Horrid parents exist in all types of families, big, small, rich, clever, poor or struggling. Yet talking about living with a nasty parent is a taboo subject. If your friends get on well with their parents, or your parent puts on a front and behaves well in public, you can seem very disloyal. 

Life with a horrid parent has been a no-go area for far too long and we are tackling it on our website to help their children to manage.     

Parents come in all shapes and sizes.  None of them is perfect.  Nor of course are children.  Disagreements are normal. At one end of the scale a usually caring  parent can take their bad mood out on you, but when it passes they will often apologise. They can also be strict. At the other end of the scale a small percentage of parents are violent and/or sexually abusive towards their children. If this is your experience you need to get help quickly. Contact Childline through our Resources page.

Our website is not about either type. The parents we are focusing on are often unkind to their children, controlling and selfish.  You can find many of their characteristics below. They can also make their children's lives stressful and unhappy, which has a negative and deep-rooted effect. We want to help you to minimise the impact. 

How to recognise most types of horrid parent.


Controlling mothers

want to run your life and keep you on a tight rein.  They will tell you what to do and how to behave and expect total obedience.   If you make up your own mind about anything they disapprove of they are likely to explode with anger. Tiger mothers (see blog post 10.3.17) come into this category.

Overpowering mothers

will make decisions for you without asking.  Tell your friends you can’t go out. Get rid of clothes they don’t like you wearing. They always seem to look for the negative in what you say and do.  

Self-obsessed mothers

 are often called narcissistic.  They will be wrapped up in themselves, are moody, unpredictable and often chaotic.  Their moods may have nothing to do with you but you will be their punchball.  They are likely to deny something they’ve done or said, regardless of the evidence.  Arguments often become tangled and messy and are rarely sorted as this type of parent is often irrational.  

Angry mothers

are hypercritical and find fault with nearly everything you do and say.  Their overreaction turns small things into catastrophes.  They hold onto grudges over something you did way back when you were a baby.  They are likely to say ‘you never do ...’  or 'you always do ...'  when  neither is true.  They don't acknowledge your success or when things go well.

Envious mothers

lack something in their lives so want to live through you.  But if you achieve something they wanted to do in their past they will feel inadequate and put you down.  If  you fail they will be just as critical because it highlights their own disappointments.

Neglectful mothers

are emotionally distant, uncaring and negligent.  You are low on their priorities and they have scant interest or patience to listen to any of your problems.  They are often so involved with their own life, they don’t bother to hide that they have no time for you.  Leaving a child to their own devices for periods of time can be positive, but the neglect of these mothers makes you feel unloved and unwanted, a combination that can make you feel very low.

Over-submissive mothers

feel their male partner should rule over everything at home including their children and always back him up.  This means they won’t take your side or put your needs first. They can be so intimidated by your father that they lack the courage to protect you and/or take your father's side.


Horrid fathers share characteristics with horrid mothers, but their physical strength means they can be even more frightening to deal with. 

Self-obsessed fathers

are self-centred, have inflated ideas of their own importance, feel superior and insist on being the centre of attention. They care more about what colleagues and pals think about them than about their children's opinions. They may brag about you to others but only when it reflects well on them.  They like to be praised but only show affection if there is something in it for them.   They have little interest in finding the real you.  Instead they only connect to you in a materialistic way.  

Competitive fathers

may have loved you when you were small, but this diminishes as you grow up and develop likes and dislikes of your own.  Being all-powerful is so important that they will never let you win at anything whatever your age.  If you do better than them they may turn nasty and criticise everything about you. 

Angry fathers

have a fiery aggressive temper and lose it over the smallest thing. The temper can be an overreaction or come out of the blue.  Whatever the cause, a grown man’s rage can be frightening.  There seems little you can do to defuse their temper.  Instead you feel inhibited and withdrawn and are always wary.   

Over-submissive fathers

come in two types. 
1. Those who leave every decision to your mother, who they will never challenge.  Nor will they take your side.  If your mother is also difficult you can feel no one understands or supports you.  
2. Those who leave home, immerse themselves totally in their new life, go along with whatever their new partner wants and discard links to their past, including their children.  Their neglect is a total betrayal.

A horrid parent is likely to say

  • You will never amount to anything. 
  • Your behaviour is giving me a nervous breakdown – is that what you want? 
  • You are doing this to kill me.
  • I wish you had never been born.
  • While I pay the bills you'll do as I tell you.
  • I will write you out of my will.
  • What do you think you look like with your haircut/shoes/t-shirt/make-up?  You're  not going out like that.
  • No wonder your friends don’t like you.
  • You have never done anything to make me proud of you.
  • Why do you always make me shout?
  • How dare you.
  • X is the son/daughter I would have liked.
  • Don’t bother trying to get that prize/job - you’ll never succeed.
  • Everyone thinks I’m marvellous except you.
  • You’re so lucky to have (an expensive education/two holidays a year, etc). I never had  chances like that  when I was young.
  • Don’t make a fuss - it doesn’t hurt.
  • Who do you think you are?
  • I know what’s best for you.
  • You’ll regret you spoke to me like that.
  • I don’t want to hear about your problems - you should think about what I’ve been through. 
  • I know exactly what you’re thinking.


These comments can make you feel deeply vulnerable and are so hurtful they cause physical as well as emotional pain.

Sometimes their comments can be quite subtle. You may know exactly what they mean but they can pass unnoticed in public. Coping