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Breaking the Cycle of Bad Parenting

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Now I'm a grown man with a child of my own
And I swear, I'll never let her know all the pain I've known
Everclear, "Father of Mine"

When parents or parental figures do a much better job at raising kids compared to their own parents.

How this happens varies between people. Maybe they know how they were raised wasn't the best and decides not to repeat the mistakes with their own kids. Maybe it's a case of Values Dissonance; what might have been good parenting back in the day would look poorly in modern society.

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Expect some parents to still have some issues in raising their kids because of how they were raised. They may still be seen as abusive or neglectful, but when compared to the people that raised them, they are seen as better. There might be a chance they will realize they are making the same mistakes as their parents and do try and correct it.

Subtrope of I Am Not My Father.


Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach: Orihime own parents were stated to have been abusive by her older brother (who ran off with her as soon as he was old enough to act as her legal guardian). In contrast, she's shown to be a loving and attentive mother to Kazui in the epilogue.
  • Boruto:
    • Sasuke had a distant relationship with his "Well Done, Son!" Guy father. He's trying to be a more affectionate father towards his own daughter Sarada after spending a long time being away.
    • Hinata is a kind but still strict mother to both Boruto and Himawari. Contrast to her own father Hiashi who was emotionally distant and looked down on Hinata throughout most of her childhood because he thought she was weak.
    • Gaara ends up adopting a son named Shinki. Shinki is shown to be very happy with Gaara and Gaara himself is very encouraging towards Shinki. Compare that to Gaara's father who ordered his death when he was still a child.
  • Lyrical Nanoha: Fate Testarossa was raised by her incredibly abusive mother (at least until she was adopted by Lindy Harlaown), and from StrikerS onward she is driven to be as good a parent as possible to her three adopted children. While she normally does a good job, her desire to not repeat her mother's mistakes occasionally causes her to overcompensate and come across as My Beloved Smother.
  • One Piece: Big Mom, while generally generous towards her children, is quite abusive towards Chiffon specifically because of what her twin did, i.e Lola ran away from an Arranged Marriage with a prince of the giant race that will help Big Mom Pirates achieve her dream of becoming the Pirate King. By contrast, Chiffon herself is a good parent towards her own son (with Capone Bege), Pez.
  • In the final episode of Michiko & Hatchin, a Time Skip shows Hatchin with a baby who she actually cares for. This actually makes her a much better parent to Hiroshi who abondoned Hatchin twice.
  • Discussed in Kaguya-sama: Love Is War. Kaguya's father is the very definition of neglectful, and while she may not be a parent yet, Yume's fortune telling during the culture festival (which was 100% accurate in every other respect) said that she would grow up to be "a good wife and a wise mother".

    Comic Book 
  • In the The Flash, Wally West's parents weren't the best. Their treatment of him ranged from emotionally to physically abusive, with a dose of manipulation when he became an adult. It got to the point that Wally, as a kid, would cherish his summer visits to his aunt Iris because it got him away from his parents. Once Wally became a father with twins, he was shown to be very loving and protective of them. He was even willing to confront the entire Justice League when he thought they were going to take them away.
  • Green Arrow: Roy Harper to Oliver Queen. While Ollie does care for his ward, he was shown as be neglectful and unable to notice Roy's drug addiction. And when he did, he disowned Roy. In contrast, Roy did everything he could for his daughter Lian even though he was a single parent and did make mistakes.
  • Bruce Banner had an horribly abusive father, so both he and Hulk (in one of those instances where both personas agree on something) try to be a kind and caring father to their son Skaar.
  • Venom has Eddie Brock, whose father is emotionally and physically abusive. When Eddie learns he has a son, one who grew up under Eddie's father thinking that Eddie was his brother, he tries to damnedest to not continue the abuse, though his life as Venom makes this difficult at times.
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    Fan Works 
  • The Second Try: Both Shinji and Asuka are phenomenally better parents to their daughter, Aki, than their own parents ever were for them, managing to raise her in a post-apocalyptic environment while dealing with their own psychoses and still have her come out well adjusted enough to integrate into normal society when they're sent back in time. They both lampshade this repeatedly.
  • Restraint: Azula grew up with an emotionally neglectful mother and a physically, emotionally, and sexually abusive father. She wants to be a better parent than her own parents were, but she's so emotionally stunted and unsure of how to bond with others that she does the opposite. Her wife, Ty Lee, has to call her out specifically because she's neglecting their toddler, Azusami.
  • Ex Tenebris, Lux: Cinderella's biological parents died when she was young and she grew up with an abusive Wicked Stepmother. As a result, Cinderella wants to be the best mother she could be to her own children. She gets upset when her husband tells her that he's been keeping their young son away from her because she's weak from her difficult pregnancy. Years later, Cinderella's bottled up emotions explode and she grabs her son's hand in anger, but she's instantly horrified by being so physical with her child.
  • In Bluefur's Choice, Bluefur decides to be involved in her children's apprenticeships because her own mother was distant during her apprenticeship.
  • In Lasting Fame, Pizzazz is a doting mother to her son because her own father was emotionally neglectful and her mother abandoned her at a young age. However, Pizzazz ends up being too doting. She smothers her son.
  • Something New: Growing up with emotionally distant and abusive parents (as well as an unhappy childhood) has traumatized Sophia (Miss Pauling) to the point where she's uncertain she'll be a good mother to her own children. It doesn't stop her from trying to be a good parent, however.
    • Liam (Scout) himself vows to be a better father due to his own dad never being around.

    Film — Animation 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Spider-Man: Homecoming, Tony calls Peter to check in, mentioning that his father was never really there for him and saying he's trying to "break the cycle." While he's making an effort to be a more active mentor/father-figure, he still rarely takes Peter's calls, having him make reports to Happy instead (though he does refer back to one of those reports, proving that he did listen to them), and when Peter comes to him for advice about an illegal arms deal, Tony basically blows him off, leading to the situation getting worse, for which he then blames Peter. He's gotten better by Avengers: Infinity War, where he still tries to keep Peter away from dangerous situations, but does take time to discuss plans with Peter and actually takes advice from him. By Avengers: Endgame, he's improved greatly. When Peter is restored from Thanos's dusting, Tony's immediate response is to give him a hug, to ensure he knows Tony cares, and every scene with Tony's new daughter Morgan shows that he's emotionally invested with her.

    Literature 
  • In Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy has been raised by his parents to uphold their racist values regarding pure-blood wizards. However, being forced to work for Voldemort makes him realize that Evil Is Not a Toy, and he repents and subsequently raises his son Scorpius to not have the racist ideals his own parents taught him.
  • Amber's parents in Hive Mind (2016) made it clear they would love her no matter what level she ended up on. This is in reaction to her father's parents abandoning him when he came out as level 27, 13 levels below them.
  • Implied in Mo Dao Zu Shi. As a child, Lan Wangji faced Parental Neglect due to his father being in seclusion, his mother forbidden to raise him and his uncle placing very high expectations on him. Whereas, he was very good father to his adopted son, Wen Yuan/Lan Sizhui. He made sure to raise his son with good values and not be overly restrictive.
  • Whateley Universe: As said in "The Big Idea", the Sawyer family, as said to the youngest son in the youngest generation:
    I never thought that I’d see the day when I sang Quentin Sawyer’s praises, but compared to his father Grady, Quent’s a SAINT! I mean, Quent’s mean, but he works hard, makes a decent living for his family, and he doesn’t hit your mother- leastways, not as I could ever tell. But your Grampaw Grady? *Phew!* Now THERE was a mean old man! I remember back in Middle School, he never missed a chance to humiliate Quent in front of the other kids. He wasn’t ever quite drunk, but he always had a beer or two under his belt. Never spent a penny on his family that he didn’t absolutely have to. And he put Quent and his sister in the hospital a couple of times that I’m sure of.
    “If Quent has a single redeeming trait, it’s that he’s not as bad as his father was. And I shudder to think of what Grady’s father was probably like. But Quent never really managed to get out from under his father’s thumb. The old man’s been dead for twelve years now and on some level, Quent’s still trying to please the old rip.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Invoked by Will from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. After being abandoned yet again by his father, Will tells Phil that he did pretty well without him and that he's going to marry a fine girl and have great kids who he will never abandon.
  • Everybody Loves Raymond could be called "Breaking The Cycle Of Bad Parenting: The Series" where a few episodes would show that Frank is snarky and distant with his sons as adults and even when they were children, in contrast to Ray and Robert being a good father and Cool Uncle to Ray's kids. One episode revealed that Frank was abused by his father growing up.
    Ray: So granddad hit your dad, and your dad hit you, and... you never really hit us.
    Frank: I couldn't, you know. I was always weaker than him.
    Robert: Maybe you didn't want to be like him.
    Frank: I didn't.
  • The George Lopez Show:
    • George when compare to his disappearing father Manny and abusive mother Benny. Many episodes deal with George making the same mistakes his mother made, I.e. not giving Max help with his dyslexia or not believing that Carmen can make it into college, and correcting them in the end.
    • Downplayed with Benny. While she was abusive towards George, she does genuinely loves him and did the best at raising him. In contrast, her father was an alcoholic abuser and her mother considers her worthless.
  • Murray Goldberg from The Goldbergs does call his kids morons from time to time and often doesn't get them when it comes to any of their interests. But he was like that because his father was neglectful to the point that Murray had to raise his brother by himself and it's hard for him to express himself. But he does show he loves his kids very much and is a good father.
  • Mama's Family
    • Thelma may yell, criticize, mock, and embarrass her kids, she does genuinely love them in her own Jerk with a Heart of Gold ways. The same could not be said of her parents. Especially her mother who had all of Thelma's negative aspect but with none of her positives. In fact, an apparition of Thelma's mother actually causes her to be afraid of it as she starts criticizing everything Thelma does.
    • Vinton is a interesting case of being this and invoking it. In the early season when he had his two kids Buzz and Sonja, he never once belittled them like Thelma did to him. In fact, Buzz himself told him he was a good dad since a lesser person could have easily abandon him and Sonia. In a later season when he and Naomi were trying for a child and Sonia and Buzz were retconned out, he told Thelma he was going to be a great dad since he would encourage his child. Something Thelma never did for him.
  • Zigzagged in Mom. Christy was raised by her alcoholic and drug using mom Bonnie who messed up her childhood. Unfortunately, Christy does the exact same thing to Violet and Roscoe. However, the series does start with her in recovery and makes genuine efforts to be a good parent and make up for her mistakes. It just doesn't stick most of the time. Even Bonnie's own mother left her when she was young and never return even when her life was stable. While Bonnie did keep Christy and did attempt to raise her, she still messed up. And while Violet did give up her baby, she made sure she went to a loving family.
  • Raising Hope:
    • Both Burt and Virginia Chance did made bad decisions when raising Jimmy. These include using his name for credit card loans and damaging his credit score and using Christmas as a time to sell stuff to make extra money and not celebrating it with him. However, they are still treated as Good Parents who love Jimmy and did the best they could given they were teen parents. They even made up ruining Jimmy's Christmases by treating other non-major holidays as special so he wouldn't be left out. Jimmy for his part tries harder to raise Hope like getting a stable job so he could get some Health Care and makes sure she has a better childhood then his.
    • Despite the mistakes Burt and Virginia did while raising Jimmy, they are still better parents than their own. Burt's played favorite with his older brother and never thought Burt would ever amount to anything. While Virginia's parents left her while she was still young to be raised by her grandparents. Her father was also narcissistic who tried to change her life to better fit his own needs. Though, he is shown to still love her compare to the mother.
    • Sabrina was a Lonely Rich Kid whose parents were barely there. Worst was her mother who would bad mouth Sabrina, hurting her emotionally. Sabrina became a wonderful mother to Hope. One episode had Sabrina trying to give Hope a great family vacation despite everything going wrong. And when Sabrina has a nightmare in which Hope grew up in the same lonely family life like her, she was terrified and tried to fix it.
  • Roseanne: Multiple:
    • Invoked by Darlene after a bad day with her grandmother. She mentions how Bev's mom wasn't a good mother, that Bev was better then her, and Roseanne is really better then Bev. She then concludes that when she has a kid, she'll be a super mom.
    • Going from the above, Roseanne is seen as a better mom then her father who abused her and Jackie and her mother who was critical and didn't do anything to stop the abuse. She does love her kids despite her yelling and manipulation as she wants them to do better then she did. When she hit DJ after a very frustrating day, she was traumatized by the incident as she didn't want to be like her father.
    • Dan grew up with a barely-there father and a mentally ill mother who actually attempted to kill him when he was an adult. He is shown to be a very loving father who does spend time with his kids, and who is also shown to be very protective of them.
    • Jackie herself actively invokes this trope for Andy as she wants to be a better mother then Bev who she hates. However, it's shown she sometimes overdoes it and comes off more as an overprotective parent. However, a conversation between Bev and Jackie does have the former admit she was a bad mother and Jackie was a good one.
    • Subverted with Bev and her mother Mary. Mary was a very free-spirited parent which actually cause Bev to grow up to be very strict to Roseanne and Jackie. Both styles are shown to be very bad.
  • Bones: Seeley Booth was abided by his alcoholic father for years until his grandfather rescued him. Hank seems to have raised him well, as Booth is like him rather than his birth father, a loving father who would do anything for his kids and they love him.
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    Music 
  • "I Have a Right" by Sonata Arctica:
    Father, there's a little flower
    Beautiful and different, all alone, all alone
    Is it so, Dad? I'm not supposed to
    Make the world anew, and be like you? Am I you?
    [...]
    You made it clear right from the start
    I am to take your sour heart within, one sad day
    But I will never teach my son
    Embittered history, tried and true, 'cause I'm not you!

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition: If the player slept with Morrigan and/or allowed her to undergo a "ritual" in Dragon Age: Origins, she will return 10 years later in Inquisition with a son. Regardless of the partnership or circumstances (whether she conceived the child with her One True Love, whether the boy is the reincarnation of an Old God and whether or not she and the father raised the boy together), Morrigan loves her son and is very protective of him. If the boy IS a reincarnation, during the course of the game, he will be abducted by Morrigan's mother, Flemeth, and Morrigan will do everything she can to get him back. She says this is because she's determined to not be the sort of mother to him that Flemeth was to her. Flemeth is visibly hurt by that statement, and then takes the Old God soul from Kieran before giving him back to his mother, almost as if in apology. Made even awesome considering Flemeth's real identity as Mythal. Mythal is the goddess of motherhood and justice. She's so focused on the latter that she forgets to be the former for her daughter Morrigan. This is something that Morrigan is morally higher than her mother, even if both of them are more than willing to be unscrupulous to achieve their goals.
  • In Fire Emblem Awakening, both Henry and Libra had Abusive Parents who abandoned them. Both are specifically singled out as good parents in their endings, as Henry's notes that he became an excellent father while Libra ends up opening an Orphanage of Love.
  • John Marston from Red Dead Redemption and its Prequel Red Dead Redemption II rarely talks about his long-dead biological father but makes clear that he wasn't a good parent. He was a pimp who got blinded in a bar fight and died from the complications, leaving John to grow up in an orphanage and then join a gang. John certainly has his issues as a parent (at least at the start) but is determined to give his son, Jack, a better life than he did and ultimately succeeds in doing it, including giving his own life so Jack can be free of his (John's) past.
  • Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus introduced Rip Blazkowicz, B.J.'s abusive father. A man who made his son's life a living hell by wanting him to become the same racist and misogynistic bag of crap like him and who sold his son to the Nazis by the time the game took place. B.J., whose partner was expecting twins as revealed at the beginning of the game, said that he could expect to die and would be a better parent than him. Come Wolfenstein: Youngblood, and B.J.'s twin daughters, Jess and Soph, who hold their father in high regard, are introduced.
  • Ultimately subverted in LISA. Brad's father Marty was a terrible parent, a raging alcoholic who verbally and physically abused him and sexually abused his little sister Lisa. When, several decades later, he's tasked with parenting an orphaned baby girl who he names Buddy, he vows to be a better parent than his father ever was. But his extreme overprotectiveness and his drug addiction make him almost as bad of a father as Marty. As soon as Buddy gets her first taste of the outside world, she realizes that her childhood wasn't normal and comes to despise her father, and pretty much every other character in the game - evil and heroic - agrees that Brad is a terrible dad.

    Webcomics 
  • Adelie from Ennui GO! might not be the best parent given her alcoholism, but she's still miles better than her own mother who is depicted in flashbacks as having been incredibly abusive and outright tried to murder both her and her twin sister Izzy.

    Western Animation 
  • King of the Hill:
    • Cotton was emotionally abusive to Hank that led him to repress most emotions. Hank tries to be a better father to Bobby, but Bobby is a very different person than Hank, and Hank ends up being somewhat abusive in his attempts to help him. While he does give genuinely good advice and loves his son, he has to relearn the same lesson (that accepting Bobby for who he is leads to a better outcome than trying to change him) multiple times a season. Hank once expressed worry that he is a bad father to Cotton who responded with this gem:
      Cotton: Oh, Hank. You ain't in competition with me! Hell, if it's a contest on who's the better daddy, you win. I mean, you made Bobby! All I made was you.
    • There's also Peggy. Her own mother was shown to be a hard woman who always criticized anything Peggy does and never gave Peggy any approval. Peggy herself deeply loves both her son Bobby and her niece Luanne to the point she will go Mama Bear for them. Like when she beat up Leanne, Luanne's mother, to protect Luanne.
  • Daria had Jake and Helen Morgendorffer, the former having been abused and traumatized by his Drill Sergeant Nasty father well after the old man died and into his middle-age and the latter having had her Mother shower affection and attention on her sister Rita, they are not perfect parents what with the fact they are self-absorbed by their need for attention or career ambitions but they do prove to be better parents to Quinn and Daria than their own parents have been to them. Jake tries to understand his daughters (backing up Daria's less conformist moments and personality and merely expressing surprise at the idea that Quinn could be dating women without any sense of contempt)and Helen's relationship with Daria actually evolves from that of a social/career climbing woman who has more or less sold out her Sixties era feminist beliefs to urge her daughter to fit in, to that of a trusted mother and a sensitive young adult daughter who can communicate on an emotional and intellectual level.
  • The Legend of Korra:
    • Attempted by Toph: in Avatar: The Last Airbender, Toph was raised by extremely overprotective parents who had great difficulty in believing their blind daughter could handle herself, much less aid in ending a century-long war. So she raised her own daughters, Lin and Suyin, with a lot more freedom, resulting the latter becoming a criminal before founding her own city and the former a humorless By-the-Book Cop, neither of them making peace with each other before they were over forty (they made peace with their mother separately).
    • Suyin came uncomfortably close to looping back into being as overprotective as her grandparents when she tried to stop her daughter Opal from leaving to develop her bending powers. With Lin's encouragement, Opal was able to convince Suyin to find a balance between caring for her children and stifling their personal growth, making Suyin a more successful example of this trope than her mother.
    • Zuko famously had an extremely abusive father who burned his face for daring to speak against him even if his objections are morally and practically justifiable. From what little we see of her, his only known child, Izumi, is a well-adjusted and capable leader as well as a very good mother to her son and her unseen daughter. It is safe to assume that Izumi's children will become better people than their grandaunt.
  • In the The Loud House episode, "Home of the Fave", it is revealed that Lynn Sr.'s father played favorites when he was a kid, giving him the short end of the stick. When he fears he is doing the same thing to his own kids with Luan, he makes a genuine effort to spend equal time with all eleven of his children.
  • Throughout Moral Orel, Orel's parents have consisted of an abusive father and a neglectful mother. The third season shows Orel finally starting to realize this for himself and, in the Distant Finale montage, he's shown in what appears to be a happy family with his childhood crush.
  • Dr. Doofenshmirtz from Phineas and Ferb was The Un-Favourite of both his parents, his mother preferring his younger brother, Roger, while his dad preferred a dog he named "Only Son". His dad made him replace the lawn gnome after it was repossessed, forcing him to stand still for hours and through the night. Neither of his parents attended any of his birthdays, including the day of his actual birth, and he was eventually disowned by them and raised by a family of ocelots. Doofenshmirtz himself, on the other hand, is over-protective, if anything, to his daughter, Vanessa, finding her one of the few things he loves outside of his evil schemes.
  • Young Justice. Cheshire's parents were both super-villains, with her father Sportsmaster raising her as a mercenary. Her mother was sent to jail and reformed upon coming out but her father is still an active criminal. In contrast, Cheshire loves Lian dearly and wanted Roy to clean up his act for his daughter's sake as much as Roy's. In fact, while Cheshire did abandon Lian by season 3, its because she believes Lian would be better off without a mercenary mother.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: Numbuh 1's father, Monty Uno also known as Numbuh Zero was raised by Grandfather, who was willing use his own kids as slave labor. Monty himself does his best to bond with Numbuh 1, all the while letting him having more freedom. Numbuh 1, despite finding his father embarrassing, does have a pretty good relationship with him.
  • The short-lived God, the Devil and Bob had "Bob's Father", which shows that Bob's father was an emotionally-abusive Jerkass who did nothing but belittle his son till the moment he died. This causes Bob to have a crisis of fate upon learning his father was forgiven by God and allowed into heaven, despite a life time of abuse. Later in the episode, Bob shouts at Andy for leaving his toys out combined with his anger over the situation over his father, only Andy to calmly reply "That's okay Dad. I know you're upset about Grandpa." Doing so calms Bob down, and he immediately apologizes and compliments Andy on being so insightful.
    • This is invoked by God later in the episode, who explains that he and his father come from a long line of abusive fathers, and while that doesn't excuse how Bob's dad treated him, Bob's dad was at least trying to "throw a softer punch", which allowed Bob to be the one to finally break the cycle.

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