“He does not need a commanding officer; he needs a father.” —Faia Raige, Wife of Cypher Raige, Mom of Kitai Raige in the new film, After Earth.
At NFI, we often talk about discipline. It comes with the territory. It’s worth pointing out that “discipline” comes from the Latin word discipulus meaning “to teach; to guide.” Dads often mistake “discipline” for “punishment”, which means to “penalize” for doing something wrong. In the new film After Earth, we get a glimpse of what happens when a dad must learn how to connect with his son.
In the film, under Cypher Raige’s (Will Smith) command is a young recruit named Kitai (Jaden Smith), a rebellious teen. Kitai is also Cypher's son, and the father is frustrated at what he thinks is a lack of discipline.
Cypher's wife, Faia, urges Cypher to see Kitai's behavior as a plea for his father's love and attention. At her request, Cypher takes Kitai along with him on a mission, but an asteroid storm interrupts their course and a crash landing leaves teenage Kitai and his legendary father stuck on earth. But “Earth” isn’t as you may think. This is Earth 1,000 years after cataclysmic events have forced humanity’s escape.
This film forced us to think about what kind of fathers we are and what kind we should be. If we’re being honest, most dads think that discipline means “to control” rather than “to teach or to guide.”
As a result, we use fear when we punish. Our role as a dad is to be a model. Modeling is one of the most important ways we dads teach our children. Dads who say one thing but do another confuse their children because they don’t “walk the walk.” Dads, we must understand what kind of parent we are so we can make the correct adjustments. Chances are, you’ll fall into one of five fathering styles:
1. The Dictator.
This Dad is always strict and never nurtures. He leads with control and enforces rules with an iron hand. His children know what he doesn’t want them to do, but rarely what he wants them to do. This Dad says, “My way or the highway.”
2. The King.
This Dad is strict and nurtures when needed. He leads by example. His children know what he doesn’t want them to do, as well as what he wants them to do. This Dad says, “Let me show you the way.”
3. The Joker.
This Dad is never strict and rarely nurtures. He jokes a lot and makes fun of his children. His children don’t know what he doesn’t want them to do or what he wants them to do. This Dad says, “Let’s just have fun.”
4. The Follower.
This Dad is sometimes strict and sometimes nurtures. He lets Mom take the lead on discipline and backs her up when needed. His children know some of things he doesn’t want them to do and some of the things he does want them to do. This Dad says, “Do whatever Mom says.”
5. The Dreamer.
This Dad is never strict and never nurtures. He lets Mom take the lead on discipline and doesn’t get involved with it. His children don’t know what he wants them to do or what he doesn’t want them to do. This Dad says, “Whatever. Just leave me alone.”
When considering which discipline style you most associate with, ask yourself, “Is this the best style for my children/my family/my involvement?”
In After Earth, we see a glimpse of a “dictator” dad who learns to be a “king”. We are reminded that even if we aren’t perfect fathers, we can be better.
Question: What style of discipline did your father use? What style do you use? Why?
Visit NFI’s After Earth page for the trailer and more information. See the new film in theaters May 31.