The Good Parent


What are  the obligations of your parent who is  kind and caring and obviously loves you? 

One obligation is to keep you safe. When you have one horrid parent and a kinder one, the kind one should be able to help you if you are being emotionally attacked by your difficult parent.  This includes supporting and protecting you when you are under threat.  It means not being passive in the face of a tirade directed at you and giving excuses for their partner’s bullying rants. Unfortunately this is often not the case. 



It is important to remember that parenting is a joint venture between two adults.  While parents need and often want to present a united front, if one of them is being horrible then the other parent has an additional responsibility to be supportive of you.  If they find it too challenging to do so in the heat of a row, then they certainly should  as soon as possible afterwards.    

When a child is regularly under attack from their horrid parent, they will often be grateful that at least they have one parent who is kind to them.  But is this enough? It may be hard to criticise this kind parent, but if they don’t stick up for you, understand your plight and protect you, you are entitled to ask why not?

Sometimes young people in this situation feel intensely sorry for the gentle parent, particularly when the tables turn and the nasty parent shouts and behaves badly towards them.  The difference is that the parent is an adult and you are a child.   They may do nothing because they are scared, but that is their decision not yours.

If your love for your gentle parent is heavily mixed with feeling responsible for protecting them, they are probably failing in their parental duty towards you. It’s an uncomfortable thought, but it is important to be realistic and accept that although you love your kind parent they have let you down.

What do you think? Do add your thoughts on our forum.

Do You Feel Guilty?

It often happens that one parent is horrid while the other is not.  This can make your home life easier while you still live there.  But it’s very different once you leave for good,  particularly if you can no longer tolerate the horrid parent and cease all communication.

Cutting ties with your family is likely to make you feel guilty.   You may worry that if you are not present your horrid parent will harangue your gentle parent.   You also don’t know if your gentle parent will dare go behind their partner’s back to see you and keep up the relationship.   

You may miss your gentle parent horribly too and need their love more than ever.   This can make you feel more rejected and responsible for what you believe the good parent  now has to put up with day by day.  

Perhaps you feel you are between rock and a hard place.  This is why before you take a drastic step to cut one parent out of your life, you need to face the possibility that  your decision might affect both parents.  You also need to think through how to manage your guilt.  



Our advice is:

Work out exactly what you feel guilty about.  If its the thought of leaving the nice parent to the mercy of the horrid one remember that how your parents relate to each other is their business and responsibility.  Not yours.  You might never want a relationship like theirs but they might have come to terms with it for all sorts of reasons and even if they haven’t it’s their problem not yours. 

If you don’t think you can manage your guilt, think very carefully before you break away.  It’s easier to cool a relationship down and distance yourself from it, especially once you leave home, than break all connections with one parent.  There is little point to lead yourself into a worse frame of mind than the one you are already in.

If you do break away try to stay positive if your nice parent doesn’t see you immediately.  There may be lots of things for them to work through.  Ring them occasionally on their mobile not on the landline, and try to plan a way to get together.   

Try to talk to someone you know who has had the same problem.   See our resources page for a helpful website.   

If neither stay in touch, build your life as best you can and don’t blame yourself for what you have done.  

Do join the discussion on the forum.

Competitive Dads

Is it possible to love and really not like your parent at the same time?

Sometimes I really don’t understand myself.  When visitors come my father is the life and soul of the party.  He tells brilliantly funny anecdotes about himself.  His laugh is so infectious that you just have to join in too.   He makes sure everyone’s glass is kept topped up and comes across as a really good bloke.

I love him when he’s like that and feel so proud.  But he has a much darker side I find hard to cope with.  He always has to win.  Even when I was small he didn’t give me a chance and his approach is the same whether we are playing a ball game, cards, or something like Monopoly.    

 When I do win despite trying not to he gets incredibly angry.  He’ll shout at me, tell me I am useless and that there is nothing about me he is proud of.   Nor does he give me a chance to justify myself.


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Missing Dad

I didn’t have a happy childhood.  My Mum was so temperamental that I could never judge what mood she would be in.  So I was always on tenterhooks. 

I didn’t like friends coming over because one of them might have said something that upset her and she would shout at me as if it was my fault when they left.

Nor did she let me go to sleepovers because she said I was so easily led and she didn’t now what I was up to.  So she couldn’t sleep properly.

I could never do well enough in school.  She never said I looked nice and my home life was always about how I let her down and didn’t think about how she felt. 

Well, now I am away at university I have a bit more perspective.  I can see that her approach to life is negative, mean spirited and selfish, which strangely is making me more confident.  I even told a friend the other day that I am grateful to Mum because she has shown me exactly how I DON’T want to be.   

I was so sad when Dad and Mum split up five years ago.  Dad and I had such a special relationship.  He always called me his ‘best girl.’ He had met someone else and one day he was there and the next he wasn’t. 

I really missed Dad and kept asking Mum when I could go and see him.  She said he was busy.   It was months before he came to pick up my brother and I.  He told us he was going to introduce us to his new friend. 


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I was sad as I just wanted to spend time with him but that was obviously not going to happen.  I thought his friend Joanne looked a bit like Mum.  He also introduced us to her two daughters and the younger one sat on his lap while we had tea.  I was so jealous.   

It was months before we saw him again.  He even forgot my birthday.    On his next visit he told us they were getting married and Joanne would be my other Mum.  ‘No she’s not’ I thought.   Joanne told her daughters to take us up to their rooms because  ‘we are all family now’. My brother stayed downstairs.  I wish I had because they both showed me the new clothes Dad had bought them.  When I got home I burst into tears because I didn’t have a Dad any more.