Why Do Some Parents Not Care? The Painful Truth

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My wife just experienced the death of her father. While the end of their relationship was beautiful, my wife spent many years wondering why do some parents not care?

So I decided to look into why do some parents not care and get some answers. Here’s what I discovered:

Some parents struggle to care due to abandonment or other childhood issues, but also their own struggles with drugs or alcohol. The parent may believe they love their child, but may be unwilling to put their own needs 2nd, potentially damaging the child emotionally or putting the child in harm’s way.

But there’s a lot more to get into about bad parenting, toxic parents, and just plain old parents who don’t seem to care.

So let’s keep going!

In my own parenting, over the course of being a dad 12+ years, I’ve identified 23 top Qualities of Being a Good Father (click to read them all on my site).  Check them out now and see how many of those you already have in your toolbox!

What to do if your parents don’t care about you?

Going back to the example I used at the top of the article, my wife had a challenging childhood.

I don’t for a minute think her parents didn’t actually care about her, but they had a funny way of showing it.

As a child she experienced:

  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • The using of drugs in front of her
  • Neglect
  • Selfish & reckless behavior
  • Going without food or electricity due to her parent’s partying

Ultimately she sadly experienced a lot of stuff they are lucky no one ever called CPS over.

If you have parents who seemingly don’t care about you, I think it’s important to talk to a neutral 3rd party. That could be a school counselor or teacher,  the parents of a close friend, someone from your church, or

It’s also important, but hard, to not take this personally.

This isn’s about you; this is about them and challenges they are facing that ultimately have nothing to do with you.

But it is equally important to decide if your parents truly don’t care or are just being stricter than you think they should be in setting boundaries and guidelines for you.

Ultimately a parent who doesn’t care about you won’t set boundaries.

Setting boundaries and guidelines and holding kids accountable isn’t fun. My wife and I have 3 daughters and 2 are in their tween years (just below teenage years).

My wife and I don’t have rules or discipline just for the fun of it.

We parent in a loving, firm, but clear way that ultimately is designed to prepare them for living on their own in the real world.

Ultimately though, if your parents are truly incapable of parenting you in a way that keeps you safe from physical or emotional harm, you may want to check out these toll-free crisis hotline numbers from the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

Do all parents love their child?

Unfortunately, the answer is no.

Being a parent is the BEST job I’ve ever done. But no one trained me on how to do it and I wasn’t born with the skills needed. But it was important to both my wife and me to be better parents than some of what we experienced as kids.

Sometimes people become parents purely by accident after unprotected sex.

Other times they just think it’s what’s expected of them by society or their family without really thinking about what that really means or what they’ll have to give up to do it right.

Ultimately ALL parents are imperfect, but some aren’t willing to learn from their mistakes or to put their own needs and wants second from those of their child’s.

That’s how we get bad parents.

In the case of my wife’s father, he was dealt a horrible blow in his own childhood by having his parents abandon him with his grandparents and then the parents moved to another country and started a new family.

Ultimately he was abandoned and betrayed by the 2 people who should have been his biggest supporters. That, unfortunately, set the stage for a life of drug and alcohol abuse likely driven by a need to numb the pain.

Those things, in turn, led to him being a terrible father at a time when my wife needed him most.

It took a lot of therapy, years of healing, and ultimately his succumbing to a host of diseases before my wife was able to reconnect with him, learn to open her heart again and heal from the years of damage.

If you are a parent, and are confused about the Role of Parents in a Child’s Life (click to read my article), I highly recommend you take a moment and review my article on that which breaks down the essentials.

How does rejection from a father affect a child?

Let me be clear. Kids need a mother and father.

No before you go blasting me, I definitely think 2 loving same-sex parents are better than 1 or none. I also think a single mom or dad is better than a child being raised by 2 parents who hate each other.

But at the end of the day, men and women are equal but different and each brings different qualities to their parenting. I’m again, not in any way suggesting same-sex parents can’t raise great kids.

But I am saying they will have to work harder to compensate for the qualities naturally present when a child is raised by a happy and well-adjusted mother and father.

When a father is missing in the life of a child, as it was for many years with my wife, a whole host of negative patterns set in.

A recent study published by the University of Leicester confirms the above and states that “the stronger the relationship between father and daughter . . . the lesser the chances of interpersonal problems”, such as:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Body-image issues
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Higher levels of promiscuity
  • More likely to develop eating disorders

Another recent study by the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect found the following benefits when fathers WERE actively involved with their kids:

  • Better cognitive, language, and social development
  • Improved academic achievement
  • Stronger sense of self-esteem
  • Lower incidents of depression

But that’s just the beginning of the Benefits of Father Involvement (click to read my article which lists them all). So definitely take a moment to check out that post.

How do you make your parents like you?

Ultimately, you can’t make anyone do anything.

In fact, the only person’s actions you can control are your own. If you feel like your parents don’t like you, my best advice as a parent of 3 and as a son who had a rocky relationship with his mom during my late teens, is to just open up and be honest.

Most parents want to do a good job.

Almost no one sets out to be a bad parent. Chances are if you are a child feeling like your parents don’t like you or even don’t love you, they do really love you.

They may not understand or relate to what you’re going through. They might also be so damaged, like my late father-in-law, that they just aren’t capable of showing you their love consistently through their actions.

But to start with, if you feel like your parents don’t like you, try these steps:

1. Talk to them honestly about your feelings

Often times we let ego, pride, or an unwillingness to admit fault get in the way of our ability to love and connect with others. That goes for both parents and kids alike.

So just start with asking them if you can talk to them.

Then be honest about your feelings and explain what you are feeling and seeing to make you feel that way.

2. Avoid making a lot of statements and ask them questions

If you go in guns blazing about everything they are doing wrong as parents, you’ll make them defensive and they will be much less likely to really hear what you’re saying and to put themselves in your shoes.

So ask a lot of questions and focus on what you are feeling.

It’s OK to give examples of things they may have said or done that led to your feelings, but make you and your feelings the topic of conversation; not their behavior.

Even if they routinely behave terribly, we ultimately want them to hear us and change their behavior, and that won’t happen if they get mad and defensive.

3. Let them know what you need

Be clear about what you want and need from them.

None of us are mind-readers and what might seem obvious to you might be completely not obvious to them. As my financial mentor, Dave Ramsey is fond of saying, “to be clear is to be kind“.

So tell them exactly what you need and want from them. They let them sit with that and let you know their feelings about whether or not they feel like they will be able to give you that.

Couples talk a lot about something called Love Languages.

But in reality, everyone has different love languages or ways of showing and communicating love. So whether it’s a couple, kids to parents, or parents to kids; we all have different ways of expressing our love.

So be open to understanding how your Mom or Dad might express their love may be different than you do, and that’s OK.

4. Call them out (in a loving way) when they miss the mark

My daughters let me know if I made a mistake or am being unreasonable.

But they do it (usually) in a loving, constructive way. I’m a human being and even though I know a decent amount about parenting from being a parent of 3, studying it, writing about it, and working with hundreds of kids in my day job, I still make mistakes every day.

So if your folks screw up, let them know in a clear, loving way. Also, remember to criticize the behavior and not the person. And again, bring it back to how the behavior makes you feel.

Ultimately there are a lot of parenting styles.

While I would not say there is only 1 right way to do things, the Parenting Styles Preferred by Child Psychologists (click to read my article which reveals that) might surprise you!

Can a mother not love her child?

Again, sadly, the answer is yes.

A mother, or a father either one is quite capable of not loving their child. That’s especially likely when the parent doesn’t even love themselves.

Sadly, my wife’s relationship with her Mom is not much better than her relationship was with her late father. In her case, I do completely believe that her mom loves her.

But her mom is so clouded by years of polluting her body, living in rural isolation, and surrounded by a lot of Negative Toxic People (click to read my article on what they are and how to set boundaries) that she’s resigned to living a damaged life away from her daughter and grandkids, despite our repeated efforts to help her, let her live with us, and get her help.

But sometimes a mother not being able to show or express love well goes beyond selfishness or mental health issues.

For instance, there is Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy (MSP/MSBP). This is a clinically recognized psychiatric disorder which sees mothers making their kids sick on purpose.

In this case, the goal is feeling needed and wanted and for being seen in high regard by others for suffering through the hospital stays, doctor visits and sometimes surgical procedures that they, in fact, are causing.

Personally, as a parent, I can’t think of anything more despicable than a parent who would cause phyical harm to their child.

But sometimes you just see some of the Qualities of a Narcissistic Mother (click to read my article of the top 23 signs). A narcissistic parent uses guilt, manipulation, and often martyrs themselves as a means of controlling the child and keeping them compliant by damaging their self-esteem.

What happens when a mother doesn’t bond with her child?

As I mentioned above, pregnancy hormones typically skyrocket levels of oxytocin which help facilitate the bond between a mother and child.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.

Sometimes if the mother is neglectful or absent, which is especially true of mothers who have issues with drug or alcohol abuse, we see children develop a condition called Child Attachment Disorder.

When a child doesn’t feel that parental bond, they naturally develop higher levels of fear, anxiety, and form trust issues as well. The baby is desperate for phyical contact and connection; ideally with their mother.

Signs of child attachment disorder can include:

  • Not turning to the mother when upset
  • Lack of affection
  • The child doesn’t smile and avoids physical touch
  • Inability to control temper

Later, the child can see behavior issues at school and also find themselves dealing with depression.

But sometimes we see Child Behavioral Issues (click to read my post on the worst ones & solutions) that aren’t so directly tied to poor parenting.

BUT they still need our attention and correction as ultimately, our job as parents to turn kids into well-adjusted people who can live and contribute in this world without relying on us to survive.

Do fathers love their babies?

For dads, the experience leading up to birth is very different than it is for moms.

Because we guys aren’t feeling anything physically (other than perhaps “sympathy pounds“) it doesn’t quite get real until we get to hold the baby in our arms.

Women’s bodies are busy elevating oxytocin levels which facilitate bonding with the child. But for men, that doesn’t happen until we are actually spending time withg our kids.

But sometimes it goes a little further than that.

Now I loved all 3 of my daughters instantly. It probably helped that I was the 1st person to touch them outside the womb since I caught them and cut the cord.

The other factor is that despite changes in men’s and women’s roles compared to our great-grandparent’s day, men are still often (but not always) the primary breadwinner.

Thus, while the mom is busy preparing for birth and experiencing physical and hormonal changes, the man is often focused on the newly increased sense of responsibility for the child and family as a whole.

So all that is to say that we dads can sometimes get distracted and lose sight of what’s really important.

Expectant Father Anxiety (click to read my article on what that is) is real and it can distract fathers from truly focusing on and bonding with their child.

What to do when your parents don’t give you attention?

I LOVE my daughters and hate to even go a day of not seeing them. But that wasn’t the case with my own father.

Now, I do believe my dad loved me. But ultimately he hated himself and that stunted his ability to love anything or anyone else.

My dad was gay, but grew up the son of a Southern Baptist Preacher.

In short, he was trapped, hating himself for being what he felt was an abomination and letdown to his parents and family, but unable (thankfully) to deny his true self which was gay.

His self-loathing made it very hard for him to show me love, and in fact, after he and my mom divorced when I was 6 months old and she re-married, I rarely saw him more than a few days a year until I was 11.

I detail my life Growing Up with a Gay Father (click to read our story) in one of my earliest “viral” posts, so if that sounds familiar or interesting, check it out!

But ultimately, growing up, I was resentful of my dad for not being there and seemingly not wanting to spend time with me. I also felt he was too oblivious to even talk to about my feelings as he never really seemed to fully understand how his actions affected other people.

I did mend my relationship with him in my 30’s and we enjoyed a close relationship up until his death in 2014. But I mended our relationship largely by doing what Tony Robbins says of “trading your expectations for appreciation“.

In other words, when we have a set of expectations for how we think others should behave, we set ourselves up for disappointment instead of simply appreciating others for who and what they are.

Should parents love unconditionally?

I’m not saying a parent will love an adult child who just stole money from them. But there is a difference between hating a child and hating their actions or choices.

Sometimes we have to set boundaries with our kids and sometimes those boundaries are painful for everyone. But it doesn’t mean we don’t love them.

So yes, I do think parents should love their kids unconditionally. But that doesn’t mean we just accept misbehavior. In fact, quite the contrary, loving our kids requires rules, boundaries, guidelines, and accountability.

The LACK of that structure is actually un-loving in my opinion.

But avoid placing conditions on your child receiving your love.

It shouldn’t matter if your child is gay or straight, goes to the college of your choice, decides they want to have a career that is different from what you think they should do.

Love them for who and what they are. Offer guidance and even opinion, but love them even in the face of them making choices you disagree with.

If you’re curious as to whether you’re a bad parent, check out the top Bad Parenting Statistics (click to read my list) and see if any of those traits look familiar.

The good news is that ANY of us can change at ANY time.

Did I cover all the aspects of the question “why do some parents not care?” you were looking for?

In this article, we took a detailed look at the world of parenting, and why some parents frankly don’t step up to the challenge of parenting as well as they should.

We explored the roles that both fathers and mothers play and how the stresses of parenting affects them differently. But we also examined some underlying causes that can prevent some parents from really being the parent their kids need them to be.

Ultimately we answered the question of why do some parents not care, and presented some solutions to this heartbreaking and challenging dilemma some kids unfortunately face.

What is your biggest challenge as a parent or as a child?


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Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market.

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