Archive for the ‘Fatherhood Initiative’ category

5 Ways to Be a Great Dad Today

June 19th, 2011

5 things you can do to be a great dad today


Being a great dad doesn’t have to be difficult.  We have five things you can do today: 

  1. Look at your children and call out their best.  Be your kid’s biggest fan. Your children are waiting for you to call out their best. They are waiting for you to give them praise and affirmation. Call out what they did right in their choices and actions. Call out what you like best about them. Call out the fact that you love them deeply.
  2. Love your children by touching them gently and speaking to them softly. There is nothing so powerful as a father’s touch. A soft and gentle touch – a hug, a kiss on the head – can make a child feel safe and secure.
  3. Listen to what your children are saying and to what they are not saying. Spend time listening to your children talk about their day. Ask them questions and listen to what they are not saying.  Listening will only take a few minutes, but the impact will last a lifetime.
  4. Leave a legacy by giving your children a memory. Make a plan to do something simple but something that your children can always remember. Read the same story each night for a month, play a certain game each week, fix the same dinner or breakfast every Saturday.
  5. Laugh with your children. Allow your children to find the joy in life that comes with innocence. Then laugh with your children in these moments and find the deepest joy that is known in the heart of a parent.

If you take the time to love, laugh, look, listen, and leave a legacy, you will find connect with your kids and be the dad they need and want you to be.



Be A Dad: Tip 4

June 18th, 2011

Be A Dad: Tip 4 – Discipline with Love

All children need guidance and discipline, not as punishment, but to set reasonable limits.  Remind your children of the consequences of their actions and provide meaningful rewards for desirable behavior.  Fathers who discipline in a calm and fair manner show love for their children. (Taken from NFI’s best-selling brochure, 10 Ways to Be a Better Dad.)
Here’s a couple age-specific suggestions for how you can discipline with love:
For Dads of infants and toddlers:

  • Discipline as a way to protect:  At this age, guidance and discipline are about protecting your little one from hurting themselves.  Say “no” firmly, but not harshly, when your child does something dangerous and move him or her away from the object or area immediately.
  • Consistency is important:  Be consistent with enforcing the boundaries you set in your home – inconsistency will confuse your child and give him the “ok” to push the limits if he thinks he can get away with it. 

For Dads of school-aged children:

  • Discipline as a way to nurture:  As your child gets older, he or she can understand moral principles and you can begin to use discipline and guidance to help him or her learn that certain behaviors are not only unsafe but unacceptable.  When your child does something inappropriate, talk with him or gently about why the behavior was wrong – explain how it hurt other people, or is rude.  
  • Take a break if you’re frustrated:  The old trick your mom taught you to count to 10 before you speak can actually be helpful if you find yourself losing patience with your child.  Never discipline out of anger.  If you are frustrated, tell your child that you will talk with him or her later after you’ve had some time to think about an appropriate way to respond to his wrong behavior.  Take a walk, read a book, do something else to calm yourself down.  Then go back to your child and calmly discuss
  • Make the discipline fit the child:  Different child will respond to different approaches of discipline.  One of your children might learn better through being deprived of a privilege (such as watching TV or a favorite toy); another child might respond more to being sent to his or her room or having to do extra chores.

For Dads of teenagers:

  • Discipline as a way to guide:  At this point, your teen is becoming an adult and wants to be treated as such.  But, he or she is still going to make mistakes and some unwise decisions and still needs your guidance.  You still need to be your teen’s parent, not best friend, and that means setting rules to help your teen make good decisions and firmly enforcing consequences when those rules are violated.  
  • Let them make mistakes:  While your teen still needs to honor your family’s rules, giving your teen the freedom to make their own choices can be a valuable learning experience.  Yes, they’ll make mistakes and experience the consequences of those.  But you are there to help them navigate those situations.  Always make sure your words and actions communicate to your teen that you will always love them even if they make mistakes. 

For more tips on handling discipline, click here.


Be A Dad: Tip 3

June 17th, 2011

Be A Dad: Tip 3 – Earn the Right to Be Heard

All too often a father only speaks to his children when they have done something wrong.  Start talking to your children about difficult subjects when they are young so that these kinds of talks will be easier when they are older.  Take the time to listen to their ideas and problems. (Taken from NFI’s best-selling brochure, 10 Ways to Be a Better Dad.)

Here’s a couple age-specific suggestions for how you can earn the right to be heard with your children:
For Dads of infants and toddlers:

  • Say “I love you” early and often:  It’s never too early to start letting your children know you love them – even while in utero, babies can hear your voice.  Get in the habit of saying “I love you” often so it becomes a regular part of your communication with your children at every age of life.  That will go a long way to earning the right to be heard.
  • Praise your child:  Just like you should start the habit of saying “I love you” early in your child’s life, start praising and affirming your child now.  This will build a foundation of self-esteem and confidence that will enable you to say the hard truth when your child needs to hear it later in life.

For Dads of school-aged children:

  • Ask your kids questions about themselves:  Make it a point to intentionally ask your child something every day that will help you learn more about them.  Ask who their best friend is, what their favorite subject in school right now is, what they do with their friends after school, what they want to be when they grow up.  Let them share their thoughts and affirm their dreams and aspirations.  As you understand who your child is as individual, you will be able to engage them in important conversations in a way that will connect with them personally.
  • Start discussions about important topics at a young age:  Talk with your children about the importance of choosing friends wisely, spending money responsibly, and having the right priorities.  Don’t preach at them – instead involve them in conversation by asking questions and role playing.  Having conversations about these topics will make it easier to talk about more touchy subjects, like drug/alcohol use and sexual health, when they are older.

For Dads of teenagers:

  • Make them a partner in the conversation:  Whether you’re talking about current events in the news, what’s going on at your teen’s school, or having a serious conversation about family policies, make your teen an equal partner in the conversation.  Ask them what they think, let them voice their thoughts without interruption, and take their ideas into consideration when making decisions.
  • Respect them and love them:  If you want to earn the right to be heard, your teens need to know that you respect them as an individual.  Yes, they need to earn that respect by being responsible, but you need to give them the opportunity to demonstrate that they can be responsible.  However, your love should be unconditional.  Make sure your kids know – by your words and actions – that you will love them no matter what.  Your voice will be received more openly when teens know they are respected and loved.


Be A Dad: Tip 2

June 16th, 2011

Be A Dad: Tip 2 – Spend Time with Your Children

How a father spends his time tells his children what’s important to him. If you always seem too busy for your children, they will feel neglected no matter what you say. Treasuring children often means sacrificing other things, but it is essential to spend time with your children. Kids grow up so quickly. Missed opportunities are lost forever. (Taken from NFI’s best-selling brochure, 10 Ways to Be a Better Dad.)

Here’s a couple age-specific suggestions for how you can spend time with your children – but the opportunities are endless!

For Dads of infants and toddlers:

  • Start early and get resources to educate yourself: You can begin bonding with your child even during pregnancy by learning as much as you can about what’s going on inside Mom as the baby develops. Educate yourself on how to care for a baby – try our interactive resource When Duct Tape Won’t WorkTM or the New Dad’s Pocket GuideTM. Don’t leave all the diaper changing, baths, or cuddling to Mom – get involved in those activities as a way to bond with your child. 
  • Bond in your own way: Moms and Dads parent differently, so it’s okay to do things a little differently than Mom. Even at a young age, you and your little one can begin creating memories by splashing in the bath bubbles, playing "airplane," or doing a little rough-and-tumble wrestling – as long as you’re being safe.

For Dads of school-aged children.

  • Enter their imaginary world: If your son loves pretending to be an astronaut, pretend to be the space monster that interrupts his moon exploration. If your daughter enjoys tea parties, get dressed up and let her show you how to correctly sip from a tea cup. If he likes playing pirate, make a funny eye-patch and swashbuckle on the high seas with him. If she likes to play cowgirl, be her trusty horse or the town sheriff. It may take a little work to get into "pretend" mode, but the memories will be worth it and it will mean the world to your child.
  • Help with homework: Sure, your kids may not think working on homework together is fun, but it will communicate to them that you value their educational success and you are there to help them achieve their potential. Be careful not stress them out with unrealistic expectations, but affirm them in your confidence in their abilities. Try to make it fun! Work on math problems together and use pieces of candy as a counting tool. Read a book together and use funny character voices.

For Dads of teenagers:

  • Do an activity together that they’re interested in: You might think your teenagers are too cool to hang out with you, but they are probably craving time with you. Teens have busy schedules, so let them know you want to do something together and ask when they’re available. Let them pick the activity based on what they’re interested in. Attend a local minor league professional sports game, see a movie at the theater and get ice cream afterward, or go bowling.
  • Be there as much as possible: Extra-curricula activities can dominate your teens’ schedules, but it really means a lot to them when you are there. Do everything you can to attend their sports games, concerts, cheering competitions, etc. Rearrange your schedule at work, if possible. Your teens need to know that Dad is their #1 fan.


Be a dad!!!

June 15th, 2011

Sharing Your Beliefs With Your Kids

June 14th, 2011

Sometimes in the midst of science projects, sports practice, and school, it’s hard to know how to communicate the things that are truly important to you and your children.

We asked NFI staff member Greg Austen, who was a pastor before his NFI life, to give some advice on this topic. How can you ensure that your core beliefs, especially spiritual ones, are effectively shared with your children?

Communicating Your Beliefs: It’s primarily relational.

Greg used the familiar phrase: “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care” to highlight the importance of relationship. Without a relationship with your children, the greatest truths and beliefs don’t seem to carry much weight coming from you. Your child must see and observe, in a relational setting, how and what you believe, and the practices that you observe to reinforce those beliefs.

Communicating Your Beliefs: It’s more about how you live than what you say.

Greg noted, “You are writing a gospel—a chapter each day—by the deeds that you do and the words that you say. Men read what you write, distorted or true. What is the gospel according to you?” The power of our habits and actions speak louder than our words.

You will communicate your beliefs even if you’re not trying to. Yes, it’s hard to live in a consistent way before our always-alert children’s eyes and ears, but that’s exactly why we need to live intentionally before them. When our words and our lives match, powerful things happen – both to us and our children.

Communicating Your Beliefs: It does involve explaining why you do what you do.

Greg posed the question: “If you have a testimony of life without lip, how will people know why you do what you do?” The best teachable moment can be lost, especially on younger children, if it isn’t accompanied by the context you can provide with your words.

Perhaps you make a critical choice or tough decision in front of your children – explain it! Verbalize why you think it is important to help those in need, hold down a full-time job (even when it’s not a great job), volunteer with a local organization, maintain difficult relationships or any other choice about your life or lifestyle. Your kids need to hear your rationale and see how it connects to your deepest beliefs.



Be A Dad: Tip 1

June 14th, 2011

Be A Dad: Tip 1 – Respect Your Child’s Mother

One of the best things a father can do for his children is to respect their mother. If you are married, keep your marriage strong and vital. If you’re not married, it is still important to respect and support the mother of your children. A father and mother who respect each other, and let their children know it, provide a secure environment for them. When children see their parents respecting each other, they are more likely to feel that they are also accepted and respected.  (Taken from NFI’s best-selling brochure, 10 Ways to Be a Better Dad.)

Here’s a couple age-specific suggestions for how you can respect your child’s mother – but of course there are plenty of other ways you can do that!

For Dads of infants and toddlers:

  • Encourage Mom to take care of herself so she can take care of your baby – both during and after pregnancy. Pick up some extra responsibilities around the house so she can get lots of rest. Encourage her to consider breastfeeding your newborn – breastfeeding provides important nutrients for the baby and brings health benefits to Mom, too.
  • Learn how to help with practical care of the baby so that Mom isn’t carrying all of the responsibility. NFI’s When Duct Tape Won’t WorkTM is a great interactive resource and our Doctor DadTM workshop provides hands-on training on how to care for a child. Check out some of our online resources for new dads here. Mom will really appreciate the time you take to learn these things!

For Dads of school-aged children.

  • Be united in parenting decisions: Your kids should know that Mom and Dad are a team – and that going to one behind the other’s back is not going to get them what they want if the other parent already said no. Whether or not you live with Mom, the two of you should have regular conversations to make decisions together about schedules, discipline, and family rules.
  • Speak positively about Mom in front of your kids: Make sure your kids hear you saying positive things about their mother – make comments about what she’s good at, what you appreciate about her, or how pretty she is. This will build their respect for Mom and set a good example for them of saying nice things about others. Even if you and Mom are no longer together, it’s important for your kids to hear you recognize the positive contributions she makes to the family.

For Dads of teenagers:

  • Model good conflict resolution: Never raise your voice at your children’s mother, especially not in their presence. When you have disagreements (every couple does!), communicate calmly and let your kids (when appropriate) see you and Mom work through a disagreement and come to a mutual understanding. Ask questions to help you see where she’s coming from and work to find common ground. This is an important skill for your kids to gain and the best way to learn is to see it modeled.
  • Demonstrate how a man should treat a woman: How you treat Mom sets an example to your son for how he should treat women and sets the standard for your daughter of how she should expect the men in her life to treat her. Be courteous to your child’s mother, let her share her point of view, and do special things to let her know you appreciate her. If you’re married, show a little affection to your wife and say "I love you" in front of the kids so they can see that their parents love each other.