Dislike of Dad

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I’m 16 and all through my childhood my dad was never there for me. My parents are still married but he was never around. My only memories of him were him leaving to work at 5am and coming back at 10pm to fight with my mom then sleep. When I was 9 I learned my mom suffered with depression because of my dad and was really ill. I have never had a good relationship with him, he never changed my diaper and I thought he hated me and my brother. I honestly couldn’t stand even seeing his face when I was in that awkward puberty faze.. I just think about what a horrible father he was to my brother and I…

I felt even more bad for my mother because she always told me that he was never like that the years they were together. Now I am 16, a junior in high school and I feel this tremendous hatred for him. Everyone is always talking about how awesome their dad is and i can’t even give a good story out without lying. He recently lost his job so now he is at home 24/7 and i cant stand it…

he always criticizes everything i do and it seems like i do everything wrong for him. he has high expectations for me but i cant seem to ever satisfy him… its not like he ever was there for me… I want to change this between us but if i ever mention something about it he starts insulting me and i just end up crying in my room.. i feel as if i don’t really trust guys because of him.. im not saying they’re all bad or all the same. But i don’t know who i am.. i feel lost. I feel this hatred that is growing and growing and growing

A: If we were talking in my office, one thing I’d want to know is why your dad was gone 17 hours a day. Was he working two jobs? If so, he may have been overworked, overtired and stressed out. His lack of involvement as a dad may have had nothing to do with you personally but rather was about long hours and overwork. That doesn’t make it okay that he fought with your mom and did things that made you hate him. But maybe it puts a different perspective on things.

I have a guess that his constant criticism of you now is what is called “projection.” He is disappointed in himself. He lost his job. He had high expectations for himself as a wage earner and he has let himself down. He isn’t feeling much like a man of the house. So he projects all those inadequacies and frustrations onto you. Projection is a common defense mechanism when someone feels bad about himself. It’s as if he is saying, “I may be a loser but I’m at least better than you.” It’s not attractive but it does help some people preserve their ego when they are feeling pretty small.

If you want to start moving your relationship into a more positive direction, the way to do it is to be sympathetic. Two or three times a day, find something positive to say to him that will help him feel better. Give it two weeks. See what happens. All you have to lose is a couple of weeks of being the kindest person you can be. Don’t rise to the bait of criticism. Just thank him for his input (with no sarcasm) and change the subject. Ask him for some help with something he knows about. Ask for his opinions. Include him in your life. You just might be able to stop the cycle of criticism and turn it around to something much more loving. It’s at least worth a try.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 19 Sep 2013

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2013). Dislike of Dad. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/09/19/dislike-of-dad/