Are Bad Parents The Best Parents?

Alexander Emmanual Sandalis
2 min readDec 15, 2021

Some of the most successful interesting and powerful people had a traumatic upbringing from ‘bad parents’ who projected their own trauma and suffering onto them.

“When children have parents who ignore them or are abusive they find a way to compensate for that. Their compensations often lead them to be great artists, political figures, actors and orators.” — Robert Greene

From Winston Churchill’s isolating childhood being raised by his nanny to Charlize Theron witnessing her mother shooting her father in self-defence to Will Smith, David Goggins and Joey Diaz growing up through violence, abuse, suicide and addiction.

Deficiency in parental guidance can cause a compensation of proficiency in the child.

Children get wounded as they grow up — some get paper cut wounds and some get gutshot wounds (literally and figuratively). Some will bleed out and not make it, and others will form a callus over their wound building a stronger more resilient character and skillset in the process. This callus sets the child up to be able to handle the inevitable pain, suffering and adversity that life presents. It hardens their resolve against the pressure of life and helps them discover their purpose.

This is not saying great loving supportive present parents can’t foster successful great people. They obviously can and do. But most people could agree building one’s character and skillset requires pressure and adversity. Bad parents provide this very readily from a young age. Good parents typically do not, and those children may paradoxically be disadvantaged as they enter the world privileged, entitled and soft.

If we want a more prosperous next generation what are we to do then? Be a bad parent and traumatise our children in hopes they will come out of it a better person?

Probably not.

Perhaps the answer converges on providing an opportunity to fail and experience adversity and hardship in a controlled realistic setting where you minimise the risk of death and long term damage while maximising the possibility for character development.

Exposure to voluntary suffering and adversity could come through outlets such as competitive sport, a high-quality schooling system, weight training, martial arts and scouts.

On the other side it should be acknowledged there are some who don’t make it through the cycle of abuse and suffering and end up living out the worst versions of themselves down the pit of addiction, violence and self-hate. Some even kill themselves and they never make it.

The reality we must reconcile is that abuse, trauma and adversity through bad parents can both help and harm children in irreparable ways.

Pressure can make diamonds, but it can also break them.

Idea inspired by Robert Greene & Whitney Cummings



Alexander Emmanual Sandalis

Self-reflective writings & book summaries on philosophy, psychology and human behaviour. Video’s + podcast →