- "The hardest part...when you're gone for six months, your family grows without you...you come home to strangers. And then after you get home, if there aren't resources it makes it that much harder." —US Navy Chief Quartermaster John Lehnen.
Approximately 1.8 million children and families of military dads are affected by the unique stress of military life, particularly during deployment. Help us support them!
If you can help NFI achieve its target, together we can provide a complete Fatherhood Resource Center for a military base in need!
The dads of military kids will benefit from National Fatherhood Initiative's unique educational materials for dads - to help them stay involved with their kids, and be there for them, even while deployed.
Unfortunately, research shows that the kids of military dads can experience similar unfortunate outcomes as children in father-absent homes - such as doing poorly in school, emotional/social issues, maltreatment, and more. Your support means a military child gets the dad they need to be prosperous and successful.
- Approximately 593,000 active-duty service members and nearly 300,000 U.S. reservists are dads.
- 150,000 military fathers are currently deployed, with deployments ranging from 30 days to 15 months.
NFI is running this 10-day campaign ending next Thursday April 4 to help support deployed dads and their families.
You can help. Here's how:
- Visit the Campaign Page and follow the instructions.
- Donate to NFI's campaign.
- Share NFI's campaign on your social media accounts.
- Invite your friends and contacts to support NFI's campaign.
- Create a personal fundraising page for NFI's campaign.
Thank you for understanding the importance of connecting military fathers with their families. We want all kids to have an involved, responsible and committed dad—your support helps make this happen.
While you're tracking your March Madness bracket this week, be sure you have the details of March Dadness. We started our bracket with the Sweet 16: Phrases Your Child Needs to Hear and are now moving on to the next round with the "Elite 8". Today we have eight activities every child needs to experience with his or her dad.
At NFI, we say "the smallest moments make the biggest impact in a child's life." While not all "the smallest moments" HAVE to include an activity; in most cases, shared experiences can create times for lasting memories.
Here are eight activities you can use to create memories with your child this week.
- Teach Your Child a Sport: Take an afternoon to teach your son or daughter how to dribble a basketball. If your child can already do a crossover, consider teaching the rules of the game or studying the dimensions of the court. Go on, you don't have to be a pro player, practice that jumper with your child. Remember, the important thing is you're spending time together. Not at all a fan of basketball? Well, you're probably not the greatest dad you can be. However, replace basketball with the sport you like. Play catch with a baseball or better yet, what better reason to get on the golf course than to teach your child about the game?!
- Teach Your Child to Ride a Bike: From first learning to ride or taking the training wheels off, riding a bike is a big deal for kids. I'm thinking now of my three-year-old riding her tricycle all over our house. She gets the biggest kick out of it—especially if she knows I'm watching and interested. Her whole demeanor changes as she pedals. Her eyes light up and her chin raises as she glides through our living room and stops crashing into the kitchen. This may sound like a simple thing—and it is—but be sure not to miss it.
- Go Camping with Your Child: Camping is a great way to connect with your family. Whether it means tent and fire under the stars or on the living room floor with covers and pillows every afternoon like at our house. Use the time to disconnect from work at the office (or around the house) and connect with your child.
- Take Your Child on a Date: Set aside a couple of hours to spend just you and your child. This can be as planned or as cheap as you make it. Go to the playground, stop for lunch or simply take a walk and talk in your neighorhood. By doing this, you connect with your child on a deeper, more meaningful level. If you have more than one child; simply schedule various times for each child. This may not be a weekly occurance for your family. However, it's an invaluable tool that can show how much you cherish your children. Trust me, with two daughters, I speak from experience, this isn't easy to make time for. I don't do this as often as a should, but when I do it, it's some of the most valuable time I spend with my girls.
- Volunteer with Your Child: Whether you're serving at your church or helping at a local homeless shelter, there's great opportunities for you and your child to give your time to a good cause together. Your child will enjoy spending time with you and you'll be setting a good example for a lifelong habit of service.
- Read with Your Child: Your child is never too young (or too old) to read with you. From reading Llama Llama Red Pajama for the hundreth time or The Hobbit with your teen, great books (and the conversion that happens during this time) will last you a lifetime. Make it a regular habit to read aloud with your child.
- Take Your Child to the Bank: Remember real banks? Yeah, I barely can either. While this activity may seem odd. We mention it here because it's a great oppotunity to create a memory with your child. How often do you open a bank account in life? I'm guessing—not very often. Depending on the age of your child, this could be a great time of connecting. The experience of opening an account can be awesome. But also, the whole process of teaching your child about money and responsibility is really where we're going with this idea—an ongoing opportunity of connection! It's a connection point that you and your child will not forget. I remember my mother taking me into our local bank branch when I was young. I haven't forgotten the formal building, the leather chairs, the large desks and me signing my life away for my first acount! The excitement was intense—to see money in my account was unforgettable. Well, perhaps I haven't forgetten about having money in my account because that was the last time I would have money in my account! But I digress...on to the last activity ideas...
- One Last Activity Idea: (for sons) Teach your son to tie a tie and/or shave: Boys need their dads to coach them through these "rites of passage" in manhood. Heck, every time I shave, my daughters "shave" with me. Although time consuming, I often remind myself that there will come a time when my girls no longer care about their dad shaving!
(for daughters): Go dancing. Whether it's a silly dance in the living room or a daddy-daughter dance held locally, girls need their dad to show them how a guy treats a girl.
Question: What would you add to this list?
The mommy wars continue. Should today’s women dedicate themselves more to their careers so they can “catch up” to men – to “lean in” as Sheryl Sandberg suggests – or should they dedicate themselves more to motherhood because their kids need them?
How about a third way?
I propose that if moms want to do better at both parenting and work, they have to “lean in” to fatherhood.
Yes, moms should do as much as they can to support the involvement of their children’s fathers in their children’s lives, because it will help them thrive at both home and in their careers.
Research shows that two of the most powerful predictors of father involvement are mom’s perception of dad’s competence and the quality of their relationship with each other. In other words, moms can act as gatekeepers or gateways; they are largely responsible for either facilitating father involvement or holding it back.
When fatherhood is “held back” – when fathers are unable or unwilling to embrace the fullness of their roles – moms become disproportionately responsible for what is happening at home. And, logically, if mom is responsible for a disproportionate share of the tasks at home, it is going to be harder for her to dedicate herself at work as much as she may need to.
My own situation paints a picture. My wife and I both work full time, and my wife is fully supportive of my role as a dad. She lets me do things my way. I typically leave for work later than her and get home earlier than her, so I usually take our son to daycare and pick him up at the end of the day, I usually give him breakfast in the morning, and I usually cook dinner at night. He has Type 1 Diabetes, so I have to do what is needed to care for that complicated disease.
Because my wife trusts me to do these things with a level of competence, she is thriving in her career. When the daycare calls and there is an issue with our son, I usually take care of it, not because my wife is a bad mother, but because she is an hour away, and I am 5 minutes away. In other words, my wife rarely has to take off from work or leave work early to care for our son during the workday.
As an auditor who has to travel around the region quite a bit, if she was forced by circumstance (my absence) or choice (a belief that she parents better than me) to be the go-to parent for our son’s needs, her career would suffer. Neither her boss nor her clients would be able to count on her to be where she needs to be, when she needs to be there.
Furthermore, when she comes home from work, she doesn’t have to do all the housework and childcare by herself. We work together; she lets me contribute even though I do things differently. Thus, she is able to focus not just on “housekeeping,” but on being a mommy.
You may be thinking that moms obviously want help from dads. I think you are right, but it is part of human nature that we don’t always behave in a way that will get us what we really want. For example, mom wants dad to help at bath time, but vehemently criticizes him for using too much soap, so he is now reluctant to ever help at bath time again (this is a true story).
So, the key then is to help moms align their desires (more help from dad so she can thrive at home and work) with their behaviors (acting as gateways to father involvement rather than gatekeepers) so that moms, dads, and most importantly, kids, are getting what they need.
Well, NFI has “an app” for that. We just launched a new line of products and services designed to help mothers support father involvement.
Based on feedback from hundreds of organizations around the country using NFI’s signature fatherhood programs, the new materials will help mothers successfully navigate their relationships with the fathers of their children. Specifically, it will give moms the knowledge and skills they need to effectively communicate with the fathers of their children and to understand the critical role fathers play in children’s lives. Understanding Dad™: An Awareness and Communication Program for Moms is the flagship curriculum anchoring this new initiative.
This is just another way that NFI is responding to what is happening in our culture with practical, timely solutions that move people from inspiration (something needs to be done!) to implementation (here is an actual program that we can start using today!).
Question: What do you think is the most difficult thing about parenting?
Connect with The Father Factor by RSS, Facebook and on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.
Having worked in the “fatherhood field” for nearly 11 years, I have heard, seen, and read a lot about fatherhood. However, I am always surprised that so many of these conversations are disconnected from the one thing that actually makes guys dads: children.
In fact, a friend of mine once asked a room full of “fatherhood experts” what makes a man a dad. There was silence; no one could figure out that the answer is “having kids.” Perhaps it is our modern desire to “self actualize” or find the intimately personal meaning behind our lives’ activities that drives many men to talk about fatherhood almost exclusively in terms of how it affects them. “My blog, my career, my self-esteem, my health, my this, and my that improved when I became a dad!”
However, every once in a while I see something in our culture that gives me hope. While an animated movie may not be one’s first guess for where to find deep wisdom on fatherhood, I was not let down by the upcoming DreamWorks film, The Croods.
The Croods is the tale of the “first modern family” that has to leave the safety of its cave and venture off into an unknown land to find a new home. The dad, Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage), is the family’s main guide on their road trip, and the film is filled with profound messages about the important role dads play in their children’s lives.
There is one scene in particular that summarizes the movie’s valuable perspective on fatherhood. The family has just found a large egg to share for breakfast. Each family member – mom, baby, son, daughter, and grandma – takes a sip out of the cracked egg. Then it’s dad’s turn. He turns the egg over and only a tiny drop comes out. Instead of complaining, he shrugs it off and says, “That’s ok. I ate last week.”
While the rest of the theater was laughing, I was nearly in tears. The writers got it! That is what fatherhood is all about. Fatherhood is about sacrificing your own comfort to ensure that your family is comfortable. It is about ensuring that your children are first and you are last.
The “fatherhood framework” that the film beautifully captures is this: good fathers provide for, nurture, and guide their children. In that one line of dialogue, Grug shows us how to do all three. Provide: he led the operation to catch the egg that they are eating. Nurture: he let them eat first. Guide: he showed them the right values through his self-sacrificial act of putting the needs of others ahead of his own.
It may be too much to hope that one family film will change the way we all look at fatherhood. But I am confident that The Croods will serve as a powerful reminder that the only measure of a father’s worth that counts is whether or not his children are getting what they need from him.
Connect with The Father Factor by RSS, Facebook and on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.
Photo credit: Dreamworks (Grug holding NFI's Fatherhood Award)
This is a guest post by Clay Brizendine. Clay is a CPT, a personal and corporate trainer, father of two daughters and author of the new book Shoebox Letters – Daughters to Dads. Follow Clay on the web and Twitter. Interested in guest blogging for NFI? Send us an email.
“Blow your nose” is what you tell your child as you hold the tissue to their nose. Somehow, someway, they can’t seem to hold a tissue to their nose on their own even though they can navigate your iPad like it’s an appendage.
“Have you done your homework yet?” gets asked about 10 minutes after the kids get home from school, and they have to report accordingly so that you can understand whether you’re going to have to ask that same question 15 times later in the evening.
“Did you brush your teeth yet” happens every night like it’s a big surprise. You’d think after years of brushing their teeth before bed that you wouldn’t have to ask that question every night. Like it’s a huge surprise to them.
And we wonder where time, and our brain cells, go.
Fathers today are taking on a lot of different roles, discussed ad naseum in many a blog post and news story such that I don’t need to, and won’t, cover it here.
But what happened to YOU?
Do you remember what you were like in high school? In college? Maybe working that first job out of school with little to no real responsibility? A lot of you are thinking ‘Ah, the good ol days’ right now as you hear your significant other call you to the nursery to wipe up spit or to change a diaper.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that (Seinfeld, anyone?). But there is.
One of the best things that you can do for your children, regardless of their age, is to bring yourself to the table every day. Not just the guy that can warm a bottle, or wipe that snotty nose, or kiss an ouchie to make it all better. Those are important, BUT…
What about the guy that used to work on cars for fun? What about the one that would watch sports and prove that the word ‘fanatic’ existed for a reason? Where did the trips to the outdoors go to explore creeks barefoot and pick up ‘critters’ that just looked cool?
Your kids need to see that. They need to feel it. They need to participate in it.
Dads, like anyone else, are people. And to a man, we all fulfilled roles in our lives well before we were dads. We had interests that made our heart race (like cars), things that just made us scream till we lost our voice (like sports), and things we did just for the fun of it (like taking things apart). What makes us think our kids shouldn’t see that? Shouldn’t participate in that with us? And who says that girls and boys shouldn’t participate equally when it comes to those things?
Your kids need to understand that you’re dad, and that the role comes with certain responsibilities. But just as importantly, they need to understand that you’re a person. As they become older, and as you can begin to share in those experiences, bonds – different bonds – become forged for a lifetime. Your children will look back fondly with memories of sharing things with you rather than watching from the sideline. The fact that they understand your roles better enables you and your children to connect at a level you can’t get to just by being Dad.
Go back to when you were in high school and college. Write down what you were interested in (the appropriate ones anyway). Pick one of those interests, go get the kids, crack open an apple juice, and tackle the YOU role just as well as you tackle the Dad role.
What makes you come alive with excitement? Tell us in the comment section; you just might make us think of something we can show our kids!
March Madness officially starts today. While you're flipping channels at home or online to see how your bracket's doing, be sure your using #MarchDadness for all your social media posts. Today, we start our official tournament of tips and tools for fathering. We begin our bracket with the Sweet 16!
The words a coach says from the bench, in time-outs, and pre-game huddles all have a big impact on how players perform on the court. Have you watch a game where the players can't do anything right in the first half; only to come out in the second half and play like champions? Odds are good that the coach gave a great half-time speech and somehow communicated well what his team was doing well and not so well.
In the same way, what you say to your children each day has influence on your child—for good or for ill. Your child should receive continual encouragement and affirmation. Don't assume that hearing praise from teachers, Mom or other people is enough—your child needs to hear from YOU. You can live out and model love all you want, but saying the words below are crucial to helping your child develop confidence and character. It's up to you, dad.
Be intentional about saying these affirming phrases frequently to your kids. I would challenge you to stop, get your child's attention, look them in the eye and tell them convincingly the following phrases. These aren't in order of importance.
- I'm so proud to be your dad!
- Good job!
- You are beautiful/handsome.
- You are so sweet/smart/brave/creative.
- It's wonderful how you demonstrate kindness/thoughtfulness/compassion.
- Thank you for helping.
- You are very good at _______.
- I believe in you.
- You can do it!
- No matter what happens, you can always come to me.
- I will always be there for you, no matter what.
- You are unique and special.
- I'm glad you are my son/daughter.
- I appreciate you so much.
- The day you were born was one of the best days of my life.
- I LOVE YOU!
Question: What's missing from our list?
Much is happening at NFI. Sometimes you just have to make a list. Here we go...the stuff you need to know and may have missed while you were busy parenting...
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!