Social Question

MilkyWay's avatar

Why do so many people have really crap relationships with their parents?

Asked by MilkyWay (13723points) November 17th, 2011

Why do you think it is? Is it because of how the parents brought them up? Is it because the way they think is different? Or that they were too controlling? A mixture of all this?
Can you think that this relationship can be fixed? If yes then how? How do you communicate with such parents, parents who they themselves don’t want to communicate?
And if you’re one of the people who are lucky to have a good relationship with your parent(s), why do you think you do so? What makes the relationship valuable to you?

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42 Answers

Blackberry's avatar

There are simply too many factors to even begin to speculate. But no situation is perfect, and it seems there are many situations where things are far from perfect.

boxer3's avatar

I’m not sure, but I’m so god damned lucky to have been given two wonderful human beings as parents. I’m grateful for them every day.

john65pennington's avatar

Most of the problems arrived from a generation gap. The parents are set in their generation rules and regulations and their children see everything entirely in a different light/

No matter how you cut it…...until the age of eighteen, parents rule!

CaptainHarley's avatar

Modern society is not known to favor respect for parents.

King_Pariah's avatar

My parents have bettered themselves over time but I believe I did say a while back that they treated me like crap and I still hold resentment, anger, bitterness, hate, etc. For that.

tinyfaery's avatar

Crap parents.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Well, I have to say that there do seem to be a lot of, as @tinyfaery says, “crap parents,” based on what I read and hear. But I don’t think I have ever known any ( with one or two exceptions ).

Sunny2's avatar

You know how birds may have to push their baby bird out of the nest? Well, the negative feelings you have make it easier for you to leave home. It may be nature’s way of helping human babies leave the nest. As you’ve observed, it’s very common to have those bad feelings. They may serve a purpose. Bye bye.

CaptainHarley's avatar


Heh! I simply told mine that when they graduated from high school, one of two things would happen: they would go to college or they would get a job. If they got a job and continued to live at home, they would pay rent and follow the rules of the house.

blueiiznh's avatar

Honest open communication is key to any relationship.
Without it, there really is no relationship.

There isn’t always a blame to be laid. Even if there has been hurt, there is always room for forgiveness and a potential to make it better if both sides are willing.

YARNLADY's avatar

Parenting does not require any training or licensing, therefore, many incompetent people become parents.

DominicX's avatar

I’ve wondered about this as well. I have an excellent relationship with my parents (that hopefully will never go bad) and it seems to be a somewhat uncommon phenomenon. However, of the people I know who have bad relationships with their parents, the reasons are so varied it’s hard to pin one cause on it. The parent/child relationship is so important that it’s very easy for things to go wrong and lead to a bad relationship.

There are many reasons I have a good relationship with my parents. One is that they’re supportive and they always have been. Supportive of what I wanted to do in life, supportive of my activities and projects, supportive of my sexuality, etc. My parents are open and communicate with me well, they weren’t abusive, they’re easy to talk to and come to with problems, etc. It’s all of those things.

On a side note, I’ve met a lot of LGBT kids online whose parents treat like utter trash once they find out that their kids are gay. How someone can just completely turn on their own children like that is amazing to me. This to me seems to emphasize what @john65pennington said about the “generation gap” and the extreme possibility for misunderstanding between parent and child.

CaptainHarley's avatar

I have two biological children. They are now 40 and 38. Each of them has had a midlife crisis. Each of them wrote out all the things they disliked about their parents and what they wish their parents had done differently. I did not sound like the person I thought I had been. Rather humbling experience.

Mariah's avatar

I think a big part of it is that you can’t pick your parents. Just about any other relationship in your life you have a say in. But you don’t pick your parents

Think about how many people there are out there that rile you up when you come across them, that make you shake your head, that you avoid when at all possible. The people that make you lose faith in humanity.

Now remember it’s pure dumb luck whether or not you have somebody like this as your parent.

I personally have a great relationship with my parents, but I know that I’m just extremely lucky to have been born into an awesome family.

filmfann's avatar

I think the relationship between parents and children is so long, many people carry problems or struggles with them that have long past. If they could just work with the moment, and not allow old difficulties cloud their feelings, things between them would be much better.
Kids often think their parents are too strict or too intrusive, and parents feel let down by the under achievement or poor choices of the kids.
Let it go.

CaptainHarley's avatar


Not always easy to do. My mother left my father and me right after I was born. My father sent me to live with his parents because he didn’t think he could do a good job of raising me by himself. I have spent a lifetime trying to overcome the aftereffects of all that. I still, at the age of almost 69, feel great sorrow for that little boy that no one wanted.

No, not so easy to let it go.

King_Pariah's avatar

Hmmm… Threaten to saw off my arm… Nahhhhh, not letting that go.

filmfann's avatar

My wife was born deaf. Her mom used to beat her regularly with a switch (like a small tree branch), thinking she was faking it, and just wasn’t paying attention. Her mom drank far too much (probably the reason for my wife’s deafness), and would constantly try to keep her home from school to force her to do housekeeping, since (she thought) she would never amount to anything anyway. Finally, she put a rifle barrel in her mouth and shot herself, right in front of my wife. Her mom lived, though, and finally left the family of 5 children, the youngest was 5 or so.
After I married my wife, she got back in touch with her mom, and forgave her for everything.
Her mom died a couple months later.
I think it shows my wifes quality.

efritz's avatar

For me, it goes down to my desire to please my parents. Because of this, I don’t think I can have a completely honest relationship with them (they’re religious and I’m bi).

AshLeigh's avatar

I think most of the time it’s just a lack of communication. Kids don’t want to talk to their parents. Teenagers are rude, immature, and ungrateful.
I know that’s not the case in all situations. I admit, I don’t have a relationship with my father because I don’t want one. But I don’t feel like that’s entirely my fault. We both messed things up, and neither of us are willing to fix it.

Haleth's avatar

When children are young, parents cast a long shadow over their lives and the actions of parents seem magnified. If your parents do the wrong thing, it hurts more than if a friend or another family member did the same thing. It’s hard for many people to grow out of that and realize that parents are human and have flaws.

woodcutter's avatar

Sometimes the parents do everything they can for their kids and are good people and their kids are just shitheads.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Because everyone who’s a parent, is also a person, and people tend to be sucky. For (almost) every quality that makes someone a bad/unsuccessful/not great/incompetent parent, those are also qualities that make other adults not like them at work, or at parties, or as the guy they won’t be hiring again.
Because many, many parents don’t reflect inwards. They think they did a great job and the kid just turned out to be an asshole, even if the kid is screaming at them all the things the parent did wrong. Because that asshole kid then goes on to be a parent, and is an asshole parent. Because abuse tends to be cyclical unless someone puts a thorough and intentional stop to it. Because many parents insist on respect without really earning it (even though they’ll insist they earned it). Because many parents don’t really evaluate what makes a good parent, where the lines are. Because many parents want all the benefits of communication without actually having to put in the effort to communicate (see Wundy’s recent thread on what fathers say to daughters about men…).
Because you can’t have staggering rates of people who have mental disorders and other serious mental issues, and have serious campaigns for everyone to realize how harmful that stuff is and that’s why everyone needs to get help, and then not also have a giant intersection of people who are also parents, and are taking that un(successfully)treated mental stuff into how they parent.
Because you can’t have such a screwed up economy without also having a huge intersection of people screwing up the economy, or not helping to make it better, who are also parents.
Because this culture believes so strongly in the sovereignty of parents, that they need more respect, that they need more rights, that almost no kid, no matter how screwed up their home situation is, will not be told multiple times before getting even the slightest whiff of help (and then many, many times after that help) that it was their fault and the parent loves them and they should really just be grateful that they aren’t a kid in Africa instead of being such an entitled and ungrateful brat.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@MilkyWay Thru some great cosmic fluke I drew an inside straight flush and got the most wonderful parents a kid could ask for. PM me if you’d like to talk a bit.

CaptainHarley's avatar


Most of those changes come only with time, which only serves to perpetuate the cycle of abuse. I wish I had an answer… but I don’t, at least not one that would be acceptable to the civil rights people.

Bart19's avatar

I’ve heard of many crap parents.Most of my young, Dutch friends complain that their parents are too meddlesome (One even claimed he hates his mother because she kept asking him what he wanted for dinner) and don’t give them enough financial support.

I can’t judge them but I do see a trent that the moment people leave the house, their opinion of their parents take a turn for the worst. Maybe it is that you experience different things and begin to become independent. Your mind broadens and you can come to the conclusion that your parents weren’t so perfect as you originally thought. Or maybe it’s a defense mechanism anyway.

Other cases are far more extreme. The cousin of my wife doesn’t have any contact with them after his father tried to kill him. To add salt to his wounds, his mother picked her other son to be her favourite and after many years and even marrying a woman he hated to please them, he gave up and never contacted them since.

Parents can be abusive, can be bad or just humble people trying to do the best they can. It’s all about luck I guess; nobody can pick his ideal parent. And even if we could we are all constantly changing. What is first seen as an endearing character trait can be most annoying later in life.

Especially now we have the internet, we can find a model of a perfect parent and feel disappointed if our parents don’t live up to this. On the other hand we can see different viewpoints and figure out that maybe our parents have indoctrinated us or abused us without us truly realizing it. If your parents keep telling you the sky is green you will believe the sky is green until you leave and discover it has actually been blue all along.

Nowadays with the internet, freedom of speech and a society less restricted by tradition, children now have the freedom to judge their parents and to talk about it. I think that in earlier days having bad parents was far more a taboo than it was now, so maybe there used to be many crap parents but it was just never discussed.

Also the modern times makes it so that parents can’t demand respect anymore and are free to be critisized by their children. Many of them still stick to the habit of demanding respect which only makes them crappier parents by not acknowledging the autonomy and the opinion of their child.

I believe that communication along with compromises is the key to sorting out and establishing a healthy relationship (if the situation isn’t too bad and the parents don’t suffer from addictions and personality disorders). My wife and her parents had a rocky relationship but they recognized all their past mistakes and apologized.

My parents never admitted or will admit one single flaw. They find it easier to blame me for everything even when I am living abroad. They haven’t had contact with me for months now after they tried to ruin my wedding. So yes I am one of the many with crap parents.

zensky's avatar

Often it’s about pride and humility. Too much of the first, not enough of the second.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Someone here (I think) a few months back posted a excerpt of Plato that is just as relevant today. Too bad I don’t know how to find it.

I have seen a pattern repeat that gives me some ease during my own frustrations:
Teen years there is a little headbutting.
Early 20’s are self realizing, self promoting.
Late 20’s are the time for growing back a little.
30’s and 40’s are for friendship and renewed growing together again.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I agree with @tinyfaery and @YARNLADY – it is a good question, though. I just don’t think the many people that become parents should.

Coloma's avatar

Short of serious abuse I think most parents try their best. We are all works in progress and kids need to see their parents as people, not just mommy & daddy, eventually.

My daughter is 24 and we have had a few talks, initiated by me, asking her experiences of growing up with her dad and I. She felt I was too strict and censoring at times, but, understands my reasons, and, all in all she has few complaints.

She also knows she had a very fun, funny, and creative mom and better a bit too cautious than lazily lackadaisical.

I think it is very important for parents to ASK their kids perceptions of them and take it to heart, short of the usual kid complaints that basically translate to ” I was mad cuz I didn’t get my way with this or that.” haha

Most kids are not mature enough to have an objective view of their parents until they are in their 20’s. I’ve loved the intimate talks my daughter and I have had and we get along great.

Guess that kinda speaks for itself. ;-)

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Coloma But mildly and moderately abusive parents are trying their best? Not abusive, but right on the line of mildly abusive parents are trying their best?

Coloma's avatar


Yes, how can you do better if you don’t know what you’re doing wrong, or, if that was the parenting modeled to you?

I was not an abusive parent, but, even someone like me who was very invested in being a good mom can see now, 20 something years later, how I might have done some things differently.

Best argument for self awareness and personal growth work. ;-)

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Coloma It’s often not trying their best. Trying their best would meaning doing a serious and thorough evaluation of the self, and going out and finding models (just like you do when something else wasn’t modeled to you – and there are thousands and thousands of parenting books out there). Seems like a lot of parents, especially those who are moderately, mildly, and right on the line of abusive, are more “trying their best, so long as it doesn’t take too much effort, or get in the way of their mental and emotional baggage, or interfere with their own narcissism”. Kind of like parents who sacrifice so much for their kids, so long as it doesn’t get in the way of them watching the game or not driving during rush hour or having “date night” twice a week or getting together with friends or… Also, would like to take this time to remind you that many times, even broken bones don’t qualify as “severe abuse”. Which means that parents (and spouses) with severe personality disorders, severe narcissism, who aren’t physically abusive or aren’t “severely” physically abusive, who are said to “gaslight”, do not count in this as “serious abuse”.

Coloma's avatar


Well..personality disordered people don’t look at themselves, it’s the nature of the beast.

We’re talking apples and oranges here. “Normal” peeps that are not perfect parents, nobody is, compared to extreme fucked up-ness…no comparison.

Pathological narcissism is one thing, but parents that have date nights, a social life away from the family circus and enjoy watching a game are not being bad parents.

I’m no stranger to narcissism, and it seems you’re knowledgible, so, you know that they can’t be fixed. I would disagree that broken bones don’t qualify as severe abuse.

In these cases it’s probably best to distance from parents like that, obviously.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Coloma And I’m not trying to say that having date nights or watching games, etc, is making parents bad parents. I do think that when that’s all they do, they are. When, for example, a parent puts off taking a kid to get more school supplies for a month and a half because they’re too busy with doing all those things. And no, it’s not apples and oranges, it’s a spectrum. Personality disorders are defined as behavior we all do, just to an extreme and harmful extent. And they can be fixed, should they chose to fix themselves, there are many therapies out there that have great success with people who really want to change.

Coloma's avatar


Well, bottom line, regardless of the sins of the fathers, every kid has to grow up and take responsibility for how they are going to be different from the poor examples they were given.

Sure, personality disorders can be worked on, but, it’s extremely rare these people ever present to the mental health community, usually only when their lives are in a shambles from their own screw ups and they are depressed.

It can happen, but, most Leopards don’t change their spots.

Regardless, adult kids have to find their own path to wellness and not get stuck in blame & anger and their own mental health issues.

boxer3's avatar

For some reason now that I’m re-reading this question, all I can hear is Will Smith’s aka
Fresh Prince’s : “Parents just don’t understand.” Oh man that song, and the goofy music video…...hahah. love it.

saint's avatar

It’s a mystery to me. My parents, both dead, were the best thing that happened to me.

bookish1's avatar

Because I thought child abuse was normal until I moved out of the house.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@bookish1 Me too, mainly because all the “trusted adults” I tried to tell told me it was normal and ok. Many still do…

bookish1's avatar

@Aethelflaed : Yech, I hear ya >_> Hugs if you want them. Also, I was told child and domestic abuse was a “cultural thing” which is why I have a conniption when I hear people blithely defending ‘cultural relativism’ now.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@bookish1 :) hugs back. It is a cultural thing… that just doesn’t make it somehow ok. I mean, clean up your own backyard first and all that, but still, not ok.

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