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The Father Factor

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When “Inclusion” Results in a Total Lack of Fairness for Dads

Words like empowerment and inclusion get thrown around a lot today. But do we really know what they mean? Do these principles in fact have any intrinsic value, or are they just the flavors of the week?

The problem with attributing value to ambiguous concepts like “empowerment” (which Daniel Pink defines as “a slightly more civilized form of control”) is that when you run into conflicts, there is no real standard by which to resolve those conflicts. This post-modern dilemma is playing itself out in a big, public way over at Time Warner, where CNN (a Time Warner company) journalist Joshua Levs has filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charge against his employer. 

Joshua and his wife just welcomed their third child into the world, and when he went to his employer seeking the 10 weeks of paid leave that new parents get, he found out that all new parents except biological fathers are entitled to this time off. You read that right – every kind of new parent working for Time Warner is entitled to 10 weeks of paid leave, except biological fathers. Adoptive mothers and fathers, biological mothers, and all mothers and fathers whose children were born through surrogacy; they all get 10 weeks of paid leave. But if you are in Joshua’s shoes, where his own wife gave birth to his own child, he only gets two weeks.

Time Warner, in its efforts to be “inclusive,” and to “empower” new parents with a policy of “equality” has created a situation that exposes a much more serious problem – it is completely unfair. Moreover, in Joshua’s view, given his EEOC charge, it is discriminatory.

While we at NFI do not know all of the legal details about the EEOC charge, we can say that we agree with Joshua Levs. His company is clearly treating him unfairly. And from a broader “fatherhood perspective,” Time Warner’s actions are symptomatic of much a deeper cultural issue that has been plaguing our culture for decades, the devaluing of fatherhood and marriage.

It seems every group has a movement or a program behind it, except married, biological fathers. Guys like me, who have sacrificed much to get and stay married to the mothers of our children, seem to be the ones who get the least support in the public square. We are the “suckers” who seemingly made the mistake of setting aside our own interests by going home every night to our wife and children so that we can be there for them for life.

We hear it all the time at NFI, but one of the most common refrains I hear is that “you don’t have to be married to your children’s mother to be a good dad!” Well, sure; most of our community-based programs help unmarried fathers connect to their kids. But the reason every civilization across all of world history has created the institution of marriage is because it enables men to be the best dads they can be. Since when are we so comfortable with settling for second best when it comes to our children? Have we lowered our standards that much?

As for Mr. Levs’ situation, one can’t help but be befuddled by the hubris of Time Warner to create and then enforce such a policy. In Mr. Levs’ own words, in his public statement about the situation, he said, “The company gave no explanation in rejecting my request last week, saying only that it was ‘unable’ to grant it. That’s obviously false. Time Warner is able to, but chose not to. The moment it did that, this issue stopped being a possible oversight that the company could have resolved quietly. It became an active, deliberate decision to discriminate.”

I am at a loss to figure out why Time Warner would do this, other than to go back to our mass cultural confusion, where we value too many other things more highly than the importance of father involvement.

But that only explains part of it. Other fathers at Time Warner are not getting the same lousy treatment as Joshua. So, could something more sinister be at work here?

For one thing, Time Warner’s policy is not actually about child well being. In Joshua’s statement, he mentions that certain forms of discrimination are legal because they are directed at groups that are not “protected classes.” Apparently, children are not a protected class, because if improving child well being was the purpose of Time Warner’s policies, they would extend the most generous policies, or at least the same ones, to the types of parents who are most likely to have children -- biological parents. Despite “advances,” the vast majority of children are still brought into the world as a result of a man and woman having sex with each other. So, Time Warner’s “inclusive” policy only touches a small minority of new parents.

Furthermore, as I mentioned above, our culture has gone out of its way to devalue married fatherhood for decades. Time Warner’s actions sound like yet another attempt to move our culture away from tradition and towards some new way of doing things. I am not sure what that “new way” is, but decades of social science research indicate that it is probably a bad idea, because children living with their two, married, biological parents do better across every measure of child well being than children in any other family structure. Shouldn’t that, therefore, be the structure that we encourage and promote? Wouldn’t that be fair to our nation’s children?

But there is the problem! It is not fairness we actually care about. We care more about ethereal concepts like “inclusion” and “empowerment,” which change with our culture’s whims. It is not even child well being we really care about; it is making sure “protected classes” are kept happy.

We at NFI hope Joshua Levs, and all of the biological fathers at Time Warner, get what is coming to them, which is simply what every other type of parent gets. And, furthermore, we are hopeful that Joshua’s actions resonate throughout our culture so that fathers all over the country get the same truly fair treatment they deserve, and more importantly, that their children deserve.

The good news is that much of the response to Mr. Levs’ charge has been positive. You can help the cause simply by making supportive comments right here on this blog, on NFI’s Facebook page, or by visiting Mr. Levs’ Facebook or Twitter page and voicing your support for him.

NFI Partners with U.S. Army to Place Fatherhood Resources on Installations Worldwide

NFI Fatherhood Skill-building Materials Being Distributed to New Parent Support Programs on 69 Army Installations

Germantown, MD (PRWEB) November 12, 2013

National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) has contracted with the U.S. Army to place its fatherhood resources on installations worldwide to support the Army’s New Parent Support Programs.

militarydad and daughter reunitedOver 117,000 fatherhood skill-building resources – including guides, brochures, tip cards, CD-ROMs, and more – are being distributed to 69 installations around the globe. This is the second “refill” of NFI resources that the Army has ordered; the initial set of materials was delivered by NFI in the fall of 2011, and the first refill was completed in the fall of 2012.

Working with the Army’s Installation Management Command (IMCOM), NFI continues to support the Army’s efforts to strengthen fatherhood and increase family resilience among Army families. Specifically, NFI’s programming is supporting the New Parent Support Program in its efforts to “help Soldiers and Family members who are expecting a child, or have a child or children up to 3 years of age, to build strong, healthy military families.” NFI’s programming is integrated into parenting classes and home visiting programs, and NFI fatherhood resource kiosks are displayed around the bases for easy access to the materials.

Examples of NFI materials the Army is making available for fathers and families is general parenting information contained in resources such as Dad’s Pocket Guide™, New Dad’s Pocket Guide™, Pocketbook for Moms™, and Pocketbook for New Moms™.

NFI is also providing the Army with military-specific materials such as the Deployed Fathers and Families Guide™, which helps military dads prepare for, endure, and return successfully from deployment.

nfi logo

At a time when thousands of military fathers are returning from long overseas deployments, it is critical that our nation’s military fathers receive the education and inspiration they need to embrace their roles as fathers and to build their relationship and parenting skills.

Tim Red, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, father, and NFI’s Senior Program Support Consultant for the Military, said, “Building the skills and confidence of our nation’s military dads is a key ingredient in building resilience in military families. NFI is proud to support the Army’s critical efforts to strengthen military families.”

Since launching its Deployed Fathers and Families program in 2001, National Fatherhood Initiative has become the nation’s leading provider of fatherhood-specific resources to the U.S. Military. NFI has delivered over 760,000 resources to all five branches of the military on bases all over the world, and has been listed on Military OneSource, the Department of Defense’s support service for military families.

As the premier fatherhood renewal organization in the country, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), founded in 1994, works in every sector and at every level of society to engage fathers in the lives of their children. NFI is the #1 provider of fatherhood resources in the nation. Since 2004, through FatherSOURCE, its national resource center, NFI has distributed over 6.5 million resources, and has trained over 13,300 practitioners from over 6,100 organizations on how to deliver programming to dads. NFI is also the most quoted authority on fatherhood in America. Since 2009, NFI has been mentioned in over 3,400 news stories, and makes regular appearances in national media to discuss the importance of involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood.

6 Tips and More on Talking with Your Teen about Sex

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.

As the father of two teen girls (18 and 15), I’ve been focused on doing everything I can to ensure that they avoid sex until they’re adults and, ideally, until they’re married. My primary tactic is, quite simply, to be involved in their lives as much as possible and to love them unconditionally.

dad and teen boy talking

The reason I employ that tactic is not only because I believe in it, I know it’s critical based on research. We’ve known for decades that children who grow up without their fathers are, on average, more likely to become teen parents than are children who grow up with their two, biological, married parents.

A lot of recent research has focused on teens, primarily girls, who have sex with individuals several years older because, as this research shows, children who have sex with much older partners are at increased risk for risky sexual behavior (e.g. having unprotected sex) and poorer emotional health.

A recent report by Child Trends on the latest data on sexual activity among teens confirms these facts and reveals that this is not just an issue for girls, it’s also an issue for boys.

Among young people ages 18 to 24 in 2006-10, ten percent of females and six percent of males reported that their first sexual experience occurred at age 15 or younger with an individual who was three or more years older than they were (“statutory rape”). In terms of the impact of family structure:

  • Male and female youth who were in a family with two biological or adoptive parents at age 14 were less likely than their peers in other family types to report their first sexual encounter was a “statutory rape.”
  • Among young males, four percent of those who lived with two biological or adoptive parents at age 14 reported a “statutory rape” as their first sexual experience, compared with nine percent of males who lived in a step-family, 11 percent of males with a single mother or father, and 13 percent of males in other family structures.
  • The pattern among females is similar, with those who were not living with two biological or adoptive parents at age 14 around three times more likely to have experience a “statutory rape” as their first sexual experience.

Whether you have a teen boy or a teen girl, it’s critical, especially if you are a single parent, to talk with your teen about avoiding sexual activity. There are too many land mines waiting for teens who have sex, especially with partners who are much older.

The good news is that parents have a lot of influence over their teens’ sexual behavior. In fact the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy notes that parents are the most influential factor in teens’ decisions about sex, love, and relationships.

So don’t allow your perception that your teen doesn’t listen to sway your decision about talking with him or her about sex. Another tactic I’ve used is to send a clear message to my girls, since they were very young, that I expect them to delay sex until they’re adults and, ideally, until they’re married. They’ve actually told me they’re glad to know what I expect. 

The Mayo Clinic offers these 6 tips on how to talk with your teen about sex:

      1. Seize the moment. When a TV program or music video raises issues about responsible sexual behavior, use it as a springboard for discussion. Remember that everyday moments—such as riding in the car or putting away groceries—sometimes offer the best opportunities to talk.
      2. Be honest. If you're uncomfortable, say so—but explain that it's important to keep talking. If you don't know how to answer your teen's questions, offer to find the answers or look them up together.
      3. Be direct. Clearly state your feelings about specific issues, such as oral sex and intercourse. Present the risks objectively, including emotional pain, sexually transmitted infections, and unplanned pregnancy. Explain that oral sex isn't a risk-free alternative to intercourse.
      4. Consider your teen's point of view. Don't lecture your teen or rely on scare tactics to discourage sexual activity. Instead, listen carefully. Understand your teen's pressures, challenges, and concerns.
      5. Move beyond the facts. Your teen needs accurate information about sex—but it's just as important to talk about feelings, attitudes, and values. Examine questions of ethics and responsibility in the context of your personal or religious beliefs.
      6. Invite more discussion. Let your teen know that it's okay to talk with you about sex whenever he or she has questions or concerns. Reward questions by saying, "I'm glad you came to me."
image: iStockPhoto

Why Cohabitation is Like “Rent to Own”

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.

Cohabitation has risen rapidly in the past 40-50 years. In 1965, only 11 percent of couples lived together without being married. By 2010, that proportion had vaulted to 60 percent. Cohabitation is now the pathway of choice to marriage with about 2/3 of women reporting that they lived with their partners first before marrying them. Moreover, more than half of cohabitating couples get married within three years. For those of you who hope for a return to the time when even a majority of couples married first and then moved in together, I’m sorry to say that ship has sailed and sunk.  

just married just rented

There are a myriad reasons couples choose to live together before marrying, or simply instead of marrying at all. For those couples considering marriage, one of the primary reasons is that they want to “test the water.” A term that has come into vogue among scholars who study cohabitation is “sliding before deciding.” (I prefer “rent to own,” but more on that later.) If it doesn’t work out, these couples reason, no harm, no foul.  

But what happens after these couples move in together? Are they more likely to like the water and jump in with both feet? A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that a good chunk of them are. According to the CDC, 40 percent of cohabiting couples between 2006 and 2010 decided to tie the knot with another 32 percent deciding to stay together ostensibly with the potential for marriage. (The rest of the couples split up.)

While sliding before deciding accurately describes the process that leads to a decision to marry among cohabiters, I prefer “rent to own” because it also considers the possible outcomes—marriage, staying together, or splitting up—and the impact of each one. When a couple decides to marry, it’s a decision to own—the couple “buys” marriage. When a couple decides to stay together, it’s a decision to extend the rental agreement. When a couple decides to split up, it’s a decision to either discard the rental or exchange it for another one.

Another reason I like this rather crass analogy is that it facilitates moving beyond the decision to compare the first two outcomes. What happens after someone decides to own (marry) or continue the rental agreement (cohabit)? This is where it gets interesting and illuminating.  

The most common way in which scholars have looked at the impact of these outcomes is whether cohabitation is more likely to lead to divorce than when couples don’t live together before marriage. While the impact on divorce is a very important discussion, what’s gained less attention is the impact of rent-to-own decisions on the quality of relationships between cohabiting and married couples. Especially in today’s society where marriage seems to be more about the couple’s satisfaction than any other factor (e.g. raising healthy children), it’s critical to examine the impact of these outcomes on how couples see the quality of their relationships which, after all, has a lot to say about whether couples ultimately stay together.  

Married couples consistently report that they are happier/more satisfied with their relationships than are cohabiting couples. Moreover, the proportion of cohabiting couples who are satisfied with their relationships has declined over time even as their numbers have increased. Not so for married couples whose satisfaction level has remained stable. This outcome doesn’t bode well for the couples who renew their rental agreements.  

What leads to these different levels of satisfaction? Scholars didn’t really know until a recent study by some smart folks at Texas Tech University shed some light. These scholars focused on the impact that “disillusionment” has on relationships. Disillusionment theory (yes, it’s a theory) suggests that when people date, they engage in a dance to impress each other. (Think of the male peacock and his plume.) Once married, they aren’t as motivated to impress each other. The idealized images they held of each other while they dated start to fade as does attraction, romance, affection, etc. Disillusionment leads to divorce in some couples. Think of disillusionment as depreciation. Just as something you own depreciates in value over time, so too can your view of your partner and the relationship in general.  

Until this study, scholars had only looked at the effects of disillusionment among married couples. The smart folks at Tech looked at it for the first time among cohabiting couples, compared their levels of disillusionment to those found in married couples, and examined its impact on perceived break-up (i.e. divorce among married couples and splitting up among cohabiting couples). They found that cohabiting couples were more disillusioned than married couples. Furthermore, disillusionment was a greater predictor of perceived break-up among cohabiting couples than it was among married couples.  

While the perception of a break-up doesn’t necessarily mean that a couple will break up, disillusionment helps explain why married couples are, quite simply, more satisfied with their relationships than cohabiting couples. When a couple rents to own and renews their rental agreements, the partners’ view of each other and the relationship depreciates to a greater degree than does a married couple’s. It’s likely that once married, the commitment partners have to each other and their relationship has a protective effect on depreciation. Married partners have a higher ownership stake and place a higher value on each other and their relationship.  

iStockPhoto

Introducing Jim Mckenzie and the "Every Thing for Dads" Convention

The following is a post from Jim Mckenzie. Jim is a happy, totally committed and passionate dad of seven (7) young home-birthed children (which he hand delivered). He is publisher of Every Little Thing birth and Beyond 360 Magazine and blogs at The Fatherhood Biz. Get details on the Every Thing For Dads Convention and follow Jim on Twitter. Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.

jim mckenzie every dad convention mega dads every little things magazineThree years ago, I was coaching a really popular health and wellness class at the my local Boys and Girls Club, and it was so disappointing that out of a class of 48 parents and children, there was only one dad…me!

I thought “if I have a busy life (I was then a dad of a mere five young children) and I can be here, paying it forward and more, then why can’t other dads?” This was the pivotal “ah ha” moment that led me to launch a movement to engage modern dads in their families’ lives, because so many were missing out on something truly wonderful…so many children were losing a chance to develop into well-rounded young adults because of fathers failing to be “present’ in their lives, even when they do live with their families.

I’m honored to be a guest blogger for National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) who has been such a trailblazer for informed parenting! The rest of this blog might feel a little infomercial-ish; but do excuse me, because it’s my first blog post here.

I have a lot to tell you in a short space of time…so here we go...

Here's my family...

mckenzie family jim and kids mega dad ame media group

Here's my story...

Two years ago, when I researched the subject "family lifestyles," it was clear that there was a serious lack of media speaking to and for the support and promotion of a dad's pivotal role.

When I created Every Little Thing Birth And Beyond 360 Magazine, a free digital magazine for 21st century parenting lifestyles, I assembled an “army” of dads who had been trying to make an impact on the need for change, but who needed a cohesive voice in the media—the Every Thing For Dads movement was born!

every little thing magazine offer FREE

Fast forward—now the unique dads section of the magazine runs to over 50 pages each month, covering many issues facing fathers today. With such momentum going forward, there is no doubt in my mind that dads' issues have to be brought alive. So on March 15, 2014, I’m launching the very first Every Thing For Dads Convention in Sarasota, Florida. It's meant to be a celebration of dadhood, which will also feature the MEGA Dads Awards; it will also be livestreamed. We will have celebrity guests from the NFL and TV at the event (teaser alert—you’ll have to check in with me to find out who…) Part of the proceeds will benefit The Every Thing For Dads Foundation which has a mission to create a live internet channel to reach and inspire dads from all walks of life.

The future? My goal is to be the hub for all dads and families to speak to making positive change for the better. We live in an era when the mom, dad, and two kids family is becoming less common. I can speak about how to be a great married dad, but I know very little about what it means to live as a single dad, divorced dad or blended-family dad. That’s why my mission is to include and connect dads from all walks of life with the very best information; caring and intuitive dads who can connect and convey their experiences to others with authority…and without being condescending—know what I mean? When the day arrives that I have Every Thing For Dads Conventions running in every state, and my own version of “The Oprah Winfrey” TV Show for everyday dads and families, then I will know my mission is on the road. I hope that you’ll join me on my journey to get there! See you in March! 

Are More Moms Opting In or Opting Out?

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President and Vincent DiCaro, Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.

Whenever we think our culture has come a long way in the last 15 years on this issue, we see an article that reminds us that a lot of work remains to be done.  

girl in mom shoes are more women opting in or out nfi fatherhoodAn article published this month on "The Daily Beast" website (a Newsweek property) has caused a lot of furor. The article, called "No Dad? No Problem. Meet the Moms Who Opt In Forever—and Aren’t Complaining," exemplifies an attitude that is growing in popularity in certain cultural circles; that kids do just fine without dads. To point, other than the mention of the word "dad" in the article's title, the remainder of the article has nothing to say about fathers or fatherhood.

So, despite the mountains of evidence that, on average, these children are at risk across every measure of child well-being, the article ignores the data and instead ends with a quote from one mom, whose own words prove that this is not about the well-being of children, but about "personal fulfillment" for adults: "I get to raise my child however I want. There’s no stress, no tension about child-rearing choices. Now I’m happy all the time. There’s not the emotional up and down. There’s never going to be custody disputes. She’ll never be taken away from me. I’ll never have that worry. It’s not as hard as people imagine."    

The article contends that more moms are opting in to a life filled with the demands of work and parenting and doing it all on their own. These moms, dubbed SMCs (single mothers by choice), like the idea of having complete control over their lives including the raising of their children. A life that is free from the trials and tribulations created by men and marriage. There’s even a group called Single Mothers by Choice that SMCs can join and through which they can connect with other SMCs for mutual support. The group even helps SMCs form virtual and local support networks. The philosophy of the group is as follows:  

“The word “choice” in our title has two implications: we have made a serious and thoughtful decision to take on the responsibility of raising a child by ourselves, and we have chosen not to bring a child into a relationship that is not a satisfactory one.”  

We question how thoughtful that decision really is. (It’s certainly a serious one, but not for the reasons these moms might think.) They’re certainly not thinking about the increased risk their children face growing up without a dad. Indeed, in an article chocked full of quotes from SMCs, not a single one mentions anything about the children. They focus instead on how these mothers benefit from being SMCs. Thoughtful, it seems, means “thinking only about me.”  

We also question the second implication of their choice and its validity. By definition, these mothers have chosen to bring a child into the world in the absence of a relationship, not in the presence of an unsatisfactory one. That part of their philosophy is simply a way to make themselves feel better about their choice—a convenient, and untruthful, excuse. The fact is they don’t want to mess with men and marriage and are willing to position their choice against an implication that doesn’t exist for them.  

Finally, we question the sanity of that choice—bringing more fatherless children into the world. A country with 24 million fatherless children (1 in 3) and a world with millions more. A country in which it costs taxpayers at least 100 billion annuallyto pay for the consequences of father absence. So while these moms are opting in to a life as a SMC, they’re opting out of giving their children the love of an involved, responsible, committed father.

Question: How do you think a child should be raised?

image: iStockPhoto

A Must-Watch Video on Texting and Driving

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.

I’ve often wondered why my kids rarely call their friends and answer their phones when I call. But when I text them, their responses are almost instantaneous.  

Can't view the video? Watch it here.

Texting has revolutionized the way our children communicate with one another and, for many of us parents, the way that we and our children communicate. Most revolutions, however, create unintended consequences. Such is the case with this one. The challenge for today’s teens (and adults) is that texting has become such a ubiquitous form of communication that one could argue it’s a form of addiction. (I often joke with my oldest daughter that given how often she texts she might as well graft her phone to her forearm.) If you don’t agree, try taking your child’s phone away for a week or even a few days and see how your child reacts.  

To put the dangers of texting and driving in perspective, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports that texting and driving is six times more dangerous than driving drunk. As the father of two teenage drivers, I am as concerned about them texting and driving as I am about them driving drunk (or getting into a car with someone who texts and drives or who drives drunk). This video is the most remarkable video you’ll ever see on texting and driving. It focuses not only on the devastating impact on victims caused by car accidents when someone texts and drives, it also focuses on the devastating impact of the people who cause the devastation.  

Please share this post and video because doing so might save a life. If your children drive or are near driving age, make them watch it.  

For more information on the national campaign to reduce texting and driving, visit It Can Wait.

Do you set a good example by not texting and driving?

Why Marriage is (Still) a Vital Pathway to Independence

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

I’m sure you’ve heard that more young adults—the Millenials—are living with their parents. It’s been all over the news in recent years in large part because of the recent economic recession. But as with most things, you have to look beyond the sound bites in the media to see the forest for the trees.  

pew research young adult marriage

Let’s start with the data. According to a recent Pew Research Center report, a record 36% of Millenials (ages 18-31) lived with their parents in 2012. This proportion is even greater than the 34% who lived with their parents when the economic recession officially ended in 2009. To be fair to these young adults and their parents, as many as half might be college students because the census data used for this analysis considers children living in dormitories as living with their parents.  

Nevertheless, the fact that a record number of Millenials live with their parents is a cause for concern. Parents must shoulder the financial load for their children for a longer period of time than parents of previous generations. This lengthens financial burden and negatively affects parents’ ability to save for their own retirement. That effect is particularly troubling given a recent study on Americans’ difficulty in saving adequately for their retirement. That difficulty, as we all know, places a burden on other sources of financial support in retirement provided by us all (i.e. Social Security). And this increased financial burden creates an increased emotional burden as parents worry about their own and these young adults’ futures, not to mention the tension that naturally exists between adults parenting other adults who live in the same home.  

What’s driving this trend? If you only listen to the media, you might have said it’s the economy. That’s only part of the picture. There are three driving factors: declining employment, rising college enrollment, and declining marriage. Specifically, Millenials who are either unemployed, enrolled in college, or unmarried are more likely to live with their parents. (I surmise that the more of these factors that describe a young adult, the more likely he or she is to live at home.) 

The starkest difference within each of these categories is between married and unmarried Millenials—47% of unmarried Millenials live with their parents compared to only 3% of married Millenials. To put that difference in perspective, let’s say you were to walk into a room of 100 unmarried Millenials with the intention of interviewing one of them about their thoughts on this trend. You’d have a 50-50 shot at randomly picking one who lives at home. Try that in a room of 100 married Millenials and it might take you a very long time to find someone.  

To turn a phrase, “It’s marriage (not the economy)—stupid.” While the other two factors should concern us, it is the long-term trend in the decline of marriage that is creating a sea change. Employment is cyclical. The economy is improving. Increased college enrollment—while down among men (another cause for concern)—is good in the long run. (And remember that as many as half of these children are actually living away from home for most of the year.) Parents should consider supporting their college-enrolled children as an investment in their own and their children’s futures. College graduates are more likely to have higher salaries and earn more in their lifetime. They are also more “marriageable.”    

The lesson here is that marriage continues to be a critical path to independence. Think of it as one leg in a three-legged stool of independence. That stool is very wobbly because the importance of marriage in our society is being whittled down to a nub. (Cohabitation, which the Pew report notes is rapidly on the rise, is not substitution for marriage.) Parents tend to focus on the education and employment legs, and rightly so. What parents often neglect, however, is to send a clear message about the importance of marriage—not only its importance as the ideal situation in which to raise children, but how vital it is to parents’ and their children’s eventual independence from one another.   

What action should parents take? Send a clear, frequent message to their children that marriage is just as critical for independence as a college education and gainful employment.

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(Video) Dying Father and His Last, First Dance with Daughter

"Each and every day, we have a choice. We have a choice to either love that person that's in front of us or not. It's the relationships that you build over the years that is the most important thing in life. It's the only real thing in life. Everything else is just an illusion." —Dr. James Wolf, father of two daughters

Reporting on The Today Show,

Can't see the video? Click here.

As The Today Show reports, on a Saturday in July, Rachel Wolf was preparing for the day she always dreamed of, with wedding gown, makeup, and guests.

But the wasn't like any other wedding. Gutierrez says, there was one thing missing: a groom.

Instead of a wedding day with the groom, this special day was about Rachel's dad, Dr. James Wolf. You see, Dr. Wolf is dying of pancreatic cancer. Doctors say he likely has three months or less to live.

So, Rachel came up with a plan to make sure he wouldn't miss her big day. Rachel decided to create and record her very own father/daughter dance. She picked the venue and the rest was donated. 

"I just was flabbergasted," Dr. Wolf told TODAY in an interview on Monday.

If you watch the video above, you hear Dr. Wolf say, "There are a lot of things that I would've liked the girls to experience with me being there...and I'm not going to be there."

TODAY reports that just hours before the big moment, Dr. Wolf was in the hospital. Exhausted from the chemo, his wife, Jeanine helped get him ready for his big moment.

In the video, Jeanine says, "I don't know what to expect...I'm hoping that he's feeling well enough to be able to get that dance in."

He was well enough to attend. Watch the video, you will see Rachel's limo arrive and step out in a white dress. Watch as Dr. Wolf looks into the eyes with his little girl. "Hi honey...” he says, “You look gorgeous!"

"Thanks Daddy!" Rachel replies.

Can't see the video? Click here.

This is a great story that speaks to the bond between fathers and daughters. 

As Gutierrez points out, "When it comes to making memories, why wait!"

What memories are you waiting to create? 

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Is Optimism Fooling Your Parenting? 4 Vital Questions to Ask Yourself

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

We humans have unique ways of fooling ourselves. One of the ways we fool ourselves is through a number of biases that research has shown lead to poor decision-making. I wrote about one of these biases—confirmation bias—in a recent post for The Father Factor.

imPossible Are you being fooled by optimism 071913Another bias that short circuits our decision-making is optimism bias. (Lest you think you’re immune to this bias, neuroscientists have discovered that our brains are hard-wired for it.) This bias leads us to overestimate good news, such as our odds of winning the lottery or ESPN’s March Madness Tournament Challenge. Conversely, it leads us to underestimate risk (bad news), such as the greater likelihood of dying in car accident than on a plane flight or that we won’t lose our shirts in Vegas. It’s the basis for one of the more well-known phrases for describing someone who is naïve—she/he “looks at the world through rose-colored glasses.”

Optimism bias is also the foundation of hope. People who are more prone to this bias than others are the ones we call “optimists.” They tend to look at the bright side of things. When we experience hardship or find ourselves in a tight spot, this bias generates the hope that is often critical to turning things around. Nevertheless, it is often problematic as it clouds our judgment when we make short- and long-term decisions, including those where our children are concerned. It clouds our judgment because it clouds and alters our reality.

As I reflect on my 18 plus years of fatherhood, I can point to many occasions when I fell prey to optimism bias, even though many people wouldn’t describe my personality as “rosy.” Because I have two daughters, I’ve done my best to remove the bias of my gender to see the reality that exists for girls and women. My oldest daughter is about to enter college and will major in sports journalism, clearly a male-dominated career. She’s wanted to be a sports journalist since I can remember, so I’ve encouraged her along the way—given her hope—because I know how challenging it will be for her to succeed. At the same time, I’ve been clear that she’ll face an uphill battle and will have to work hard to realize her ambitions.

So I was encouraged when I read a Harvard Business Review blog post about Denise Morrison, the chief executive officer of Campbell Soup Company, and the role that her father played in her success. It offers an excellent reminder of how important fathers are to their children when fathers see the world as it is and not as they want it to be while, at the same time, offering their children hope and providing a foundation for success. Denise says about her dad:

  • "I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was setting down a blueprint for my career early on…If I wanted a stereo, [for example,] I would have to make a business plan about it — [explain] how I would pay for it and why I needed it and so forth…He was a man who early on believed that times were changing — that the world would open up in all ways to women…he had four daughters, so I guess he would have to believe that. But the fact is, he did, and he prepared us for it.”

What would have happened to Denise if she didn’t have a father who prepared her for the world as it was and for the world it is today? To fully understand her father’s impact, take a look at what Denise does aside from (although certainly connected to) her success in the corporate world. “Morrison is actively involved in the movement to stamp out childhood obesity and is a founding member of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, an initiative of manufacturers and retailers to combat obesity in the marketplace, workplace and schools. The battlefront includes Campbell’s impoverished hometown — Camden, New Jersey — where the company launched its ‘Campbell Healthy Communities’ program in 2011, setting an ambitious goal to reduce childhood obesity and hunger by 50 percent by 2020 through initiatives that educate children and families about nutrition, cooking and exercise. The company has set aside $10 million for the program.”

Ask yourself the following questions as you consider the role of too much or too little optimism in your parenting:

  1. Are you too optimistic? Think about whether your optimism has fooled you recently and whether you tend to sugarcoat risk in an attempt to protect your children or simply to avoid difficult conversations.
  2. Are you not optimistic enough? Think about whether you didn’t provide enough hope to your children recently, perhaps in an attempt to protect them from the disappointment of failure. It’s a cliché, but we learn as much through failure as success.
  3. How much is self-reflection a part of your daily or weekly routine? Self-reflection is one of the most vital disciplines for good parenting. Create space to reflect on your day, your relationships (with your spouse and children), whether you see the world for what it is (not for what you want it to be), and whether you gave your children what they need to succeed.
  4. Do you  have someone in your life who gives you the “hard news?” Think about whether you have a friend, family member, or someone else in your life who will confront you when you’re clearly off base with regard to your children. All too often parents surround themselves with people who are so like them that they never have to confront their own biases—these people reinforce optimism and confirmation biases.  
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image: iStockphoto

When Moms Mark Their Territory

Over the last four decades, men have had to give up their “territory” in the workplace to make room for women. Culturally, we’ve gone from Mad Men to the Working Mother 100 Best Companies list. But has the same change happened at home? Have moms given up their “territory” to make rooms for dads? 

While a definitive answer to such a complex question is hard to come by, we occasionally come across evidence that the answer is “not yet.” Take the incident outlined in this segment that aired yesterday on Good Morning America. 

Can't see the video? Watch it here.

It is disappointing to see that some moms have such low expectations for fathers. Why is this the case? Certainly, dads have done their part in lowering our culture’s expectations of fatherhood (see data on father absence here). But another significant part of it comes down to a basic human emotion that was mentioned at the end of the GMA segment: jealousy. 

I was not old enough during the 1970’s when the workplace started to transition from a man’s world to a more equal place, but I imagine that many men during that time felt jealous that the women in their lives were being seen as equally capable of doing what they had been doing at work for generations. Today, as men are starting to do the same things women do at home – like care for babies – many women are feeling jealous. After all, since time immemorial, moms have been seen as the “default” parent and nurturer of children. I think it is inevitable that some moms are going to feel a bit jealous that dads are taking on that role with aplomb.  

However, given the economic realities of the day, moms and dads have to share responsibilities at both work and home. It is becoming less and less possible for one parent to work, one to stay at home, and for that to be a static situation for a family for an extended period of time. Families have to be fluid and respond to the economic environment, like the family depicted in the GMA segment, where the Google-employed mom was the one who continued working after the baby was born for reasons I imagine were related to her pay, flexibility, and workload. 

The best news in all of this – we know from decades of research that kids do best when raised by both of their parents, and when dad is involved in providing for, nurturing, and guiding his children. So, moms should be celebrating the dads who are finding various ways to be involved in the lives of their children. I think many are, but as this segment shows, some moms are still jealously guarding their territory. 

Do you know any moms who are jealously guarding their territory at home and in the playground? Let us know in the comments.

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Prince George’s County Council Member Mel Franklin Partners with NFI to Strengthen Fatherhood

Two-year project aims to increase father involvement and reduce the possibility of father absence in the lives of children in the 9th District of Prince George’s County, Maryland.

nfi logo

In a press release today from PRWeb, Prince George’s County Council Member Mel Franklin (D)-District 9 and the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) have partnered to create a multi-sector initiative to strengthen fatherhood in southern Prince George’s County.

Using its Community Mobilization Approach™, NFI will work with Council Member Franklin and County leaders to engage 11 sectors in District 9, with a goal of increasing the involvement of fathers and father-figures in the lives of Prince George’s County children. The 11 sectors are government, faith-based, social service, education, health, law enforcement, philanthropic, community activist, civic, business, and media.

“Responsible fatherhood directly impacts quality of life issues in Prince George’s County. We must take action to promote and support strong fathers in our households and neighborhoods,” said Council Member Franklin. “The District 9 Fatherhood Initiative is an opportunity for a true public-private partnership to achieve this important goal. With NFI’s outstanding expertise and research-based methods, we will be better able to measurably improve the lives of children and families in southern Prince George’s County.”

“Responsible fatherhood directly impacts quality of life issues in Prince George’s County. We must take action to promote and support strong fathers in our households and neighborhoods.” —Council Member Franklin

NFI’s Community Mobilization Approach™ (CMA) consists of three phases:

  1. a needs and assets assessment of the community’s ability to promote responsible fatherhood; 
  2. a Leadership Summit on Fatherhood attended by community leaders; and 
  3. implementing an action plan for a fatherhood initiative that uses NFI resources and solutions generated by the district.

“NFI’s Community Mobilization Approach™ will help District 9 create new fatherhood champions within the 11 sectors, while leveraging the great work that existing programs are already doing for fathers and families,” said NFI Vice President of Program Support Erik Vecere. “It will also provide the structure for Prince George’s County Government to lead a mobilization effort and establish model direct-service providers in different sectors to serve as benchmarks on how to involve more fathers in the lives of their children.”

“NFI’s Community Mobilization Approach™ will help District 9 create new fatherhood champions within the 11 sectors, while leveraging the great work that existing programs are already doing for fathers and families.” —NFI Vice President of Program Support Erik Vecere

Over the course of the next two years, NFI will lead the residents of District 9 through the three phases with in-person training, technical assistance, web-based support, events, and other initiatives. At the conclusion of this set of activities, leaders and organizations will be identified in District 9 to comprise a Fatherhood Advisory Committee (FAC) and a plan to guide the FAC in continuing to mobilize the district.

As the premier fatherhood renewal organization in the country, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) works in every sector and at every level of society to engage fathers in the lives of their children. NFI is the #1 provider of fatherhood resources in the nation. Since 2004, through FatherSOURCE, its national resource center, NFI has distributed over 6.3 million resources, and has trained over 12,900 practitioners on how to deliver programming to dads. NFI is the most quoted authority on fatherhood in America. Since 2009, NFI has been mentioned in over 2,400 news stories, and makes regular appearances in national media to discuss the importance of involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood.

Prince George’s County is a diverse community of nearly 900,000 residents located in Maryland, adjacent to Washington, DC. District 9 comprises the southeastern third of Prince George’s County’s land mass, including much of the Rural Tier and the communities of Accokeek, Aquasco, Baden, Brandywine, portions of Camp Springs, Cheltenham, Clinton, Croom, Eagle Harbor, portions of Fort Washington, Piscataway, and portions of Upper Marlboro, as well as Joint Base Andrews. Council Member Mel Franklin has represented District 9 since his election to a four-year term in November 2010. Council Member Franklin chairs the County Council’s Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development Committee. He is married. He and his wife have two children.

Prince George’s County Council Member Mel Franklin Partners with NFI to Strengthen Fatherhood

Two-year project aims to increase father involvement and reduce the possibility of father absence in the lives of children in the 9th District of Prince George’s County, Maryland.

In a press release today from PRWeb, Prince George’s County Council Member Mel Franklin (D)-District 9 and the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) have partnered to create a multi-sector initiative to strengthen fatherhood in southern Prince George’s County.

nfi logo

Using its Community Mobilization Approach™, NFI will work with Council Member Franklin and County leaders to engage 11 sectors in District 9, with a goal of increasing the involvement of fathers and father-figures in the lives of Prince George’s County children. The 11 sectors are government, faith-based, social service, education, health, law enforcement, philanthropic, community activist, civic, business, and media.

“Responsible fatherhood directly impacts quality of life issues in Prince George’s County. We must take action to promote and support strong fathers in our households and neighborhoods,” said Council Member Franklin. “The District 9 Fatherhood Initiative is an opportunity for a true public-private partnership to achieve this important goal. With NFI’s outstanding expertise and research-based methods, we will be better able to measurably improve the lives of children and families in southern Prince George’s County.”

“Responsible fatherhood directly impacts quality of life issues in Prince George’s County. We must take action to promote and support strong fathers in our households and neighborhoods.” —Council Member Franklin

NFI’s Community Mobilization Approach™ (CMA) consists of three phases:

  1. a needs and assets assessment of the community’s ability to promote responsible fatherhood; 
  2. a Leadership Summit on Fatherhood attended by community leaders; and 
  3. implementing an action plan for a fatherhood initiative that uses NFI resources and solutions generated by the district.

“NFI’s Community Mobilization Approach™ will help District 9 create new fatherhood champions within the 11 sectors, while leveraging the great work that existing programs are already doing for fathers and families,” said NFI Vice President of Program Support Erik Vecere. “It will also provide the structure for Prince George’s County Government to lead a mobilization effort and establish model direct-service providers in different sectors to serve as benchmarks on how to involve more fathers in the lives of their children.”

“NFI’s Community Mobilization Approach™ will help District 9 create new fatherhood champions within the 11 sectors, while leveraging the great work that existing programs are already doing for fathers and families.” —NFI Vice President of Program Support Erik Vecere

Over the course of the next two years, NFI will lead the residents of District 9 through the three phases with in-person training, technical assistance, web-based support, events, and other initiatives. At the conclusion of this set of activities, leaders and organizations will be identified in District 9 to comprise a Fatherhood Advisory Committee (FAC) and a plan to guide the FAC in continuing to mobilize the district.

As the premier fatherhood renewal organization in the country, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) works in every sector and at every level of society to engage fathers in the lives of their children. NFI is the #1 provider of fatherhood resources in the nation. Since 2004, through FatherSOURCE, its national resource center, NFI has distributed over 6.3 million resources, and has trained over 12,900 practitioners on how to deliver programming to dads. NFI is the most quoted authority on fatherhood in America. Since 2009, NFI has been mentioned in over 2,400 news stories, and makes regular appearances in national media to discuss the importance of involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood.

Prince George’s County is a diverse community of nearly 900,000 residents located in Maryland, adjacent to Washington, DC. District 9 comprises the southeastern third of Prince George’s County’s land mass, including much of the Rural Tier and the communities of Accokeek, Aquasco, Baden, Brandywine, portions of Camp Springs, Cheltenham, Clinton, Croom, Eagle Harbor, portions of Fort Washington, Piscataway, and portions of Upper Marlboro, as well as Joint Base Andrews. Council Member Mel Franklin has represented District 9 since his election to a four-year term in November 2010. Council Member Franklin chairs the County Council’s Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development Committee. He is married. He and his wife have two children.

Connect with The Father Factor by RSSFacebook and on Twitter @TheFatherFactor. 

Why Do People Continue to Believe Children Don’t Need Fathers?

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

i <3 You

I continue to struggle with the fact that so many people in our country deny that fathers play a distinct, irreplaceable role in children’s lives. Despite reams of data to the contrary, people believe that fathers are replaceable—that they simply fulfill a role that any man or any woman can fulfill. Indeed, National Fatherhood Initiative’s Pop’s Culture and Mama Says surveys reveal that a majority of American men and women, respectively, believe that another man or a woman can replace a child’s father. The resulting conclusion that a majority of Americans have reached is that dads are dispensable. As W. Brad Wilcox pointed out in a recent article in The Atlantic, many scholars and writers have come to the same conclusion, which gives further credence to a view that is refuted by decades of research.  

Then why does this belief persist? Wilcox, who directs the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, says that it “has a lot of intuitive appeal in an era where millions of women have children outside of marriage, serve as breadwinner moms to their families, or are raising children on their own.” He goes on to point out that this belief ignores not only the evidence that fathers are indispensable, it also ignores the evidence that fathers parent differently than mothers and that the difference is good for children. In Gender and Parenthood: Biological and Social Scientific Perspectives, a new book that Wilcox co-edited, he covers four distinct ways in which fathers parent, each of which are supported by substantial evidence:  

  • Physical (“roughhouse”) play characterized by arousal, excitement, and predictability,
  • Encouraging risk through embracing challenges and encouraging independence,
  • Protection of children through physical size, strength, and “public presence” (a deterrent to would-be predators), and
  • More frequent and firmer discipline.

Moreover, Wilcox notes that these distinct forms of parenting lead to positive outcomes for children that are also supported by research. Children with involved fathers are, for example, less likely to engage in delinquent behavior and become pregnant (or get someone pregnant) as teens.  

While I agree with Wilcox’s assertion for the persistence of the belief that fathers are indispensable, we have to dig deeper to further understand why so many people ignore the evidence and, frankly, the common sense that fathers are not replaceable. Two additional reasons, one cultural and the other psychological, contribute to this ignorance.  

First, American culture is individualistic rather than collectivistic. It is marked by rugged individualism, the belief that individuals can overcome almost any challenge and rise to greatness, and that people should focus on improving their own lives rather than improving society if doing so comes at their own expense. Our constitution and laws are primarily designed to protect and give freedom to individuals. The fact that our culture focuses on the individual does not mean that Americans don’t come together and sacrifice their interests for each other or the common good (e.g. to defend our country against invaders). But when push comes to shove, the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many.  

As a result of living in such a culture, Americans tend to ignore population-based evidence. A body of evidence is necessarily population-based because it considers the impact of an issue on a large group of people to reach conclusions about the impact of an issue on the broader population, country, culture, etc. That’s the problem. It’s not a problem with the evidence—it’s clear. The problem is that we live in a culture that makes it difficult for people to accept even a large body of evidence, not to mention act on it. People rely instead on their own experiences (and, sometimes, those of family or friends) to draw broad conclusions about a variety of issues, not just this one. If their experiences don’t match up with the evidence, they simply ignore it and erroneously conclude that their experiences also apply to our society. They might also use “outliers” (exceptions) to ignore the evidence. If they are a child from a father-absent home and turned out fine, raised a child in a father-absent home who turned out fine, or know of someone from a father-absent home who turned out fine, then, clearly, fathers must not be important.  

Second, people are drawn to sources of information that confirm what they already believe and ignore information that doesn’t fit with how they see the world. Psychologists call this tendency “confirmation bias.” As Chip and Dan Health mention in their book Decisive, confirmation bias negatively affects decision-making. “Researchers have found this result again and again. When people have the opportunity to collect information from the world, they are more likely to select information that supports their preexisiting attitudes, beliefs, and actions…The tricky thing about the confirmation bias is that it can look very scientific.” The effects of confirmation bias increase with the emotional nature of the issue—the more emotionally-charged an issue is the more likely someone will experience this bias. When people search for evidence that supports the belief that fathers are irreplaceable, they seek out sources that support this belief, which further concretizes it in their minds. They become even harder to convince, especially because this issue is so emotionally-charged.  

National Fatherhood Initiative started nearly 20 years ago because its founders recognized and acted upon population-based evidence—evidence that has only continued to accumulate. We continue, and write blog posts like this one, because so many people ignore this evidence. Frankly, I wish this country didn’t need our organization. But we will continue as long as it does and, most importantly, as long as there are children who need their dads. 

image: http://flic.kr/p/4zvfEj

We are Watching You Daddy

The following is a post from Michael Yudt, Senior Director, Program Support at National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Michael's last day at NFI is tomorrow. Thank Michael for his work at NFI over the last decade and wish him well in the comments! Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

Yudt Family Feb 2013As I write this blog, I am fast-approaching the end of a nearly 10-year stretch with National Fatherhood Initiative.   

I’ve served in many different capacities at NFI and will always look favorably upon my time here. God is calling me into a new season of life, but fortunately, I will still be involved in the fatherhood movement (both personally and professionally).  

As a married father of three boys (ages 5, 3, and 1), I often find myself reflecting on the great responsibilities that come with being a dad. I was reminded of that fact the morning of September 13, 2012.   

I was at home getting ready to leave the house to lead a training on our 7 Habits of A 24/7 Dad workshop. While brushing my teeth, I had the sense that another set of eyes was on me. As it turns out, it was two sets of eyes—that of my oldest son (Caleb) and my middle son (Joshua).  You see, they share a room, which is adjacent to the bathroom.   

It was pretty early in the morning and both boys were sitting up in their beds watching me as I brushed my teeth. I was a bit caught off guard and asked them what they were doing. My oldest son responded, “Daddy, we’re watching you.” He didn’t stop there though as he proceeded to say, “We watch everything you do.”  

Make no mistake… The meaning of that moment did not escape me. I thought to myself about the irony of getting ready to head out the door to lead a fatherhood training, only to have one of my sons make a statement like that.  

You see, children have a way of speaking the truth in such a simple, but often times, very profound way. As fathers, our responsibilities are great… because our children are watching us.   

Whether we live at home with them or not, whether they can literally see us or not, they are “watching” what we do with our lives. They are watching how we treat their mom (or don’t treat her for that matter). They are watching what we say and how we say it. They are watching how we spend our time and who we spend it with. The truth is men, they are watching every detail of how we live our lives.  While this may scare some men (and understandably so), there is also a great opportunity for my generation of fathers to stand up and give our children something that is worthy to watch.   

As men, we must ask ourselves what kind of legacy we want to leave behind. Each dad must spend time wrestling with the question, “What is the most important thing we want our children to see and remember about us?” For me, as a Christian, the number one thing I want my sons to see is my relationship with Jesus Christ.

How would you answer that question?

Don’t rush to an answer if you’re not sure, but don’t delay either. As you think about this critical question… remember that National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) is a great resource for you along the way. Check out the For Fathers section of NFI's website. NFI deeply cares about helping all dads succeed. Take advantage of the wealth of information on our website and find another man who can encourage you in your role as a dad. 

And remember, regardless of what your children have seen so far in you, it’s never too late to paint a different picture. And when you do, remember, your children will be watching…..

How do you think your child would answer the question: "What's the most important thing in your dad's life?"


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