Home Anxiety Why Won’t My Dad Apologize?

Why Won’t My Dad Apologize?

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

From a teen in the U.S.: My dad and I got into an argument and now I don’t feel comfortable talking to him.

I picked up baking as stress-coping hobby. After I finish, I always wash the dishes, wipe the counters, and clean up after myself. I even take pictures of the kitchen afterwards to prove to my parents that I cleaned up.

Earlier this week, I wanted to make cookies for my family. Halfway through, my dad entered the kitchen and decided to cook dinner. While cooking, he constantly repeated that I never clean up.

This upset me because I know I always clean up, and I was in the middle of baking, so of course it was still messy. It frustrated me that he kept attacking me for being messy when I leave that kitchen spotless when I’m done.

It got to a point where I was so upset, I gave up on my cookies and started cleaning up. I put my cookies on the dining table to cool while I cleared the counter. When my dad passed by, he started shouting and freaking out about a few crumbs on the dining table. He kept yelling at me, saying, “See, you always make a mess Now you’re gonna say that you’re never gonna cook again” I started to cry and ran to my room.

10 mins later, my dad came into my room and said very aggressively, “Stop sulking and come down and eat dinner.”  I didn’t want to be near him and said ” I’m not hungry.” My dad then SMACKED my doorframe with his hand so hard that our house alarm went off. He left afterwards, but that just made me cry more.

My mom agrees that my dad was wrong. She sees him coming to my room as his way of apologizing. I understand that my dad is the kind of person that apologizes through actions, but I don’t think the way he acted was apologetic AT ALL.

It’s now been two days, and my dad and I completely ignore each other. I don’t think he plans on apologizing, and I’m not sure if he realized that what he did was wrong. I feel bad that he won’t acknowledge his mistake.

I asked friends for advice, and some of them have brought up that my dad might have issues. I’ve never thought about it that way before, but if it’s true, could it explain his behavior? How should I approach this situation?

Yeah. Your dad has issues. Most people do in the time of COVID-19. I don’t think he is mentally ill, if that’s what your friends are suggesting. My guess is that he is under considerable stress about work, finances, and how to help support his family. In spite of all that, he decided it was his turn to cook as maybe a way to keep family life going normally – which meant sharing a kitchen (always tricky) when he was already maxed out.

Try to think about it this way. A bucket of water is full to the brim. When you add one drop more, water spills over the side. Did that drop make the bucket over-full? Nope. It was the total accumulation. Your cookie baking mess (and there’s no way to bake without making mess) put him over the top. Was it justified? Nope. Was it rational? Nope. Was it okay to take out his stress on you? Nope to that too. Can he apologize? Apparently, it’s not his style and your mom says asking you to dinner was an olive branch.

You can’t change your Dad’s style. But you can help him relieve his stress. Apologies aren’t always an admission of wrong doing. Sometimes they are just a way to say “okay, let’s move forward”.

For that reason, I suggest you stop waiting for him to apologize and do it yourself; not for making a mess but for not being sensitive to his level of stress. Thank him for asking you to dinner. Ask him if there is anything you can do to make things a bit easier for him. Promise to continue to do your best to pick up after yourself. See if there really are a few additional ways you can take his anxiety down a notch.

Please think about it.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

You may also like