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A Must-Watch Video on Texting and Driving

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.

I’ve often wondered why my kids rarely call their friends and answer their phones when I call. But when I text them, their responses are almost instantaneous.  

Can't view the video? Watch it here.

Texting has revolutionized the way our children communicate with one another and, for many of us parents, the way that we and our children communicate. Most revolutions, however, create unintended consequences. Such is the case with this one. The challenge for today’s teens (and adults) is that texting has become such a ubiquitous form of communication that one could argue it’s a form of addiction. (I often joke with my oldest daughter that given how often she texts she might as well graft her phone to her forearm.) If you don’t agree, try taking your child’s phone away for a week or even a few days and see how your child reacts.  

To put the dangers of texting and driving in perspective, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports that texting and driving is six times more dangerous than driving drunk. As the father of two teenage drivers, I am as concerned about them texting and driving as I am about them driving drunk (or getting into a car with someone who texts and drives or who drives drunk). This video is the most remarkable video you’ll ever see on texting and driving. It focuses not only on the devastating impact on victims caused by car accidents when someone texts and drives, it also focuses on the devastating impact of the people who cause the devastation.  

Please share this post and video because doing so might save a life. If your children drive or are near driving age, make them watch it.  

For more information on the national campaign to reduce texting and driving, visit It Can Wait.

Do you set a good example by not texting and driving?

Why Marriage is (Still) a Vital Pathway to Independence

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

I’m sure you’ve heard that more young adults—the Millenials—are living with their parents. It’s been all over the news in recent years in large part because of the recent economic recession. But as with most things, you have to look beyond the sound bites in the media to see the forest for the trees.  

pew research young adult marriage

Let’s start with the data. According to a recent Pew Research Center report, a record 36% of Millenials (ages 18-31) lived with their parents in 2012. This proportion is even greater than the 34% who lived with their parents when the economic recession officially ended in 2009. To be fair to these young adults and their parents, as many as half might be college students because the census data used for this analysis considers children living in dormitories as living with their parents.  

Nevertheless, the fact that a record number of Millenials live with their parents is a cause for concern. Parents must shoulder the financial load for their children for a longer period of time than parents of previous generations. This lengthens financial burden and negatively affects parents’ ability to save for their own retirement. That effect is particularly troubling given a recent study on Americans’ difficulty in saving adequately for their retirement. That difficulty, as we all know, places a burden on other sources of financial support in retirement provided by us all (i.e. Social Security). And this increased financial burden creates an increased emotional burden as parents worry about their own and these young adults’ futures, not to mention the tension that naturally exists between adults parenting other adults who live in the same home.  

What’s driving this trend? If you only listen to the media, you might have said it’s the economy. That’s only part of the picture. There are three driving factors: declining employment, rising college enrollment, and declining marriage. Specifically, Millenials who are either unemployed, enrolled in college, or unmarried are more likely to live with their parents. (I surmise that the more of these factors that describe a young adult, the more likely he or she is to live at home.) 

The starkest difference within each of these categories is between married and unmarried Millenials—47% of unmarried Millenials live with their parents compared to only 3% of married Millenials. To put that difference in perspective, let’s say you were to walk into a room of 100 unmarried Millenials with the intention of interviewing one of them about their thoughts on this trend. You’d have a 50-50 shot at randomly picking one who lives at home. Try that in a room of 100 married Millenials and it might take you a very long time to find someone.  

To turn a phrase, “It’s marriage (not the economy)—stupid.” While the other two factors should concern us, it is the long-term trend in the decline of marriage that is creating a sea change. Employment is cyclical. The economy is improving. Increased college enrollment—while down among men (another cause for concern)—is good in the long run. (And remember that as many as half of these children are actually living away from home for most of the year.) Parents should consider supporting their college-enrolled children as an investment in their own and their children’s futures. College graduates are more likely to have higher salaries and earn more in their lifetime. They are also more “marriageable.”    

The lesson here is that marriage continues to be a critical path to independence. Think of it as one leg in a three-legged stool of independence. That stool is very wobbly because the importance of marriage in our society is being whittled down to a nub. (Cohabitation, which the Pew report notes is rapidly on the rise, is not substitution for marriage.) Parents tend to focus on the education and employment legs, and rightly so. What parents often neglect, however, is to send a clear message about the importance of marriage—not only its importance as the ideal situation in which to raise children, but how vital it is to parents’ and their children’s eventual independence from one another.   

What action should parents take? Send a clear, frequent message to their children that marriage is just as critical for independence as a college education and gainful employment.

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(Video) 'Dads Doing Good' Gives Lemonade for Charity

This is the second video in the series featuring dads getting help from the 2014 Honda Odyssey as they "do good" around their communities. Hence, #DadsDoingGood.   
dads doing good honda van

As you may have seen, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) and Life of Dad (LoD) partnered with Honda on the “Dads Doing Good” campaign, which features groups of dads "doing good" in their community.  

The first video was of dads using the Odyssey as a “mobile library.” See the dads load up the Odyssey with books and surprise preschool children.

Today's video is another great example of how you, dad, can help educate and serve a much-needed cause in your community. 

The dads use the 2014 Honda Odyssey to set up a lemonade stand. We call it "Lemonade for Charity." The dads use the proceeds from the lemonade stand to raise awareness for congenital heart defects.

Watch the video: 

Can't view the video? Click here.

Please share this video using the hashtag #DadsDoingGood. Remember, the importance of an involved father changes everything.   

Visit our Dads Doing Good page for details and follow #DadsDoingGood on Twitter and Facebook. 

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

NFI and LoD partnered with Honda for this campaign. The Odysseys were returned to Honda after the videos—and all dads involved wept.

6 Tips to Avoid Labeling Your Child

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

Have you ever been in a store and watched a parent berate his or her child and thought, “Wow! What a jerk! What a horrible parent!”? Has your child recently left his or her clothes strewn around the house, regardless of the number of times you’ve told him or her not to, and thought, “What a lazy kid!”? Perhaps you even yelled at your child saying, “You’re such a lazy, ungrateful child!”  

 
label avoid labeling child

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

What’s the problem with these thoughts? If you answered “labeling,” you can pass “Go” and collect $200. I often hear parents label their children, other parents, and even other children based on what they perceive to be innate characteristics, even when they don’t know who they just called a jerk or lazy.

These labels discount the impact of the situation—the environment—at the time they observe the behavior. And I’m not talking only about negative labels. Some parents use positive labels (e.g. “smart” or “the best [at something or in general])” with such frequency that they ignore or gloss over the behavior of their children that doesn’t support the labels. Their children can do no wrong.  

Why do parents label? One reason is fundamental attribution error, a form of bias that negatively affects our decision-making, including around parenting. (I’ve written two recent posts on how two other biases--optimism bias and confirmation bias--influence our decision-making.)

Consider that the parent who berated his or her child in the store might have had a really bad day or week and the parent just lost it for a moment. It doesn’t excuse the parent’s behavior, but it offers an explanation and allows for seeing the parent as he or she probably is—a loving, nurturing parent. If your child often leaves his or her clothes strewn about the house, I’ll bet that he or she is industrious in many ways, certainly not a lazy child.  

Another reason parents label is to feel better about themselves. Labeling has a very powerful effect on parents’ own sense of self-worth. These parents often see their children as “Mini-Me’s.” Their children’s behavior reflects who these parents are as parents and people. Parents who feel poorly about themselves give their psyches a boost by labeling others.

When parents use negative labels, they deny their own shortcomings as parents because, let’s face it, we’ve all said things to our children that we regret and would rather not admit we said them. When parents constantly coddle their children through the use of positive labels, it’s simply the other side of the same coin. One reason labeling is so difficult to overcome for some parents is that it is deeply rooted in propping up their fragile psyches. (It’s likely that their own parents constantly berated or coddled them.)  

Labeling a child is incredibly destructive because of its impact on the child’s self-worth. Imagine, for a moment, a child who constantly hears that she or he is lazy, dumb, or ungrateful. Imagine a child who constantly hears that she or he can do no wrong—they’re the star performer with no flaws.

  • How do those labels affect her or his sense of self-worth?
  • How do they shape the child’s interactions with parents, siblings, classmates, teachers, and friends? 
  • How do they affect the child’s ability to develop healthy relationships—platonic, romantic, and professional—that are grounded in reality, honesty, and transparency? 


Negative labels can destroy self-worth through shame. Positive labels can destroy self-worth through an overinflated ego.

It takes an entire childhood to develop a strong, healthy sense of self-worth. As a result, the negative effect on a child can start at any age. Follow these six tips to avoid labeling your child:  

1) Reflect on your childhood and how labeling might have affected you. Did your parents, relatives, or significant adults (e.g. teachers and coaches) label you? What did they call you? Think of negative and positive labels. How did you feel about the labels? How did they affect your feelings about your person (or people) who labeled you? How did they affect your childhood relationships? How do they affect your relationships today? Increasing your awareness about the affect your upbringing had on your labeling can help you identify your patterns around labeling and provide some motivation for avoiding it.

2) Ask your child the why behind the what. This tip works well with a child who can describe the reasons for their behavior. Children often want to explain themselves and be heard. Asking why opens the door to constructive dialogue, a sign of a healthy parent-child relationship. You might uncover reasons for their behavior that you couldn’t have anticipated. When your child shares his or her reasons, it provides an opportunity for guiding how to avoid negative behavior and repeat positive behavior.

3) Focus on the action, not on the actor. When your child does something positive or negative, focus on the action instead of using it to characterize. Tell your child that leaving clothes lying around is “irresponsible” rather than telling your child that he or she is “lazy.” If your child receives an excellent grade on a test, congratulate him or her on that accomplishment (e.g. “I’m so proud of you for making an A. Keep up the great work.") rather than using that accomplishment to make a general statement about your child (e.g. “You never get bad grades. You’re the smartest child I know.”).  

4) Explain the reasons for your comments. Children need and want explanations for their parents’ opinions of their behavior, especially when children’s behavior leads their parents to discipline or punishment. Tell your child why it’s irresponsible to leave clothes lying around the house (e.g. it’s negative effects on others) and why getting a good grade is so important.

Even if you apply these tips, you might slip from time to time and label your child. To keep you on the straight and narrow, apply these two additional tips:  

5) Ask your spouse (other parent), relatives, and friends to “call you out” when you label. This is a highly-effective tip, but one of the hardest to implement because it requires exposing yourself to criticism. If you are married to or live with the other parent, ask her to look for instances when you label your child. Tell her to talk with you after the incident about your labeling. Don’t discuss it in front of your child.

6) Apologize to your child when you label them. Admitting when you’re wrong will do a world of good for your relationship with your child.  

When was the last time you labeled your child?

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3 Family Habits to Start Before Going Back to School

This is a guest post by Clay Brizendine. Clay is a CPT, a personal and corporate trainer, father of two daughters and author of Shoebox Letters – Daughters to Dads. Follow Clay online and on Twitter. Interested in guest blogging for NFI? Email us.

The weather is a little hotter, vacations are coming to an end, and ads everywhere are talking about school supply lists. All of this is to say that there's just a little time to go before school starts, and for a lot of us, that's a great time to cement some good family habits that will carry you throughout the school year.

back to school computer key

Setting your family up for success in these ways is no different than anything else at which you would want to be great—practice makes perfect. It’s often said that it takes between 30-60 days to create a habit, so practicing certain routines now will make the school year easier.  

Here are three key things you can do now:

  1. Treat the rest of the summer as a test drive. Practice new routines and habits as a family, and see what works best so that once the school year begins, you have something in place you know works. Kids are great at trying something new, and if it doesn't work, trying something different. Use that to your advantage. For example, if there’s a nighttime routine that you want your kids to follow rather than the very loose summer hours that some of us keep, start easing into that now. It might be at a later time, but it’s the actions and activities like showers, teeth brushing, etc. that will signal when it’s time to go to bed. Bring those activities forward little-by-little each week until you're at a time that will work once school starts.
  2. Pick your family meeting spot. Meet as a family on equal turf, as this will be critical throughout the school year. Sitting your child on the couch while you stand over him doesn't create a great environment for sharing. Pick a spot like the kitchen table, where everyone sits at an equal level, to talk through anything important that's happening. The more your child feels like he can participate, the more he will. Exercise caution on this point. You don’t want him feeling like he owns conversations, but you don’t want him feeling like he isn't valued either. It’s a fine balance, but one that can be helped be having a family spot—something like the kitchen table.
  3. Make your conversations positive and about the child. Positive thinking opens up possibilities. Keeping topics on things surrounding your child shows you care. If your family sits down at dinner, for example, be the first to set a great tone for conversation by asking your daughter what the best thing was that happened that day. This focuses a child on the positive, which will often create more positive emotions during the conversation (Find more back-to-school ideas at 10 Tips to Help Your Child in School). When school is back in session, the chances of less-than-ideal situations happening increases, but knowing that you’ll look for the positive and show genuine interest in what’s happening allows for possibilities that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.

Think back mom and dad: What did your parents do to help you transition from summer break to starting school?

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image: iStockPhoto

6 Tips to Prepare Your Kid for College: It’s Not All Academic

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

As I prepare to send my oldest daughter off to college in a few weeks, I can’t help but wonder whether her mother and I prepared her well enough for the challenges she’s about to face.

6 tips to prepare your kid for college

These challenges aren’t just educational, they’re also emotional and social. So when I read a recent blog post from Andrew McAfee at MIT on how our higher education system is failing our children, I couldn’t help but wonder whether part of the problem is that parents aren’t preparing children for success in school and, ultimately, in their careers. After all, only a little more than half of students who start college graduate—and that’s in six years! Can we place all the blame at the feet of our higher education system? Nope.  

I recall not knowing what hit me when I started college. I was ill-prepared for it. I went from a high school of 2,000 to a college of more than 25,000. I carried a full load and joined a fraternity. It was like stepping out of the proverbial frying pan and into the fire. In retrospect, I made a smart decision to ease into college. I took a couple of the tougher basic college courses in the summer before my freshman year. That decision allowed me to start off with good grades and take a smaller but still full load in the fall, making it easier for me to handle the study load and the time commitment of pledging a fraternity.  

Unfortunately, I can’t remember a conversation with my parents about college—either before or after high school graduation—other than where they could afford to send me. It wasn’t that they weren’t supportive of going to college. Quite the opposite. My father has a Ph.D. and my mother a master’s. I knew they expected good grades and that I would attend. But they didn’t give me much if any guidance on how to achieve those objectives. I can only assume that they thought my success in grade school would magically transform into success in college.

Fortunately, I did well in undergraduate and graduate schools and graduated on time, despite switching majors twice as an undergrad. I graduated with honors at both levels and earned a scholarship to attend grad school. So, to some degree (pardon the pun), I have to give props to my parents for at least instilling in me the value of good grades and higher education.

Nevertheless, I made a lot of mistakes, especially as an undergrad, trying to juggle the educational and social aspects of college life in large part because I lacked an emotional and social compass. It was my first experience with on-the-job training untethered to my home, and I sometimes wonder how I survived.    

In reflecting on how well my wife and I have prepared our daughter, I definitely learned from my collegiate mistakes. I also read articles by people smarter and wiser than me on getting children college-ready. While I agree with McAfee’s advice to recent high school grads (and their parents) to “work hard, take tough classes, and graduate on time,” it is a bit lacking, simplistic, and short-sighted. Parents must start much, much earlier. By time they graduate, it could be too late or, at the very least, a much tougher haul in college.  

Consider the following tips as you prepare your children for the rigors of college life:  

1) Save early and often. 
It might surprise you (or not) that this first tip focuses on money. I can’t tell you how good a decision it was that my wife and I set aside money for our children’s education. While we don’t have it all paid for, we’re a good way down the road. Sending our two girls to college will be financially manageable, barring something unforeseen, because, when our children were very young, we purchased contracts for a portion of our girls’ tuition through our state’s guaranteed tuition plan. Many states offer such plans and other education-specific investment vehicles (e.g. 529 plans). Start saving now even if you can only set aside a small amount of money.

2) If one parent wants to manage your children’s school lives, let them go for it.
 
My wife comes from a family of teachers—her grandmother, mother, and both sisters are or have been teachers. So when my children entered school, my wife started to manage that part of their lives like a fish takes to water. I let her dive right in. That’s not to say that I abdicated responsibility. I made every parent-teacher meeting, school play, and sporting event that I could. (A key role of mine has been to manage my children’s athletic endeavors.) Indeed, research shows that when fathers are involved in their children’s education—broadly speaking—children get better grades than when fathers aren’t involved. But given my wife’s knowledge and skills in this area, it was a no-brainer to let her take the lead.

3) Focus as much—and more when necessary—on the social and emotional aspects of school life. 
School is a laboratory for life. As such, it teaches children—for good or ill—how to interact with peers and authority figures. Children, as they say, can be brutal. Middle school is a particularly difficult time for girls because of their physical, social, and emotional development at this time in their lives. My daughters hated middle school not because of the academics but because of the way girls treated one another. I had a lot of long, intimate conversations with them about how to navigate friendships that change and dissolve, how to deal with the formation of cliques, how to better understand boys, and how to avoid drugs and alcohol. When children don’t effectively navigate the emotional and social aspects of school—regardless of school level—their academic performance can suffer. If your children need professional help, don’t hesitate to get it for them. Don’t wait for something bad to happen—expect it to happen and be proactive.

4) Stalk your children’s grades as if they were a Facebook account.
 
Let’s face it, grades and GPA matter when it comes to competing for a spot in the freshman class at many colleges. Moreover, good grades and a high GPA can help pay for college through public and private scholarships. This fact is especially important if your family won’t qualify for financial grants or aid (e.g. free grants or low-cost loans). Many school systems have an online service that allows parents to monitor their children’s grades throughout the year and in real time. This service helps parents know immediately when their children struggle, get their children help (e.g. tutoring) when needed, and to correct grading mistakes, which occur more often than you might think.   

5) Help with subjects you’re good at, and get your children help in others.
 
My wife and I have different strengths when it comes to helping our children with school subjects. Unfortunately, neither of us are whizzes at math, so we’ve encouraged our children to get help in that subject from teachers, tutors, and peers (e.g. in study groups). There’s no shame in telling your children you don’t have the answers and getting them help from elsewhere.

6) To ease the transition into college, enroll your children in college courses while they’re in high school.
 
Fortunately, my daughter made the same decision that I did to take college courses before starting college, but she started her junior year of high school. She’ll carry a full load as a freshman, but not as full as she would have otherwise. That’s critical because she’ll have to achieve balance between her school work, holding down a job, and using her spare time to take advantage of the growth opportunities her program will offer that are outside of class time. This tactic saved us money, as well, because she took the courses at a local community college that had a lower per-hour fee than the college she’ll attend. Before enrolling your children, make sure that the colleges your children are interested in will accept the coursework (i.e. it will transfer) and on what basis (e.g. pass-fail or a minimum grade).

What advice did your parents give you about college?

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image: iStockPhoto

NFI and Life of Dad Team Up with Honda for #DadsDoingGood

Video series will feature Dads getting help from the 2014 Honda Odyssey as they conduct child-centered community service projects across the greater Los Angeles area.   

National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) and Life of Dad (LoD) have partnered with Honda on the “Dads Doing Good” campaign, which will feature groups of dads conducting child-centered community-service projects.   

DadsGoingGood500X500Throughout August, videos will be posted online highlighting various projects in which Dads utilize the 2014 Honda Odyssey in their efforts to assist and support community-based organizations serving children and families. 

The first video shows three dads using the Odyssey as a “mobile library.” They load up the Odyssey with hundreds of books and surprise preschool children in their school’s playground. After reading stories to the kids, hundreds of books were donated to the school.

Can't view the video? Click here.

Other videos will feature similar uplifting stories. The hashtag #DadsDoingGood will be used to engage in conversations online about the importance of father involvement and civic engagement.   

The overall purpose of the campaign is to show that when Dads become actively involved in their communities, great things can happen. Honda is providing the vehicles to make these jobs easier through feature-rich vehicles like the new Odyssey.   

“We are extremely grateful to the team at Honda, who has allowed us to utilize the 2014 Honda Odyssey, in the support of such a great cause – assisting families and kids,” said Life of Dad Founder and CEO, Tom Riles.  “We are just as happy to continue our partnership with NFI, a great organization and resource to Dads around the world.”  

“Given the serious father-absence crisis in our nation today, it is critical that we share stories celebrating the good that dads do in communities across the country,” said Vincent DiCaro, Vice President of Development and Communication at NFI. “Thanks to Honda, NFI and Life of Dad are able to do this in a ‘big way’ that highlights Honda’s commitment to helping families and communities live better lives.”  

Visit our Dads Doing Good page for more information and follow #DadsDoingGood on Twitter and Facebook for updates. 

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NFI and LoD partnered with Honda for this campaign. The Odysseys were returned to Honda after the videos—and all dads involved wept.

Parenting for the Next Century

The following is a post by Preston Parrish. Preston is the author “Finding Hope in Times of Grief,”  which he and his wife, Glenda, wrote following the 2006 deaths of his father and their 25 year-old son in the same week. He and Glenda have four children, four grandchildren and live in Charlotte, North Carolina. Follow Preston on Twitter and Facebook. Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

My wife Glenda and I dated in high school, married in college, and are now approaching our 40th wedding anniversary. God blessed us with four children, born in three different decades, with 18 and a half years between the first and the last.  

SymolicTreeParentingforNextCentury080513In the year 2000, I tried to convince Glenda to have another child, which would surely have put us in the Guinness Book of World Records for having children in four decades, two centuries and two millennia—but for some reason she just never got excited about going for that goal!  

As our youngest headed off to college last year, we calculated that we had been raising children in our home for over 37 straight years. “No wonder we’re tired!” we said.  

Having this somewhat unique, longer-term vantage point on childrearing in our society has put us in the position to see the progressive changes—and the deepening challenges—in families generally, and with fathers specifically. At this stage, though our children are grown, we now have four grandchildren whose future growth to personal maturity and wholesome family relations is of utmost concern to us.  

Increasingly, we see that the examples and nurture they need will not “just happen” for them. Rather, unless we and others who care about healthy families are intentional…purposeful…strategically active, these kids’ growing-up years will indeed pass, but likely not with the desired outcome. So to that end, and even after raising four kids of our own, we are now trying to take steps on a regular basis that, over the course of the coming years, can impact these precious children in our family.  

These include (but aren’t limited to):  

  • Praying daily for them—for help in the affairs of their young lives
  • “Hanging” with them as we’re able, just to be together but also to model how routine family time can look and feel
  • Taking them individually for special times and activities personalized to their particular interests
  • Sharing with them wholesome stories (for us it's Scripture) and songs to fill their minds and hearts with good “food” to grow on
  • Carefully selecting what entertainment they view, and engaging in it with them to help interpret its lessons
  • Attempting to consistently model for them kind, loving speech and behavior, as well as steady, reliable integrity, character and truth
  • Noting and complimenting their own “baby steps” of accomplishments and growth.  

Now, none of these steps in themselves may seem all that new or unusual. But what our long years of experience have shown us is that, in today’s American society, we can no longer take for granted that the majority of children, including the young ones in our own lives, will “get” the benefit of these positive influences automatically.  

As a father and now a grandfather, I see more than ever that I cannot default to the assumption that the females in their lives—their mother, grandmothers, and aunts—are the only ones who should “deliver these goods” to them. They should, and they do. But there is no substitute for males—fathers, grandfathers, and uncles—who accept the responsibility for doing the best they can to nurture and shape the young ones who are watching them. This is why NFI created Double Duty Dad, to call on men to step into the lives of fatherless children. NFI's Double Duty Dad™ Guide will equip you to invest in a child or another father's life.

About one-third of kids now don’t have the benefit of their biological father’s daily presence in their home. And even among those that do, it’s all too common for them to grow up with a father who is distant, distracted, self-absorbed, and emotionally dysfunctional. Let’s each of us make our children the ones who see something different, something better, something time-honored…something that can last for decades, centuries and millennia to come!

What's one thing you hope to pass down to your children and/or grandchildren?

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image credit: istockphoto

The Single Dad Apartment Scavenger Hunt

The following is a post by Paco Vega. Paco is a single dad who writes about parenting issues and raising a family in the digital world. Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

singledadapartmenthunt

Maybe you've just become a single dad, or perhaps you've been going it alone for some time. Either way, if it's time to go apartment hunting, you need to think about some things you'd never consider if you were looking for an apartment for yourself. Here are some tips to get you started:

Establish a Budget

To be affordable, your rent shouldn't eat up more than 30 percent of your monthly income, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Obviously, places in San Francisco or New York City will cost considerably more than apartments for rent in Atlanta, GA, or Billings, MT, and salaries don't always keep up with the increased costs of living. Local rents will also vary depending on the neighborhood.

Contact a local rental property expert to discuss neighborhoods within your budget. Certain factors such as who pays the utilities will cause variation in the rent amount. Find out what utilities you have to pay and how much they typically run.

Check out the Neighborhood

Look for a neighborhood that's accessible to your work place. If you take public transportation, make sure a stop is nearby, and take commute times into consideration and how it will affect your ability to get the kids to school on time.

Does the neighborhood look family-oriented, so your children can make friends with other kids? Are there parks, playgrounds and safe areas for them to play in? Larger apartment complexes may be more likely to have designated play areas, and this will help your child meet other kids right in the apartment community.

Don't forget to call the local police department to find out about the neighborhood crime rate.

Check out Apartment Ratings

Read the reviews on apartment rating websites to learn what past and current tenants think of the complex's management and maintenance department.

What to Ask on the Tour

  • Who pays for utilities, and if tenants pay a portion, how much is that?
  • What type of heating and cooling systems are used?
  • Are pets allowed? Find out if there is a security deposit for a pet, if they charge extra for multiple pets and if you have to pay an extra monthly fee to have pets.
  • How much is the security deposit and what is the refund policy on the deposit?
  • What lease lengths are offered?
  • How far in advance do you have to give notice if you want to move out?
  • Is there on-site maintenance? Is the maintenance team available 24/7 for emergencies?
  • Are there communal laundry facilities, in-unit washers and dryers or hookups? If facilities are shared, find out how much it costs to do laundry and what the laundry center hours are.
  • Can you paint your children's bedrooms? What's the policy regarding painting when you move out?
  • Can you put up shelves to add storage to childrens' bedrooms?


Make a List of Your Must-Have Features

Talk to your kids about what they want in an apartment and the apartment community. If you can financially swing it, make their requests high on the priority list, since those features may ease their transition. 

Consider the features you think are most important. Storage for the kids' toys and such should be high on that priority list.

Finally, don't over-analyze things. It's the love inside the apartment that will make it your home.

What is one thing you consider when searching for a place to raise your child?


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How to Make the Most of Working From Home

The following is a post from Matthew Mancino. Matthew writes about parenting at his blog. Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

I'm a dad, entrepreneur, and marketer. I worked at home for years before I had children. When my first child arrived it rocked my world. I took almost 4 years off of work and coasted until I had a better handle on balancing my career and kids. 

Here's my take on how to balance working from home with a busy family life.    

balance work family laptop daughter kids

Even parents who have 9-to-5 jobs can sometimes find themselves bringing work home. For example, my wife works on a few big projects every year and during those times she brings work home.     

During a normal week, my wife will arrive home at 5:30PM. From the moment she walks in the door to the moment the kids are in bed, it's a tornado of playing, eating dinner, and bathing. After all of that's done, I usually have work to do in the evening since I stay at home with the kids and have a small business.    

Tip 1: Divide and Conquer
One vital part of working at home is that my wife and I have the division of labor clearly defined. Also, we are careful (most times) to discuss changes if we deviate from our normal roles.     

For instance, I typically make dinner. If I have a phone call to make during dinner, we'll discuss it in advance so that we can determine a change in responsibilities. Will she be responsible for dinner tonight? Can I prepare dinner but mentally focus on a conference call at the same time?    

Tip 2: Get Alone Daily
Around 8pm, when the kids are down, I am free to do what I need to do. I'll immediately head to our office for my work time. My wife and I have agreed that my uninterrupted work time is after the kids go to bed.    

Tip 3: "No Tech Tuesday"
We balance my busy work at home schedule with our “No Tech Tuesdays” which we also plan in advance. On a “No Tech Tuesday” we'll plan to turn our phones and computers off and sit on the couch to talk or watch a movie together. We've agreed to use this time to re-connect with each other.  

Tip 4: Weekends Require Work
For us the weekends require a little more flexibility. I'm on a masters swim team and after practice my son takes swim lessons from one of my teammates. My wife usually takes the weekend to work on household chores and spending real quality time with the kids. Scheduling our weekends takes a bit more flexibility because I also try get at least 4 hours of work in each day.   

Tip 5: Talk Through the Schedule
Our kids benefit from hearing me and my wife talk until we agree on a win-win work schedule. They get to hear us problem-solve so that we meet our priorities and commitments.  

I believe that, as parents, we should discuss our work with our children. Tell them what you have to accomplish and how you plan to divide your time to meet everyone's needs. I believe that we should also gain our children's agreement whenever possible. I have found that even my two-year-old daughter appreciates it when she has input. I certainly appreciate it when I have her buy-in to an idea.  

I teach this principle to my kids. If they want to watch a show or take a toy from one another, they must have agreement. They aren't allowed to use force to get what they want.  

I've found that the idea of "gaining agreement" has turned into common vocabulary for us (more on common vocabulary on my blog).

Tip 6: Give a Timeline
One last tip that I think helps is giving a child a timeline. For example, saying, "Daddy is going to Starbucks to work for three hours, when I get home we’ll go to the park to play and have fun!" helps them understand the concepts of time, patience, and the concept of work and reward.

Do you ever have to take work home? If so, what helps you manage spending time with family?


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The Risks of Teen Driving & What Dad Can Do (Infographic)

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S., killing more teens than suicide and homicide combined. Understanding how to prevent these crashes is critical, particularly right now. The days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are known as the 100 deadliest days for teen drivers.  

home 21

I don't remember exactly how old I was, maybe 17. I had not been driving for longer than a year. It was my junior year of high school. Driving home from school, the weather was beautiful and sunny. I had four people in my '89 Honda Accord and thought I was so cool. That faithful day, I learned two lessons about teen driving.

  1. Don't follow too closely: I ran smack into the car in front of me that day. I was quickly told by the kind police officer that—pretty much anytime a person runs into another car—it's the person driving the car with the crashed front bumper's fault.
  2. Don't have a car-load of people in your car. You can't be responsible for all of those people if you have an accident.

So, my point in telling you this is to point out that, as parents, there is more to teaching your child about driving than simply passing a driving test. Dad, you must be intentional about teaching your teen to be responsible with his/her vehicle.

The National Safety Council explains driver safety in two ways:

1. Know the Teen Driving Risks

  • Driving is dangerous: The year your teen get his driver's license is the most exciting—and dangerous—year of his life.
  • Lack of practice: Inexperience is the leading cause of teen crashes.
  • Distractions: From cell phones to applying makeup, it's vital your teen stay focused on driving.
  • Scanning the road: There's only about three seconds—one to recognize the hazard—two to react. But you can't react to something you don't see. Discuss the importance of looking out for potential hazards constantly.
  • Unsafe speed: Teens often break the speed limit just for fun, but it's vital he/she understands the importance of knowing the speed limit wherever he/she drives.
  • Passengers: How many teens can safely ride with new drivers? None!
  • Seatbelt use: Seatbelts save lives. That is all.
  • Night driving: 16 and 17 year olds are three time more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash at night.
  • Impaired driving: From drinking, drugs and drowsiness—all 50 states have zero tolerance laws for underage drinking and driving for a reason

2. Know What You Can Do

You can help reduce your teen's driving risk. Simply staying involved with your teen goes a long way toward keeping your teen safe. Here are five things to keep in mind:
  • Practice with your teen: sit beside them often as they drive—both before and after your teen gets her license. 
  • Set a good example: drive the way you want your teen to drive. Remember, they don't stop learning once they get their license.
  • Sign a parent-teen agreement: a written agreement can help define expectations—for you and your teen.
  • Let your teen earn privileges: one of the best ways your teen can show he is ready for new privileges is to show they can handle the ones you have already given.
  • Let other parents know how you feel: once you know all the stats and ways to be more careful, get the word out by telling your friends. You will help your community by helping let others know what to watch out for regarding teens and driving.

The National Safety Council (NSC) has also recently launched a website for parents of teen drivers at DriveitHOME.org. Through videos, weekly driving tips and more, NSC wants to help parents navigate their teens driving experience.

Can't see video? Click here.

Please help spread the word about how to keep our teen drivers safe on our roads. Share this infographic with everyone you know who has teen drivers.

Teen Driving infographic

Connect with other dads of teen drivers:

Have you ever been involved in a car accident? How old were you?

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5 Methods to Keep the Work-at-Home Dad Focused on What Matters

The following is a post from Nancy Parker. Nancy writes at eNannySource about health, parenting and child care tips. Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

When an opportunity such as working from home for decent money comes around, what dad wouldn't jump on the proposition? Although many of you will fantasize about what it would be like to work from home, do you really have a plan if the opportunity arises? I thought I did at first, but there is much more to working from home as a parent of six than many realize.

manworkingfromhome5tipshumorousAs a freelance professional, I am paid per job and not per hour. If I am not productive, there is no paycheck. Working from home creates more diversions throughout your day that can deter you from being efficient. Sure, you get to spend far more time with your children; but is it beneficial if you can't keep the lights on or food on the table? Here are some ways that I've found to keep the tops spinning while spending the quality time with my kids that drives me to work from home.

  1. Schedules: You probably left corporate employment in the hopes to walk away from schedules. However, organizing your day to better suite your family and financial needs is imperative. As a freelancer, you may not have a choice in the matter and your workload needs to be completed in order to keep the bills paid. Luckily, you are able to build your schedule to how your day progresses and not be tied to specific hours.
  2. Realistic Goals: In order to keep a positive attitude when you are working from home, set realistic goals you can accomplish for your finances. Although it may be fun to speculate what you could make monetarily, keep your goals grounded. Set a realistic amount of money you need to make each week in order to get the bills paid, and then try to surpass that goal the following week.
  3. Time Management: Utilize the time you have by yourself wisely. It may be fun to blast YouTube videos when you're home alone, but it's eating into your production time. Once the tasks are completed for your clients or employer, then you can have all the time you need or want.
  4. Reduce Distractions: You know yourself better than anyone and know what can keep you from meeting your goals. Here is where your willpower will be tested. If you are a gamer and you work from home on your computer, the urge to play a game for "just a few minutes" could wind up eating half of your day. Your children are depending on you to keep the cash flow coming. Is beating that last level more important than your child's needs?
  5. Professional Appearance: One method that has helped me gain focus on tasks is keeping my work area tidy and professional. If I would be embarrassed for a client to see my desk-space, then it's time to clean it up. You would be amazed at how well keeping a professional appearance in your work area can improve your outlook on everything.

If you're not ready for it, working from home can hurt your household finances. You need to set aside the glorification of being able to set your own hours and work in your pajamas and devise a strategy that can keep you productive. It's very easy to procrastinate while working from home, but you need to keep focus on what matters in your life and complete what needs to be done. There will be plenty of time to play if you do.

What's one tip you would give a dad trying to work from home?

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image: iStockphoto

Is Optimism Fooling Your Parenting? 4 Vital Questions to Ask Yourself

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

We humans have unique ways of fooling ourselves. One of the ways we fool ourselves is through a number of biases that research has shown lead to poor decision-making. I wrote about one of these biases—confirmation bias—in a recent post for The Father Factor.

imPossible Are you being fooled by optimism 071913Another bias that short circuits our decision-making is optimism bias. (Lest you think you’re immune to this bias, neuroscientists have discovered that our brains are hard-wired for it.) This bias leads us to overestimate good news, such as our odds of winning the lottery or ESPN’s March Madness Tournament Challenge. Conversely, it leads us to underestimate risk (bad news), such as the greater likelihood of dying in car accident than on a plane flight or that we won’t lose our shirts in Vegas. It’s the basis for one of the more well-known phrases for describing someone who is naïve—she/he “looks at the world through rose-colored glasses.”

Optimism bias is also the foundation of hope. People who are more prone to this bias than others are the ones we call “optimists.” They tend to look at the bright side of things. When we experience hardship or find ourselves in a tight spot, this bias generates the hope that is often critical to turning things around. Nevertheless, it is often problematic as it clouds our judgment when we make short- and long-term decisions, including those where our children are concerned. It clouds our judgment because it clouds and alters our reality.

As I reflect on my 18 plus years of fatherhood, I can point to many occasions when I fell prey to optimism bias, even though many people wouldn’t describe my personality as “rosy.” Because I have two daughters, I’ve done my best to remove the bias of my gender to see the reality that exists for girls and women. My oldest daughter is about to enter college and will major in sports journalism, clearly a male-dominated career. She’s wanted to be a sports journalist since I can remember, so I’ve encouraged her along the way—given her hope—because I know how challenging it will be for her to succeed. At the same time, I’ve been clear that she’ll face an uphill battle and will have to work hard to realize her ambitions.

So I was encouraged when I read a Harvard Business Review blog post about Denise Morrison, the chief executive officer of Campbell Soup Company, and the role that her father played in her success. It offers an excellent reminder of how important fathers are to their children when fathers see the world as it is and not as they want it to be while, at the same time, offering their children hope and providing a foundation for success. Denise says about her dad:

  • "I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was setting down a blueprint for my career early on…If I wanted a stereo, [for example,] I would have to make a business plan about it — [explain] how I would pay for it and why I needed it and so forth…He was a man who early on believed that times were changing — that the world would open up in all ways to women…he had four daughters, so I guess he would have to believe that. But the fact is, he did, and he prepared us for it.”

What would have happened to Denise if she didn’t have a father who prepared her for the world as it was and for the world it is today? To fully understand her father’s impact, take a look at what Denise does aside from (although certainly connected to) her success in the corporate world. “Morrison is actively involved in the movement to stamp out childhood obesity and is a founding member of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, an initiative of manufacturers and retailers to combat obesity in the marketplace, workplace and schools. The battlefront includes Campbell’s impoverished hometown — Camden, New Jersey — where the company launched its ‘Campbell Healthy Communities’ program in 2011, setting an ambitious goal to reduce childhood obesity and hunger by 50 percent by 2020 through initiatives that educate children and families about nutrition, cooking and exercise. The company has set aside $10 million for the program.”

Ask yourself the following questions as you consider the role of too much or too little optimism in your parenting:

  1. Are you too optimistic? Think about whether your optimism has fooled you recently and whether you tend to sugarcoat risk in an attempt to protect your children or simply to avoid difficult conversations.
  2. Are you not optimistic enough? Think about whether you didn’t provide enough hope to your children recently, perhaps in an attempt to protect them from the disappointment of failure. It’s a cliché, but we learn as much through failure as success.
  3. How much is self-reflection a part of your daily or weekly routine? Self-reflection is one of the most vital disciplines for good parenting. Create space to reflect on your day, your relationships (with your spouse and children), whether you see the world for what it is (not for what you want it to be), and whether you gave your children what they need to succeed.
  4. Do you  have someone in your life who gives you the “hard news?” Think about whether you have a friend, family member, or someone else in your life who will confront you when you’re clearly off base with regard to your children. All too often parents surround themselves with people who are so like them that they never have to confront their own biases—these people reinforce optimism and confirmation biases.  
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image: iStockphoto

13 Apps to Keep Your Family Safe, Secure and Smart

Smartphones are getting smarter every day. It seems that there are apps for just about everything, from determining whether rain and clouds are likely to ruin your ballgame, to checking the scores (or watching it live).

iPhone 4's Retina Display v.s. iPhone 3G

Using free or low-cost apps, you can even transform your old smartphone into a wireless security camera to help protect your home and your family. Apps like 'Presence' allow you to turn a second phone into a remote video camera, allowing you to keep tabs on pets, kids or elderly relatives while you are at work or anywhere else, without having to install a pricey home security system.

Keeping Your Kids Safe
Most importantly, apps and other electronic tricks are available that will help protect your children. For example, the start-up company SmartThings is developing a "key fob" you can attach to your child's backpack. It signals you by text when your child leaves the house in the morning and arrives home from school in the afternoon. And you can download a variety of apps that will help ease your mind when your children are somewhere other than at your side.

1. FBI Child ID: This app, developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, lets you store photos and other vital information about your children. If it ever becomes necessary, you can easily provide authorities with a picture of your child, along with physical information such as height and weight.

fbi child id app

 

2. Sex Offender Search: Download this app and you'll always know about sex offenders who live in or near your neighborhood. The information comes from the National Sex Offender Registry.

sex offender search

 

3. Find My Kids - Footprints: You can use this app to track your children in real time and also to find out where they've been recently. The app lets you set up geofences – your child's school, for example – and notifies you if those fences are crossed.

find my kids footprints app

 

4. Near Parent: This app permits your kids to check in occasionally to let you know they are OK. If you child actually needs help, a request is sent to trusted adults chosen by you. In addition, you can be notified about impending violent weather such as floods, tornadoes and earthquakes.

near parent app

 

5. AMBER Alert: Developed by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, this app was designed to help find missing children. If you have information about a missing child, you can push a button that automatically calls NCMEC's toll-free hotline.

amber alert app

 

6. Hero (by Apptooth): This app helps spread information quickly about abductions, robberies and car accidents. By pressing a button, users can send video, audio and GPS coordinates to their social networking contacts and others within a five-mile radius.

hero security app

 

7. Norton Online Family: This app allows parents to monitor their kids' Web browsing, social media activity and searches on the Internet, to keep them from visiting inappropriate sites and to limit their time on their computer.

norton online family app

 

8. McGruff SafeGuard Browser: This app permits parents to limit their child's access to pornography and gambling sites. Parents also can view a daily summary of their kid's travels on the Internet.

mcgruff web browser security

 

9. iEmergency ICE Family PRO: This app lets parents store health data concerning allergies, prescriptions and medical conditions. ICE stands for "In Case of Emergency."

iEmergency app

 

10. Food Additives 2: This app offers information on food additives that can be harmful to your children.

food additives 2 app

 

11. iCam: Have you ever wanted to monitor what your kids are doing at home while you're at work? If so, this app is for you. It lets you watch live video from any room in your house, as long as you have a webcam and a computer in the room.

iCam app

 

12. SecuraFone: This app uses a smartphone's GPS to locate your children and tell you how fast they are driving. It also can notify you if your child ventures beyond a specific geographic area.

securafone app

 

13. mamaBear: You want your children to be safe in the physical world, but you also want them to be safe online. This app monitors your child's Facebook feed, alerting you about bullying and crude language.

mamabear app

 

Your smartphone can be a valuable weapon in the battle to keep your home and your family safe and secure.

What other apps have you found useful for keeping your family and home safe?

5 Ways Fathers Can Use Science and Nature to Bond with Their Children

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

The connection between nature and mothers is pretty obvious. From the moment of conception, mothers are inextricably, biologically linked to their children. Mothers’ hormone levels continually fluctuate during pregnancy as their bodies partner with nature to give their children the ultimate environment in which to grow. This connection continues when mothers breastfeed as their bodies release oxytocin, the “bonding hormone,” thus providing a way for mothers’ biological connection to their children to continue well after birth.  

5 ways fathers can   the male brainBut what about fathers? Science now reveals that mothers don’t have the market cornered when it comes to being biologically connected to their children. Nature also provides a way for men to prepare for the arrival of their children and to bond with them well after birth. In her ground-breaking book The Male Brain, neuropsychologist Louann Brizedene points out that men’s hormone levels change during the pregnancy of their partners. Specifically, men’s levels of cortisol (the “stress hormone”) increase. This change puts men’s brains on “alert” for the arrival of their babies. In contrast, men’s levels of testosterone (the “wandering hormone”) decrease. This change lowers their competiveness, aggression, and sex drive.  

After their children are born, men’s oxytocin and prolactin levels increase with their prolactin levels falling to “pre-arrival” levels only after their babies start to walk (12 to 16 months, on average). Prolactin further decreases men’s testosterone levels. Researchers in Israel took this knowledge a step further when they measured oxytocin levels in 80 first-time parent couples shortly after the birth of their children. They found that fathers’ oxytocin levels were just as high as mothers’ when their children were 6 weeks and 6 months, suggesting that fathers’ hormone levels “dance” in harmony with mothers’.  

But they didn’t stop there. The researchers also observed how the increased bonding driven by high levels of oxytocin affected the way that fathers and mothers play with their children. What they found is that higher levels of oxytocin do not equate with the same kinds of parenting behaviors. Indeed, it seems to enhance the unique ways in which mothers and fathers play with their children which, as research shows, benefits children. The researchers discovered that when they compared mothers’ oxytocin levels that those with higher levels exhibited the most "affectionate parenting behaviors." When they compared fathers’ levels they found that those with the highest levels exhibited the most "stimulatory parenting behaviors."  

What’s the kicker? For all of these changes to occur, fathers have to be involved during mothers’ pregnancies and after the birth of their children. They have to view nature as their partner by engaging in activities that create close physical and emotional connections with mothers during pregnancy and with mothers and their children after their children are born. Here are 5 ways that a father can do just that:  

  1. Live with the mother. This advice might seem painfully obvious, but in today’s world of increasing out-of-wedlock childbirths (now at a record level) the chances of fathers not being around are all too real. The best way for a father to ensure constant physical proximity is to be married to the mother of his children.
  2. Spend as much time with the mother as possible. This advice might also seem painfully obvious, but one of the reasons time together is so important is that the exchange of pheromones between a father and mother during and after pregnancy might contribute to the father’s hormonal changes. This exchange can only happen when the father and mother are around each other on a consistent basis.
  3. Prepare to be a dad. During the pregnancy, a father should deepen his involvement in the pregnancy by reading books about becoming a dad and what it takes to be a great dad, attending as many of the mother’s prenatal visits as possible to support her, and enrolling, with the mother, in childbirth education classes.
  4. Encourage the mother to breastfeed. A father should encourage the mother to breastfeed while she is still pregnant. Breastfeeding will help the mother and baby to bond and benefit them in many other ways. A father can be involved in this effort by helping the mother to freeze her breast milk. He can warm it and feed it to his child in the middle of the night to allow the mother to catch some extra, needed sleep and, in doing so, further bond with his child.  
  5. Attend well-child check-ups and use NFI’s Countdown to Growing Up™. A father can deepen his involvement after the birth by attending well-child check-ups. A father can track his child’s development from birth to age 18 with NFI’s free Countdown to Growing Up™ child growth and development tracker. A father enters his child’s age and gender and the tool generates a chart of physical, mental, and social milestones appropriate for his child. He can use this information to more effectively dialogue with the mother and his child’s doctor about his child’s growth and development. NFI also has a number of free articles with advice on how to be a new dad and a great dad.

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image: istockphoto

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