekly series in which I highlight the five core competencies you need to effectively engage fathers, and how you can develop each competency with NFI’s Father Engagement CertificateTM (FEC), an affordable on demand training that will help you develop those competencies.

Click here to read the post on the 1st competency: How to Create a Father-Friendly Organization

Click here to read the post on the 2nd competency: How to Design a Best Practice Fatherhood Program

Click here to read last week’s post on the 3rd competency: How to Think Like a Marketer 

Involving Moms in Promoting Father Involvement

Our country has a remarkable structure that addresses the health and well-being of women, mothers, and children. While there are certainly issues with that structure and areas for improvement, there’s no debate about the lack of a structure that addresses the well-being of men and fathers. 

Unfortunately, fathers are most often the parent left out of the parenting equation when organizations implement parenting and family-strengthening programs. To be fair, fathers are often reluctant to avail themselves of these programs; nevertheless, organizations typically don’t make a concerted effort to reach them. Consequently, “parent” is a code word for “mom” from many fathers’ perspective. Organizations fail to speak directly to the needs and wants of fathers.

Fatherhood programs can’t make the same mistake—that is, leave moms out of the equation when it comes to implementing a fatherhood program. But wait, you might say: What do moms have to do with implementing a fatherhood program? A lot. 

Mothers are often the gatekeepers when it comes to fathers’ access to their children. Mothers can facilitate or hinder fathers’ involvement, particularly when fathers are non-residential or non-custodial. Even when mothers and fathers are romantically involved and living in the same home, mothers can unconsciously and unnecessarily restrict fathers’ access to their children.

That’s why it’s vital that you learn how to go the extra mile and build the fourth competency in effectively engaging fathers in Session 4 of the Father Engagement Certificate training: How to Work with Moms to Encourage Father Involvement.

This session covers the “why” and “how” to involving moms in encouraging father involvement. Learn about the “Five Aspects of Family Life” associated with father involvement, and how to use “intensity levels” to assess how you should approach involving moms. Also learn why training female staff to more effectively engage fathers is so important, and about a free resource from NFI that will help you train female staff to more effectively engage fathers.

Click Here to Start Your Father Engagement Training

FEC_training_logo

Don’t delay. Click here to start the process of earning your Father Engagement Certificate

How much do you know about the impact of mothers in ability of the fathers you serve to be as involved as possible in the lives of their children?

Do you know the typical behaviors associated with “restrictive gatekeeping?”

 

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The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

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