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I Hate My Dad (Trouble at Home and How to Handle It)

With her children's ages spanning 22 years, LongTimeMother has 40 years experience in parenting - including home schooling and foster care.

Why Would I Hate My Dad?

Irrespective of their age, a child or adult who associates hate with their father has a real problem. Whether that problem is abuse, abandonment, or some other issue, the child who hates their father deserves to be heard.

The ideal emotions associated with fathers include love and respect. When a child says "I hate my dad," something is definitely wrong.

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Reasons Why a Child May Hate Their Dad

Over the past 30 years, I have heard a lot of children explain why they hate their fathers. Here are some of the main reasons, and a few thoughts that might help.

1. Physical, Mental, and/or Emotional Abuse

Some dads abuse their children. No wonder their kids hate them.

I find it hard to imagine that any woman would deliberately choose to have a child with a man who would subject any member of his family to physical, mental, or emotional abuse, but you just have to look at the statistics to see how common abusive relationships are.

When a child says "I hate my dad," it is important to establish if the child is a victim of abuse.

Instead of simply assuming that the seemingly pleasant man we meet in the street or see at work or at church is a good father, we owe it to every child to give them the chance to tell us what their father is really like.

Many children are victims of abuse. Because they do not have the power, knowledge, or ability to resolve an abusive relationship, they require intervention to help resolve the conflict.

If you become aware of a child subjected to abuse or have reason to suspect a child is a victim in their own home, please arrange for intervention.

2. My Dad Makes My Mother Cry

When children see their mother crying, it can be instinct to hate whoever or whatever causes her grief.

You'll hear a child whose mother has cancer say, "I hate cancer." After watching their mother's repeated frustration with an unreliable car, a child will commonly say I hate our car."

Similarly, a child who witnesses their mother's distress during arguments or issues associated with their father is likely to announce that they hate their father.

When parents constantly argue and cannot get along, staying together for the sake of the children can be a mistake. If both parents cannot be happy, pleasant, or at the very least polite and civil to each other, the emotional outbursts in the child's home are likely to generate emotional responses in the child.

Hatred can be one of those emotions.

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3. My Dad Is a Control Freak

Many fathers are genuinely surprised to discover their children hate them.

They worked hard to pay the bills, bought the essentials, provided gifts, and paid tuition, and yet, after all their effort and willing contributions, their child as a teenager or young adult announces, "I hate you!"

If you deny your son or daughter the space and freedom to explore, experience, and develop their own individuality in their early years, be prepared for trouble as they mature. Nobody likes a control freak.

Every individual needs a certain amount of space for personal growth. If you try to control every aspect of life, there's no room for a child to develop and discover who they are and what they are capable of.

Sooner or later, they will demand the freedom to be themselves. If they resent the restrictions you placed on them year after year—refusing to allow them to make their own decisions, pursue their interests, and have the power to reject the sports or school subjects they had no interest in but you insisted they pursue—don't be surprised if they hate you.

A father expressing frustration can be frightening for a child.

A father expressing frustration can be frightening for a child.

4. Constant Criticism vs. Supportive Advice

If your expectations are set too high for your child, you are setting your relationship up to fail. Don't confuse constant criticism with supportive advice.

It should be mandatory for parents to regularly tell their children:

  • "Well done"
  • "Good job"
  • "I'm proud of you!"

Every parent needs to learn to bite their tongue and resist the urge to always add "but..."

Over the past 30 years, I have attempted many times to explain to friends of my children that their father doesn't mean to be critical. On every occasion, I have had no option but to agree that the many examples they offer of 'fatherly advice' appear more critical than supportive.

I always point out that it seems inappropriate to hate a father who is trying to do his best, and that there are many other fathers who are more guilty of bad parenting. However, I can't rewrite history, and these kids have had many years of believing they hate their dads.

5. My Dad Makes Me Feel Guilty

Parents can often unwittingly place a child in a difficult position. For example, a child discovers their father is having an affair. This is a surprisingly common problem for teenagers. Do they tell their mother?

  • They feel guilty if they don't tell her. Mom's doting on Dad and clearly loves him, but he's cheating on her. She's keeping his dinner warm and making things nice for when he gets home, but all the while the child knows he is with another woman.
  • They feel guilty if they do tell her because all the tears and heartache somehow seems to be their fault.
  • Or they feel guilty because they didn't tell her when dad eventually leaves her years later, wishing they'd given her a chance to find a new partner when she was still young.
  • They feel responsible for the separation when the mother leaves the cheating father.

Either way, a child who suffers the pressure of keeping a secret about their father's affair or the trauma associated with revealing such a secret is likely to end up hating their dad.

A child's self-esteem can be directly linked to how they believe their father perceives them.

A child's self-esteem can be directly linked to how they believe their father perceives them.

6. Hating My Dad Is My Mom's Fault

If you are the mother of a child who rarely sees their dad, make every effort to keep dad alive and well in your child's heart. Their self-esteem can be directly linked to how they believe their dad views them, and a teenager with low self-esteem is more likely to get into trouble.

When negotiating a separation, insist their father send birthday and Christmas cards every year. Also, make sure they agree to accept any phone calls from your child and to always be loving and supportive.

Perhaps the most difficult issue to address is the knowledge that a child's father was violent, irrespective of the circumstances. Somehow the child must be helped to know any trouble was not their fault. Their dad, after all, was the grown up. He should have been able to control himself and make better decisions to protect their relationship.

Encourage your friends and family to resist the urge to speak badly about the child's father in front of them. Of course, it is important to answer their questions honestly, but don't be brutal when dealing with a child's feelings.

Be gentle and thoughtful in your response to a child who genuinely hates their father with good reason.

Sometimes you might just have to admit "It's okay to hate your dad. I'm sorry he wasn't a better dad to you because you deserved the best!"

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7. Abandonment

When parents separate, there is no excuse for a child to feel abandoned. If you were actively involved in the child's conception, you have a responsibility to show an active interest in the child's development.

Fathers who are guilty of ignoring their children generally pay the price when the child grows older. Instead of having the company and support of their adult child in later years, it is Dad's turn to be ignored.

Mothers who stand in the way of a child having a healthy relationship with their dad simply because the adults have argued and are hurting are equally guilty of causing abandonment issues for the child.

Children need to feel loved and valued. I believe one of the greatest gifts we can give a child is to speak highly of their father—even if it is difficult to think of nice things to say. Mothers should encourage positive sentiments regarding a child's father, regardless of the parents' relationship status and level of friendliness.

"I'll bet your dad would be proud of you if he could see you today" is a wonderful gesture to a young child whose father lives far away. By hearing reference to their dad in positive conversations during their early years, a child can grow up feeling as though their father is interested in them even if they are not present or actively involved.

Of course, a phone call from dad or the chance to phone him after special events is even more helpful. When parents separate, they shouldn't "divorce" their child.

How to Respond If a Child Says They Hate Their Dad

Don't shut the child down. Instead, discover their reasons. My first response to anyone who says “I hate my dad” is to ask the question “Why?”

It is wrong for us to assume that we know more about the situation than the speaker. Too often, a child who claims to hate their father is silenced quickly without anyone bothering to ask why.

Generally, someone interjects with, “No, you don't.”

Often it is the child's mother, trying to smooth ruffled feathers and prevent further conflict.

Bad Dad vs. Good

Any father can give the impression they don't love or care about their child when:

  • other dads attend sporting events to watch their children play, but you don't
  • other dads spend time going fishing or playing ball with their kids, but you don't
  • other dads talk and laugh with their children, but you don't
  • other dads tell their kids they love them, but you don't
  • other dads seem like "real" dads, but you don't

If you don't express your love for your child both verbally and demonstrably, don't be surprised if they don't express love for you either.

If your child thinks, rightly or wrongly, that you hate them, there is every possibility they will mirror that emotion and hate you right back.

If you hate your dad ...

A Hated Dad Has to Redeem Himself

Cross your fingers and hope that your child grows into an adult who can see and respect your efforts to do the right thing. If your child hates you now but you honestly believe you don't deserve it, keep trying to reach out. One day they'll have a lot of questions, and you'll want to have the right answers.

  • If you are getting a divorce, address the specific ways you want to be involved with your child as part of the divorce settlement—and stick to the agreement.
  • If you're having an affair, admit it to your wife. Then tell your child you are to blame, and they have no reason to feel as though the divorce was their fault.
  • Send birthday cards and gifts even if you know your ex-wife won't pass them on. When they are older you'll want to be able to look your child in the eye and say, "I sent you a card and a present every year. I'm sorry if your mother didn't give them to you."

Let your grown child decide how they feel about you once they have the facts. But until then, don't blame them if they don't know what's really going on. You can't blame a child if they hate you. You have to earn their respect and deserve their love.

Planning structured activities is an excellent way to be a great dad.

Planning structured activities is an excellent way to be a great dad.

How to Be a Better Dad

If you want to be a better dad to your kids than you've been before, identify where you have been going wrong and take steps to change it—ask your children and listen to what they have to say.

Spend Quality Time with Your Kids

One of the most obvious areas for improvement for many fathers is the amount of quality time you spend with your child. First, you have to get your head around what quality time actually means.

Kids who hate their dads may have had a father who spent a great deal of time at home—but how much time did he actually spend paying attention to the child? Watching the television or entertaining your adult friends don't count just because your child was in the room.

Fathers who have to force themselves to set specific times aside when their child becomes the center of their universe (instead of genuinely being pleased their son or daughter wants to spend time with them) ask, "How do you do that?"

It is not so difficult, particularly if you have the right attitude. The hardest part might be turning your phone off, but phone calls are interruptions and should be avoided.

  • Read a book aloud from beginning to end.
  • Play a board game.
  • Play outdoors until a pre-designated time.
  • Set a task and complete it together.
  • Have fun together until their favourite TV show begins.
  • Go fishing until it is time to go home for lunch.
  • Play Paper, Rock, Scissors until the school bus arrives.
  • Dance like crazy people until it is time for you to go to work... and then dance out the door and out to the car. Kids love stuff like that.

The most important element of any of these suggestions is the natural completion point. Have you ever noticed how many fathers spend too much time trying to bring activities to an end? Then, because it is such a hassle, they don't bother starting another activity in the future.

Get Involved in Your Children's Lives

If you are a father who has disappointed your children too many times for them to even bother asking or expecting you to spend time with them, you are in serious trouble. Before you know it, your sons and daughters will be fully grown and they will probably leave you out of their lives, just as you are ignoring them now.

Reach out to your children and make a serious effort to be a better dad.

  • Suggest a game or activity (with a natural completion point) and make sure you both enjoy the experience.
  • Get to know each other.
  • Ask each child about their friends, school, and sporting activities.
  • Tell them about your childhood, and share jokes and fun stories.
  • Smile. Laugh. Play.
  • And don't forget to listen.

You should know the names of each child's best friends, what sports they play, which days they play them, the teachers and subjects they like most at school, any problems they have, and any challenges they face.

A good dad knows all about their kids' lives and gets involved in them.

If you haven't attended at least a few games each sport season, arrived early enough to watch your kids in their dance or karate class, and offered to take each child and a friend for a movie or a meal a few times in the past year, you'd better start doing those things now.

When Children Become Adults

I believe it is important to remind every child that the time will come when they can leave home and live without the fear of what mood their father will be in when he comes home at night.

Anyone who is able to endure their childhood years will have a chance at making a fresh start and deciding just where their father will fit in their future lives. Kids grow up.

If you want your kids to love you, not hate you, you need to make the kind of memories they'll remember fondly as they look back on their childhood. Spend time with your kids and enjoy each other's company.

Unless, of course, you know you can't be trusted near your children and they have good reason to hate you. In which case... stay away.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: My dad calls me names like fat, ugly and b*tch. I struggle with my weight, and I am very unhappy with my looks. When he talks to me this way, it makes me want to take more extreme measures to look what is considered pretty.

My mom also struggles with her looks, and was diagnosed with depression. He says the same things to her, and I hate his effect on us. I tell him I hate what he says, but he laughs and starts to whistle to himself. How can I get him to stop?

Answer: You might not be able to change how your father behaves, but you can change your own attitude and, in turn, change him a little.

When he calls you names, ask him 'Would you like people to speak to you like that?' Sometimes say things like, 'Look in the mirror, dad' when he tells you you're angry, or "If I were happy at home, perhaps I wouldn't be," when he calls you a b*tch.

I honestly think you should approach your father with an attitude of sport or a challenge, and make replying to him kind of fun for you. Don't let him depress you, and don't consider extreme measures to try and look 'pretty.' Instead, start building your confidence by standing up to your father. Not in fights, but with words.

So when he laughs inappropriately, say "That's not funny, dad. By your age, I thought you'd understand that."

Or, "You're the only one who is laughing. Can't you see how cruel you are?" Sometimes fathers need the obvious pointed out to them. So try pulling him up every time he makes you feel self-conscious. Tell him if he encouraged you, you'd be more likely to be able to lose weight. 'Meanwhile, I spend too much effort just trying to get through the day putting up with your rudeness.'

As his behavior improves, start having some fun together. You don't want to remain battling with him longer than necessary.

Question: My dad is a total control freak. He controls everyone in the house. He targets me the most, and assumes that I do things that I don’t. He is always depriving me of something, physically, socially or emotionally. My father is very inconsiderate. He acts in such a condescending way, and believes that he should receive respect just because he is a father. I hate being at home with him, and I wish that he could just disappear or start being supportive. How do I cope with this?

Answer: I’ve often written at length to other kids with the same kind of family problems. I suggest you read through the hundreds of comments at the bottom of this article. You’ll see I’ve given a lot of suggestions for coping with difficult dads.

Question: Why does my father keep on calling me an idiot?

Answer: If you are using drugs or alcohol to the detriment of your health, I could understand your father calling you an idiot. If you are wasting your life away and not making any effort to study and learn and develop new skills to help you make your way in the world, I’d see why he might call you an idiot as well.

But if you’re doing your best and just finding some things complicated, you’re certainly not an idiot. If that’s the case, your father is just lazy. He should be helping you instead of calling you names. His parents should have taught him to behave better than that.

Ignore his rudeness and don’t let him ruin your confidence. If you’re having trouble with schoolwork, ask a teacher or older student to explain things to you.

Question: So one day my sister and I were playing on our laptops, and my dad came in and laid in my bed. We asked him where mom was, and he started screaming at us really loudly. I was so scared that I started crying when he left, but I yelled at him too because I was just asking where mom is. I didn’t say anything bad. What do you think of this situation?

Answer: Sometimes dads might sit on their child's bed while talking to them. But when a dad lies 'in' their daughter's bed, that's a bit creepy, isn't it? I think you were right to ask where your mom was. There's no reason why he should have been yelling at you.

I want you to talk to your mother about that event. Tell her exactly what happened and that you were scared. She shouldn't be cross with you. I'm expecting her to talk with your dad and tell him that was no way to behave, and that he should stay out of your room. All kids need their privacy and their 'safe space,' which should be your bedroom.

I don't know what your father was thinking, but I'm proud of you for spotting the problem. Now talk to your mother and if she's not able to tell him to stay out of your room, talk with your grandparents or other relatives who might be able to speak with him and tell him that it is not appropriate for dads to go into their daughter's bedrooms, and especially not their beds.

If your father comes into your bedroom again, you should leave it. Just walk out the door. And, if you father scares you, I think you should be asking your mother not to leave you girls at home alone with him. If she's going shopping, she should take you kids with her. It is better to avoid any future conflict if you can.

Question: My dad never stops shouting at me. I usually spend the day in my room doing normal teenage stuff, which seems normal as I'm a teenager. But it seems like a problem to my father. He storms into my room and starts shouting way to close to my ear that I need to spend my time watching tv with him. He then proceeds to literally destroy my room to see what I was doing. Yesterday he broke the last present one of my best friends gave me before she died in a car accident. I'm desperate. Can you help me?

Answer: If your dad knew it was a present from your friend who died and he deliberately broke it, he is cruel beyond belief. If he broke it by accident, knowing that should be enough reason for him to stop. He can’t expect to destroy your possessions and have you just accept that as normal. It isn’t.

I think you should have a talk with your father. Tell him you’re never going to forget he broke your friend’s gift and if he doesn’t want you to hate him, he has to stop yelling at you and destroying your room.

Tell him if he really wants you to watch something on tv with him, he should come to your bedroom door and invite you, in a civilized fashion like most fathers do.

If he does make the effort to ‘ask’ you, I hope you’ll make the effort to join him. Then politely return to your room. I’m hoping you can create a new ‘normal’ where you both treat each other with respect.

Question: My dad complains about everything. He doesn’t cook or clean, is selfish, doesn’t help my mum financially, won’t leave because he won’t cook for himself, and doesn’t listen. My mum is struggling as she does with everything. What should we do? What can we do?

Answer: I understand it frustrates you, but it worries me when kids feel they need to parent their parents. They’re the adults; you’re the child. I believe you should be telling your mother to talk with her friends, her family or even go online.

You should concern yourself with study and friends and developing skills that will help with your future. Your mother is the one who should be focusing on creating a better home environment for you. That’s her responsibility. I don’t want to sound mean, but she needs to be the grown-up, not you. Encourage her to talk with other adults.

Question: I have a complicated relationship with my dad. So my dad is cheating on my disabled mom. I found out through his phone. I'm afraid and confused. Should I tell this to my mom? She's not independent, and neither am I. It hurts to act like everything's fine. I haven't told anyone because I think it will be a painful for everyone. Lately, my dad makes it really obvious, and I find myself kind of protecting him. I just don't want anyone to know. It will damage our family. But it hurts me. What can I do in this situation?

Answer: You are in a challenging position, and I’m sorry there’s no simple solution. I don’t know why you were looking in your dad’s phone, but you should stay away from it. Here’s what I’m thinking...

If your mom is disabled and can’t earn an income without your dad, what’s she going to do? If your dad treats her well (apart from cheating on her), she’s probably happy how things are. And if your dad doesn’t mistreat you, I’m not sure there’s anything to be gained from telling her.

I want you to try and get your head around this, without messing with your sense of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ because you obviously have a moral backbone and that’s good. But life is complicated so here’s what I want you to think about.

Your dad may still love your mother. But maybe she’s not meeting his emotional or physical needs, and so he’s cheating on her. But he hasn’t left her. Perhaps he’s just coping the best way he can.

Your mother might already know your dad’s cheating. You figured it out, so there’s every likelihood she has as well. But it would probably break her heart if she knew that you knew.

You’re the child. They’re the adults. They are probably both trying to protect you from harsh realities and keep life ‘normal’ so you can go to school and grow up without any more drama than is necessary.

If you confront your mother or your father you will completely change the dynamic within your home. If you bring his cheating out into the open air, your parents will have no way to continue the way they are now.

Should you ‘protect’ your father? No. Should you tell your mother? No. Should you touch your father’s phone? Never!

I believe you should be concentrating on studying and having fun with your friends as well as being an active, helpful member of your family. Don’t get involved in the dynamics of your parents’ relationship. Just concentrate on staying out of trouble, so things don’t get any more difficult than they already are.

I understand that you don’t trust your dad, but if he’s doing his best to support you and your mom, you have to give him some credit for that mentally. We don’t know what the future holds but you should not lose sight of the good parts of how life is in the ‘now.’

Question: I feel like my dad doesn't love or care about me. I see other kids that are happy, and they spend time with their parents. I do stuff right, but he still finds a way to yell at me. He tells me not to eat, which makes me want to starve to death. I can't have friends without him making racist comments. I can't do anything in his mind, and I wish that my dad would care and love me as other dads love their children. Why is my dad like this?

Answer: I’m so sorry you’re one of the millions of kids with a dad who is really hard to live with. I know it doesn’t seem fair. Your father is teaching you what NOT to do with your own kids when you are older.

Please remember to make mental notes so you’re a better parent than your dad.

Meanwhile, you have no choice but to cope the best you can. You need to be mature enough to know how and when to ignore your father.

Your mission is to avoid clashing with your father if you can and look after yourself until you’re old enough to leave home and start having fun as a young adult.

You have to eat. Feed your body and your brain. There’s nothing to be gained from starving yourself. Just more trouble, more hassles, and more mental and emotional anguish. You don’t want to make things worse than they are.