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Great Father Trait #5: Acceptance & Lessons from the Great Santini

September 20, 2011

Watch the attached gut wrenching video from the classic movie The Great Santini and you will see a father at his ugliest.  The Colonel is a macho, hyper competitive, insensitive oaf who thinks his son should be just like him.  The Colonel is willing to destroy his son in order to “make him a real man”.  As  I watch the clip, I am cha-chinging the amount of $$ it will take in counseling for the son not to have a serious anger management problem.

I know all of us are thinking, man, I am glad I am not like the Colonel.  The Colonel knows only one way to be and he expects his son (and entire family) to conform to his notion of life.  It is really not OK for his son to be different than him.

So, here is my question:  Is it OK for your kids to be different than you?  Different interests?  Political views?  Values?  Career?  Of course, the right answer is “Yes, I support my kids.”  Support does not mean that you have to agree with everything, but it does mean that you give it value rather than belittling or making fun or it.  Ever heard this at a family picnic, “Hear comes my liberal democratic son, just wants to tax and spend all of our money.”  How about this one, “Here comes my son the teacher, he believes in only working part of the year.”  Or how about this one, “Here comes my daughter and her day care kids.”  Finally, “Here’s my middle child who was too good to work in the family business.”  These are not quite Great Santini comments, but they still communicate the same thing, it is not OK to be different than Dad.

Great fathers accept that their children are different than them.  They do not try to live through their children vicariously.  With direct support, as opposed to sarcasm and belittling, great fathers make it clear their children are valued as separate people.  These Dad want their kids to explore and develop the talents  and interests within them, not the talents and interests of the father.

Great fathers are secure enough and visionary enough to let their children walk in their own identity.

Patrick Donohue is a Life Coach in Oak Park, IL.  Contact him at

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