• Jake Sully’s parenting style in Avatar: The Way of Water is analyzed by a therapist, who describes his “lopsided” approach that prioritizes toughness over showing love.
  • Jake’s military background and experiences with death shape his parenting style and desire to protect his children from suffering the same fate as others in the sequel.
  • Jake’s harsh and critical behavior, even when his sons are not in danger, shows a lack of balance and separation between his military persona and fatherhood.



Jake Sully’s unique parenting style in Avatar: The Way of Water is analyzed by a professional therapist. The Avatar sequel continues Jake and Neytiri’s story from the original movie by expanding their family. Now introducing a new dynamic, the Sully family raises four kids – Kiri, Neteyam, Lo’ak, and Tuk – along with a foster relationship with Norm’s human child Spider.

In a reaction video with Cinema Therapy, therapist Jonathan Decker analyzes Jake Sully’s relationship with his children. In Decker’s analysis, he describes Jake’s “military” like style that comes across as “lopsided.” Jake more often prioritizes “toughness” over showing his kids that he loves them.

To make this connection, Decker draws out one particular scene in Avatar: The Way of Water wherein Jake scolds Lo’ak for carelessness while his son is “actually bleeding.” Check out the full quote from Decker below:

“In being a leader in your family, you need grit, and strength, and determination, but you also need vulnerability and accountability, and you need empathy. And he’s lopsided. The issue here is that who you are in one domain, if you bring that home, what does that do to my family? There’s nothing wrong with toughness and strength, there just needs to be balance. In order to feel safe as a family, it’s not just feeling safe with physical threats, it’s feeling like you belong. It’s feeling like you’re wanted.

Some of you may have a dad “sir” relationship. Look and I understand that there’s military stuff going on. There’s battles going on. Jake’s trying to keep his family safe, and he’s falling into what he knows. The reason you don’t hate Jake is because you understand that about him. And you understand that he’s doing that because he sees it as his job to protect, and that he loves his kids. But do they know he loves them? Because he talks to them like grunts. He talks to them like soldiers. ‘You disobeyed a direct order.’ And the issue here is that it’s not just in battle situations. It’s not just like ‘okay, now we’re in combat, so sorry during this period I’m your commanding officer.’ That actually makes sense. It’s like a very silly real world example is I coach my daughter’s basketball team, because she was calling me dad, and I’m like ‘we have to have a different relationship here, otherwise the other kids are going to think its favoritism or just it singles you out as different from the rest of the team. So on the floor, I’m coach.’ So I get that. But Jake parents this way even when they’re not in combat. He’s harsh, he’s critical, and I know he’s trying to help keep his sons safe, and grow up into leaders or people who can fend for themselves, but his wife has to say ‘Jake, your son is actually bleeding.’ And even then he’s like ‘Yeah, okay.’ And the issue is he doesn’t separate the two. Because he goes from ‘you disobeyed a direct order to you’re grounded.’ So it all just bleeds together.”

Where Jake Sully’s The Way of Water Parenting Style Comes From

Jake talking to his family in Avatar The Way of Water

As Decker references, audiences can still like Jake because they “understand that” he is “falling into what he knows. The original Avatar covered the basis of Jake’s backstory by extensively revealing his military background. Under Quaritch’s leadership, Jake has seen a harsh military environment with strict power structures. As the patriarch of the Sully family, he is the colonel, the general of his family, and he acts as such.

Another motivating factor for Jake is likely the death he has seen throughout Avatar. Most significantly, Jake watched his beloved colleague Grace pass away underneath the Tree of Souls. With The Way of Water‘s Kiri being a loose reincarnate of Grace (played by the same actor Sigourney Weaver), this loss likely affected Jake in Avatar: The Way of Water. He does not want his kids to suffer the same fate as Grace and countless others.

RELATED: Avatar: The Way Of Water Ending Explained

In some ways, Jake is correct in those concerns. Within the brutal war-torn water world, Jake’s eldest son, Neteyam, died at the hands of Quaritch in Avatar: The Way of Water‘s ending, making his greatest fear come true. While Jake reconnects with Lo’ak by the end, the backdrop of Neteyam’s death will provide an additional challenge for Jake in Avatar 3 as his kids come of age and the Sully family continues to fight for Pandora.

Source: Cinema Therapy

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