I am a sixteen-year-old girl, and for as long as I can remember, my family has had a lot of problems because of my father…. He was unfaithful to my mother…, he insults me using very foul language, and he is very selfish. My mother takes care of all of us. She basically is both mother and father to us.

I haven’t had good communication with my father for the past two years because I ignore him, knowing that in everything he either offends me or scolds me. I realize that I haven’t been a good daughter, and at times I feel like asking him for forgiveness so that we can make peace; but I know that he will never change, and so I think it’s not worth the effort. I feel bitter on my father’s account. I don’t know what I should do. My life stinks!

Dear Friend,

Thank you for telling us your story. Even though you may not know it, there are hundreds of thousands of people who feel the same way that you do about their fathers. They know that their mothers tolerated neglect, abandonment, unfaithfulness and even abuse because they wanted to keep their families together and do the best thing for the children. (Of course there are cases where it has been the father who has held everything together while the mother has been unfaithful and abandoned or neglected their children, but it is much more common that the father is the destructive influence on the family.)

Unfortunately, most people don’t take classes to learn how to be parents. Instead, they tend to treat their children the way that they were treated. But it doesn’t have to be like that. At the age of sixteen, you can make the decision to give a different life to your future children. The first step is to only date guys who have the qualities you would have liked your father to have. Some girls like the excitement that a wild guy can bring into their lives, never considering the fact that the wild guy will probably never be a good father. But You have had the experience to cause you to look for men with qualities like unselfishness, caring, nurturing, integrity, and trustworthiness.

You would like to know how to change your situation. The best way to change it is to accept what is in your power and what is not in your power. You can make a better future for yourself and your future children by making good decisions now. However, you cannot change your father or your mother.

One of the Ten Commandments is to honor your father and mother.(1) Both Jesus and the Apostle Paul refer to it in the New Testament.(2) Honor, however, is frequently misunderstood. You don’t have to agree with your parents or like what they say or how they treat you. But to show honor you must always treat them with respect, and obey them as long as you live in their house. However, your frustration is causing you to ignore and disrespect your father, and your attitude and actions just makes things worse. You get angrier, and then he gets angrier. When he feels disrespected, he tries to demonstrate his power by scolding you and punishing you. That makes you ignore him. And the cycle continues, with everyone feeling frustrated and bitter.

You can apologize to your father even though you know he will not change. You need to do it to get rid of the guilt that you feel, knowing you will be doing the right thing even if he responds negatively. Don’t expect that your communication with him will improve, because it probably won’t. And don’t expect him to be like the model father on television, because it is not going to happen. Accept that you will never have the father you would like to have had. Let that motivate you to choose the right father for your future children and give them a better life. Think about that constantly and let it inspire you to make it through the next few years.

We wish you well,

1 Ex 20:12
2 Mt 15:4; Eph 6:2