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I wish I knew this when I became a dad

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

By David Mark (Integrative therapist and coach)

Before we dive into this, let’s do a skinny on Transactional Analysis.

This is an approach in human development, whose focus is our relationships; with others and as importantly ourselves. We have different ego states, and these are transient, yet we may gravitate more towards one style over another. The three main ego states are Parent, Adult and Child.

Parenting style : Dad
PAC model

This doesn’t mean just because you are a parent that you fall within the Parent state.

You actually could be a child in a mans body, think Tom Hanks in 'Big'.

These two states of Parent and Child can also be subdivided into more discrete ego states.

The Parent ego state is made up of:

Critical Parent

The Critical Parent, as the name suggests can often find fault, might use phrases such as ‘could do better’ and yet they provide discipline, that is often needed.


Nurturing Parent

The Nurturing Parent, is compassionate, very loving, imbues attachment, however too much of this can lead to the child not developing and becoming independent. Think about how the male daddy bird (okay I’m not an ornithologist), he nudges the chicks out the nest when he senses they are ready.

- Permissive Parent

Permissive Parent

Finally we have the Permissive Parent, and some of their traits including allowing their child too much freedom, as they this parent may be caught up too much in their own world or drama), however their value is giving the developing child more space to take risks and become more independent.

The Adult ego state, is one where the person is more rational, cognitive, capable of critically assessing the interactions and making a more reasoned approach. The theory states, we should also aim to be more like the adult, but at this stage I’m not so sure about that. More on this later.

The child ego state is divided into three sub states.

Free Child

They are open minded, sometimes day dreamers and less burdened by responsibility.

Adaptive Child

They will adapt to their environment, possibly to keep the peace, or be diplomatic to feel like they belong, in exchange they trade in their authentic self. In clinical terms they often use avoidance strategies, and in extreme cases move towards dis-association which can lead to mental and physiological health issues.

Dad and the rebel child
Rebel child

Rebel Child

They metaphorically put the middle finger up to those who stop them from their intended desire / action. The rebellious childs can take many forms and can be open in their intent or more passive aggressive. They do however in this trait, live more genuinely and express themselves a bit like the free child.

So as it is Father's Day....

I would like you to think about your dad, (if you had an interaction with him when growing up). Where did he mostly gravitate towards in your earl years? Was this helpful for you?

What kind of ego states would have helped make your life richer, more fun, more helpful?

You may want to consider where your dad was and try to map him onto this model. Where were his predominant traits. Sometimes, implicit memory (unconscious) influences a dad’s parenting style, without them ever really even knowing it. This means you may have also learned the same style entirely without choosing to do so.

So whats’s the good news?

Now that you have this handy model, you now have the gift of insight and through awareness, acknowledgement and acceptance, choose the parenting style / relational style that is suitable for your individual child. Remember if you have more than one child, what one child needs maybe different to another. So why not map your whole family onto this model, so that you can calibrate the relational style needed for each family member.

Final thought. The theory suggests that we should always aim to work from an adult ego state. I would suggest all of these traits are useful and makes our relationships a delicious kaleidoscope. So why not embrace all of these styles and dial up what needs dialling up and move away from transactions to cultivating rich, deep, joyful and thriving relationships with your kids, partner (if you have one), siblings and even your parents.

Remember, life is to be enjoyed not endured or ignored.

The future of nutritional medicine integrated with coaching is a powerful blend! Want to join our School to train in nutritional medicine integrated with coaching?

We are getting ready for our new students to join us in Sept 2023.

If you fancy studying to become an integrated nutritional therapist and coach, book a space below for one of our open days.

Happy Relational Dad’s Day!

From the team at the New School Of Nutritional Medicine.

Learn about the Founder & Principal of the New School of Nutritional Medicine, Dr Khush Mark PhD HERE.

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