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The PURPLE Crying Game [Infographic]

Now that I am going to become a new dad for the second time, I have been reflecting a little bit more on what it means to be a good dad. I have this feeling that when you have more than one child, then you are really a dad… As if just having one doesn't count yet.  

cryingbaby

So, I have been readin’ up on some new dad skills that I will have to re-employ come April (it’s been 3 years since my first son was an infant!), and I found some very helpful guidelines about crying. No, not my crying, the baby’s crying. Hey, that gives me an idea – I should write a guide about how to stop parents from crying during the toddler years.  

Anyway, have you ever heard of PURPLE crying? I hadn’t until I cracked open, once again, one of NFI’s Doctor Dad® fathering handbooks. PURPLE is a nice acronym to help you understand the types and times of non-stop crying in infants – the kind that is most frustrating and difficult for parents to deal with.  

P – Peak pattern (crying peaks at around 2 months, then lessens)

U – Unpredictable (crying for long periods can come and go for no reason)

R – Resistant to soothing (the baby may keep crying for long periods)

P – Pain-like look on face

L – Long bouts of crying (crying can go on for hours)

E – Evening crying (baby cries more in the afternoon and evening)*  

Then, of course, there is just routine crying, like when baby is hungry.  

So, how to respond to all these kinds of crying!? First and foremost, babies cry because they need something. Sounds simple, but in the heat of the moment, it is easy to think your baby is crying for no reason, or worse, just to personally annoy you! But once you accept that there is an actual reason for the crying, you can proceed productively.  

Enter the “Crying Baby Flowchart”!

This incredibly helpful diagram takes you through a step-by-step process to determine why your baby is crying and how you can help stop the crying. It comes complete with illustrations and clear instructions to make your new dad life much easier.

Finally, I would be remiss to not mention that you should never shake a baby for any reason. If things are getting way too frustrating, and no one else is around to come in for relief, make sure your baby is safe and then just walk away. Go in the next room. Sit down. Have a cold drink. Your baby is not going anywhere. When your blood pressure has come down a bit, head back in and give things another shot.  

So, do you have any great ideas on how to stop a baby from crying? What worked best for you?

*Learn more about the PURPLE crying program from the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome

For the Busy Parent > Room Renovations Under $100

The following is a post from Kristin Hackler. Kristin is a mother, author and journalist. She is also a regular contributor to eBay on home decoration, DIY and parenting-related topcis. Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.

Even if you loved the style and color of your home when you first moved in, the most neutral of rooms can become eyesores over time. But with all the expenses of food, family and day-to-day living, it's hard enough to scraping together money for a new welcome mat, let alone remaking an entire living space. But, renovating a room doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. In fact, you can do quite a lot for less than $100.

for the busy parent room renovations under $100

Consider some of the following room renovation ideas, some of which cost nothing and others that will only lighten your wallet by a few bucks. You'll be surprised at what just a few simple changes can do.

Painting Outside of the Bucket
ebay paint ideas on a budget for parentPainting is the number one change you can make for the least amount of money, but have you considered going a step further and adding some interest to that new coat of Fisherman's Wharf blue? For a solid matte wall paint, consider adding texture by rolling stripes in a clear glaze or layering crinkled tissue paper between coats of paint for an old world look.

To apply:

  • Paint a small section of wall, then crumple a sheet of tissue paper, unfold it and press it against the wet paint, spreading it out with your fingers.
  • Paint over the tissue paper and repeat with the next section.
  • For added dimension, finish with an antiquing glaze.


What is that Accent?
Add interest around the room with repurposed accent pieces. It not only costs much less to use items picked up used at the thrift store or online, or even found around the home, it also impresses guests to see your creativity at work.

accent ideas from ebay for parents on budget

Some interesting repurposing ideas include:

  • an old crib railing attached to the wall for hanging pictures
  • an old louvered shutter attached to the wall as a letter holder
  • an old wooden ladder attached to the wall as a shelf
  • a wooden ladder as a long shelf by attaching shelving boards across the rungs
  • an antique wooden ironing board as a side table
  • spoons bent into hooks and screwed into to a 1 x 4 board attached to the wall for holding kitchen items
  • thin bookcases turned on their sides for instant benches with cubby space—cover with a strip of foam and decorative fabric for added comfort

Metal Works
From restoring old hardware to adding a touch of color here and there, a couple of small changes can make a big difference in a room. If you have a lot of hardware around your home such as door, cabinet and drawer knobs, hinges, light switches and socket panels, a layer of paint can clean them up quickly with little to no cost. But start with a fresh surface (and you may even prefer the bare look). 

how to remake doorknob ebay for parents on budgetAll you need to remove old paint is:

  • An old crock pot
  • Liquid laundry detergent

If you don't have a crock pot sitting around that you don't use anymore, you can usually find one for close to nothing at a thrift store. To remove the paint from your small hardware items, turn the crock pot on low, add water and a few tablespoons of liquid laundry detergent, and allow the hardware to sit in the solution overnight. In the morning, the paint will slip right off.

If your brasses are too bright, you could also use a matte black spray paint designed to work specifically with metal to turn your door knobs from bright brass to faux iron, or a brass darkening solution to give them an antique look.

Splashes of Color
Wall murals are another way to add a creative touch. Not only can you find free-form nature images that can add interest to a bare corner or wall, you can also use them to create temporary drawing stations for the kids. Removable chalkboards and whiteboards can be added to kids' rooms, kitchens and even the living room without worrying about how to cover it up when you have guests over.

writing on the wall how to make wall kids can write on ebay parent

Wallpaper can also add new life and character to a room, but enough to cover even one wall can get pretty pricey. Instead, you can add interest with small segments of wallpaper in eye-catching areas such as the back panels of bookshelves, the backsplash of a kitchen or framed and placed around the room in repurposed or upcycled frames.

Renovating a room doesn't have to mean shelling out big bucks for a few small changes. Instead, consider what you have and what you can repurpose to make a big difference with small changes.

What are some ways you've found to renovate a room at little to no cost? 

(Video) Film Students + 2 Odysseys = Surprise Film Fest #DadsDoingGood

This is the fifth video in the series featuring dads getting help from the 2014 Honda Odyssey as they "do good" around their communities. We call it #DadsDoingGood.   
honda, dads doing good, life of dad, whit honea

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

Here's a recap of each video by week:

Week 1 > Mobile Library > Watch as the dads load up the Odyssey with books and surprise preschool children.

Week 2 > Lemonade for Charity > A great example of how you, dad, can help educate and serve a much-needed cause in your community. The proceeds from the lemonade stand raised awareness for congenital heart defects.

Week 3 > Little League Surprise > Dads use the 2014 Honda Odyssey to remake a little league field by replacing the pitcher's mound, backstop, & batter's box with help from a contractor, coaches, & players.

Week 4 > Surfing SensationDads bring the Odyssey to the beach, where they help a volunteer group teach kids with cystic fibrosis how to surf. Watch as one child takes her first wave EVER!

Week 5 > The New Drive-In TheaterDads arrive at a film school and with help from two Odysseys, host an extraordinary movie screening to unveil the student films with popcorn, soda and the red-carpet treatment.

Watch the video from NFI's facebook page:

Can't view the video? Click here.

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

Visit NFI's Dads Doing Good page for details and #DadsDoingGood on Facebook and Twitter. 

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

Father-Daughter Bonding: Fears, Myths and Reality

The following is a post from Hugh O. Smith. Hugh is a proud dad, freelance writer and executive at a New York City consulting firm. You can find his blog at hughosmith.com and on Twitter @hughosmith. Interested in blogging a father-son bonding article for us? Read our guest blog guidelines. 

At about 10:00pm on a cold February night I found out I was going to be a father. At 10:01pm, I was a wreck. My biggest concern wasn’t about bringing a baby into our small apartment, or how to pay for the endless procession of stuff a baby needs. It was that I might be a bad father. Every movie or talk show I’d seen with an out-of-control child came back to me in HD. 

Father playing with his happy and smiling baby daughterMy fears intensified a few months later when an ultrasound revealed we were expecting a healthy girl. I was happy she was healthy but the news brought with it a new dimension of worry. What did I know about girls? 

“Perhaps the father’s most difficult challenge today lies in being able to bond with his daughter,” says author Michael Gurian, in The Wonder of Girls.

I knew this all too well. As “only” a dad, could I compete with a mother’s natural bonding mechanisms? Built during pregnancy, this bond would intensify after birth, especially during breastfeeding. According to the New Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding, 2002 American Academy of Pediatrics, “This emotional bond is as vital as the nutritional benefit. Breastfeeding promotes a growing attachment that will continue to play an important role in your baby’s development for years to come.” 

One night as I lay awake my wife stirred as the baby moved and kicked. Instinctively, I placed my hand on her stomach and spoke to my daughter. Amazingly, her restless kicking and moving stopped. That night marked a turning point. I realized that I was far from being “only” the dad. There were things I could do, even at this early stage, to ensure there would be a bond between my daughter and I. It was a huge relief to realize I had only to be myself, love my daughter and the bond would take care of itself.

Bonding myth #1: You’re “only” the dad.

The reality: “A father’s love can make or break a girl,” says Mr. Gurian. A daunting statement made less so when you examine the research. According to Dr. Meg Meeker, author of Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters;

  • Girls who are close to their fathers exhibit less anxiety.
  • Girls with doting fathers are more assertive.
  • Girls with good fathers are less likely to flaunt themselves to seek male attention.

Myth busting strategy: Spend time with her. The proof of how important dads are is on your daughter’s ecstatic face when you return home after a long day and in her hugs when you tell her you love her.


Bonding myth #2:
You have to be perfect.

The reality: You don’t have to be a perfect parent in order to bond. There’ll be times when your child drives you crazy and it seems like you can’t do anything right. Step back and give yourself some breathing room. Realize this is a small blip in the vast radar screen of your lives together. After all, your parents weren’t perfect and you turned out fine.

Myth busting strategy: The intimidating job of parenting becomes easier once you realize mistakes are inevitable. Once I realized that it freed me to be the best father possible and not be so hard on myself.


Bonding myth #3:
I don’t have enough bonding time. Mom gets to stay home with the baby for months and I only get a couple of weeks. I can’t compete.

The reality: Moms and dads often bond on different timetables. While it’s true that the mother-child bond may be facilitated by breastfeeding and a greater amount of time together, the fact is the father-child bond is no less strong or relevant. Bonding takes effort and time, there’s no magic that speeds the process. 

Myth busting strategy: Don’t try to recreate the relationship your daughter has with mom. Dads bring a particular set of skills to the relationship. By creating daddy time early on, your daughter will recognize your unique gifts and come to love them. Walks and errands are great ways to get time alone and serve the dual purpose of giving mom a much-deserved break. Mundane tasks may seem, well, mundane but changing diapers or wiping her face (and yours) when the food goes flying is invaluable in the bonding process.

As dads, we don’t have mom’s soft touch or graceful finesse. We might not know how to make waffles just so, or soothe a boo-boo in mom’s magical way. Often, when we’re out with our daughters, socks are mismatched, colors clash and the hair…well let’s just say it’s good that afros are back in style. Still, a father’s love is no less beautiful. As a dad, I know that I am the most important man in my daughter’s life, her first love, guide, and protector. Our daughters need our strength and wisdom to help navigate the long-winding road from the little girl who squeals with delight when you throw her in the air, to the poised, confident woman she will become. If we support and love them unflinchingly, there is nothing our amazing girls cannot accomplish.

iStockPhoto

6 Tips and More on Talking with Your Teen about Sex

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

As the father of two teen girls (18 and 15), I’ve been focused on doing everything I can to ensure that they avoid sex until they’re adults and, ideally, until they’re married. My primary tactic is, quite simply, to be involved in their lives as much as possible and to love them unconditionally.

dad and teen boy talking

The reason I employ that tactic is not only because I believe in it, I know it’s critical based on research. We’ve known for decades that children who grow up without their fathers are, on average, more likely to become teen parents than are children who grow up with their two, biological, married parents.

A lot of recent research has focused on teens, primarily girls, who have sex with individuals several years older because, as this research shows, children who have sex with much older partners are at increased risk for risky sexual behavior (e.g. having unprotected sex) and poorer emotional health.

A recent report by Child Trends on the latest data on sexual activity among teens confirms these facts and reveals that this is not just an issue for girls, it’s also an issue for boys.

Among young people ages 18 to 24 in 2006-10, ten percent of females and six percent of males reported that their first sexual experience occurred at age 15 or younger with an individual who was three or more years older than they were (“statutory rape”). In terms of the impact of family structure:

  • Male and female youth who were in a family with two biological or adoptive parents at age 14 were less likely than their peers in other family types to report their first sexual encounter was a “statutory rape.”
  • Among young males, four percent of those who lived with two biological or adoptive parents at age 14 reported a “statutory rape” as their first sexual experience, compared with nine percent of males who lived in a step-family, 11 percent of males with a single mother or father, and 13 percent of males in other family structures.
  • The pattern among females is similar, with those who were not living with two biological or adoptive parents at age 14 around three times more likely to have experience a “statutory rape” as their first sexual experience.

Whether you have a teen boy or a teen girl, it’s critical, especially if you are a single parent, to talk with your teen about avoiding sexual activity. There are too many land mines waiting for teens who have sex, especially with partners who are much older.

The good news is that parents have a lot of influence over their teens’ sexual behavior. In fact the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy notes that parents are the most influential factor in teens’ decisions about sex, love, and relationships.

So don’t allow your perception that your teen doesn’t listen to sway your decision about talking with him or her about sex. Another tactic I’ve used is to send a clear message to my girls, since they were very young, that I expect them to delay sex until they’re adults and, ideally, until they’re married. They’ve actually told me they’re glad to know what I expect. 

The Mayo Clinic offers these 6 tips on how to talk with your teen about sex:

      1. Seize the moment. When a TV program or music video raises issues about responsible sexual behavior, use it as a springboard for discussion. Remember that everyday moments—such as riding in the car or putting away groceries—sometimes offer the best opportunities to talk.
      2. Be honest. If you're uncomfortable, say so—but explain that it's important to keep talking. If you don't know how to answer your teen's questions, offer to find the answers or look them up together.
      3. Be direct. Clearly state your feelings about specific issues, such as oral sex and intercourse. Present the risks objectively, including emotional pain, sexually transmitted infections, and unplanned pregnancy. Explain that oral sex isn't a risk-free alternative to intercourse.
      4. Consider your teen's point of view. Don't lecture your teen or rely on scare tactics to discourage sexual activity. Instead, listen carefully. Understand your teen's pressures, challenges, and concerns.
      5. Move beyond the facts. Your teen needs accurate information about sex—but it's just as important to talk about feelings, attitudes, and values. Examine questions of ethics and responsibility in the context of your personal or religious beliefs.
      6. Invite more discussion. Let your teen know that it's okay to talk with you about sex whenever he or she has questions or concerns. Reward questions by saying, "I'm glad you came to me."
image: iStockPhoto

(Video) Dads Teach Kids How to Surf > #DadsDoingGood

This is the fourth video in the series featuring dads getting help from the 2014 Honda Odyssey as they "do good" around their communities. We call it #DadsDoingGood.   
honda dads doing good national fatherhood initiative

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

Here's a recap of the previous videos by week:

Week 1 > Mobile Library > Watch as the dads load up the Odyssey with books and surprise preschool children.

Week 2 > Lemonade for Charity > A great example of how you, dad, can help educate and serve a much-needed cause in your community. The proceeds from the lemonade stand raised awareness for congenital heart defects.

Week 3 > Little League Surprise > Dads use the 2014 Honda Odyssey to remake a little league field by replacing the pitcher's mound, backstop, & batter's box with help from a contractor, coaches, & players.

Week 4 > Surfing SensationDads bring the Odyssey to the beach, where they help a volunteer group teach kids with cystic fibrosis how to surf. Watch as one child takes her first wave EVER!

Watch the video from NFI's facebook page:

Can't view the video? Click here.

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

Visit NFI's Dads Doing Good page for details and #DadsDoingGood on Facebook and Twitter. 

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

(Video) Dads Remake Little League Field > #DadsDoingGood

This is the third video in the series featuring dads getting help from the 2014 Honda Odyssey as they "do good" around their communities. Hence, #DadsDoingGood.   
honda dads doing good community service fatherhood family cars

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

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

Week two featured Lemonade for Charity. This was another great example of how you, dad, can help educate and serve a much-needed cause in your community. The proceeds from the lemonade stand raised awareness for congenital heart defects.

This week, the dads use the 2014 Honda Odyssey to set up a remake a little league field. We call it "Little League Surprise." The dads remake a Little League field by replacing the pitcher's mound, backstop, & batter's box with help from a contractor, coaches, & players. Watch the video from NFI's facebook page:

Can't view the video? Click here.

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

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

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

11 Tips for Balancing Work & Family from the “Extremely Productive”

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

Have you ever marveled at the person who seems to get a ton of work done and still has time for family? You know, the person who seems to "have it all.” The person who excels at work and at home and who even has the time to volunteer for their favorite cause.

ways to manage work and family balance work and family productive productivity how-to I’ve often struggled to balance work and family. That’s right. Even those of us dads who have dedicated their careers to family strengthening face the same challenges as any other dad. We have to toe a fine line of hypocrisy. I remember a day in 2007 when my oldest daughter, who was 12 at the time, was struggling emotionally. She was depressed. I returned home after a week-long trip speaking at a conference and training staff of organizations on how to help fathers be better dads. She started to cry after I walked in the door. We went into the backyard and talked for what seemed like a couple of hours. It took a while, but she finally revealed the source of her pain. It was me. I was traveling too much, and she missed me.  

One of the consequences of being an involved dad is that when you’re not around as often, your children miss you. This was a time when I traveled a lot speaking at conferences and training facilitators on our programs and on how to build capacity to effectively serve fathers. I knew that it was hard on my children and my wife, but I didn’t know just how hard it was.

Fortunately, my daughter had the courage to tell me that I needed to be home more, and I listened. I asked her what she thought was a reasonable amount of time for me to be gone. I negotiated for a maximum number of travel days each month based on her input.  

I’m known for being productive. Some people even tell me that I’m “extremely” productive. (I can only hope I’m just as effective.) I rise by 4:30 AM on the weekdays, work out for an hour to an hour and a half, start work by 6:00 AM, and usually get in a 10-hour day. That schedule allows me to care for myself, get a lot of work done, and still have time for family. I’m fortunate in that I work from home. I don’t have to struggle with long commutes that sap personal and family time. The biggest factor, however, in my ability to balance work and family is a flexible employer.  

Working for a flexible employer is one of many tips for balancing work and family offered by Robert C. Pozen in Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours. (Pozen is one of those people who is an answer to the question I posed at the start of this post. I pale in comparison.)

Here are 11 tips for balancing work and family, a combination of those offered by Pozen and offered in NFI’s 24/7 Dad™ program.  

    1. Look for employers that provide flexibility on when and where you work, and that offer paid leave for childbirth and other life events.
    2. Commit every day to leaving work early enough to have dinner or spend time with your family.
    3. Be assertive to obtain more flexibility. Assure your boss that you will get work done even if you take an hour out of the day to take your child to the doctor.
    4. Show your family commitment at work by displaying things like family photos and your children’s artwork. These displays will show your co-workers and boss that you’re committed to family.
    5. Make career decisions as a family. When you have an opportunity to change jobs or move laterally or up in your company or organization, talk with mom and your children (if your children are old enough) about the new commitments that will come with the opportunity, especially if those commitments will affect family time.
    6. Keep family commitments as sacred as work commitments—even more so. Avoid missing a family commitment because something comes up at work. The more often you keep your family commitments, the more likely your co-workers and your boss will be to respect them.
    7. If you and mom both work outside the home and can’t reduce your office hours (e.g. to spend more time with the children), look to friends and family to help out (e.g. watch the children when they come home from school).
    8. When you are with your family, avoid all but the most critical interruptions from work. Most work issues can wait until the next day.
    9. If you must bring work home, create a separate time and place to do the work. Your mind needs to move from you as a professional to you as a family member.
    10. Create a daily block of time for family called “family prime time.” Turn off your mobile devices, computers, and keep work off-limits during this time.
    11. Create and sign a “family contract.” Have your children and mom sign it, too. Put in writing that you’ll balance success at work with success at home. Read this contract at the start of every week to remind you of your commitment.
image: iStockPhoto

A Must-Watch Video on Texting and Driving

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

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

Can't view the video? Watch it here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch the video: 

Can't view the video? Click here.

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

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

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

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

6 Tips to Avoid Labeling Your Child

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

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

 
label avoid labeling child

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When was the last time you labeled your child?

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3 Family Habits to Start Before Going Back to School

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

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

back to school computer key

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

Here are three key things you can do now:

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

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

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

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

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

6 tips to prepare your kid for college

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What advice did your parents give you about college?

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Parenting for the Next Century

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

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

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

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

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

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

These include (but aren’t limited to):  

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

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

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

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

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

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The Single Dad Apartment Scavenger Hunt

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

singledadapartmenthunt

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

Establish a Budget

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

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

Check out the Neighborhood

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

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

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

Check out Apartment Ratings

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

What to Ask on the Tour

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


Make a List of Your Must-Have Features

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

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

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

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


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