5 Things Every Father Can Learn from the Dad from ‘Inside Out’

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Inside Out is one of those kid movies from Disney Pixar that’s just as entertaining for adults as it is for kids. Maybe even moreso!

It’s got laughs. It’s got plenty of tears. And it has one of the most nuanced explorations of emotion you’ll ever see in a film.

Plus, if you’re a parent or planning to be one someday, there are some pretty stellar examples of parenting in this movie that we can all learn from, especially from the dad character.

Let’s take a look at some parenting lessons every father can learn from the dad from Inside Out, Bill Anderson.

What can real-life fathers learn from the Inside Out dad?

  1. Be there
  2. Bring a playful attitude
  3. Try your best
  4. Discipline when necessary
  5. Above all, be understanding

Let’s take a closer look at each of these lessons, with examples from the movie!

What is “Inside Out” and Who Is Riley’s Dad?

Inside Out is a Disney Pixar animated film that was released in the summer of 2015.

It’s main stars include the emotions of Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust that all live inside 11-year-old Riley Andersen’s brain. 

The film is a clever take on how human emotions work, and it’s main lesson teaches us that all of our emotions (even the uncomfortable ones) are healthy and necessary to work through our problems in life.

This is quite the diversion from old-fashioned Disney film themes, which we all know are mainly about finding a prince charming.

Though he is just referred to as “Dad” in the movie, Riley’s dad’s name is Bill Andersen, and he’s voiced by the real person Kyle MacLachlan.

He and his wife, Jill, have Riley as their one and only daughter.

From what we can find out from the film, Bill Anderson was working and living in Minnesota. When he wasn’t working, he was spending time with his family, and he helped coach Riley’s hockey team.

Riley’s dad is not a main character in the movie, but he still brings a lot to the proverbial table in his limited scenes.

Let’s find out what dads outside of the animated world can learn from the character Bill Andersen from Inside Out.

1. Be There

One thing that might be missed if you’re not looking for it but is very obvious:

Riley’s dad is always around, at least for all the important memories that Riley makes. 

At the very beginning, baby Riley opens her eyes and sees her mom and her dad looking back at her, and Joy sets off Riley’s first happy expression. 

When Riley is a toddler, many of her core memories include her dad caring for her and goofing off with her. 

As Riley gets older, her mom and dad’s support carries her through even the tough times. And at the end of the film, Riley’s parents are cheering her at her first hockey game in the new city they live in, faces painted and all.

The biggest takeaway here is to be consistently there for your kid.

You don’t have to make every single game or be home for all the family dinners, but make sure that you’re at least around

Even if it doesn’t seem like you’re making a big impact, you are your child’s rock, and your presence matters more than you could ever imagine. 

2. Bring a Playful Attitude

Bill Andersen always knows the right timing to bring some playfulness to the fathering role. 

For example, when baby Riley refused the “yucky” broccoli at her high chair, Dad turned the spoon into an airplane (classic parenting move!) and she happily ate the vegetables.

Riley’s core memories that energized her inner “Goofball Island” were often made with her dad.

When she was a toddler and running around all wet after a bath, her dad played along by chasing her happily with a towel. 

Another time Dad’s playful attitude helped was when Riley was watching her parents argue in their new house in San Francisco, she started a game of hockey with a ball of paper.

Her dad, who could have gone on with a grumpy attitude, decided instead to take the bait and play along, lightening the mood for everyone.

Although you don’t want to be the parent who is always avoiding hard things by being a comedian, it does help foster a good bond with your child to be playful when appropriate.

It also helps your child to develop their sense of humor, and it can be therapeutic to play together, for you and your kid. 

3. Try Your Best

Parenting is 99% trial and error, and anyone who says otherwise is lying.

The film Inside Out does not hide this fact, and shows Riley’s dad at weak points, but still trying his best to do what’s right.

His job shift is a good example of this. Even though it required him to move his family across the country, he was doing what he thought was best for his family.

At one point in the movie, Riley is overcome with difficult feelings about living in a new place, going to a new school, and missing her old friends.

Her dad is not disappointed in Riley, rather, he tries to cheer her up with his signature goofy monkey noises. Even though this doesn’t work, he still communicates that he loves her.

Even when Riley’s mom is trying to drop hints to her dad to do his part parenting Riley in a difficult moment, it’s endearing to watch Dad’s emotions in his head trying to pick up the correct signals and do the right thing in the moment.

This is something all good dads do; they don’t ever give up on their families or their kids.

Even if your kids or life situation disappoints you, keep trying your best for everyone around you.

4. Discipline When Necessary

One scene in the movie shows a frustrated Riley at the dinner table eating with her family.

Her mom and dad keep probing her to find out the root of her attitude problem, but all it does is cause her to flip her lid.

Good dads know when to “put the foot down,” just like Riley’s dad did — even though he’s usually the goofball.

First, he gave warnings to show that Riley’s attitude was not okay, and chances for her to act differently. However, she persisted in her anger, so her dad told her to go to her room.

It’s a tough moment in the movie, since both parents are having a hard time connecting with what Riley is going through.

But it’s a solid example of a dad stepping up to the plate discipline-wise, and not always leaving it to mom to be the bad guy.

Bill’s also the one who pushed baby Riley to eat her broccoli by telling her that she wouldn’t get dessert if she didn’t finish her vegetables.

Discipline doesn’t have to involve corporal punishment, it can be a simple “bad actions have bad consequences” scenario as Bill employed here.

It’s not good for a child to get the idea that they have power over their parents.

They might get the idea that their bad attitudes are okay and will get them what they want all the time. Parents that show kids their actions have consequences have realistic expectations of the world. 

5. Above All, Be Understanding

Riley’s dad was always understanding before he was reactive.

He tried his best to understand why Riley was acting the way she was before jumping to conclusions.

This is best shown at the tail-end of the film, where Riley is coming back home after running away.

Her parents did not flip out in anger at her, rather, they showed concern and allowed space for her to speak.

Once Riley felt safe to open up to her parents, saying that she missed being back in Minnesota and she couldn’t be happy here, her dad showed understanding by telling her that he missed home too. 

Wrapping Up

Even though it’s just a cartoon movie, Inside Out has incredible emotional depth and there’s a lot we can take from it to apply in our own lives.

Dads can learn a lot directly and indirectly from Bill Anderson, aka Riley’s dad. He misses the target often in the film, making plenty of mistakes along the way, but he’s there for his daughter in the end.

And that’s what counts.

For more, check out lessons from:

Hope this helps!