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 are some of the main reasons, and a few thoughts that might help.
Reasons Why a Child May Hate Their Dad
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.
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.
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.
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!"
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.
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.
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)?
How to Be a Good Father
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.
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.
Questions & Answers
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?Helpful 15
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?Helpful 5
My dad is aware that I hate him. He is a control freak. He abuses me, and is always arguing with my mother. They stay together "for the sake of me and my younger siblings." Since he is aware that I hate him, he does things as punishment for hating him. He told me that he knows I hate him, and I can't do anything I want as long as I live in his house. What should I do to make our relationship better?
I understand why many women choose to stay with unsuitable partners 'for the sake of the children' if they're afraid they won't have any income or financial support, and often they fear things might just get worse. But I remain disappointed in couples who can't see they'd be happier if they lived apart, and with happier parents, their kids would have much more pleasant lives. I believe it is asking too much to expect kids to be able to safely make their way through a daily minefield, but it sounds like you'll have to try. (Unless you're old enough to move out and start your independent life, which would be an easier alternative.)
You say your dad knows you hate him. I'm not sure if you said the words out loud to him or your dad's just assuming you hate him because of your actions and behavior around him.
You also say he abuses you, but there's no mention of beatings or physical violence, so I'm going to assume he just mouths off at you with no physical harm. I'm guessing you just 'clash' over just about everything and he probably calls you names and yells a lot.
There's two of you involved in this conflict. You don't have any control over your dad's choices and actions so you'll have to modify your own behavior and hope he responds positively. Here are a few thoughts that I hope will help you. (Read to the end without getting frustrated along the way. lol.)
You and I both know that sometimes teenagers can be really hard to get along with. It is easy to become self-absorbed and moody or impatient towards anyone who dares enter your personal space without being invited. Blame it on hormones, but be aware that attitude has a lot to do with it. To have any chance of improving your relationship with your dad, you'll have to change your attitude towards him. Now, this might feel really uncomfortable and insincere at first, but let's look at ways you might view your dad more sympathetically. I don't know your dad or you so I'm writing generally here. You'll have to figure out the specifics.
Let's say he goes to work every day, perhaps even to a job that he hates. He brings home money to pay the bills. Got to give him some credit for that. Maybe he mows the lawn in his time off. That can't be fun. Does he ever drive you or your siblings around? That has to count. If you're not wearing rags and devoid of every type of personal item most teenagers take for granted, you're better off than you could be.
Yes, your dad is a control freak, but you haven't said exactly what it is he's controlling. I suggest you think that through and see if you can be a little more forgiving. If you were an adult looking in from the outside, would you think he's terribly unfair? (For instance, I can see that kids could think it is unfair if dad forces them to get off the PlayStation or computer to go to bed ... but an adult onlooker could reasonably say the kid is lucky to have access to PS or computer, and needs to get a good night's sleep.)
You say your parents argue a lot. I'm guessing quite a few of those arguments are inspired by issues to do with you kids. Truth be told, you can probably single-handedly reduce some of their arguments by changing your attitude and behavior. Perhaps you can keep your younger siblings busy for a while when your dad first gets home from work, so your parents have time to actually talk about their day without interruption. Or you could help get them sorted out at bedtime so there's less drama and chaos, if you identify that as a problem time. Instead of bossing them around and trying to flex muscle to get them to do what you want, try jollying them and lifting the general mood in your home.
Then the next step is to tell your dad that you're trying to help more around the house and free him and mom up so they can spend a bit of time together without hassle. Tell him you don' t want a bad relationship with him. You're doing your best to make your home happier in the hope that he'll do his best to make home life happier too.
This process will probably take a while, but you might actually be surprised at the changes you notice within a short time. Keep it up, and if your dad threatens to punish you for something in the future, you can point out that you make a genuine contribution to things within your home. I'm hoping that he'll become more forgiving of you as you become more forgiving towards him.
In order to save mum and the rest of my life, should I kill my dad?
You know as well as I do that violence is not the answer. It would ruin any chance you'd have a happy life in the future. And how do you think your mother would feel? She’d blame herself as you’re sitting in jail. All you’ll have achieved is creating much more misery for yourself and your remaining family. You have stop dwelling on a ‘movie’ reaction and start thinking about ‘reality.’ Let’s look at some of your other options.
- Report him to the police.
- Ask grandparents or other relatives to help you.
- Run away. You and your mother could just leave him.
- Find out if there’s a Women’s Refuge or another type of charity organisation for mothers and children in your situation. Lots of places have them.
I don’t know how old you are or what your circumstances are, but it would be MUCH better to escape from your father and start a new life. Even if it takes years to set up somewhere else and get back to having all the possessions you leave behind, you’ll be free and able to have fun along the way. No such thing as fun and freedom in prison!
Write to me more. Use the Comments section at the bottom of this article, and you’ll get more space to tell me what’s going on. I’ll happily share thoughts with you, and we’ll see if we can come up with a plan to get you and your mum away from your dad. Tell me about him, and yourself. I’m not emotionally involved in the problem so I should be able to help you step back and consider a different way to deal with it.Helpful 2
My two adult daughters hate their father, and I believe that I am guilty too because I always agreed with their complaints and hatred toward my husband. What should I do now to help my daughters to solve their relationship with their father?
Sadly, you can’t turn the clock back and behave differently. It sounds like you were eager to be seen as ‘supportive’ of your kids, but failed to see the harm you were causing. Kids need to learn to weigh the good against the bad in all aspects of life. It was wrong to expect their dad to be ‘perfect.’
If you are to have any hope of fixing their relationship with their father, you’ll have to be honest with them. Tell them how bad you feel for throwing their dad under the bus. List the many ways their dad was a good dad. Show them this article and the hundreds of comments so they can read the stories of kids who hate their dads for a good reason. With a bit of perspective, I’m hoping they’ll have a better understanding of how things really were in your home, and apologize to their father if they believe it is appropriate. Your husband deserves credit for things he did right.
© 2013 LongTimeMother