Since my childhood, I spent a lot of time wondering why Bruce was the way he was with his Robins, as I saw a lot of similarities between Bruce and Dick’s relationship and the one I had with my own step dad, and with Titans out it seems like a good time to discuss and get opinions.
So Titan’s version of Dick has separated himself from Bruce because he didn’t agree with the way Batman was doing the job, in the comics it was described as Bruce not seeing Dick as an equal. Whatever the reason is that’s said, essentially the issue between Bruce and Dick (and other Robins) is the same. From whatever means you choose to consume DC media, you almost always see that Batman does not have an overtly compassionate typical parenting style. He was always hard on Dick (lol), he would talk down to him, put him on the sidelines out of danger, not listen to Dick’s suggestions most of the time; Bruce never made it his business to ensure a Robin felt surrounded by love, compassion, or support. Why though? As we know, Bruce does love Dick (lol again I’m the worst), he always considered the Robins to be his sons even before Damian.
I always felt that Bruce felt he had a responsibility to Dick to help them cope with his trauma the way he dealt with his own, crime fighting, because he saw himself in Dick. When Bruce’s parents were killed, he did not want a replacement parental figure, he wanted revenge (but really he just needed an outlet to workout his anger). He felt that more than likely that’s what Dick needed, guidance to fight through the trauma, not a replacement father, not that it stopped Bruce from developing feelings for Dick. Also, I always felt that Bruce understood that his mission was a lot to put on a child, but he was ok with it if that’s what Dick really needed. So I think that perhaps Bruce thought that as long as he was cold, distant, and hard on Dick, if he stuck around then he was really sticking around because he wanted to do what they were doing. If Bruce became that replacement father figure filled with support and compassion, he could risk forcing Dick to feel that he needed to stay doing something he didn’t want to do out of feeling like he owed Bruce or didn’t want to risk losing the relationship. Bruce just wanted Dick to do what was best for himself, whatever that maybe, but he also wanted Dick to figure that out on his own.
So when Dick and Bruce’s relationship got to its boiling point, and Dick realized he did not want to save people the way Batman was doing it, he left to find another way. As we see in Titans, Dick tried doing things by the book but was forced into a situation where he had to suit up again and do things the ways Batman taught him, but this just made him even more angry and conflicted then before. He thought the answer to helping people the right way was to hang up the cape, but he learned that sometimes that’s not going to be enough, you’re gonna have to suit up again. What I expect him to realize over the course of the show, is that YES he wants to help people and he needs to do it as a vigilante, he just doesn’t want to do it like Batman, and as Robin he’s always just going to be associated with Batman, so he needs to become something else entirely removed from that, his own hero: Nightwing.
As you can see from numerous encounters and conversations Bruce had with Dick by the time he became Nightwing in the comics, his demeanor changes to being more compassionate, understanding, and willing to not only trust and listen to Dick, but to tell him how proud he is of him and how proud he always had been of him, which is why Bruce was always prepared to pass the cowl to Dick if he needed to. I feel like this can be equated to a lot of people’s relationships with their parents. When your growing up most parents try to be supportive of what the child wants, but they also want you to do what they as parents think is right, yet once your on your own and you make your own decisions, whether or not it’s what your parents pushed you towards or wanted you to do, a good parent will be satisfied with you at least succeeding on your own as long as they are happy and safe. So while Batman and Robin had a tense relationship, Batman and Nightwing have a strong relationship based on mutually earned respect.
This thought process can sort of be backed up with Bruce’s relationship with the future Robins. Seeing how “well” his parenting style worked out with Dick, he thought he could do the same thing with Jason. WRONG. It’s like when one child turns out great and the parents apply the same parenting style to the younger sibling but acts surprised as to how the second child didn’t turn out as well; different people have different issues and therefore need different ways to cope. Bruce was angry crime took his parents, so yea fighting crime helped him work through that. I feel like Dick wasn’t angry, he was emotionally devastated, his trauma wasn’t immediately linked to a hatred for crime because for the longest time he thought his parent’s death was an accident. So trying to help Dick heal through working out his anger wasn’t healing anything, it was just making him angry. Titan’s Dick may assume that Bruce was just trying to use a child’s trauma for his own gain, but really, Bruce was just trying to provide the only kind of healing he knew of. It sucks that Bruce probably just made Dick’s emotional health worse than better, but he was just a single-ish (Mama Alfred) dad trying to do his best, at least there were good intentions there and hopefully in Titan’s we can see Dick realize that.
Back to Jason though, Jason was already angry when Bruce found him (at least in post-crisis history). Theoretically you would think, as Bruce did, that crime fighting could channel that and help him be better. Yet Jason was angry at life, not criminals (though that obviously came later especially when he realized Two-Face killed his father). Beating criminals half to death at night was not enough to help Jason deal with his issues and it just got worse until his anger and rash behavior put him into a situation he couldn’t come back from, you know cause he got like all blown up and stuff. Jason’s issues were much harder to work though then Dick’s, even without the Lazarus Pit induced 'roid rage. So when Jason graduated to Red Hood, more specifically anti-hero Red Hood, he was still as broken as he was as a child so his relationship with Bruce never repaired like Nightwing’s did. Because why would it? Sure Jason thinks he’s all good now and he’s doing what he’s got to do cause Batman won’t, and that’s fine, but Bruce can’t just fully enable Jason’s dangerous behaviour. It’s like imagine if you became a very successful drug dealer, you have all the money in the world you need and your happy doing what you want, even though your happy and well off, your parent will never be ok with what you’re doing because of the chance of it blowing up and falling apart on you. A good parent would continue to not approve of your actions and allow the animosity in the relationship to build, as long as Jason stays doing his Red Hood thing the way he has been the last few years, Bruce will never give him the full acceptance and support that Jason may or may not want/need, because if he did, it would mean Bruce didn’t really care about him.
Bruce took a slightly different approach with Tim. As we all know, Tim is a flipping genius, he didn’t have anger issues and problems to workout, he just wanted to use his given gifts to help people. In this way, it’s easy to understand why some consider him the best Robin ever, as well as the best candidate to be Batman at some point or another, because his desire to do good does not come from a dark place. While at the beginning of the Batman & Robin relationship with Bruce and Tim, it would appear that maybe Bruce hadn’t learned anything from his previous Robins, but that was alright. Tim didn’t require the compassion to help rid him of anger because he didn’t have it, at least not like Jason or Titan’s Dick. Towards the end of there partnership though, I liked how I saw Bruce finally realize his mistakes and change his ways, and he decided to adopt Tim. He tried to explain to Tim that it was because changing laws and he wanted him to remain taken care of and blah blah blah, but Tim is a genius, he saw through the BS he knew exactly what Bruce was trying to say (see Batman #654 [original run] did anyone else tear up?) Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see much of this new dynamic as Damian showed up very quickly after, and Bruce’s focus shifted. Bruce had the fully parental compassion thing for Damian since he got there, many (including Tim) may have unfortunately assumed that this was solely because Damian was Bruce’s first “real” son, but I disagree. I think it was just that by the time Damian showed up, Bruce had finally matured and learned how to be a a good father and not a second too late. He saw that Damian was angry and violent, what he needed was compassion and to learn empathy, and it’s actually work out quite well I must say.
In closing, what I think we can all take away from this, is that different people need different ways to process and heal from trauma, and what worked for you may not always work for someone else. But also, if someone tries to help you and it doesn’t, you need to allow yourself to consider that the person just really cares and wants to help in the only way they know how. Batman wasn’t the greatest father, I still think he was a good one though.
I’d love to hear everyone’s opinions on this.