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Throwback Thursday: Keith Urban Understands Romance—Do You?!

keith urban idol country music dadThis week we have reached the perfect connection in romance and social media! Not only is today #ThrowbackThursday; but it's also Valentines' Day! We have a blog post from back in the day about Keith Urban and his view of...guess what? Marriage! That makes this #ThrowbackThursday post the perfect romantic post for Valentine's Day! Because what's more romantic than a celebrity who knows that loving his wife more than his kids is ok? Answer: nothing. Nothing is more romantic! Happy Valentine's Day, parents!

From the American Idol page:
Keith Urban has sold more than 15 million albums, is a four-time Grammy Award winner, and has won a People's Choice and American Music Award.He's won five Academy of Country Music Awards and had 14 No. 1 songs, including 28 Top 5 hits. In 2012, he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. His latest CD, "Get Closer," comes on the heels of his fifth consecutive platinum or multi-platinum release. It has produced three consecutive No. 1 singles: "You Gonna Fly," "Long Hot Summer" and "Without You."

From our throwback blog post on Keith Urban, Loving Your Spouse More Than Your Kids:
Urban recently revealed in an interview that he loves Nicole more than their two children. To do justice to what he said, I have copied the entire quote here:

"We're very, very tight as a family unit and the children are our life, but I know the order of my love. It's my wife and then my daughters. I just think it's really important for the kids...There are too many parents who start to lose the plot a little and start to give all their love to the kids, and then the partner starts to go without. And then everybody loses. As a kid, all I needed to know was that my parents were solid. Kids shouldn't feel like they are being favoured. It's a dangerous place."

We at NFI think what Urban said is worth repeating—perhaps today would be a great day to show your wife that she is more important to you than anything in the world—even more important than the kids!

We commented in the throwback blog post:
But research seems to back Urban's mentality. Generally speaking, the most important relationship in the home is the one between mom and dad. As Urban states, if their relationship fails, everyone loses. While we don't yet have research that shows specifically that marriages in which the spouses love each other more than the kids produce "better kids," we do know that kids who grow up in married homes do better, on average, across every measure of child well-being. We also know that divorce is not good for children. We also know that parents who are married to each other are closer to each other and to their kids than parents in any other family structure. Put that all together, and what Urban says looks pretty good.

What's one thing you will do today to show your spouse takes priority over your kids?

 

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photo credit: jeaneeem

The Odd Life of Timothy Green: A Fatherhood “Review”

Each week, we will post a review of one of the four films National Fatherhood Initiative has nominated for the 2012 Fatherhood Movie of the Year. These will not be your typical movie reviews, but will instead focus on what in particular makes the movie a good “fatherhood movie.” Our second entry is on The Odd Life of Timothy Green.

movies, entertainment, odd life of timothy green, tips, fatherhood, parenting, kids, family

In The Odd Life of Timothy Green we see on the big screen that fathering isn’t about WHAT your child does; but more about WHO your child is.

When Odd Life opened in theaters in August, we wrote Are You Putting Your Kid in a Box? and The Odd Life of Parents. So we've talked about the child's perspective and the overall parental perspective. However, we nominated this film as a finalist for our 2012 Fatherhood Movie of the Year based on it’s real and genuine depiction of fatherhood – and the lessons we learn about fathering through Jim, Timothy’s Dad. 

The Odd Life makes a dad think about which dreams matter and which dreams don't. Most times, you and I dream the wrong dreams for our kids. When we dream of "the perfect child" we are typically dreaming of WHAT our son or daughter will be instead of WHO they will be as person. These lessons come about through the daily lives of the Green family, below are two such ways us dads are taught what's most important:

1) What Versus Who: Artist or Honest?
Jim and Cindy wish that fateful night—in their wishses for the pefect child—for "Our kid to be Picasso with pencil"! Essentially, Jim and Cindy wish for an artist. They get their wish! But not as they expect. You see, the Green's also wish for their child to be, "honest to a fault". The Green's are granted that wish as well. Timothy draws a beautiful image of his mother's boss at work. But upon review, he draws his beautiful picture a little to accurate, including facial hair for the female subject! The lesson for dads? Dream and wish all you want, but be careful what you wish for—you just might get it!

2) What Versus Who: Amazing Athlete or Positive Person?  
That same night of wishing for the perfect child, the Green's wish for their kid to, "score the winning goal"! Sounds simple enough, right?! Wrong! Timothy ends the big soccer game by kicking the winning goal—for the other team! Also during the game, we see another wish fulfilled in Timothy, for the Green's had also wished that night for their child to be, "the glass half-full person"! They get the positive child. Timothy is a very positive kid. So positive he sits on the bench most of the soccer game, giving his coach water at one point, totally content with not playing in the game of all games! Again, there's a lesson for dads. Dream and wish all you want, but be careful what you wish for—you just might get it!

The Odd Life serves as a great reminder of what is truly important to instill in our children – that it’s WHO they are that matters more than WHAT they do. Daily, we as dads are to cherish our children, no matter what. The dad in The Odd Life depicts a father who does exactly that.

Dads watching this movie will learn many lessons; but one of the most important lessons is this: don't put your child in a box. Don't dream up skills and things that are seen and can therefore be contained. Instead, dream and model the unseen, like character, values and respect. It's more important to be honest than to be the next Picasso. It's more important to be a positive person than to be an amazing athlete. From NFI’s perspective, this film depicts an active, involved and committed father—and we can’t ask for more than that. For this reason, we nominated it for the 2012 Fatherhood Movie of the Year. 

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And the Nominees for "Fatherhood Movie of the Year" Are...

fatherhood movie of the yearWhile Hollywood gears up for the Oscars, we are asking you to select the "Fatherhood Movie of the Year" by voting on Facebook for the 2012 film that best communicates the importance of involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood.

The nominees are: Beasts of the Southern Wild (Fox Searchlight), Brave (Disney Pixar), The Odd Life of Timothy Green (Disney), and Parental Guidance (20th Century Fox).

Voters can visit NFI’s official Facebook page, watch the trailers of the four nominated films, and vote for your favorite once per day through Oscar night, February 24.

The contest is part of our effort to shine a light on cultural messages that highlight the unique and irreplaceable role fathers play in their children's lives. Given the power of film in shaping public perceptions, we applaud these four films for their efforts to depict fatherhood in a realistic, positive, and powerful way.

beasts of the southern wildBeasts of the Southern Wild (directed by Behn Zeitlin; starring Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry): “Faced with both her hot-tempered father's fading health and melting ice-caps that flood her ramshackle bayou community and unleash ancient aurochs, six-year-old Hushpuppy must learn the ways of courage and love” (source: IMDB.com). We nominated the film for its realistic depiction of a challenging, but loving relationship between a father and a daughter facing difficult circumstances.  

 

braveBrave (directed by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, and Steve Purcell; starring Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, and Emma Thompson): “Determined to make her own path in life, Princess Merida defies a custom that brings chaos to her kingdom. Granted one wish, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to undo a beastly curse” (source: IMDB.com). We nominated the film for its depiction of a fun-loving father who encourages his daughter’s adventurous spirit and who is affectionate and loving towards his wife.

 

odd lifeThe Odd Life of Timothy Green (directed by Peter Hedges; starring Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, and CJ Adams): “A childless couple buries a box in their backyard, containing all of their wishes for an infant. Soon, a child is born, though Timothy Green is not all that he appears” (source: IMDB.com). We nominated the film for its portrayal of a highly involved and loving father who is deeply, emotionally invested in his son’s life and well being throughout the entire film.

 

parental guidance

Parental Guidance (directed by Andy Fickman; starring Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei, and Tom Everett Scott): “Artie and Diane agree to look after their three grandkids when their type-A helicopter parents need to leave town for work. Problems arise when the kids' 21st-century behavior collides with Artie and Diane's old-school methods” (source: IMDB.com). We nominated the film for its realistic depiction of the generational struggles a pair of loving grandparents face, for its positive portrayal of the importance of marriage, and for the important role the father and grandfather play in their families’ lives.
 

Use the hashtag #fmy12 on Twitter to get the word out and tell your friends which movie you vote for daily.

We started the "Fatherhood Movie of the Year" Contest last year. The 2011 film, Courageous, was selected by the public as the winner.

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7 Tips for being a Great Dad—Even After January!

If you've been with us since the beginning of the year, you know we've provided readers with tips and tools for being the best dad in 2013! Now that "New Year, New Dad!" is coming to an end, we give you a few ideas to keep your goals this year! Here are seven tips for being a great dad, even after January!

NewYearNewDad banner

1) A Great Dad Stays Focused
When you are at work, remember your goals you identified for what you want to improve in your family this year. By staying focused at work, you can begin to minimize time away from your family. Part of being focused is being in the moment and not being distracted. Determined for yourself that this is the year you keep work at work and when you come home, you keep working! By remembering your goals at home, you will be eager to work on them when you return. 

2) A Great Dad Finds an Ally
Whether it's sharing with your spouse, ex-spouse, or another dad; be intentional about discussing your goals and any progress toward the finish line. By sharing what you want to work on, you can hold each other accountable. 

3) A Great Dad is a Role Model
Pay attention to what you say and how you act around your children, even if you aren't directly talking to them. By being a good role model, you are teaching them how men should act and how they are to take care of their family. For dads with daughters, you are modeling, for good or for ill, how every other man should treat your daughter. 

4) A Great Dad Makes Meals Important
Whether it is breakfast or dinner, sit down to eat at the table with your family and focus on connecting as a family. We know from countless research, but we also know from our own families, that there simply isn't a better time to connect as a family. It's a built-in time if we are intentional and use it as such. 

5) A Great Dad Earns the Right to Be Heard
Take time to listen to your children's ideas and problems. Try to keep from answering questions and allow your kids to open up to you. The more you do this, the more you will learn about your family.

6) A Great Dad is a Teacher
Your child will look to you for guidance and direction. Take some time to teach your children about something you care about, either a topic you are intrested in or something they bring up. Use something from what they are already learning about in school as something you can use to expereince with your child. This will not only form a bond with you and your child, but will also peak your son or daughter's interest in a given subject. For example, as hard as it might be, don't sleep in on Saturday morning, but head to a museum wear you can be a part of making a school textbook come to life.

7) A Great Dad Disciplines with Love
One of a father's most important roles is to discipline his children. Discipline is about teaching and setting reasonable limits. Remind your children that there are consequences for their actions. Remember to affirm their good behavior, too!

What would you add to this list?

We hope you've enjoyed our "New Year, New Dad!" campaign. These are just a few of the tips we'll continue helping you with in the coming year, stay tuned for more tips and tools this year to help you be the best dad you can be in 2013!

How to be a Horrible Dad

Let’s face it; connecting with your child is difficult. It’s much easier to be a horrible dad. NFI is here to help you be the best at being horrible. Here are five tried and true ways to be a horrible father to your children.

horrible dad

Please share your ideas of how to be a horrible dad in the comment section.

1) The Horrible Dad ALWAYS Works Late. 

There are folks who say, “Meals are the perfect time to connect with family.” Well, not if your goal is to be a horrible father. Forget mealtimes and stay late at work. Typically, the horrible dad is great “yes man.” Your boss needs something? Great, you can do it—you’re a horrible dad to your children. There’s nothing of importance at home for you. Heck, spend time after work socializing with old friends and colleagues. Because what’s more important than connecting with coworkers you already see all day for five days per week?! Answer: nothing. Nothing is more important for you, horrible dad.

2) The Horrible Dad Talks About Himself ALL the Time.
If you end up making it home before 8pm, be sure you talk to your kids and spouse about your day at work and never ask your family about their day. There’s so much that can be learned about dad during family mealtime. You filed a TPS report today? Awesome. Your family really cares and wants to know every detail. You can also use dinner to argue with all family members present. Trust us, it’s what horrible dads do, and you can do it too! Your kids can learn so many things from you about selfishness at mealtime, which they can carry into adulthood.

3) The Horrible Dad Thinks READING to His Child is a CHORE.

Reading to your kids takes time and effort. The horrible father need not worry about this problem. 
From dads with younger kids to dads with college-aged kids, reading should NOT be a major part of the horrible dad’s life. Wouldn’t it be great for your kids to think of their dad as a lover of books?! Nope, says the horrible dad. Imagine talking with your high school or university student about a character from the same book they are reading—because you’re reading it with them! “Ha, that’s hilarious,” thinks the horrible dad!

4) The Horrible Dad ONLY Cares About His Interests.
You have a daughter who likes playing with Barbie dolls? Well, you think Barbie dolls are silly so you can’t spend time playing with them. The horrible dad only cares about what he likes. From watching his favorite movies and TV shows, you don’t waste time on something you don’t like. Be intentional about hating whatever your kids like. Have a son who plays with blocks? Boring. You get extra points for only talking about things that interest you at the dinner table.

5) The Horrible Dad NEVER Spends One-On-One Time with His Kids.
Listen up, dads. To be a truly horrible dad, be sure you NEVER connect one-on-one with your children. Good dads have reported that this is the best way to connect with their children. The horrible dad doesn’t bother taking his son or daughter out for ice cream. Taking a walk to discuss life with your teen? Who has time for that when you could be practicing your golf swing or working late?! Again, just another thing the horrible dad doesn’t have to think about.

What’s one thing from this list that you need to work on? Talk to us on social using #247Dad.

 

photo credit: dontshoot.me!

Do Fathers Have a Role in Gun Control?

This is a guest post by Jason Bruce. If you are interested in writing for us, send an email.

toypistol smallAre boys obsessed with weapons? Is your home a toy gun-free home? I’ll be first to admit that I’m a toy-weapon tolerant dad. I allow my son to play with toy guns and swords. Boys naturally like to play with toy weapons and there’s nothing wrong with acting out make-believe combat with toy guns and swords.

I grew up without toy weapons at home. My solution was to make my own weapons. I made cardboard machine guns and grenade launchers like a young Sylvester Stallone in Rambo. I made Samurai swords out of tree branches and any L-shape object became a hand gun including my baby sister’s Barbie dolls.

Many parents forbid their children from playing with toys guns. Many view toy weapons as corruptors of children, exposing them to aggressive and violent behaviors and reinforcing gender stereotypes.

The tragic event in Newtown, CT put the debate on gun control in the spotlight again and many parents followed suit imposing their own toy gun control and zero-tolerance policies in their households. But is this the right response to the issue of violence? Should parents keep their sons away from toy weapons and impose a weapon-free zone at home? Should zero-tolerance policies be extended to playgrounds, schools and other public venues?

Boys naturally gravitate toward weaponry not because of their desire to kill or hurt another human being but because of their desire to be heroes. Boys have a natural willingness to do great things, be adventurous and to be rescuers. They need to feel like heroic warriors and toy weapons help bring out their imagination and act out their fantasies. It is one way boys are molded to be mature courageous men.

Play is play and violence is violence. What’s essential is that fathers educate their sons to understand and differentiate the two in their playtime. Their make-believe games are opportunities to teach boys to distinguish between what’s right and wrong and what’s good and evil. Penny Holland, author of "We Don't Play with Guns Here," says toy weapons were "part of...making sense of the world (imitating) timeless themes of the struggle between good and evil."

Parents should recognize and respect what young boys are dreaming to be and experiencing in their play. Fathers were once young boys too and played fierce battles with evil monsters and alien invaders. We usually grow up wanting to be heroes.

Sometimes I wish my son would simply pretend he’s a magician or a race car driver; but right now he wants to be a gun-trotting Pirate and Captain America. All a weapons-tolerant dad like me can do is to play along with my imaginary laser gun and light saber and model to him the right and honorable way to save the day.

Do you let your child play with toy weapons? Why or why not?

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Jason is a blogger and social media specialist for the Colson Center. He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and two kids. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonBruce) and visit his blog The Living Rice.

photo credit: AbrilSicairos

7 Things a Great Dad Knows

We're already midway through January; if you're like us, you're in disbelief! However, we're still committed to helping you be the best dad you can be in 2013! After our first post for "New Year, New Dad!;" hopefully you've had time to reflect on your goals and are ready to tackle the year. In hopes of making sure your goals are in check and you've considered everything you need to for your family, use the seven questions below to help you assess the needs of your family and be sure you're setting the right goals for the coming year.

Here are seven questions that great dads ask themselves:

1. A Great Dad Knows the Importance of Improving His Family.
Take the time to write down three things and post them in an area where they can be easily referenced. These things can be areas of weakness or things that you simply want to do more. These areas of improvement need not be statements; simply write one word to help you keep the ideas in mind this year. 

2. A Great Dad Knows the Importance of Communicating with His Spouse/Ex-Spouse.
This will be much easier if your living with your child's mother. But admittedly, it's often easy to not communicate with your child's mother regardless of where she resides! Be intentional about asking your spouse what she thinks of your goals and work together to agree about those goals. Single dads: the idea here is to work toward being on the same page as your ex-spouse with where you want to take the family regarding goals.

3. A Great Dad Knows What His Child Needs.
If you're a new dad, or the father of a teenager, you may find your children have different needs. Assess what those needs are by age. If we make goals at all, we tend to focus on ourselves. Be sure you are considering where your children are in developement when creating goals and making plans. For instance, you will find your travel plans change drastically depending on the age of your children. 

4. A Great Dad Knows His Child's Favorite Experiences.
Ask your children what their favorite memory was for 2012 and begin brainstorming other similar activities you can do this year. Work to create a time, perhaps over dinner, to let the kids not only talk about their favorite memories but come up with a list of things they would enjoy doing this year.

5. A Great Dad Knows His Schedule. 
A schedule is beneficial for children and parents. Consider stopping unnecessary routines and starting better ones. This may be one of the most difficult steps in the process. The point here is to reflect on your daily or weekly routine and see where changes could be made.

6. A Great Dad Knows His Family's Schedule. 
With school, dance, theater, and/or sports in full effect, check in with your family on how they are handling things. As a leader in the home, create appointments with yourself on your calendar to remind you about checking in periodically. It's too easy to get too busy and often consider EVERYTHING as IMPORTANT when in reality, not everything is important. Depending on your assessment, consider cutting back on activities as a family.

7. A Great Dad Makes Time for His Family. 
Schedule time each day to be intentional about being face to face with your spouse. Additionally, be intentional about being face to face with your kids daily. Of course this isn't easy. Strive to be creative and caring this year. If you can change daily routines with family priorities in mind, you'll notice a difference in your marriage and/or relationships with your kids.

Knowing these things will help you focus on being the best dad you can be this year. What would you add to this list?

Throwback Thursday—Tony Dungy Receives Fatherhood Award

Today, you probably know Tony Dungy as the anaylst on NBC's "Football Night in America". But Dungy retired as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts after making the playoffs in each of his last 10 seasons (7 with Indianapolis; 3 with Tampa Bay). With his win of Super Bowl XLI, he became the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl as the Colts defeated the Chicago Bears. 

In 2002, National Fatherhood Initiative awarded Tony with a Fatherhood Award in San Antonio, TX. Long before Tony won the Super Bowl, NFI knew he was a Super Dad. Watch this clip of Tony receiving his 2002 Fatherhood Award and let Tony's words inspire and challenge you about the importance of being an involved dad today.

Tony’s recalls upon receving the Fatherhood Award:

In 1997 I got an award for NFL Coach of the Year. Five years later, receiving this award is really no comparison. This certainly means a lot more to me and it’s quite a honor and so humbling to be here with other dads recognized tonight. Watching these ads (tv ads were shown at the event) it's touching and every single one you can relate to probably the one for me that I relate to the most is the first one “Catch” with the little boy playing ball because we have a 10-year-old and yesterday he wanted to play baseball. We’re up in Indianapolis, we’re moving up there, and we don’t have all of our stuff, we had to go find a stick and we made a little taped-up ball and he beat me 23-2 with a stick ball.

So as we were talking about coming down here, I said (to my son), “What’s the most fun you’ve ever had with me?” And he’s got to do a lot of things, he’s been on the floor of the Metrodome, he’s went with me to the NFC Championship Game and stayed in the Ritz-Carlton and held my cord on the sideline, he’s been to Hawaii to the Pro Bowl and held my cord on the sideline, and he said, “Well, the most fun I’ve had was beating you in stickball!” And his reasoning was something that really touches this, I said “How can that be the most fun with all the things you’ve done?” And he said, “Because that’s what we did TODAY!” That’s what it is in a kids’ mind, it’s not what you do, it’s if you’re there to do it with them and I would encourage you to be there to do things with your kids. 

Visit our Fatherhood Award page to see a full list of Fatherhood Award recipients through the years.

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How to Set (and Keep) Your Goals in 3 Simple Steps

We’re a few days into the new year... How are you doing with those new year’s resolutions? Did you decide you wanted to lose weight, eat better, get organized, save money, read and exercise more? I hate to break it to you, but your resolutions probably won’t stick… unless you follow the three simple steps below to help you set and keep your goals.

  • “A goal without a plan is just a dream.” —Smart Person
  • “The difference between a goal and a dream is a deadline.” –Another Smart Person

setting goals

I am a planner. Whether it’s my wiring or something else, I am prone to plan. I like knowing what I’m doing and what I’m going to do. I create my shopping list based on the aisle order in my local grocery store. I know that the bakery is close to the door and dairy is in the back; so at the top of my list is bakery items and at the bottom is dairy. In short, I REALLY plan my trip for groceries! Also, if I’m walking in aisle two and find an item I left off of my list, I place the item in the basket then type that item into my iPhone checklist just so I can place a checkmark on it. Plans make me comfy. It’s an issue I’m dealing with.

However, as in most blog posts I write, I have a confession to make: while I have been a planner for as long as I can remember, I haven’t always been great at sticking to the plans I make. In my experience and especially as a parent, I truly believe that unless we live with a plan, we will not live on purpose. Are you like me? Do you plan but sometimes fall through on the action part? 

Here are the three steps necessary for setting and keeping your goals:

1. Resolve to Take Small, Specific Steps.
Understand that you can’t do everything at once. There’s a saying, “if you chase two rabbits, you’ll end up hungry.” Your path to becoming a new and better person is taking small steps at a time, not giant leaps. 

If you want to lose 50 pounds by running. You don't run for a week and then wonder why you haven’t already lost 50 pounds. Guess what? You lose 50 pounds by losing one pound 50 times. Bam!

I’ll never forget what a friend (who runs marathons) said after I told him I’d love to run as much as him. I was amazed at how much he ran daily. It was nothing for him to run 5 to 10 miles per day and on the weekends run 15 miles. In my amazement, I asked him curiously, “What’s your advice for someone like me, who has never run, to run like you?” His answer was simple yet profound, he replied, “Start walking.” He was right. I wasn’t going to get on a treadmill and run 10 miles if I’d never been on the treadmill and walked one mile.

The point here is to not create a long list of 10 or 20 goals. Stay focused on fewer goals, maybe between three and five of the most important goals. My advice is to not make so many goals that you can't easily remember them. You should definitely write your goals down, but if you have to work to memorize a list, you've probably made too many goals!

2. Resolve to Be SMART.
Being SMART has its requirements! I didn’t create this rule, but I have found this idea useful in the goal-setting process. Make your resolutions this year into SMART goals by following this idea:

  • Specific: Specific goals are more likely to be accomplished than general ones. Answer questions like who, what, when, and why at this step.
  • Measurable: “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Think about how you will know when the goal has been accomplished.
  • Actionable: Do your goals start with words like “write,” “quit,” “run,” and “finish”? If not, they are less likely to be accomplished.
  • Realistic: This may be the hardest step. If you’ve reached this point, you’re getting excited and you’re doing well at setting goals. With that, it’s easy to set your goals too high. Be very honest with yourself and consider what really can be attained.
  • Timely: Put a date at the end of each goal. Some goals may need to have December 31st on them, but even with those goals, consider breaking them into smaller steps and adding a shorter time period to them.

3. Resolve to Go Public.
I admit this isn’t the easiest step—depending on the goal you’ve set. But something happens when you tell the people closest to you about a goal for which you are committed. There’s a built-in accountability that takes place among close friends and family, especially with a spouse and/or family that lives with you. If your goal is to lose a certain amount of weight by a certain time, family will naturally ask you how you’re doing or comment about your progress.

Parents, here are a couple of examples of goals you can re-create in your own words and keep with your family this year:

  • I will create two times to “get away” and be relaxed with my family for 2013.
  • I will make dinner at home with my family an event by making sure every one is present and conversant at the table for at least 20 minutes, twice per week during 2013.

What goals are you "launching" for 2013?

 

photo credit: stevendepolo

The Spider-Man Sleep Solution

spider-manMy son has been sleeping in his own bed every night, all night since a new room “opened for business” in our house. Yes – he has his very own Spider-Man room, and it is the greatest solution to toddler sleep issues ever invented by a father, humbly speaking.

He is 3 now. From when he was an infant until about a year ago, he slept in his crib pretty much every night, but he never wanted to fall asleep in his crib. He would have to fall asleep on the couch with mommy and daddy nearby, or in our bed. Then when he fell asleep, we’d whisk him away to his crib. For the last several months, matters had been worse. Not only would he not fall asleep in his own bed, but when we would place him there, he would inevitably wake up in the middle of the night and come to our room, seeking a comfy spot right in the middle of mommy and daddy’s bed.

We didn't want this to continue. And I realized he not only didn't sleep in his room, but he never spent any time in there at all. He just didn’t like his room. We assembled it for an infant, with a soft yellow color and a nice Beatrix Potter mural on the wall. While relaxing for an infant, it just wasn't exciting to a three-year-old whose tastes have shifted to superheroes and Disney Pixar movies.

By far, his biggest fanboy obsession has become Spider-Man. Everything from the movies to the Disney XD cartoon, to books, to clothes, to toys, this kid loves Spider-Man. As a somewhat handy dad, I decided that I was going to convert our boring guest bedroom into our son’s very own Spider-Man bedroom.

I envisioned what I wanted the color scheme to be and that there would be a big Spider-Man Fathead® on the wall. It would be a regular Spider-Man bonanza and, in theory, he would actually enjoy spending time in his room, and thus, sleeping there.

spider-man roomBoy, was I right. This picture of his new Spider-Man room should capture the essence of what it is like. Hyper Blue and Real Red paint from Sherwin-Williams. Spider-Man Fathead® from Fathead.com. Spider-Man curtains and bedding ordered from various websites, etc. And, for old times' sake, my own bedroom furniture from when I was growing up – solid oak furniture that looks practically new at 25+ years old (my parents kept it well preserved).

Now, for the first time ever, Vinny actually asks to go to his Spider-Man room. He loves it there. The other day he said to me, “Look at my Spider-Man room, daddy. It’s so cool!” I was teeming with pride. Shows you what a little daddy ingenuity can get you...

Not only does he sleep in his own bed every night, he actually falls asleep in it. No more waiting for him to fall asleep somewhere else and then sneaking him into his room. And even when he wakes up in the middle of the night (which happens often, as we have to check his blood sugar due to his Type 1 Diabetes – another blog post on that soon), he seems so comfortable in his own Spider-Man bed that he stays there. No more wandering into mommy and daddy’s room at night seeking refuge. He has his very own superhero watching over him to keep him where he is.

These heroes really are pretty super.

What worked/didn't work in getting your child to sleep in his or her own bed?

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photo credit: dogwelder (comic cover)

Top Posts of 2012: #4 — 5 Questions Every Father Should Ask Himself

5 questions every dad should askThe Father Factor Blog is closing out the year by revisiting some of our most popular blogs of 2012! We've enjoyed talking parenting tips and tools this year with you. Today is our fourth most popular blog post of 2012!

From the blog: 

We call him the “24/7 Dad.” We believe that every child needs one. What we are talking about is an involved, responsible and committed father. We are talking about a dad who knows his role in the family. He understands he is a 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. There are five questions every responsible father should answer. These five questions come with a guarantee: if you answer each one honestly and take action, you will become a 24/7 Dad!

The questions fit into five categories:

1. Self-Awareness. The 24/7 Dad is aware of himself as a man and aware of how important he is to his family. He knows his moods, feelings and emotions; capabilities, strengths, and challenges. He is responsible for his behavior and knows his growth depends on how well he knows and accepts himself. So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I know myself?

2. Caring for Self. The 24/7 Dad takes care of himself. He gets annual physicals, eats right, exercises, and learns about the world he lives in. He has a strong connection to his family and community, and chooses friends who support his healthy choices. So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I care for myself? 

3. Fathering Skills. The 24/7 Dad knows his role in the family. He knows he should be involved in the daily life of his children. Consider this: Who dresses and feeds your kids? Who attends parent-teacher conferences? Who supports their sports and other interests/activities? Who helps with homework and tucks them in at night? Said a different way, if you weren’t in the family, would anyone notice based on the daily household tasks? So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I “Father”?

4. Parenting Skills. The 24/7 Dad nurtures his children. Yes, nurturing is for men to do as well. He knows how his parenting skills help to develop their physical, emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, and creative needs. His children trust and feel safe with him because he cares about and nurtures them through the use of proven parenting skills. The 24/7 Dad uses discipline to teach and guide his children, not to threaten or harm them. So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I “Parent”?

5. Relationship Skills. The 24/7 Dad builds and maintains healthy relationships with his children, wife/mother of his children, other family members, friends, and community. He knows and values how relationships shape his children and their lives. So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I relate?

Read the full blog post: 5 Questions Every Father Should Ask Himself

Tell us: Which blog post did you like the most in 2012?

photo credit: Fabiana Zonca

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Happy Holidays from NFI and The 12 Dads of Christmas!

Happy Holidays from our famlies to yours! We've had a great time sharing stories of our most memorable holidays from across the entire nation. We hope you're taking time to enjoy your famliy and create more memories worth writing about! 

The 12 Dads of ChristmasFind our "12 Dads of Christmas" below and enjoy your holiday. Merry Christmas!

Dad 1: Jeff Land, A Generous Christmas:
“Christmas won’t be as big this year,” my mom’s constant reminder rung out in my mind. She and my dad were terribly afraid my brothers and I would be disappointed. She daily reminded us that this year was going to be different... Read more.

Dad 2: Ricky Choi, Holidays at the Hospital:
As a resident physician I spent a Christmas holiday working in the hospital. Because illness and accidents didn’t take a break during the holidays, someone on the physician staff couldn’t either. But I didn’t mind... Read more.

Dad 3: Madison Cowan, Christmas Every Day:
Christmastime for most of us is full on with memories. Whether of religious observances or the thought of gathering with loved ones to share cheer and compliments of the season. I recall as a child the magic of the holidays: playing in the snow, picking out a tree, the joy brought on by an original Marx Rock`em Sock`em Robots game, or the tantalizing aroma of Christmas lunch wafting throughout the house... Read more.

Dad 4: Chris Read, A Canadian Dad's Christmas Story:
If I HAD to pick memorable moments, that I can remember at least, a couple come to mind. The first involves my father and my uncle, who decided to give us kids a Christmas treat by setting up an elaborate scene for us. They set it up so that we all thought Santa had visited while we were there for our annual Christmas dinner. They had set up reindeer prints outside and even created a loud thud on the roof to make us think Santa was there... Read more.

Dad 5: John Wilke, Church, Chocolate and Charlie Brown: How One Dad Makes Christmas Bright:
For many children, the Christmas season is the most special time of year. In their little minds, the holidays brings new toys, candy, cakes, time off from school, parents possibly off from work and maybe even playing in the snow... Read more.

Dad 6: Dave Taylor, Creating Holiday Memories:
I'll be honest. My parents weren't really into holidays, either for themselves or for us kids. We celebrated some American holidays, but as newly minted Americans (I was born in England and didn't become a US citizen until I was 16) a lot of those holidays seemed less than vital. Then there were birthdays, which just weren't much of a big deal, with frankly uninspired present exchanges. Finally, we also celebrated the main Jewish holidays (Passover, Hannukah) but, again, not with great zeal and enthusiasm... Read more.

Dad 7: Jason Bruce, Slowing Down Makes Christmas Memorable:
The Christmas season becomes more hectic as one becomes an adult and a parent. That’s why memories of my childhood always come to my mind first when I reflect on my most memorable Christmases... Read more.

Dad 8: Scott Behson, An Involved Father Shares What's Better Than Being Santa:
Like virtually every child, I LOVED Christmas, especially when I was young enough to believe in Santa. After growing up, Christmas is still special, but it is no longer magic. That is, until you have kids and can now pass the magic along to them- and even better YOU get to be Santa. As a dad, it is never more true than during Christmas that it is better to give than to receive... Read more.

Dad 9: Tim Red, NFI Staff Share Their Favorite Holiday Traditions:
One of my most memorable Christmases as a Dad was held on Thanksgiving in 2005 because two days later I was deploying for a year and would miss Christmas with my Family... Read more.

Dad 10: Erik Vecere, NFI Staff Share Their Favorite Holiday Traditions:
One of the Christmases that I still laugh about occurred when I was boy back in the early 1980’s. I was so excited to get one of those football fields that you placed the little football players on and plugged it in... Read more.

Dad 11: Chris Delgado, First Comes Pizza, Then Comes Proposal: The Christmas She Said "Yes!":
My favorite Christmas marked a transition and a new meaning in my life. It was the year 2001 and this is when I proposed to my girlfriend who is now my wife... Read more.

Dad 12: Dave Sniadak, Reflecting on Christmas Past, Present:
For me, Christmas was always a magical time of year. Where I lived growing up, we almost always had snow - lots of it - but not bitter biting, freeze your nose off cold that kept you locked up in the house. I would spend hours rolling snowmen and exploring the backwoods behind our house, checking for tracks and remnants of elves sneaking around the yard. And while I never went into the holiday season with a set expectation of what I'd get from Santa, he certainly never disappointed... Read more.

The 12 Dads of ChristmasWhat have you enjoyed most from this holiday season and our 12 Dads of Christmas?

Continue connecting with us by sharing your most memorable holiday. You can record a video, share a picture, or post a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor. Use #12DadsofXmas so we see your message!

A Generous Christmas

This is a guest post by Jeff Land. Jeff is Editorial Project Leader for LifeWay Kids. He is married with four children and lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Find Jeff's personal blog at LandLife, follow him on Twitter @JeffLand and Facebook. He writes this post for NFI's "The 12 Dads of Christmas." If you are interested in guest blogging for us, send an email.

christmas giftChristmas wont be as big this year, my moms constant reminder rung out in my mind. She and my dad were terribly afraid my brothers and I would be disappointed. She daily reminded us that this year was going to be different.

It was Fall in Mississippi, just before Thanksgiving break and I was in eighth grade. My big brother Trae picked me up from school and told me that we had to go to Jackson to the hospital. We picked up my little brother, Bobby, and then Trae explained to us that our Dad had to have open-heart surgery. We were scared, but didn’t quite understand the severity of the situation. Trae was very worried. He was the only one that really understood how serious my dad’s condition was. 

Dad came through the quadruple by-pass surgery just fine. He was recovering well, but in the midst of his sickness, he also lost his job. Our family of five was surviving on my mom’s schoolteacher salary. Because my parents had always given us huge Christmases, my mom felt the constant need to remind us that this year would be small.

Christmas morning came and we opened our presents. I honestly don’t think I noticed we had fewer than normal. I was just really thankful for the opportunity God had given us to keep our dad here on earth! We were headed out to my grandparents’ house for breakfast when I noticed a huge box on our porch. 

I yelled for my brothers and we opened the box. Inside was a new Sega™. Still more, our secret Santa had chosen specific gifts for my brothers and me. I got a new “ornament” for my prized aquarium. I don’t know if my parents ever knew who brought those gifts on Christmas Eve but I certainly know we were impressed by the generosity. 

Ive had so many great Christmases over the years, but this one has always stood out as pivotal. It was the Christmas that we were all together and things could have been so different. It was also the year that a generous friend took a few extra steps to make sure the Land boys had an amazing Christmas. 

What's your most memorable Christmas and why?

Join in and share your most memorable holiday by recording a video, sharing a picture, or posting a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

photo credit: allerleirau

Holidays at the Hospital

This is a guest post by Dr. Ricky Choi. Choi is a pediatrician and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He serves on the Board of Directors for the National Physicians Alliance and is a national leader of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and two children. Find him at The Huffington Post and on his blogHe writes this post for NFI's "The 12 Dads of Christmas." If you are interested in guest blogging for us, send an email.

Christmas Memories
xmasnewbornAs a resident physician I spent a Christmas holiday working in the hospital. Because illness and accidents didn’t take a break during the holidays, someone on the physician staff couldn’t either. But I didn’t mind.

One of the many reasons I chose pediatrics as a specialty was the value staff placed on those things that were important to children. And for most kids, Christmas is a big deal. Though the inpatient unit was typically busy during the winter the pediatric staff made every effort to get kids home for Christmas -even if it only meant returning to the hospital 24 hours later.

So the few days before the big day were filled with commotion and hustle in the air. Some of the children required significant accommodations to make sure that they were safe to go home.

My arrival on the pediatric floor Christmas morning was met with silence. Piled high in front of the nurses station were wrapped presents donated by the local fireman which arrived after the mass exodus. Gone was the chorus of monitors beeping and mobs of staff rushing from room to room. The ward was, however, not completely empty.

Scattered throughout the ward were a handful of children who had stayed behind. The children with cancer needed their daily chemo or were too immunologically defenseless to go home. Having endured so much pain and hardship from their illness and the brutal treatment they seemed especially deserving of a holiday. Their families were there bright and smiling, desperate for something to celebrate. They savored each moment knowing that the only Christmas they were certain to have together was that day. The eery quiet in the ward made the laughter seem louder, the wrapping paper shinier, and the celebrations that much more festive. It was a day those children dearly deserved and their parents hoped to never forget. 

New Traditions
After my eldest daughter turned 3 years old, I began taking her to newborn hospital rounds on Christmas morning. After the gifts were opened and the late breakfast eaten we gathered our things, me with my stethoscope, she with her colorful toy doctor’s kit. Then we hopped into the car with the hopes of seeing a Christmas baby at the newborn nursery.

During the ride we talked about caring for babies: washing hands and gentle touching. I described the joy that this family must be feeling to have such a special gift during the holidays. I recalled the immense joy I felt when she was born only a few years before.

This new tradition is a chance for my daughter to build a sense of connectedness with the lives of others. The most amazing part of being a physician is the privilege to be a part of peoples lives at the most meaningful of moments. Hopefully my children too will make caring for others inform their life choices. I can’t think of a better way to plant this seed than bringing her to a celebration for a new life on Christmas morning.

What's your most memorable Christmas and why?

Join in and share your most memorable holiday by recording a video, sharing a picture, or posting a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

photo credit: brooklyn

Christmas Every Day with Chef Madison Cowan

This is a guest post by Chef Madison Cowan. Madison is a dad, husband, CEO of Madison Cowan LLC, author, producer, Food Network's Iron Chef America & Chopped Grand Champion. Find him at Madison Cowan, follow him on Twitter @Madisons_Ave and on Facebook. He writes this post for NFI's "The 12 Dads of Christmas." If you are interested in guest blogging for us, send an email.

madison cowanChristmastime for most of us is full on with memories. Whether of religious observances or the thought of gathering with loved ones to share cheer and compliments of the season. I recall as a child the magic of the holidays: playing in the snow, picking out a tree, the joy brought on by an original Marx Rock`em Sock`em Robots game, or the tantalizing aroma of Christmas lunch wafting throughout the house.

These are just a few traditions I’ve held onto and now share with my own family. It is equally important we not forget all those less fortunate children and families, struggling daily to make ends meet or put food on the table, or who won’t have a Christmas…again. From the age of 2 I’ve exposed my daughter to a life of volunteering and service to others as the spirit of giving extends well beyond this time of year.  

That said, one of my favourite holiday memories is making a large batch of my mum’s 7UP pound cake with my daughter a few years back to donate to a food pantry in London. Buttery, crunchy topping and feather light texture, her secret was to weigh or measure the flour again after sifting then mix everything together at once. Swans Down cake flour, a vintage metal crank sifter and an egg cracking munchkin evoked warmth of Christmases past.

The power is in the present moment, so pop in that Rudolph or Frosty DVD, put on Nat King Cole’s "The Christmas Song" and get stuck in creating new traditions with your lil’ ones…this Christmas and always.  

Jean Bean’s 7UP Pound Cake
 
Unbleached cake flour 3 cups, sifted
Unrefined cane sugar 2 cups
Unsalted butter 1 lb., softened at room temperature
Eggs 6, room temperature
Pure vanilla extract 1 tsp.
Lemon extract 2 tsp.
7up lemon soda ¾ cup, room temperature   

Heat the oven to 375F. Place the flour into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Add the remaining ingredients and blend with an electric hand mixer until smooth. DO NOT OVERMIX.  

Butter and lightly dust with flour a fluted cake tin or 2 to 3 loaf tins. Carefully pour the mixture into the tins as not to pack tight and bake mid-oven for 1 hour 15 minutes or until golden brown and an inserted table knife comes out clean.  

Another tip is to keep the oven door closed and check doneness only after the first 50 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes and remove from tins. Serve simply with fresh seasonal fruit or berries, whipped cream or icing sugar. Serves 12 to 15    

12 dadasWhat family recipe makes the holiday special for you?

Join in and share your most memorable holiday by recording a video, sharing a picture, or posting a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

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