The internet and social media are buzzing this week with criticism of CNN's coverage of the Steubenville rape trial in which two juvenile males were convicted of raping a severely intoxicated 16-year-old girl. Trent Mays, 17, was sentenced to two years in a juvenile detention facility and Ma'lik Richmond, 16, was sentence to one year. Critics charge that CNN's approach is "pro-rapist" and that the anchors and correspondents are showing more compassion for the two perpetrators than they are for the victim.
There is plenty of commentary on CNN's angle on this story, so we won't address that here. However, in CNN's coverage of the conviction of the two young men, they have unwittingly highlighted the "father factor" in crime that we at National Fatherhood Initiative have repeatedly pointed out. (See previous posts on the Sandy Hook shooting, the Aurora theater shooting, the DC snipers, the Tuscon shooting, and the Chardon High School shooting.)
In her report after the judge handed out the sentence, CNN correspondent Poppy Harlow recounts an emotional moment between Ma'lik Richmond, one of the convicted youth, and his father:
You know, something that came up throughout this sentencing. Ma’lik’s father had gotten up and spoke. Ma’lik has been living with guardians. His father, a former alcoholic, got into to a lot of trouble with the law, been in prison before.
And his father stood up and he told the court, ‘I feel responsible for this. I feel like I wasn’t there for my son.’ And before that, he came over to the bench where his son was sitting. He approached him, he hugged him and whispered in his ear.
And Ma’lik’s attorney said to us in a courtroom, I have never heard Ma’lik’s father before say, I love you. He’s never told his son that. But he just did today.
Read that again. The first time Ma'lik heard his father utter the words "I love you" was the day that he was convicted as a sex offender and sentenced to juvenile detention.
On the one hand, it is wonderful that Mr. Richmond is affirming his unconditional love for his son at this moment when Ma'lik is emotionally devasted over the consequences of his actions for himself and for others. (His statement to the family after his sentencing was very emotional and sorrowful.) Harlow previously noted that when Ma'lik heard the sentence of the judge, he collapsed in the arms of his attorney and said "My life is over. No one is going to want me now.” He needs to know that his dad still wants him, despite his actions.
However, this seem like "too little, too late." What if Ma'lik had grown up hearing his dad say "I love you" every day? What if his dad had been a positive role model and an involved, responsible, and committed father? Would Ma'lik have made the choices that led to his involvement in a drunken party and ugly rape of a young girl if he didn't grow up with an alcoholic father who committed crimes and was absent for part of his life because he was in jail? What if Ma'lik's dad, while he was in jail, had the opportunity to participate in NFI's InsideOut Dad® program for incarcerated fathers and learn how to build a relationship with his son even while behind bars?
We don't know the whole story, of course, and it seems that Mr. Richmond realizes that his absence has contributed to his son's behavior and is now urging parents to be more involved in their children's lives. Hopefully he'll start to be more present in his son's life now. Unfortunately, the Richmonds are yet another fulfillment of the statistic that children with incarcerated fathers are seven times more likely to become incarcerated thesmelves.
The Steubenville case is a tragedy for all involved; most certainly for the 16-year-old girl who was victimized. If anything, the relationship between Ma'lik Richmond and his dad is a sobering reminder to fathers that their involvement in their children's lives shapes the decisions their children make.
The words "I love you" are powerful - say them now, before it's too late.
It seems that strong women beget strong women. However, research also shows that involved fathers beget strong women. Let me explain...
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has made headlines recently by imploring today’s working women to “lean in” to their careers in order to reach their full professional potential.
According to a CBS News story, “If there's one message she wants women to hear it's to aim high -- seek challenges and take risks -- and fight the instinct to hold back.”
Much of the response to Sandberg’s idea has focused on whether or not women should try to act more like men, whether it is appropriate for women to “lean in” as much as Sandberg thinks they should, what the future of work-life balance policy is, etc.
I am not going to get into that debate. Rather, I think it is critical that we are honest about the characteristics that many successful women tend to share – they grew up with involved dads.
The conventional wisdom seems to be that strong women beget strong women. I don’t doubt that that is true… to a degree. But what research has shown consistently is that involved fathers beget strong women.
- Children who have involved fathers expressed emotions in non-traditional gender patterns. Girls express more aggression, competition, and less intense fear and sadness whereas boys expressed more warmth and fear as well as less aggression. Also, 3 to-5-year-old children with highly involved fathers had less traditional views of future employment possibilities when they became adolescents than did their peers whose fathers were more aloof.
- A study of 302 adolescent girls showed that those who feel connected with their biological father but have little contact are at higher risk of problematic psychosocial functioning. Poor school behavior also increases for girls with low contact levels with their father.
- Fathers’ emotional involvement in the lives of their child can lead to less gendered roles.
- Fathers have a unique effect on their daughter’s tendency towards anti-social behavior. A study of 325 families revealed that fathers who present their daughters with more opportunities and reinforcement lessen the likelihood of their daughters’ poor behavior.
Having recently seen the upcoming DreamWorks Animation Film, The Croods, and then seeing what Sandberg had to say about women in the workplace, I couldn’t help but make the connection to this compelling data.
While you may not think of an animated cavegirl as the poster child for today’s working women, the reality is that Eep (pictured above on her father's shoulder), the young girl in the Croods’ family, drives the film’s plot through her desire to “leave the cave” and find new adventures out in the wide world. And guess what? She had a great dad.
As you may have seen on this blog, we gave Grug a Fatherhood Award™ for his heroic fathering in the film. Sure, these aren’t real people, but they are archetypes that mean something in our culture; the makers of The Croods have tapped into something very real. The reason Eep had the confidence to step out into a dangerous world is because she knew her father had her back. She may have been rebelling, and her father may have seen it as such, but the reality is that she would not have had the foundation to take such bold steps if she didn’t come from a supportive, strong family whose bedrock (Flintstones pun not intended) was dad. Again, take a look at the above data points if you have your doubts.
If a movie, even an animated one set in a fantasy world, is too unhinged from reality it will not be successful. That is why we at NFI believe The Croods is a special movie. DreamWorks is tapping into a truth about what gives children, especially girls in this case, the confidence they need to reach their full potential. Dads are the secret ingredient to “empowering” today’s girls to do their best.
The tagline for The Croods is “the first modern family.” Indeed.
Question: How have you seen this play out in your life as a dad?
Sources:1. Rivers, Caryl and Rosalind Chait Barnett. “Father Figures a Slew of New Studies Applaud Dads.” The Boston Globe 18 June 2000: E1.2. Coley, Rebekah Levine. “Daughter-Father Relationship and Adolescent Psychosocial Functioning in Low-Income African American Families.” Journal of Marriage and the Family, 65 (November 2003): 867-875.3. Deutsch, Francine M., Laura J. Servis, and Jessica D. Payne. “Paternal Participation in Child Care and Its Effects on Children’s Self-Esteem and Attitudes Toward Gendered Roles.” Journal of Family Issues, 22 (November 2001): 1000-1024.4. Kosterman, Rick. Et al. Unique Influence of Mothers and Fathers on Their Children’s Anti-Social Behavior. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 66. (August 2004). 762-778.
Image credit: The Croods © 2013 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All Rights Reserved.
NFI presented Grug, the dad from The Croods, with our Fatherhood Award™ at a special screening and Q&A at AMC Loews Theater, Lincoln Square, New York, NY. Grug was unable to accept the award in person; however, the writers and directors, Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco, accepted on Grug's behalf!
Imagine a theater full of parents, kids, sugar, soda and popcorn for almost three hours—it was epic! The screened the 3D version of the film, followed by a Q&A with actress Catherine Keener and Chris and Kirk. The following pics show all the fun! Special thanks to Dreamworks Animation and The Moms for partnering with us! Find more info at NFI's The Croods page.
NFI's Vince DiCaro (center) presenting Chris Sanders (Left) & Kirk De Micco (Right) with our Fatherhood Award™!
From left:The Moms (Denise & Melissa), Catherine Keener, Chris Sanders & Kirk De Micco
From Left: Belt, Sanders, Keener, De Micco...
More pics from the event...
Sanders & De Micco polishing the Fatherhood Award!
Sanders enjoys a rest from the paparazzi!
Presentation and Q&A time!
Keener takes question from young fan!
The kids loved the film & enjoyed meeting a larger-than-life Belt!
Prehistoric dad and star of upcoming DreamWorks Animation feature will receive award for his heroic fathering
National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) will bestow its Fatherhood Award™ on “Grug” -- the star of the upcoming 20th Century Fox/DreamWorks Animation feature, The Croods -- at a pre-screening of the film in New York City today.
The Croods follows a prehistoric family on a road trip through dangerous and fantastical terrain as they seek a new home. Throughout the adventure, Grug protects his family from various dangers, being the first line of defense in this new world as The Croods embark on their first family road trip. He also works through the challenges of raising his teenage daughter, Eep, and develops an especially strong bond with her.
Vincent DiCaro, NFI’s vice president of development and communication, said, “Grug epitomizes many of the ideals of what being a dad is all about. First and foremost, he understands that being a great dad means sacrificing your own comfort and safety to ensure that your family is taken care of. National Fatherhood Initiative is honored to bestow the Fatherhood Award™ on Grug for exemplifying involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood.”
Upon hearing about his Fatherhood Award™, Grug said, "I'm very humbled by this honor and am deeply grateful. Now everyone get back in the cave where it's safe!"
"It was an honor to play the paternal Grug, because of his commitment to his children. I celebrate all fathers who remain devoted to spending time with their sons and daughters, to just be there for them," said Nicolas Cage.
The Award will be presented at a pre-screening hosted by The Moms (Denise Albert and Melissa Musen Gerstein), the multi-platform lifestyle brand and event company. Since Grug will be unable to accept the award in person, directors Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders will accept on his behalf.
The screening begins at 4 p.m. EDT at AMC Loews Lincoln Square Cinemas, to be followed by the Award presentation and a celebrity Q&A with Catherine Keener, De Micco, and Sanders.
The presentation of the Fatherhood Award™ kicks off a campaign from NFI to promote the pro-fatherhood themes and messages in The Croods. Leading up to its nationwide release date of March 22, NFI will employ its social media properties to use teachable moments from the film to inspire dads and generate enthusiasm for the film. Follow the campaign here on the blog, on Facebook and on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.
This is a guest post by Jeff Hay. Jeff runs The Dad Vibe. Follow Jeff on Facebook and Twitter. If you are interested in guest blogging for us, send an email.
Dad, you are a hero. Period.
You are a hero until you prove otherwise. From the moment you become dad, you are put on a pedestal– it’s up to you to stay on there.
When a child is born, a father is born. But dads soon learn that mom is a baby’s number 1 for obvious reasons; a new baby needs mom. The hierarchy is simple; MOM, then everyone else in the world (the “not-my-moms”).
However, something magical happens for dad when a child recognizes dad from all the other ‘not-my-moms’. “Hey! This guy smells different, talks different, sings terribly, and holds me like a football running back – but he is safe, comforting, and I like this guy. I like him a lot!”
Your children will learn tons from mom, but there are many things they will learn from you. You are critical to their development – you have unique, wonderful gifts to share.
Your children will always look to you for guidance, values, strength, protection, and leadership.
• Dad can pick up anything no matter how heavy it looks.
• Dad can open any jar no matter who else tries to budge it.
• Dad can fix or build anything, no matter how confusing the IKEA instructions appear.
• Dad can survive third degree burns to his face from the BBQ with the broken starter
• Dad’s arms are always the safest place when fear creeps in.
• Dad can do anything. Dad has NO fear.
Can you see how your children see you? 10 feet tall and bulletproof – that is how they view you… do you see it? You slay dragons and aren’t afraid of anything in the closet, under the bed, or in the super dark and scary basement. You can face your daughter’s ex-boyfriends that can’t take a hint.
Your boss may not always want your ideas and experience, but your children do. They need your story and your experience. You are the king of the castle and you have valuable lessons, values, and ideas to teach.
Dad believes in his children and instils in them the belief that they can do anything they commit too – regardless of gender. My children know and recite all my lines, “Boys can do anything girls can do except have babies…”
Your words and action all carry great significance. From how you treat the homeless on the street to the people at the fast food drive thru, and even to how you talk to or about mom – little ears are listening and little eyes are watching your every move. They may not always listen to your words, but they will not fail to imitate you.
You are the anchor…
The team captain…
The ROCK. Please never forget that.
Positivity, values, and inspiration springs from you.
If you could see how your children see you, even for 5 minutes, you would never parent the same way again.
Be Bold…. You are a Hero!!!
Ditch the tights and cape – no dude looks good in those. You don’t need them, you are a DAD and that’s more than enough.
Until next time…
Question: Dad, since you are a superhero, what's your super power?
Happy Throwback Thursday! Today's reminder: Take time to be a dad! Enjoy!
Question: How will you "take time to be a dad" today?
King, Jackson, Howard, Rose, Webber…these names conjure up lessons and memories for the sports fan—lessons in greatness and defeat. The names collectlively were "The Fab Five," which was the nickname for the 1991 University of Michigan men's basketball team. They were and still are considered by most to be "the greatest class ever recruited." The team reached two championship games in the early nineties while freshmen and sophomores, which was unheard of before they did it.
Perhaps bigger than the team playing in championships, they brought the intimidation factor to college sports in a way not previously seen. They were known as a team who changed the style of basketball. They wore their shorts longer than everyone else and wore black shoes with black socks.
I must confess as a 12- or 13-year-old playing public school basketball, our all-caucasian team in the mountains of Tennessee intentionally stole the Fab Five's style. Yes, our game suits may have been purple and white and said “Eagles” instead the blue and gold of the “Wolverines”; but you couldn’t tell us we weren’t cool enough to wear our shorts below our knees, with black Nike shoes and black socks purchased by our moms.
This is the magic of March Madness: whether you're a sports fanatic, proudly wearing your team colors and never missing a game, or prefer to spend your time doing other things, there's memories wrapped up in these college basketball games. If you don’t enjoy the games, perhaps your child will. The games can be a great time to connect with your kids and family.
As a dad, you're the coach of your own team and your "players" are looking to you for the strategies and techniques that will help them win in the game. This month, as TVs, computers and mobile devices across the nation tune to the NCAA college basketball tournament, we're getting in on "March Madness" too by bringing you March Dadness!
Tips for Coach Dad
As you're filling out your bracket and gearing up for the tournament, use our bracket of tips and strategies to build your game plan for fathering.
During the month of March, our Dad Email will follow the March Madness tournament schedule:
- Sweet Sixteen: 16 Words Your Kid Should Hear from You
- Elite Eight: 8 Activities Your Kid Should Experience with You
- Final Four: 4 Character Traits Your Kid Should Get from You
- The Championship: The Legacy You Pass to Your Kid
Tools for Coach Dad
Dad Email and The Father Factor Blog: Stay tuned to The Father Factor Blog for stories related to the college basketball season, from stories and memories to tips, tools and advice related to our kids and family.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vine: We'll be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vine with our opinions and pics about March Madness. Whether you’re watching the game alone with a bucket of wings or with your child teaching her how to shoot free-throws, be sure to connect with us using #MarchDadness as the hashtag.
Speaking of bracketology, you can join National Fatherhood Initiative’s Fantasy League by signing up today (Group Password: Fatherhood).
Visit our Fatherhood March Dadness Page for more information.
Let the 'Dadness' begin!
Question: Which team do you think will win it all this year?
This is a guest post by Angela Patton. Angela is Founder of Camp Diva, which organizes "Date with Dad"; a father-daughter dance connecting fathers to their daughters while in prison. Follow Angela on Facebook and Twitter. If you are interested in guest blogging for us, send an email.
I was searching the internet one day for images of fathers and daughters dancing and came across a picture of a father and daughter at a dance that looked like it was from the 60s. It reminded me of something I knew all too well…father-daughter dances are nothing new. They’ve been going on for decades, centuries even. I remember attending one with my own father when I was a little girl. So I asked myself, what makes our (Camp Diva’s) dance so different? What’s so special about the Date with Dad Dinner and Dance?
1) How it began?
One day, I was having a conversation with my girls in Camp Diva. One shared how smothered she felt by her father’s attention, while another shared how much she wished her father, who she hadn’t heard from in years, would pay her any attention at all. This led to a deeper discussion about their various ‘daddy issues.’ And while they all had different relationships with their fathers, they all wanted better ones. So I asked them how they thought they could help themselves, and other girls, develop healthy relationships with their fathers. The reply: “a dance!” So the “Date with Dad Dinner & Dance” began with the girls doing much of the planning. They spoke. We listened. In the end, we gave them what they said they wanted…quality time with their fathers.
2) We Have Fill-In Dads!
A single mother in Rhode Island complained her daughter was prevented from attending a father-daughter dance. Well, not to worry, Date with Dad has Fill-In Dads! Among the 20 who attended our first Date with Dad in 2008 was a girl whose father was deceased. After helping to set up for the event, the husband of one of our volunteers saw the girl, walked over to her, and asked her to dance. He ended up hanging out with her for the entire evening. Both had a great time, and he volunteered to come back the following year—starting a tradition of “Fill-In Dads” at the Date with Dad. Not having a father or father-figure doesn’t exclude girls from attending.
3) We Go To Prison!
One year, one of the Camp Diva girls told the others she would not be attending the dance because her father was incarcerated. So the girls suggested bringing the dance inside the walls of the city jail! They wrote a letter to the sheriff, the sheriff said yes, and so began “A Dance of Their Own,” which gave 18 incarcerated fathers the chance to connect with their daughters outside of normal visiting hours—minus the glass wall and telephone—enabling them to hug and hold their daughters. No one is left out of the Date with Dad experience.
4) It is Open to ALL!
Traditionally, many father-daughter dances are attended by members of a certain organization, or students in a particular school, of a certain age group. But Date with Dad invites girls, and women, of every age to attend; thus, bringing together women and girls of various backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, and socio-economic statuses, from different areas. Younger girls also get the chance to see older women with their fathers, modeling what they hope will be their future relationships with their own fathers. An equally diverse group of men also come together, from blue collar to professional, single and weekend dads, as well as full time/married dads. Again, the men have a chance to network and connect with each other, and share their trials and triumphs as fathers.
5) Our Partnerships
We don’t want fathers and daughters to come to the Date with Dad simply to eat, dance, and be entertained. We want to help them connect with each other, heal their relationships, and get them going in the right direction. We want to connect them with community resources to help them strengthen their relationships. To that end, we have cultivated partnerships with various organizations committed to providing that assistance. In addition, we utilize the Richmond Fatherhood Initiative’s “Inside-Out Dads” curriculum for our “Dance of Their Own.” The fathers in the city jail go through the program before and after the dance. Our partners have also fostered within us the desire and opportunity to help others to replicate our model and make changes in their communities. Our next stop: Norfolk, Virginia. It is our hope to expand nationally, as well as internationally, as the issues connected to fathers and daughters are universal.
So you see Date with Dad is not just any father-daughter dance. It’s more than a dance, more than an event. It’s an experience. It’s part of an ongoing conversation between fathers and daughters, or at least the start of one, and it is making a difference!
See Angela's TedxWomen Talk about "A Father-Daughter Dance...in Prison":
Question: How do you connect best with your child?
Recently on FoxNews Live, Lewis Kostiner and Juan Williams spoke to Jonathan Hunt, host of "On the Hunt", on how men from all walks of life are working to be great fathers, all because of NFI's programming.
If you can't see the video, click here.
The interview centered around the book titled, "Choosing Fatherhood: America's Second Chance" which contains photographs from Lewis Kostiner's travels and meeting with 150 fathers from all walks of life in 17 states and 39 cities who had at least one thing in common – they were all working hard to be the best dads they could be.
Kostiner says he became aware of the national crisis of father absense while attending a luncheon with NFI. He then decided he would take photographs and illustrate how NFI's Programming was helping change the father absence problem in America.
Juan Williams wrote the introduction to the book and calls father absence, "the human tradegy of our time". He writes in the introduction, "No government can hold a child's hand or read to him at bedtime. No child will ever call a government "daddy". Regardless of a man's job status, or the struggles inherant in every romantic relationship, a child ideally needs two parents."
Juan continues, "we need to be child-focused...let's put the dad back in the picture...that's what Mr. Kostiner's book does."
Connect with The Father Factor by RSS, Facebook and on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.
This is a guest post by Clay Brizendine. Clay is a CPT, a personal and corporate trainer, father of two daughters and author of Shoebox Letters – Daughters to Dads. Follow Clay on the web and Twitter. If you are interested in guest blogging for us, send an email.
Over a recent weekend my wife and I talked about some of the things that were going on during the upcoming week. A PTO meeting was on the agenda for that Tuesday night, which meant she was gone and I’d be home with the kids. Sometimes ‘babysitting’ as they referred to it, but parenting to the rest of us.
We had dinner before my wife left, she kissed them goodbye and goodnight, and then my two daughters and I were left to do with the evening what we wanted. Of course there were the many things that HAD to be done – backpacks put away, school items ready for tomorrow, showers to wash off the practice-stink, hair to be dried and detangled (ah, if you’ve never detangled 7 & 8 year-old-girl hair after a shower, you haven’t lived!).
But who was to say we couldn't do MORE than what simply HAD to be done? I had taken a home theater sub-woofer to a local shop to get repaired, but they returned it not knowing any more about the speaker than I did – it didn’t work. Uh, really? So there it was, sitting in the middle of the floor, and I made a decision then to open it up – with the kids.
We got the drill out. They learned about the difference between the ‘1’ setting (the torque setting, used for setting screws) and the ‘2’ setting (the speed setting, used for drilling). They learned about circuit boards. They saw the inner workings of a speaker, how some companies cut corners and how they do small things that can make a big difference. They used the drill on the screws. They were fascinated.
I can’t tell you the last time I was fascinated by taking something apart. It used to amaze me. Just haven’t done it in a while. But what was even more amazing was doing it with the kids. It was watching them be amazed at a circuit board. To recite the colors of all of the wires. To laugh hysterically when the magnet on the bottom of the speaker picked up all the screws we had on the floor from taking the speaker apart.
And we were doing it all together. There was no TV, no radio, no influence from any other place. Just us playing. Being together. The only thing that could have made it better was if my wife had been home too.
It is, and always will be, about the little things. It’s not the big trips, the big items that can be bought, the huge celebrations. Those are great, but they are single points in time that can only add up to so much. It’s the little things along the way – along the ENTIRE way – that make the difference.
A laugh here.
A hug there.
A ‘snuggle’ with the kids here.
A dinner at the table together there.
A wink to your spouse here.
An ‘I love you’ at the end of the day there.
That’s what counts.
It’s the simple things.
Question: What "simple thing" have you enjoyed with your child lately?