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The Father Factor

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The Best Dad Advice Around: Download Free eBook & Enter the iPad Air Giveaway

“It was not his words, it was the silence of his voice, the way he was and is always there, ready to help and be a super hero without saying a word.” – Kris

What was the best advice your dad ever gave you?

We learn a lot about life from our dads. Whether it’s how to communicate successfully in our marriages, how to be fathers ourselves, or just some good practical advice on career or finances, dads share with us a special kind of wisdom.

NFI-Giveaway-eBlast_bpfOCHD071714.1_500x500Last month, to celebrate Father’s Day, brightpeak financial launched a campaign to collect the Best Dad Advice from around the U.S.

They challenged moms, dads, sisters and brothers to share with us the best advice they’ve ever received from their dads. The results were inspiring. Hundreds of entries poured in with advice on love, faith, money, parenting and facing adversity.

The submissions were insightful, smart and even humorous, but above all, they were inspirational.

brightpeak then compiled the best entries into the Best Dad Advice eBook. 

CLICK HERE to download your free Best Dad Advice eBook and enter the iPad Air Giveaway!

Check out a few excerpts from the book, below:


CHARACTER & VIRTUE

“It is better to be kind than correct. I use this to relate and connect with my kids on a daily basis.” – Mark

“Don’t take anything for granted, not even a glass of water.” – Deana

"Always be present to those around you.” – Seth

CONFLICT & ADVERSITY

“Wisdom is the ability to put your knowledge into proper action.” – David

“There is no such thing as luck. Luck is what you make for yourself by never quitting.” – Ron

“If one person calls you a donkey, ignore them. If two people call you a donkey, think about it. If three people call you a donkey, you probably are!”
– Amanda

FAITH

“My dad has always told us kids to seek wise and Godly council before we
do anything. Even if it means having to wait a while for an answer. I’m very
grateful to God for giving my dad such a godly character!” – Caitlin

“My father’s best advice was to put God first in your life, then your family,
then others.” – Thomas

PRACTICAL LIFE

“Don’t let your gas go below ¼ tank in the winter.” – Gretchen

“When I was young and got hurt, my Dad would always tell me, ‘It’ll feel
better when it quits hurting.’” – Ron

“Don’t put shiny wheels on your car - someone will steal it.” - Jackie

LOVE

“It all starts with a kiss – so be careful.” – Louise

“If there’s any doubt whatsoever about the man you’re gonna marry, then
he is not the right one for you. You will know without any doubts when you
meet the right man.” – Paul

“Don’t date a woman you wouldn’t marry.” – Mike

PARENTING

“The best thing a Dad can do for his kids is to love his wife. It reminds me that the kids are always listening and they learn from my actions.” – Mike

“Cars, houses and things can be replaced but years gone by can’t. Make time to play with your kids before they are too old to play.” – Anne

“The best and only advice my Dad gave me on raising my children was, ‘Be consistent.’” – Debra

If you would like to read the whole book, including sections on Money & Career, Decision Making, Attitude, Practical Life, Faith, Love, and Family, download the Best Dad Advice eBook below. You’ll also be entered to win a free iPad Air when you sign up!

CLICK HERE to download your free Best Dad Advice eBook and enter the iPad Air Giveaway!

Brightpeak financial is a division of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, a membership organization of Christians, created to help young Christian families build financial strength so they may live life with confidence and generosity. Learn more about brightpeak financial here.

iPad Air Giveaway Terms and Conditions bpfOCHD071714.1

10 Ways to Sneak Spinach into Your Child's Food

Spinach is one of the most potent greens when it comes to overall health and vitamin support. While its raw form can be healthy in its own right, the boiled and cooked versions of the leafy green provide an incredible amount of nutritional value. Unfortunately, it could be incredibly difficult to feed the much-needed veggies to the children. After all, boiled spinach doesn't look all that appetizing. What are ways you can incorporate spinach into daily meals without forcing your child to eat it?

10 ways to sneak spinach into your child's foodAs a reader of this blog, you know NFI takes health and diet seriously. Christopher Brown recently wrote a post called Your Children are What YOU Eat. Us dads need to be intentional about being an example to our children when it comes to diet. For fatherhood leaders, you can not only use these tips in your own life, but be sure to share these tips with the dads you serve. 

1. Salads - Spinach can be added to salads quite easily without making the experience distasteful for the children. Even replacing half of the lettuce with spinach can help your children obtain more vitamins and minerals than by eating it without. Adding grilled chicken, onions and mushrooms to the mix can make an incredibly healthy, and tasty meal.

2. Smoothies - Armed with a good blender, you can make fruity smoothies with a bit of spinach added in order to make a good summer drink. Mixing fruits such as blueberries can help hide the spinach for children who don't like the "look" of certain foods. Make them in the privacy of your kitchen and the children will never know that they are drinking some of the healthiest beverages you can develop.

3. Lasagna - Depending on the recipe, you may already be incorporating spinach in your lasagna. If not, a few cups of chopped spinach gently added to a layer or two can provide a bit of additional nutrition to the dish.

4. Spinach Cake - While the children may not eat a glop of boiled spinach, a great deal of fun can be had by eating a green cake. Blending the leafy green and adding it to your recipe could provide a great way to encourage your children to eat healthier. Of course the sugars in the frosting may not be as healthy as you'd like, but at least the children are eating the spinach.

5. Soups - By finely grinding the spinach, you can add a bit of it to soups to give it more health appeal while making it look like ordinary chives and such. This can be a great addition to homemade turkey noodle soup after Thanksgiving.

6. Egg Rolls - While spring egg rolls can be delicious themselves, using spinach in your chicken or pork recipes can add more health appeal. Chopped spinach lining the egg roll prior to add the rest of the components can provide a way for the children to eat it without realizing what is actually within.

7. Quiche - The overall development of a good quiche can hide all kinds of nutritional foods without the child suspecting spinach is involved. While some use bacon, others will add extra cheese in the development of the dish in order to help hide the fact that spinach is within the meal.

8. Macaroni and Cheese - Using rotini noodles and a homemade cheese sauce, you can add a bit of spinach into this dish with the children being overly concerned. A few chopped pieces of bacon and almost any child will be hooked on this healthy side or meal. Some parents will use garden rotini as one-third of the noodles are green anyway.

9. Chicken Pasta - Using garden rotini again, you can add chopped spinach in with diced tomatoes while mixing in chicken and a garlic marinade to provide a meal that is good hot or cold. The garlic marinade can easily hide a lot of the taste of spinach from the children.

10. Mashed Potatoes - Some parents have had good luck using chopped spinach in a cheesy garlic mashed potatoes recipe. This combines two foods that children seem to love: cheese and mashed potatoes. The added spinach will barely be noticeable as the children are more focused on the cheesy side of the dish.

Providing a nutritional option for children can help them develop physically and mentally. The more intentional you are about child's health, the more healthy they will be. Start by encouraging your children to eat more vegetables and fruits daily. Sneak the veggies in if you have too!

Ken Myers is a father of three and passionate about great childcare. He’s always looking for ways to help families find the support they need to live fuller, richer lives. Find out more about expert childcare by checking out @go_nannies on Twitter.

image: iStockPhoto

The Problem with Parent-Directed Activities

As a parent, you want to see your child happy and healthy. Many parents are buying into the idea that happy, healthy kids are created when the parents arrange a plethora of directed activities. They spend their days shuttling kids from soccer games to gymnastics practice to piano lessons, all in the hopes of keeping their minds and bodies happy. Yet despite your best intentions, these activities may be doing more harm than good for your children's development.

The Loss of Free Play

sergey-nivens-shutterstock_boy_playing_outsideIf you read our blog much, you know we like to provide helpful parenting tips from time to time—both for dads and for those who serve dads. When you were a kid, chances are your parents sent you outside to play for hours. You may have roamed your neighborhood and enjoyed pickup games of baseball or kickball. Do your kids get the chance to do this? If you’re like the average modern family, the answer is no. Free playtime is being lost to adult-directed activities, and this is to the detriment of our children.

Parents cite many reasons that they don't simply let their kids play. Reasons include:

  • Increased academic demands

  • Concerns for safety

  • Lack of other children to play with

  • Lack of time in the schedule

Some of these reasons are legitimate. You do, after all, have a responsibility to keep your children safe. Yet, failing to let them play is bringing on a new set of dangers. Before you assume that hovering over your kids and choosing their activities is the best, consider the dangers of constant parent direction in play.

The Loss of Play Increases Anxiety and Depression

From 1981 to 2006, suicide rates for children under the age of 15 years doubled, according to the American Association of Suicidology. Children are facing serious problems with anxiety and depression. Interestingly, in this same time frame the opportunity for children to play on their own has dropped at an alarming rate.

Why is this? During play, children learn how to take risks. They can mitigate the risk and the fear it brings with the happiness the activity brings. If going down the tall, twisty slide is too frightening, no one pushes them to do it. They can choose the shorter slide for the first few trips until they gain the confidence to try the big one.

This type of self-directed play teaches children how to handle and overcome anxiety. It also brings great happiness, which lessens the chances of depression. Children are more emotionally stable when they get the chance to play free of parental direction.

Free Play Benefits Children in Crucial Areas of Development

Emotional and mental health is just one aspect of free play as it benefits children. Parents who let their children play on their own on a regular basis will also notice:

  • Children learn how to handle emotions

  • Children learn to make friends and get along with peers

  • Children develop better imaginations and problem-solving skills

  • Children learn what they do and do not enjoy

  • Children become more self-aware and self-confident

Children who are constantly directed in their activities don’t get the chance to explore peer interactions, or activities they enjoy that parents might not think of.

How to Incorporate More Free Play Time

If free play is so important to your child's development, what can you do to incorporate more of it in your family? Here are some practical suggestions:

  • Cut down on scheduled activities to make time to play

  • Create a safe outdoor play area where you are comfortable letting your children play

  • Let your children be bored, even if it requires practice for both you and them

  • Limit or eliminate television and video games during the week

  • Meet the neighborhood parents so you feel comfortable letting your kids play together

  • Take action with other local parents to make the neighborhood safe for free play

Sending your children out to play without you at their side, or stepping back when they’re at the playground is not lazy parenting — it’s good for your kids. Find ways to incorporate safe free play times into your life, and watch your children's emotional, mental and social health blossom.

Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? Why or why not?

David Reeves is the Marketing Director of Grounds For Play, a division of Superior Recreational Products in Carrollton, GA. The company is focused on the design of play structures and environments that challenge children mentally and physically.

image: shutterstock

10 Ways To Be a Better Dad

Today, more and more dads like you are experiencing the satisfaction and reward of taking a more active role in the life of your child. Read and discover how these 10 simple ideas can help (or remind) you to start today on a new path—one that will impact your relationships...and your child's future. 

1) Respect Your Children's Mother

One of the best things you, as a dad, can do for your children is to respect their mother. If you are married, maybe this goes without saying, but I'll say it just in case; keep your marriage strong and healthy. Take time, as least weekly, to work on this relationship and keep it strong. If you're not married, it's still important to respect and support the mother of your children. A father and mother who respect each other, and let their children know it, provide a secure environment for the children. When children see their parents respecting each other, they are more likely to feel they are also accepted and respected. Find more on protecting your marriage.

10 ways to be a better dad fatherhood2) Spend Time With Your Children

This is more complicated that is sounds, I know. But, how a dad spends his time tells his children what's important to him. You've no doubt heard us say, Children spell "love": T-I-M-E. If you always seem too busy for your children, they will feel neglected no matter what you say. Treasuring children often means sacrificing other things, but it is essential to spend time with your children. Kids grow up so quickly. Missed opportunities are lost forever. Need ideas for how to spend your time? Here are 7 Ways to Connect with Your Kids

3) Listen First, Talk Second

All too often the only time a father speaks to his children is when they are getting in trouble. That's why many children may cringe when their mother says, "Your father wants to talk with you." Take time and listen to your children's ideas and problems. Listening helps them feel respected and understood. Begin listening and talking with your kids when they are young so that difficult subjects will be easier to handle as they get older. 

4) Discipline With Love

All children need guidance and discipline, not as punishment, but to set reasonable limits. Remind your children of the consequences of their actions and provide meaningful rewards for desirable behavior. Fathers who discipline in a calm and fair manner show love to their children. Get our 8 Things to Know About Disciplining Your Child.

5) Be A Role Model

Fathers are role models to their kids, whether they realize it or not. A girl who spends time with a loving father grows up knowing she deserves to be treated with respect by boys, and what to look for in a husband. Fathers can teach sons what is important in life by demonstrating honesty, humility, and responsibility. Here's a great example of a role model dad in case you need one.

6) Be A Teacher

Too often we think teaching is something others do at a school building. But a father who teaches his children about right and wrong, and encourages them to do their best, will see his children make good choices. Involved fathers use everyday examples to help their children learn the basic lessons of life. Consider the vital knowledge you, and you only, possess with regard to music and classic movies at this point!

7) Eat Together As A Family

Sharing a meal together (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) can be an important part of healthy family life. In addition to providing some structure on a busy day, it gives kids the chance to talk about what they are doing and want to do. It is also a good time for fathers to listen. Most importantly, it is a time for families to be together each day. 

8) Read To Your Children

In a world where television and technology dominates the lives of children, it is important that fathers make the effort to read to their children. Children learn best by doing and reading, as well as seeing and hearing. Read to your children when they are very young. When they are older, encourage them to read on their own. Instilling your children with a love for reading is one of the best ways to ensure they will have a lifetime of growth. We wrote a little something called 6 Tips on How to Show Your Child Reading is Awesome. Let's be honest, it's helpful.

9) Show Affection

Children need the security that comes from knowing they are wanted, accepted, and loved by their family. Dad, get comfortable hugging your children. Showing affection every day is the best way to let your children know that you love them.

10) Realize A Father's Job Is Never Done

Even after children are grown and ready to leave home, they will still look to their fathers for wisdom and advice. Whether it's continued schooling, a new job or a wedding, fathers continue to play an essential part in the lives of their children as they grow and, perhaps, marry and build their own families. 

Which one of these 10 ways do you find the most difficult? Why?

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Fatherhood Leader: We have these 10 Ways to Be a Better Dad created as brochures and tip cards for you to use with your group of dads in any setting.

image: iStockPhoto

What's Mom Got to Do With It?

I was at an acquaintance's house the other night, and the inevitable question, "What do you do for a living" led to an unending story of a father who was denied access to his child(ren) by the mother - for all sorts of reasons.

I heard about the endless heartache he suffered trying to be involved in the child's life, which lead to his frustration, and eventual hopelessness and realization that he would never have easy access to his child.

Now, we all know there are two sides to every story, but this scenario is all too common.

what's mom got to do with it fatherhoodWhen I tell people that NFI develops and distributes curricula to help organizations across the nation work with dads to increase their involvement, I often get the follow-on question, "Well, what about the moms who don't let them be involved?"

Enter the discussion of "maternal gatekeeping", which refers to a mother’s protective beliefs about the desirability of a father’s involvement in their child’s life, and the behaviors acted upon that either facilitate or hinder collaborative childrearing (often called “shared parenting” or “co-parenting”) between the parents. Maternal gatekeeping occurs regardless of whether parents are married, divorced or unmarried, and regardless of the parents’ satisfaction with the relationship between them. 

Let me clarify - this is not a discussion about the court system and its challenges. We're talking about the part of the father-child relationship over which a mother has some control - where she has the choice to be a gateway or a gatekeeper to dad's involvement. Specifically: 

  • The cognitive aspects of maternal gatekeeping include preferences or beliefs about the father’s involvement, satisfaction with his involvement, and the mother’s view of the father’s competence as a parenting figure. 
  • The behavioral aspects can include how the mother speaks about the father in the presence of their child; to what extent the father is included or updated on the child’s health, schooling or social life; and the extent to which the mother communicates to the father that she knows what is best for their child and the correct way to do things—while he does not 

How Does this Happen?

In most married or cohabiting American families, mothers and fathers divide their family roles and tasks to achieve maximum efficiency as they raise children. Even when parents expect during pregnancy that they will divide employment and family roles evenly, most new parents take on gender stereotypic roles after the birth of their first child and thereafter (Cowan & Cowan, 2000). Even when both parents work outside the home, fathers more often take on the dominant role as economic provider. Regardless of how much each parent works outside the home, mothers generally assume primary responsibility for childcare and associated responsibilities inside the home. In divorced and unmarried families, mothers most often assume legal guardianship of children. Consequently, children most often reside with them, resulting again in mothers’ assumption of primary responsibility for their care on a daily basis. 

Despite an increase in joint custody and the recognized importance of fathering among divorced, separated, or never-married couples, mothers continue to typically serve as the primary caretakers of children, particularly in their children’s early years. Even when mothers and fathers are equally or near-equally involved in raising children, mothers often feel a sense of ownership or that they have primary rights toward the children in comparison to fathers. This feeling can result from some combination of biology (mothers carry the children in pregnancy and give birth) and social roles selected by many parents—and reinforced by societal expectations—that currently sanction mothers over fathers as primary caretakers of children. 

Why Does it Happen?

The motivations for maternal gatekeeping vary widely. They depend on individual, couple, and familial circumstances and situations. Mothers might have a difficult time relinquishing familial responsibility, might want to validate their identity as “the mother” and garner recognition for their “maternal” or “feminine” contributions to the family, or might view the father as incompetent or even dangerous to the child. This latter view might be based either on actual evidence, the father’s past behaviors, or her personal perceptions of him and his failures in the male familial role.

Furthermore, she might be protective of her child purely as a function of the child’s age. If the child is not old enough to verbalize his or her own needs and desires, she might feel qualified to make decisions and judgments for that child, thus becoming the monitor, supervisor, permission grantor, and controller of all others’ involvement with the child—including the father’s. There are likely "good" intentions here.

However, when the father is less involved in raising his child or finds his access to his child constantly hindered and blocked by the gatekeeping actions of the mother, the ability of the child to adjust to parental divorce is weakened. The gatekeeping can damage the father-child relationship and the parents’ ability to cooperate and keep their conflict levels low and out of the child’s earshot or awareness. It is well established that conflict, low levels of cooperation, and less father involvement contribute to the child’s academic, behavioral, and social difficulties in the short and long term. Maternal gatekeeping therefore poses an important and powerful threat to the vitality of the father-child relationship and the overall well-being and adjustment of the child.

So we're back to helping fathers be involved in their children's lives. We need to discuss positive gatekeeping and its result.

Studies have demonstrated that when mothers perceived their partners as motivated and competent to engage in child care responsibilities, fathers were more involved in childcare (benefitting mom!). The father-child relationship is thus based on a triangle that includes father, child, and mother. In research on divorced parents, positive gatekeeping (that which supports and facilitates shared parenting) is linked to the mother’s beliefs about the importance of the father’s involvement and her duty to help nurture and facilitate it. The fathers’ positive gatekeeping response is linked to his acknowledgment that the mother’s role in his relationship to his child is a real and valid one.

As a Fatherhood Practitioner, What can You do About It?

Begin educating mothers on the importance of father involvement. Work directly on the maternal gatekeeping topic addressed in NFI's popular FatherTopics Workshop Mom as Gateway or in a deeper way with Understanding Dad: An Awareness and Communication Program for Moms. You may even find that your staff members could benefit from a better understanding of maternal gatekeeping, and how to help moms understand the importance of dad's involvement. Your personal and organizational goals to increase father involvement in the lives of children in your community will thank you.

Download your free sample of "Mom As Gateway" here

image: creatas

Day 91: Attack of the Clichés! #P90X3Dads

Throughout this post, I am going to keep track of the number of clichés I use. It worked! (Cliché #1). That sums up my experience doing P90X3.

It was a tough “90” days. It took me over 100 to finish. We had a baby in the middle of it. I spent a day in the ER. I started teaching a class once per week. A lot has happened, but I finished. I kept hitting play just about every day, morning or night, whenever I could squeeze in 30 minutes. 

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And the results show. You can see my before and after pictures here at the teambeachbody.com website (login required). I am leaner, more muscular, more flexible, stronger, and have less pain in my lower back and right hip (problem areas for me). 

“Real world” results? I had blood work done recently, and I am clear on all fronts. My 4-year-old son, who weighs about 40 pounds, feels a lot lighter. Playing with him has become easier and more fun! Our baby, who loves to be held and walked around the house, feels lighter, and the constant walking (around the house) is easier. I have more energy. 

Basically, all of the things you’ve heard about the benefits of exercising are happening with me right now. And I went from zero to where I am now in just 90 days. Amazing. 

What P90X3 has taught me is that there are no* excuses for being out of shape (Cliché #2). So it is worth repeating, over and over again. Beach Body has made this as “easy” (easy = excuse-free) as possible. Just 30 minutes a day. Just 90 days. Do it and it will change your life (Cliché #3).

Your kids deserve the best dad you can be (Cliché #4), and part of that is being healthy enough to engage in whatever activities it takes to be involved, and to stick around long enough to meet your grandchildren, and maybe even your great grandchildren. 

The reason I’ve used all these clichés is because they are simple, but not simplistic; and even though they sound “easy,” they are actually quite hard to follow. After all, if they were easy, everyone would be in great shape and be the world’s best dad.  

So, my final, simple, clichéd advice is this: just start hitting play

*Of course, if you have medical conditions that prevent you from exercising, then that is an excuse. 

Link to pics are here

Day 91: My Journey from Obese to Overweight #P90X3Dads

I know what you're thinking, the title of this post sounds underwhelming. I've gone from obese to overweight in 90 days doing the P90X3 program. While "overweight" doesn't sound like an accomplishment, it is to me. I've experienced many improvements physically and mentally in the last 90 days. Let's talk details...

p90x p90x3 no excuses p90x3dads

Last Father's Day (2013), I made a goal:

Lose 50 pounds by next Father's Day (2014).

Crazy idea? Sure. But a goal without a deadline is just a dream, right?!

I'm happy to report that after one year...I reached my goal! I lost 50 pounds. Typing this doesn't sound true. Last year at Father's Day I weigh 230 pounds. This year, I weighed 180 pounds.

I'm still overweight for my height, but I'm no longer in the obese category. Congratulate me on my fitness in the comments! ; )

Over the last 90 days of doing P90X3 I've learned a few things and I've changed in many ways. At a glance, this was my 90-day journey in blog posts:

  1. Day Zero: Pressing Play on Fit Fathering
  2. Day 37: Dream Bigger Than a Smaller Number
  3. Day 74: Respect Water

What I Have Learned...

  • Habit matters: I'm a creature of habit; so are you. What we do daily is what matters. Don't think in terms of weekly or monthly about your health; think daily. Heck, think hourly. Pick a time of day that works best for you, preferably when you have the most energy, and exercise. Let nothing get in your way. This is you-time! With P90X3 there's one rest day per week. For me, the one day off each week is still a time to be active. If I'm inactive for one day, I want to be inactive for two days.
  • Water is key: I've written and talked so much about water I'll spare here, just know that without drinking massive amounts of H20 you will not reach your goals. Why? Mostly because you'll be hungry and more likely to consume salt, sugar, tables, chairs, lawn equipment and the like. Also, you can forget exercise because you won't have the energy for it.
  • Diet matters too: See my water post, but also, eat about a third of what you are now. If you're obese and reading this post, my guess is that you, like me, became obese by eating too much of too many bad things at too many times—and not drinking enough water. 
  • Oh, and be active: Whether it's 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour, being active changes everything. Trust me, you may not feel like doing anything but sofa-planking, but once you start doing something, you'll feel better. This comes in time, I promise.

How I've Changed...

  • Mentally: I'm pretty sure my wife would tell you I'm happier now than 90 days ago. I say "pretty sure" because I'm still a stressed-out jerk about stupid stuff I can't control. But, daily exercise gives me moments of euphoria you might call "happiness". Eating right for a span of a few meals and snacks has the same affect. If you feel more energetic, you'll probably feel like doing productive stuff. I'm more alert and have noticed moments of deeper concentration. I'm accomplishing more at work and working more efficiently. It's like taking the Limitless pill NZT except I can remember what I've done instead of waking up in a torn suit on the Brooklyn bridge. Y'all have seen that movie right? Nevermind.
  • Physically: I went from 230 pounds to 198 pounds before starting P90X3. But here are several changes I have noticed in the 90 days (from Day Zero to Day 91):
    • Weight: Lost 18 pounds—from 198 to 180.
    • Chest: From XL (Extra-Large) shirts to L (Large). Also, went from super-snug 44 blazer to slim fit 44 (could get away with a regular 42!).
    • Waist: From snug 38-inch pants to loose 34's (almost to size 32's!).
    • Face: My face is no longer round: this is good because my face was never supposed to be round.
    • Feet: My feet no longer hurt. I used to complain about my shoes; but the shoes weren't the issue. Now, even when I spend all day walking in flip-flops, my feet aren't hurting. Hello, barefeet summer!
    • Hands: My wedding ring fits. I was convinced my wedding ring was becoming smaller. Now, it fits like the day Tonia lovingly placed it on my finger. PS: Fingers shouldn't swell or change much over the years unless there are possible health issues. Read the signs, brothers and sisters.

In the last year, but especially in the last 90 days, I have gone from obese to overweight. In the next 90 days (I've already started a second round of P90X3), my goal is to go from overweight to fit. But for now, I have to be excited and feel encouraged (see pics here. sign-in required). Within 90 days, I'm ready to be in the best shape of my entire life. I wish nothing but the same for you.

Note: No dad was paid for this post. We were, however, given a base kit and two kits to giveaway because the Beach Body folks are so awesome. We'll hand-select one winner who uses #P90X3Dads on social media or comments on the blog. Tell us: What would a free copy of P90X3 do for you?

What Dads Can Learn From the Santa Barbara Killing Spree

I’ve blogged many times over the years about the disturbing “father factor” I’ve seen in virtually every shooting spree or mass murder that has made the news. In nearly every case, the shooter grew up in a fatherless home. 

what dads can learn from santa barbara killing spreeFollowing in the wake of the D.C. sniper, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Tucson, Chardon High School, and the Norway terrorist, the Santa Barbara case in the news today appears to be no different: a murder spree carried out by a lonely, angry, disturbed young man with a troubling family background. 

At this stage, we don’t have a lot of detail about the “inner workings” of Elliot Rodger’s family life, but we do know that his parents divorced in 1999, and he, according to an article in The New York Times, seemed to be at odds with his family throughout his teenage years. And reports have shown that Rodger’s parents gave him lots of “things”: therapy, medicine, an expensive BMW. But did they give themselves? 

I am not suggesting that his family life caused his violent behavior, but it is becoming more and more clear as these horrific incidents occur that a family life defined by instability and turmoil is a significant factor that must be considered as we figure out how to make such incidents less common. 

But given Elliot Rodger’s clear hatred for women (and everyone else for that matter), there is another “father factor” that is important to consider here as well: the positive role that good dads can play in helping their daughters and sons navigate the world of dating. 

Rodger, in his last video before he carried out his murders, suggested that he was doing what he did due to being rejected too often by the women he desired. It is understandable that such an act could cause young women to fear what the consequences may be when they turn aside unwanted advances from young men. How can fathers help their daughters get their heads around this?

For starters, it is important to note that Rodger said in his video that he thought he would be rejected if he asked a woman out. This was a young man who felt rejected; he was seemingly never rejected by an actual woman. So, young women and their dads should take heart that Rodger’s actions were those of a severely disturbed individual, not the result of a run-of-the-mill rejection by an actual woman. 

That aside, it is the role of good dads to help their daughters find their prince without kissing all the toads.

Here is how dads can help:

  • Be there: First and foremost, a good father’s mere presence helps daughters see what a healthy relationship between a man and a woman (her parents) looks like. Good dads model that relationship for their girls, allowing them to start learning about healthy relationships from the very start of their lives. Good dads also build their daughters’ self esteem, as various studies have found. 
  • Be proactive: As their daughters get older, good dads play an active role in their decisions around dating. Dad and mom should call the shots on when their daughter starts to date; it is their call, not hers. They are in a better position than anyone else to determine if she is ready to date. 
  • Discourage “bad boys”: Once she does start dating, good dads help their daughters avoid guys who appear to need “fixing;” so-called bad boys. They are bad for a reason. Despite the allure, dating should not be therapy, where your daughter is the therapist and her boyfriend is the patient. 
  • Encourage group dating: Good dads encourage their daughters to spend their first months of dating going on group dates so that they, a) are rarely alone with guys, and b) have their friends around to help them “vet” guys. There is nothing like having your peers give you an objective evaluation of a guy who may be more trouble than he is worth. 
  • Avoid unknowns: Good dads discourage their daughters from dating guys they don’t know. If a guy and a girl are interested in dating each other and they don’t know each other (e.g., don’t go to the same school or church, etc.), then it is likely they simply want to date each other based on looks alone. This is probably not a good recipe for those earliest years of dating. 
  • Don’t obsess over dating: Good dads encourage their daughters to pursue lots of different interest in their teenage years. They help their daughters focus on academics, friends, sports, and other interests, so that dating (or not) doesn’t take over their lives.

So, when it comes to the question of how to “safely reject” a guy, it can be as simple as following the same basic rules you follow in all other human interactions. Be respectful. Don’t humiliate people. And, if dads are following the above steps, it is likely that their daughters are confident, assertive young women who are surrounded by good friends and supportive parents. These are notoriously good insulators against violence. 

Finally, it is critical that dads work with their sons to help them navigate the world of dating, too. It is clear that Elliot Rodger had no idea how to interact with members of the opposite sex. Good dads ensure that their sons are confident, respectful, and hold the best interests of others above their own. They teach their sons that girls are worthy of love, not lust, and model this behavior in their own lives.

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. As someone who works in “fatherhood,” it would seem I see fatherhood everywhere in the case of the Santa Barbara murders. But it appears that in every aspect of this horrible incident, there are lessons good dads can take away to ensure that they are raising sons and daughters who will be less likely to be the perpetrators or victims of such crimes. 

We dads certainly can’t control everything, but we can give our children what they need the most: ourselves.

What's one thing you're teaching your son or daughter about dating?

Victory Weak? #p90x3dads

I am in Victory Week of P90X3. But, right now, it doesn’t feel like much of a victory. I don’t feel as…STRONG as I’d like. It’s more like Victory Weak (get it?). Here’s why (I think): 

beach body p90x3I tend to set pretty high standards for myself, so when I don’t do things perfectly, I can be self-critical. Through the first five weeks of P90X3, I was on fire. I worked out every day, according to the plan. 

But then we had a baby. As I detailed in this post, I missed about 8 workouts over a three-week span after my son’s birth. I laid out a plan in that post, wherein I would “catch up” after those rough few weeks and get the program done on time. Unfortunately, that hasn’t quite worked out as planned. I never really “recovered” from the interruption to the plan, wrought my having a newborn and then spending time in the ER with gastritis. 

My rough calculations are that despite having skipped a week’s worth of workouts, I am still ending the program a week later than I was supposed to. That means that I essentially “skipped” two weeks worth of workouts over a 104-day span.

I guess it is P100-something-X3.

But before I start to feel sorry for myself, here is the good news. This thing works! Without a doubt, I am stronger, leaner, and in better shape than I was when I started. And here is the even better news – now that my wife is ready to exercise again, we are going to do the program together, from the beginning, starting this weekend.

The Beach Body folks have truly created something remarkable – a program that is undoubtedly difficult and transformative, but that is attainable enough so that you want to do it again…and again!

So, I have three workouts left in my Victory Week, and then I will post my Day 90 photos. You will see a huge difference from my Day 1 photos. But I will still be a bit disappointed in my lack of discipline to keep the 90 (days) in P90X3. But, hey, that is what second chances are for, right? I am excited about doing this crazy thing all over again with my wife, and I am confident that with adding her discipline to the mix, we will come much closer to finishing the program in the 90-day timeframe.

In other words, my Day 180 pictures are going to be awesome.

What difficulties have you faced when trying to start or continue a good habit? How have you overcome them?

Note: No dad was paid for this post. We were, however, given a base kit and two kits to giveaway because the Beach Body folks are so awesome. Use #P90X3Dads on social to win a free base kit of the P90X3 program, provided by the generous folks at BeachBody.

Massaged Your Baby Today? Study Says Massage Good for Baby & Dad

Historically, mothers have been the primary caregivers of newborn babies. During the last century, fathers went from being banned from the delivery room to being encouraged to attending the births of their babies.

dads and importance of infant_massage for bondingIn the past, care-giving skills were discouraged for little boys during their early childhood due to gender bias, i.e., playing house and dolls, thus denying them of learning about child-care like little girls do, yet when they had their first baby they were suppose to know what to do. In the past, fathering was not recognized as a contribution to children's well being. Now we know that when a child has a significant bond with their father, this bond contributes greatly to child outcomes. We need to do what we can to create an environment where less children grow up with emotionally uninvolved dads. In other words, children do better physically, emotionally and scholastically when both parents are involved in their lives.  

Why I decided to focus this research on fathers

  1. During the last 100 years research on attachment and bonding focused exclusively on mothers and babies, neglecting fathers based upon the "assumption" that the baby only bonded and attached with the mother. Even though researchers are seeking to correct this, they are going about it the wrong way. Researchers concluded that fathers may not attach to their children the same as mothers based upon a test (Ainsworth Anxiety Test) they were using that was developed on mothers and toddlers nearly a hundred years ago. This is important because traditionally fathers did not have the same access to their babies after birth as those mothers did and were not afforded the opportunity to be with their babies to bond right after birth. Therefore these tests results are not valid, it is not appropriate to use this test on fathers. 
  2. Additionally, as I reviewed Infant Massage research I discovered that there were only two studies in the last 20 years that focused on Fathers Massaging their babies. This lapse is important because it affords fathers an intense experience of bonding with their babies' right after birth. 
  3. While completing this research I realized how fathering or lack of fathering had impacted my own life and that of my children. My own father was not allowed in the birth room when I was born, it was an Army Hospital. The Military would do well to delay deployment of parents until their babies are older to support bonding and attachment.
  4. I raised my own three children as a single mother and the impact on my children of being fatherless increased the challenges of raising children alone. Juggling a family, work and my academic career was a juggling act. I was grateful for the men in my life who stepped up on occasion to interact with my children, men from my church, work, University and who I dated socially. I owe them my gratitude! My son is now a single parent and struggles in a society and school system that often does not understand the challenges of a father raising children alone. 

What did dads in my research tell me? 

Opportunity: Fathers' desired time with their babies however, felt like they were competing for time with their newborn babies. When asked what their motivation was for participating in such a study each father replied, "I don’t have a breast.” The mother of their baby was breastfeeding and according to them "a lot." 

Motivation: Fathers stated they wanted to be "more involved to reduce the mother’s responsibility of caring for their infant" and so they could "bond and attach with their infant.

Soothing: Fathers also said they wanted to "soothe" their baby, to care for their baby in a way that made the baby feel better (cry less) and be more comfortable. 

Bonding: Fathers said they wanted to "bond" with their babies.  

Contribution: Fathers stated they "enjoyed knowing they contributed to the baby’s well-being."  

Sensitivity: Fathers decided, on their own, to change the time of day and what body parts they massaged according to how they baby responded to the massage. 

Competency and Pride: Fathers watched two videos of them massaging their infants and reported they were "proud of themselves and their babies." They saw how they improved in their skills over the three weeks and were delighted with their own results and the knowledge that they had a new care giving skill. 

  • Fathers liked knowing they had time they could spend alone with their babies. 

You can find the full research results in a slide presentation here.

Each of these is a categories is an indicator of attachment and supports the finding that fathers can and do attach to their infants. 

The Big Picture: Why this research is important to fathers

  • It is critical fathers understand that their role as a father is just as important as the mothers' role at the very beginning of their baby's life and they contribute to the well-being of their baby’s social and emotional development. 
  • Fathers need to become proactive in getting time with their infants as soon as they are born. In the long term, this benefits the father, the baby and the mother. 
  • When a mother strokes the baby, it stimulates the neural development and the five sensory systems. Babies learn about their bodies through kinesthetic feedback, and their muscles tell their brains where their hands and feet are located and attached to the rest of their body. Massaging a baby increases the baby’s sense of self and provides an opportunity for fathers to contribute to this process. 

Why Infant Massage levels the playing field 

  1. Mothers attach (emotionally) and bond (physically) with their babies at birth through their senses of touching, hearing, seeing, tasting and smelling.
  2. Fathers attach and bond, however, not immediately at the time of the birth unless afforded the opportunity and access. Infant massage provides this opportunity to bond through a sensory experience for the father and the baby. 
  3. Teaching infant massage to expectant parents provides an introduction to a critical skill set that will enhance these experiences at the time of their baby's birth BECAUSE Infant massage provides the opportunity for attachment and bonding through four of the five senses, thus intensifying the experience. (Have you had a massage?).  

Why Infant Massage is important? 

  • Both the person doing the massage and the person receiving massage benefit. Fathers reported they felt more relaxed after massaging their babies.
  • In previous studies, Mothers reported less symptoms of depression regardless of whether they massaged their own babies or watched their babies being massaged. This was a study with professionals massaging their baby. Can you imagine the impact on the mother if they watch the father of their baby massaging the baby? 
  • According to Scholz, & Samuels, 1992, when fathers massaged their babies, the babies initiated contact with the fathers when they came home from work. Seeking attention from the fathers made fathers feel better about interacting with their babies because the babies showed a preference for the fathers. 
  • Fathers who are divorced have become more involved in the lives of their babies even when they did not live with the babies when afforded time with their babies.
  • Multiple researchers recently found that fathers who massaged their babies stayed involved with their babies after learning to massage their babies.
  • Fathers who massage their babies become more emotionally expressive and approving of their babies. 
  • When either parent has the ability to calm a crying baby, their feelings of being a competent parent increases and their feelings about their baby is more approving.   

What is the benefit for your baby?

  • Babies sleep better and longer!
  • Babies who were in the NICU who were born prematurely were sent home sooner because they gained weight quicker and did better than babies who were not massaged!
  • Babies cried less and showed less symptoms of colic and stress (more relaxed)!

The many benefits of massaging infants are documented in a slide presentation from a Critical Review of the Research I conducted for my preliminary exam in 2010.

Infant massage is very cost effective and provides an opportunity for the father to bond and interact with their infant while reducing the mother's and the infant's stress. Infant Massage is a safe activity for fathers and their babies, no research to date, conducted over the last 25 years, has ever reported harmful effects of massaging babies. 

In conclusion, parents are encouraged to include other siblings in the massage class, as well as, grandparents and other caregivers, so they too can soothe the baby. Massage has been shown to be beneficial for older children, children with special needs and developmental delays. Foster parents, adoptive parents, and adolescent parents also benefit from massaging their babies.

Learn more about infant massage and enjoy the many benefits for you and your baby by visiting Infant Massage USA.

 

How to Dispel the Illusion of Parental Control

"We apologize for the bumpy ride," said the flight attendant as we touched down in Austin last month on a blustery afternoon. "Let us make it up to you on a future flight." 

how to dispel the illusion of parental controlThat wasn't the first time I'd heard that promise after a bumpy flight. Normally, that promise would have went in one ear and out the other, but this time it struck me as a really strange thing to say. Why? Because it's a promise that no one at Southwest could possibly keep. Whose to say that my next flight wouldn't be just as bumpy, or worse?

I'm sure the flight attendant meant well. Unfortunately, neither she nor any of her thousands of smiling and, sometimes, all-too-giddy co-workers could possibly control the weather. She didn't need to apologize for the bumpy flight or promise that they'd make it up to me and my fellow passengers on our next flight. In doing so, she effectively said that Southwest, not the weather, was somehow in control. 

What an illusion.

You might wonder what in the heck any of this has to do with fathers. Many fathers (and mothers) suffer from an illusion, one that can do irreparable harm to them and their children. It's the illusion of control over their children's behavior. The illusion plays out most often in fathers' approach to discipline. Specifically, fathers who believe they can control their children's behavior punish more than they discipline. When they see their children behaving inappropriately (or appropriately and the fathers aren't knowledgeable enough about child development to know their children are behaving appropriately), they rush to punish. Indeed, these fathers' default to punishment instead of discipline. These fathers sometimes use abuse and violence to punish.

The good news is that the vast majority of fathers don't use abuse or violence. Most fathers who default to punishment use techniques of punishment, such as time out or taking away a cherished privilege, that are, in certain instances, appropriate and effective. Unfortunately, they use them too often, so much so that, like the overuse of antibiotics, they become ineffective. Their children adapt and become resistant.  

There are three reasons why these fathers struggle to effectively discipline their children.

  • They don't recognize that they can't control their children's behavior. 
  • They see their children's behavior as a referendum on their parenting. 
  • They don't understand the difference between punishment and discipline. They see them as one in the same.

Moreover, they were raised think of the father's role as synonymous with the primary disciplinarian (in actuality, primary "punisher"), a role strongly reinforced in most cultures. 

As a result, many fathers don't understand that they'll have more success as parents when they guide their children's behavior rather than trying to control it. 

One of the critical lessons in NFI's fathering programs, such as 24/7 Dad® and InsideOut Dad®, is the difference between punishment and discipline. Discipline means to teach or guide. Punishment involves penalizing a child for doing something wrong. Discipline should be the default. Punishment a last resort. 

A cornerstone of being an involved, responsible, committed father is being a child's guide and mentor. Our programs and other resources provide fathers with the awareness and knowledge they need to understand the difference between punishment and discipline, how and when to discipline and punish, and the skills they need to develop the capacity (self-efficacy) to become their children's guides and mentors. They also provide knowledge of child-development milestones so that fathers learn what is appropriate for children physically, socially, and emotionally at specific ages.

How do you dispel the illusion of parental control? Teach fathers (and mothers) that they can't and shouldn't try to control their children's behavior. Teach them the difference between discipline and punishment. Teach them how to effectively discipline and punish, and to punish only as a last resort. Teach them developmental milestones.

How much of a problem is the illusion of parenting control with the fathers (and mothers) you serve?

Simple Ideas for How To Be An Active Dad

The way media portrays modern dads is pitiful. They sit around in front of the TV or in the garage drinking beer and ignoring their families. Either that or they work all the time and never have time for their families. Being an active dad in you childs' life is important. It means more than just asking them how the day went or making sure they get their homework done. How can you be an active dad in your child’s life?

national fatherhood initiative 7_simple_ideas_for_being_an_active_dad.jpg1) Go Fishing > A great way to get kids talking is by doing something you both enjoy away from technology. Phones and computers make it too easy for families to remain separate even when they are sitting at the same table. Take away the doodads and get outside with an activity like fishing. A long time spent waiting means time to think and talk in peace. You may find out more about your kids in that tie then you have in the past year. Even if you don’t talk much, just being together and enjoying an activity together is enough to form better bonds and create memories your kids will have forever. 

2) Go for a Walk or Bike Ride > As we all know, being more physically active is high on our list of priorities for ourselves and for our kids. Why not join your child and get active by taking a walk or a bike ride? You are not only exercising but you are being together in a place that is easy to talk and communicate. You can make it a competition by seeing how far you can go each time or who has the best time around the trail. Have fun and remember to value this time together, even when you are working out too.

3) Join a Team > Sometimes it can be hard to be one on one with your kids and feel at ease. Maybe you have different interests or ways of talking. Joining a team and working together as part of a larger group is often a great way to bond with your child. As they interact with others you can see where their strengths lie and where they might need more help. They can also see you in an environment away from your home. Maybe you are a great manager or leader but they have no idea until they get to see you in action. Take the chance to show off your skills and learn new ones and also learn what your child’s skills are.

4) Pick a Sport > Sports are a great way to get active and have fun. Even if you are not very coordinated and can’t play basketball or football you can still have fun playing golf or bowling or even air hockey. Picking a sport that you and your child enjoy together is a great way to bond. You can watch games, improve your skills, and have fun competing against other teams.

5) Find a Hobby > Another fun way to get your child interested in new things is to try new hobbies. Rock climbing, painting, welding, whatever you two can agree on give it a shot. Maybe you won’t be good at it and maybe they won’t be either, but you will have fun learning and trying something new. If you can find something you both enjoy then you can invest your time into that and build memories together. 

6) Volunteer > Helping others is not only a great value to teach to your children but it is also a great way to bond with your child actively. When you two are working together to build a house, create a food pantry, or paint a wall you can talk and explain why you help others and what volunteering means for the greater good. 

7) Run a Race > Whether you are running for cancer or just running for fun, races are a great way to test your endurance and show off your efforts. You and your child can earn money towards a great cause and have fun together too. Start out with a fun race like a mud or color race and then work towards marathons and the bigger things. Learn how to pace yourselves, what shoes you need, and more as you grow together in your skills.

These are just a few ways you can make a huge impression on your child and create memories they will love forever. You don't want to be the emotionally unavailable dad. Doing things with your child is so important. They will remember your words, but your actions speak even louder. Show your child how much they mean to you by investing yourself in their lives in active ways. Let them pick and activity or two also. By joining them in what they enjoy you can learn more about them and help them open up to you. It is a give and take relationship. Have fun with your child and be active in their lives. If all else fails, jump rope!

 

Day 74: Respect Water #P90X3Dads

After working out for 73 days, I've learned at least one thing...wait for it...water is important. It's important; nay, vital, for many reasons. Let me explain.

p90x beach body health tipI hate water. I don't mean to get all scientific and whatnot, but  like my previous post, I've learned some things in the last 73 days. I'm a different person for a lot of reasons, but one of the main reasons is water. 

What's the big deal about water? Water serves important functions in your body. Of course you know this, but are you drinking water? No. To convince you about this whole water thing, I did some research (gasp). Water aids the body in several ways by:

  • removing toxins
  • increasing metabolism
  • helping breakdown and transport nutrients
  • regulating body temperature
  • lubricating joints and
  • increasing overall energy.

Water is awesome. I still hate it. But, water is literally changing my life. 

How is water changing my life? The biggest way water is proving worth my drinking is that it's decreasing my appetite. My appetite is much greater by dinner if I haven't taken in enough water during the day.

Most times when I think I'm hungry, I'm not. My "hunger" is really me being thirsty. Before grabbing a meal or snack, ask yourself: am I really hungry or do I simply need water. Odds are good water is all you need.  

Said differently: Most of my hunger is mental. I eat not because I need food, but because I want to taste food. It's mental, not physical. Knowing this is half the battle.

How am I making myself drink more water? If you are like my non-water-drinking self, you probably aren't drinking enough water daily. Here's what I've found is helping me guzzle at least 100 ounces of water per day:

  • Drink green tea: While I love coffee (and it's cool because there's water in coffee!), I substitute my afternoon coffee with green tea.
  • Carry a water bottle: I carry a 25-ounce water bottle on my person everywhere. This bottle hasn't left my side for months. 
  • Set at alarm on your phone (see image in this blog post): Beachbody, the geniuses behind P90X3 say: Set an alarm to drink water every two hours. It should be the first and last thing you put in your body each day. This helps remind me to drink throughout the day before I get hungry and then possibly lose the mental game and eat something quickly. 
  • Pick water instead of soda. I'm either on the wagon or off the wagon with soda. If I drink a 12-ounce can of soda, I want more. It's best that I don't give in and drink that stuff. So, I drink water with meals and at night. Oh, yes, it sucks. There's something about the taste of soda with a meal. Actually, writing about soda is making me want soda. Dropping the drinking of soda with meals has been the most difficult. I crave it. But, soda has sodium and sugar; which makes it self-defeating to drink it while wanting to lose weight.
  • Add stuff to your water: add lemon, lime, raspberry, cucumber...I haven't tried any of these things yet, but I have every intention to do so. Doing this will change up the taste so you might drink more water.

How much water should you drink? Half your body weight in ounces. For instance, if you weigh 200 pounds, make it a goal to drink 100 ounces of water per day. Yes, that's a lot of water. But, once you see the above benefits, you'll be more intentional about drinking that boring, non-soda stuff. 

How many ounces of water did you drink yesterday?

Note: No dad was paid for this post. We were, however, given a base kit and two kits to giveaway because the Beach Body folks are so awesome. Use #P90X3Dads on social to win a free base kit of the P90X3 program, provided by the generous folks at BeachBody.

 

What To Do (and What Not To Do) With Your Kids on #MomsNightOut

There are three types of dads in the new parenting movie Moms' Night Out. Inspired by the idea of "giving the at-home mom a break," I have advice for what dad can do with his child no matter the age or stage so that dad can connect and mom can relax.

dads big book of tips for moms night out

Let's pretend for a moment you read my earlier post Prepping for Mom's Night Out and now the mom in your life is going out to watch the Moms' Night Out movie with her friends (in theaters tomorrow May 9th...hint...hint). You work outside the home, which means that most days, you aren't alone with your kids super often, it happens, we get it. Which makes what you do with your child once mom is out vital so you can feel comfortable, bond well, and she can relax knowing dad has everything under control.

If mom's going out with friends to a movie, you're gonna have at least four hours to connect with your kids. Do the math: movie running time is at least an hour and a half, there's the time it takes your wife to get ready, the drive to and from the theater, and what about dinner? Boom, four-plus hours gone.

You need help. You can waste this time on your iPhone while your kid plays MineCraft or you can use it to connect with your child.

Whether you're a dad reading this post or someone who serves dads, here are few ideas for what a dad can do based on the stage of the child—and the dad. I have two phases in my head of how evenings with my girls can pan out:

1) staying inside the house and

2) venturing outside of the house. 

You'll find ideas for each phase based on the age and stage of your child. Thank me in the comments.

In the Moms' Night Out movie, the three types of dads shown are all good, caring dads. But, they each have their own experiences, some more than others. Let's get at this...

The Dad of an Infant or Toddler: This is possibly the scariest stage. The dad of a teen may disagree, but he's not writing this post, so I stand on my opinion. Here's the clencher, know this dad, you're connecting now with your young one so it's easier later. This stage was scary for me, still is. Call me crazy, but I'm more comfortable with the child once it can talk to me. But, this night isn't about your fear, it's about connecting with your baby. 

Inside the house: Get on the floor and crawl around. That's it. Simple right? Now do that for four hours. Seriously, your life at this phase should be on the floor. The younger the child, the more time you should spend on the floor. What else should you do beside play? Well, you can feed'em; that's helpful. Check their diaper often. Make sure they are drinking enough fluids. Am I getting in the weeds here? Can you tell it's been over four years since I had a baby in my house? I have a story about tossing my firstborn in the air with a belly full of milk and popcorn. Sorry, Bella, I was new. Which makes this rule super applicable...

momsnightout

Looking back on when my daughters were at this young stage, I cherish the simple times of holding them and them falling asleep in my arms. Older dads like me know somehting you don't yet, as hard as it seems now to get that baby to sleep, there will come a time when they get too big carry around for hours before they fall asleep. You will want this stage back as crazy as it sounds now.

Just hold them. Snuggle them. Read to them. But try not to be scared and worried like the new dad in the trailer below who says semi-jokingly to his wife going out, "...I could get maimed, I could lose both children..." If you're too afraid of messing something up, call for back-up. I'm only a little ashamed I called my father-in-law to help me watch my second-born infant when all she did was sleep the entire time mom was out. Don't judge me. 


Outside the house: I can't lie, I wasn't the quickest dad to venture outside when mom was away. Especially once there's more than one child. But, for toddlers, dare I say it, those places with the mouse-head logo work well. End of discussion. You don't need more tips, because if you visit the mouse, you won't be home before mom is back!

The Dad of a School-Aged Child: This is the stage I'm in now. I'm with you, dad, you can do this.

Inside the house: Here's my go-to idea: slumber parties. They're the going-thing at my house with two daughters, ages 7 and 4. Slumber parties have been all-the-buzz at my house for years and I plan to ride this slumber party train until it stops and the conductor tosses me off.

Make said slumber party a big deal. Annouce the slumber party like it's an event. Talk it up the morning of said slumber party. When it's time, grab every cover and pillow from every room and then visit the neighors and get their covers and pillows. Go crazy on the floor. There's something magical about a dad on the floor with his kids. Watching a movie on the floor immersed in covers and bunnies and bears and various old dolls is magical. There's no magic on the sofa. Same with dinner. While mom's gone, live on the floor at your child's eye level. Add dessert and popcorn and you have the makings of a great evening.

Pro Tip: Make pizzas with your kids. Get them involved. They'll be prone to eat what they help prepare. No need to call delivery either, here's the latest craze at my house, which I was reminded of online:

1. Buy english muffins (or hamburger buns is what we used as kids), tomato sauce (I use garden combo spaghetti sauce, but you do you), shredded mozzerella, parmesan. That's it for the kids, you can add pepperoni and veggies to yours until your heart's content.

2. Toast the bread.

3. Let child spoon sauce on bread

4. Add mozzerella.

5. Dash some parmesan on top.

6. Place in oven at 400 until the cheese melts to your liking (about 5 minutes).

7. Enjoy this delicious simple, healthy pizza with easy clean up and no waste that has built-in bonding. You're welcome. 

But your not an "inside the house" guy like me...

Outside the house: Take the time to attend a local event, go on a walk around your town or try a new restaurant. Let your child pick the place... 

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The Dad of a Teen: I'm less-versed here since I'm not at this stage yet. You'll have to help me in the comments. But, I'm pretty certain teens watch movies, play video games, and eat food. So, here's your chance to connect with your teen eye-to-eye. Do something that will bond you together. I don't think technology is bad, just be mindful of how you use it.

Inside the house: Enjoy a hobby. With your son, what if you spent the evening talking and playing a video game, learning from his mouth why he thinks it's cool? For either your son or daugher, you could cook or sing karoake. Every family has a karaoke machine right? Remember, the point here is to step outside of your normal routine and do something that connects you and your child. 

Outside the house: Go to the mall. Yes, that's right, I said it. Probably not your favorite, but if it's a good way to spend time with your son or daughter, that's what's important, right? Go try all the samples at the food court. Visit a coffee shop and people watch. Dads of teens, help a brother out here. What do y'all do with teens? I'm taking notes for later.

But remember this last tip is for all dads: Whatever you do, don't call your wife unless something emergency-room-worthy happens. Repeat this mantra: Be the dad. 

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The point is, you can make it. No matter the age of your child or the experience you have, you can help your wife get a much-deserved break and feel appreciated all in one night. Get details on the Moms' Night Out movie here.

What's your go-to activity that you and your child enjoy while mom's away?

21 Questions with NFI's Newest Board Member: Chris Efessiou [Interview]

Get to know our newest board member, Chris Efessiou, in 21 questions. 

chris_efessiou_headshot_board_memberMr. Chris Efessiou is NFI's newest board member. The author, speaker, radio host and media personality has founded, co-founded, developed, and managed multiple successful enterprises—all the while being an involved, responsible, and committed father. Who is this busy dad and what makes him passionate about serving fathers?

Allow me to introduce to you, Mr. Chris Efessiou:

1) Name and title? Chris Efessiou, PhD

2) Place of birth? I was born and raised in Thessaloniki, Greece, and came to the United States at age 18 with the goal to get myself accepted into college.

3) Current home location? My wife Juliana and I live in Vienna, Virginia.

4) Number and ages of children? Juliana and I are blessed with four adult daughters. While three girls are hers and one is mine from a previous marriage, the closeness of this blended family is beyond our wildest dreams. Alexis and Jessica live in Los Angeles, and Hilary and Persephone live in the DC area.

5) What do you do for a living? I am the founder and CEO of SRxA Strategic Pharmaceutical Advisors, a consulting firm providing marketing and education strategy to the pharmaceutical industry.

6) What made you decide to serve on NFI's Board? I raised my daughter as a single dad since she was 7.  She is now 26, a loving, compassionate, unentitled, successful young woman whom I admire. I served as both parents to her and she credits me for who she has become today. I loved the experience and felt that if I could help another father to see the beauty and value of fatherhood, that I could be helping the shaping of a young person’s life. That is what NFI does, and that is why I am honored to serve on its board. 

7) What was your first car? A 20 year old, third hand, 1961 VW bug with half its floor gone and only 3 cylinders firing on any given day. Yet, it was my first set of 4 wheels, albeit barely in place, it got me to and from school and work and to this day, I am supremely proud of it.

scan00158) What was your first job? When I lived in Greece I worked in my father's shop in the summers doing minor repairs. He was an electrician. While I never learned to work with electricity, I was thrilled to have my dad to myself the entire day and to be exposed to his business acumen. I asked questions endlessly, and tried to understand every business move he made and why he made it. It all paid off later in my life.

9) Lamest gift you ever gave your dad? A hug and a kiss. At the time it felt lame and cheap. When I became a father, I realized that it was the best gift I could have given him.

10) Best advice you ever received? "The three ingredients of a successful union between two...humor, commitment & undying love." —Bill Cosby

11) One thing you always carry with you? Pictures of my family on my phone. I make it a point to look through them, particularly on long flights, and reflect upon them. It is also a good opportunity to say "Thank You God" for giving me the good fortune to have this family.

12) One thing you wish you could do more? I am a licensed pilot and love to fly whenever I have the time. I find that instrument flight requires absolute attention to every detail. Flying is the only time I know that I can purge my head from everything else and enjoy the 30,000 foot view. It is a sense of freedom and reflection. I'd love to do it more frequently but other commitments get in the way.

13) Man who most changed your life? My father. He was part dictator and part mentor. I always liked to analyze the way he thought and tried to understand why he made the decisions he made. I loved his innovative spirit and the fact that he could always find a way to accomplish what needed doing. Learning by watching him in my youth, paid handsome dividends in my adult life especially when I first came to the U.S. without knowledge of English and had to compete on the same field as everyone else. Yes, innovation and a can-do attitude work!

14) Thing you’re always telling your children? Find something you love doing, and find a way to make a living at it. Then you'll never have to work a day in your life

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15) Dinner with famous dad: who? why? 
Bill Cosby. He single-handedly formed my early opinions of what kind of father I wanted to be through his book Fatherhood and later his TV show. Above all, he taught me the value of humor. I want to have dinner with him to thank him for what he's done for all fathers and to discuss with him my book CDO Chief Daddy Officer - The Business of Fatherhood. I'd love to know what he thinks of it.

16) Article of clothing every dad should own? An extra light coat in your car. Your wife and kids, especially daughters, would typically under-dress and you'd soon find yourself covering one of them with your own jacket. If you don't like feeling cold, you'd be well served by having an extra one nearby.

17) Book every dad should read? Fatherhood by Bill Cosby, and CDO Chief Daddy Officer - The Business of Fatherhood by Chris Efessiou  

18) Thing a dad should know about money? You can make it, save it, invest it, spend it, or give it away. Every dad should know the value of each, and teach it to his children.

19) Advice for a new dad? Always do what's best for your child, even if that's not the best for you. Always remember that children are smarter than we give them credit for. Don't underestimate their intellect or overestimate yours!

20) The “secret” to being a great dad? Always be emotionally available, and when able, be physically present. Nothing elevates a child's self esteem more than to know that he or she is important to you, and that their importance is acknowledged not by words, but by your actions. Remember, nothing speaks louder than your presence and there is no excuse for emotional absence.

21) To what are you most looking forward? Silly as it may sound, I look forward to the day that my daughter has a child so that I can relive those beautiful memories one more time.

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