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The Father Factor


Learning From A Kindergartner

Writing in the Huffington Post, Dr. Ricky Choi tells of an "interview" he had with his daughter about starting kindergarten. Turns out, there was a big difference between his answers and his daugthers. Reading the conversation between Dr. Choi and his daugther may remind us dads to be more perceptive and listen to our child more intentionally. Whether your child is entering kindergarten or college, the lesson this parent learned is worth memorizing. 

sfo terminal 2Dr. Choi writes his most recent column that he learned some things on his "last-hurrah-before-kindergarten-daddy-daughter trip." After waiting in Terminal 2 of the San Francisco Airport on a flight delay and knowing that kindergarten was fast-approaching, he was filled with new thoughts and emotions. He puts in words what so many have gone through or are going through as parents, the idea of "coming to terms with seeing my daughter as a more independent person." Choi then decides to take a break in the airport terminal and ask his daughter some questions about starting school. 

Dr. Choi is not only a dad, he is a pediatrician. He spends his day tossing out parenting advice and telling parents to listen to their children. But Choi is honest and says, as a father, "his assumptions about his daughter's capabilities and view of what is best for her can put me out of touch with her actual day-to-day concerns." Isn't this true dads? Don't we often get sidetracked into what we THINK we know rather than what we really know about our kids.

Take time and read Dr. Choi's dialogue with his daughter. Choi asks his daughter honest questions about her feelings of starting school. He asks questions like:

What are you most excited to learn about?
What is the most important thing to remember in order to do well in kindergarten?

Read Choi's article and see how different each perspective is in the answers. For each question, Choi offers what he thought his daughter would say and what his daughter actually said. Armed with this new perspecitve, dads may learn to gain insight by listening first, then offering whatever is best needed; whether it be comfort or praise. This sounds elementary doens't it dads? But oh how difficult it is to listen!

For instance, Dr Choi asks his daughter, "What will be the hardest thing about going to kindergarten?" He expected her to say something like, "Challenging school lessons, homework, missing my family and the demands to be independent." Instead, her answer was, "Figuring out who will be my best friend."

Choi reveals a "telling difference" between what he expected to hear and what his daughter actually said. He observes, "I'm focused on her academic performance and meeting expectations. She is concerned about relationships with her friends and teacher."
He describes his conversation as a "humbling reminder to really pay attention -- and address what she cares about especially if I want to effectively impress on her the things I view as important." If we are honest as dads, we think we know what we are doing sometimes by offering advice or trying to "fix" things. The best approach may be offered after listening to what our child's actual concerns really are. Thanks, Dr. Choi, for making us dads see from a different angle...the angle of our child. We need this reminder in our busy lives.
We agree with Dr. Choi, parenting may have its ups and downs, but in the midst of all the emotions and expectations of a new school year; slow down, relax and listen to your child.

Parents: Where do you go to "get away" from everything, and listen to your son or daughter?  

Read Dr. Choi's full daddy-daughter interview
Connect with The Father Factor by RSSFacebook and on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.
photo credit: Marcin Wichary
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Remembering Stephen Covey

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The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of NFI. 

I learned today that Dr. Stephen R. Covey died today from injuries sustained from a biking accident. He was 80 years old. You might recognize Dr. Covey as the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the best-selling business book of all time. But to me Stephen was one of my mentors. It was his work—the application of the 7 Habits, specifically—that directed me toward the work I do today.

Before I arrived at National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), I served as a health communications and social marketing consultant with the Texas State Department of Health Services. During my time there I took a 7 Habits workshop. A light bulb went on inside my head during the workshop that illuminated how and where I should direct my career. I decided right then and there that I would focus my career on helping fathers connect with their children. I just didn’t know how at the time.  

Fortunately, I learned how to instill the 7 Habits into my professional and personal life and, most important to this story, to Begin with the End in Mind (the 2nd Habit), my end being full-time work helping organizations build capacity to serve fathers and families. 

Not soon thereafter a friend learned about NFI’s need to hire a director to run a statewide fatherhood initiative in Texas. He passed the information on to me and within a few weeks NFI hired me. The rest, as they say, is history.

But the story doesn’t end there. 

In 2003 we honored Dr. Covey with a Fatherhood Award™ based on how his work and personal life represented everything that is good and valuable about involved, responsible and committed fathers. 

I chaperoned him for 3 hours at the awards dinner and had the opportunity to tell him how much his work meant to me. He was flattered by my thanks, but what he really wanted to know was how our two organizations—NFI and FranklinCovey—could partner to help fathers. (That interest was not a surprise given the 6th Habit—Synergize.) 

When he returned to Utah where his company is based, he immediately instructed his staff to work with NFI to develop a joint effort. The result was NFI’s The 7 Habits of the 24/7 Dad™ curriculum and workshop, the first and still only co-branded curriculum of the FranklinCovey company. 

I had the honor of co-authoring the curriculum with Dr. John M.R. Covey, Stephen’s brother.

Thus Dr. Covey’s legacy reaches into the work of NFI and the lives of the thousands of fathers, children, and families that we and our direct-service partners help every year. 

It is with sadness at his passing and joy about his contribution to our work that I honor Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s life.

photo credit: agirregabiria

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Help Us Reach Dads and Help Kids Through Texting

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Did you know that 25% of Americans access the Internet through their smartphones instead of a computer?  That means millions of dads are not accessing National Fatherhood Initiative's web-based resources.
We want to deliver our expert fathering advice directly into dads’ hands through a brand new text messaging campaign, but it will cost $2,750 to create and maintain the new platform.

As a reader of this blog, you know how important it is that children have involved, responsible, and committed fathers.  You also know that our resources are making a difference across the nation by helping men learn how to connect with their kids heart-to-heart.
Texting LDD graphWe're looking for 110 people to donate just $25 each by August 12 to help us raise funds needed to create this new tool to reach more dads who currently don’t have access to our information.  Not only that, but if you are part of that 25% of who prefers to use your phone instead of the computer, your donation will go towards a resource that you can use too!  

Will you be one of the 110?  Donate $25 (or more!) today.

5 Steps to Success Before Breakfast

baconBefore children, I was a morning person. I used to conquer mornings. Back in college, I woke up with unrushed reading time. Remember unrushed reading time?! Once kids happen, unrushed mornings end.

Are you like me? I don’t plan any me-time at home before leaving work in hopes of getting a 45-second-jump on my neighbor. If I can cut my neighbor off at the toll road, I’m sure to get past the Capital Beltway before the traffic congestion really starts.

But my life is about to change. I found Laura Vanderkam’s article in Fast Company. I am now motivated more than ever to be a morning person because it seems mornings are when successful people get things done.

Actually, mornings for parents may be the only time to get anything done. Be careful about reading this article by Vanderkam. After you read, you can’t complain you don’t have enough “me time.” The short answer is -- wake up earlier! If you’re game for waking up earlier, keep reading this post for motivation and how to amp up your morning routine.

Parents, follow these steps from Vanderkam and you’ll get more done in the morning, before the kids wake up:

Step 1. Track Your Morning
Laura points out that you’re more likely to spend your time better when you know how you’re spending it. Write down what you’re doing as often as you can. Use Laura’s spreadsheet (yes, she has a time management spreadsheet!) or write things down.

Try this for a week. See how you're spending your time. So, you’re too tired and can’t wake up earlier, but you're only tired because you stayed up that extra few minutes watching The Colbert Report. Laura’s genius idea? DVR The Colbert Report and watch it at 5:30am while running on the treadmill. Whoa, I never thought about that. Mind, blown. Next step…

Step 2. Picture Your Perfect Morning
Once you see how you’re spending your mornings, take time to dream about your perfect morning. Would it start with a run? Actually eating real food for breakfast? Think about exactly how you would like to spend your morning and then move to step 3.

Step 3. Map Out Your Dream Morning
Actually write down what you want your new morning to look like and how you’re going to make it happen. Heck, write down the exact time while you’re at it. What time are you going to wake up? Yes, Laura goes here: write down the time you should go to bed. You know how much sleep you need. Ouch, okay, you’re almost to the morning of your dreams. Continue to step 4.

Step 4. Make the Dream Happen
If you want your dream morning, you’ll need discipline. Laura has some great ideas on how to make this happen:

  • Take baby steps: Start with getting in bed just a few minutes earlier. And don’t try to create EVERYTHING in your dream morning at one time. Work on one thing at a time. Actually waking up earlier is probably the best place to start.
  • Reward yourself. You have your goals and you’ve created baby steps. Be sure to celebrate small victories. This will keep you motivated. 

Step 5. Remember, Your Dream Morning is a Process
Okay, so you have kids. Life will happen in your house. Remember this whole deal is a process. Processes CAN change and be revamped. The best part about this is the idea that you can feel like your mornings are yours, not just death marches to your job! I know no one reading this has ever felt like his or her mornings are death marches. But you know what I’m saying.

You may never know how much you can get done or your full potential until you have time to stop and think for yourself. Remember to come back and tell us how things are going, what you’re working on, and what’s not working. Just remember, if you hate or love this idea and want to read more, the idea was Laura’s.

Dads, whether you want to conquer your mornings or not, try our series of 7 Habits of a 24/7 Dad for great ideas on becoming a better dad.

Now, what are you going to do with your perfect morning?

photo credit: Wade Brooks

Shaping the Kind of Fathers Children Need

rolandwarrencloseup resized 600The White House recently honored a select group of people who are doing tremendous work in the field of fatherhood. NFI President Roland C. Warren was recognized for his work as a Champion of Change in this field. Written by Warren, this post originally appeared on The White House blog.

My own life and the “life” of the organization I lead have taken similar paths. Let’s start with me. When I was about 7 years old, my parents split up. For a long time, I was frustrated and confused about my feelings for my dad, who became distant and ultimately disconnected from my daily life. I am nearly 50 years old now, and I still carry a wound - a hole in my soul in the shape of my dad. But, there were lots of wounded souls out there who were yearning for their father’s love and attention.                  

I finally realized that my personal crisis of growing up without my dad was actually a national crisis. And I was deeply inspired to do something about it. Then, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) came into my life.

From the moment I heard about the organization in the late 1990s, I knew I wanted to be involved, and by 2001, I was serving as the new president. I felt incredibly blessed that I had been given the opportunity to take my desire to change the world, born of my own personal struggle, and turn it into real action.

I had moved from inspiration to action.

For its first 7 years of existence, NFI played a critical role in putting fatherhood on the national radar screen through research, national public service announcements, media appearances, and advocacy. When I came on board, I wanted that work to continue, but I also wanted to ensure that when a father came to realize that he needed to be a better dad, that he would have somewhere to turn. I wanted to ensure that when an organization – a prison, a hospital, a military base, a church, a Head Start, a YMCA – came to the realization that it had to serve the fathers in its community, that it would have somewhere to turn, too.

Since then, NFI has distributed over 6.1 million fatherhood skill-building materials to fathers and organizations around the country. We have trained nearly 12,000 fatherhood facilitators from over 5,500 organizations on how to deliver high-quality fatherhood programming into their communities. We have worked with all five branches of the military, with prisons in every state, and with community-based organizations, such as Head Starts, YMCAs, Salvation Army, and Catholic Charities. We also have supported countless smaller community-serving organizations, helping them create and execute plans to educate and equip the fathers in their neighborhoods.

On the fatherhood issue, National Fatherhood Initiative has moved the nation from inspiration to implementation.

We have helped turn the growing awareness of the importance of involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood into growing action to give men the skills they need to be the kinds of fathers their children need them to be.

All these years later, I still have moments when I am that lonely boy waiting for my dad. But that pain is now happiness when I think about all the fathers who we have helped connect or reconnect with their children. This important work is changing lives, but more needs to be done. We don’t have a fatherless child to spare.

Roland  C. Warren serves as the President of the National Fatherhood Initiative. This content originally appeared on The White House blog.

Watch The White House Champions of Change event here:

Which TV Dad Are You?

cosby showLast Father’s Day, Focus on the Family asked “who is your favorite TV dad?” The following choices were given:


  • Charles Ingalls (Michael Landon, Little House on the Prairie) 

  • Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable (Bill Cosby, The Cosby Show)
  • Ward Cleaver (Hugh Beaumont, Leave it to Beaver)

  • Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith, The Andy Griffith Show)
  • Mike Brady (Robert Reed, The Brady Bunch)

  • Howard Cunningham (Tom Bosley, Happy Days)

  • Steve Douglas (Fred MacMurray, My Three Sons)

  • Uncle Bill Davis (Brian Keith, Family Affair)

  • Ben Cartwright (Lorne Green, Bonanza)

  • Mike Seaver (Alan Thicke, Growing Pains)

  • John Walton (Ralph Waites, The Waltons)

  • Steven Keaton (Michael Gross, Family Ties)

My favorite TV dad is Charles Ingalls of the Little House series followed by Dr. Huxtable of The Cosby Show.
 We watch reruns of Little House on the Prairie (weeknights on the Hallmark Channel) with our kids.

Mr. Ingalls modeled self-sacrifice, integrity, and the value of hard work. He exemplified being rich in faith and joy despite being poor in wealth. He was everyone’s “Pa.” He was tough and rugged but also gentle and emotional when it came to his family. I appreciate how he was loved and respected by his children. According to Laura Ingalls Wilder, it was the preservation of her own dad’s stories that motivated her to write the Little House books that inspired the TV show.

Once in a while, it is also worth it to catch old episodes of The Cosby Show (weeknights on Centric). Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, father of 5 children, emulates the fun but firm dad I wish to become. He adores his wife Claire and is not afraid to lecture his kids about good character and the realities of life. Dr. Huxtable was a cool dad. He let his kids be kids but at the same time taught them to be responsible.

These two shows depict what research says is the best family environment for children: an involved father, a strong marriage, discipline, and values.
This formula is pretty scarce in today’s TV lineup, especially sitcoms.

There are more bad dads than good ones: Tony Soprano (The Sopranos), Walter White (Breaking Bad), Don Draper (Mad Men), Al Bundy (Married With Children), Peter Griffin (Family Guy), George Bluth Sr. (Arrested Development), Arthur Spooner (The King of Queens), Frank Barone (Everybody Loves Raymond) and Frank Constanza (Seinfeld) are some names that come to my mind.

And it seems that these shows and characters are granted more airtime, critical acclaim, and loud applause from networks, the press, and their audiences. Maybe it pays to depict fathers poorly?

The imbalance of bad dads seems to be increasing with every new TV season. For dads like myself who enjoy TV and quality role models for my family, there isn’t much to get excited about.

But thanks to cable reruns, TV dads like Mr. Ingalls and Dr. Huxtable live on, and we can watch them all over again with our families.

Which TV Dad was your favorite from back in the day? Tell us in the comments.

This is a guest post from Jason Bruce. Jason is the social media specialist for the Colson Center and lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and two young children. Follow Jason on Twitter (@JasonBruce) and visit his blog The Living Rice.

Meet NFI Dad Tim Red

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During June, NFI is Celebrating Father's Month! Because we think dad deserves more than one day! As you might have guessed, NFI has a lot of dads.

So we're featuring dads as a reminder throughout the month -- to celebrate your dad more than one day. Meet NFI Dad Tim Red, Military Programs.

Tim has four kids ages 21, 19, 16, 13.


tim redWhat's the lamest gift you ever gave your dad? A tie.


What's the best piece of advice you've ever received about fatherhood? Be present.


What's a good day to you as a dad? Watching a baseball game for my youngest son and my daughter is with me.


What's one thing you wish you could do more? Travel with my kids.

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What man most changed your life? My Father.


What's your most memorable moment as a dad? The birth of my daughter.


At this stage, what do you most look forward to as a dad? My youngest son’s last two years of high school, my daughter’s remaining school years, my middle son’s path in the military.


For tips and tools on how to connect fathers with kids during this month and beyond, sign up for our Dad Email.

Meet the rest of the NFI Dads who are Celebrating Father's Month.

Meet NFI Dad Jason Katoski

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All this month, NFI is "Celebrating Father's Month" because we think dad deserves more than one day! We're featuring dads as a reminder throughout the month -- to celebrate dad beyond Father's Day.

Meet Jason Katoski, NFI Finance. Jason has two toddlers. Watch Jason talk Charles Barkley and naptime strategy: 

For tips and tools on how to connect fathers with kids during this month and beyond, sign up for our Dad Email.

Meet the rest of the NFI Dads who are Celebrating Father's Month.

Celebrating Father's Month, Meet NFI Dad Erik Vecere

Dad Deserves More Than One Day




During the entire month of June, NFI is Celebrating Father's Month! Because we think dad deserves more than one day! As you may have assumed, NFI has a lot of dads. So we're featuring dads as a reminder throughout the month -- to celebrate your dad more than one day. Meet Erik below: 

Erik VecereName: Erik Vecere

NFI Team:
VP of National Programming

Number of Kids & Ages: 2 daughters, ages 18 and 12

What's the lamest gift you ever gave your dad?

A bottle of aftershave.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received about fatherhood?
The best thing I can do for my daughters is to love my wife (I saw it modeled from my dad and it was reinforced by NFI).

What's a good day to you as a dad?
When I can make my daughters laugh uncontrollably.

What's the one thing you always carry with you (you can’t leave home without this)?

What's one thing you wish you could do more?
Have jam sessions with my daughters (we all play instruments).

What man most changed your life? The previous pastor at my church because he showed me you can be a Christian and still have fun!

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What's your most memorable moment as a dad? Being thanked by my daughter for interviewing her dates.

What’s one thing your dad always taught you?
Be a man of your word.

At this stage of fatherhood, to what do you most look forward?
Seeing my daughters make wise relationship choices and start families of their own.

For tips and tools on how to connect fathers with kids beyond this month, sign up for our Dad Email.  

Celebrating Father's Month, Meet NFI Dad Paul Byus

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Dad deserves more than one day. So NFI is Celebrating Father's Month! Check out NFI Dad Paul Byus to learn more about him and how he celebrates fatherhood. 


You only have a few days left to get Dad something special for Father's Day? Instead of adding to his tie collection, give a gift that will make a difference and celebrate his impact in your life.

Dad Deserves More Than One Day! NFI Celebrates Fathers with Spotlight on NFI Dads

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During the month of June, NFI plans to Celebrate Father's Month! That's right, month. We think dads deserve more than one day! During June, we will get to know NFI dads and learn how to celebrate fathers more than one day. Meet our first NFI dad below:

photo584 resized 600Name: Chris Brown

NFI Team: Executive Team

Number of kids & ages: 2 girls, ages 17 and 14

What's the lamest gift you ever gave your dad? I honestly don’t remember.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received about fatherhood? Don’t project your consequences on your children. This means you shouldn’t expect that the consequences of your children’s behavior will mimic or result in the same consequences as similar behavior that you engaged in (e.g. I did “x” and it didn’t result in a bad outcome; therefore, if my child does the same thing it won’t result in a bad outcome.)

What's a good day to you as a dad? When I see a teachable moment and use it to engage one of my children in a meaningful conversation that teaches them an important value, moral, or lesson.

What's the one thing you always carry with you? Wallet

What's one thing you wish you could do more? Play golf and go on physically active vacations. My idea of leisure is to be active.

What man most changed your life? Gilbert Kushner. He was one of my graduate school professors at the University of South Florida.  

He challenged me to think and write creatively, to trust my intuition, and to challenge myself professionally unlike any teacher I’ve ever had.

What's your most memorable moment as a dad? It would probably be cliché to say the birth of my children. There are so many memorable moments.

The moment I’ll choose is the time soon after we acquired our first rescue dog. My youngest daughter was only 2 years old.  We were playing together with the dog and somehow startled the dog. The dog accidentally cut the face and eye of my daughter.  There was blood everywhere.  

Fortunately, two EMTs lived a few doors down. I rushed my daughter over there and they quickly bandaged her head and took us to the hospital.

To thoroughly examine my daughter, the emergency-room physician and nurses had to tie down my daughter on a papoose because she was so upset and thrashing about.

Fortunately, the physician determined the dog had only scratched the inside of her eyelid and not the eye.  

During the time we rushed her to the hospital and the doctor examined her, all I could think about was how guilty I felt for allowing this to happen and prayed her eye would not be damaged.  I felt incredible relief and gratitude when I learned she was okay.   

My daughter still has a scar over her eye that reminds me of that moment.

CelebratingFathersDayMonthLOGO 02 resized 600What’s one thing your dad always taught you? In an inadvertent way, to be there for my children and family.

At this stage of fatherhood, what do you most look forward to as a dad? Seeing my girls grow into mature, compassionate, successful women who will pursue their dreams and interests.

Remember, dad deserves more than one day!

Wondering what to get Dad for Father's Day? Instead of adding to his tie collection, give a gift that will make a difference and celebrate his impact in your life.

Introducing NFI’s newest staff member: Ryan Sanders

ryan sandersNothing prepares you for fatherhood. When I say nothing, I mean nothing.

Read a book before having kids, have kids, and then let me know how it works out for you. You can learn all kinds of things about parenting before becoming a parent, but until you actually have kids, you don’t know what you don’t know.

I had no idea what was coming my way when each of the two beautiful princesses you see in this image came into my life.

I speaketh from experience. I’ve been a dad for five years. Five years! Actually, I’ve been a dad for seven years cumulatively. But who’s counting? I can’t believe it. My, oh my, where does the time go?

With all my seven years of cumulative parenting comes experience. I know things I never knew I would ever know. Dads, you know what I’m talking about. Some things can’t be un-learned. For example, tossing your first-born daughter in the air repeatedly after she’s ingested large quantities of popcorn and milk isn’t the best idea ever. I’ll save the discussion of projectile vomiting for future posts. For now, know that popcorn/milk/tossing-your-kid-in-the-air is likened to the Mentos and soda experiment – results do not vary.

Speaking of daughters, I am blessed with two daughters, ages five and two. They are the most precious things in my life (in addition to my wife, of course). They make my life difficult, fun, interesting, and sometimes annoying -- but always better.

You will hear more than you ever wanted to know about each of them in the coming posts. The above image was taken on Father’s Day last year. I was new to Washington, DC and new to baseball actually. I’m pretty sure it was my daughters who told me the “Washington Nationals are the best team ever.” So, last Father’s Day I got to see the “greatest baseball team ever” play baseball and did so with the two cuties pictured above.

The above photo is a metaphor for my role at NFI. Stay with me here. I promise to be genuine with this platform. If you notice, I’m smiling in the picture. That’s because most days, I smile. But also notice this image isn’t perfectly done in a studio, because parenting isn’t done in a studio under perfect lighting with a team of directors all working to get your kids facing the camera (On second thought, a team of directors would've been helpful for this image, but I digress.).

Before joining NFI, I was in leadership at churches in Tennessee and Virginia. Born and raised in Tennessee, for several years after undergrad I was a writer and editor for a large publisher in Nashville. Most recently, I served in communications as a writer at Prison Fellowship Ministries (PFM). I hold a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Master of Divinity. I had the privilege of studying under Chuck Colson for over a year before working for him. Working with Mr. Colson, I experienced living proof that individuals can shape culture.

Writing at PFM, I learned the impact of incarceration on families and communities. Knowing 1 in every 31 adults in America is under correctional control changes why you wake up in the morning.

Knowing most of the people behind bars either had an incarcerated father or are fathers themselves should change our actions and commitments. More than ever, I understand we must educate and enlist fathers to be dads – not only in prisons – but all around us. As fatherhood goes, so goes society, for good or bad.

I’m excited to be on the NFI team, contributing to and stirring the fatherhood conversation. I’ve been a father long enough to learn a thing or two – long enough to make a few mistakes and do a few things correctly.

Looking at the above image, I can’t believe a full year has passed since last Father’s Day. Time really does fly; we’re all busy with our daily routines. But I’m excited in hopes of connecting with other dads who are sharing the same pressures, worries and all things in between. I’m learning about fatherhood as I go; let’s learn from each other – especially from our mistakes! Stay tuned for my mistakes; I’ll be sure to write about them. I may also throw in a victory or two now and then.

Connect with me on Twitter. I promise I’ll reply to all tweets.

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

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