Let’s get this show on the road.
John Winchester is a piece of shit parent. *throws confetti* Let’s talk about why he’s a piece of shit!
We’ll start on a scale of obviously canon to canonically based inference.
Physical neglect is one of the most widely recognized forms and the one we can really really get behind John Winchester perpetrating. It includes:
Abandonment—the desertion of a child without arranging for his reasonable care or supervision. Usually, a child is considered abandoned when not picked up within 2 days. We are told multiple times that once Dean reached a certain age, John would go on hunts and leave the boys alone for days (and on one occasion, I think Dean said it was about a week) at a time. Dean was the one in charge of child care and all that- at what, 8? 9? And that’s being generous on how old he was. Two small children left without proper care or supervision, check.
Shuttling—when a child is repeatedly left in the custody of others for days or weeks at a time, possibly due to the unwillingness of the parent or the caregiver to maintain custody. Hey, he did this with the boys in the FIRST TWO YEARS OF SAMMY’S LIFE according to the journal. He’d left them with Bill and Ellen’s niece, and later he left them with Bobby whenever he wasn’t leaving them alone. He was unwilling to be hindered by his children while he was working- you know. Until they could be useful.
Nutritional neglect—when a child is undernourished, repeatedly hungry for long periods of time or fed inadequate amounts of food, which can sometimes be evidenced by poor growth. Dean walks in the door of the motel room on Christmas Eve bearing bountiful harvest- a slim jim and a bag of funions for dinner. He even jokingly says, “Don’t forget to eat your vegetables.” That was their dinner- a bag of chips and a piece of jerky. Sure, they weren’t starving, but that isn’t exactly attentive either.
Emotional neglect is the neglect of a child’s emotional needs that are necessary for healthy growth. This includes:
Inadequate nurturing or affection—the persistent, marked inattention to the child’s needs for affection, emotional support, or attention. Checkity Checkity Check Check- Sam puts it perfectly in season 1 episode one-
Sam: “Yeah? When I told dad when I was scared of the thing in my closet he gave me a .45.”
Dean: “Well what was he supposed to do?”
Sam: “I was 9 years old! He was supposed to say ‘Don’t be afraid of the dark.’”
John lives his life with no regard for his son’s emotional safety or care. He’s not an affectionate man, he openly admitted in his journal- he turned to Dean for emotional support. At 6 years old. Really? Because 6 year olds should be comforting their professional serial killer dads who hunt all their most terrifying nightmares, one of which brutally murdered their mother.
Permitted drug or alcohol abuse—the encouragement or permission by the caregiver of drug or alcohol use by the child. We’re told that Dean had his first drink before he hit double digits, and no one stopped him- in fact, it was probably so commonplace in the hunter world taht no one batted an eye. We’re also told of Dean’s exploits as a teenager while John was away, and there was no way that John didn’t know his son was out at bars hustling pool and developing a drinking habit. Anyways- he learned from the best, didn’t he?
Other permitted maladaptive behavior—the encouragement or permission of other maladaptive behavior (e.g., chronic delinquency, assault) under circumstances where the parent or caregiver has reason to be aware of the existence and the seriousness of the problem, but does not intervene. I don’t even have to elaborate on this thanks spn writers u did my job for me
Isolation—denying a child the ability to interact or to communicate with peers or adults outside or inside the home. Dean did not start school until he was in first grade. Dean and Sam did not have friends, they did not know any adults but John and Bobby, they lived in a sealed bubble whose interactions were tightly controlled by John as much as he possibly could.
Permitted, chronic truancy—permitting habitual absenteeism from school averaging at least 5 days a month if the parent or guardian is informed of the problem and does not attempt to intervene. They change towns ever few weeks, tops. John needs them for hunts, pulls them out of school for a few weeks here and there. No biggie.
Failure to enroll or other truancy—failing to homeschool, to register, or to enroll a child of mandatory school age, causing the child to miss at least 1 month of school without valid reasons.
Dean was not enrolled in school until he was in first grade.
So, Educational, Emotional, and Physical neglect? Check!
Let’s move on to….
This is one of the more sinister types of abuse. Physical abuse can be rationalized as anger, not knowing how to deal with children, blah blah blah- but psychological abuse, most often used on children, would be considered torture or harassment to adults.
We’ve talked about in this meta about how John emotionally abused Sam and Dean, but we’re going to go a bit more in-depth here. John emotionally and psychologically harmed his children because of stress, poor parenting skills, social isolation, and lack of available resources or inappropriate expectations of his children. He handed children weapons and expected them to kill. He expected an emotional maturity that he himself didn’t posses from his children. He put extreme amounts of stress on both Sam and Dean.
John raised his boys on a steady diet of fear and distrust. Like Sam said in Season 1, John’s job as a father was to dispel his fears of the dark, to make him feel protected. Instead, he handed him a firearm and basically told him that “No one can protect you, not even me.” On an immediate level, that breeds mistrust and fear- Fathers, psychologically speaking, are a pinnacle of safety for a child. To be told at a young age that your father can not protect you makes for an existence of fear- if Dad can’t protect me, what can? The same with Dean- at a young age, his father couldn’t protect his mother, his uncle Jake, or their former family friends. He watched his father kill a shapeshifter at the tender age of 5. Both Sam and Dean’s lives were filled with, in their living memories, fear and danger. They essentially grew up in a war zone- they were child soldiers.
Dean was made to believe not only was his brother’s life dependent on his ability to protect him, but that there was actually a world filled with things that wanted to kill them, eat them, maim them; despite the fact that they were children, in some cases simply because they were children. Dean and Sam were taught at a young age that being a child is dangerous- you’re weak, small, and at a significant disadvantage to all the adults around you; and yet they had to protect themselves from all these dangerous and much more powerful things that wanted to kill them.
John was not around much, both physically and mentally. Being physically there did little to quell their fear; John was a dangerous man himself with quite a temper. Sure, they were safe from the monsters, but they weren’t safe from him. He’s physically absent- the whole first season is about finding Dad, who is apparently okay enough to leave little clues for them, but not okay enough to come and talk to them. Dean called him on the verge of tears and they were in the same small town, in the same house, but still John couldn’t be bothered to at least reassure them, or let them know that he was definitely alive. He didn’t find it necessary after all that, to actually apologize, or even give a full explanation.
We know that he was verbally vicious to his children- we see this when Azazel takes over his body in the Cabin in Season 1. Dean, like any young person, could not shoot and kill his father- even if he was possessed. Azazel tells him that it’s okay that he couldn’t shoot him and that he did good. It speaks volumes that this simple thing is what gives away that John is still possessed; reassurance and forgiveness are not part of John’s vocabulary or his range of understanding. Then, when shoots his father in the leg (still unwilling to kill him), Azazel leaves and John viciously berates Dean for not killing him.
Then, no more than an episode later, on his damn death bed, he tells Dean that it is up to him to save his younger brother- or murder him. The child that he had spent his entire life protecting, he either had to get it exactly right this time or murder the one person and purpose he had most of his life.
He told Sam, when he got accepted to college, that if he walked out the door to do something normal, that he would never be welcomed back. He then proceeded to never talk to him in those 4 years; going so far to taking a proxy to replace his golden child- Adam; and proceeded to hide Adam from Dean and Sam; giving him a measure of safety he could never afford his other children.
John, despite the term not being widely accepted in the psychiatric world anymore, is a psychopath. If we were to use a few terms that are more widely acceptable, I would label him with something very similar to what my stepfather has been diagnosed with.
I would say that John has a Remote Schizoid Personality with obsessive compulsive features and violent tendencies. John did the best he could- yes he did, if he canonically had these disorders. But we don’t know that for sure. What we do know, factually, is that he was a really shitty person who had no business raising kids because the two he did “raise” ended up terribly psychologically damaged.
I do not tag my “hate” in the actual john winchester tag. Before I followed the Unholy Fellowship (an affectionate nickname i promise), my John Winchester hate was tagged “Reasonable Hate For John Winchester”. Now I tag it “yo fuck john winchester” so idk tumblrsavior it I guess.
Also gendered insults are not okay here.
Haha someone just sent me anon hate for tagging my John Winchester hate, I’ma start using “yo fuck john winchester,” instead. Great analysis!