I Hate My Dad — Trouble at Home
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.
Over the past 30 years I have heard a lot of children explain why they hate their fathers. Here's some of the main reasons, and a few thoughts that might help.
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.
Kids hate violent fathers
I hate my dad. He makes my mother cry.
When children see their mother crying, they 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, 'I hate my dad.'
Staying together for the sake of the children is often 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.
One of those emotions will probably be hate.
I hate my dad. He's a control freak
Many fathers are genuinely surprised to discover their child hates them.
They worked hard to pay the bills and buy the essentials and provide gifts and afford 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 and experience and exercise 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.
Constant criticism vs supportive advice
If your child can't meet your expectations, you are destined for a failed relationship. Don't confuse constant criticism with supportive advice.
It should be mandatory for parents to regularly tell their children "Well done", "Good job", and "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.
Keep your child in the picture
When parents divorce, 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.
"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 divorce each other, they shouldn't 'divorce' their child.
Don't shut the child down
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.
Making the child feel guilty
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.
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.
What message are you sending your child?
Bad dad compared to other fathers
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 ...
What is the main reason you hate your dad (or simply don't love him as you feel you should)?
The best hope (perhaps the only hope) 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 that you want to be involved with your child as part of the divorce settlement - and stick to it.
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.
If dad doesn't know when to stop.
I hate my dad. And it's 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 divorce settlement, 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!"
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.
One of the most obvious areas for improvement with 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 doesn'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 - until there is a winner.
- 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.
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, 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.
© 2013 LongTimeMother