Monday, April 30, 2012

Honor Military Families by Voting for 2012 Military Fatherhood Award

NFI's President Roland C. Warren likes to say that we unfortunately often do the least for those who do the most for us.  The Military Fatherhood Award™is one way in which we try to rectify that by shining a spotlight on the military families who make sacrifices every day in the service of our country.

Every year, NFI invites the military community to submit nominations for military dads who demonstrate four qualities: ongoing commitment and dedication to their children, extraordinary effort to father from a distance during military separation, successfully balancing military life and family life, mentoring and strengthening other military fathers or military children who are separated from their fathers.

This year we received over 450 nominations from wives, children, family members, and colleagues.  Our panel of judges had the very difficult task of narrowing this outstanding pool of nominees down to three finalists.  Now that the three finalists have been identified, we're turning to the American public to help us choose this year's Awardee by voting on Facebook. The Award will be presented to the finalist with the most votes in a special ceremony near Father's Day held near the finalist's base.

Please take a minute to watch these three short videos created by the finalist families and cast your vote on Facebook.  I promise it will put a smile on your face to see these beautiful, happy children talk about how much they love their dads and share what their dads do to be great fathers every day.

Before you do... here's a brief introduction to our three finalists:

First Lieutenant William Edwards, U.S. Army
Currently serving at Fort Jackson, South Carolina
Father of four children

View Lt. Edwards' video and vote >>
Read Lt. Edwards' nomination >>
Senior Airman Jonathan Jackson, U.S. Air Force
Currently serving at Travis Air Force Base, California
Father of two children

View SrA Jackson's video and vote
Read SrA Jackson's nomination >>
Lieutenant Dennis Kelly, U.S. Navy
Currently serving at Camp Pendleton, California
Father of five children

View Lt. Kelly's video and vote >>
Read Lt. Kelly's nomination >>

Voting is open until May 20 and you can vote once every 24 hours, so come back every day to help your favorite finalist win.

In a day when so much attention is focused on the problems created by bad or absent fathers, we love to lift up great dads as role models and symbols of hope.  These three dads are not only great fathers, but they are serving our country while remaining committed to their wives and children.  Through them, we honor all military fathers and say "thanks" to the families who sacrifice every day for our nation.

Vote now for the 2012 Military Fatherhood Award finalists >>

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Huggies Conversation Continues...

As regular readers of The Father Factor know, NFI recently played a key part in a firestorm of social media commentary that led Huggies to respond to the complaints of dads and modify an ad campaign to portray dads more positively.  (If you missed it, check out our blog post rebuking Huggies for their original campaign and the second blog post applauding them for listening to the feedback of dads.)

The conversation about how brands and organizations can effectively reach out to dads - and why it's important for them to do so - continues.  Vince DiCaro, NFI's Vice President of Development and Communication, was NFI's voice in the Huggies "debacle."  The National Diaper Bank Network invited Vince to share NFI's thoughts on the important role that dads play.  As we've frequently noted, calling on men specifically as fathers, and not just parents (which is often interpreted as a code word for "mothers") is key to welcoming them into the conversation.  Vince elaborates on that and other ways and reasons to engage dads.

Read what he shared with The National Diaper Bank Network in his guest blog post "Today's Dads Can Help Close The 'Diaper Gap'"

Guest Post: So, Dad, Did YOU Earn a 4.0?

This is a guest post from Dennis Trittin, a money manager, educator, and mentor committed to helping young people reach their full potential.  Dennis is the author of What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead.  He and his wife Jeanne have two children.

One of the most defining moments in any dad’s life is when his children “leave the nest.” It’s a time of reflection and anticipation…and conviction about how well you prepared them for success in life. For you younger dads, just wait!

The first time it happened to me, it literally changed my life. It was August, 2008, two weeks before our Michael would head for his freshman year of college. It was then I experienced an unforgettable “dad moment.” I found myself asking one profound question after another: How had I done as his father? Did I cover the bases? How will our relationship change and grow? Did I earn a 4.0? Yikes!

Honestly, I felt so convicted by these questions that I rushed to my computer and began to list all of the life wisdom from the amazing leaders I’ve met in life. Fundamental questions like how one defines success and demonstrates honorable character. Or, how one builds strong relationships and communicates well with others. Or, how one handles adversity and becomes a masterful decision maker and time manager. Then, I turned to the key upcoming decisions he’ll face, like his academic transition, his career strategy, choosing a spouse, and managing his finances. My mind was bombarded!

In one sitting, I developed a list of 100 life success pointers!

So, how do you earn a 4.0 in preparing your children to thrive as adults? In a nutshell, an empowered and successful father focuses on the following:

  • Destinational Preparation: providing a comprehensive vision for an honorable and productive life and before-the-fact wisdom for key upcoming decisions
  • Relational Preparation: evolving your parenting style from “control” to “influence,” based on mutual trust; demonstrating your unbridled belief in them and confidently “letting them go”
  • Transitional Preparation: ensuring they get off to a strong start in those critical first 3-6 months after leaving home; helping them avoid common “derailers” such as impatience in making new friends, excessive stress, lack of study disciplines, and engaging in harmful activities
Interestingly, after sharing these ideas with several leaders, they urged me to turn it into a conversational book of essential life wisdom for young people and the adults who guide them…like fathers! My book, What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead, is an invaluable, third party voice for parents and a rare book they can enjoy together with their teens (when they don’t always listen!).

I hope What I Wish I Knew at 18 can serve you as a destination guide for your children’s milestone launches into adulthood.

More information on What I Wish I Knew at 18 can be found on, and the book is available on Atlas Books, Amazon, and in bookstores.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Guest Post: How I Taught My Daughter To Fight

This is a guest blog post by best-selling author Brad Meltzer on his just-released book, Heroes for My Daughter.

I was sleeping. Soundly. And then my pregnant wife shook me awake.

“I think the baby’s coming,” she told me.
It was four in the morning. 
“Go back to bed,” I pleaded. “It’s too early.” 
God bless my wife, she actually tried to go back to bed.
 But my little unborn daughter had her own ideas. 
Believe me when I say, that wouldn’t be the last time.

At the hospital, the instant I saw my daughter for the first time, my heart doubled in size. My own mother told me at the time, “Now you’ll understand how I love you.”

After giving us a few moments with her, the nurses did their usual weighing and measuring, and then said they wanted to whisk her off for her first bath.
 “I’m coming with you,” I told them, determined to protect her.
 They smiled that smile they save for new parents and reassured me, “She’ll be fine. We have her.”

But as I looked down at my beautiful, teeny, amazing daughter…c’mon… No way was I ever letting her out of my sight. Thankfully, the nurses put up with me, and let me pretend I was some old parental veteran as I helped give my daughter her first bath. Later, as I sat there, rocking in the rocking chair they gave me and holding her close, I still remember all the dreams I was dreaming for her.

I didn’t want just one thing for my daughter. I wanted everything. If she needed strength, I wanted her to be strong. If she saw someone hurting, I wanted her to find the compassion to help. If there was a problem, big or small, that no one could solve, I wanted her to have every available skill - ingenuity, empathy, creativity, perseverance - so she could attack that problem in a way that no one else on this entire planet had ever fathomed. And that would be her greatest gift: That no one - and I mean no one - would ever be exactly like my Lila.

I still believe that. I do. I’m a mushy dad. And it was in those first moments of blind idealism and unbridled naïveté that I resolved to write a book for her.

Yes, I’d been down this road before. I started a similar book on the night my son was born. The goal was to write this book over the course of my children’s lives - that I’d fill it with all the advice they needed to be good people. I began that night:
1. Love God.

2. Help the kids who need it.

My plan was to add more ideas as she grew older, and eventually, on the day when I presented this book to her, she’d realize I was indeed the greatest father of all time (I had a parade planned for myself as well).

Thankfully, during your first few years, I realized my cliché, self-important plan was just that. It hit me after thinking about my own life and after my friend Simon Sinek told me this amazing story about the Wright Brothers: Every time Orville and Wilbur Wright went out to fly their plane, they would bring extra materials for multiple crashes. That way, when they crashed, they could rebuild the plane and try again. Think of that for a moment: every time they went out - every time - they knew they were going to fail. But that’s what they did: Crash and rebuild. Crash and rebuild. And that’s why they finally took off.

I love that story. I wanted my daughter to hear that story. I wanted my sons to hear that story. I wanted everyone in this world to know that if you dream big…and work hard…and have a good side-order of stubbornness…you can do anything in this world.

Soon after, my new plan was born. I wouldn’t give my kids a book of rules. I’d give them a book of heroes. And in that, I’d give them absolute proof that anything is possible.

Following birth order, I first wrote Heroes for My Son, which was published two years ago. At the time, I was simultaneously writing the book for my daughter, and not just because my daughter kept coming up to my office and demanding, “Where’s my book?” (which she did). Over the past six years, as I began my collection of heroes, I always knew I’d have to split them between a book for my sons and a book for my daughter.

For that reason, I worked hard to divide the heroes equally. My son got more male heroes; my daughter got more female (in the exact same ratio, down to the exact percentage, so there’d be no arguing about which “side” was better).

Think I’m nuts? Wait till you have more than one kid. Like Switzerland, my parental goal was to keep all parties neutral, so all my children would feel equal love, equal respect, equal life lessons. Am I insane? I have three kids. Of course I’m insane. But (to steal my mother’s phrase), for those three little blessings, I’d saw off my own arm. And so, feeling like a 21st-century parent (so progressive I couldn’t even see, much less acknowledge, gender differences), I began to write these two equal books filled with equally amazing heroes.

But here’s the thing. Along the way, something happened.

When I handed in the manuscript for my daughter’s book, the editor came back with a surprising reply. She noticed that I kept overusing one word throughout the manuscript.

What word?


By her count, fourteen of the fifty profiles had the word “fight” or “fighter” in it.

As she pointed out, “Some of them, like Abigail Adams, Winston Churchill, Hannah Senesh, Thurgood Marshall, were literally fighters, so of course the term should stay there.” But I also used it with Audrey Hepburn, Helen Keller, Teddy Roosevelt, Nancy Brinker…even with Lisa Simpson and the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama! Even in the pacifist, I sought a fighter. And yes, that probably highlights my lack of descriptive ability. But it also raises a vital question.


After years of trying to keep this book for my daughter perfectly equal to the book for my sons - after years of trying to teach them the exact same lessons - why did I focus so intently on making sure that my daughter knew how to fight? Why did I keep using that word? Why, subconsciously or not, was that the lesson I kept coming back to?

It’s not a complex answer. Part of it’s because I’m still trying to protect her (even if I don’t like to admit it). Indeed, when my daughter was three, and first learning to swim, she used to jump in the pool, sink down to the bottom, and then pop up and shout, with a huge grin on her face, “I’m okay!” We used to laugh at it, especially as it became her personal catchphrase every time she went underwater: I’m okay! I’m okay! I’m okay!

But looking back, why did Lila keep yelling, I’m okay? Because someone (read: me) kept asking, “Are you okay?”

Yet the other part of the answer is because my dreams for my daughter today are different than the ones on the day she was born. Sure, I still want everything for her. I always will. But - and I’m just being honest here - I do want my daughter to learn how to fight.

It’s the dream that links every single hero I picked out. In this book for my daughter, every hero is a fighter. And as I tell my daughter, no matter what stage of life you’re in, when you want something - no matter how impossible it seems - you need to fight for it. When you believe in something, fight for it. And when you see injustice, fight harder than you’ve ever fought before.

To see the results, I picked out the story of Marie Curie, who never stopped pushing science forward, even when she was dying from the radiation she was studying…or the Three Stooges (yes, laugh if you want), who were the first ones to make fun of Adolf Hitler onscreen, nearly two years before Pearl Harbor…or the story of Billie Jean King, who challenged (and beat!) the pig-headed man who told her that women were weaker than men.

Women are not weaker. It was perhaps the most important lesson in there. I needed my daughter to hear that: Women are not weaker. They are just as strong, just as resolute, just as creative, and are filled with just as much potential as any man. Yes, as her father, my instinct is to protect her (like that first day with the nurses). Other people will want to protect her too. But she needs to know that she is not a damsel in distress, waiting for some prince to rescue her. Forget the prince. With her brain and her resourcefulness, she can rescue herself. And when she has her doubts - as we all inevitably do - she’d have this book, full of people who were wracked with just as much fear, but who also found the internal strength to overcome it.

From Amelia Earhart, to Teddy Roosevelt, to every person I picked, she’d have the stories of women and men who were no different from any of us. We may lionize them and put them on pedestals. But never forget this: No one is born a hero. Every person I picked for my daughter had moments where they were scared and terrified. Like you. Like me. So how did they achieve what they achieved? Because whatever their dreams were, big or small - for their country, for their family, or even for themselves - they never stopped fighting for what they loved.

We all are who we are, until that moment when we strive for something greater.

Is that schmaltzy and naïve? I hope so. Because I wanted my daughter to learn those things too.

As for the most important hero in the book, yes, I included my wife. And my grandmother. But for me, the most vital hero is my mother, Teri Meltzer, who died from breast cancer three years ago. On the day my publisher was shutting down, and no one was there to take over my contract, I thought I was watching my career deteriorate. So I called my Mom and told her how scared I was. She told me, “I'd love you if you were a garbage man.” It wasn't anything she practiced. Those were just her honest feelings in that moment. And to this day, every day I sit down to write, I say those words to myself, soaking in the purity of my Mom's love. I’d love you if you were a garbage man. My hero.

Yet for you, dear reader, the most important page in my daughter’s book is the last one, because it's blank. It says “Your Hero’s Photo Here” and “Your Hero’s Story Here.” And I promise you, you take a photo of your Mom, or Grandparent, or teacher, or a military member of your family, and you put their picture in there, and write one sentence of what they mean to you; that will be the most beautiful page in Heroes For My Daughter. And the best present we can give all our children: the reminder that it is indeed ordinary people who change the world. That’s way stronger than any upper-cut.

Today, my gift is complete. I’ve finished my daughter’s book. The book is my dream for her. And when my daughter has doubts, there is strength in the book. When she’s ready to give up, there’s motivation inside. And when she has questions, there are answers inside. But I hope, as every hero proves, the best answers will always come from what’s within herself.

Brad Meltzer is the #1 bestselling author of The Inner Circle and the host of “Brad Meltzer’s Decoded” on the History Channel. Heroes For My Daughter will be published April 10th. This article originally appeared in Spirit Magazine by Southwest Airlines.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Hunger Games... Or, Trying to Get a Two-Year-Old to Eat

I have a two-year-old. Which means I spend most of the day worried that he is suffering from malnutrition as a result of eating nothing but ketchup for the last two days.

Apparently, two-year-olds are notoriously picky eaters. According to this article, "being a picky eater is part of what it means to be a toddler." That makes me feel a little bit better about my son's desire to eat pancake syrup, but not pancakes.

In all seriousness (too late!), it is a challenge and a stressor for my wife and I to make sure our son is getting the nutrition he needs. We have tried several of the tips in the above article, and some of them have worked. However, some have created comical results.

For example, the notion of using "dips" to hide "undesirable" foods like vegetables usually results in Little Vinny dipping his vegatables in ketchup and then licking the ketchup off the vegetables. At least tomatoes are good for you...

We have also tried to place his food on "fun," colorful plates with things like pictures of Elmo on them. The only result this often achieves is that when he angrily tosses his plate to the floor, it looks nicer as it soars through the air than if we had used a boring plate.

But not all hope is lost. He is certainly not losing weight, nor does he lack energy or brain power. He likes carrots, rice, and some chicken. And when desperate, we can always get him to eat corn chips, peanuts, or Nutella on wheat bread (maybe we should try Nutella on corn chips). And he has no problem drinking milk, water, and fruit/veggie juice. I guess I would just like to see him sitting at the dinner table with an elegant napkin tucked into his shirt eating a chicken cutlet and a mixed greens salad with fancy silver cutlery. He would also be wearing a tuxedo.

Then I remember he is just a toddler, and there is more to his life than eating. There is pooing and sleeping, which are two things he is also terrible at. I guess I will have to blog about those next week...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Loving Your Spouse More Than Your Kids

A few years ago, Ayelet Waldman wrote an article in the New York Times about how she loves her husband more than her children. It caused quite an uproar in the community of moms who called her a "bad mother" (and a lot worse) because of this.

Well, it's happened again, but this time, it is a dad saying he loves his wife more than his children. It also happens to be a very famous married couple, Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman. Urban recently revealed in an interview that he loves Nicole more than their two children. To do justice to what he said, I have copied the entire quote here:

"We're very, very tight as a family unit and the children are our life, but I know the order of my love. It's my wife and then my daughters. I just think it's really important for the kids...There are too many parents who start to lose the plot a little and start to give all their love to the kids, and then the partner starts to go without. And then everybody loses. As a kid, all I needed to know was that my parents were solid. Kids shouldn't feel like they are being favoured. It's a dangerous place."

Urban may not even realize it, but what he said is incredibly profound. His family is in Australia, so things may be different there, but here in the U.S., we have become so child-centered that you are attacked when you make such statements (Editor's note: I realize this sentence can be misconstrued. Being child-centered is great. The point is that the most child-centered thing you can do is have a great marriage. So maybe "child-centeredness" is not the problem as much as "anti-marriageness" is). Some respondents to Urban's statement suggested that it is inappropriate to not love your own flesh and blood more than your spouse.

But research seems to back Urban's mentality. Generally speaking, the most important relationship in the home is the one between mom and dad. As Urban states, if their relationship fails, everyone loses. While we don't yet have research that shows specifically that marriages in which the spouses love each other more than the kids produce "better kids," we do know that kids who grow up in married homes do better, on average, across every measure of child well-being. We also know that divorce is not good for children. We also know that parents who are married to each other are closer to each other and to their kids than parents in any other family structure. Put that all together, and what Urban says looks pretty good.

Back in 2005, Ms. Waldman appeared on Oprah to defend this notion of loving one's spouse more than one's children. Our very own president, Roland Warren, was on the show to affirm her position. It was very much her (and Roland) against the world. None of the moms on the show agreed with them. But I would ask those who are angered by this notion if they have "checked it" with their children. As Urban so eloquently states above, the only thing that mattered to him was that his parents were "solid." That is where children get their sense of identity and stability from.

So, when we dote on our kids at the expense of our spouse, are we doing so because we know our kids want that, or are we really just fulfilling our own selfish needs? After all, it is "easier" to love a child, who typically loves you back without question. Things are messier with adults and they take more work.

So, before we jump on the Ayelet Waldmans and Keith Urbans of the world, let's at least consider this question from the perspective of what kids really need.

What do you think? Who do you love more, your spouse or kids?