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The Father Factor


Parenting Tips Inspired by Military Fatherhood Award Finalist CPO Patrick Mondragon

The end of voting for our 2013 Military Fatherhood Award finalists is fast approaching. If you haven't had a chance to watch the videos of the four finalists and vote for your favorite, check it out on Facebook now!

This week, we're shining the spotlight on CPO Patrick Mondragon with some tips from his experience as a dad that you can apply in your own family.

Chief Petty Officer Patrick Mondragon, U.S. Navy

  • CPO Patrick Mondragon, Military Fatherhood Award finalistCurrently serving at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California
  • Father of two kids, daughter age 9 and son age 8

Read CPO Mondragon's nomination

Tip 1) Spend one-on-one time with each child
In addition to spending time as a family, CPO Mondragon spends one-on-one time with both his son and his daughter. He takes his daughter to an annual Father-Daughter Dance, goes on field trips with the children's classrooms, and does other special things with both kids. Remember that each of your children need different things from you as a dad. Make a commitment to spend regular one-on-one time with each kid.

Tip 2) Make special days memorable for your kids
Before deploying, CPO Mondragon recorded videos his kids could watch on Valentine's Day, Christmas, their first day of school, or when they've had a bad day. He also creates a countdown activity calendar leading up to Christmas. Think about creative traditions you can add to your family's holidays. And don't forget to recognize the other big moments in your child's life, like losing the first tooth, starting school, or making the varsity team.

Tip 3) Make family dinners a priority
CPO Mondragon gets to work an hour early so that he can make sure he's always home for dinner with his family. Not every family is able to have dinner together every night, but as much as you are able, take time to have a meal together. NFI has some great ideas for how to use family meals as a opportunity to connect with your kids.

Tip 4) Read with your children
While he was deployed, CPO Mondragon served as the United Through Reading coordinator to help the sailors record videos for their children of themselves reading books aloud so that the kids could still have their dad read to them even while he was gone. For most civilian dads, bedtime stories don't require a DVD player - just grab a book and sit down together! Check out NFI's suggestions for investing in your children through reading.

Tip 5) Be strong for your family in the challenging times
When his children were very young, CPO Mondragon's wife experienced a life-threating medical situation and was hospitalized for an extended period of time. He had to assume full responsibility for their two toddlers and take care of her - and continue to fulfill his military duties. Your family's challenges will be unique, but your hard work, leadership, and love are key to helping your kids feel secure and grow through the situation. 

Vote Daily for  NFI's Military Fatherhood Award!
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Parenting Tips Inspired by Military Fatherhood Award Finalist Ssgt Jorge Roman

We're in the last few days of voting for the Military Fatherhood Award! Make sure you vote everyday for your favorite finalist! Each dad has great stories and we are grateful for their service to our country.

Even if you're not in the military, you can be inspired in practical ways by our Military Fatherhood Award finalists. This week, we're featuring SSgt Jorge Roman.

Staff Sergeant Jorge Roman, U.S. Army

  • Ssgt Jorge Roman, Military Fatherhood Award finalistCurrently serving at Fort Stewart, Georgia
  • Father of two daughters, ages 9 and 8, and expecting another

Read Ssgt Roman's nomination

Tip 1) Make everyday experiences learning opportunities

The Roman family enjoys being outside, and Ssgt Roman is always looking for opportunities to teach his daughters about nature, bugs, and plants. He also shares his love for art with his daughters by painting and making crafts with them. A great way for you to bond with your kids is to share your interests and look for teachable moments in the daily activities of life.

Tip 2) End every day on a positive note

Ssgt Roman and his wife tuck the girls into bed every night by reading a story or singing a song together. Even when he was deployed, he joined the family for bedtime by telephone as often as he could. Depending on the age of your children, a bedtime story might not be your family's evening routine. And, there will be days when you have to discipline your children or when your teens want to assert their independence.  However, make a commitment to end every day on a positive note with your family. 

Tip 3) Turn the phone off for family time

Ssgt Roman turns his phone on silent or off during dinner and other family times. The family knows that sometimes he has to answer the call of duty, but he is committed to not letting work interrupt his time with his family. Check out NFI's tips on how to turn off your phone and establish balance between work and family.

Tip 4) Invest in other kids who need a father figure

One of Ssgt Roman's colleagues in the Army is a single mom with four children. Ssgt Roman brings her kids home from school when he picks up his daughters, invites the children to play with his kids, and tosses a ball around with the son. He makes an effort to be a positive male role model for these children. NFI calls this being a Double Duty Dad. You probably know kids whose dads are not as involved or are absent from their lives and can be a positive influence in their life in simple but profound ways.

Tip 5) Know what is really important to pass on to your kids

Ssgt Roman is a first generation American. He didn't grow up with a lot of money. He is passing on the "American dream" to his daughters with the emphasis not on material things but on spending time as a family and instilling good values. As a dad, know that your relationship with your family is the real legacy you pass on.


Vote Daily for  NFI's Military Fatherhood Award!

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Parenting Tips Inspired by MFA Finalist Ssgt Charlie Linville

As we encourage you to vote for our 2013 Military Fatherhood Award™ finalists through May 12th, we're sharing tips inspired by the finalists that you can us with your family, even if you aren't in the military.

This week, we hightlight Ssgt Charlie Linville.

MFA13 Linville5 good resized 600Staff Sergeant Charlie Linville, U.S. Marine Corps

  • Currently serving at Balboa Naval Medical Center Wounded Warrior Battalion in San Diego, CA
  • Father of two daughters, ages 5 and 2

Read Ssgt Charlie Linville's nomination

Tip 1) Connect with Your Kids Through Challenges.
Ssgt Linville sustained injuries in Afghanistan and had his right leg amputated, yet that hasn't stopped him from playing with his daughters, taking them to fun places, and being involved in their extracurricular activities. His experience is not something most dads have to deal with, but you have other obstacles that can make it challenging to interact with your children. Whether those challenges are physical, geographical, or related to busy schedules, make an intentional choice to put your kids first and invest time with them, even if other factors make that difficult.

Tip 2) Communication is Vital.
While deployed, Ssgt Linville used modern technology such as Skype to stay connected with his daughters, but he also mailed them hand-written letters and brought them home gifts from his deployment. You can do the same thing while business traveling. Those real indications of your love will mean everything to your kids!

Tip 3) Model persistence and Hard Work.
Despite his injuries and daily pain, Ssgt Linville chooses to smile and spend time with his daughters doing their favorite activities. Linville understands the importance of teaching his daughters that they can accomplish anything in life. Your example of handling obstacles and difficulties will leave an impression on your kids and will prepare them to take on challenges with a good attitude.

Tip 4) Serve Your Community.
Ssgt Linville spends time talking with kids who are struggling with their dads' deployment and invests in other wounder warriors and their families, even through something as simple as babysitting their children. As a dad, your unique experiences will equip you to encourage and help other kids, dads, and families. Don't discount the impact of inviting another child to join your family for an activity or offering childcare for a couple who needs a night out.

Tip 5) Value Every Moment.
Because of Ssgt Linville's combat experiences and injuries, he knows that life is short and he makes sure to hug his daughters just a little longer every day. Even if your family never faces a life-threatening situation like military combat, your kids will grow up all too fast. Fathering is a challenging journey, but make the most of the time you have right now and enjoy every moment. Get those hugs in early and often!

Vote Daily for  NFI's Military Fatherhood Award!

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On Safety and Similarities with Our Kids

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

I was born in 1976, which means I had the honor of seeing Mr. Mom a number of times over the years. One of Michael Keaton’s more hilarious roles (you may disagree, but something about that movie catches my funny bone just right), the 1983 film had so many great ‘80s actors in it that it makes your head want to explode.  

best things in life arent things medium resized 600One of my favorite parts of the movie is when Michael Keaton’s character, Jack, finally gets one of his sons to give up his favorite blanket, or ‘Woobie’ as it’s referred to in the movie.  It’s a hilarious scene in which is son, Kenny, looks at Jack after he’s handed over his blanket and says, ‘Can I have a moment to myself please?’ After all, Kenny took his Woobie everywhere for years.  

This scene went through my head the other day as I realized that I’m not that much unlike Kenny. Why you ask?   

I have a sweatshirt that by all accounts is now 20 years old. No holes, no stains, no logos… just a plain black sweatshirt. I wear it once or twice every other week, and to this day it stands as one of my favorites.  

I drove my car for 180K miles and for 11 years, and as much as I like cars, it was hard to sell it. During a particularly rough period of my life, that car was one of few constants, and the logical side of my brain had a hard time coping with the fact that I was spending more in repairs than the car was worth. I knew that meant I had to get rid of it, but it wasn’t easy.  

I’m not a fan of things, to be honest. I like quality over quantity. I’d rather have 10 really nice things than 100 average things. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have my 20-year-old sweatshirt. Or that getting rid of my car wasn’t truly difficult.   

We all have our Woobies. It’s just human nature. Things we gravitate to. Things we hold onto. Things that have value well beyond what someone might pay us for them.   

And so do our kids.   

Our kids teach us so many things. As they are constantly growing, learning, and developing, they hold onto those things that make them feel safe and that are dependable. They know that their favorite blanket, teddy bear, or pacifier is going to make things better, and they latch to those.  

Are we that different as dads and adults? We’re still growing, learning, and developing. We don’t know everything. Things around us exist that we don’t have the answers to. So we look for ways, and things, to keep us safe. We have our favorite sweatshirt or car because we all need something that reminds us that things will be OK.  

The next time you’re being Dad, talking with or watching or playing with your kids, and you see those elements playing out with them, think to yourself about how you can help each other be safe and comfortable. Instead of throwing out your old sweatshirt, or disposing of the Woobie too soon (we all know that eventually they might have to go), maybe revel in the similarities between you and your child.  

Then throw on your favorite sweatshirt, get under their favorite Woobie, and spend some quality time getting to know each other. The safety then lies with your relationship, not the ‘things.’ And the world will be a much better place when we all feel safe with the people around us rather than the things around us.  

What's something you/your spouse/kids have held on to for too long?!

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photo credit: Lili Vieira de Carvalho

Parenting Tips Inspired by MFA Finalist Major Kevin Billups

NFI invites the nation to help select the 2013 recipient of the Military Fatherhood Award™ by voting for our four finalists on Facebook. These dads are inspirational examples of involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood and we are grateful for their service to the country.

As we encourage people to vote for the finalists over the next four weeks, we'll share practical tips inspired by the finalists that you can apply with your child. This week, we're shining the spotlight on Major Kevin Billups.

billups resized 600Major Kevin Billups, U.S. Air Force 

  • Currently serving at Tyndale AFB, FL
  • Father of three children

Read Maj. Billups' nomination page

#1 Get involved in your child's activities.
Major Billups serves as a Cub Scout leader in his son's troop. He helps his son learn the material in the Cub Scout handbook and work toward the achievements required for advancement. Being involved in your child's activities allows you to spend more time with your child, get to know your child's friends, and encourage your child to develop skills and interests. Whether it's a Scout troops, sports team, school or church activities, or other extracurricular activities, take an extra hour a week to be part of something your child is doing.

#2 Find ways to connect with your child.
When Major Billups was deployed, his son packed his favorite toy dinosaur in his dad's luggage. Maj. Billups took the dinosaur on all his flights and sent pictures home of the dinosaur accompanying him throughout the day. The dinosaur gave his son a fun way to see what Dad did while he was away. If you travel for work, you can do something similar. No matter what your job entails, find fun ways for your child to identify with what you do on a daily basis.

#3 Involve your child in household chores.
As is the case with most families, much of the Billups time is spent apart at work and school. Maj. Billups involves the kids in everday tasks and chores so that they can spend more time together. This also enables him to teach the kids responsibility. Your kids, no matter how old they are, can also help around the house. Identify age-appropriate tasks that your child can do or find ways to let him help you in your projects.

#4 Share your fathering experience with other dads.
Maj. Billups is an instructor for fathering classes that teach new dads how to support their pregnant wives and care for their newborn children. You don't have to teach a fathering class to pass on your experience to other dads. Take a younger dad out for coffee and talk about your fathering journeys. (NFI has a resource for mentoring other dads or fatherless children - check out the Double Duty Dad™ Guide.)

#5 Spend time together outside
Maj. Billups enjoys sharing his love of the outdoors with his children. They go fishing, gardening, build makeshift tee-pees, and other activities he enjoyed as a child. The family also captures their adventures by taking photographs. As much as you can, turn off the TV and get your family together outside.

Vote Daily for  NFI's Military Fatherhood Award!

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(Video) Dads Club Strengthens Fatherhood

NFI's Vince DiCaro was interviewed today on Fox News Live about our new Dads Club™ and our partnership with Dove® Men+Care™.

Jonathan Hunt of the "On the Hunt" program discussed how NFI's partnership with Dove® Men+Care™ will strengthen fatherhood by helping fathers be better dads.

Learn how you can connect with other dads and share parenting tips today!

Yes, I want to become a Dads Club member!

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NFI and Dove® Men+Care™ Team Up to Launch Dads Club™

New Club Will Be Place for Fathers Who Care for What Matters to Support Each Other and the Cause of Responsible Fatherhood
In a national press release posted this morning, National Fatherhood Initiative and Dove® Men+Care™ have partnered to launch the Dads Club™, a membership club where dads can come together to support each other and bolster efforts to strengthen fatherhood.

National Fatherhood Initiative and Dove Men Care Dads ClubToday’s dads are finding that social media and the Internet are providing unprecedented opportunities to network, share stories, and support each other in their fathering journeys. However, there is no “hub” where fathers can come together to not only help each other become better dads, but to also make a meaningful contribution to the cause of strengthening the institution of fatherhood in America.

A corporate-nonprofit partnership is an ideal mechanism to meet this need, and Dove® Men+Care™ and National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) are the ideal partners. NFI has worked since 1994 to strengthen the institution of fatherhood through public education campaigns, research, and the distribution of fatherhood skill-building materials to individuals and organizations around the country. Dove® Men+Care™ has demonstrated a true commitment to creating a more positive and inspirational image of men and fathers through its “Real Moments” campaign (

“NFI is delighted to have a committed partner like Dove® Men+Care™ to not only help us provide a safe place for dads to help each other, but to become a partner in our work to ensure that every child has an involved, responsible, and committed father,” said Vincent DiCaro, NFI’s vice president of development and communication. 

Members of the new Dads Club™ will receive various benefits upon joining, including:

  • samples of Dove® Men+Care™ products 
  • Exclusive monthly e-newsletter with expert fathering advice or funny stories and encouragement for dads plus special messages from Dove® Men+Care™
  • a co-logoed Dads Club™ t-shirt 
  • a Dads Club™ photo magnet 
  • and a copy of NFI’s “Dad’s Pocket Guide” 

“Dove® Men+Care™ is proud to partner with National Fatherhood Initiative to launch Dads Club™ in our continued effort to help men care for what matters most,” said Rob Candelino, vice president marketing for Unilever Skincare.  “Research shows that men today are prioritizing taking care of their families, and as a dad, I understand the importance of having dedicated resources and tools on which men can rely as they continue to embrace fatherhood. This program is one important way Dove® Men+Care™ aims to support the dedicated, caring, dad community.” 

Through the partners’ Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, web properties, a members-only e-newsletter, and use of the hashtag #dadsclub, Dads Club™ members will have various spaces in which to come together as fathers, receive advice, and support the cause. Over time, NFI and Dove® Men+Care™ will engage notable dads to become inspirational figures for fathers and ambassadors for the cause of strengthening fatherhood. Dads Club™ membership will be available for a one-time $35 contribution to NFI, a portion of which will be a tax-deductible, charitable donation to support NFI’s work. This one-time contribution entitles dads to a lifetime membership in the Dads Club™. Fathers can join at 

Yes, I want to become a Dads Club member!

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The Championship Legacy You Pass to Your Kids

The NCAA Championship game is finally here! You know your team isn't playing...but you can still salvage something good from all the college basketball over the last month! If you've followed us on social media or here at the blog at all, you know we've been working hard to provide you with real-life tips throughout the madness.

MarchDadness FB resized 600

Throughout March Dadness, we've given you the following tips:

Sweet 16) 16 Phrases Your Child Needs to Hear

Elite 8) 8 Amazingly Easy Activities You Can Do With Your Child

Final 4) The 4 Magical Steps to Making Your Child a Winner in Life

We hope you have not only enjoyed the games, but have enjoyed getting tips and tools for your role as "Coach" in your family. 

Today, we have one more idea to leave you with as you gear up for the Championship game.

Our mission at NFI is to improve the well-being of children by increasing the proportion of children who grow up with involvedresponsible, and committed fathers. Involved, Responsible, and Committed are qualities that we think are essential for fathers, and they make up the foundations of the legacy you pass on to your children and generations to come. Leave a legacy of a champion by living out these qualities every day.

The Championship Legacy You Leave Your Kids

  • Involved: Be involved in your child's life - change diapers, read bedtime stories, discipline with gentleness, go to sporting events and extracurricular activities, talk to your teens about important topics. Here's a thought: get to know their friends. Or how about the parents of your child? Do you know them. Have you ever talked to them? Two of our favorite sayings at NFI are "The smallest moments make the biggest impact in the life of a child" and "Kids spell love T-I-M-E." Your mission as father is to be involved in the big and small moments of your child's life.
  • Responsible: We like to say that responsible dads do three things for their children: provide, nurture, and guide. Provide for your children's needs (this is more than putting food on the table; make sure they are safe, healthy, and loved). Nurture your children by calling out their best qualities, encouraging them to reach their potential, and demonstrating your love by words and actions. Guide your child by teaching them values, coaching them when they make mistakes, and helping them find their own direction in life.
  • Committed: Be committed to lifelong fathering. Your job as a dad doesn't start when you get home from work and it doesn't end when your kids graduate from high school. You are a dad 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of your child's life. When you're 80 and your child is 50, you will still be a dad. Also, be committed to the institution of fatherhood. In a time when 24 million children in America are growing up without their fathers, good dads like you need to be shining examples of fatherhood by mentoring other dads and children who don't have fathers.

As you strive be an involved, responsible, and committed father every day, you will create a Championship Legacy that will have generational impact in the lives of your children and their families.

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4 Ways a Dad Can Make His Child "R-I-C-H"

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The Final Four is upon us! As you're gearing up for this weekend, review these four values and see which you can work on with your child. Below are four values we think your child should learn from you. Bring it home to the championship, coach!

Roland Warren, NFI's former president and now board member, is fond of saying:

  • If you give your children money and no values, you give them everything they need to fail; if you give them values and no money, you give them everything they need to succeed.

While there are a lot of values that are important for you to pass to your child, we came up with a helpful acronym to help you remember the four values. 

To stick with Roland's quote, help your kids become R-I-C-H in life by modeling and teaching these values.

Take ownership for your actions. This isn't easy. Believe me, I'm the guy who likes to say "freaking" a lot. But I'm also the guy who would rather my six-year-old daughter not go to school and say "freaking." Therefore, on the occasion that I insert "freaking" into a sentence, I need to show responsibility and say, "You know, daddy shouldn't have used that word. Daddy makes mistakes too sometimes..." Does it sound like I've done this before? Yeah. I have. And you know that kids are the best at pulling out EVERY word they hear! The point is, when you make a mistake—and you will—apologize and fix it. Just as your child hears—and probably repeats everything she hears—she can also spot a phoney. If you don't model responsibility, who will?

This goes well with the first point. But, it's important to stress, always do what is right and tell the truth, even if it costs you personally. When you child sees this modeled in you, he will learn more from the example than the speech! Know what your values are and stand by them. Be reliable and trustworthy. How does this work in a father-child relationship? For starters, don't say, "I'll be home in time to take you to the park." Then you either a) don't show up in time to go to the park or b) you show up but let something fall through so you don't end up going to the park. Your word is your word. It means something—and it should. You start with a clean slate with your child. Be trustworthy and you will be great in your child's eyes. Making promises you don't keep is a sure-fire way to have you child not trust you—and even worse—have your child not feel loved.

As your child's leader, be sure you are treating others with respect, even if you disagree with them or don't really like them. Reminder: your child is listening and watching you! Listen and seek to understand others. Be willing to sacrifice to help someone else. As you are helping, explain to your child the "why" behind the help. As your child ages, you can discuss with him or her why you care so deeply about helping take food to the neighbor, volunteer at church or donate money to certain causes. Look for opportunities to explain to your child the motivation behind your sacrifice.

Give credit to others when it's due. Show appreciation for praise and compliments. You can model humility to your child by teaching them to point out other people's good that they see. Humility is another value that must be taught by word, but also by action. 

Dad, talk about what these values look like in real life to help your children understand why these traits are important. Praise your child when they show these qualities or when you see them displayed in their siblings or friends. When your child makes a mistake, talk with them about how their actions violated these character traits and what they can do differently next time. Most importantly, model these character qualities consistently. Your children will learn more from what you do than from what you say. With these character traits, your children will be truly R-I-C-H in life.

What do you find works for teaching these four values to your child? Experienced dads, please share your wisdom in the comments. 

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The 4 Magical Steps to Making Your Child a Winner in Life

At NFI Headquarters, we call him the “24/7 Dad.” If you hang around us long enough, you'll hear us talk about how we think every child needs one. What we're really talking about is an involved, responsible and committed father. A dad who knows his role in the family. One who understands he is the model for his sons on how to be a good man. Likewise, if he has daughters, he models what they should look for in a husband and father for their children.

communicating with child, fathering tipsIn our fathering handbooks and training programs, there are four ways we think every responsible father should interact with their child. These four steps come with a guarantee: if you implement them, you will be a 24/7 Dad!

If you do these four things, you'll be the dad who communicates his thoughts, feelings, and actions on a daily basis in a way that respects others. Say this aloud: "The problems with communication start with me and no one else." Repeat this to yourself. Now, you're ready for the four magical steps!

1. You Should Encourage Your Child. 
Kids can sometimes send themselves bad messages. As your child grows, he or she may learn to think and say things like they’re no good, they’re not smart, they’re too short or too tall.They hear these messages from friends, from parents, and pick them up from watching TV and on that ole world wide web. Teach your child to send good messages to himself, such as “I’m smart,” “I’m going to do well on this test,” “I can become anything I want to become.” This is a skill that will last a lifetime. Odds are good that if you are doing this for yourself—it will come out in your words to your children. So get yourself in front of a mirror alla Stuart Smalley (google "Daily Affirmation With Stuart Smalley" after reading this post) if you must. 

2. You Should Honor Your Child's Wants. 
Kids are by nature the most impatient human beings alive—rivaled only by teens. Kids want things or want to do things the exact moment it enters their minds. My beautiful and precious daughters will ask for a cup of milk and wonder why the cup of milk doesn't appear in their hands as they are making the request for said milk. Kids don’t liketo wait. Depending on the age of your child, you can try telling him or her that you hear what they want and that you know it’s important to them.

Hearing what someone says honors them. This doesn’t mean that you give in to their every wish, only that you hear them. Check in to make sure you know what they want and then respond. Hearing what they want will “soften the blow” in case you need to tell them they can’t have it, can't do the thing they want, or that they’ll have to wait longer for what they want.
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3. You Should Avoid Bad Labels.
Don’t give your children a bad label based on what they want, say, or do. Dads often label what they want, say, or do as bad, lazy, dumb, and crazy. Worse, Dads often label their children as bad, lazy, dumb, and spoiled to describe their children as a whole. Bad labels only create more of what you don’t want to see.

When your children want, say, or do something you don’t agree with, don’t put a label on it. Here's an example of what not to say, “That’s dumb to want a bike right now.” Instead say, “I understand you want a bike right now. Bikes are awesome. Your dad loves bikes. Let's try and get you a bike in a few weeks. There are some things a rider of bikes must do in order to get a bike.” Okay, you get the point. Good labels will create more of what you want to see. Labels such as good, smart, special, and caring will go a long way to helping you and your child enjoy your talks. 

Bad labels only create more of what you don’t want to see. When your children want, say, or do something you don’t agree with, avoid putting a label on it.4. You Should Focus on Teaching Your Child.
This step isn’t as easy for us dads. We can tear down our children after our children do something wrong; or, we can point out what our children did wrong again and again without saying what our children did correctly. This approach doesn’t help our child learn from his or her mistakes.

If you don't point out the good a child does, the child will most likely only hear the bad labels instead of seeing the lessons. When your children do something wrong, ask, “What did you learn?” or “What should you do differently the next time?” If your child doesn't see the lesson, point it out after you give him a chance to say what he learned. This approach honors your child and makes it more likely he will listen to you. Besides, you might be surprised at how much your child will learn from his own mistake. Use this tip not only when your child does something wrong, use it when they do something right. Perhaps he can do even better the next time.

What's missing from this list? What have you found really works in talking with your child? Age specific examples are always appreciated!

The Father Factor Blog

This post was excerpted and adapted from NFI's 24/7 Dad resource. Connect with The Father Factor by RSSFacebook and on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

photo credit: liveitupwithus

A Working Woman's Response to 'Leaning In' to Fatherhood

This is a guest post by Claire M. Fraser, PhD. Claire is a Professor of Medicine and Director, Institute for Genome Sciences, University of Maryland School of Medicine. If you are interested in guest blogging, send us an email. 

As a successful professional woman who has risen to the top of the ranks in the male-dominated field of academic science, I have been on the receiving end of many questions in the past couple of weeks asking my opinion about Sheryl Sandberg’s advice to women to “lean in” more in the workplace - to speak up, to self-promote, and to move outside a perceived comfort zone in order to climb the professional ladder.

balancing work and family can be tricky for both genders“Leaning in” has been essential to my career success, and for many years I did it reluctantly, feeling like I was a fraud whenever I dared to express my thoughts and opinions. Today, I encourage my junior female faculty members to “lean in” every chance they get, no matter how awkward or uncomfortable it may feel. This is not an option – it is essential if we are to realize our full career potential.

While this seems like straightforward advice, we should also consider what it means to “lean in” outside of the workplace. I was fortunate to hear Vince DiCaro’s Fox News interview on March 28, in which he encouraged moms to “lean in” to fatherhood. This is indeed good advice.

From my own experience, and in speaking with many colleagues over the past 20 years, I have come to believe that a healthy work-life balance - which taps into the best that we and our partners have to offer to ourselves, each other, and our families - must be a goal. From what I‘ve observed, professional women often take on an enormous burden when they try to do it all at work and at home, and end up feeling that they do nothing well. I’ve had many tearful conversations with talented and accomplished young women in academia who think that they must assume the lion’s share of responsibility for their children because this is what’s expected of them as women, while at the same time they know that they must secure as many grants and publish as many research papers as their male colleagues in order to be successful.

I’ve also had a more limited number of conversations with male colleagues who would like nothing more than to spend additional time with their children, but fear that their value as a parent is not fully appreciated by their wives or partners, and their reputation as a hard-working, committed professional will suffer if they work anything less than a 60-hour week.

Just as women have demanded equal consideration in the workplace, it is time to make sure that men are afforded equal consideration in areas that have traditionally been “owned” by women. Collectively, we must do more to frame discussions about work-life balance in terms of a broader, gender-inclusive context.

Seeking a more balanced life is not just a women’s issue. Balance is good for all of us, most of all our children, who will then hopefully grow up to be committed and caring members of society.  

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photo credit: adesigna

(Video) Moms Should "Lean In" to Fatherhood

NFI's Vince DiCaro was interviewed yesterday on Fox News Live's "On the Hunt" with Jonathan Hunt to discuss mothers and "leaning in" to fatherhood.

DiCaro points out that culture seems to tell mothers that they have to pick between career and motherhood. However, it's a good idea to consider a third option, and "lean in" to fatherhood.

Too often, mothers do most of the share of work in the home and fathers go to work—end of story. Perhaps mothers should consider supporting and encouraging, not discouraging, more father involvement. Several real-life examples are pointed out in this interview between DiCaro and Hunt. There are several ideas worth considering.

For instance, in some cases, moms simply do not trust the father to be involved. DiCaro says moms and dads need to "work together as parents." Moms can sometimes have a way of "knowing and doing all" when it comes to kids and the home. Therefore, in a sense, they set up a situation where they make the father feel he isn't needed. Then, he checks out, only focuses on his career, and does less at home and with the children.

DiCaro says, "If moms recommit themselves, in a sense, to strengthen the institution of fatherhood, it's only going to help them be better at their careers and be better moms." 


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8 Amazingly Easy Activities You Can Do With Your Child

MarchDadnessTwitter 520x260 resized 600While you're tracking your March Madness bracket this week, be sure you have the details of March Dadness. We started our bracket with the Sweet 16: Phrases Your Child Needs to Hear and are now moving on to the next round with the "Elite 8". Today we have eight activities every child needs to experience with his or her dad.

At NFI, we say "the smallest moments make the biggest impact in a child's life." While not all "the smallest moments" HAVE to include an activity; in most cases, shared experiences can create times for lasting memories.

Here are eight activities you can use to create memories with your child this week. 

  1. Teach Your Child a Sport: Take an afternoon to teach your son or daughter how to dribble a basketball. If your child can already do a crossover, consider teaching the rules of the game or studying the dimensions of the court. Go on, you don't have to be a pro player, practice that jumper with your child. Remember, the important thing is you're spending time together. Not at all a fan of basketball? Well, you're probably not the greatest dad you can be. However, replace basketball with the sport you like. Play catch with a baseball or better yet, what better reason to get on the golf course than to teach your child about the game?!
  2. Teach Your Child to Ride a Bike: From first learning to ride or taking the training wheels off, riding a bike is a big deal for kids. I'm thinking now of my three-year-old riding her tricycle all over our house. She gets the biggest kick out of it—especially if she knows I'm watching and interested. Her whole demeanor changes as she pedals. Her eyes light up and her chin raises as she glides through our living room and stops crashing into the kitchen. This may sound like a simple thing—and it is—but be sure not to miss it.
  3. Go Camping with Your Child: Camping is a great way to connect with your family. Whether it means tent and fire under the stars or on the living room floor with covers and pillows every afternoon like at our house. Use the time to disconnect from work at the office (or around the house) and connect with your child.
  4. Take Your Child on a Date: Set aside a couple of hours to spend just you and your child. This can be as planned or as cheap as you make it. Go to the playground, stop for lunch or simply take a walk and talk in your neighorhood. By doing this, you connect with your child on a deeper, more meaningful level. If you have more than one child; simply schedule various times for each child. This may not be a weekly occurance for your family. However, it's an invaluable tool that can show how much you cherish your children. Trust me, with two daughters, I speak from experience, this isn't easy to make time for. I don't do this as often as a should, but when I do it, it's some of the most valuable time I spend with my girls.
  5. Volunteer with Your Child: Whether you're serving at your church or helping at a local homeless shelter, there's great opportunities for you and your child to give your time to a good cause together. Your child will enjoy spending time with you and you'll be setting a good example for a lifelong habit of service.
  6. Read with Your Child: Your child is never too young (or too old) to read with you.  From reading Llama Llama Red Pajama for the hundreth time or The Hobbit with your teen, great books (and the conversion that happens during this time) will last you a lifetime. Make it a regular habit to read aloud with your child.
  7. Take Your Child to the Bank: Remember real banks? Yeah, I barely can either. While this activity may seem odd. We mention it here because it's a great oppotunity to create a memory with your child. How often do you open a bank account in life? I'm guessing—not very often. Depending on the age of your child, this could be a great time of connecting. The experience of opening an account can be awesome. But also, the whole process of teaching your child about money and responsibility is really where we're going with this idea—an ongoing opportunity of connection! It's a connection point that you and your child will not forget. I remember my mother taking me into our local bank branch when I was young. I haven't forgotten the formal building, the leather chairs, the large desks and me signing my life away for my first acount! The excitement was intense—to see money in my account was unforgettable. Well, perhaps I haven't forgetten about having money in my account because that was the last time I would have money in my account! But I digress...on to the last activity ideas...
  8. One Last Activity Idea: (for sons) Teach your son to tie a tie and/or shave: Boys need their dads to coach them through these "rites of passage" in manhood. Heck, every time I shave, my daughters "shave" with me. Although time consuming, I often remind myself that there will come a time when my girls no longer care about their dad shaving! 
    (for daughters): Go dancing. Whether it's a silly dance in the living room or a daddy-daughter dance held locally, girls need their dad to show them how a guy treats a girl.
Question: What would you add to this list?

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Dads Are People Too

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

“Blow your nose” is what you tell your child as you hold the tissue to their nose. Somehow, someway, they can’t seem to hold a tissue to their nose on their own even though they can navigate your iPad like it’s an appendage. 

“Have you done your homework yet?” gets asked about 10 minutes after the kids get home from school, and they have to report accordingly so that you can understand whether you’re going to have to ask that same question 15 times later in the evening. 

dad daughter walking resized 600“Did you brush your teeth yet” happens every night like it’s a big surprise. You’d think after years of brushing their teeth before bed that you wouldn’t have to ask that question every night. Like it’s a huge surprise to them. 

And we wonder where time, and our brain cells, go. 

Fathers today are taking on a lot of different roles, discussed ad naseum in many a blog post and news story such that I don’t need to, and won’t, cover it here.  

But what happened to YOU? 

Do you remember what you were like in high school? In college? Maybe working that first job out of school with little to no real responsibility? A lot of you are thinking ‘Ah, the good ol days’ right now as you hear your significant other call you to the nursery to wipe up spit or to change a diaper. 

Not that there’s anything wrong with that (Seinfeld, anyone?). But there is.  

One of the best things that you can do for your children, regardless of their age, is to bring yourself to the table every day. Not just the guy that can warm a bottle, or wipe that snotty nose, or kiss an ouchie to make it all better. Those are important, BUT… 

What about the guy that used to work on cars for fun? What about the one that would watch sports and prove that the word ‘fanatic’ existed for a reason? Where did the trips to the outdoors go to explore creeks barefoot and pick up ‘critters’ that just looked cool? 

Your kids need to see that. They need to feel it. They need to participate in it. 

Dads, like anyone else, are people. And to a man, we all fulfilled roles in our lives well before we were dads. We had interests that made our heart race (like cars), things that just made us scream till we lost our voice (like sports), and things we did just for the fun of it (like taking things apart). What makes us think our kids shouldn’t see that? Shouldn’t participate in that with us? And who says that girls and boys shouldn’t participate equally when it comes to those things? 

Your kids need to understand that you’re dad, and that the role comes with certain responsibilities. But just as importantly, they need to understand that you’re a person. As they become older, and as you can begin to share in those experiences, bonds – different bonds – become forged for a lifetime. Your children will look back fondly with memories of sharing things with you rather than watching from the sideline. The fact that they understand your roles better enables you and your children to connect at a level you can’t get to just by being Dad. 

Go back to when you were in high school and college. Write down what you were interested in (the appropriate ones anyway). Pick one of those interests, go get the kids, crack open an apple juice, and tackle the YOU role just as well as you tackle the Dad role.

What makes you come alive with excitement? Tell us in the comment section; you just might make us think of something we can show our kids! 

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photo credit: TMAB2003

16 Phrases Your Child Needs to Hear From You

march sadnessMarch Madness officially starts today. While you're flipping channels at home or online to see how your bracket's doing, be sure your using #MarchDadness for all your social media posts. Today, we start our official tournament of tips and tools for fathering. We begin our bracket with the Sweet 16!

The words a coach says from the bench, in time-outs, and pre-game huddles all have a big impact on how players perform on the court. Have you watch a game where the players can't do anything right in the first half; only to come out in the second half and play like champions? Odds are good that the coach gave a great half-time speech and somehow communicated well what his team was doing well and not so well.

In the same way, what you say to your children each day has influence on your child—for good or for ill. Your child should receive continual encouragement and affirmation. Don't assume that hearing praise from teachers, Mom or other people is enough—your child needs to hear from YOU. You can live out and model love all you want, but saying the words below are crucial to helping your child develop confidence and character. It's up to you, dad. 

Be intentional about saying these affirming phrases frequently to your kids. I would challenge you to stop, get your child's attention, look them in the eye and tell them convincingly the following phrases. These aren't in order of importance.

  1. I'm so proud to be your dad!
  2. Good job!
  3. You are beautiful/handsome.
  4. You are so sweet/smart/brave/creative.
  5. It's wonderful how you demonstrate kindness/thoughtfulness/compassion.
  6. Thank you for helping.
  7. You are very good at _______.
  8. I believe in you.
  9. You can do it!
  10. No matter what happens, you can always come to me.
  11. I will always be there for you, no matter what.
  12. You are unique and special.
  13. I'm glad you are my son/daughter.
  14. I appreciate you so much.
  15. The day you were born was one of the best days of my life.
  16. I LOVE YOU!
Question: What's missing from our list?

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