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Father playing soccer with his sons.

Family of Origin

Where did you learn how to be a father? In our jobs or careers, most of us receive formal training to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to become efficient workers. This may be achieved in a school setting, training program, internship, or with on-the-job learning. What about the other important roles that we hold in our lives? Where do we learn the skills to help us perform proficiently as fathers, partners, or friends?

We learn while growing up and watching how others in our family – our family of origin – performed in that role during our upbringing. As fathers, we are often influenced by our own dads or people who played that role for us in our lives. This is where our “training” begins. We grow up observing behaviors and language, and we have skills, attitudes, and beliefs, either directly or indirectly passed down to us. As we grow up, we create a mental checklist of everything it means to be a man and a father. Even those without active or present fathers in their lives can have their view of fatherhood influenced from mothers or other adult figures.

I believe that it is always important to see how we are influenced by our past experiences, because they often dictate how we behave and interact with others presently. So, what did you learn from your dad about fatherhood? Were you provided a positive or negative image of fathers during your upbringing? There are positive behaviors that you may have picked up from your own father, which you implement in your household today. But also, there might be negative behaviors or attitudes that you could unknowingly be exercising in the home. You may not recognize it until it is pointed out … “You’re behaving just like your father!” Or, you have an experience that causes you to recall the negative behavior from your past. Knowing how you are influenced can help you make adjustments, if needed, in your own role as a father.

Exploring messages received from your upbringing also challenges you to take a look at how you might be influencing your own children’s view of fatherhood. It is important to recognize that you’re sending them direct and indirect messages about what they need to do as fathers or what to expect from their partner who assumes the father role. I encourage you to spend some time exploring the lessons learned from your family of origin about fatherhood, and join us January 21 for the Dad Talks virtual discussion where we will be answering the questions below. I look forward to seeing you there!

  • What fathering knowledge, attitudes, values, and skills did I learn from my father?
  • What did I learn from my mother about fathers and fatherhood?
  • Did my family of origin provide me with a positive or negative image of fathers and fatherhood?
  • Am I providing a positive or negative image to my children? What do I need to change?

For new or expectant fathers who are interested in participating in an actual fatherhood training, you may also register now for the Fatherhood 101 course to be held February 6.

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About Z. Andrew Jatau, LPC

About Z. Andrew  Jatau, LPC

Z. Andrew Jatau is a Licensed Professional Counselor and content creator currently working at Hopscotch, a leading pediatric behavioral health company.  He is the founder and CEO of Mylemarks, a website dedicated to providing engaging social-emotional resources for children and adolescents.  Andrew has worked in a number of settings providing mental health services to youth and families, including a day treatment center, a university counseling center, and most recently, a private practice in Virginia Beach.  He previously served as a Fatherhood Consultant with CHKD, helping to organize and facilitate fatherhood programs in the Hampton Roads area.  Andrew resides in Aurora, CO with his wife and two daughters.