“I hate my dad”: Why resentment can build between children and fathers, and what to do to repair father-child relationships

Fathers are a big part of our lives, as they raise us and teach us about life — both directly and indirectly. There’s a lot to love about our fathers, but they are often also someone with great potential to do us emotional harm.

As research shows, having a strong relationship with one’s child is frequently a protective factor for them from stressors and other negative long-term events, such as trauma. But sometimes, the ones we love the most fail us in some shape or form, and we get mad at them. Many people feel anger, and even hate, toward their fathers, for one reason or another. If you are looking to heal that hate and improve your relationship with your father, here are some actionable ways to start the process.

Is It Normal to Be Mad at Your Dad? Is It Okay to Not Like Your Dad?

Being mad at your father, or even not liking him, is a normal experience that many people go through throughout their lives. This doesn’t always negate the love you may feel for them, but it does create tension and strain on the relationship until a conversation is had and an agreeable resolution is found. 

There are tons of reasons to be mad at your dad: He wasn’t home a lot, it was difficult to get attention from him, he struggled with showing much emotion and giving support, was unfaithful to the other parent, struggled with keeping his promises, and, in more extreme cases, parentification or abuse occurred. The wounds of the past can hurt just as bad, if not worse, than the wounds of the present if they go unaddressed, causing resentment to build over time. This can make anything more than a surface-level conversation with your father feel incredibly irritating or emotionally taxing. 

Most parents, dads included, do the best they can with the information they have available to them at that time. Many men aren’t taught how to emotionally connect with others, and might believe the best way to care for their child is to financially provide for them or tell them how they can improve their life — taking emotional connection out of it. 

When they learn that there’s a better or more helpful way of handling a situation that negatively affects their child, many dads are willing to make the changes, though it may be a difficult process. Furthermore, many dads can struggle with admitting that they’ve made mistakes in the past and acknowledging how it affects their family. Part of this may be due to their personality, but it can also be tied to men being socialized to think that admitting mistakes is a sign of weakness — something that is not okay to have or show.

So to summarize, it’s important to recognize when you’re mad at your dad for things outside of his control. The best way to settle issues and heal your relationship is to have honest, open, and nonjudgmental conversations about what has occurred and how it affects you, so that the negative or harmful behavior can be adjusted and a solution can be reached.

How an Angry Father Affects a Child

What children see in their everyday lives is what they view as normal. As such, this may lead to the child thinking it is normal for a partner to be angry and aggressive towards them. It also may lead to them being afraid around dad and not wanting to be home, which can be a sign of anxiety

It can lead to self-esteem issues as well, as the child may feel like they can never win and may doubt their decisions due to extreme and perhaps unpredictable reactions from their fathers. Furthermore, the child may end up mimicking the dad’s behaviors, making for unstable or unhealthy relationships with others. 

All of the challenges above can impact a child’s academic performance as well as their relationships with friends. Remember, anger is a protective emotion. Learning what the child is protecting themselves from is part of solving the problem. 

How Do You Deal With Having a Bad Father?

When considering what to do to help you deal with having a bad father, the first and most important thing is your physical and emotional safety. This means making sure that you are physically safe when being around and interacting with your dad, as well as your emotional safety when interacting with him (i.e. being picked on, yelled at, belittled, threatened, guilt-tripped, and/or other emotionally harmful behaviors). 

If you do not feel safe around your father, reach out to your trusted support system, talk to a mental health professional, and use resources like the National Domestic Violence Hotline to get the help and protection you need.

If safety is in place, consider bringing up minor negative experiences and talk about how they affect(ed) you. It’s good to start small, as it can prevent your dad from becoming defensive too quickly and make future conversations easier, as you’ve now worked through less difficult conversations. The hope is that your dad is receptive, learns to understand your experience and perspective, and is willing to hear about and process the event with you.

However, your ability to stand up and make things better for yourself also depends on your age. If you’re a teenager or a child, dealing with negative or harmful behavior from your father can be much more difficult than dealing with it as an adult. Children and teenagers have a limited ability to change their environment and may not have the ability or emotional awareness to look at their dad and tell him how they feel about his behavior. As adults, individuals can set up and maintain boundaries surrounding how they are treated, including actions like going low- or no-contact.

In general, individual therapy can be very beneficial in helping people process prior interactions with their dad and determining the best steps in how to respond to him. If it feels like it would be most beneficial to talk things through with your dad with an unbiased third party present, family therapy can be a great option as well.

Why Do I Get Mad at My Dad So Easily?

It can be easy to get mad at your dad if there are multiple instances of negative interactions, such as being teased, belittled, or disrespected. Close proximity, personal history, and other factors can also have an impact.

At it’s core, anger is a protective emotion, so part of working through your anger means understanding what you’re trying to protect yourself from. It’s also important to recognize the trigger causing the feeling. Using mindfulness, you can become aware of your triggers before interacting with your dad, and can then come up with a general plan on how to respond. 

How Can I Control My Anger Towards My Dad?

If you get mad at your dad, there are some steps you can take in the moment to keep your calm and control your anger. Start by acknowledging your anger, take a cleansing breath, and calmly state what got you upset using an “I” statement. Here’s an example: “I felt angry when you teased me about my job.” 

Letting anger take over and yelling at each other in turn likely will not make the situation better, as it’ll likely lead to a fight. Instead, it is important to set up boundaries with loved ones and follow through with them. Think of things that your father does that trigger you, and craft healthy boundaries around them to protect yourself. If your dad cannot respect these boundaries, it may be best to maintain some space and limit your time together. 

How Do I Get Over Resenting My Dad?

Getting over resentment doesn’t happen in a day. It is a process and it can be a long-term one. 

Resentment is a feeling about things being unfair. Part of getting over resentment is getting to the bottom of your resentful feelings. What is behind the resentment? It’s important to consider the cause without judgment, and try to balance logic with emotion. Resentment isn’t always rational, but you won’t be able to convince yourself that the underlying reasoning isn’t reasonable without processing the feelings within it.

It can also be beneficial to talk to the person about what’s going on, with the goal of working toward understanding and forgiveness. Forgiveness is not always for the other person; it is also for yourself. Forgiveness does not mean that you forget all of the pain that you went through because of your father. Instead, you can focus on letting it go and doing things differently so you don’t get caught in the same traps or situations that your dad got caught up in.

Treatment for People Who Have Issues With Their Fathers

Treatment for those who have parental issues mainly involves individual talk therapy and focusing on processing your emotions. Family therapy may also be appropriate, but that would require one’s dad to be open to discussing the challenging situations, as well as being vulnerable himself. As noted above, this can be very difficult for many men and fathers to do, since they have been conditioned to do otherwise.

However, an honest and open conversation is one of the most constructive ways to repair a father-child relationship. A mental health professional can provide expert guidance and a helpful, nonjudgmental third-party perspective to any conflicts that need working through, taking the pressure off of the clients to moderate or guide the conversation themselves.

Table of contents

Is It Normal to Be Mad at Your Dad? Is It Okay to Not Like Your Dad?

How an Angry Father Affects a Child

How Do You Deal With Having a Bad Father?

Why Do I Get Mad at My Dad So Easily?

How Do I Get Over Resenting My Dad?

Treatment for People Who Have Issues With Their Fathers

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  • Jessee, V., & Adamsons, K. (2018). Father involvement and Father–Child relationship quality: an Intergenerational perspective. Parenting: Science and Practice, 18(1), 28–44. https://doi.org/10.1080/15295192.2018.1405700

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