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The Father Factor


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. 


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 Father Factor Blog

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.


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 Father Factor Blog

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...


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. 



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 Father Factor Blog

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...


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 Father Factor Blog

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 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!


More sleep and a happy just one click. Magic? A miracle?'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 Father Factor Blog

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 Father Factor Blog

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 Father Factor Blog

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:  


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 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 Father Factor Blog

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.

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.


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.


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 Father Factor Blog

One Thing This Billion-Dollar CEO Does Every Week That You Should Too

I often feel inadequate at managing work and family. Sure, I get home at a decent hour each day. But, I have to start early to accomplish this. By evening, I'm tired or still have my mind on work. Then I read a story like this one. This guy sounds like he has managing work and family figured out. Forbes named him, "America’s Most Promising CEO Under 35." He started a company in his mid-20’s that raised $70 million in 2012. By 2014, he was known as "The Guy Who Turned Down $500 Million For His Startup." Now, with a $1 Billion valuation, Ryan Smith, CEO of Qualtrics, can teach us the one thing he does to be successful with work and family. 

One Thing This Billion-Dollar CEO Does Every Week That You Should Too fatherhood work family balance

After about a decade of bootstrapping, Qualtrics made its way into a profitable company generating $50 million in revenue. In 2012, they had 200 employees and 3,800 customers. Qualtrics helps companies perform employee and customer surveys in the cloud. It was created by Ryan Smith's dad, Scott Smith, a professor of marketing at BYU's school of business. My guess is that Qualtrics is a company that resembles the brands you'll find on our social good page—a brand who cares about fathers and families.

At 33 years old, a company offered to buy Ryan Smith's startup Qualtrics for more than $500 million, he asked his wife to take a drive. Smith ended up turning down the $500 million offer to sell his company. In 2014, Smith had 6,000 customers and 550 employees, and the company is expanding nationally and internationally opening an office in Dublin, Sydney, Seattle, and Washington, D.C..

After he and his wife talked, they felt strongly that earning so much money at once could "negatively impact the way they were raising their children." Smith and his wife had learned to manage work and family life.

"As a founder, you're either the type that gets invigorated with every milestone, or you get less interested. For me the bigger we get, the more scrappier we get, the hungrier I get," Smith told Business Insider in 2014. "I have to keep telling myself to look around and enjoy this," he said. "We sat in a basement and bootstrapped for 10 years so we can do this, be here. Now we have bunch of money, a ton of customers, and we're dominating our market." Together, the Smiths decided to keep their 800-person company private. Qualtrics is currently worth over $1 billion.

With the help of a CEO coach, Smith relates work-life balance to a plane that can "go lopsided and constantly needs to be stabilized." On one wing is his family, on the other is his work. When he's traveling for business, the work side of the plane tilts. Then, when he gets back home to his family, he knows to keep his schedule open for home and family life, in order to tilt the wings of his plane back up.

Smith's CEO coach taught him a strategy for success to be done every week. Smith's coach asked him what jobs he was responsible for in life. Smith replied the following:

  1. Husband
  2. Father
  3. Son
  4. CEO
  5. Boss
  6. Sibling
  7. Grandson
  8. Friend

I'm guessing your list looks like Ryan's. His coach then asked what he could do for each job that week to make him feel successful. For instance, if Ryan dated his wife and bought flowers, that could make him feel like a decent husband. Teach his daughter to ride a bike? Boom, instant better dad for the week.

Ryan found he could combine tasks on his list to achieve everything more efficiently. He learned quickly, if he was really productive, every task on the list starting Sunday could be done by Tuesday. If he took his daughter to his parent's house and taught her to ride a bike, he could be both a good father and son. Bam. 

Smith's weekly list started to look like this:

  1. Husband > Take wife to dinner and buy flowers
  2. Father >Teach daughter to ride a bike
  3. Son > Visit parents. Combine tasks 2 & 3.

Through all of this, Smith has learned people usually plan for one part of life ("I'm going to sell my company by the time I turn 30.") Most times, people "either don't know which steps to take to achieve that goal, or they don't plan what to do after the goal has been achieved."

While we know it takes quantity to ultimately get quality time, I think Ryan's plan of breaking done work and family life goals into weekly tasks is brilliant. We need to work against waking up one day and realizing our dreams and/or priorities have slipped from our radar. This takes a strategic plan. The truth is, what doesn't get scheduled, doesn't get done. This is true in work and with family.

Business Insider points out that after Smith explained this success tactic in an interview with them on Friday evening, he left the conference. While others stayed out late at a local pub, Smith drove three hours to Dublin and booked an early flight home to Utah. When his children woke up on Sunday morning, they spent all day with their father. This story illustrates in real life exactly the type of intention and focus we should have as husbands, fathers, sons, and leaders. It's the kind of focus I want to live out. Thank you, Ryan Smith, not only for having a great first name, but sharing a great strategy for us to follow.

Question > What's one thing you do to help manage work and family? Share your answer in the comment section or on , or  using #247Dad.


24/7 Dad To Go App allows dads to customize time-sensitive checklists. These checklists can include items related to involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood. You can be an intentional dad too.

> Find the app and start being a better dad here.

The Father Factor Blog

3 Ways to Leverage the Good News about Teen Dads

So much has been written and said about the problems created by teen pregnancy, particularly the problems it creates for teen moms and their children. Teen moms are, for example, much less likely to graduate from high school, or get a high school diploma by age 22, than are teen girls who don't have children. This disparity leads to other long-term disparities between these two groups including fewer employment opportunities and lower earnings for teen moms. And most of them receive little or no child support. These disparities place a burden on society as 63 percent of these moms rely on some kind of public assistance. Teen pregnancy places the children of teen parents at increased risk for a host of poor outcomes too numerous to mention here.

But what about teen dads? What do we know about their interactions with the mothers of their children? Do their interactions make things better or worse for the moms and children? Here's what we know.

Pregnancy_IconWe know they're much less likely to be involved in the lives of their children than are adult fathers. One primary reason is, quite simply, that a teen dad is rarely married to the mother. A whopping 88 percent of these parents are not married. Nevertheless, 20 percent of teen moms live with their "romantic partner" (most likely the father, but not necessarily a teen) within a year of giving birth. Even if all of these romantic partners are the fathers and are also teens, that's still a very low number of them living with their children. And that's unfortunate, because teen fathers who live with their children at the birth of their children are more likely to still live with them when these fathers become adults. 

Fortunately, there is good news about the involvement of teen dads not living with their children and the impact of their involvement.

  • Half of these dads visit with their children at least monthly with most of them spending time with their children frequently. Interestingly, this is about the same rate of visitation among older nonresident fathers. 
  • Some research has shown the quality of the father-child relationship does not differ when comparing teen and adult fathers, contrary to popular belief. Surprisingly, teen dads are more likely than adult dads to feel attached to their children.
  • Additional research finds a positive impact of teen fathers on teen mothers and their children when teen fathers are involved before and immediately after the birth of their children. These teen fathers have a protective effect by reducing the risk of depression of teen mothers and distress of infants.  

So when we take all of these facts into consideration, the picture of teen fathers' involvement in their children's lives is mixed. While the ability of teen dads to be involved in their children's lives is more challenging because of their lack of physical proximity, most of them are involved at some level and, when they are, have a positive impact on their children and the mothers. 

The question, then, for organizations and practitioners is: How can I increase teen fathers' involvement? There are several ways, and NFI's resources can help:

  1. Provide fathering education to teen fathers. NFI's 24/7 Dad® program is an excellent choice as organizations around the country have used it successfully with teen dads.
  2. Provide relationship education to teen fathers. NFI has partnered with The Dibble Institute to provide Love Notes, a program for teen dads (and couples).
  3. Provide education to teen moms on the importance of father involvement and how they can facilitate that involvement. NFI's Mom as Gateway™ workshop and Understanding Dad™ program are excellent choices.

Do you work with teen dads? Do you use a comprehensive approach that involves working with teen dads and teen moms?

The Father Factor Blog

How I Keep the Magic of Reading Alive After #NationalReadingMonth

National Reading Month has ended. Your child has been learning about the importance of reading at school all month long. The inspiration for reading doesn't have to end, but you have to keep the magic alive. How do you keep the magic of reading alive in your child? Here's how I keep it alive in my daughters. (Hint: I keep the magic of reading alive in me.)

I recently spent a weekend at Universal Orlando learning all about the Harry Potter series. Let me share how I fell in love with this popular franchise, what the celebration is, and how it inspires me to connect with my daughters through story. You'll also find tips and resources to help keep the magic of reading alive after March.


How I Fell in Love With All Things Harry Potter

If you read the The Father Factor Blog, you know we're readers. We love writing about the importance of connecting books to life to help children fall in love with reading. In fact, one of our most popular post is 6 Tips on How to Show Your Child Reading is Awesome. That post was re-published on LeVar Burton's Reading Rainbow, hello!

I've fallen in love with all things Harry Potter. Yes, I'm behind a few years (or a decade). Here's how it happend for me...First Came Hogwarts, then came the movies and books, then came the Harry Potter Celebration at Universal Orlando.

hogwarts harry potter celebration #hpcelebration #universalmoments #harrypotter harry potter pottermore universal

First Comes Hogwarts > Before 2014, I couldn't tell you anything about Harry Potter. I mean nothing. In fact, I went to Universal Orlando with my oldest daughter, Bella, for a special Despicable Me 2 weekend and VIP Experience, and never stepped foot on Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I didn't know enough about the series to realize what I was missing. 

But last September while at Family Forward 2014, I experienced Hogwarts for the first time. The rides were breath-taking and seeing the storefronts at Diagon Alley took me to a new world. Remember, at this point, I still didn't know the story having not read the books or seen the movies. My introduction to Diagon Alley was Diagon Alley at Orlando. This new world made me interested enough to learn more about the movies.

Second Comes the Harry Potter Movies and Books > Once home from the conference, I bought the entire Harry Potter movie series on Apple iTunes. Since last September, my family and I have watched every movie 50-11 times. After watching every movie, I decided to start reading the books to my girls. I drove to the library, got a library card, and with card in hand, the librarian asked me if I needed help. I explained I was at the library for one reason, Harry Potter. She wasn't surprised for some reason.

She all but took me by the hand, and walked me to a special section. It wasn't the children's section. It wasn't the fiction section. It was the library's Harry Potter section. No joke, complete with The Mirror of Erised. There I found five copies of Goblet of Fire, four copies of The Half-Blood Prince, and several copies of later books in the series. But, there wasn't one copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for me.

After the librian explained there was a 30-week wait on the book, she advised I reserve it from surrounding libraries and she would contact me when the book was available. As I walked away from my new librarian, no book in hand, with freshly minted library card, she explained,"You know, every eight seconds in this world, someone starts reading the Harry Potter series." I'm pretty sure I mumbled as I walked out the library door, "Apparently so, just not me and my daughters." Then I ugly-cried on the steps of the library until she gave me her copy. No, seriously, here's what happened next...

Then Comes the HP Celebration... 

What is "A Celebration of Harry Potter"?

The annual Harry Potter™ Celebration is for uber Potter fans. Folks gather from around the world for film talent appearances, unique interactive experiences, demonstrations, and more. You can experience the Celebration while you walk around The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™. You can walk around and see the iconic Hogwarts Express and enjoy a unique journey by train as you travel between King's Cross Station and Hogsmeade Station at Diagon Alley, you can walk in and out of Honeyduke's candy shop, Olivander's Wand Shop, and so much more. 

1) HPCelebration is > The Harry Potter Expo

Talk about connecting books to life! The Harry Potter Expo is the place where you get to experience Harry Potter's world for yourself. The expo included booths and exhibits where fans can dive deeper into the magic from the books and films.

ryan sanders hpcelebration universal orlando mina lima fatherhood harry potter celebration  #hpcelebration #universalmoments #harrypotter harry potter pottermore universal minalima
  • Warner Bros. Studio Tour London > The production home of the Harry Potter™ film series, Warner Bros. Studio Tour London gave fans the chance to step on to the actual sets used during filming. You could pose for a photo in a recreation of the iconic Great Hall, see Dumbledore's desk (see pic above) or the famous flying car (see pic above) from the series.
  • MinaLima (the above pic is me with MinaLima!)> Graphic designers Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima created countless pieces of unforgettable artwork, some of which was on display including iconic pieces like the Marauder‟s Map, The Daily Prophet and The Quibbler, and Hogwarts school books, among others. They talked about their recent involvement in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley.
  • Pottermore from J.K. Rowling > We were able to show our Hogwarts house colors and celebrate our pride with Pottermore from J.K. Rowling. I'm a Gryffindor, in case you're wondering!
  • Scholastic > We celebrated Harry Potter and shared our message about what Harry Potter means to us on the "Muggle Wall". You could meet award-winning illustrator Kazu Kibuishi, who re-imagined the Harry Potter book covers and was signing posters for Scholastic. I entered to win a box set of all seven Harry Potter books (I keep checking my mailbox!). Kazu Kibuishi was on-site to draw some of the fans favorite Harry Potter characters live on-stage in an interactive panel for all ages. 

2) HPCelebration is >  Behind the Scences > Harry Potter™ Film Talent Discussion

We enjoyed fascinating Q&A sessions that featured actors from the Harry Potter films. Fans questioned were answered and we heard what it was like to work on the most successful film franchise in history from Robbie Coltrane, Michael Gambon, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, and Evanna Lynch. For the potterheads, you can watch a 45-minute panel discussion with all of the cast in attendance...


3) HPCelebration is > Dueling Demonstration & Wand Combat Masterclass with Paul Harris

I can't lie here. Being a rookie attendee to the Harry Potter Celebration, I saw this event on the schedule and assumed wrongly it would only be for kids. This ended up being one of my favorite parts of the weekend. Wand deuling is serious business, folks. Kids and adults alike took part in a live-dueling masterclass, hosted by Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, featuring the world's only Wand Combat choreographer, Paul Harris. Who's Paul? Paul choreographed the epic battle scenes in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and throughout the franchise. He was on hand to teach the technique behind wielding a wand. Swish and flick, y'all.    

Why The Harry Potter Celebration Should Matter To You

Why are events like this important? For me, whether it's Harry Potter, Dr. Seuss (Universal has an entire land devoted to Dr. Seuss and his books too) and a movie, part of my job as a dad is to help make imagination come to life. It's easier to connect books and movies to life when your child can walk into the wand shop she read about in the book. At a place like Universal Orlando, the books and movies you know come to life. Maybe Harry Potter isn't for you, but if you love reading and want your kids to love books and understand the story behind the films, this is the way to do it. When the story behind the books and movies comes to life, the connection & memories with your kids will last longer than the trip home. How do I keep the magic of reading alive in my daughters? I keep it alive in me.

5 Ideas to Make Books Come to Life for Your Child

  1. Draw > Read a chapter of a book. Then, have your child draw a scene from the book.
  2. Paint > Does your child like to paint? Have him/her paint a favorite scene from the book and/or 
  3. Build > Help your child create a diorama of his/her favorite scene from a book
  4. Write > Have your child rewrite the ending of his/her favorite book
  5. Imagine > Have your child add a new character to the book and tell his/her story

More Resources on the Harry Potter Celebration and Resources for Reading: 

What's the last book your child read? What's the last book you read? Did you talk about it? 

The Father Factor Blog

This is not a sponsored post. Neither NFI nor myself was paid for this post. I'm personally inspired by the stories behind entertainment so much that I make time to write about it. Hopefully, reading this inspires you to pick up a book, watch a movie, and/or travel with your family and connect with your child through story.

6 Steps to Becoming the Dad You Wish You’d Had

In my twenty-five years of pastoral, prison, and personal transformation work, I have come face to face with this reality—the most difficult piece of assisting men to heal from the past is actually just recognizing the need. We men tend to be a proud and often stubborn lot. It is not fashionable (yet!) to admit that our dads wounded us and that the wound continues to affect us today.


It’s a wildly popular theme in Hollywood films (note the recent impact of The Judge [2014], the touching film, Real Steel [2011], the powerful and painful, Warrior [2011], or a classic in this genre, Field of Dreams [1989]), but it’s dramatically unpopular to identify with the wounded son.

Instead, we were told as kids, “just suck it up,” “real men don’t cry,” or other critiques our dads likely heard as they avoided their own sense of inadequacy and shame. The result? Very few of our dads knew how to get close to us, say the loving and affirming things we wanted and needed to hear, or were able to be physically affectionate with us. That cycle has repeated itself long enough. It’s time for real healing and change. 

In my first post on this topic called The Best Way to Build Strong Children, I noted Fredrick Douglas who said, "It's easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." Though this quote is well known in fatherhood circles, I suggested it may not tell the whole story, or point us ultimately in the right direction. In my first post, I proposed that, "The best way to build strong children is to heal wounded fathers." This post helps us implement practical steps we can all take to become more engaged, more emotionally present, and more loving fathers.

Implementing the Solution

In my book, How to Be a Great Dad: No Matter What Kind of Father You Had, I openly and honestly tell my own story of healing as one example. There is no one-size-fits-all pattern for how we men heal, but reading my story has proved helpful for many men who have commented since the book was published. 

In the book, I have space to explain, expand on, and tell real stories about the six important steps I took to overcome the pain in my past with my dad, and to finally become for my three sons (now all teenagers) the dad I always wished I’d had. In the limited space here, I’ll briefly share the steps and encourage you to go deeper.

1. Identify a Father Wound.

Begin noticing the feelings you experience regularly beneath the surface of your life. Are you often sad, anxious, or lonely? Is it difficult for you to identify what you are feeling or to connect with others in a sincere, open, even vulnerable way? Do your relationship patterns indicate something is amiss? Is it hard for you to feel or stay close to people, to your wife, to your children? If any of this feels true for you, there may exist a wound that likely traces back to how your dad fathered you.

2. Embrace Your Father Wound.

Once identified, one of the most challenging steps for us men is to live with it instead of avoiding it. It is sometimes excruciatingly difficult for men to admit, “My relationship with my dad was not all I hoped it would be.” Or in some cases, much worse and more wounding. This step of embracing is one we often tenaciously avoid because it is so damn painful. But it is the key to healing. Alcoholics Anonymous brilliantly places an admission of the addiction as its very first step to overcoming and healing. Until we honestly embrace our wound and admit the difficulties it’s ongoing pain cause us, we cannot move forward. But when do this, healing and freedom are not only possible, they’ve already begun.

3. Grieve the Father Wound.

I wanted to bypass grieving, and did for many years. I was afraid of being overwhelmed by my own sadness. Grieving is not a skill I learned as a child, nor as an adult. Who teaches men to grieve our losses? We avenge them, ignore them, replace them, drown them in booze, sex, or success, but rarely do we feel our way through the pain to the other side. The only way to the other side of grief is through it. I had to learn how to grieve. It’s one of the skills I teach other men in my coaching. Once a man starts to grieve, he is well on his way to the healing and freedom that will allow him to emotionally engage with and stay close to his children.

4. Forgive Your Father.

Though we intuitively know the importance of forgiveness, few of us are good at practicing it. We were taught otherwise in the world of hard knocks. Its substitutes were often modeled by our dads—revenge, anger and outrage, cold neglect or rejection of the offender, or simply ignoring the offense and pretending it doesn’t matter. None of these work. So we attempt to forgive, usually too early in the process, because we know we should, or because we believe God wants us to, but it usually isn’t deep or restorative of relationship, or healing of our own soul because we are not forgiving from the real place of pain. How can we if we haven’t yet identified it, embraced it, and grieved? We try to forgive but it doesn’t do much, and often doesn't last. We stay angry, resentful, cold, or distant. It’s hard to love our children well when we are stuck in this place. We aren’t ready to forgive and move on until we have properly identified the wound and its effects in our life, and until we have grieved. Then forgiveness isn’t all that hard. It grows from a place of empathy and compassion. I illustrate this in my book as I tell my story of forgiving my father.

5. Love Your Children and Heal Yourself.

I teach men how giving the love to our children we may have not received from our dads is actually an extremely powerful means of healing our own wounded hearts. It is exceedingly difficult to give away what we do not possess, but when we reach beyond our past to choose to love our kids, while working out the first four steps above, it truly is remarkable how that act of giving brings healing in our own hearts.

6. Father Yourself.

This may sound a bit strange at first, but I tell my story to men who are moving through this journey that as we re-build a sense of ourselves as men who are healing, and as we learn to give away to our own children what we may not have received from our dads, we can actually learn to father ourselves in ways that we needed and bring further healing now. It’s remarkable. And it’s one of the key pieces of the coaching I do with dads who want to grow.

Has your relationship with your dad affected the way you father your children today? Do you see any impact or perhaps repetitions? Feel free to comment below and I'll respond.

The Father Factor Blog

Post by Keith Zafren, founder of The Great Dads Project > Men who want to be great dads love the stories Keith Zafren tells, the practical skills he teaches, and the personal coaching he offers. Keith has spent seventeen years learning firsthand how to raise three great teenagers and stay close to them, no matter what. He coaches busy dads to not repeat the mistakes their fathers made, but instead, to create fantastic relationships with their kids. Check out his free video training course for men who want to be great dads.

What Makes a Parent a Smart Parent

This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

"I think one of the true ways I've gotten smarter is that I've realized that there are ways other people are a lot smarter than me. My biggest asset as a writer is that I'm pretty much like everybody else. The parts of me that used to think I was different or smarter or whatever almost made me die." —David Foster Wallace

That quote from the American writer David Foster Wallace underscores one of the great lessons of life: There are plenty of people smarter than you, and you need to learn from them. This lesson applies to parenting.


When I joined National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) 15 years ago, my daughters were 5 and 2. I had only begun my parenting journey. I knew that I had things to learn about being a good father and parent. What I didn't realize was how much I had to learn. As the old saying goes, "You don't know what you don't know."

Fortunately, my boss was Wade Horn, the first president of NFI and a child psychologist. Wade is one of the smartest people I know. He's a smart father and parent who, as a child psychologist, knows a bit about how children are wired. The most important lesson I learned from Wade? Never project your consequences on your children. Just because I didn't have a negative outcome as a consequence of a decision to engage in a risky behavior doesn't mean that my children won't have a negative outcome if they engage in the same behavior. I've applied that lesson so many times I've lost count.

Wade helped me through several difficult parenting situations. One of those occurred about three years into my tenure at NFI. My oldest daughter had become an extremely picky eater. It drove me nuts because, since my mid-20s, I've focused on eating healthy and staying fit. The fact that I had a child who wasn't eating healthily signaled my failure as a parent. I had tried many of the tactics recommended by nutrition experts to get children to eat healthy. Not one of them worked!

I was at my wit's end when I asked Wade for guidance. He smiled and chuckled when I shared my frustration and concern for my child, which initially made the situation worse as he must have thought my concern to be ridiculous. But then he explained that a lot of young children are picky eaters because it's one of the few ways they can exert control over their lives. It's not necessarily the parents' fault.

He identified, however, one way that I might have indirectly contributed to my daughter's choice -- my own picky eating habits. He pointed out that my diligence in eating healthy is type of picky eating that my daughter had undoubtedly noticed at the dinner table and during conversations about eating healthy I'd had with her and my wife, and seen in several other ways I'd reinforced that form of picky eating. He encouraged me to keep trying to expand her tastes, but to also let the situation play out as many children's tastes expand, as they get older. (I'm happy to report that hers expanded.)

In my time at NFI, I've had the benefit of learning from many parents, especially fathers, who are smarter than me. These parents include NFI's second president, Roland Warren. Roland gave me more practical advice than I can share here. What was the most important thing I learned from him? Good fathers do three things well: provide, nurture and guide.

Other parents I've learned from include Stephen Bavolek, author of the internationally-acclaimed Nurturing Parenting Programs, who assisted me in developing the first editions of our 24/7 Dad® and InsideOut Dad® programs. I've applied much of the knowledge and many of the skills we teach fathers in those programs to parenting my own children. I've also learned from the countless fathers and mothers who have contributed their wisdom on parenting in this blog The Father Factor, and the many experts in parenting whose research on parenting effectiveness has informed the programs and other resources I've developed at NFI.

Don't wait until you're at your wit's end before seeking advice on how to be a better parent generally and in specific situations. Part of being a smart parent is realizing you're not as smart as you think.

Question > What's one thing you could use parenting advice on now? Share your answer in the comment section or on , or .

The Father Factor Blog

*The opening quote by David Foster Wallace is from Conversations with David Foster Wallace (Literary Conversations Series)

This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

5 Mistakes Costing You and Your Family Money

As dads and leaders, we know that creating a habit of saving is important for our families’ long-term security. And the list of things to save for is never-ending, from retirement to kids’ education to replacing the water heater that dies in the middle of the night. But when it comes to actually putting money away for them…well, sometimes life gets in the way. If we are going to be the best leaders we can with our families and with other fathers, we need to be good examples when it comes to saving.

5 Mistakes Costing You and Your Family Money

However, the importance of having money saved for your families’ future cannot be overstated. So we’ve compiled some common mistakes people make when it comes to saving their money and ways to fix them to help you start achieving those savings goals.

Mistake #1: Not enrolling in your employer’s 401(k) plan.

Whether you're leading other dads or your family, it’s easy to think retirement is too far off in the future to worry about it now, or thinking that your money would be better off not locked up for retirement. But thinking like that can cost you lots of money (and your lifestyle) in the future. And when it’s so simple to save with your employer’s 401(k) plan, it’s a mistake to pass it up.

Instead: Take full advantage of it! The beauty of enrolling in your employer’s plan is that money can be automatically taken out of your paycheck and invested in your future. If your employer matches your contributions, it’s a good idea to consider contributing at least enough to take full advantage of their match—after all, it’s free money. Who can say no to that?

Mistake #2: Not paying yourself with each paycheck

A common practice is to save whatever is left over from each paycheck, but this can lead to over-spending and under-saving.

Instead: “Pay” yourself a designated amount each month to put in your savings account—if you can set up an automatic transfer, that’s even better. By “paying” yourself first you have a more realistic view of what you can actually spend that month and it’s not as tempting to skimp on the savings in favor of buying things you don’t need.

Mistake #3: Keeping your checking and savings accounts at the same bank

Sure, it seems pretty convenient to keep everything at one bank: easy to monitor, easy to set up, and (here’s the kicker) easy to transfer. When transferring money from your savings account to your checking account is as easy as the click of a button, it becomes much more tempting to spend that hard-saved money on non-emergencies.

Instead: Separate your accounts. If you keep your savings account in a different bank than your checking, the process of transferring funds from savings to checking becomes a tad more inconvenient—and that’s a good thing! That makes you really think about whether that money will be used for an emergency, whether it’s worth the transfer or not, and when the money should just stay put. As a bonus, if you separate your accounts, you can shop around to find the best interest rates for your savings account.

Mistake #4: Paying off your debts with your savings funds

While it’s great that you’re working to pay off debts, it shouldn’t be at the expense of your entire savings account. Depleting your savings in order to work off your debt puts you in a pretty vulnerable position. If your car breaks down or your roof leaks and you don’t have any savings, you may have to take on more debt and could be worse off than before.

Instead: Try to find other spots in your budget that money can come from—it may seem like a drag since the money is sitting right there in your account, but having an emergency savings account is important to ensure you and your family’s financial security. We recommend building up to have at least $1,000 in savings.

Mistake #5: Pretending to understand services (when you really don't)!

It seems like all these banks and financial institutions are always throwing offers your way that sound good but are littered with terms you just don’t understand. All that financial mumbo-jumbo can make your head spin and cause you to either accept an offer that’s not right for you or turn away from one that’s perfect.

Instead: If you’re not sure, just ask. It sounds simple but far too often people are paying way more than they should for something and they don’t even know it. If there’s a term you don’t fully understand, it’s worth a call or email to your bank, insurance agent, or other trusted financial source to ensure you know exactly what you’re getting and how much you’re paying.




Want more savings tips?

Get your free eBook > Ten Simple Ways to Boost Your Emergency Fund.

It’s full of insider information on how to set savings goals, tips to make saving money easier, and ways to watch your savings grow faster.

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