I suspect your dad’s behavior stems from a deep belief that he is not worthy of being cared for and loved. Feelings of inadequacy often result when a person never received real affection or acknowledgement from their own parents. People who have in their own mind “disappointed” their parents often set themselves up to perpetuate the cycle of disappointing others.
The intention behind your criticism seems to be the positive desire that your dad become self-empowered. To convey to him that he should have faith in himself and deserves more, you probably express yourself with passion.
However, passionate encouragement can be taken the wrong way. The words are meant to be convincing and uplifting: “You deserve better. Stop letting people walk all over you!” Yet, the vigor of the remarks may be heard by him as one more example of how he disappoints others: “You’re always disappointing me. You’re never good enough.” Although there is some truth to both parts of the message, the latter part exacerbates the vicious cycle of inadequacy.
Often, the most compelling thing we can do, particularly with adult relatives, is to accept them without trying to change them, warts and all. Being kind and having a sense of humor—not the mean sarcastic type—are often the best ways to show love and acceptance.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD