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The Croods and “Leaning In”

It seems that strong women beget strong women. However, research also shows that involved fathers beget strong women. Let me explain...  

the croods CDS FirstLook 21 4K RGB v10 1 rgb resized 600Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has made headlines recently by imploring today’s working women to “lean in” to their careers in order to reach their full professional potential.

According to a CBS News story, “If there's one message she wants women to hear it's to aim high -- seek challenges and take risks -- and fight the instinct to hold back.”  

Much of the response to Sandberg’s idea has focused on whether or not women should try to act more like men, whether it is appropriate for women to “lean in” as much as Sandberg thinks they should, what the future of work-life balance policy is, etc.  

I am not going to get into that debate. Rather, I think it is critical that we are honest about the characteristics that many successful women tend to share – they grew up with involved dads.  

The conventional wisdom seems to be that strong women beget strong women. I don’t doubt that that is true… to a degree. But what research has shown consistently is that involved fathers beget strong women.  

For example:

  1. Children who have involved fathers expressed emotions in non-traditional gender patterns. Girls express more aggression, competition, and less intense fear and sadness whereas boys expressed more warmth and fear as well as less aggression. Also, 3 to-5-year-old children with highly involved fathers had less traditional views of future employment possibilities when they became adolescents than did their peers whose fathers were more aloof.
  2. A study of 302 adolescent girls showed that those who feel connected with their biological father but have little contact are at higher risk of problematic psychosocial functioning. Poor school behavior also increases for girls with low contact levels with their father.
  3. Fathers’ emotional involvement in the lives of their child can lead to less gendered roles.
  4. Fathers have a unique effect on their daughter’s tendency towards anti-social behavior. A study of 325 families revealed that fathers who present their daughters with more opportunities and reinforcement lessen the likelihood of their daughters’ poor behavior.

Having recently seen the upcoming DreamWorks Animation Film, The Croods, and then seeing what Sandberg had to say about women in the workplace, I couldn’t help but make the connection to this compelling data.  

While you may not think of an animated cavegirl as the poster child for today’s working women, the reality is that Eep (pictured above on her father's shoulder), the young girl in the Croods’ family, drives the film’s plot through her desire to “leave the cave” and find new adventures out in the wide world. And guess what? She had a great dad.  

As you may have seen on this blog, we gave Grug a Fatherhood Award™ for his heroic fathering in the film. Sure, these aren’t real people, but they are archetypes that mean something in our culture; the makers of The Croods have tapped into something very real. The reason Eep had the confidence to step out into a dangerous world is because she knew her father had her back. She may have been rebelling, and her father may have seen it as such, but the reality is that she would not have had the foundation to take such bold steps if she didn’t come from a supportive, strong family whose bedrock (Flintstones pun not intended) was dad. Again, take a look at the above data points if you have your doubts.  

If a movie, even an animated one set in a fantasy world, is too unhinged from reality it will not be successful. That is why we at NFI believe The Croods is a special movie. DreamWorks is tapping into a truth about what gives children, especially girls in this case, the confidence they need to reach their full potential. Dads are the secret ingredient to “empowering” today’s girls to do their best.  

The tagline for The Croods is “the first modern family.” Indeed.

Question: How have you seen this play out in your life as a dad?   

 

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

Sources:
1. Rivers, Caryl and Rosalind Chait Barnett. “Father Figures a Slew of New Studies Applaud Dads.” The Boston Globe 18 June 2000: E1.
2. Coley, Rebekah Levine. “Daughter-Father Relationship and Adolescent Psychosocial Functioning in Low-Income African American Families.” Journal of Marriage and the Family, 65 (November 2003): 867-875.
3. Deutsch, Francine M., Laura J. Servis, and Jessica D. Payne. “Paternal Participation in Child Care and Its Effects on Children’s Self-Esteem and Attitudes Toward Gendered Roles.” Journal of Family Issues, 22 (November 2001): 1000-1024.
4. Kosterman, Rick. Et al. Unique Influence of Mothers and Fathers on Their Children’s Anti-Social Behavior.  Journal of Marriage and the Family, 66. (August 2004). 762-778.
Image credit: The Croods © 2013 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All Rights Reserved.

(Video) Putting Fatherhood Back in The Picture

Recently on FoxNews Live, Lewis Kostiner and Juan Williams spoke to Jonathan Hunt, host of "On the Hunt", on how men from all walks of life are working to be great fathers, all because of NFI's programming.

If you can't see the video, click here

The interview centered around the book titled, "Choosing Fatherhood: America's Second Chance" which contains photographs from Lewis Kostiner's travels and meeting with 150 fathers from all walks of life in 17 states and 39 cities who had at least one thing in common – they were all working hard to be the best dads they could be.  

Kostiner says he became aware of the national crisis of father absense while attending a luncheon with NFI. He then decided he would take photographs and illustrate how NFI's Programming was helping change the father absence problem in America. 

Juan Williams wrote the introduction to the book and calls father absence, "the human tradegy of our time". He writes in the introduction, "No government can hold a child's hand or read to him at bedtime. No child will ever call a government "daddy". Regardless of a man's job status, or the struggles inherant in every romantic relationship, a child ideally needs two parents."

Juan continues, "we need to be child-focused...let's put the dad back in the picture...that's what Mr. Kostiner's book does."

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(Video) Are Dads the Missing Link in Education Reform?

24 million children without biological fathers in the home. This is a stat we at NFI mention a lot. The number can be so big that it loses its meaning. However, if you take time to break most societal ills down, you find that father absence is a big part of the problem. Fix the state of fatherhood and remedy many ills in society. Education isn't immune to the father absence crisis, both in America and globally.

We recently wrote a column for CNN titled, "The Missing Piece in Education Reform—Dads". You can read our blog on it here.

Vincent DiCaro, National Fatherhood Initiative’s VP of Development and Communication, recently appeared on FoxNews Live to discuss the father-absence crisis and just how critical a fathers' role is in education. 

Gregg Jarrett interviewed DiCaro on the FoxNews Live show "On the Hunt" about the state of education reform and fathers' roles.

If you can't see the video, click here.

Jarrett points out that America's children seem to be in a deficit compared to other nations and asks the question, "What's hurting education in America?"

1) Children growing up in father-absent homes
DiCaro does well to point out that "The biggest change that has taken place in education over the last generation has nothing to do with schools, but everything to do with what has happened to the family... One in three of our children are growing up without their biological father in the home." 

2) Decline in marriage
Jarrett asks what's to blame for the decline of father involvement; unwed mothers or divorce or both? DiCaro makes clear that both contribute to what ends up being a situation where dad is just not there on a regular basis. DiCaro points out, "Out of wedlock childbirths have gone through the roof. We're at about 40% of all births are out of wedlock." He continues by pointing out that divorce is obviously still at a high rate. But DiCaro also mentions the "general mentality in our country that fathers don't play a unique an irreplacable role in their children's lives."

Jarrett asks about father absence and race. DiCaro makes clear that the father-absence issue is a global one. DiCaro says, "Father absence is not unique to any one community...this is a problem happening across the board." DiCaro continues, "...it isn't just in the United States, there was a global study done from Child Trends called the "World Family Map"; the report found, across the developed world, "children in two-parent homes do better in school than children in single-parent homes and this happens independent of income...this isn't about the haves versus the have-nots in terms of money, but kids who have two parents, and kids who have only one."

Jarrett asks, "do you think the important role that a dad plays in education is underestimated?"

DiCaro says, "Absolutely. Us dads ourselves often underestimate our role. We often think, mom has that covered, she's going to the parent teacher meetings, she's helping with homework, so the kid's gonna be fine. But even if mom's doing these things, it's still critically important for dad to do them as well. You know, dads do things differently. We interact with our children differently. We play a unique and irreplaceable role in our childen's lives, and so we need to be just as hands-on with our kids' education, reading to them every day, helping them with their homework, going to the school, being there, present in the school; a man's presence in a school communicates a lot to his kids and other kids in the school as well.

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PA is 25th State to Standardize NFI's InsideOut Dad®

Facilities Across Pennsylvania Have Been Equipped to Deliver NFI’s InsideOut Dad® Program to Connect Incarcerated Fathers With Their Children

nfi logoNational Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) has trained 37 Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) staff members on how to deliver NFI’s InsideOut Dad® program to incarcerated fathers across Pennsylvania.

The training took place at a Training Academy in Elizabethtown, PA on January 15 and 16 following the decision of PA DOC Secretary John Wetzel to standardize InsideOut Dad® at the state’s 24 adult male correctional facilities and 1 boot camp facility. The training equipped treatment specialists, corrections counselors, and chaplains to deliver the classroom-based curriculum to fathers seeking to reconnect with their children. The curriculum covers topics such as family history, what it means to be a man, showing and handling feelings, co-parenting, and much more.

Michael Yudt, NFI’s Senior Director of Program Support Services, who delivered the training, said, “The training revealed a great deal of excitement among Pennsylvania Department of Corrections staff for this type of program, aimed at helping inmate dads reconnect and strengthen their relationships with their children. In fact, one facilitator plans to delay her retirement until she has a chance to run InsideOut Dad® for a year.”

Pennsylvania is the 25th U.S. state to “standardize” InsideOut Dad® -- the nation’s only evidence-based program designed specifically for working with incarcerated fathers -- across its state correctional facilities. An independent study by Rutgers University qualified InsideOut Dad® as evidence-based, proving its effectiveness in building fathers’ knowledge and confidence in being better fathers, even while incarcerated.

"When individuals come to prison, not only does the community suffer, often their children, innocent victims in the situation, pay a toll. This program addresses the need for male offenders to stand up, face their responsibilities, and truly be a man in every sense of the word. Not only do we need this program, society does, as 90% of our men will return to our communities one day," said Secretary Wetzel.

SCI-Mahanoy, a facility in Frackville, PA, has been running InsideOut Dad® and was instrumental in arranging for implementation across the entire state. As a result of the training, each of the 25 facilities aims to offer InsideOut Dad® once per quarter as a voluntary program for inmates, with state-mandated eligibility criteria in place for fathers seeking to participate in the program.

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State of the Union Address: Fatherhood on the Agenda

obama state of the union“And we’ll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples, and doing more to encourage fatherhood – because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one. Stronger families.  Stronger communities.  A stronger America.  It is this kind of prosperity – broad, shared, and built on a thriving middle class – that has always been the source of our progress at home.” -- President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, 2/12/13

Not for the first time, President Barack Obama urged the nation to strengthen the institution of fatherhood. He also made the important connection between marriage and fatherhood; two forces that work together to strengthen families and the economy. 

The President’s timely comments ride on the heels of new research from the Pew Research Center (which we cited in a CNN.com op-ed on Monday) that shows that marriage is in decline, creating an enormous cultural and economic gap between those who marry and those who don’t. Thus, the President hit the nail on the head in tying the vibrancy of the middle class to the health of marriage.

The President has consistently voiced his support for responsible fatherhood, having formed the Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Task Force in 2007, of which former NFI president, Roland C. Warren, was part. NFI and Roland helped create this report on how the federal government can address fatherhood issues.

For NFI’s part, we are inspired to hear the leader of the free world choose to take time out of his most important speech to voice his support for fatherhood and marriage. Twenty four million children grow up in biological father-absent homes today, and we don’t have a fatherless child to spare!

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photo credit: white house

Top Posts of 2012: #4 — 5 Questions Every Father Should Ask Himself

5 questions every dad should askThe Father Factor Blog is closing out the year by revisiting some of our most popular blogs of 2012! We've enjoyed talking parenting tips and tools this year with you. Today is our fourth most popular blog post of 2012!

From the blog: 

We call him the “24/7 Dad.” We believe that every child needs one. What we are talking about is an involved, responsible and committed father. We are talking about a dad who knows his role in the family. He understands he is a model for his sons on how to be a good man. Likewise, if he has daughters, he models what they should look for in a husband and father for their children. There are five questions every responsible father should answer. These five questions come with a guarantee: if you answer each one honestly and take action, you will become a 24/7 Dad!

The questions fit into five categories:

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

2. Caring for Self. The 24/7 Dad takes care of himself. He gets annual physicals, eats right, exercises, and learns about the world he lives in. He has a strong connection to his family and community, and chooses friends who support his healthy choices. So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I care for myself? 

3. Fathering Skills. The 24/7 Dad knows his role in the family. He knows he should be involved in the daily life of his children. Consider this: Who dresses and feeds your kids? Who attends parent-teacher conferences? Who supports their sports and other interests/activities? Who helps with homework and tucks them in at night? Said a different way, if you weren’t in the family, would anyone notice based on the daily household tasks? So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I “Father”?

4. Parenting Skills. The 24/7 Dad nurtures his children. Yes, nurturing is for men to do as well. He knows how his parenting skills help to develop their physical, emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, and creative needs. His children trust and feel safe with him because he cares about and nurtures them through the use of proven parenting skills. The 24/7 Dad uses discipline to teach and guide his children, not to threaten or harm them. So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I “Parent”?

5. Relationship Skills. The 24/7 Dad builds and maintains healthy relationships with his children, wife/mother of his children, other family members, friends, and community. He knows and values how relationships shape his children and their lives. So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I relate?

Read the full blog post: 5 Questions Every Father Should Ask Himself

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

photo credit: Fabiana Zonca

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

Top Posts of 2012: #5 — Communicating with Your Child

communicating with your childThe Father Factor Blog is closing out the year by revisiting some of our most popular blogs of 2012!

We've enjoyed talking parenting tips and tools this year with you. From today through December 31st, we'll post our top five blog posts of the year.

Today is our fifth most popular blog post of 2012!

We posted "3 Rules for Communicating with Your Child" and proposed thinking about communicating with our kids as a racecar driver thinks about race tracks! 

From the blog:

Odds are good you didn’t wake up this morning and say to yourself, “You know, I should communicate with my kids better…or more…” No, that has never happened - EVER. Something must change in how we view communication. We understand the importance of communication, but we need something to help us remember that how we do it daily is of utmost importance...

We wrote three rules that can help you as you talk with your child. They are the same ideas that a driver must consider as he approaches:

1. Know Your Racetrack: 

  • Short tracks = Infants and young kids
  • Intermediate tracks = School-aged children
  • Superspeedways = Teenagers
  • Road Courses = College-aged children and beyond

2. Practice, Practice, Practice. And then practice more.
When a NASCAR driver isn’t on the track, he is practicing. A driver’s life is about way more than that short moment on the racetrack. And all of his time leading up to the moment on the track is spent in preparation. When is the right time to practice? Early and often.

3. You Must Make Adjustments. 
If Nascar drivers know anything beyond the track and practicing; they understand the importance of making adjustments. Adjustments are crucial in racing. Likewise, you as a dad will learn by trial and error. It’s good to understand you can learn both when you’re away from your child and during the moments you are with them. Great drivers know the importance of making adjustments, from “Research and Development” to “The Pit Box.”

Read the full blog post: 3 Rules for Communicating with Your Child.

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

 

photo credit: camille.eric

Video: Is a father factor at play in the Newtown school shooting?

In case you missed it, Vince DiCaro was interviewed on Fox News discussing our recent blog on the father factor and its possible role in the Sandy Hook School shootings.

Parents: watch the interview and tell us; what should be done to prevent these tragedies?

Connect with The Father Factor on Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

Is the Sandy Hook Shooting Another Crime of Fatherlessness?

In the wake of the horrific tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, our nation is collectively mourning and trying to figure out how something this terrible could happen. While it is not our job at NFI to figure out how to solve issues around gun control and mental health treatment, we would be remiss not to point out that once again, like in so many tragedies of this nature, there appears to be a significant “father factor” at play.

sandy hook

As we learn more and more about the troubled life of shooter Adam Lanza, it appears that the divorce of his parents had a significant, negative impact on his life.  

It is becoming clear that Adam Lanza suffered from some sort of emotional or psychological disorder that has not yet been specified. It also appears that this mental disorder contributed significantly to the heinous crime he committed. However, we know from research that children from father-absent homes are more likely to have emotional problems and are also more likely to commit crimes.According to this news article, he took the divorce especially hard – “The break up was traumatic, leaving the couple's sons devastated.” His father, Peter Lanza, had moved out and remarried in 2009; and although he had legal access to his child, he had not seen him in 6 months. In other words, there were no legal barriers preventing him from seeing his child, but he had not seen him since June. Adam Lanza was not alone in this – fully one third of children from father-absent homes never see their dads, and another third only see them once per month*. 

This blog has written several times about the father factor in mass murders (the Aurora shooting, the D.C. sniper, and Chardon High School, the Norway terrorist, and Tucson), and the patterns we see in each and every one of these cases is eerily similar. 

Had Peter Lanza been more involved in his son’s life -- helping him deal with the mental anguish it appears he was going through -- would things have turned out differently? Sadly, we will never know.

For now, all we can do is mourn with the families who were affected by this tragedy and start to work together to devise solutions that will reduce the likelihood of this sort of tragedy happening again. And certainly, part of the solution needs to be to ensure that all children have involved, responsible, and committed fathers in their lives who can help them navigate a difficult world, one that is especially difficult for the mentally ill.

*See: 

  • Stewart, Susan D. “Nonresident Parenting and Adolescent Adjustment: The Quality of Nonresident Father-Child Interaction.” Journal of Family Issues, 24 (March 2003): 217-244 
  • Aquilino, W.S. (2006). The noncustodial father-child relationship from adolescence into young adulthood. Journal of Marriage and Family, 68, 929-946

    photo credit: Rickydavid

5 Ways to Raise Thankful Children

thankfulNational Fatherhood Initiative's Vincent DiCaro was recently featured on CNN for writing "5 Ways to Raise Thankful Children."

Vince writes about the first time he heard his young son say "Thank you, daddy" and gives parents five ways to raise thankful children. He says, "I can say with confidence that thankfulness does not come naturally to children, mine included." But Vince continues, "Parenting, like having a good jump shot, is a skill that can be learned through the right techniques and practice."

There are things you can do to help cultivate thankfulness in your children. Read "5 Ways to Raise Thankful Children" and take comfort that if you make habits out of these guidelines, you will start to see positive results in your children. And for that, you will most certainly be thankful.

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

photo credit: cheerytomato

One Father (and Community) at a Time

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). If you are interested in writing for us, send us an email.

Now that the presidential election is over, pundits have taken stock of what the candidates did well and didn’t do well that led to victory and defeat, respectively. A lot of it is standard stuff—who made gaffes, did well or not so well with specific demographic groups, etc. Others, however, provide unconventional wisdom that gets folks to think differently. Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup, provided such wisdom in a recent blog post.

american flagJim’s position as the head of, arguably, the most successful polling company in history places him in a position of authority regarding elections. Of this recent election he says, “Throughout this year’s long election season, I was often asked: ‘Who will be better for jobs and the economy, President Obama or Governor Romney?’ My reply most surely disappointed partisans from both sides: The president of the United States doesn’t make as much difference in terms of creating economic energy as you’d think, according to Gallup data.” Jim says that local leadership in cities is much more important to economic and job growth. He uses examples of similar cities with vastly different unemployment rates and economic growth to make his point. The differences, he notes, rest on the qualities of the leaders in those cities.

So what, then, is the role of national leaders? To provide an environment that helps local leaders to create good economies and jobs. This fact isn’t lost on many national leaders. The problem is that they have different ideas about how to create that environment, and those differences often lead to a dangerous game of chicken as the looming fiscal cliff illustrates, but I digress.

As the nation’s preeminent fatherhood organization, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) understands and embraces its role in creating an environment that helps local leaders in all sectors of society to increase the involvement of fathers in the lives of children, and the benefits that involvement brings to communities and our nation. How do we do it? With a laser-like focus on our 3E strategy—educate, equip, and engage.

We educate all Americans, especially fathers, about the important role of fathers through public awareness campaigns, research, and other resources. We equip fathers and develop leaders at the national, state, and local levels with the tools (e.g. curricula, training, and technical assistance) they need to create a culture, programs, and services that encourage father involvement. We engage every sector of society through strategic alliances and partnerships. This strategy guides our day-to-day decisions and reflects our commitment to children, father, families, and our nation.

Critical to NFI’s success is that we’re not static. Our strategy has evolved as the needs of fathers and local leaders have changed. NFI began as a public advocacy organization in 1994. The main thrust of our early years was to meet with national politicians on both sides of the aisle to argue for father-friendly legislation, convene local fatherhood practitioners via national summits on fatherhood so they could learn from each other, and partner with the Ad Council to launch a PSA campaign that garnered more than $600 million in donated placements. As awareness of fathers’ importance increased so too did the need among fathers and community-based organizations for high-quality, research-based tools that help fathers become more involved. In 2000 we started to add resources (e.g. curricula), training, and technical assistance to meet that need. Since then NFI has developed more than 100 unique resources, distributed more than 6.1 million of them, and trained more than 12,000 practitioners from more than 5,600 organizations.

As we near the end of our second decade of existence, we continue to evolve in new and exciting ways, but with our eyes fixated as always on meeting the needs of fathers and the organizations that serve them. That’s our commitment to every father, mother, child, and community. Jim Clifton of Gallup says, "Whether the country makes a historic comeback or slowly goes broke, it will do so one city at a time." At NFI, we agree with Clifton; and we also think our country's comeback has something to do with fathers.

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photo credit: Thomas Hawk

My Apology to My Junkyard Dawg Dad

This is a guest post by Larry Elder. He is author of Dear Father, Dear Son now available for order on www.larryelder.com. If you would like to blog for us, email here.

Heard of Tiger Moms? I had a Junkyard Dawg Dad. 

For a very long time, I hated him. His anger. His volatility. His surliness. Today, they’d use the term “emotionally unavailable.” 

Larry Elder

“Dear Father, Dear Son,” my new book, is a 247-page apology to this very special, WWII retired Marine, my father. I knew virtually nothing of his life, and never had a conversation with him, until I was 25.

From the time I was fifteen -- when my father and I had a big, long-time-coming fight -- until ten years later, we did not speak to each other. I wanted nothing to do with this volatile person who, for reasons that escaped me, managed to marry my mother. Our little home, where my two brothers and I slept in the same bedroom, instantly became a place of tension the moment Dad set foot in the front door. Was it supposed to be like this?

After ten years I sat down and talked to the man -- for eight hours. 

Why, I wanted to know, were you so damn angry all the time? Why did you whip the three of us -- my two brothers and me -- so furiously? Did you know that the three of us were scared to death of you? Did know that this fear crossed into hatred? Did you care? Does this even matter to you?

An only child, my father was a black boy born to an illiterate single mom in a rented room in Athens, Georgia. He was a child on the eve of the Great Depression in the Jim Crow South. He did not know his birth date, and used the one arbitrarily written down by a teacher when he started school.

He never met his biological father. His mom raised him with a series of boyfriends, one of whom was a man named Elder. That man never married my dad’s mother. Worse, he was an alcoholic who beat both my dad and his mom. 

One day my dad came home from school and made too much noise for his mother and her then-boyfriend. They all quarreled, his mom siding with the boyfriend. My dad was thrown out of his house at age 13 -- never to return. A year later the Great Depression began.

He dropped out of school and looked for work wherever he could find it. After a series of jobs as a yard boy, shoeshine boy, hotel valet and cook, he finally landed a prestigious job as a Pullman porter, then the largest private employer of blacks in the country. It was as a Pullman porter that Dad first visited California. He thought of it as a less prejudiced place, loved the climate, and made a promise to someday return. 

After Pearl Harbor, he joined the Marines. Why the Marines, I asked? “I liked the uniforms,” he told me, “and they seemed to always go where the action was.” So they made him a cook. 

He trained at Montford Point, the segregated Marine base next to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. He was soon put in charge of food services, and became a staff sergeant, stationed on Guam in the south Pacific. 

But when discharged, he could not find work as a cook despite his now-considerable experience. He went to an unemployment office in Chattanooga, Tennessee where he was instructed by a white clerk to walk through the “proper door.” So he goes out into the hall, goes through the “colored only” door to the very same clerk who told him to go through the "proper door.” “Now, how may I help you?” she said.

There has to be better place than here, he thought. Dad left for California.

Restaurants in Los Angeles did not tell him -- as they did in the South -- that he’d not be hired because of his race. Instead, they refused to hire because, as he was told, “You have no references.” 

He worked two full-time jobs as a janitor, and attended night school to get a G.E.D. He averaged less than four-and-a-half hours of sleep for years. Pressure, lack of sleep, “running from job to class,” he told me, makes a man a little grumpy and impatient -- especially when raising three loud boys with a stay-at-home wife. 

He worked so hard, he said, because he never had a father, a secure home and “food in the icebox” to come home to after school. “So,” he said, “I did my best to give you kids what I never had.” He told me that growing up without “a real father in the house” was not a death sentence. If you work hard, and people “see you struggling,” they will help. But it’s up to you to play the cards you are dealt the best way you can. And the best way is through hard work.

Randolph Elder lived to see the completion of this book. He died two months before what we believe would have been his 96th birthday. I got a chance to read “Dear Father, Dear Son” to him. His verdict? “I have no idea,” he laughed, “why anyone would care about my little life.”

They care, Dad. For those born and raised in tough circumstances, you show the path: While we cannot control our circumstances, we are in complete control of our effort.

What would you tell your dad if you could sit down with him like Larry did his father?

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Say "Thanks, Dad!" This November

thanks dad

Tis the season to be thankful. Your dad deserves thanks and we want you to hear why. You can record a video, share a picture or write a note saying "Thanks, Dad!" Each week during November we'll hand-select a winner to receive a gift card to take dad out for Starbucks Coffee or enjoy one on us! Moms and daughters, you can participate too by sharing about the dads in your life.

Ways To Win!
Enter to win a Starbucks gift card by saying "Thanks, Dad!" in the following three ways. Each week we'll pick a winner and notify you by asking for your mailng address.

1. Record a Video
Record a short video to your dad starting with "Thanks, Dad!" Share it on Google+Facebook or Twitter using hashtag #ThxDad to tell the world why your dad deserves thanks.

2. Share a Picture
Post a picture of you and your dad or something that reminds of your dad. Share on our Facebook timeline, mention us on Twitter (#ThxDad), Pin us on our "Thanks, Dad!" board on Pinterest or use hashtag #ThxDad on Instagram (@TheFatherFactor) to enter.

3. Write a Note
Starting with "Thanks, Dad!" write a short message for the dad in your life and share it with us by tagging us on Facebook, mentioning on Twitter (#ThxDad) or commenting on our blog.


What to Watch for this month:

  • Week 1: Raising Thankful Kids
  • Week 2: Showing Thankfulness
  • Week 3: Creating Thankful Traditions
  • Week 4: Saying Thanks By Giving

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Doomed to Fail

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). If you would like to blog for us, email here.

The October 22nd issue of The New Yorker includes an article by Michael Specter titled “Germs Are Us.” Specter chronicles how our understanding of the relationship between humans and bacteria has evolved since the advent of antibiotics in the early 20th century. We know now that not all bacteria are harmful. Indeed, many bacteria live in symbiosis with their human hosts and confer health benefits including protection from some diseases. These bacteria include all of those we find in our mouth and gut that aid our ability to digest food and ward off illness. Unfortunately, the overuse of antibiotics indiscriminately kill bacteria including those that are our friends.

bacteriaThere are many bacteria, however, that aren’t our friends. That knowledge has given rise to an industry dedicated to the eradication of bacteria—just take a walk down the soap and disinfectant aisle of your local grocery store, and you’ll find all manner of anti-bacterial soaps, wipes, and sprays. There’s no disputing the fact that we’ve been liberated and are safer from the scourge of unfriendly bacteria, at least to an extent. But at what cost? As the old saying goes, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Scientists now believe that we’ve become “underexposed” to bacteria and no longer build the antibodies, particularly as youngsters, that we once did to ward of future illness. (This underexposure also extends to viruses, such as rhinovirus which causes the common cold.) Consequently, we’ve seen a rise in allergies, asthma, and obesity. Yes, even obesity has now been linked to the overuse of antibiotics that has caused a reduction in a bacterium that inhabits our guts and regulates two hormones that, in turn, regulate appetite.

It is this symbiotic relationship between bacteria and us—two life forms that need one another to survive in a state of health and well-being—that made me think in a slightly different way about the path our society has taken in its treatment of fathers as nice but not necessary. Our society is creating a huge, dangerous experiment as we systematically eliminate fathers from more families. And yet we’re conducting this experiment with the knowledge that it is doomed to fail. That’s where this experiment departs from our attempt to eradicate bacteria, and therein lies the problem.

In the years between Fleming’s discovery of penicillin and the realization that we were overprescribing antibiotics to ill effect, we didn’t realize what we were doing. Doctors know now that they must be judicious in their use of antibiotics, although they certainly have some work to do and some of the effects of overuse might be irreversible. We know from reams and decades of research that DNA isn’t the only necessary ingredient from fathers for the creation of healthy children who grow up to be well-functioning adults. Their presence and positive influence as children age is necessary as well.

In other words, children’s health and well-being depends on the symbiotic relationship they have with their fathers. Children can and do survive without fathers in their lives, but at what cost to them and our communities? We know that, on average, children from father-absent homes are at greater risk for a range of social ills. Communities with high rates of father absence suffer as well (e.g. high rates of poverty and violent behavior). And yet we continue with this dangerous experiment that we know will fail. Why is that? Especially when we know it has already failed so many children.

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photo credit: Microbe World

Join Us at "The Play-By-Play on Fatherhood"

flutieOn this Friday, unlike any other time in history, the wide world of sports and the world of fathers comes together!

Dove®Men+Care® and Dad 2.0 Summit are partnering for "The Play-By-Play on Fatherhood with Doug Flutie" and we couldn't be more excited to be a part of an event that will advance the public dialogue on responsible fatherhood.

As Dad 2.0 writes on a recent blog post:

"For football fans, you know Doug Flutie from the Hail Mary pass that beat Miami on national TV in 1984. You know about his subsequent 20-year career in the NFL, CFL, and USFL, despite the prevailing wisdom that he was too short to make it as a pro quarterback. You know about Flutie Flakes. What you may not know, however, is that Doug’s son was diagnosed with autism at 3 years old, and since 2000 the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation has raised more than $13 million to help improve the quality of life for people and families affected by autism. Doug is also part of Dove®Men+Care®’s latest “Journey to Comfort” campaign, which touches on fatherhood as never before. He’s amassed a lot of specific insights about how fatherhood changed his life, as it changes every man’s. And on October 26, he’s going to sit down with us and talk about them."

National Fatherhood Initiative has been invited to “The Play-By-Play on Fatherhood,” along with several dads who will explore, promote and champion fatherhood.

Join National Fatherhood Initiative and many other dads for the live-streamed broadcast on the Dove®Men+Care®Facebook page on Friday, October 26, at 10am Eastern. During the live-stream connect with the host and attendees by commenting on Facebook and tweeting to @DoveMenCare@dad2summit and of course @TheFatherFactor!

The Father Factor Blog: News, tips, and tools for dads and those helping dads.

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