As adults, most of us have caught ourselves doing or saying something that reminded us of our parents. ‘How did that happen?’ we ask ourselves.

As toddlers and young children, we learn so much more than just walking and talking as we watch, listen and explore.

It should come as no surprise that when it comes to relationships and parenting, our default is to imitate what we observed growing up (We Learn to Parent From Our Parents).

That’s great if you’ve had good parenting role models, but what if you didn’t? What if one or both of your parents were absent, either literally or figuratively?

Men – do you feel like you’ve inherited a bunch of fatherhood mindsets and behaviours that you’d like to break free from? If the answer is ‘yes’, you know what you don’t want to be, but where do you find healthy role models?

One thing I’ve learned about tackling change in any sphere of life is that it’s not enough to articulate what you want to change from, you need to have a picture, a vision, a goal of what you’re adjusting to. For example, I don’t want to be overweight, so I’d like to lose x kilos. I don’t want to work in manufacturing anymore; I’d like to try my hand at sales.

So if you’ve decided you don’t want to be like your father, the good news is that great dads DO exist and there’s a lot we can learn from them.

I grew up with two fantastic father role models (my dad and his dad) and yet I was curious to find out if there are consistent characteristics of other great dads. Over the years I’ve asked hundreds of men literally whether or not they’d like to become more like their father. Sadly, the vast majority of men say that they wouldn’t.

I did find a group of men with great father role models and asked them to share their stories. Here are the four most common characteristics these great father role models shared:

  1. Dad loved Mum – he didn’t just stay married; it was evident that there was a deep affection for, and commitment to, the woman he chose as his life’s partner.
  2. Dad loved GOD and made the church a priority – he lived in daily relationship with God his creator, he modelled a positive Christian lifestyle, and being actively involved in a church community was a priority – not just something he did if there was nothing else on.
  3. Dad was ‘others focused’ – he modelled a life of serving others (both family and the broader community – sports, the church, school P&C and other organisations and this typically involved a degree of personal sacrifice, i.e. foregoing something personal for the sake of others.
  4. Dad prioritised time with family – from unskilled labourers to senior executives in the corporate world, they all had 24 hours in their day, and these great dads made sure that they were present for their family. Their diaries reflected the importance they placed on time with their family.

If you’re not happy with some of the parenting ‘scripts’ you’ve inherited, can I encourage you to be more intentional in developing a picture for how you want your fatherhood legacy to look? Then find a few good role models who are already living it, and learn all you can from them.