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The Father Factor

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How to Effectively Engage Fathers: The 2nd Competency

Quickly…name three best practices in designing effective fatherhood programs. Cat got your tongue? If so, you’re not alone. Answering that question is about as hard as scoring a 2400 on the SAT.

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

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

Best Practices

The second competency in effectively engaging fathers is the ability to design a fatherhood program (or service) based on the practices that have the most impact on program success. These practices—commonly referred to as “best practices”—provide the foundation or structure for effectively engaging fathers regardless of your experience serving fathers, the kinds of fathers you serve, or the setting in which you serve them. 

What, exactly, are best practices? Simply put, they’re successful, community-invented efforts (culturally relevant) worth emulating. They tell you:

  • Exactly what needs to be done differently.
  • What’s working and how you can do more of it.

Furthermore:

  • They’re identified through observation.
  • They provide direction, hope, and motivation around change.
  • They address root causes and challenge conventional wisdom.
  • They avoid “analysis paralysis” by taking focus off “the problem” and putting it on “the solution.”
  • They create positive, short- and long-term change.

But it’s not just enough to learn these practices and how to apply them. It’s also vital that you know the “blind spots” that hinder organizations in effectively serving fathers. You need to know what they are and which ones are most relevant to your organization so you can avoid being blindsided by them. 

Thus, Session 2 of the Father Engagement Certificate covers Program Design Using 7 Best Practices. This session provides you with a simple, flexible approach based on seven best practices to design an exceptional, unique, community-based fatherhood program. Learn about blind spots that hinder organizations in creating effective fatherhood programs, resources NFI has designed to help organizations leverage and unlock the power of the best practices, as well as other best practices that might be right under your nose.

Click Here to Start Your Father Engagement Training

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

What does your organization do really well in serving fathers that you should do more often?

What are the biggest hurdles your organization must leap to become as successful as possible in serving fathers?

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The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

How to Effectively Engage Fathers: The 1st Competency

Many practitioners and organizations “leap before they look” when engaging fathers, as they often don’t take the time to consider the competencies they need to effectively engage fathers. As a result, they step off a cliff and into an abyss, and soon wonder why working with fathers is such a challenge.

blindfold-businessman-loop-before-leapingDuring the next five weeks, I’ll highlight the five core competencies (one per week) you need to effectively engage fathers, and how you can develop each competency with NFI’s Father Engagement Certificate(FEC), an affordable on demand training that will help you develop those competencies.  

Creating a Father-Friendly Organization 

The first competency in effectively engaging fathers is often the most overlooked: the ability to create a father-friendly organization. The fact that it’s often overlooked is unfortunate because it lays the foundation for the other competencies and success in engaging fathers.

What does it mean to be father friendly? It means that serving fathers is integrated into the fabric of an organization’s culture. Specifically:

  • The leaders and other stakeholders have “bought into” and provide emotional and material (e.g. financial) support to serving fathers.
  • The policies and procedures of the organization—the nuts and bolts that guide staff behavior—are inclusive of fathers, encourage staff to engage fathers, and hold staff accountable when they don’t effectively engage them.
  • The programs and services include fathers as a distinct audience to serve and include content relevant to fathers’ needs and wants as men and parents.
  • The organization engages the community in promoting its service to fathers (e.g. via referrals from other organizations) and to generate support (e.g. financial and political) for its father engagement efforts.

The trap many practitioners fall into is thinking their organization is father friendly simply because they have a fatherhood program or serve fathers as part of a larger program (e.g. general parenting or family-strengthening program). They don’t understand that it’s not enough to simply add a program, service, or other effort aimed at fathers. It’s vital to adopt a holistic approach in creating an organization that, at its very core, understands the importance of serving fathers and acts on that understanding.

That’s why Session 1 in our Father Engagement Certificate training teaches you How to Create a Father-Friendly Organization from a holistic perspective, with a focus on four areas for improvement that create an organizational culture that supports exceptional fatherhood programs and services. Learn the 8 Pillars of Leadership and no-cost and low-cost tactics to help your organization become father friendly, and also about The Father Friendly Check-Up: the most widely used tool in the nation that helps organizations become father friendly. The session also includes case studies of how other organizations have successfully used this tool.

How father friendly is your organization?

Can you name the four areas of focus in creating a father-friendly organization?

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

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The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

The Oxygen Mask Rule of Fatherhood

"Seatbacks and tray tables should be in their upright and locked position and carry-on luggage stowed in the overhead locker or underneath a seat prior to takeoff." You've no doubt heard this announcement if you've taken a flight. But before this, and hopefully you haven't missed it, is the oxygen mask rule of flight safety. 

This rule applies to fatherhood too. No, we're not talking about the dad who's only out for number one. We're talking about being a dad who's ready to serve his family because his needs are met. Let's unpack this rule a little more... 

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Maybe you didn't pay attention on your last flight, the typical safety instructions for the oxygen mask go like so... 

  • Oxygen Mask Rule #1 > the passenger should always fit his or her own mask before helping children, the disabled, or persons requiring assistance. (Read: TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. THEN YOU'LL BE ABLE TO HELP OTHERS.)
  • Oxygen Mask Rule #2 > Even though oxygen will be flowing to the mask, the plastic bag may not inflate. (Read: KEEP TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF EVEN IF YOU DON'T THINK IT'S WORKING.)

Let’s get reacquainted with 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.
  3. The 24/7 Dad Understands Fathering Skills: The 24/7 Dad knows his role in the family. 
  4. The 24/7 Dad Understands Parenting Skills:  The 24/7 Dad nurtures his children.
  5. The 24/7 Dad Understands Relationship Skills: The 24/7 Dad builds and maintains healthy relationships with his children, wife/mother of his children, other family members, friends, and community.

When I say "24/7 Dad" I'm talking about an involved, responsible and committed father. I'm talking about a dad who knows his role in the family. He knows what it means to be a man. He understands he'ss a model for his sons on how to be a good man. If he has daughters, he models what they should look for in a husband and father for their children. Basically, he has the 10 Ways To Be a Better Dad memorized.

Everything about being a great dad is tied to one or more of the five characteristics of a 24/7 Dad. We started unpacking each of these five traits, starting with The Importance of the Self-Aware Father. We'll keep unpacking until we've covered all five traits. The great news is that these five questions come with a guarantee: if you answer each one honestly and take action, you will become a 24/7 Dad! Let's talk about trait two, caring for yourself.

1) Take care of yourself. So you can take care of others.

You have to place the plastic oxygen mask on your mouth first. You won't be around long enough to help others if you can't breath. Likewise, the 24/7 Dad takes care of himself. What does taking care of yourself look like? To start, here are a few ideas...

  • you get annual physicals
  • you eat right
  • you exercise
  • you're a life-long learner
  • you have a strong connection to your family and community
  • you pick friends who support your healthy choices.

The 24/7 Dad models for his children that he respects and likes himself because he makes good choices. This may seem weird to read because we don't talk about this much in our culture. It can seem like you're better off caring for others so much that your health is drained...as if that's the proper way to live. But that's just not the truth.

The hero who isn't healthy, isn't a hero for long. When’s the last time you were at the doctor? If your answer to this question is “I go to the doctor every decade whether I need to or not!” you may want to consider modeling a different standard to your son or daughter.

The 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I care for myself? 

2) Keep taking care of yourself, even it it doesn't seem to be working.

The plastic oxygen bag may not inflate after you put it on. But, as I understand it from my google search, this line in airplane safety is required in the United States because someone fatally removed their mask thinking it was not working. Don't do this...on a plane or in life.

As a dad, you may not think you need to take care of yourself. Some of this may seem unnecessary until it's necessary. But, we need to be in the business of prevention instead of treatment. What's the saying, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"? 

When things are running smoothly, you may not see the importance of consistently caring for yourself. But, you can't miss this point. Even if you think you can go a long time without caring for yourself, you can't! We must be vigilant to care for ourselves. 

There's a healthy balance where you are cared for (read: no one else has to care for you!) and this frees you up to care for folks around you. You have your physical, mental, emotional house order (and consistently in check). Ask yourself these questions to get started:

  • Do I have a doctor? Do I know his name? Have I seen him for a check-up within the last year? How is my overall physical health? Do I even know what this means?!
  • What's my diet consist of daily? Am I giving the proper nutrition to think and be active? 
  • Do I exercise daily or at least weekly? Have I created options for being physically active? What are my biggest personal challenges? Am I ignoring them or dealing with them? What's my goal? Am I working toward that end?
  • Would my family say I'm a constant learner? Do I read? What do I read daily? Am I learning new things? Which of these things can I share with my children?

From physical health to emotional health, and everything in between, the 24/7 Dad is the well-adjusted dad. He understands he is responsible for his decisions and ultimately his actions. The 24/7 Dad also knows his ability to be with his children is affected by the choices he makes.

The 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I care for myself?

Richie knows what being a 24/7 Dad means. He wrote What Being a 24/7 Dad Means to Me? recently over at his St. Louis Dad blog. Richie's number one way to be a 24/7 Dad is to: 

Have patience and laugh. Kids can be extremely demanding and can be so annoying...Just be patient with them. They don’t know that asking for water fifty times in a row is driving you bananas. So just relax, calm down, and keep your cool. The last thing your kids need to see is you getting angry. Just brush it off and laugh. Kids are very entertaining, just pay a little attention and you will see exactly what I mean..  


You can read Richie's full post What Being a 24/7 Dad Means to Me? and learn his top-five ways to be a 24/7 Dad.  

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

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

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

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

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

Research to Application: Keystone Habits

In the first installment of this Research to Application series (Cues, Triggers, and Nudges), we introduced you to research from Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit1 and how organizations and practitioners can use this research to improve the effectiveness of a service, workshop, or program for fathers. In discussing the role of cues, we described the research Duhigg highlights on the power of habits and the role they play in our lives.

This installment focuses on another important aspect of the research Duhigg highlights: the concept of keystone habits.

keystone-habits

These are the habits that matter more than others in changing unhealthy behaviors or developing healthy ones. As you can imagine, keystone habits are very important as they relate to father absence and encouraging father involvement… more on that soon.

But let’s begin by sharing one of Duhigg’s diverse examples of keystone habits and their importance in triggering a cascade of change: integrating exercise.

As Duhigg points out, research shows that when people start habitually exercising, they usually:

  • Eat better
  • Smoke less
  • Become more productive at work
  • Show more patience
  • Feel less stressed
  • Use their credit cards less often

Yes. They even become more financially responsible, at least in a specific way.

That kind of change might seem odd until you realize that exercise has a spillover or cascade effect that triggers other healthy habits because it makes other habits easier. Think of the power of exercise as the first domino in a domino structure that, when pushed into the next domino, triggers all the other dominos to fall one by one. Similarly, the power of exercise is not only in its ability to help people lose weight and become more fit; its power is also in its ability to start widespread, positive change in people’s lives—even in areas that seem unrelated to physical fitness.

The power of keystone habits explains why being an involved father is so powerful. Father involvement is a keystone habit. (Actually, a set of habits that form a keystone habit.) That’s why father involvement affects so many areas of fathers’ lives and the lives of children, mothers, and families, and even the environment in communities. When fathers are involved in the lives of their children, it triggers positive behavior in other aspects of fathers’ lives (e.g. they engage in healthier behavior), children’s lives (e.g. they are less likely to abuse alcohol and drugs), and mothers’ lives (e.g. they are healthier during their pregnancies). It’s also why it positively affects our society (e.g. lower levels of poverty and child abuse and more educational success for children). It’s why more resources must be focused on addressing the crisis of father absence. 

Ideas on Application

When it comes to working with fathers individually or in groups, you can use the power of keystone habits to help fathers identify the habits (behaviors) unique to them that: 1) trigger a lack of father involvement, and 2) will trigger greater father involvement. (You can also use keystone habits to look for clues that will improve father-mother relationships.) It’s likely that a single habit will contribute to a lack of father involvement or trigger more father involvement (moreover, it’s likely to be a group of habits.) Nevertheless, one or two of those habits might be more important than the others, thus revealing an area(s) of focus for immediate change.

To apply the power of keystone habits, use the following process, which you can customize to fit your setting (e.g. group, one-on-one case management, etc.):

Step 1: Develop a comprehensive list of frequent/regular activities/behaviors.

  • Identify the “universe” of frequent/regular activities/behaviors that fathers currently engage in.
  • Ask fathers to write or tell you (and you record) their activities/behaviors during a typical week. Consider using the structure of roles in which to group activities, such as father, husband/partner, worker/employee, friend, etc. You could start by asking fathers the roles they have, and then ask them to list the activities they engage in each week to perform those roles.
  • After fathers develop their weekly activities, ask if they perform activities less frequently (e.g. monthly), but that they do consistently, to ensure you get a comprehensive list.

Step 2: Identify existing keystone habits that promote father absence.

  • Look for keystone habits that encourage or lead to father absence. Focus on habits that are within his control.
  • Ask of each father: What do you do with such frequency that it prevents you from being present? After you identify those habits, ask: How can you eliminate them? Work with fathers to develop tactics to eliminate these poor habits. It might not be easy, but it will be worth it.

Step 3: Identify existing and potential keystone habits that promote father involvement.

  • Look for keystone habits that encourage or lead to father involvement.Again, focus on habits that are within his control.
  • Ask of each father: What do you do that gets you involved and that you could do with more frequency? Add to that list habits for fathers to consider integrating into their lives. You can come with a list to discuss or start developing a list with fathers from scratch. Identify habits within fathers’ control, they can do frequently (e.g. several times a week or once a week), and that provide “small wins.”

Step 4: Focus on small wins.

  • After fathers develop their list of potential keystone habits that promote father involvement, narrow that list down by focusing on habits that fathers can do easily and frequently before tackling habits that are harder to accomplish and that, even if easy to accomplish, they can’t do as frequently.
  • Why is this focus so important? Because it creates small wins that fathers experience often/repeatedly. While they might seem minor in the broad scheme of things, they build a foundation of confidence, especially in fathers who haven’t been successful at being involved.

Step 5: Reinforce/praise the small wins.

  • When fathers achieve small wins, praise fathers. This praise will help keystone habits snowball into the other habits of involvement the habits will affect. In other words, praise helps tip the keystone habits—the first dominoes—into the other habits. Watch them fall one by one!

Depending on your situation and how much time you have to work with fathers, it might not be possible to focus on keystone habits that both encourage and discourage father involvement at the same time. At the very least, address keystone habits that encourage father involvement. 

Application Tools

For users of NFI’s 24/7 Dad® A.M and P.M programs, the My 24/7 Dad® Checklist new to the 3rd Editions is an ideal tool for fathers to use to apply keystone habits. In fact, these should be the most important checklist items. 

In addition, NFI’s 24/7 Dad® To Go Android application (app) is an ideal tool that allows fathers to create to-do lists, and would be a great place for fathers to integrate keystone habits (download the app for free from the Google Play Store.) Having a checklist provides fathers with clear direction around what they should do on a regular basis to be involved. They can modify and add to their items (habits) as they become more involved, and want to tackle more challenging (but important) habits of an involved, responsible, committed father. 

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

Resources

As you consider using keystone habits to improve retention and fathers’ involvement in the lives of their children, review the following resources:

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 > Framing and the "No Choice Option"

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

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

Click here for the full PDF of the this post. 

1) Duhigg, C. (2012). The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. New York, NY: Random House.

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 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 fifth one in the series. It provides ideas on how you might integrate research on keystone habits. Integrating this research could make it easier for you to help fathers to identify the most significant barriers that keep them from being as involved in their children’s lives as they’d like to be. It could also help fathers develop the habits of good fathering above and beyond reliance on the resources (e.g. programs/curricula) you might currently use.

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

Get Your Father Engagement Certificate™ from the Nation’s Leader

National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) has always been dedicated to providing resources, training, and technical assistance on how to effectively engage fathers. That’s why I’m so pumped to announce that we’ve taken that dedication further with the launch of our Father Engagement CertificateTM (FEC), an affordable on demand training that focuses on the 5 core competencies you need to make an even bigger difference in the lives of children, fathers, mothers, and families.

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What’s Great About It? 

The FEC is:

  • On demand. Learn and earn at your own pace. Get trained and earn the FEC as quickly as you need, or take as much time as you like.
  • Convenient. Always available. No travel, no hassle.
  • Affordable. Enough said.
  • Fully automated. Get started whenever you want. The entire process from purchase to receiving your certificate is fully automated. No need to email or call staff or wait for staff to get back to you. (Although we’re here if you need us!)
  • Valuable to You. Develops 5 core competencies. Increases your effectiveness. Builds further credibility within and outside your organization. You will receive an official certificate to display and an electronic badge you can place on your resume, LinkedIn profile, and other social media profiles/accounts.
  • Valuable to Your Organization/Program. Builds organization and program effectiveness. Includes practical advice and guidance that addresses critical pain points (challenges) in serving fathers. Builds credibility with funders. Your organization can promote that it has staff with FECs from the nation’s fatherhood leader.

Who Should Earn It?

The FEC is ideal for:

  • Individuals who currently work with, or desire to work with, fathers and families in communities. It’s ideal for fatherhood practitioners and staff in community organizations, social service agencies, churches, prisons/jails, military bases, and more… basically, anywhere there are fathers receiving services or participating in programs.
  • Anyone working with fathers on a volunteer, mentor, or consulting basis.
  • Anyone who has started, or wants to start, a fatherhood initiative in his or her community.

Which Father Engagement Topics are Covered?

You will learn strategies and tactics not previously released to the public. These are strategies and tactics taught to a select group of nearly 125 fatherhood and family service organizations during NFI's 5-year federally-funded National Responsible Fatherhood Certification College. NFI invested a significant amount of time and funding to develop and hone the curriculum for the college. The FEC distills the most vital content from that curriculum. An evaluation of these organizations showed that they used the same content contained in the FEC to increase their organization’s capacity in the short term and long term to effectively engage fathers. (It also helped them acquire additional funding!)

The topics include:

  1. Foundational: How to Create a Father-Friendly Organization
  2. Program Design: 7 Best Practices in Designing a Fatherhood Program
  3. Recruitment & Retention: How to Think Like a Marketer When Marketing a Fatherhood Program
  4. Involving Moms: How to Work with Moms to Encourage Father Involvement
  5. Fundraising: How to Develop a Funding Plan for a Fatherhood Program

Click here to learn even more about the FEC including the content of each training session.

What If I Want Multiple Staff in My Organization to Earn an FEC?

That’s easy. Purchase as many FEC trainings as you need. Our fully automated process does the rest!

What If I Want Multiple Staff in Several Organizations to Earn an FEC?

That’s easy, too. Let’s say you’re with a local, state, or federal agency that has grantees or partners who can benefit from acquiring FECs for their staffs. Or, perhaps, you’re part of a city, county, or state fatherhood or family strengthening initiative that includes multiple organizations as members or partners who could use FECs? Just contact us and we’ll coordinate everything for you for the cost of the certificates you need and an additional, reasonable coordination fee.

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How Do I Get Started?

That’s the easiest part. Click here to start the process of earning your Father Engagement CertificateTM. (If you need to pay by purchase order [PO], email us.)

Click Here to Start Your Father Engagement Training

2 Basic Traits Key to Lasting Relationships

Whenever I speak on the importance of father involvement, conduct a training institute on one of our programs, or conduct a capacity-building workshop, I make it a point to drive home the fact that the most important relationship in a child's life is the one between the child's parents. It's the blueprint that a child uses as a model for his or her own relationships. 

couple-relationships-two-keys

That's why improving the father-mother relationship is a vital part of our fathering programs, and why we provide programs and resources for moms, such as Understanding Dad™, that help mothers improve that relationship for the sake of their children. It's also why I scan the research for insights into how NFI can help you, if you're a dad or mom, or your organization to help individuals and couples understand the importance of this relationship and help them improve it.

The husband and wife team of John and Julie Gottman brings together two of the country's leading experts on what makes relationships successful. Together they run The Gottman Institute and have researched for four decades what makes relationships between couples work. One of their recent, fascinating discoveries is the influence that "bids" between couples have on their chances of success (i.e. a happy, long lasting relationship). (For more on this research, read this article in the Wall Street Journal from which I drew to write this post.)

A bid involves one half of a couple making an attempt to connect with the other half -- not unlike when a government agency or company issues a bid for work in an attempt to connect with a vendor to perform that work. In the case of couples, a bid can involve asking a partner a question, making an affectionate gesture toward a partner (e.g. attempting a hug or kiss), or simply making a statement. Regardless of the action, the partner who makes the bid hopes the other partner will respond, ideally in a positive, supportive manner.

The "bidee" (my word, not the Gottmans') can respond in one of two basic ways. The bidee can turn toward the "bidder" (again, my word) and respond with interest or turn away (i.e. not acknowledge/ignore the bid or respond in a hostile manner). Depending on the nature of the bid, either reaction might seem minor in the broad scheme of a relationship, especially when bids are examined in isolation. But because relationships involve frequent bids -- sometimes several times a day -- how couples handle them can provide a hint about the health of relationships. In other words, they reflect patterns of communication in relationships, good or bad. If, for example, a husband typically doesn't acknowledge bids from his wife, that pattern of communication is harmful. Why? Because when the wife makes a bid, she's doing so because she thinks it's important, which is why she expects a positive, supportive response.  

John has found that he can predict with 94% accuracy whether a couple will stay together based on how they respond to bids. He and Julie studied the interactions between married couples and followed up with them six years later. The couples who were no longer married only responded positively to bids (turn-toward bids) 33% of the time. Couples who were still married responded positively to bids 87% of the time. Although these couples were married, John says he can predict the success of relationships, based on bid reactions, whether a couple is married or not.

Herein lie the two traits of generosity and kindness that mark successful relationships. How someone responds to bids exists on a continuum with generosity and kindness on one end and contempt, criticism, and hostility on the other. This continuum applies not only to bids but also to the ways in which partners generally interact with one another. Successful relationships involve partners (or one of the partners) who constantly look for ways to support each other -- a kind of proactive generosity and kindness. They go out of their way to find ways to support their partner in minor and major ways. Unsuccessful couples involve partners (or one of the partners) who constantly look for what's wrong with the other partner that they can point out and criticize and who generally react to the other partner's statements and actions with contempt or outright hostility.

I'm convinced that these two traits lead to success in any relationship whether a couple is romantically involved or not. (Every relationship, personal or professional, involves bids.) We receive a lot of emails, calls, and responses to our blog posts from divorced parents struggling with the relationship with their ex-spouses. These relationships are often at the contempt, criticism, and hostility end of the spectrum, to the detriment of these parents and their children. These traits also apply to the relationships between parents and their children. We see a lot of dads who, as they enter our fathering programs, treat their own children with contempt, criticism, or hostility. Those reactions are a cancer that destroys everyone it touches.

If you're a dad, mom, or practitioner who works with dads, moms, or couples, heed this insight. Seek ways to move yourself or those you work with toward the generosity and kindness end of the continuum. While doing so might not be easy, everyone will be the better for it.

What's the level of generosity and kindness in your relationships? Are some toward one end of the continuum while others are at the other end?

What's the level of generosity and kindness in the relationships between the dads and moms you work with and between the dads and their children?

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

Confronting the Child Support Crisis

Nonresident fathers have been in the news lately. The death of Walter Scott in South Carolina, who ran from a police officer during a routine traffic stop rather than risk returning to prison for owing back support, has brought to light the more punitive aspects of the of child support enforcement system. In a recent Room for Debate discussion blog in The New York Times, supporters and detractors of the child support enforcement system addressed its pros and cons.

Unfortunately, child support is similar to other issues that stir our passions, but on which it is difficult, if not impossible, to find common ground. We want all parents, including nonresident fathers, to support their children. But trends in men’s earnings are working against nonresident fathers’ ability to pay what mothers and children need. 

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Since the mid-1970’s, the earnings of men without graduate degrees have stagnated or declined, except for a brief period during the economic boom of the 1990’s. These wage trends have made it especially difficult for fathers to support their families. During this same period, the federal government began to devote its considerable resources to state child support enforcement efforts.

As a result, those efforts have become more forceful over the same period during which nonresident fathers have experienced diminishing ability to pay. Automation of the child support enforcement system in 1996 had particularly harsh consequences for the lowest wage earners, fathers making $20,000 or less, in part because many of these fathers never married.

When the courts subpoena these men to determine if they are the legal fathers of children born to unmarried mothers, the fathers sometimes fail to appear. This happens because of fear, transportation problems or sometimes, because the father was doubling up with a friend or family member at his last known address, but has moved on before the subpoena arrived. 

To address these problems, the federal office of child support has recently proposed a set of rule changes designed to better align child support orders with nonresidential fathers’ ability to pay. One change would require courts to base child support orders on actual earnings, income, or assets, rather than imputed income when the father’s income is unknown.

Imputation of earnings is widespread practice that occurs when courts set child support orders for non-marital births, presently accounting for 41 percent of all births in the US. To expedite the process if the father fails to respond to a court subpoena, the courts establish paternity by default and attempt to create a child support order, without the information they need about the father’s income.

Instead, the courts impute income using a proportion of welfare and other benefits the children receive, or earnings at the father’s last-known job. If there is no record of prior earnings, the order is based on earnings at a full-time, full-year job paying minimum wage, which the courts assume any father could find.

Not surprisingly, the resulting child support order is often more than some of these fathers can afford, so they fall into arrears. Studies leading to the rule changes show that in states that use default orders and income imputation widely, fathers with earnings of $20,000 or less accounted for the majority of arrears. 

A second change, a self support reserve, would require courts to take into consideration the fathers’ subsistence needs when setting child support orders. In this way low-income fathers no longer need to choose between paying their child support and paying their rent, utilities, and transportation to work.

Several other changes would encourage states to use incarceration as a means of collecting child support as a last resort. That South Carolina was notorious for using incarceration as a first resort, inspired the 2011 Turner vs. Rogers decision by the Supreme Court, which made it clear that courts could not deny father’s their freedom, unless judges were very sure that fathers’ could afford to pay the child support they owed.

In fact this decision inspired the rule changes, which are designed to help states respond to new legal environment. Unfortunately these proposed changes, which have been the subject of work by researchers, advocates, policymakers, and child support administrators for decades, are now caught up in a political battle of wills over the limits of the executive branch.

Congressman Camp, Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, and Senator Hatch, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, have asked Child Support Enforcement to withdraw the proposed changes, pending Congressional action.

Curiously, these key legislators do not take issue with the substance of many of the proposed rule changes. Rather, they argue that the administration is overstepping its authority to make these changes without the approval of Congress.   

President Obama has spoken passionately about the difficulties he endured as the child of a nonresident father, and was only a teenager when the federal government began to put its considerable muscle behind state efforts to enforce child support.

Ironically, even he sees the need to make child support enforcement more accommodating in light of the limited growth in father's earnings that have occurred since that time. Congressman Camp and Senator Hatch may still get their way and block the rule changes.

This means that a teenager today may grow up without the financial support children need and deserve from their fathers. Let's hope we don't have to wait until that teenager becomes the leader of the free world. Congress and the President must focus their attention on the changes in the child support enforcement system so desperately needed now. We simply cannot wait any longer.

 
About Ronald B. Mincy

Dr. Ronald B. Mincy is the Maurice V. Russell Professor of Social Policy and Social Work Practice at the Columbia University School of Social Work and a co-principal investigator of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study.

Dr. Mincy publishes extensively on family formation, child well-being, responsible fatherhood, urban poverty and the underclass, and the effects of income security policy on child and family poverty. Dr. Mincy is widely regarded as a critical catalyst for changes currently underway in the treatment of low-income fathers by U.S. welfare, child support, and family support systems. 

Dr. Mincy's undergraduate and graduate training in economics were at Harvard University and M.I.T. He and his wife of nearly 40 years, live in Harlem, New York. They have two sons, who along with Dr. Mincy's two brothers have inspired his interest in males throughout the life course and family well-being. Please find Ronald Mincy's author page for more details on his work.

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

How Mindsets Impact Helping Dads

Do you believe that a person's intelligence is fixed, or do you believe it can be developed and grown? Do you believe, for that matter, that a father's intelligence about parenting is fixed, or do you believe it can be developed and grown? At NFI, we believe a father's "parenting intelligence," to coin a phrase, can indeed be developed and grown.

Carol Dweck, Ph.D., is a leading psychologist who has conducted extensive research into people's mindsets when it comes to their views on the static versus pliable nature of intelligence and other human abilities. In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck describes two mindsets. The fixed mindset is characterized by a belief that a person's intelligence, attitudes, beliefs, and abilities (e.g. parenting, cooking, writing, etc.) are set in stone and can't be developed or grown. The growth mindset is characterized by a belief that those same aspects of a person can, in fact, be developed and grown. A person can have a fixed or growth mindset they apply across the board or a kind of mixed mindset in which they believe some things are fixed while others can be grown. The graphic below provides an excellent summary of the differences between the two mindsets.

two-mindsets

Whether a person generally has one mindset or the other explains a lot of the differences in how people behave and approach certain situations. When it comes to personal improvement, for example, a person with a fixed mindset tends to be super sensitive and dismissive when someone suggests areas of improvement. A person with a growth mindset, in contrast, tends to be open and accepting of such a suggestion. The same is true of parenting. Have you ever suggested to one friend that he could improve his parenting by doing something new or different and another that she could do the same and gotten totally different reactions--one open and accepting and the other closed and dismissive? Have you ever suggested to your spouse or significant other a way to improve his or her parenting? What reaction did you get? Has someone ever suggested to you that you could improve your parenting? How did you react?

Regardless of your experience in suggesting that others in your personal life can improve their parenting--or in receiving suggestions--the work you do with dads is affected by the mindsets they have about improving as a man, father, and husband/partner. One dad might have a fixed or growth mindset that he brings to every aspect of his life, while another dad might have a mixed mindset that makes him resistant to change in certain areas (e.g. his view of the mother's ability to be more accommodating in granting him access to his child) but open to change in others (e.g. his ability to learn more effective tactics to discipline his child). What might look like a schizophrenic reaction is simply a different mindset applied to a different situation.

Here are some of the primary areas affected by dads' mindsets to reflect on as you work with individual dads and groups of dads:

  • Views of their own intelligence and their own parenting and fathering attitudes, beliefs, and skills
  • Views of the intelligence, attitudes, beliefs, and skills of their children's mothers
  • Views of their children's intelligence and abilities
  • Views of the people and systems they interact with (e.g. judges and court systems and child welfare workers and systems)
  • Views of you and your organization

Knowing the mindsets of the dads you work with and to which aspects of their lives they apply them will make you a more effective agent of change.

To help you develop and grow fathers, all of us at NFI bring the same growth mindset to an organization's ability to become a father-friendly organization and to improve its fatherhood program(s). That mindset is why we provide a ton of free capacity-building resources that focus on the entire organization, such as the Father Friendly Check-Up™, and implementation of fatherhood programs, such as the Research to Application series. There's no reason your organization or program can't develop and grow! Check out our new Free Resources section that just keeps growing and growing!

What mindset do you bring in working with dads?

What mindsets do the dads you work with have in general and about specific areas of their lives?

What mindset does your organization have in helping dads to be the best dads they can be?

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

The Importance of the Self-Aware Father

Being a dad is awesome. But, being a dad can be tough when you don't have the skills you need. Now, you may be thinking: what skills? I'm just doing the best I can...isn't that enough? Well, the good news is, it’s never too late to learn new skills to be the best dad you can be. Every child deserves a 24/7 Dad, and we want to ensure you have the 5 characteristics needed to be a 24/7 Dad.

So, let’s get started: When we say "self-awareness”, what do you think of? The Karate Kid or some fancy ninja training? Maybe, but it’s so much more meaningful than that. Let's talk...

self-aware_dad

When we say "24/7 Dad" we're talking about an involved, responsible and committed father, and self-awareness is just the beginning. We're talking about a dad who knows his role in the family. He knows what it means to be a man. He understands he is a model for his sons on how to be a good man. If he has daughters, he models what they should look for in a husband and father for their children. Basically, he has the 10 Ways To Be a Better Dad memorized.

Everything we know about being a great father is tied to one or more of the 5 main characteristics of a 24/7 Dad. In the coming months, we’ll unpack the meaning of the these characteristics in their very own Father Factor posts. The great news is that these five questions come with a guarantee: if you answer each one honestly and take action, you will become a 24/7 Dad!

To begin, let’s get familiar with 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. 

2. The 24/7 Dad Cares For Self: The 24/7 Dad takes care of himself.

3. The 24/7 Dad Understands Fathering Skills: The 24/7 Dad knows his role in the family. 

4. The 24/7 Dad Understands Parenting Skills:  The 24/7 Dad nurtures his children.

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

So back to being a self-aware dad...

A self-aware dad knows his moods, feelings and emotions; capabilities, strengths, and challenges. He is responsible for his behavior and knows his growth depends on how well he knows and accepts himself. Don’t run by this first category. Take a moment to reflect. Be honest with yourself as a man and father.

Ask yourself some questions:

  • What defines me? Do I have a sense of meaning? How does being a father play into my sense of meaning?
  • What is my current role in my family? What would I like it to be? What can I do to work toward that goal?
  • What are my biggest personal challenges? Am I ignoring them or dealing with them? If I am dealing with them, am I handling them in a healthy way? Or am I acting in a self-defeating or self-harming way to "deal" with them? How do these choices affect my children and family?
  • What are my biggest challenges in fathering? What can I do differently to be proactive and show my dedication to my children?

Another way to become self-aware is to consider how you act in your day-to-day activities. Do you know what part of the day you are likely to be most tired or annoyed? Learn to be discerning about how you treat your children during these times.

For example, if you know that by 6pm, you're tired and more likely to be annoyed because you've been at work all day and in traffic (don't ask how I know this), it's up to you to schedule at least a few moments to be calm and ready before you open the front door to your family. If you find yourself daily coming home frustrated upon entering the house, that's a red flag something needs to change in your day.

From physical health to emotional health, and everything in between, the 24/7 Dad understands he is responsible for his decisions and ultimately his actions. The 24/7 Dad also knows his ability to be with his children is affected by the choices he makes.

Consider this: with your own words, replace “I’m too busy for XYZ” with the words “I didn’t make XYZ my priority.” Hear the difference? You should. These phrases reveal two different mindsets. One is responsible and understands his role, while the other doesn't.

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

Niel knows what being a 24/7 Dad means. He wrote about Being a 24/7 Dad recently at his blog Great Moments in Bad Parenting. Niel says: 

Sandwiched inside a busy morning which included buying groceries for Easter, hitting the post office, getting an oil change and car wash, I went to my kids school to take pictures of my youngest and his class search for Easter eggs in the meadow behind their school. I ended up playing crossing guard as the seventeen four year old crossed the street and unofficial basket holder. Am I a superhero? Nope. Should anyone erect a statue in my honor? No, I’m just a dad and I’m a dad 24/7.  


You can read Niel's full post Being a 24/7 Dad but it sounds to me like Niel's a dad who know his role. 

*****

fodada-hero


Wear it. Be it. Show Your 24/7 Dad Pride.  

24/7 Dad T-shirt by fodada



Share pics of yourself or the dad in your life being a great dad using #247Dad on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

> But first, go here to buy the shirt!

All of you fine 24/7 Dad leaders > wear this unique t-shirt to show how proud you are to be a 24/7 Dad 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's being a 24/7 Dad mean to you?  

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

How the YMCA of Greater Des Moines, Iowa is Helping Fathers & Families (Video)

We talk about how "Over 24 millions kids in the United States live without their fathers" often. But at NFI, we don't glaze over this statistic. Why? Because behind each number is a child. Behind the national number, there's a statistic for each state. Behind each state number, there's a story. Like this one...

johnrgrubbcommunity-ymca-iowa

In Iowa, there are over 64,000 households with children under age 18 who have no father present. But, the YMCA of Greater Des Moines is working to help by serving fathers and families through their Fatherhood Initiative. Watch how this program is helping men improve their relationship with their children—and help the city of Des Moines—one father at a time.

The Fatherhood Initiative through the John R. Grubb YMCA is helping men improve their relationship with their children. The Y has a variety of resources available to help fathers connect with their families. Their Facebook page is a great example for leaders interested in doing more to reach fathers and connect them with their family.

The Fatherhood Initiative uses NFI's 24/7 Dad® Program, the 12-week course that teaches dads key principles of fatherhood. It teaches everything from how to connect with your child to how to talk with the mom of your child. The program is helping The Fatherhood Initiative in Des Moines to foster and build up connections between fathers, their children and families. The class also provides an opportunity to meet other fathers in a similar situation and work with YMCA staff to create solutions to problems affecting the relationship between dad and child. Watch this video to see their work with fathers...

Can't view the video? Click here.

Morgan Streeter (Director, Y Fatherhood) explains the importance of a fatherhood program: 

The main purpose of The Fatherhood Initiative is to engage men in the lives of their children because we know a child does a lot better when both parents are actively involved...we find these guys and give them the resources to be more involved and to give them that support so they feel comfortable being more involved.

As you watch the video, don't miss what Ed Nichols (Faith-Based Fatherhood Leader) says about fatherhood:

We all have the same issues. We are all trying to be involved in our kids lives. The culture doesn't teach us how to do that. So we help guys understand that not only do you need to be involved in their kids' lives—they need to be strategic as a dad. They (kids) need to see us do certain things. They need to hear things from us. They need to receive things from us. A kid wants to know their dad loves them.

In Iowa, there are over 64,000 households with children under age 18 who have no father present. Jose Ochoa, Sr. reveals what it's like to be a father and need help connecting with your child: 

The best part of being a father is the unconditional love that goes both ways. Much like the past, he doesn't know my mistakes. He doesn't know the bad choices I've made. He knows me for being a dad. I wish my son was with me more often and I know eventually he will be. But sometimes it's hard when I sit alone by myself and he's not there with me, and he should be there with me, that's the hard part.

Child support is not just about money. Nikolle Ross points out who suffers when dad isn't involved: 

When a father isn't there, sometimes a child feels guilty they may blame themselves for their father not being there thinking that it's their fault. Sometimes, the mother is working excess hours and she's not able to be there all the time and so it leaves a lot of room for a child to get into trouble because there's no one there, there's no guidance at home. So then, really they've (the children), ahve lost their mother and father by their father not being present.

Statistics show a child growing up without an involved dad is...

  • 4X more likely to live in poverty
  • 7X more likely to become pregnant as teen
  • More likely to have behavioral problems
  • More likely to face abuse and neglect
  • More likely to abuse drugs
  • More likely to go to prison
  • More likely to commit a crime
  • 2X more likely to suffer obesity
  • 2X more likely to drop out of high school

What's it take to be a good father? Ed Nichols has the answer: 

A good father is one that is not passive. He's not sitting back waiting for someone else to do something for the kids or expecting his wife or the kids mother to do it or teacher to do it. He's one that accepts responsibility for his role as a father.

What does a program like the Des Moines YMCA and 24/7 Dad® resources do for dads? Listen closely to the painful, yet helpful, words of Jose Ochoa, Sr.: 

I got involved in this program at a real sad my life and everybody here was very supportive. It was a place where I could come invent, get mad, you know, talk about what was hurting me, what was bothering me and that really helped me a lot through sad times —when I wasn't able to see my son. We are not alone. There's a lot of guys out there that are single parents with kids and these people listen and care. And don't give up.

If you live in the Des Moines area, visit the YMCA Fatherhood Initiative.

What's your city doing for fathers? Find out who uses NFI resources using our FatherSource Locator™ and help connect with fatherhood leaders in your area.

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

Preventing Child Abuse: The Crying Baby

People tend to think of infant crying and colic as a parenting nuisance. But it is much more serious. In fact, sleep deprivation and blasting the sound of crying babies for hours are used to prepare the Navy elite SEALS to endure torture!

Crying -- and the demoralization and exhaustion it provokes -- trigger a cascade of serious consequences, including marital conflict, postpartum depression, breastfeeding failure, SIDS/suffocation, car accidents, cigarette smoking, maternal obesity... and child abuse.

happy-babyAlmost 580,000 children were reported as abused in 2008, 1,740 of them died of their injuries. In addition to this terrible human cost, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates the financial cost of these abuses at $124 billion/year. 

To rally citizens against this scourge, we observe Child Abuse Prevention Month each April. And, to bring national focus on stopping infant shaking -- the #1 cause of child abuse deaths -- the third week of April is designated Shaken Baby Awareness week.

Unfortunately, infant shaking is not rare. Experts estimate that tens of thousands of infants are abused in this way each year. And two recent studies found that rates of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) have increased by as much as 100% during recession. 

  • The SBS victims are usually 3-4 months of age.
  • On average, one child is killed by SBS every day. 
  • The main SBS trigger is infant crying.

Child welfare leaders are beginning to realize that SBS prevention programs must include showing parents how to effectively and safely calm their babies -- not just teach them never to shake their infants. Adding a baby calming approach may not only stop the vicious cycle of parent frustration leading to child abuse, it may create a virtuous cycle! Empowering parents to calm their babies with effective, evidence-based techniques like the 5 S's may increase parent confidence and nurturing relationships...as well as reduce SBS and other serious problems triggered by infant crying.

The "5 S's" System

According to Dr. Harvey Karp, to sooth a crying infant, recreating the womb environment helps the baby feel more secure and calm. Dr. Karp recommends:

  • Swaddling: Tight swaddling provides the continuous touching and support your baby is used to experiencing within the womb.
  • Side/stomach position: The infant is placed on their left side to assist in digestion, or on their stomach to provide reassuring support. “But never use the stomach position for putting your baby to sleep,” cautions Karp. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is linked to stomach-down sleep positions. When a baby is in a stomach down position do not leave them even for a moment.
  • Shushing sounds: These imitate the continual whooshing sound made by the blood flowing through arteries near the womb.
  • Swinging: Newborns are used to the swinging motions within their mother’s womb, so entering the gravity driven world of the outside is like a sailor adapting to land after nine months at sea. “It’s disorienting and unnatural,” says Karp. Rocking, car rides, and other swinging movements all can help.
  • Sucking: “Sucking has its effects deep within the nervous system,” notes Karp, “and triggers the calming reflex and releases natural chemicals within the brain.”

NFI partners with The Happiest Baby for its potential to reduce child abuse. When you know these techniques for calming a baby (and can teach them to those around you) it means a happier baby—and a happier you!

Combo-no-bkgrd

More sleep and a happy baby...in just one click. Magic? A miracle? No...it's a reflex! Find details about The Happiest Baby.

Who can use The Happiest Baby?

  1. Health Departments & Home Visiting Programs > An easy "plug and play" tool to enhance existing parenting curricula, programs and services (such as WIC).
  2. Hospitals & Pregnancy Centers > Ideal for use by nurses and childbirth educators with expectant parents or parents with young babies.
  3. Military Bases > New Parent Support Program staff can distribute DVD+CD Combos to military families on base and in military hospitals.
  4. Community Organizations > serving fathers and families
  5. New Parents > If you're a new mom or dad who needs help with a crying baby.

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

Hyundai's Daddy-Daughter Spot You Must Watch to Believe

This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

Consumer brands continue to focus more on dads. What a concept. It's about time. Here's why Hyundai's new campaign is so important and why others have a lot to learn from this automaker.

If you follow my posts in this blog, you've read about consumer brands that continue to promote a negative image of fathers as bungling, clueless parents in contrast to brands that understand the important role fathers play in children's lives by portraying fathers as they are--competent, compassionate, knowledgeable parents.

Consumer brands, those bell weathers of today's culture, still have a long way to go in consistently portraying fathers as parents worthy of our admiration for everything they do and sacrifice for their children and families. Fortunately, I continue to see more and more examples of brands that understand fathers are critical to the success of their businesses.

Automakers --Toyota, Honda, and Nissan in particular -- have been especially keen to promote a positive image of fathers. Enter Hyundai. The South Korean automaker just released one of the coolest spots I've ever seen, father-themed or not. (It's interesting that all of these automakers are Asian in origin. It seems American automakers are, once again, behind the curve.)

hyundai a message to share

This 4-minute spot -- called "A Message to Space" -- centers on the daughter of an astronaut who works on the International Space Station. The spot opens with the daughter talking about how deeply she misses her father and he misses his family. The daughter and her mother travel to the desert where Hyundai employs a team of drivers that, collectively, uses 11 Genesis models to write a message in the sand (using tire tracks that etch the message) that is large enough for her father to see as the space station passes over the desert. I won't spoil it for you by sharing the message, but it will warm your heart.

 

The skeptic might say these automakers are just trying to make a buck. After all, aren't men primarily responsible for making purchase decisions when it comes to automobiles? Not so fast. Men certainly influence those decisions, but recent surveys (click here and here for examples) point to the growing influence of women in making those decisions. It seems auto-buying decisions have reached gender parity.

Still, men are a major influence on those decisions. What these automakers understand, however, is that beyond these consumers being men, they're fathers. These automakers understand the growing influence of the fatherhood role on today's man and how powerful that identity has become. By appealing to that identity, they know that men will appreciate a brand that understands how important being a father is to men.

Bravo Hyundai. You've joined the Asian block of automakers that get it.

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

How to Be the Hero Like Paul Blart

Officer Blart says, "A hero is never off duty." At National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), we agree, fatherhood is never off duty. Earlier this week, we presented Kevin James with NFI’s Fatherhood Award at a special NYC screening with other great moms and dads. Let me tell you about the great event and tell you what it takes to be the hero like Paul Blart. 

NFI co-hosted a special screening in New York City of Columbia Pictures' upcoming film Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 with Paul Blart himself, Kevin James. After NYC moms and dads enjoyed the screening, they were treated to a Q&A with Kevin James and the film's director, Andy Fickman (an NFI Fatherhood Award recipient for Parental Guidance, the 2012 Fatherhood Movie of the Year), followed by a special presentation of the NFI Fatherhood Award to Kevin James.

Check out pictures from the special event and NFI Fatherhood Award presentation.

nfi-fatherhood-award-nyc-event kevin james ryan sanders andy fickman the moms paul blart

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 13: Actor Kevin James, director Andy Fickman, attend 'Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2' Screening co-hosted by The Moms [Denise Albert (L) and Melissa Musen Gerstein (R)] and Ryan Sanders of National Fatherhood Initiative at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 on April 13, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by J. Countess/Getty Images)

I was struck by the father-daughter story in this film. Between laughing at Paul Blart on screen, I was reminded of the struggle I face as a dad of two young daughters. It’s the contradiction of fatherhood…you raise your child to learn and grow and be independent…but how do you teach yourself to let go once you start succeeding? You’re basically raising your child to leave. Sad, right? I know.

I love my daughters and want the best for them. However, like Paul Blart and his relationship to his daughter in the film, where does the balance of training and love move from discipline and protection to freedom and life lessons? 

Paul Blart is a prime candidate for the loving-but-over-protective dad. Is he a good dad? Yes, he will do anything for his daughter. He loves her. And that’s awesome. But how much protection is too much? I struggle with it. You struggle with it. Where’s the balance between concerned and supportive and over-protective father?

I was reminded as I watched the film of our fatherhood training and resources on discipline. When we understand our role as a dad in relation to discipline, we can learn to model and teach the values we want to see from our children. Many Dads think that discipline means “to control” rather than “to teach or to guide.”

The Hero Knows His Style

pbmc2coverMuch like Superman wears his trademark suit and an officer has a uniform, you must know your discipline style if you're going to get this parenting thing right. We talk about the styles of discipline in our 24/7 Dad® Program. We train leaders and dads to understand the styles and model the proper actions in word and deed.

In case you’re new to this site, here’s a crash-course on the styles of discipline. You most likely exhibit one of these styles more than the other. 

Style #1: Dictator > This dad is always strict and never nurtures. He’s clear about his morals and values. He leads with control and enforces rules with an iron hand. His children know what he doesn’t want them to do but rarely what he wants them to do. This dad says, “My way or the highway.”

Style #2: King > This dad is strict and nurtures when needed. He is clear about his morals and values. He leads by example. His children know what he doesn’t want them to do and what he wants them to do. This dad says, “Let me show you the way.”

Style #3 Joker > This dad is never strict and rarely nurtures. He isn’t clear about his morals and values. He jokes a lot and makes fun of his children. His children don’t know what he doesn’t want them to do or what he wants them to do. This dad says, “Let’s just have fun.”

Style #4: Follower > This dad is sometimes strict and sometimes nurtures. He lets mom take the lead on discipline and backs her up when needed. He is sometimes clear about his morals and values. His children know some of the things he doesn’t want them to do and some of the things he does want them to do. This dad says, “Do whatever mom says.”

Style #5: Dreamer > This dad is never strict and never nurtures. He lets mom take the lead on discipline and doesn’t get involved with it. He is never clear about his morals and values. His children don’t know what he wants them to do. This dad says, “Whatever. Just leave me alone.”

The Hero Knows What To Do in Any Situation

I can’t leave you with only the styles of discipline. I have to give you some tips to help you model the correct behavior. Like Officer Blart, you can succeed at your mission. Here are tips you need to be sure you're teaching and guiding instead of being over-protective and simply punishing your child.

Say You’re Disappointed > Tell your children you expect more of them, and that you expect them to behave the right way. Just be careful to not overuse this one. It can be powerful. Use sparingly.

Pay it Back > Tell your child to make up for bad behavior, such as paying for breaking something, doing the behavior they were supposed to do in the first place, or saying they’re sorry to someone they hurt. 

Time Out > Tell your child to sit in a corner, on the couch, or go to their room for a short period of time. Time out works best with younger children under the age of 10. 

Grounding > Don’t let your child leave the house for some period of time. Grounding works best with older children, such as teens.

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

Remember these tips the next time you want to punish the wrong-doer in your house.

Which tip could you use today that would make the most difference in how you discipline your child?

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 was as entertaining as I remember the first one. Yes, it’s a comedy, but with a deep father-daughter story. It’s a fun family film that will have you leaving the theater thinking about how to connect with your child.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 releases in theaters nationwide Friday, April 17th. 

While watching the movie offers lots of opportunities for dads to laugh with their kids, Columbia Pictures also developed a very engaging and highly informative safety program Paul Blart’s Safety Smarts for children ages 7 to 11 that shows kids how to stay safe.

> Visit and share the safety video with the dads you serve. Encourage dads to watch the video with their kids and then participate in the accompanying activities designed to sharpen your dads’ and children’s safety smarts with role-playing, peer-to-peer learning, and critical thinking. There is also a take-home safety quiz that parents and kids can take together to reinforce these important safety topics.

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

More Helpful Resources

> Safe Kids Worldwide

> FBI Safety Tips

> National Children’s Advocacy Center

3 Tips for Spring Cleaning Your Life

OK dads, is spring finally on its way? Being from Minnesota, I’m ready to ditch the snow blower for the lawn mower! And, for those of you on the eastern seaboard, I’m sure you’re doubly ready to kiss this winter good-bye…

Regardless of where you live, spring is a natural time to take stock of what you’ve accumulated around your home and life whether that be dirt and grime, general disorganization, or maybe some bad health habits like overeating or…  The good news is, you don’t have to take it on all at once – here are three of my favorite tips to get started:  

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Tip 1 > Make sure your grill is in prime shape to fire up for the warmer months. It can be tempting to use harsh chemicals, but those can affect the finish. Mild soap and water is best. (Just be sure to disconnect the propane tank before doing anything.)  

Tip 2 > No one can feel refreshed when bogged down by financial worry. Make time to sit down with your loved one to revisit your budget and financial goals. This goes for you, the leader, and for the dads around you. Online sites like mint.com can help streamline the process so you can get a better understanding of where your hard-earned money is going. 

Tip 3 > Research shows that getting outside has many positive effects on your health, including improving relaxation and your immune system. Think about planning a camping trip for the summer and bask in the beauty of one of our nation’s great parks. Check out a list of where to go here

Want more spring cleaning ideas?

Spring Clean Your Life: Reorganize, Reprioritize and Reconnect by brightpeak financial is a 21-day email program created to help you tackle the post-winter cleanout – in all areas of life. Focusing on daily tips and activities, the program is designed to help you reorganize your home, reprioritize and revitalize your finances and reconnect to a healthier you. Get started today!

What's one thing you HAVE to do this spring in order to get life together?

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

Two Stories that Will Warm Your Heart

We receive a lot of phone calls and emails from dads and moms who seek guidance on father involvement and related issues. The vast majority of these calls and emails are associated with the negative effects of father absence. But every once in a while, a dad or mom, and sometimes a child, shares an uplifting story about how a dad stepped up to the plate to be a great dad and the positive impact of that action. Those stories drive our staff to never stop ensuring that as many children as possible experience the love of an involved, responsible, committed father.

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We also stay on the lookout for such uplifting stories that aren't directly shared with us because we know they can motivate individuals and organizations in their work to connect fathers and children. These stories are often shared by the organizations that use our resources, donors, and dads and moms across the country. (Click here for Stories of Impact shared by our organization partners.) Sometimes we find stories during the course of our work to provide the most useful information and resources. 

While conducting some research recently, I learned about StoryCorps, a nonprofit with the following mission:

StoryCorps' mission is to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share and preserve the stories of our lives. We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters. At the same time, we are creating an invaluable archive for future generations. 

In its more than 10 years of existence, StoryCorps has captured and archived more that 50,000 recordings on an incredible range of topics. Curious, I plugged "fathers" into their search function to see whether I could find stories to use in our work. The result produced a number of recordings that turned up a few gems, two in particular that I hope will uplift you as much as they did me.

The first recording is of a 9-year-old boy, Aidan Sykes, who interviewed his father, Albert, about being a dad. (Albert runs a nonprofit focused on mentoring children. He is not only in a great dad, he has stepped up to help children less fortunate than his own.) Click here to listen.

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The second recording is of Wil Smith telling his now adult daughter, Olivia, what it was like to raise her as a single dad while in college. He recorded the conversation shortly after he was diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, he died just a few months ago. Click here to listen.

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We want to share more stories like these. Please let us know if you have one.

Do you have an uplifting story to share? 

Do you have a Story of Impact that resulted from the use of an NFI resource? If so, click here to learn more about how to share it with us.

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

The Father Factor Blog > Where Fatherhood Leaders Go To Learn.

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