You Don’t Have to Be Your Dad

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“Being a father at 18” is a survival story about the author’s experience of being a father. The author has written this story to help others understand that they don’t have to be their dad, and it can be hard. Read more in detail here: being a father at 18.

Vintage African American black father walking across street with young children.

We’ve been running a series on how to parent with purpose and develop a good family culture for the last year.

Whenever we write on this subject, we often receive feedback from guys who have opted to forego marriage and children completely. The core of these individuals’ determination to avoid family life is often (but not always) their own personal experience: they come from families where home was not a safe refuge. These guys are familiar with arguing, cheating, a lack of affection, and finally divorce. Perhaps one of their parents molested them while they were young. If that’s the case, why get married or create a family in the first place?

They have a valid argument. According to the findings, marriage and divorce trends are handed down from generation to generation. If you come from a divorced family, your attitude toward marriage is less likely to be favorable, and the odds of your marriage ending in divorce are statistically greater than those involving partners from intact families. People who were mistreated by their parents as children are also more prone to abuse their own children, according to studies. It’s a kind of fulfillment of the biblical concept that curses endure for generations.

Those studies, however, only provide half of the tale.

According to other study, just because you or your spouse comes from a divorced family doesn’t mean you’ll end up in the divorce courts and have numerous Christmases.

In reality, the study demonstrates that people may intentionally choose to interrupt the pattern of bad home life by becoming a “transitional character,” as defined by marriage and family expert Carlfred Broderick. According to Broderick, a transitional character is:

“A person who alters the whole path of a lineage in a single generation.” The changes may be for the better or for the worse, but the most notable instances are those who grew up in an abusive, emotionally devastating environment and managed to digest the poison and refuse to pass it on to their children. They defy expectations. They deny that mistreated children grow up to be abusive parents, that alcoholic children grow up to be alcoholic adults, and that “the sins of the fathers are punished upon the heads of children to the third and fourth generation.” Their contribution to mankind is to filter the destructiveness out of their own lineage so that future generations might construct fruitful lives on a solid foundation.”

Being a transitional character appeals to me because it allows you to forge a new, stronger connection in your family tree. You may proactively construct a new chain and a new tale for your family, one that is lot more positive, rather than being chained to a series of weak links.

Being a transitional character, in my opinion, refers to more than simply familial stability. Even if you didn’t grow up in a divorced home, you may want to be more active with your own children than your father was with you and your siblings. You don’t want your life to sound like “Cat’s in the Cradle,” do you?



Perhaps you have a family history of overweight and out-of-shape males who died at the age of 50 from a heart attack. You may play a transitional role by encouraging your family to a healthier lifestyle and staying to see your grandchildren go to college. If your family has been burdened by debt for generations, be the first to turn your family’s financial history to a more responsible course.

Being a transitional character is declaring, “It ends with me,” in response to any sin or problem that has run through your family’s past.

Being a transitional character, on the other hand, is sometimes easier said than done. You’re up against a slew of deeply established tendencies you picked up as a kid and during your formative years. Becoming a transitional character requires a fundamental shift in how you see and react to your surroundings. It’s a challenging endeavor rife with blunders and reversals.

But it is possible.

We’ve put up a list of research-backed ideas on how to create a new chain in your family’s history by playing a transitional character:

Vintage blacksmith forging chain on anvil in workshop.

1. Think of yourself as a character in transition.

The first step in becoming a transitional character is to recognize yourself as one and accept the role as part of your personality. This demands first acknowledging that you are a part of a terrible family history. It takes the humility to realize that unless you make a deliberate, determined effort, you’re likely to perpetuate the negative narrative. We want to assume we’re capable of resisting our parents’ influence, but it’s really rather difficult. We frequently assume we’re nothing like them, only to have old ancestral tendencies reappear in us unexpectedly and dishearteningly throughout particular stages of our lives. It’s an unavoidable fact of parenting that you’ll soon find yourself doing or saying the same things to your own child that your parents said or did to you. It’s one of those anagnorisis moments when you realize, “Wow, I’m just like my father!”

Once you’ve identified the challenges you’ll face, intellectually and emotionally prepare yourself to be the family’s transitional character. Tell yourself that things are going to be different this time.

2. Consider your legacy.

Take five minutes to do a simple visualization exercise to give yourself drive on those days when being a transitional character seems like too much effort. Consider the bad consequences you may pass on to your children and their children if you don’t follow this new set of rules. Imagine your fat grandkids gasping as they attempt to play, being teased for their size, and being diagnosed with childhood diabetes if you come from a family where almost everyone is obese. Wipe that disturbing image from your mind and see your adult children in a different light: fit and happy as their own healthy youngsters excitedly run about the lawn.


When you’re feeling overwhelmed by the work required to break harmful family traditions, consider what type of life you want for your children and grandchildren. Will they be telling their children and grandkids tales about how divorce, poverty, obesity, and addiction were all the rage three generations ago, but that it all changed with you?

3. Marry someone who comes from a stable household.

According to Brad Wilcox, Director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, research reveals that if you marry someone from an intact family, your odds of divorce decrease. Someone who grew up with both parents married has most likely picked up some good marriage and parenting behaviors. You’ll also get to witness a model of how an intact family functions if you spend time with your in-laws after you are married.

Now, I’m not advocating that you make your possible spouse’s family, whether whole or fractured, a deal breaker (you wouldn’t want her to apply the same criteria to you! ), but it’s something to think about while you date. Recognize that if both you and your spouse come from divorced families, you may have to work more to develop a good marriage than couples in whom both partners, or even just one, originate from intact families.

4. Make a conscious effort!

Remember that excellent families don’t simply appear out of nowhere! Even those who come from intact households are not immune. You must be deliberate if you are serious about developing a healthy family culture. In our relationships and families, we either “decide or glide,” as social scientist Scott Stanley puts it in his book Fighting for Your Marriage. You get into problems gliding; choosing gets you where you want to go. It’s not enough to choose the road of least resistance; you must also be proactive!

Formulate a family goal statement, build family customs, and prioritize shared meals to create the family culture you’ve always desired.

5. Keep a safe distance from poisonous people.

If you want to have a healthy marriage and family, but your parents or friends like to sit around and complain about how bad and stupid such institutions are, you may want to avoid those interactions. Distancing yourself from these loved ones does not imply that you are entirely cut off from them. It simply entails being aware of the potential harmful impact these doomsayers may have on your own family’s aspirations and creating boundaries with them to reduce that impact.

6. Surround yourself with people who are good role models.

Limit your time spent with negative people, but also actively seek out the company of individuals that have healthy and happy marriages and families. Keep an eye on what they do in their houses and try to imitate their finest habits. Share your problems with others, and don’t be hesitant to seek help when you need it.

7. Seek professional assistance if needed.

According to the findings, couples from broken homes who seek professional marital therapy have a better probability of remaining together. It’s more useful for couples who have more serious relationship issues, not so much for couples that are doing good but want to improve. Don’t be scared to consider therapy if you believe it might be beneficial.


8. Stick to your objective by reading books that will help you become a better spouse and parent on a regular basis.

It’s simple to set excellent objectives; it’s far more difficult to stick to them. We become busy and agitated, and we lose sight of our goals and the men we want to become. We need to remind ourselves of these things on a daily basis by reading as much as we can on how to be better husbands and dads and how to create a healthy home culture. We must then “hold fast” to what we’ve learnt by returning to those books or articles on a regular basis. It’s a never-ending journey to become a transitional character (or a better guy in general). To keep on track, we must regularly remind ourselves of excellent practices.

Read the rest of the series here: 

The Value of Developing a Family Culture How to Write a Family Mission Statement and Why The Value of Developing Family Traditions 60+ Family Traditions to Consider How to Hold a Weekly Family Meeting and Plan It Family Dinners: How to Make the Most of Them

It’s now your turn. I’d want to know how males who have successfully transitioned into transitional personalities in their families overcame their terrible family history. Please share your experiences and advice in the comments section!



The “fatherhood guide” is a book that offers advice to new dads on how to be the best dad they can be. It covers topics such as what to do when your baby cries, how to make sure you’re not over-working and much more.

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