Dear Dr. Bill,
I have a 14-year-old daughter who hates me — and maybe I deserve it. For many years we’ve established a pattern where I end up yelling at her whenever we get into conflict. Although I apologize later for losing my temper — my daughter no longer receives it. Growing up, my parents hit me, yelled at me or ignored me, and now I don’t know how to reach my own daughter. I’ve tried to make amends, but the damage is done. My daughter often asks what I want — what I want is for her to love me, but I feel like I’ve ruined that. What should I do?
My heart breaks for you. What you’re experiencing is called “generational sin.” The abuse that you suffered as a child wounded you deeply. Unfortunately it has also negatively impacted your parenting, and you’ve done serious damage to your relationship with your daughter.
If you truly want to restore that relationship, you have some hard work to do. Your daughter no longer trusts you, and it’s going to take time to rebuild that trust. She will need to see real repentance on your part, expressed in your actions, not just your words. The bible describes true repentance as “turning away” from one’s sinful actions…a deliberate, purposeful change in our heart and our behavior.
Deep-seated hurt and anger with roots in childhood can’t be overcome overnight. It also can’t be overcome on your own. I suggest that you find a licensed Christian counselor who can help work through how your childhood experiences have impacted you and help you to make lasting changes in your behavior.
By the way, Focus on the Family has a telephone counseling service that can help. They offer a free crisis counseling session and can also refer you to a Christian therapist in your area. The number is 1-800-A-FAMILY.