When Parents Say- I Love My Daughter, but I Don’t Like Her

If you’ve been a parent for at least a few years, you have probably felt exactly like this title implies at some point during your parenting life, whether you have a daughter or a son. But what does it mean if that feeling isn’t fleeting, as expected, and doesn’t go away?

When parents say I love my daughter but I don’t like her, it means the parents will continue to fulfill their ultimate parenting obligation: to love their child no matter what. But it also admits that parents and children don’t have to become friends. And while that’s not ideal, it is okay.

More than likely, not liking your daughter isn’t the family fantasy you started out with when you learned you were having a baby. However, it may be the situation you find yourself in as time goes by. If this happens to you, you should understand you are not alone. Read on to learn from a parent of four about what this means and how to handle it.

What it Means to Say I Love My Daughter

I always wanted a daughter, and in 1999 when I found out from our prenatal sonogram that our second child was a girl, I couldn’t have been happier. It truly was one of the best moments of my life and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Judging by the plethora of movie titles and songs dedicated to having daughters, it seems I’m not alone in my thinking.

We like many other new parents have also dressed our daughter in a way to share with the world just how much she means to us. Here’s a popular and fitting option on Amazon.

But of course, just because you get your wish, and parade your daughter in cute-as-a-button clothing, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be smooth sailing. Having daughters is an experience full of emotions, both good and bad, and you need to be ready for it all.

The Warm & Fuzzies Love

When your daughter is first born, you are almost instantly full of emotion for this little bundle wrapped in a pink blankie. Our daughter was chubby, healthy, and quite demanding from the beginning.

We’d joke that she was a ticking time-bomb, never knowing just when she’d go off! But honestly, it didn’t matter to us; we were ready and willing to take on the challenges she brought.

It’s not so difficult to soothe babies; you can do it just by feeding, changing, and snuggling them-in the right order of course! And our attachment to them as parents tends to grow exponentially with each goo, gaa, and giggle.

It’s true that the Terrible Twos can be difficult. According to the Mayo Clinic, two-year-olds undergo enormous physical, social, and emotional changes, making it not so surprising that moods become volatile. However, the warm and fuzzies continue for most parents- as their toddler learns to walk, run, and hug back!

Maybe it’s a good thing that we start with the warm and fuzzies- to get us through the not so cute and adorable years that are to come!

Love is Your Parental Responsibility

Being a parent means you are responsible for your child; this responsibility can be summed up with one word: love.

Love isn’t a feeling…love is action.

I can’t find the original author of this quote in order to attribute it, but it’s certainly fitting.

When your child is little, she needs you to feed, clothe, bathe, and care for her in all ways. Because you love her, you do these things uncoerced. As she grows, these acts of love adjust, but your obligation to love remains.

The Good Times and the Bad

For most families, behavioral issues with our children rise in the teen years, but some may get a head start during the ‘tweens.’

This might be when you first have to work hard to love your child, but you do- because you’re the parent. Even when our children are rude, break our rules, or act out in other ways, we don’t abandon them.

This doesn’t mean we give in. In fact, our parental love for them is the reason we don’t give in.

Therefore, in good times and bad, we stay steadfast and show our love by monitoring, supervising, responding, correcting, teaching….even if we’d rather take a nap!

Christian Parenting

As Christians, it is even more important for us to continue to demonstrate our love for our children, especially when they aren’t lovable. The Bible provides many examples of how parents should love their children.

Psalm 103:13As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
Ephesians 6:4Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Proverbs 22:6Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 13:24Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
Proverbs 29:15The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
Joshua 24:15…as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
Titus 2:4And so train the young women to love their husbands and children,

There are even more passages devoted simply to showing love– which can and should also be attributed to parental love, too.

But the most evident of love in the Bible provided for us as Christian parents is the love God has shown the entire world by giving His son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16).

Why You Don’t Like Your Daughter

It may seem conflicting to acknowledge that you don’t like your daughter, after all, as her parent, you love her. So how can you come to terms with this conflict between love and like?

Personality Differences

First of all, you may find that there are personality differences between you and your child, despite sharing DNA.

Each generation struggles with the next- regarding music, fashion, politics, work ethic, religion, and so on. Depending on the extent of the differences, a rift in the relationship can become monumental.

It’s not such a big deal if you prefer the Beatles while your daughter plays Justin Bieber in her ear buds. But as differences mount, or foundational issues contradict, it only makes sense that you wouldn’t necessarily ‘like’ each other, even though familial bonds are strong enough for you to continue to love each other anyway.

Limits of Parenting

When we parent young children, we are pretty much in charge. Admittedly there are exceptions from time to time- as new parents embrace fringe ideals of parenting such as ‘free range’ parenting and other mumbo-jumbo parenting styles that surface with every few years.

Yet, in general, parents decide when children eat, sleep, play, and much more. As time passes, the reins of power start to loosen and children begin making some of their own decisions.

Initially, it’s not too big of a deal- the stakes are low. She gets to decide what to wear or eat, for example. She can pick out her school outfit or whether to have chicken nuggets or a turkey sandwich for lunch.

But of course, we as parents still have the final say. We bought what’s in her closet, right? And we stock the food in the pantry, so again, the stakes are low.

But even then, most of us would put a stop to her wearing pajamas to school or packing just cookies in the lunch box.

Issues arise, though, as your daughter’s choices expand and your ability to limit them lessen, especially when her choices are contrary to yours. For example, if your teen overeats junk food outside of the house, there’s very little you can do about it even though this sets unhealthy habits for her.

The older your child gets, the higher the stakes become, too. It’s not just about lunch and fashion. Your teen or young adult daughter may take personal chances that you’d never approve, such as skipping school, trespassing, or breaking the law in other ways.

Basically, the older your child gets, the harder it is for you as a parent to control her choices. And if she continues to make choices she knows you disagree with and that are harmful, well, it’s only natural for you to not like it…or her.

Special Circumstances of Parenting Adult Daughters

Parenting adult daughters has its own special category because this is when it can really get problematic.

For one, as a legal adult, she is now officially responsible for her choices, and whatever consequences occur as a result. Nevertheless, as her parent, you can still feel the brunt of it, both emotionally and even financially in some cases (such as, your adult daughter becomes homeless, and you take her in and support her until she’s back on her feet).

It could be that your adult daughter makes bad choices when it comes to her job, relationships, and religious practices. Or it could be something illegal. Whatever the case may be, when those we love harm themselves or deliberately set themselves apart from us by their decision-making, we feel the harm too, irrespective of what the courts of law or societal norms say.

Your Daughter is Busy Asserting Her Independence

Sometimes your daughter is deliberately doing things that are against your beliefs, and how she was raised, because she sees that as a way to assert her independence.

She wants to let you know that she is her own person and doesn’t have to do what you say or follow your ideals anymore. When this happens, hard as it seems, we shouldn’t take this personally. She is acting out against you, but really, it’s not because of you.

In today’s modern world, it shouldn’t even surprise us when this happens. It has become a celebrated rite of passage for daughters, unfortunately.

Daughters May Not Recognize The Value Of Experience

Other times it’s that daughters, and young people in general, don’t recognize the value that comes with experience. Frankly, it is impossible to learn some things except from Father Time.

Mark Twain once noted, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned.”

Think about how you were in your teens, twenties,…or even five years ago, and what you thought you knew then, versus what you’ve learned by the passing of time. Eventually, your daughter will understand this too.

Education Factor: Daughters Learn To Devalue Traditional Family

As a former public school teacher, I can attest that education doesn’t always appreciate the traditional family. In fact, students are often urged to contradict and/or challenge their family’s ideals, rules, and expectations, especially if those ideals have religious ties.

Teachers tell children to question everything and think for themselves (except in the school setting, of course!). While this might seem like good advice on the surface, it actually sets the stage for disobedience, disrespect, and rule breaking later on.

With schools taking on parental roles more and more, it’s no wonder children devalue their actual parents at home.

What You Can Do

With all this said and done, is there anything you can do? Yes, and no.

Recognize What’s Happening

First, recognize what’s happening when it starts. As your child begins challenging your parenting, you need to step in and quash it immediately. (You may also find this article about instilling respect, located on our website, useful during this time period.)

This will not be fun for you or her, but if you do this before it gets out of hand, it will be easier on you both and you will lessen the likelihood of disliking your child based on her actions towards you. This is particularly important when your child is underage and you can be held responsible for her actions.

It may even mean that you consider homeschooling. Though I’ve spent almost 20 years as a teacher in public schools, our children have been homeschooled most of their school experience. To be honest, part of the reason for this is my experience in public school systems across the country.

We are certainly homeschool advocates and if you’d like to learn more about that, check out these three articles from our website: Christian curriculum, homeschooling special needs children, and tips for homeschoolers.

However, this still doesn’t mean as she gets older, you and she won’t have issues. You still may be faced with a situation in which you and your daughter have personality conflicts, your daughter devalues your parental role and experience, and so on.

The main take away here is just to be aware of the situation when it starts and to try to get a handle on it as much as your parenting role will allow.

This Is Normal

Regardless, it’s important for you to also understand that you are not alone and this situation is actually quite normal.

In fact, studies have shown that teenage rebellion of either sex is normal and happens in both low-income and affluent family homes.

This isn’t to say you have an excuse to shuck your obligation as a parent, but only to acknowledge that sometimes, there’s just not much you can do to change it. We don’t choose it, but when it presents itself there’s nothing left to do, but roll up our sleeves and take it on.

You Haven’t Done Anything Wrong (Probably)

It’s also necessary for you to realize that as a parent, you can do everything right, and still end up with kids you don’t like.

However, you aren’t perfect either, so you should take a step back, and try to evaluate the situation objectively. Sometimes it’s easier to be objective if you make a list or reflect over it for several days-in order to not rush into judgment.

No matter how you choose to contemplate the fact that you don’t like your daughter, it’s important that you give it thought. You’re the parent after all.

Maybe there are some things you need to own and correct; but it could also very well be that you did exactly what you should have done all along.

You can be involved, supportive, caring, Christian parents of children who make bad, irresponsible decisions, over and over.

Stay In Your Lane-No Matter How Bumpy the Road Gets

You may be tempted to try to control your children even after they become adults, frequently texting, calling, providing advise that’s unsolicited and unwanted. For most situations, you should refrain from this kind of activity. It is unwise and unhealthy for all involved.

As hard and difficult as it may be, you are not in charge of your adult children and don’t have the parental obligation to make decisions for them.

You may not like it, or like who she has become as a result, but it is what it is.

Likewise, don’t be tempted to bail your daughter out of trouble either. She needs to take responsibility for her actions. You can still offer moral support and of course, let her know you love her, but other than that, let the situation play itself out. These are the necessary life-lessons that she needs.

If you do find your daughter in a critical situation that requires your involvement (such as homelessness or an abusive relationship), then lay the ground rules from the beginning. Explain to your daughter that your love for her is what motivates your actions to help her.

This should also be coupled with expectations of respect and deference to your experience in life. Your aid and help in any situation though coming from love should not be given with the expectation of being taken for granted.

You are infinitely valuable and important, just as your daughter is. It is still your role as a parent to demand to be treated with this as foundational. It can become a teachable moment even to adult children.

Remember that Love is Patient

As 1 Corinthians 13:1 tells us, “Love is patient.” St. Paul the Apostle reminds us in this passage that love doesn’t give us immediate results. Sometimes, we have to love and wait.

This means that you may be sitting on the sidelines for years without a ‘friendly’ relationship with your daughter, or you may never have that.

Remember that even if this happens, you still love her, and you can remind her of that when opportunity comes. Just because you don’t like her (or the choices she makes) doesn’t mean you can’t stay connected at holidays, birthdays, and so on.

Wrapping Up I Love My Daughter, but I Don’t Like Her

So let’s recap by saying parents are obliged to love their children, not like them. It’s not ideal, but it’s not wrong either.

Love is not a feeling, but an action. Likability is a preference that is many times tied to emotions. Understanding that Love should always remain and a mere preference may change several times over the course of a lifetime can help many finding themselves in this situation.

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