What should I say to my dad?

I’m currently a senior in high school, and I have a question for all the parents here.

I knew from the beginning of my senior year that UW-Madison was the school I wanted to go to. It fits my needs very well, and I feel like I would really be able to succeed there. However, my dad had really high hopes that I would attend his alma mater, Yale, or another college like Yale. His “philosophy” was that I should go to the best college I could (meaning name/reputation) because the name of the school is what’s most important. He took me on all these college tours of schools he wanted me to go to, and my mom took me to see UW. I did all the application stuff, and I waited. I didn’t get in to any Ivy League schools, or any of the schools that he had expressed interest in me attending. But I was okay with that, as I was accepted into Wisconsin in early December. At the time, I was elated. I texted him immediately after I found out, and his response was “congrats.”

Lately, he’s started making all these little comments about the colleges his friends’ kids were accepted to, or asking me how many kids from my school have gotten into X University. Every time I visit him, he’s wearing something from Johns Hopkins or Yale. He keeps reminding me that my cousin is coming to visit in June to see Northwestern, where he’ll be going. And just this morning, I found out that earlier this year, when my brother was accepted into this program at my high school for 30 kids from each grade to be in more advanced level classes from the start of their freshman year, he said something to my mom along the lines of “I knew from the start, if any one of our kids was going to get into Yale, it’d be him.”

What can I say to my dad that would communicate how much it hurts that he’s so openly critical of not only the fact that I’m attending UW, but how I feel he’s also doubting my capabilities to succeed? It’s too late for him to change his opinion and the way he acts around me; I already know his true feelings. But I would at least like him to know how much it hurts that he doesn’t think I can succeed without the help of the name of the college.

I’m also wondering if anyone has any ideas on what I can do to get past the disappointment I feel in myself. I know UW is a great school, and back in December I was really proud of myself. Now, I just feel like it’s not good enough.

Lastly, I’m trying to decide whether I should get him a Badger Proud t-shirt or a Wisconsin Dad t-shirt for Father’s Day. Opinions?

Do you think showing him this thread might help? It sounds like you have articulated everything you want to say to him in a very clear, direct, and mature manner right here. If you say this to his face, or show him this, I think he’ll realize what he’s doing is hurtful.

Wear your Bucky gear and let it go. You’ll be happier at Wisconsin.

It can be hard for a teenager to realize a parent is not perfect, they are just human. And humans carry assumptions and prejudices of all kinds. His mind is made up, and sounds like since you didn’t live up to his expectations, he is starting to work on shaping your brother to fit his idea of a successful college kid.

You can’t change someone else’s thoughts/behaviors. You can only choose how you will think and act. So focus on the good things you have coming up. High school graduation and attending the college of your choice. I hope you have others in your life who can be more supportive.

You can choose to let your dad know how hurt you are, but don’t pin all your hopes on him changing how he feels. And how he feels about your college choice should not make you feel less successful. You got what you wanted, and you should feel good about heading off to college. It make take 5-10 years before your dad realizes you were successful without the “help” of a brand name college. But making the most of your college experience is the best way to change your dad’s viewpoint.

I do empathize with how you feel. My father never approved of any of my educational and life choices. Just smile at him and let it go. It is probably a lifelong habit you will have to develope. I did undergrad at Columbia and got my JD from Wisconsin. I received a great education at both schools. It is really what you make of it. It turned out my Wisconsin connections were more helpful for the jobs I got than my Ivy connections and I have had an incredibly successful legal career. The most important thing is you are happy with your choice and thrive where you choose to go. Going to an Ivy league school is not worth it if it is the wrong fit and one is unhappy and depressed. Madison is an awesome place and Wisconsin a great land grant university. Congratulations on being admitted and enjoy it.

Lately, he's started making all these little comments about the colleges his friends' kids were accepted to, or asking me how many kids from my school have gotten into X University.


Every time I visit him, he’s wearing something from Johns Hopkins or Yale. He keeps reminding me that my cousin is coming to visit in June to see Northwestern, where he’ll be going.



I can see why he’s no longer your mom’s current husband.

Anyway…If he persists, keep a list of names of parents/fathers who are more successfull and earn more money than he does, and start naming names, occupations, and incomes. See if he gets the point.

I am a parent. I have one kid who attends yale and one kid who will attend San Jose state university. I had always dreamed of Y for DD and H for DS. (I attended UCLA and hoped that they would attend a uni that was more elite than UCLA). It became clear in frosh yr of HS that it was not going to happen for DS. It took me a while to deal with and process this (of course, I have had 3 years to fully come to terms with it.) Now, I am fully happy and proud of both of my kids (and even get to save some money).

You should show him this thread. I think it’s important. Also, I would just say to him “stop being such a dick.”

I like Goldensrock attitude, but alternatively, you could simply do a sandwich technique. "Dad I am so exitIted about UW, and I think it is the perfect fit for me. Tthank you for your help in xyz (e.g. Teaching me the importance of making careful life choices). I know this wasn’t your first choice for me and it hurts me when you make negative comments. Now that I have made my choice and that’s all water under the bridge, I hope I can count on your support.

Do you have the kind of relationship in which you could show him this post? Or tell him what you have told us? That you are happy with your choice?

If not, then show him by actions. Go to UW, do well, be happy, and be successful. Some parents are a PITA and you have to learn how to live without their praise and approval.

(I fought with my own dad for years, including over my educational choices… The best revenge was when in my late 20s I was earning more than he was. I didn’t volunteer it. He asked. )

I don’t think that your dad does not think that you will be successful in your future. You just didn’t do his preconceived goal of getting one of his kids into yale.

Also Do not get him a tshirt. It will make you fell sadder if he does not wear it.

As a parent and a college professor, I would say that his attitude is very unfortunate. Ivy league schools are great but UW is every bit as good and will be an excellent launching pad for your career. As for how to deal with his rather childish remarks, just ignore them for a bit and see if he gets the message. If, when you graduate, he still persists in this kind of behavior, you can tell him how hurtful it is and then go and live your life. Being a parent means that you hope that your children reach their potential and have a successful life. This does not mean doing the same as the parent (unless they want to). I have two sons, they are both incredibly accomplished and have done their own thing very well. Will either of them be a university professor? Who knows but that is really not important.

I agree with YoHoYoHo. Do not buy him a UW tshirt. He probably will not wear it. However, depending on your sense of humor and your dad’s, you could have the ever famous f— 'em Bucky tshirt/sweatshirt handy to put on whenever he wears the Yale or JH shirts to needle you :):slight_smile: They are available from the corner tshirt vendors in Madison. I never could have gotten away with that with my dad which is why I mastered smiling silently at him whenever he pontificated about my life while ignoring him.

I like the @shoot4moon approach, but don’t be disappointed if he doesn’t react how you would like. I had a dad who did the same thing. It is hurtful. What helped me move past it was to recognize that it was his issue not mine and, frankly, ignoring his comments.

Go to UW and do well for you, not for him. Good luck.

I feel sorry for your brother! If you have made it to senior year without seeing that your parents are not perfect, you are probably in the minority of people. Parents are people too. They can be wrong, stupid, insensitive and worse. Some of them will change when you point out what hurts you and some won’t. You can’t invest too much energy into changing the latter.

One of the more accomplished and successful people I’ve know is a UWM grad. Enjoy every moment of your college experience!

It sounds like you are more mature than your dad! My heart goes out to you, because your parents should be IN YOUR CORNER, cheering you on. And the school you’re going to is a great one that not everyone gets into! There’s no way you should be feeling bad about yourself when you’ve got a whole life of accomplishments ahead of you.

I will only advise you to do the best you can to maintain a good relationship with your dad, and look at his attitude as one of his flaws or weaknesses that he has a blind spot about. And surround yourself with people who ARE your cheerleaders, whether it be your mom, a sibling, friends or cousins.

Some people spend their whole lives trying to live up to unrealistic parental expectations, and even if they succeed, they aren’t necessarily happy! Maintain a healthy outlook, and BEST of luck to you. I’ll be secretly cheering for you! Good luck.

First you can talk to him. Tell him just what you said in your post – that you want him to be proud of you and your accomplishments. Second, go out there and do great at UW – excel at the academics and set yourself on a path for a successful career.

I really don’t think he means to hurt you, but sometimes it is hard for parents to give up on their dreams (which may not necessarily be your dreams) – you have to help him see that there are many ways of making a dream come true.

Neither of my kids went to my alma mater, nor did they have any real shot to get in. But they both had their own fantastic college experiences and I’m so grateful for that. A sad fact is that college admissions have got much more difficult and even if you had a similar GPA and SAT to your your dad, there is a good chance you would not get into the same schools.

You sound like you have a good head on your shoulders. Go out and do great. Soon your dad will be asking for his WU shirt.

I really don’t think he means to hurt you,



I doubt that that was his intention as well. However, there are some parents who really do think of their children as some kind of physical extensions of themselves. These parents can be so focused on how something benefits or doesn’t benefit them, that the fact that this concerns another living person with feelings doesn’t even occur to them.

As an aside…I don’t think any 40-50ish person who attended an ivy or ivy-like school should be making any sort of judgements because when THEY went, it was so much easier to get in. Who knows, “dad” may not have been accepted in a 2015 admissions cycle either.

Is your father as successful as Greta Van Susteren? She is a graduate of UW-Madison. I think this is about your father wanting to brag to his friends. He is the one with the self-worth problem, not you. Congratulations on your college admission and enjoy the next 4 years.

It’s like this.

Some people get stuck during the growing up process. In certain particular parts of their lives, they stay a little immature.

Your dad seems to have this problem. He has unrealistic expectations, and he can’t seem to get past them.

You, on the other hand, have realistic expectations. You picked a college that was right for you, got admitted, and will probably have a great experience there.

You don’t have a problem. He does. And his problem isn’t with you – it’s with himself.