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Parental Neglect / Childhood

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Is this normal behavior for a parent to neglect spending time with their kid(s)? Before I turned 10, my childhood was good and I have fond memories of my family hanging out / doing activities together. However, after reaching the age of 10, my father just stopped bothering to spend time with his children. Over the years he acts like he wants to hang out but when time rolls around for the activity to take place, always comes up with excuse to not hang out (be it family activities or spending time with individual family members). This obviously hurt my feelings as a child (mainly because I would try to follow things up) and he would always get angry at me. I’m now a 29 year old adult, and he still claims to want to hang out from time to time. However I really don’t believe him and get annoyed with this behavior because I know he won’t follow through. Problem I have, is not that he won’t hang out. If he doesn’t value his family enough to spend time with them, that’s fine. But he acts like everyone else is to blame for this (even though he suggests hanging out, and other people have to follow up to see if event is really taking place).

Many cancelled vacations. Really haven’t been on a family vacation in years because he backs out and decides to go to bars, ride his motorcycle, or something more important than family. My problem is: don’t say you’re going to spend time with family if you’re not really planning on doing so. I feel bad sometimes when I act like I’m not interested in hanging out (but this has to do with father not really following through in the past). Sad thing is, my father has no friends, and his family wants to spend time with him. But whenever this is supposed to take place, he always makes excuses / bails out. This behavior has distanced his children from him. Yet he doesn’t admit to his causing this problem. Any ways, I wanted to see if this sort of thing is normal and or for any advice. Thanks.

Parental Neglect / Childhood

Answered by on -

A.

No, it’s not normal to neglect one’s children, but his behavior might be less about normalcy and more about his personality. He seems like someone who is avoidant and irresponsible.

What your father might not understand is that when he make plans and doesn’t follow through, most people would consider him irresponsible and untrustworthy. Eventually people will stop making plans with him. That’s the normal and natural response towards people who do not keep their word.

You shouldn’t feel bad about your wanting to distance yourself from your father. It’s the price he pays for behaving in this manner. Behavior has consequences and when his children decide to distance themselves from him then that’s the price he pays for his behavior. If he changed his behavior, then his children might not want to distance themselves from him and this would no longer be an issue. He has the ability to control his behavior. He has to be the one to decide to change his behavior. No one else can do it for him.

The most important thing to realize about people, in general, is that you can’t change them. You can only react to how they treat you. The first time someone makes plans and doesn’t keep them, well maybe they were sick. That’s a legitimate excuse and it’s understandable; people get sick. But when they repeat the same behavior over and over, their excuses are no longer legitimate or believable and you have to adjust accordingly. In this case, it would be correct to stop making plans with someone who has repeatedly failed to keep their promises. A good rule of thumb is to treat people how they treat you, no better and no worse. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

Parental Neglect / Childhood

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist and Assistant Professor of Social Work and Forensics with extensive experience in the field of mental health. She works in private practice with adults, adolescents and families. Kristina has worked in a large array of settings including community mental health, college counseling and university research centers.

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2018). Parental Neglect / Childhood. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 17, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2016/04/14/parental-neglect-childhood/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.