We're finishing up our "Thanks, Dad!" campaign this week. Through November, we’ve given you tips and advise for raising a thankful child, showing thankfulness in your home, creating a memorable Thanksgiving and now we want your family to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness that continues beyond the Thanksgiving holiday!
One of the best ways to express thankfulness is to give to others! Check out our five ways of saying thanks through giving and be intentional about teaching and modeling these ideas with your kids today.
- Give Your Time: Whether it's volunteering at the local homeless shelter, participating in a community clean-up day or taking an hour to make cookies for your neighbors, investing time to help or encourage others is a great way to cultivate a thankful attitude or to say thanks to those who have helped you. When you take time to get your kids involved in the process, they will have fun and you will connect as a family as well! It's important that you explain to our child what and why are you giving your time to help others. You can explain in more detail depending on the age of your child. The point here is to not only give, but to teach your child about giving in the process.
- Give Your Talents: If your kids have musical or singing talent, nursing or retirement homes always welcome having young people to play or sing for their residents. If you're a handyman, consider offering help a single mom in your neighborhood with seasonal "honey-dos" and bring your kids along to help. There's an opportunity to serve for every kind of talent!
- Give Your Things: A couple times a year, encourage your kids to sort their clothes, books, and toys and set aside items in good condition and donate to a homeless shelter. This will help your kids realize how much they have to be thankful for and to experience the joy of giving to others who have less than them. It will also provide you a way of getting your kids to clean their rooms; at least twice per year. Go ahead and mark two cleaning dates on your calendar!
- Give Your Thoughts: Giving doens't have to mean money. Encourage your children to take a moment to say something thoughtful to the people around them, whether it's "thanks," "you look nice today," or "I appreciate your friendship." Set the example by regularly saying thoughtful and encouraging things to your family members and others. Remember, this attitude starts with you--the parent! How you talk and interact with people teaches your children to react the same manner.
- Give Your Treasure: For those with more money than time, consider supporting charitable causes and organizations financially. Encourage your children to donate a portion of their allowance or income to a specific cause. Talk with your kids about the charitable organizations you contribute to and why you give to those groups. Again, it's important to give, but it's also very important that you children know the why behind the what. Use giving as a teachable moment for your family.
As you and your children give, you will find it easier to notice all the things you can be thankful for in your life. Start saying "thanks" by giving today!
What's one thing you could change in your weekly schedule to help you and your family show thanks through giving?
Visit our "Thanks, Dad!" page for more on how you can connect with your family and other dads just like you! Don't forget to say, "Thanks, Dad!" by recording a video, sharing a picture, or writing a short note on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor. Use the hashtag #ThxDad to tell the world why the dad in your life deserves thanks!
photo credit: Tim Green aka atoach
Very good news was just released about the United States’ preterm birthrate: in 2011, for the fifth consecutive year, it decreased. The rate now stands at a 10-year low of 11.7%.
This news was rightfully celebrated by the organization that is probably the single biggest advocate for maternal and infant health in the U.S., March of Dimes. That admirable organization has set a goal of a 9.6% rate by 2020.
We sincerely hope and pray that the goal is met.
However (you knew a “however” was coming), we at National Fatherhood Initiative believe that March of Dimes is missing an enormous opportunity to reach and surpass the goal they have set. As far as we can see, they are doing little to nothing to acknowledge or encourage the role that involved fathers play in maternal and child health.
Before I say more, I will take this opportunity to inundate you with data, because there is so much research out there that shows, unequivocally, that father involvement matters to maternal and child health.
In a landmark study conducted by the University of South Florida and published in the Journal of Community and Family Health in 2010, researchers examined the records of all births in Florida from 1998 to 2005 – more than 1.39 million live births. They found the following:
- Infants with absent fathers were more likely to be born with lower birth weights, to be preterm and small for gestational age.
- Regardless of race or ethnicity, the neonatal death rate of father-absent infants was nearly four times that of their counterparts with involved fathers.
- The risk of poor birth outcomes was highest for infants born to black women whose babies’ fathers were absent during their pregnancies. Even after adjusting for socioeconomic differences, these babies were seven times more likely to die in infancy than babies born to Hispanic and white women in the same situation.
- Obstetric complications contributing to premature births, such as anemia, chronic high blood pressure, eclampsia and placental abruption, were more prevalent among women whose babies’ fathers were absent during pregnancy.
- Expectant mothers in the father-absent group tended to be younger, more educated, more likely to never have given birth, more likely to be black, and had a higher percentage of risk factors like smoking and inadequate prenatal care than mothers in the father-involved group.
If that data is not enough to convince you that March of Dimes should do more to engage fathers, here’s more:
- Infant mortality rates are 1.8 times higher for infants of unmarried mothers than for married mothers. 1
- High-quality interaction by any type of father predicts better infant health.2
- Children living with their married biological or adoptive parents have better access to health care than children living in any other family type.3
- Premature infants who have increased visits from their fathers during hospitalization have improved weight gain and score higher on developmental tests.4
- When fathers are involved during the pregnancy, babies have fewer complications at birth.5
- Babies with a father’s name on the birth certificate are 4 times more likely to live past 1 year of age.6
- Twenty-three percent of unmarried mothers in large U.S. cities reported cigarette use during their pregnancy. Seventy-one percent were on Medicare.7
Given the powerful case that the research makes, it is critical that every entity working to improve maternal and child health invests in increasing father involvement. All indications are that March of Dimes is not doing this in any noticeable or significant way.
A legitimate question at this point is, “How do you increase father involvement in maternal and child health?” There are three broad categories:
- Awareness – The first step is to ensure that the public is aware of the data that we provided above. Do you think most people understand the central role fathers play in this area? March of Dimes is positioned better than any other organization in the country to make a big deal out of how important dads are to maternal and child health. By simply listing this sort of research on their website and talking about father involvement as a factor in determining the preterm birthrate, they can have a great deal of influence. In the USA Today article from 11/13/12 in which I found out about this news, March of Dimes spokespeople cited things like access to prenatal care and reduced smoking during pregnancy as critical to preventing premature births, but nothing about involved dads.
- Research – Given what we know from the above research, and given the continued emphasis on research into why preterm births happen, more research dollars should be dedicated to understanding why fathers play such an important role, and then, how we can get them more involved from the start. Based on their website, it appears that none of March of Dimes’ research grant recipients are studying father involvement.
- Skill-building – Finally, every entity that interacts with pregnant moms (hospitals, birthing centers, Lamaze classes, nurse home visits, etc.) should be encouraged and equipped to provide fathers with inspiration and education about the importance of their role. Many fathers are afraid to get involved in pregnancy and infants’ lives because they fear that their lack of parenting skills will hurt more than help. We need to collectively disavow fathers of this notion by providing them with high quality skill-building materials to increase their health literacy and get them in the game. Again, it does not appear March of Dimes is doing anything on this front.
There is a concept called the “tipping point” that can be described as follows: “that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.”8 We believe that for reductions in the preterm birthrate to reach a tipping point, increasing father involvement needs to become an important part of the noble efforts currently underway. Otherwise, there is a very strong possibility of the reductions plateauing and lots of very smart people wringing their hands about why they can’t get the needle to shift further.
Let’s work together to encourage March of Dimes to pay more attention to the father factor in maternal and child health Here’s how. Contact March of Dimes to praise them for their great work, but to also encourage them to take the next step by acknowledging, celebrating, and encouraging the central role that fathers play in determining the preterm birthrate.
- Ask them a question about their research here. For example, you can ask “What are you doing to investigate the role that father involvement plays in reducing preterm births?”
- Comment on their Facebook wall. For example, you can say, “Research shows that father involvement is a key to reducing the preterm birthrate. What is March of Dimes doing to encourage father involvement?” Share with them the research we provide in this post, and tell them that father involvement during the prenatal period is key to reaching a tipping point in their effort. Encourage them to work with NFI.
- Tweet about the father factor in maternal and child health and tag March of Dimes. For example, you can tweet, “There's a father factor in preterm birthrate. Data here: http://bit.ly/nfiblogdimes112612. What is @MarchofDimes doing to encourage father involvement?”
Collectively, we can help a great organization reach a very important goal by speaking up for dads and the important role they play in nurturing healthy moms and babies.
1. Matthews, T.J., Sally C. Curtin, and Marian F. MacDorman. Infant Mortality Statistics from the 1998 Period Linked Birth/Infant Death Data Set. National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 48, No. 12. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, 2000.
2. Carr, D. & Springer, K. W. Advances in families and health research in the 21st century. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72, 743-761 (2010).
3. Gorman, B. G., & Braverman, K. Family structure differences in health care utilization among U.S. children. Social Science and Medicine, 67, 1766–1775 (2008).
4. Coleman WL, Garfield CF, and the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health. “Fathers and Pediatricians: Enhancing Men’s Roles in the Care and Development of their Children”. American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement, Pediatrics, May, 2004.
5. Alio, A.P., Mbah, A.K., Kornosky, J.L., Marty, P.J. & Salihu, H.M. "The Impact of Paternal Involvement on Feto-Infant Morbidity among Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics". Matern Child Health J. 2010; 14(5): 735-41.
7. McLanahan, Sara. The Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study: Baseline National Report. Table 7. Princeton, NJ: Center for Research on Child Well-being, 2003: 16.
photo credit: bies via photopin cc
photo credit: Martin Gommel via photopin cc
National Fatherhood Initiative's Vincent DiCaro was recently featured on CNN for writing "5 Ways to Raise Thankful Children."
Vince writes about the first time he heard his young son say "Thank you, daddy" and gives parents five ways to raise thankful children. He says, "I can say with confidence that thankfulness does not come naturally to children, mine included." But Vince continues, "Parenting, like having a good jump shot, is a skill that can be learned through the right techniques and practice."
There are things you can do to help cultivate thankfulness in your children. Read "5 Ways to Raise Thankful Children" and take comfort that if you make habits out of these guidelines, you will start to see positive results in your children. And for that, you will most certainly be thankful.
Visit our "Thanks, Dad!" page for more on how you can connect with your family and other dads just like you! Don't forget to say, "Thanks, Dad!" by recording a video, sharing a picture or writing a short note commenting on this blog, Facebook or on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.
photo credit: cheerytomato
Thanksgiving is here! Yeah, I can’t believe it either. It’s been a busy month and December is almost upon us. This month, we’ve shared ideas for raising a thankful child, showing thankfulness in your home, and now we have ideas for creating memorable Thanksgiving traditions! Check out our ideas and then read Thanksgiving traditions that NFI staff share with their family. After you read our traditions, tell us yours in the comment section!
Here are five ideas to get you started:
- Get Active: One of the things we often take for granted is our health and ability to engage in physical activity. Being active together as a family is a great way to create a memorable time together. You know you’re going to watch football at some point during the day. You also know you’re going to consume great portions of turkey and dessert. Consider getting outside and throwing the football during commercials or halftime to be little more active this year. You can always take a nap between games later!
- Get Creative: I’ve heard of families having their kids make handmade place cards for every person at the table or letting your kids act out a skit to say thanks to those who made the meal. The point here is to get creative and to get the whole family involved. Consider having everyone (parents and kids) draw a picture of the things they're thankful for this year and then post drawings in a high-traffic location. Make it competitive by offering two categories for best drawing awards; one for kids and one for the parents’.
- Get Alone: Okay, maybe this step is over-reaching, but if at all possible, try and get a moment to yourself…just to think! Yes, even if it’s only a few minutes, take time to reflect on what is truly important. Seriously consider the question: What do I have to be thankful for this year? If you can make this step happen, you’ll be ready to lead your family from a deeper perspective. Perhaps it’s your family’s tradition to spend a few minutes before or during the Thanksgiving meal to take turns sharing what you are thankful for or to express thanks for a specific person at the table. No matter your tradition, be sure you take time during all the busy schedules to be grateful!
- Get REALLY Traditional: There is no need to reinvent the wheel during the holidays. Keep it old school. You can learn a lot from your parents about traditions! What made the holidays special when you were a kid? Consider incorporating those traditions into your family’s list this year. Continuing traditions from the past is a great way to help connect your children with previous traditions that your kids may not have experienced.
- Get Your Mind Off Yourself: There’s no greater time than the holidays to consider ways you can serve and help others. Whether you spend time buying gifts or serving food, find a cause or opportunity to serve with your whole family. Serving as a family can make for a very memorable family tradition.
NFI Staff Answers: What Makes a Memorable Thanksgiving?
Now that you have five ideas for how to create meaningful family traditions, take a look at how some NFI staff answered the question, “What makes Thanksgiving memorable to your family?
“We take out a bit of our furniture and lay 3 long tables end to end to accommodate about 18 people (in my small house). Everyone brings something and it is quite noisy. Before we pray we go around simply to say what we are thankful for. Many feel a little embarrassed to share- but everyone is smiling when done. This year for sure - we will think of my mom and how we will miss not only her, but her cole slaw!” Ave, program support consultant
“The girls give the turkey a name and then break the wish bone together. Grandfather plays the piano and we sing hymns before sitting down to eat.” Kayla, project specialist
“Each family member has a wooden acorn at their place setting and we pass around a little basket for everyone to put in their acorn as say what they are thankful for. Mom often makes cinnamon rolls for breakfast and then we enjoy the traditional American thanksgiving dinner. Every year my family watches the Dallas Cowboys play football… another American tradition!” Renae, outreach manager
“Watching football. Roasting chestnuts.” Vince, vice president
“Sharing around the table what you are thankful for. Going to see a movie (Bond, this year) then dessert afterward.” Melissa, vice president
“We like to watch ET after the dinner is finished and everything is put away. Its a good family movie that everyone enjoys.” Connie, senior graphic designer
“Each family member has three kernels of corn at their seat and shares three things he or she is thankful for, putting them into a basket as they share.” Michael, programming director
“We have dinner, go bowling, come back for dessert, and then play a family game of Pictionary so that members of all ages can play.” Lisa, programming director
You can see by reading our staff traditions that creating memories means a lot of different things to different people! Whether it's the classic American festivities of food, football and movies, or something unique and special to your family, establishing traditions and creating memories are a great way to make the Thanksgiving holiday meaningful for you and your children. The most important part of the holidays is that you spend time together as a family. That's what will make the holidays memorable and special for your kids - time with you!
What traditions make Thanksgiving memorable for your family?
Visit our "Thanks, Dad!" page for more on how you can connect with your family and other dads just like you! Don't forget to say, "Thanks, Dad!" by recording a video, sharing a picture, or writing a short note on on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor. Use the hashtag #ThxDad to tell the world why the dad in your life deserves thanks!
photo credit: rustiqueart
The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). If you are interested in writing for us, send us an email.
Now that the presidential election is over, pundits have taken stock of what the candidates did well and didn’t do well that led to victory and defeat, respectively. A lot of it is standard stuff—who made gaffes, did well or not so well with specific demographic groups, etc. Others, however, provide unconventional wisdom that gets folks to think differently. Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup, provided such wisdom in a recent blog post.
Jim’s position as the head of, arguably, the most successful polling company in history places him in a position of authority regarding elections. Of this recent election he says, “Throughout this year’s long election season, I was often asked: ‘Who will be better for jobs and the economy, President Obama or Governor Romney?’ My reply most surely disappointed partisans from both sides: The president of the United States doesn’t make as much difference in terms of creating economic energy as you’d think, according to Gallup data.” Jim says that local leadership in cities is much more important to economic and job growth. He uses examples of similar cities with vastly different unemployment rates and economic growth to make his point. The differences, he notes, rest on the qualities of the leaders in those cities.
So what, then, is the role of national leaders? To provide an environment that helps local leaders to create good economies and jobs. This fact isn’t lost on many national leaders. The problem is that they have different ideas about how to create that environment, and those differences often lead to a dangerous game of chicken as the looming fiscal cliff illustrates, but I digress.
As the nation’s preeminent fatherhood organization, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) understands and embraces its role in creating an environment that helps local leaders in all sectors of society to increase the involvement of fathers in the lives of children, and the benefits that involvement brings to communities and our nation. How do we do it? With a laser-like focus on our 3E strategy—educate, equip, and engage.
We educate all Americans, especially fathers, about the important role of fathers through public awareness campaigns, research, and other resources. We equip fathers and develop leaders at the national, state, and local levels with the tools (e.g. curricula, training, and technical assistance) they need to create a culture, programs, and services that encourage father involvement. We engage every sector of society through strategic alliances and partnerships. This strategy guides our day-to-day decisions and reflects our commitment to children, father, families, and our nation.
Critical to NFI’s success is that we’re not static. Our strategy has evolved as the needs of fathers and local leaders have changed. NFI began as a public advocacy organization in 1994. The main thrust of our early years was to meet with national politicians on both sides of the aisle to argue for father-friendly legislation, convene local fatherhood practitioners via national summits on fatherhood so they could learn from each other, and partner with the Ad Council to launch a PSA campaign that garnered more than $600 million in donated placements. As awareness of fathers’ importance increased so too did the need among fathers and community-based organizations for high-quality, research-based tools that help fathers become more involved. In 2000 we started to add resources (e.g. curricula), training, and technical assistance to meet that need. Since then NFI has developed more than 100 unique resources, distributed more than 6.1 million of them, and trained more than 12,000 practitioners from more than 5,600 organizations.
As we near the end of our second decade of existence, we continue to evolve in new and exciting ways, but with our eyes fixated as always on meeting the needs of fathers and the organizations that serve them. That’s our commitment to every father, mother, child, and community. Jim Clifton of Gallup says, "Whether the country makes a historic comeback or slowly goes broke, it will do so one city at a time." At NFI, we agree with Clifton; and we also think our country's comeback has something to do with fathers.
Connect with The Father Factor by RSS, Facebook and on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.
photo credit: Thomas Hawk
This is a guest post by Carlo Pandian. Carlo is a freelance writer based in London who writes on parenting, cooking and all things LEGO. If you would like to blog for us, email here.
Despite the global domination of the computer game, LEGO remains an eternally popular hands-on toy for kids. Of course it’s not just a toy, nor is it just for kids, and plenty of teens and adults have proved that sculpture is not confined to the world of bronze and/or structural steelwork. You can create some amazing displays in LEGO, and for those with a family obsessed with these diminutive plastic bricks the good news is that LEGO-themed foods are easy to create. Whether it’s a kid’s birthday or just for fun, these LEGO-inspired tasty treats are easy to, erm, construct.
The shape of LEGO blocks is probably what makes them an ideal basis for a range of foods. Forgetting the mini-figures for the moment, the basic structure is very blocky! The studs on the top are relatively easy to create with a range of ingredients and a little imagination.
Let them Eat Cake
Admittedly, Marie-Antoinette and her family were not overly fond of blocks but, LEGO fan or not, who doesn’t love a cake or two? Sponge, of any variety, can easily be baked in the required rectangular shape or, alternatively, a large square sponge can be cut into a range of different sized blocks. Circular sponge sections can then be placed to mimic the studs and the whole confection covered in suitable icing colored in bright primary colors like LEGO itself.
Made for Lego?
If bite-size Rice Krispie squares weren’t designed to be adapted into a LEGO-themed treat then I can’t image what was going through the head of their creator. Again, it’s easy to cut the stud sections and apply them to the squares using melted chocolate. If you use a basic white chocolate mix you can add appropriate coloring, to create the final constructed confection. These are great served up on a plate or can be popped onto lollipop sticks – either way they tend to shift quickly, so make plenty.
These are a combination of the above. Small pieces of cakes decorated with Smarties, to create the studs, can be covered in melted chocolate to create the desired form. Cake pops are not only popular at kid’s parties but also tend to be one of those activities that younger members of the family enjoy getting involved in. When preparing them you’ll need plenty of greaseproof paper to place the setting pops on, and plenty of kitchen-towel to wipe the kids with. A change of clothing is also a handy ingredient.
Healthy Alternatives Kids Will Eat
For those involved in the long-term battle of getting healthy fresh fruit and vegetables into smaller people, the watermelon is heaven sent. Sticky, juicy and tasty it appeals to kids in its natural form but can also be easily sculpted into melon-pops. Cut into squares and sculpt the Lego studs with an apple corer. It’s a good idea to chill these, to resemble lollipops, but also to reduce at least some of the sticky/messy content that develops when you add a child.
Mini-figures are not, it has to be said, the easiest object to sculpt in any edible media, but sandwiches can provide an excellent solution. These can be cut into mini-figurine head shapes and the tops decorated with a range of expressions, using a little of the filling of choice.
Mom and dad: What have you built with your kids recently?
Carlo Pandian is a freelance writer and blogs on free time activities, parenting and LEGO covering everything from LEGOLAND Discovery Center attractions in Dallas to teaching recycling to children. When he’s not online, Carlo likes cooking, gardening and cycling in the countryside.
Our "Thanks, Dad!" campaign is in full swing. We hope you're learning to be more intentional about creating an atmosphere of thankfulness in your home. We recently gave you helpful tips for raising thankful children. However, thankfulness isn't simply a nice idea to instill in your children - it's something to be acted out daily. If we're intentional and thoughtful, there are many ways we can show our thankfulness as a family each day. Check out our five ideas for how you and your family can show thankfulness. Then, tell us what your family does to model thaknfulness in the comment section below.
1) Do Something Nice: Doing something nice for someone else is a great way to show you are thankful. Be sure to talk with your child and explain that doing something nice for someone shows you are thankful. Consider with your child ways you can do something nice to help someone. Ask your son or daughter, "What do you think so-and-so would appreciate you doing for them?" or "What can you do to show so-and-so you're thankful for how they helped you?" You may be surprised at the answer you get from you child -- children have a way to being more thoughtful than parents in some cases. Be ready to listen and work together with your child to come up with something unique and thoughtful to do for someone else this week.
2) Write a Note: Make thank-you notes a habit in your house. I can't lie, this step isn't easy. I'm the worst at thank-you notes. I love receiving them so much, you'd think I would be better at writing them. In the midst of everything else on the family calendar, writing a note probably isn't near the top. However, as a way to help you, perhaps you can get your kids involved. Have them write thank-you notes after birthday parties or for Christmas presents -- let them use their creativity and create something special for their friends or teacher. Try and see this as a time to let them express their creative side -- not simply a task to mark of your growing to-do list. For instance, younger kids can draw and color pictures while older kids could write a note in their own words. It's never too early to start teaching your children the importance of thank-you notes. Don't think you have that kind of time? Try the cell phone apps that are available for download, you can still get your kids involved in the process by letting them pick the images and/or write the messages. You'll save a ton of time and still have something thoughtful to send someone.
3) Say Something Kind: From a young age, encourage your children to say "thank you" when someone compliments them, gives them something, or does something for them. Don't allow your children to shyly whisper "thanks" with their head down - make sure they look at the person in the eye and specifically thank them for the compliment/item/action. Help them understand that eye contact and a cheerful voice are an important part of genuine thankfulness.
4) Help Those in Need: There's no better way to model gratefulness to your family (and others) than to do something to help others who can't help you back. Ask your children to pick out food to contribute to a local food drive, spend time serving at a homeless shelter as a family, or encourage your kids to rake the elderly neighbor's yard. The point here is to reach out to someone in need and together as a family to serve. If cleanliness is next to godliness, serving others is next to thankfulness!
5) Give as a Family: Set up a large jar in a prominent place in your house, let the kids decorate it with stickers or ribbons, and label it "The Thankful Jar." Encourage family members to put extra change or money they earn from their allowance in the jar. When the jar is full, discuss and agree to a charity or organization for which to donate the money. Or, let each family member take turns choosing a different charity to contribute to each month. Explain to your children that part of being thankful is giving to others.
What's one way you and your family show thankfulness every day?
Visit our "Thanks, Dad!" page for more on how you can connect with your family and other dads just like you! Don't forget to say, "Thanks, Dad!" by recording a video, sharing a picture, or writing a short note on on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor. Use the hashtag #ThxDad to tell the world why your dad deserves thanks!
photo credit: mtsofan
This is a guest post by Larry Elder. He is author of Dear Father, Dear Son now available for order on www.larryelder.com. If you would like to blog for us, email here.
Heard of Tiger Moms? I had a Junkyard Dawg Dad.
For a very long time, I hated him. His anger. His volatility. His surliness. Today, they’d use the term “emotionally unavailable.”
“Dear Father, Dear Son,” my new book, is a 247-page apology to this very special, WWII retired Marine, my father. I knew virtually nothing of his life, and never had a conversation with him, until I was 25.
From the time I was fifteen -- when my father and I had a big, long-time-coming fight -- until ten years later, we did not speak to each other. I wanted nothing to do with this volatile person who, for reasons that escaped me, managed to marry my mother. Our little home, where my two brothers and I slept in the same bedroom, instantly became a place of tension the moment Dad set foot in the front door. Was it supposed to be like this?
After ten years I sat down and talked to the man -- for eight hours.
Why, I wanted to know, were you so damn angry all the time? Why did you whip the three of us -- my two brothers and me -- so furiously? Did you know that the three of us were scared to death of you? Did know that this fear crossed into hatred? Did you care? Does this even matter to you?
An only child, my father was a black boy born to an illiterate single mom in a rented room in Athens, Georgia. He was a child on the eve of the Great Depression in the Jim Crow South. He did not know his birth date, and used the one arbitrarily written down by a teacher when he started school.
He never met his biological father. His mom raised him with a series of boyfriends, one of whom was a man named Elder. That man never married my dad’s mother. Worse, he was an alcoholic who beat both my dad and his mom.
One day my dad came home from school and made too much noise for his mother and her then-boyfriend. They all quarreled, his mom siding with the boyfriend. My dad was thrown out of his house at age 13 -- never to return. A year later the Great Depression began.
He dropped out of school and looked for work wherever he could find it. After a series of jobs as a yard boy, shoeshine boy, hotel valet and cook, he finally landed a prestigious job as a Pullman porter, then the largest private employer of blacks in the country. It was as a Pullman porter that Dad first visited California. He thought of it as a less prejudiced place, loved the climate, and made a promise to someday return.
After Pearl Harbor, he joined the Marines. Why the Marines, I asked? “I liked the uniforms,” he told me, “and they seemed to always go where the action was.” So they made him a cook.
He trained at Montford Point, the segregated Marine base next to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. He was soon put in charge of food services, and became a staff sergeant, stationed on Guam in the south Pacific.
But when discharged, he could not find work as a cook despite his now-considerable experience. He went to an unemployment office in Chattanooga, Tennessee where he was instructed by a white clerk to walk through the “proper door.” So he goes out into the hall, goes through the “colored only” door to the very same clerk who told him to go through the "proper door.” “Now, how may I help you?” she said.
There has to be better place than here, he thought. Dad left for California.
Restaurants in Los Angeles did not tell him -- as they did in the South -- that he’d not be hired because of his race. Instead, they refused to hire because, as he was told, “You have no references.”
He worked two full-time jobs as a janitor, and attended night school to get a G.E.D. He averaged less than four-and-a-half hours of sleep for years. Pressure, lack of sleep, “running from job to class,” he told me, makes a man a little grumpy and impatient -- especially when raising three loud boys with a stay-at-home wife.
He worked so hard, he said, because he never had a father, a secure home and “food in the icebox” to come home to after school. “So,” he said, “I did my best to give you kids what I never had.” He told me that growing up without “a real father in the house” was not a death sentence. If you work hard, and people “see you struggling,” they will help. But it’s up to you to play the cards you are dealt the best way you can. And the best way is through hard work.
Randolph Elder lived to see the completion of this book. He died two months before what we believe would have been his 96th birthday. I got a chance to read “Dear Father, Dear Son” to him. His verdict? “I have no idea,” he laughed, “why anyone would care about my little life.”
They care, Dad. For those born and raised in tough circumstances, you show the path: While we cannot control our circumstances, we are in complete control of our effort.
What would you tell your dad if you could sit down with him like Larry did his father?
Connect with The Father Factor by RSS, Facebook and on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.
If you've been a parent for longer than one second, you understand children have a way of not being satisfied. Most likely, your child will not come out of the womb as a grateful child. And when she learns to speak, her first words will probably not be "please" or "thank you" -- this is life. Trust me on this one, I write from a few years of experience. The time will come when your child isn't satisfied. You bought the green toy -- she wanted the pink -- and only the pink will do!
Aside from throwing your hands up and saying, "forget it, we have birthed an ungrateful child who will never be thankful!" Take comfort in knowing you are not alone. I repeat: You are not alone. While your child may currently display ungrateful tendencies, he dosen't have to be ungrateful forever. With care and teaching, your daughter or son can learn to be an upstanding lady or gentleman.
How we show thankfulness is vital to whether our children will act and treat others with gratitude. When it comes to teaching your child to be thankful, Gandhi's teaching comes in handy, "Be the change you want to see in the world." Check out our four tips on how to raise a thankful child.
- Model Thankfulness. Say "please," "thanks" and "you're welcome" every day. Be sure this vocabulary is used by you and in your home. Parent, if you want your kids to be thankful, they have to see it first. I'm reminded of the saying, "Good manners are not only taught, they can be caught." It's vital that you not only teach your child to say "thank you" and "please" every day and at various moments, you must also use these words yourself. Thank your child for doing his chores well. Make sure your kids, hear you say "Thank you" to their mother. Don't limit thanks for actions - thank your family for being kind, patient, caring, or whatever character quality you notice about them that day.
- The "Thankful" Talk. During dinner or in the car driving to and from an activity, ask each member of the family what they were most thankful for that day. Make asking a daily habit. Taking a moment to reflect on the day will help everyone find something positive, even if it was a tough day. Plus, it will give you extra insight into what's going on in your child's life. As the parent, be the one to always stir the conversation to the positive side and give encouragement. Remember the objective of this conversation -- you're teaching your child to be thankful!
- Advertise Your Thankfulness. Hang a dry-erase board in a prominent place in your home and call it "The Thankful Board." I once worked at a company that had a "Kudos" board for its employees. This provided a great way to create an environment of encouragement and thankfulness. You can have your family write messages on the board to either say thanks to each other for something big or small. Also, you can use it to share something to your family for which they are thankful.
- Teach Thankfulness. Help your child understand why it is important to say "thank you." Explain to your child the "why" behind the "what." Of course, how much you explain will depend on the age of your child, but the point here is to not simply demand and be a dictator, but to teach your child why being thankful is important. With your teenager, try asking how he feels when someone says "thank you" to him. Use this time as a opportunity to teach him that other people also want to feel noticed, appreciated, and valued and that saying "thank you" makes someone else feel happy.
What one thing will you work on that will model thankfulness to your child today?
Visit our "Thanks, Dad!" page for more on how you can connect with your family and other dads just like you! Don't forget to say, "Thanks, Dad!" by recording a video, sharing a picture or writing a short note commenting on this blog, Facebook or on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.
photo credit: Vermin Inc
Tis the season to be thankful. Your dad deserves thanks and we want you to hear why. You can record a video, share a picture or write a note saying "Thanks, Dad!" Each week during November we'll hand-select a winner to receive a gift card to take dad out for Starbucks Coffee or enjoy one on us! Moms and daughters, you can participate too by sharing about the dads in your life.
Ways To Win!
Enter to win a Starbucks gift card by saying "Thanks, Dad!" in the following three ways. Each week we'll pick a winner and notify you by asking for your mailng address.
1. Record a Video
Record a short video to your dad starting with "Thanks, Dad!" Share it on Google+, Facebook or Twitter using hashtag #ThxDad to tell the world why your dad deserves thanks.
2. Share a Picture
Post a picture of you and your dad or something that reminds of your dad. Share on our Facebook timeline, mention us on Twitter (#ThxDad), Pin us on our "Thanks, Dad!" board on Pinterest or use hashtag #ThxDad on Instagram (@TheFatherFactor) to enter.
3. Write a Note
Starting with "Thanks, Dad!" write a short message for the dad in your life and share it with us by tagging us on Facebook, mentioning on Twitter (#ThxDad) or commenting on our blog.
What to Watch for this month:
- Week 1: Raising Thankful Kids
- Week 2: Showing Thankfulness
- Week 3: Creating Thankful Traditions
- Week 4: Saying Thanks By Giving
Make sure you sign up to get the Dad Email™ in your inbox!
The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). If you would like to blog for us, email here.
The October 22nd issue of The New Yorker includes an article by Michael Specter titled “Germs Are Us.” Specter chronicles how our understanding of the relationship between humans and bacteria has evolved since the advent of antibiotics in the early 20th century. We know now that not all bacteria are harmful. Indeed, many bacteria live in symbiosis with their human hosts and confer health benefits including protection from some diseases. These bacteria include all of those we find in our mouth and gut that aid our ability to digest food and ward off illness. Unfortunately, the overuse of antibiotics indiscriminately kill bacteria including those that are our friends.
There are many bacteria, however, that aren’t our friends. That knowledge has given rise to an industry dedicated to the eradication of bacteria—just take a walk down the soap and disinfectant aisle of your local grocery store, and you’ll find all manner of anti-bacterial soaps, wipes, and sprays. There’s no disputing the fact that we’ve been liberated and are safer from the scourge of unfriendly bacteria, at least to an extent. But at what cost? As the old saying goes, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Scientists now believe that we’ve become “underexposed” to bacteria and no longer build the antibodies, particularly as youngsters, that we once did to ward of future illness. (This underexposure also extends to viruses, such as rhinovirus which causes the common cold.) Consequently, we’ve seen a rise in allergies, asthma, and obesity. Yes, even obesity has now been linked to the overuse of antibiotics that has caused a reduction in a bacterium that inhabits our guts and regulates two hormones that, in turn, regulate appetite.
It is this symbiotic relationship between bacteria and us—two life forms that need one another to survive in a state of health and well-being—that made me think in a slightly different way about the path our society has taken in its treatment of fathers as nice but not necessary. Our society is creating a huge, dangerous experiment as we systematically eliminate fathers from more families. And yet we’re conducting this experiment with the knowledge that it is doomed to fail. That’s where this experiment departs from our attempt to eradicate bacteria, and therein lies the problem.
In the years between Fleming’s discovery of penicillin and the realization that we were overprescribing antibiotics to ill effect, we didn’t realize what we were doing. Doctors know now that they must be judicious in their use of antibiotics, although they certainly have some work to do and some of the effects of overuse might be irreversible. We know from reams and decades of research that DNA isn’t the only necessary ingredient from fathers for the creation of healthy children who grow up to be well-functioning adults. Their presence and positive influence as children age is necessary as well.
In other words, children’s health and well-being depends on the symbiotic relationship they have with their fathers. Children can and do survive without fathers in their lives, but at what cost to them and our communities? We know that, on average, children from father-absent homes are at greater risk for a range of social ills. Communities with high rates of father absence suffer as well (e.g. high rates of poverty and violent behavior). And yet we continue with this dangerous experiment that we know will fail. Why is that? Especially when we know it has already failed so many children.
Connect with The Father Factor by RSS, Facebook and on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.
photo credit: Microbe World