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The Father Factor


How to Raise a Resilient Child

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

The discussion today around parenting often centers on "helicopter parents," those parents who hover over every aspect of their children's lives to such an extent that they organize and monitor every minute of their children's lives. As a result, their children have little or no space to explore the world on their own and learn how to effectively navigate life's challenges from one of life's great teachers -- learning from failure.


The fact is that no matter how closely parents try to manage their children's lives they can't possibly protect them from life's trials and tribulations. Indeed, parents shouldn't protect their children from those things. Parents should guide their children instead in how to effectively manage the challenges they'll face on their own. Even then children need the resilience to bounce back from those challenges because, inevitably, they will fail. They will make mistakes. They will get knocked down and, in some cases, knocked out. Although counterintuitive, the sooner parents live with and embrace that their children will fail, the more effective parents become.

One of the greatest gifts parents can bestow on their children is to build their children's resilience. The authors of Stronger: Develop the Resilience You Need to Succeed, one of them a former Navy SEAL, identify five factors that help people become more resilient. Although written as a self-help book for adults, parents can use this knowledge to focus the coaching of their children on building those factors. (After all, a good parent is a good coach.)

Here are five factors that resilient people possess and parents should build in their children:

  • Active Optimism: Resilient people are optimistic even in the face of challenges and setbacks. They're not overly optimistic, but realistic in their optimism that when they continue to move forward and avoid paralysis in making decisions, they will eventually succeed.
  • Decisive Action: Resilient people act on their optimism. They consider their options, decide how to face challenges and act decisively. They don't allow challenges to paralyze them or wait for others to tell them what to do. They don't wait for things to happen, they make things happen.

  • Moral Compass: Resilient people have a moral compass anchored in honor, integrity, fidelity and ethics. They use this anchor to decide which actions to take.
  • Relentless Tenacity and Determination: Resilient people stay true to the paths on which their decisions take them. They don't quit. Not quitting doesn't mean they are so naive or stubborn that they're unwilling to change a path when it becomes clear that a decision was not the best one. It means they won't quit until they find out whether their decisions are the right ones and, if not, to pursue other solutions. It also means that when it's clear they've failed, they won't allow failures to keep them down or negatively affect their self-worth.
  • Interpersonal Support: Resilient people realize and embrace the need for help. As they make decisions, they consider whether they can go it alone or need help. When they ask for help, they don't feel in the least that help is a sign they are somehow inadequate.

I would also add a sixth factor: resilient people lack a victim mentality. There are legitimate situations in which people are victims, a perfect example of which is the recent murders of more than 125 people in France from multiple, coordinated acts of terrorism. But a victim mentality is a state of mind, a trait that someone acquires and leads to blaming external factors (e.g. people) for failures even when no clear evidence exists that external factors played a role. The lack of a victim mentality doesn't mean that someone is never a victim. It means resilient people don't seek to blame someone or something else or for their failures -- even when someone or something else might have contributed to a failure. They accept responsibility for their part and the lack of control they have over external contributing factors. They get up and move on.

A great perspective to take in raising your child to become resilient is the second of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Begin with the End in Mind. (These habits apply to being an effective parent as well.) Who do you want your child to become when she or he is an adult? If you want your child to be a resilient adult -- and to raise your grandchildren to be resilient -- focus on building these six factors.

The Father Factor Blog This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

How Can I Keep My Teen Safe with Their New Smartphone?

If you're a dad or serve dads of teens, they already have a smartphone of their own or have been asking for many months, hoping to join the digital, always connected generation with their own iPhone or Android phone. Kudos to them, but not so fast, because while children eagerly insist that they’re ready for adult responsibilities, they really aren’t, cognitively or emotionally, and that includes the serious responsibility of having a tiny computer in their pocket.

How Can I Keep My Teen Safe with Their New Smartphone? tech and teen

Let's be candid: the Internet is a quite terrifying place in spots and there are quite legitimate risks that they'll face on a daily basis. For boys, it includes being exposed to — or actively seeking out — hardcore pornography that could truly scar him and affect his perception of healthy intimate relationships (there’s some harrowing research just coming out on this subject). There are also hate groups and even terrorist organizations who are learning to master the “grooming” process through online chat groups and social media.

For girls, there's the challenge of a healthy self-image which can be destroyed by the cruel candor of the online world. No girl is skinny enough for the masses and other children (and adults) aren't shy about sharing their opinions in a blunt, vocal fashion. When she posts her first selfie and is told she's ugly, fat and stupid looking, it can permanently scar, a particular form of cyberbullying that's way too common with girls as each tries to find their own identity and come to terms with their physical appearance, both what they can change and what they cannot. 

Cyberbullying really is at epidemic level in the modern digital world of the adolescent. This can manifest as your child being the victim of a non-stop stream of hostile, belittling, taunting and vitriol, of course, but it can also come out as your child seeking to be accepted by the “cool kids” and joining in on the harassment and bullying of another child. And this isn't just the hostile teens who act out in this fashion either, because I can hear you saying "not my little angel".

Okay, so that’s some of the down side of them going online with a smartphone. The upside is that mobile phones offer access and safety, whether it’s your child being able to check in with you after school so you know where they are at any point of the day or them being able to call you to say they want to come home from a party that’s starting to get out of hand. I've had my teens do just that more than once, one time with my daughter not even knowing exactly where she was in town and us having to use a mapping program to figure it out. We were both thankful she could reach out and I could come get her.

Smartphones are also really fun. There are a remarkable number of engaging, stimulating and entertaining games available on modern phones, whether your teen wants an iPhone or Android phone. Not enough diversion? There's email. Snapchat. Instagram. Tumblr. Texting. YouTube. Netflix. Social Media. The number of ways that people can connect through smart devices is quite astonishing nowadays, with more social networks and options appearing every week.

Which is, again, one of the dangers. Children really aren't the best at managing their time and moderating influences so that they have a healthy balance of tech and non-tech time in their lives. Homework suffers. Relationships suffer. They become withdrawn and sneaky. Happens again and again, even with the most enlightened and loving families. Girls and boys.

So if you really are going to travel down this path, I suggest that you come up with a behavioral contract before any purchase is made, one that emphasizes that the smartphone is a privilege granted by you parents and that it continues to be available based on your child's ability to use it responsibly and meet the terms of the contract. 

I would also suggest having a set amount of time the phone is available each day, that it is powered down each night at a rational time (perhaps 8pm or so, at least an hour before bedtime so its use doesn’t interrupt healthy sleep cycles), and that parents are always aware of any and all passwords set for the phone and individual applications. And occasionally, sit down and go through their phone book with them, text messages and friend lists on social media. Who are these people and why is your child letting them into his or her life? A healthy dose of skepticism is a smart lesson in this digital era.

It really is a tricky world out there. For adolescents and technology, there’s a lot of dangerous territory and it’s up to us parents to be smart and look out for their best interests, not just hand them the device and assume it’s all going to work out for the best. Let them slowly earn their digital freedom, but in measured steps and with you helping ensure their safety along the way...good luck and be careful!

What's one piece of advice you've found helpful when it comes to smartphones and teens? 

The Father Factor Blog  

Dave Taylor has two teen children, an 18yo daughter and 15yo son who both have smartphones. Oh, and an 11yo who is clamoring for a smartphone of her own. You can read about his adventures as a single father on his popular site or find him on Twitter as @DaveTaylor.

How to Raise a Charitable Child

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

What's the secret to raising a charitable child? It's simple. Talk to them about charitable giving.

In a recent study of more than 3,100 U.S. families, researchers found that children whose parents talk to them about charitable giving are more likely than others to donate to causes, particularly if the parents themselves engage in charitable giving. These conversations about giving really matter in shaping and nurturing children's altruistic behavior. In other words, parents, preach what you practice when it comes to charitable giving.

There's no better time than the next few weeks to start these conversations with your children. That's because #GivingTuesday is right around the corner. If you're unfamiliar with #GivingTuesday, it's the Tuesday after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the two days of the year when most of the nation's families become mega-consumers clamoring for the best deals on gifts for family and friends during the holidays. #GivingTuesday, which falls on December 1st this year, focuses instead on giving to the thousands of charities that rely on donations to pursue their vital missions, many of which center on helping the less fortunate among us.

#GivingTuesday is now in its fourth year. Started in 2012 by a cultural center in New York City, it has rapidly spread to involve more than 30,000 partners in nearly 70 countries. It provides a fantastic opportunity to start the conversation with your children about the importance of giving to a cause that moves them. #GivingTuesday is not only about financial giving, it's also about giving time and talent, two assets that children can have in abundance. And it harnesses the power of social media, a tool that is oh so familiar to today's children. Connecting your children with #GivingTuesday helps them see charity from that broad perspective during a time of year when they might be focused more on the material aspect of the holidays and what they'll get rather than what they'll give.

Visit the #GivingTuesday website with your children to learn more about how they can get involved. Encourage your children to identify organizations that operate locally or globally that will participate in #GivingTuesday and whose missions align with your children's interests. Then challenge your children to discover how much joy they can experience when they give to others less fortunate than them.

The Father Factor Blog This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

Please Help NFI Provide Free Education and Resources

As you consider the charities to support by the end of the year, please consider donating to National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). 

One of the primary ways NFI helps improve child well-being is to provide the free education and resources that fathers and the organizations that serve fathers need to increase father involvement. We need your financial support to provide free education and resources and, in particular, to continue to grow the number of free resources we provide that now number more than 100. Fathers and organizations that can’t afford to pay for resources turn to NFI for help. We want—indeed, we must—continue to help the fathers and organizations most in need.

The demand for free resources is great. Many fathers and organizations have accessed those resources through our website. More than 25,000 free resources have been downloaded, used, and shared since the start of 2013!

Your donation will help us continue to provide new free resources and improve current ones. We plan, for example, to make our free FatherSOURCE  Locator even better. This free resource helps fathers locate organizations in their communities that serve fathers. We regularly receive calls and emails from fathers and their loved ones desperate to find help in their communities. We need donations to upgrade the locator to include more organizations—and provide even more information about the kinds of resources organizations provide (e.g. fatherhood programs)—so that fathers can make more informed decisions about which organizations can best help them. No other organization provides this father-serving resource. Help us make it even better!

We also need your donation to continue as the nation’s leading voice on responsible fatherhood. Your donation will help us continue to educate fathers and the general public. It will help us disseminate research on the causes and consequences of father absence, conduct interviews with national media outlets, publish commentaries on NFI-owned and third party media properties (e.g. The Huffington Post), and partner with major entertainment media and consumer brands to portray a positive image of fathers. No other fatherhood organization has this broad educational, cultural focus.

Please consider making a year-end donation to NFI of at least $100. We will make the best use of your donation. Indeed, I’ve committed to increasing the amount of every donation that goes toward education, programs, and services. We’ve steadily increased that amount during the past several years so that we use 80 cents of every $1 to educate and equip fathers and organizations. Moreover, NFI has received GuideStar’s Gold Participant designation—GuideStar’s highest designation—that highlights our commitment to transparency.

If you need more information as you consider making a donation, click here for an infographic that describes exactly how we will stretch your donation to improve child well-being. You can mail your donation or make it through our website at

Did you know that NFI provides more free education and resources on fatherhood than any organization in the country?

Did you know that NFI accepts no government funding and relies on donations to provide free education and resources?

The Father Factor Blog

This Dad Energizes Halloween for Kids in Wheelchairs

Some dads are, in a word, awesome! And then there are some dads who take awesome to another level. 

Ryan Weimer, an Oregon father of five, takes awesome to another level through his non-profit Magic Wheelchair. Magic Wheelchair makes Halloween costumes for children bound to wheelchairs. The mission of Magic Wheelchair is "to give kids in wheelchairs an unforgettable Halloween by creating custom costumes for them at no expense to their families." The non-profit's vision is "to put a smile on the face of every child in a wheelchair by transforming their wheelchairs into awesomeness created by our hands and their imaginations." Every year, Magic Wheelchair selects five children for whom it builds costumes. 

I saw a story on the news the other day about Magic Wheelchair and was blown away. The costumes--which are amazing to behold--incorporate the wheelchairs. A costume surrounds a wheelchair and the child as if the costume had been an integral part of the wheelchair all along. But what really blew me away is how Ryan, with help from his wife Lana, used his considerable design and engineering talent to turn a life-altering event into an opportunity to help children. The life-altering event was the birth of Ryan and Lana's son Keaton who was diagnosed with a rare form of muscular dystrophy called spinal muscular atrophy, or SMA. (Their younger son, Bryce, also has SMA, and they lost a daughter with the condition shortly before she turned 3. Another son died at birth.)

You can read more about the genesis of Magic Wheelchair in this story, but the long and short of it is Ryan started to experiment with ways to make Halloween special for Keaton. Through trial and error, he learned how to create the costumes. Keaton loved them, and Ryan realized that other children like his son would love them, too. So he launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to start Magic Wheelchair. And the rest, as they say, is history--a wonderful history, in this case.

To learn more about Magic Wheelchair, including how to submit a request for a costume or to support the organization, visit their website.

The Father Factor Blog

Two Supports Lacking for U.S.Children in Poverty

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

The effects of father absence and the poverty that results from it are exacerbated by two supports lacking in the U.S. -- the lack of extended family and the dismal spending by the federal government on family-benefit programs.

I wrote in this blog last week about the link between father absence and child poverty. The U.S. Census Bureau's recent report on income poverty for 2014 reveals that:

  • Children in father-absent homes experienced poverty at more than four times the rate of children in married-parent homes.
  • Nearly 1 in 2 children in father-absent homes (46.5 percent) were in poverty compared to only 1 in 10 children (10.6 percent) in married-parent homes.
  • The picture is worse for the youngest children. More than 1 in 2 children under age six in father-absent homes (55.1 percent) were in poverty.

I pointed out that increasing the number of children growing up with their two married parents is key to reducing child poverty in this country.

Data provided in the just-released 2015 World Family Map helps explain why U.S. children in particular need to grow up with their married parents. The World Family Map -- an annual report now in its third year -- monitors the global health of families by tracking 16 indicators in 49 countries, representing all regions of the world. Its global focus provides an important perspective on how well, or poorly, the U.S. fares on a range of indicators of family well-being.

When it comes to poverty, families can typically turn to any of three sources for financial and material support -- their social network including extended family, non-governmental organizations (e.g. non-profits) and government programs. The level of support available from each source varies dramatically from country to country and even within some countries. It's vital to consider these supports to gain a clearer understanding of the extent of poverty's negative effects on children.

The 2015 World Family Map includes data on two of those supports -- the proportion of children who live with extended family members (kin) and government funding of family-benefit programs (i.e. cash, services and tax measures) as a percentage of a country's gross domestic product (GDP). How does the U.S. fare on these two indicators?

  • The proportion of U.S. children living with kin (29 percent) ranks 5th lowest among the 32 countries for which data are available. Only Canada, France, Italy and Ireland rank lower.
  • The U.S. government spends a paltry 0.7 percent of GDP on family-benefit programs. That percentage is dead last among the 21 countries for which data are available, and is 36% and 42 percent lower than Mexico and Canada (the other two countries in the North American region), respectively.

Extended family is perhaps the oldest form of support for humans struggling to survive. In addition to financial and material support, extended family can provide emotional and spiritual support in times of crisis and chronic hardship. It's easiest to access that support when kin live together -- the basis of this indicator -- or close by. The increasing mobility of U.S. families and the resulting distance between family members makes it harder to access this support.

When it comes to government support, the sad fact is the U.S. spends a lower percentage of GDP now than it did just a few years ago when it ranked above several other countries rather than at the bottom of the barrel. According to the 2013 edition of the World Family Map, the U.S. spent 1.2 percent of GDP on family-benefit programs. (The 2015 map relies on data from 2011 while the 2013 map relies on data from 2007.)

To be fair, there might be several of the other countries in the World Family Map for which data are not available on either indicator that fare worse than the U.S. So in reality, the picture might not look as bleak for the U.S. in comparison. The access to extended family indicator does not include access to family close by. But even when considering kin who live together, the U.S. has seen a dramatic rise since 1980 in the number of individuals living in multi-generational households, thus giving the poor more of this support. The U.S. is also a fairly charitable nation as it ranks 9th on the World Giving Index, a measure of the percentage of people in 135 countries who donate to charities. There are certainly non-profits to which poor families in the U.S. can turn for help.

Nevertheless, the World Family Map reveals the lack of financial and economic assets poor families in the U.S. can access to alleviate at least some of the negative effects of child poverty. A vast majority of individuals in the U.S., more than 8 in 10, are not in multi-generational households. And the government spending data on family-benefit programs, with its downward trend, sheds light on the lack of importance our country places on government help for those most in need.

The Father Factor Blog This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

Becoming Better Fathers – And Father Figures

We’ve seen the staggering statistics regarding fatherless many times. John Sowers, in his book, Fatherless Generation, links fatherlessness to:

  • 63 percent of youth suicides;
  • 71 percent of pregnant teenagers;
  • 85 percent of all youth who exhibit behavior disorders;
  • 71 percent of all high school dropouts;
  • 75 percent of all adolescents in chemical abuse centers;
  • And 85 percent of all youths sitting in prison.

Lord knows we need more men to step up to be better fathers. Most of the posts on The Father Factor are about just that—fantastic resources for all of us men to become better fathers to our children. This post is slightly different. 

My former posts here about building strong children, and about healing our own father wound were focused on us as fathers. This post is a heartfelt plea to consider becoming a father-figure to a fatherless child (or younger man) who is not your own biologically.

I met Ricks only one week after he and his mother came from Liberia to the United States. They had spent the last nine years in Liberian refugee camps, and they arrived with only the clothes on their backs and one small backpack. Ricks was twelve years old then. He’s 21 today.

In the years between, I’ve been a close friend to his family, and an informal mentor to him. Ricks seems to feel I’ve filled a father-figure role in his life. I received this beautiful text message last year from him: “Keith, thank you for being such an important person in my life. Happy Father’s Day.”

Though a mentor is not a father, and can never replace a missing father, we can make a significant impact and fulfill a desperately needed role in a young man’s or young woman’s life who doesn’t have a dad to relate to, communicate with, or receive love and guidance from.

All children yearn for their missing father, and that hunger never goes away. A committed and loving mentor cannot fully remove that hurt, but we can lessen the negative impact, and we can point kids in the right direction, not only potentially changing the course of that child’s life but also positively impacting society.

A beautiful Jewish teaching says, “To save one life is to save the world.” A profound privilege of mentoring is that by reaching one child, we can change the world. The impact and the effects can be as satisfying for the mentor as they are for the young men and women whose lives may be forever transformed. 

As a youth pastor for ten years, I mentored hundreds of high school students, many of whom had poor or no relationships with their fathers. I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but I fulfilled a father figure role for many of those students, showing them what a father could be and helping them experience what a father’s love and approval could feel like.

As a founding board member and fatherhood trainer for the Prison Entrepreneurship Program in Texas for six years, I coached over 600 incarcerated men. I taught them how to reconnect with their kids whom most had abandoned, and how to learn to be better dads, even while still behind bars. I loved being a father figure mentor to these men, teaching them the essential fathering skills that became the core content of my book, How to Be a Great Dad—No Matter What Kind of Father You Had.

The skills of becoming a great mentor are fundamentally the same as those for becoming a great dad. I teach the men I now coach and mentor this simple and yet highly effective skill set: Affirmation, Acceptance, and Affection.

If every father and mentor would commit to learning these three easy-to-master skills, the entire world would become a better place. And millions of fatherless children would finally feel the love and receive the guidance they desperately need not only to survive this life, but to find their way, to succeed, and to enjoy healthy and loving relationships—most of which may remain out of reach without the skilled mentoring you and I can provide. 

I applaud the wonderful work Esquire is doing through their Mentoring Project, seeking to raise the next generation of good men by training 100,000 new mentors by the year 2020. Perhaps you could become one of them.

A mentor is not a father, and doesn’t even have to be a (biological) father, but we can stand in the gap and provide the missing love and guidance children not only need but also crave. And believe me, I know first-hand that doing so is one of the most fulfilling experiences of life. I’ve trained hundreds of men how to affirm children, how to express acceptance, and even how to show affection in appropriate and meaningful ways.

You can become a great mentor by learning and applying the same fundamental skills that help me be a loving father figure to Ricks and a great dad to my own three teenage sons. I want you to feel the same joy in your heart I feel in mine, and to smile from ear to ear the way I do, when I read Father’s Day gratitude messages each year from all four of my sons. I’d love to help you. Please check out my completely free training videos today.

Have you ever mentored another dad or a child?

Free Resources for Mentoring:

The Father Factor Blog

Stats at top of this post are reported in John Sowers, Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 36-37.

Dads Hold Key to Reducing Child Poverty

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

The presence of married fathers in children's lives remains the most vital factor in reducing child poverty. Here's why.

Dads Hold Key to Reducing Child Poverty

The U.S. Census Bureau just released its report on income and poverty for 2014. The good news or bad news, depending on your perspective, is the overall rate for adults and children living in poverty did not change, from a statistically significant perspective, compared to 2013. In 2014, 13.5 percent of people aged 18 to 64 (26.5 million) were in poverty compared with 10.0 percent of people aged 65 and older (4.6 million) and 21.1 percent of children under age 18 (15.5 million). Children represented 23.3 percent of the total population and 33.3 percent of the people in poverty. It's disturbing that children represent more than a third of the people in poverty, especially because they have no control over their economic situation.

Because this proportion of the population in poverty includes all children regardless of family status, it's necessary to dig deeper into the data to reveal why fathers remain key to reducing child poverty. Fortunately, the Census Bureau digs that deeply. The bureau's analyses of the data reveal that: 

  • Children in father-absent homes experienced poverty at more than four times the rate of children in married-parent homes.
  • Nearly 1 in 2 children in father-absent homes (46.5 percent) were in poverty compared to only 1 in 10 children (10.6 percent) in married-parent homes.
  • The picture is worse for the youngest children. More than 1 in 2 children under age six in father-absent homes (55.1 percent) were in poverty.

These disturbing, depressing numbers show that the mere presence of more married fathers in children's lives will, from a population-based perspective, reduce child poverty. 

The only effective, long-term solution to increasing the proportion of children growing up with their married parents is to change cultural norms on the importance of living in a married-parent home for child well-being. The federal government has, with bipartisan support, tried to help by funding healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood programs. But no matter how successful these programs might be or eventually become in helping the children, parents and families they serve, they can't possibly serve enough people to affect the kind of culture change necessary to move the needle. Besides, the level of funding for this effort is minimal as it must compete for dollars with the many other and, frankly, important functions of government, such as funding the social safety net, infrastructure, education and research that are vital to create the vibrant economy in which all families can thrive. As a result, these programs, though important, have only scaled to a level that help some children and families at the highest risk for poverty.

Unfortunately, cultural norms on the importance of children growing up in a married-parent home have been headed in the wrong direction for years. Marriage among the young (age 18 to 32 years) has dropped like a stone during the last four generations, from 65 percent of people in the Silent Generation to 26 percent of Millennials. Moreover, a quarter of all adults age 25 or older have never been married, an all-time high. When they do marry, the average age at first marriage is also at an all-time high of 29.3 for men and 27.0 for women.

As a consequence of these and other trends, a higher proportion of children than ever are born to parents who aren't married. The unfortunate fact is we don't have the cultural will to reverse course. Too many people now see the purpose of marriage as one in which personal fulfillment is paramount and the primary if not sole role of marriage. Marriage has become about "me" and not "we" or "us," as in "family." While it is important that people feel fulfilled in marriage, the problem is far too many of us have separated marriage from its function of providing the ideal environment in which to raise healthy children and, thus, deny its impact on child well-being to the extent that we focus only on personal well-being. 

Can we do anything to reverse course? There is a vigorous debate about whether we should give up and say bye-bye to marriage, if not altogether at least to the importance of it as a vital institution. As I've written elsewhere, we can't give up on marriage. We must start by looking at it in a different way -- not as a zero-sum game between whether its role is personal fulfillment or to raise healthy children, but as an institution that can and should fulfill both roles.

The Father Factor Blog This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

How to Raise a Human or a Vampire

I enjoyed the first Hotel Transylvania movie as much as my daughters. The monsters crack me up. They're back with a second round of monster fun in Hotel Transylvania 2. In screening this film, I laughed out loud at the comedy between parents and grandparents. Watching this movie reminded me of two areas I want my daughters to know are important as little humans.

hotel transylvania 2

We talk a lot at NFI about the vital role a dad plays in his child's life. We know the Father Absence Crisis in America is real because we see its affect every day. We see the challenges a child faces growing up in a father-absent home—from education and health, to crime and incarceration.

It's important to know the research on father absence. Equally as important is the example we set as involved, responsible, and committed dads. 

In Hotel Transylvania 2 (HT2), we don't see an absent father, thankfully. We see Drac, a caring, present father (voiced by Adam Sandler) and the relationship with his daughter, Mavis. Yes, Drac is protective. But, as dads, we just call being protective love! 

In HT2, Drac’s rigid monster-only hotel policy has finally relaxed. He has opened his doors to human guests. But, Drac is worried that his half-human, half-vampire grandson, Dennis, isn’t showing signs of being a vampire. 

So while Mavis is busy visiting her human in-laws with her human husband, Johnny (voiced by Andy Samberg), Drac enlists his friends Frank, Murray, Wayne and Griffin to put Dennis through a “monster-in-training” boot camp. Drac has five days to "scare the fangs" out of Dennis to prove he's a vampire. 

hotel transylvania 2

Watching Drac try several things to "scare the fangs" out of Dennis made me think about what I want my daughters to know in order to be grow into adults. My oldest daughter recently reminded me she will be 18 and her sister will be 16 in ten years. Can you say scary?

With this in mind, I feel a renewed sense of urgency to teach my girls what's really important. These things are my idea of "scaring the fangs" out of them. Work with me here.  I want my daughters to see me set an example, showing them that education and health are a priority.

The Importance of Education

I want my girls to know, and see by example, that education is important. What does this look like? My daughter is in elementary school and her teacher has told her to read 20 minutes per day. At home, I need to this by reading books and being a person who cares about learning.

Whether it's teaching your little vampire to fly, as in the case of Drac, or instilling the importance of education into your little one. We know from experience and the research tells us, without an involved dad, a child is two times more likely to drop out of high school. Education is important. Hopefully, my daughters see this in the home. At NFI, we think one of dad's chief roles is to teach. This assumes you will constantly be learning about how to parent better, how to communicate well, care for yourself, and learning relationship skills. Doing these things will set the example for your child and set them up for success.

The Importance of Health

Health can mean mental and physical here. If you have a problem with your mental health, it will show up in your body. Likewise, if you have a problem with the health of your body, it will affect your mind and how you see the world. Research tells us that fathers and their example of health is vital to the health of their child. The child of a dad who is obese is two times more likely to suffer obesity.

Think about that. If you, dad, are obese, your child probably will be. The opposite must be true. If you are fit, your child is more likely to be fit. I can't think of a better reason to be on guard with my health and fitness. My kids are watching me. Your kids are watching you.

There's a funny scene in HT2 where Dennis' mom, Mavis, packed him an avocado to eat. An avocado as snack doesn't seem to register to Drac just like it may not with your own parents. This scene reminded me how far we've come in terms of diet from our parents' and grandparents' generation to today.

Without getting mired in the whole diet debate, consider the following baseline questions related to health so as to keep yourself in check and set the proper example for your child:

  • Do you workout at least weekly? Do you have an "active" lifestyle?
  • How are your eating habits?
  • How much sleep did you get last night? Is that typical? Is it enough sleep?
  • Would your child describe you as "happy"? Your answer is telling either way!
  • What does your house look like? Full of clutter or nice and neat?
  • Do you leave work at work?
  • Do you volunteer on some level to help others? How often?
  • Do you have a hobby? When's the last time you enjoyed your hobby?

These are just a few questions we ask dads in our programs. Answering them will give you personal insight into your level of stress and reveal your overall health. I want my daughters to understand the importance of health. They are more likely to do this if their dad is leading by example.

So, whether you're raising a human or a vampire, if they live with the example that education and health are important and have an involved, responsible and committed dad in these areas, they will likely succeed—or at the least—not turn into monsters.  

Click here to get the Sneak Peek of Hotel Transylvania 2. In theaters September 25th. Follow Hotel Transylvania 2 online, on facebook and on twitter.

Hotel Transylvania 2 has been rated PG by the MPAA for the following reasons: some scary images, action, and rude humor. It's in theaters September 25th.

The Father Factor Blog

Netflix's New Parental Leave Policy Lacks Teeth

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Father Factor Blog This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

Research to Application: Cognitive Biases

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

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

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

research-to-application-cognitive-biasesConfirmation Bias

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

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

Availability Bias

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

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

Hindsight Bias

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

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

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

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

Ideas on Application

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5) Research to Application > Keystone Habits

Click here for the full PDF of the this post. 

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

About the "Research to Application" Series

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

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

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

3 Rules You're Breaking When Talking with Your Child

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 24/7 Dad Understands Relationship Skills.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rule #1—Know Your Racetrack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rule #3—Make Adjustments

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Call-to-action

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

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

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

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

The Father Factor Blog

What are the Global Challenges to Father Involvement?

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

The Father Factor Blog


How You and Your Fatherhood Program Can Get Found Online

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

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

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

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

Consider this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

1) Get Started by Blogging

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

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

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

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

2) Get Started Using Social Media

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

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

What to do on most social media platforms:

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

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

Getting Started on Facebook

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

Getting Started on LinkedIn

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

Gathering Started on Twitter

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

Getting Started on YouTube

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

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

The Father Factor Blog

The First Lesson for Every New Dad: Be CLASSY

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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