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.
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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!
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?
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?