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The Father Factor

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In Theaters Next Friday 9/5: Seth Green, Ashley Judd & Ray Liotta Star in "The Identical"

What happens when your dad wants you to take up "his line of work" but you don't? The Identical is a redemptive movie about a young man, the son of a preacher, who rejects his father’s desire for him to join his work and instead try for a career as a rock singer. It's quirky, it's deep, did I mention it has Ray Liotta in it—and he's a southern preacher?

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About The Identical

In 1936, William and Helen Hemsley welcome identical twin boys into the harsh conditions of the Great Depression. When traveling evangelist Reece Wade reveals that he and his wife cannot have children, William feels prompting to give them one of the infant boys in hopes of that son obtaining a better life.

Despite their very different upbringings, the boys’ shared passion for music causes their lives to unknowingly intersect as they experience a powerful and mysterious connection often felt by twins. Drexel Hemsley becomes a rock and roll legend, while Ryan Wade struggles to find a balance between his love and vision for music and trying to please his adoptive father, Reverend Wade.

This film, spanning from the 1930’s through the 1970’s, is a captivating journey about the restoration and the reconciliation of a family broken apart by culture, devotion, creed and tradition.

As the adopted son, Ryan, struggles to pursue his dream and rise to stardom, he finds love, pain, success and failure, and ultimately uncovers a hidden family secret that reveals who he really is. It's a interesting story about a family restored, and a life discovered. 

This film stars Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Seth Green, and Joe Pantoliano alongside Blake Rayne. NFI will write more about his film in the coming days related to fatherhood lessons that you can use for yourself and for the dads around you.

Check Out The Trailer of The Identical!

Be reminded of just how vital a father's words are—for good or for ill—when it comes to finding your way in life and living on purpose. For more details, visit here

Follow The Identical:

Download "The Ultimate Guide to Connecting with your Child"! 

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This free eBook is designed to help you and your children become closer and more connected. Use it for yourself or to help other dads.

In this free eBook we share:

  • The best questions to ask your school-aged child to get him or her talking
  • Great questions you can ask your teenager
  • Questions you can ask yourself to be sure you're doing all you should to be a great dad

Use this eBook for ideas to help you and the dads around you connect in a meaningful way.

Off to College: An Open Letter to My Son

Son,

Today is the DAY.  The day you have looked forward to ever since you first heard the word and the day that your mom and I have eyed with apprehension. The DAY that you go off to COLLEGE!

Did you know that according to Wikipedia in ancient Rome a collegium was a club or society, a group of people living together under a common set of rules? I point that out for two reasons. 

First, because it implies that college is more than a place of higher education…it is a place of shared experience with its own set of rules and behaviors. Secondly, that you should never, ever use Wikipedia as a source for anything over the next four years.

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With the wistfulness of a man who thinks this day has arrived way too soon, I would like to give you words of wisdom that will see you through the experience. But this day not only marks another significant step in your life, it is significant for me as well. While you become a bona fide college student, I become officially middle-aged.

So, I don’t have words of wisdom as much as I have things that stick in my craw...pet-peeves if you will. You have heard these from time to time your whole life, but I think each could apply to you and the college experience:

  1. Give it 110% - this cliché that is usually spouted by athletes when talking about their level of effort is impossible to reach. While many things can exceed 100% (the national debt is a good example), effort is not one of them. A person can only give all..not all plus 10%.I don’t have to really explain that to you, since you are a Math Major, but I do want to remind you not to put too much pressure on yourself. You are about to be challenged academically in a way beyond anything you have experienced. That is a good thing. Don’t get discouraged if you struggle at first. You will eventually get it. I have complete faith in your ability. Also, don’t over-extend yourself. There will be many things competing for your time and attention. Remember that you can only give 100% of your effort. So learn to say “no” and choose wisely how you spend your time.
  2. You can’t miss it – people often end a dissertation on directions with this phrase which is senseless, because you obviously CAN miss it, which is part of why you need directions in the first place. A college campus is a great place to experience brand new things beyond the classroom. So don’t miss out on those opportunities. Go to an opera. Sign up for intramural water polo. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Eat some sushi. Look for ways (legal, sane ways that is) to expand your world and experience new things. Otherwise you might miss it.
  3. No-Brainer – this is a phrase folks add when talking about something they think is so obvious it requires no thought. I say, “who are they to tell us what we should consider?” You are about to be bombarded with many who might tempt you to disengage your brain and go with the flow. The values and morals you were raised with will be challenged in many subtle ways. You will have to make decisions on your own about a whole range of things. We trust that you will make wise ones. Ones that reflect who you are as a person. Don’t let anyone tell you not to think or what to think. Use your brain and decide for yourself. 

So, there you have it. Three pet-peeves from your middle-aged dad that you may or may not claim as your own. You are welcome to borrow them if you can use them…kinda like that electric razor we share. (which by the way I couldn’t find this morning…is that by chance packed with the rest of your stuff?)

Love,

Dad

image: iStockPhoto 

Football, Family, and Fatherhood: Learn About When The Game Stands Tall

Inspired by a true story, When The Game Stands Tall shows the real-life De La Salle High School's incredible football winning streak and exactly what created the victories. This film is about football, but make no mistake about it, this film is about fatherhood. Let it inspire you to be a better leader for your home and for those around you.

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It's in theaters now, I'll write more about the leadership lessons from this film in an upcoming post. But first, you have to see the trailer! Coaches and parents who watch will be motivated by being reminded of the real reason you put in the time and effort to lead your children—in good times and bad.

“Winning a lot of football games is doable. Teaching kids there’s more to life? That’s hard.” —Coach Bob Ladouceur in the movie
When The Game Stands Tall

About When The Game Stands Tall

Inspired by the true story, When The Game Stands Tall brings to life the incredible winning streak of the De La Salle High School football team: 151 straight victories over 12 years. All along the way, as Coach Bob Ladouceur builds his seemingly invincible national powerhouse, he has emphasized purpose and significance rather than streaks and titles.

But when real-life adversity leaves the team reeling, the Spartans must decide if the sacrifice, commitment, and teamwork they have always trusted in can rebuild what is now disintegrating around them.

Get a Sneak Peek of When The Game Stands Tall

Check out these scenes from the new family film that show the real-life world of coaching, football, and leadership.

 

Endorsements

"WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL has the best football action I have ever seen in a movie—and I have seen a lot of great football movies over the years! Coaches, players, parents, and fans are all going to stand up and cheer for this powerful film."
—Bobby Bowden, Retired Florida State head football coach

"When I saw WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL, I thought of a great outline of what high school athletics should be. It shouldn’t be about the statistics, it shouldn’t be about the touchdowns—it should be about the team and the effort that a team puts forth together."
—Amani Toomer, Super Bowl champion and former De La Salle receiver

See more endorsements here.

Follow When The Game Stands Tall!

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Become a Double Duty Dad Today! 

In this film, we see Coach Lad is what we at NFI calll a "Double Duty Dad". With 24 million children growing up in America without their biological father in the home, you can make a difference:

1) to a fatherless child in your circle of influence or
2) mentor another dad.

Your commitment to be a Double Duty Dad will change everything. Visit here to get our helpful eBook.

Teens, Sex, Fathers, Marriage: All That ‘N a Baby Carriage

Some would say the title of this post is just a bad plan. But what can’t be argued are the facts:

  • Teens are having babies.
  • Teen boys are becoming fathers.
  • Children are growing up in homes without their fathers.
  • Marriage is an option.

The topics of teen pregnancy, teen fathers, and marriage are of the utmost importance to NFI -- particularly because of how closely they align with father absence and child well-being.

According to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, in Why It Matters: Teen Childbearing, Single Parenthood, and Father Involvement, “…teen mothers are at high risk for single parenthood and especially high risk of parenthood without the biological father in the home”. Further, “Reducing teen pregnancy can improve child well-being by in­creasing the chances that children are born into two-parent families and, in particular, families with married parents.”

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Research shows that children have better outcomes when they grow up in a home with two married parents. Studies further indicate that while father involve­ment is important, where the father lives is also important. In one study, the benefit of increasing father involvement was more than twice as great when the father lived with the child than when he lived elsewhere.

But when it comes to teens:

  • The majority of teen mothers (88% in 2010) were unmarried when their child was born.
  • Of those teen mothers who were not married when their child was born, only about one-third (34%) went on to marry by the time their child reached age five.
  • Furthermore, more than one-third (38%) of teens who were married when their child was born split up by the time their child reached age five, and 42% of those who were cohabiting when their child was born split up by then.

In addition, teen mothers living apart from the father of their child report that half of the nonresident fathers met with their child in the past month, and, among those who did, about half visited at least weekly. Recent research also shows that father absence is actually the cause for children having poor outcomes related to a range of physical, mental, and social issues – compared to when their father is involved in their lives

Interestingly, with regard to intergenerational cycles - teen boys who live with both parents initiate sex at an older age compared to teen boys whose father is absent (the former, helping to prevent future, unplanned, teen pregnancies.)

So, it seems decent to conclude that by working to help teens make wise decisions about sex and pregnancy, and how to participate in healthy relationships, we will also, by default, work to reduce father absence and increase the proportion of children who grow up with involved, responsible and committed fathers – all for the benefit of current (or future!) children.

BAM! A match made in heaven.

Looking for programs to work with teens who are, and who are not, already parents? NFI recently launched two new curricula for teens: Download samples of Love Notes and Relationships Smarts Plus.

Peanut Butter Cheerios #HowToDad is Spot-On Portrayal of Fathers

This article originally appeared in The Huffington Post. 

A little more than two months ago, I posted an article on the horrible portrayal of fathers in TV ads by Lowe's and LG. As I noted in that article, the Lowe's ad in particular was one of the worst I've seen in my nearly 15 years of work at National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI).

As fortune would have it, not soon after the release of those ads, General Mills Canada launched a web-based campaign for Peanut Butter Cheerios anchored by a series of ads that portray fathers in a completely different, positive light. Known as the #HowToDad campaign, it might be the best father-focused campaign for a consumer brand I've seen. The fact that General Mills Canada produced a series of ads within a broader web-based campaign is very important, but more on that later.

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The Lowe's ad is, unfortunately, all too common in its portrayal of a dad as an irresponsible, untrustworthy, incompetent adolescent whose children must be rescued by a responsible, trustworthy, competent mom. What makes this ad and the LG ad so insidious is couching the portrayal of the dads within humor because, these companies reason, the use of humor makes it perfectly fine to reinforce this notion of dads as poor parents, all in the name of selling products to moms. (As I pointed out in the article, this approach is disrespectful of moms as well.) Indeed, when NFI contacted Lowe's to voice our disapproval of their ad, Lowe's simply said they were sorry that we took the ad the wrong way, that their portrayal of the dad was all in fun and meant no harm, and that they had no intention of pulling the ad. Interestingly, we didn't ask them to pull the ad. Perhaps they were a bit defensive given their receipt of a petition signed by NFI and other organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada that called Lowe's out on the ad. (For details on the petition, see my previous article.)

At any rate, the #HowToDad campaign turns the tables by showing that dads are competent parents. The campaign transforms Peanut Butter Cheerios into the "Official Cereal of Dadhood." In doing so, General Mills Canada recognizes that the company doesn't have to denigrate dads to sell a product. This campaign reflects the growing influence of dads as moms' partners in raising children in all aspects of domestic life. Dads have taken on a steadily increasing share of the parenting load in recent decades. Dads spend more time than ever with their children generally, grocery and retail shopping for the family, and doing housework (e.g. cooking and cleaning). Dads are also more focused than ever on the desire to balance work and family. Indeed, they're often more conflicted than moms in this regard.

In addition to the overall portrayal of fathers, what I really appreciate is how General Mills Canada uses humor to portray fathers in a positive light -- a stark rebuke to the use of humor in ads like those of Lowe's and LG. I also appreciate that the campaign uses social media to share this positive portrayal across multiple channels used by people of all ages. The #HowToDad campaign is a comprehensive web-based campaign that, in addition to the ads, includes static images, infographics, and videos (e.g. of dads doing inspirational activities with their children) that visitors can share across multiple social media platforms.

It's this kind of campaign for a consumer brand that can make a difference in reinforcing the vital role played by dads. Because consumer brands are bellwethers of popular culture, they have a huge impact on cultural norms including those around parenting. That's why, in the coming weeks, NFI will present a National Fatherhood Initiative Fatherhood Award to General Mills Canada. It's vital that we recognize positive portrayals of dads wherever we see them and call out companies that do dads, moms and children a disservice. Join me in #HowToDad.

This article originally appeared in The Huffington Post.

Reminder to Mom and Dad: 18 Years Go By Fast

This summer our family has been on a journey. Although it is a positive one with so much to look forward to, I've finally realized that this journey also feels a little too much like a death. For whether the person goes swiftly and easily or slowly and laboriously, in the end, they are gone and it all feels like it went by far too fast.

Thus far I think I've handled things pretty well. I held it together through the rites and passages that have defined this past year:

  • a very emotional ending to his last high school soccer season;
  • a paparazzi-like moment snapping pictures the night of prom;
  • his beautiful graduation ceremony in the very location I had graduated from thirty years prior.

All of it I've taken in stride. Until now.

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We are now on the eve of our son's departure and I'm beginning to lose it. His already early arrival at college for soccer tryouts has become even earlier by pre-tryout two -a-day workouts hosted by the captains of the team. "What?! Are you kidding me?!" was my rational response to the suggestion. Surely soccer does not trump a mother's final wish for a few more moments with her first born son. But apparently it does and the very thing that has caused so much maturity, growth and focus in my son's life, once again robs our family of a few more dinners together, a few more moments of laughter, a few more very precious memories. 

I assumed we would be making the 12-hour trek to his new school together. Instead, a Megabus will snatch my son away and my husband and I will travel with all his stuff a week later. No son to converse with, simply his new bedding and towels, his clothes and, in his words, a drug store full of medicine (ibuprofen and cold medicine to be precise). Instead of a few final conversations on the trip, we will merely act as taxi driver for his belongings.

Regardless of the unusual method of transport, however, we planned it this way. From the moment he's been born we have been in a determined effort to equip him well enough for this journey. The years of admonishing him to brush his teeth, get dressed, go to school, go to church, put his dishes in the dishwasher, eat healthy, go to bed at a decent hour; it was all very purposeful. And then there were the years of lessons: how to read, write and study; how to clean a toilet and mow a lawn; how to say thank you and converse with adults. It was all with a purpose in mind. He is ready to achieve its purpose and it is good.

But even though it is all so good, he's leaving all the same. The grief is palpable and the world in which one family resides under one roof is left behind. I grieve for the younger siblings. I grieve for my husband who has invested so much time and effort to raise a hard-working man and I grieve for me, his mother. I'm so glad he has the privilege of going away to college and of playing soccer but in the end he'll still be gone and whether it be a few months or a few days, it's time for him to leave and there is simply no easy way to say goodbye. It just went by far too fast.

Experienced parents: what's one tip you would give younger parents to help them cherish the moments they have with their children?

Not ready for school to start? Try these previous posts:

 image: iStockPhoto

Balance Work & Family: Be a Better Husband & Father with Less Effort

Creating Good Habits Makes It Easier to Be an Effective Parent and Partner

One of the most important aspects of being a good parent and partner is being consistent and reliable. Doing well once can be a great thing. Doing well constantly so that your wife can rely on you is a much greater success. As a parent, “saving the day” is a small accomplishment compared to avoiding the need to do so. To use an analogy–it is better to never run out of gas than to constantly run out of gas within a few blocks of a station.

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As a working father, I am often mentally immersed in my work. Doing well at work pays the bills and sets the stage for future earnings that can make my family’s life better. Like many fathers, however, my commitment to a better tomorrow can get in the way of a better today. NFI recently wrote about protecting your family's financial safety, while I'm interested in all things related to fatherhood, sometimes, it helps me to not only think of the big-picture, but it's helpful to think of the daily picture as well. 

For example, my concern about a presentation that may have lasting impact can explain why I failed to make a phone call that I had agreed to make or why I left crib sheets in the washer rather than remember to dry them. Those mistakes are temporary, but their cumulative impact changes the way that my wife runs her life out of fear that she cannot count on me.

Rather than committing significant time to worrying about all of the little things that I may have forgotten at home, I need to use a simpler tactic to do those things that must be done over and over again. I need to create the mental “ping” that my car gives me when I have 40 miles left before I am stranded. That tactic - that “ping” - is habit. Turning certain responsibilities into habit means that you are more reliable and spend less time “saving the day” (or “saving your bacon”).

As I illustrate in my book Covering Your Bases: Forty Simple Plays to Improve Life for Your Stay-At-Home Spouse habits that take just a few seconds and minimal effort can have enormous impact. During my first few years of work, I found myself forgetting something useful (money clip, phone, checkbook, ID badge) about once per week.Eventually, I created a mental checklist that I went through every morning. My list was only seven items long, but if something was missing I knew it before I left.

Committing a number of low-effort/high-impact tasks to habit or making them part of a checklist will make most fathers more effective and save them considerable stress. Fielding a phone call about the fact that there are no clean baby bottles takes more time and energy than programming yourself to be sure that the dishwasher is clean or running when you leave in the morning.

According to author Stephen R. Covey, “Habit is the intersection of knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do), and desire (want to do).” When competing priorities of work and parenthood squeeze your time, I believe that there is a fourth consideration – bandwidth (how much one can do). The ability to be both a star employee and fantastic parent can demand all of our focus for long periods of time. Occasional failures or omissions are more common than most of us realize. However, some people’s result in more harm than others.In many cases it is not about whether you fail but about what particular mistakes you make.

As noted above and throughout Covering Your Bases, the biggest cost of mistakes can be the time spent dealing with them. The aftermath of a small error can be larger than the mistake itself and result in both wasted time and a negative attitude that further suppresses your productivity. By making the small, repeatable tasks in your life part of a routine, you will find that you avoid not only the consequences of your mistakes but a prolonged drag on your productivity and attitude.

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How Safe is Your Family?

Life is full of unknowns - focus on what’s controllable.

As a dad, you worry about your family’s safety. That includes physical, spiritual, and emotional safety. But way too many dads unknowingly risk their family’s financial safety. The good news is, you can change that—and it’s simpler than you might think!

NFI-Safeguards_500x500_bpfOCHD073014.2(2)To get you started, brightpeak financial put together a free eBook, “How to Protect Your Family Financially.” Download it now.

The book contains important content, questions, and checklists to help make it easy.  

Consider four major categories of uncontrollable events. Realizing that these events happen and knowing how to plan for them can greatly reduce the hardship you and your family may experience if they were to happen. 

1) Unexpected Expenses include events like your car breaking down or a water heater needing to be replaced.  

2) Accident, illness, or injury that requires medical care or attention. One out of every 4 Americans in the workforce will experience an accident, illness or injury that leaves them unable to work for three months or more (Council for Disability Awareness, Disability Statistics, March 2013).

3) Job Loss. One out of every 2 people will experience job loss at some point during their working years, often through no fault of their own (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Projections, 2010-2020).

4) You or your spouse dying while children still depend on you, financially. The probability of death for men between the age of 35 and 65 is 18%. That’s 1 in 6. For women in the same age range its 11%, or 1 in 10. (Milliman, The Changing Face of Mortality Risk in the United States, 2007). 

Want to learn more? Download the free eBook now!  

brightpeak financial is a division of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, a membership organization of Christians, created to help young families build financial strength so they may live life with confidence and generosity. Learn more about brightpeak financial hereThrivent Financial for Lutherans is located in Appleton, WI 54919-0001.

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How Much Do You Know About the Rights of Unmarried Dads?

If you've kept up with this blog, you know that more children than ever are being born to unmarried parents. We know this fact well at National Fatherhood Initiative as we field a number of calls every month from unmarried parents (dads and moms) looking for information on the rights of unmarried dads who often don't have custody (joint or sole) of their children.

how much do you know about the rights of unmarried dadsIf you work with fathers, I'll bet that many if not most of them fall into this category. Unfortunately, most unmarried, non-custodial dads don't know their rights when it comes to their children. That's why I was so pleased to learn about The Rights of Unmarried Fathers, a comprehensive listing of these fathers' rights in all 50 states available for free download from the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

This resource describes, for each state, the:

  • Legal definition of a father
  • Paternity registry
  • Alternate means to establish paternity
  • Required information to establish paternity

It also describes:

  • How to revoke a claim to paternity
  • How to access information on the paternity registry

Because some of the unmarried, non-custodial dads you serve might be involved in the child welfare system, I encourage you to pair this resource with Finding Your Way: Guides for Dads in Child Protection Cases, a series of free, downloadable guides for fathers (and that you can give to fathers) that help dads understand their rights and responsibilities, their role in and out of court, how to work with their lawyer, and more. Together, these resources will help you educate unmarried, non-custodial dads so they can be as involved, responsible, and committed as possible in the lives of their children.

How much do you know about the rights of unmarried dads? How much do the unmarried dads you serve know about their rights?

image: iStockPhoto

 

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

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

What was the best advice your dad ever gave you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out a few excerpts from the book, below:


CHARACTER & VIRTUE

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

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

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

CONFLICT & ADVERSITY

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

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

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

FAITH

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

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

PRACTICAL LIFE

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

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

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

LOVE

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

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

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

PARENTING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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10 Ways To Be a Better Dad

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

1) Respect Your Children's Mother

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

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

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

3) Listen First, Talk Second

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

4) Discipline With Love

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

5) Be A Role Model

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

6) Be A Teacher

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

7) Eat Together As A Family

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

8) Read To Your Children

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

9) Show Affection

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

10) Realize A Father's Job Is Never Done

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

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

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

image: iStockPhoto

What's Mom Got to Do With It?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Does this Happen?

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

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

Why Does it Happen?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download your free sample of "Mom As Gateway" here

image: creatas

Day 91: My Journey from Obese to Overweight #P90X3Dads

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

p90x p90x3 no excuses p90x3dads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I Have Learned...

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

How I've Changed...

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

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

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

The Surprising Facts about Payments of Child Support

As an observer of trends in attempts at the federal, state, and local levels to engage non-custodial fathers in the lives of their children, one of the trends I'm most pleased to have witnessed is the trend in the realization that most low-income non-custodial dads are "dead broke" instead of "deadbeat."

surprising facts about child support paymentsNevertheless, it's important to continue to ensure that the children of non-custodial dads have access to financial resources. Enforcement and collection of child support has been the primary focus of the federal government and states in this regard. From 2001-2012, the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement reports a whopping increase of 50 percent in child support collections from $21 billion (yes, that's with a "b") to $31.6 billion. Some of the tactics that states and local jurisdictions have employed to increase child support collection among low-income non-custodial dads include: 

  • Making child support payments more affordable.
  • Reducing and, in some cases, forgiving arrears.
  • Increasing access and visitation.
  • Providing parenting classes so that fathers can become more involved in the lives of their children.

Some states, such as Texas, have gone so far as to reconfigure their entire approach to collecting child support by reorganizing the agencies that collect such payments to focus on providing an array of services that strengthen families. In these states, the financial resources provided by non-custodial fathers is seen as only one of the assets that their children need to thrive. 

But what about non-custodial mothers? I've rarely heard mention of the importance of collecting child support from these non-custodial parents (NCPs). Federal and state efforts include collecting payments from non-custodial mothers because they are NCPs, but there is a dearth of efforts that specifically address them. Is that because:

  • There aren't that many of these NCPs to worry about so that the amount of child support they owe is inconsequential?
  • Custodial dads don't need as much financial help as custodial moms?
  • These NCPs are, as some people might assume, more likely to pay child support because they're moms?

Do the answers to these questions suggest that it's not worth the effort to collect what these moms owe even if it would help custodial dads provide adequate financial resources to their children?

The answer to the first two questions is "no." According to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau, custodial dads were owed $3.7 billion in child support in 2011. While that pales in comparison to the 31.7 billion owed to custodial moms in 2011, it's not an insignificant amount, and it's certainly not insignificant from the perspective of the custodial dads and their children. The rate of poverty among custodial-mom families was almost double that of custodial-dad families. Nevertheless, a significant proportion of custodial-dad families (16.2 percent) lived in poverty while even more were undoubtedly "poor."  

The answer to the third question is where these data get really interesting and, depending on your view when you started to read this post, surprising. A slightly lower percentage of custodial dads (41.4 percent) received all of their child support compared to custodial moms (43.6 percent). Moreover, a significantly higher percentage of custodial dads didn't receive any payments (32 percent) compared to custodial moms (25.1 percent). It's striking that it's as much of a challenge to collect payments from non-custodial moms as it is to collect them from non-custodial dads. The likelihood of paying child support is, at best, gender-neutral.

It should be clear by now that the answer to the final question is a resounding "no." It's worth the effort to collect child support from NCPs regardless of gender. Organizations at the federal, state, and local levels should develop, test, and implement strategies and tactics effective at collecting child support from non-custodial moms and dads while acknowledging that some of these strategies and tactics might need to differ based on gender.

What is your agency doing to ensure that children receive financial resources regardless of which parent has custody?

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

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

dads big book of tips for moms night out

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

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

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

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

1) staying inside the house and

2) venturing outside of the house. 

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

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

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

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

momsnightout

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Toast the bread.

3. Let child spoon sauce on bread

4. Add mozzerella.

5. Dash some parmesan on top.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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