While training the third Robin, Tim Drake, Batman proved exactly why he isn’t fit for parenting or mentoring children. While some may argue that the death of Jason Todd was his biggest mistake, Batman’s continued mistreatment of Robins exemplifies his true priorities.
Batman’s failures in parenting can often be chalked up to his own lack of stability growing up. As a mentor, he’s forgetful at best and ruthless at worst. Batman has made dozens of promises over the years following events he vows “Never again” to, but his lack of emotional awareness often puts his Robins at risk. This comes to a head with a particular “training exercise” he tasks Tim Drake with—on his birthday of all days.
The training exercise that almost makes Tim Drake quit Robin for good takes place in Robin #116-120 by Jon Lewis, Pete Woods, and Andrew Pepoy. On Tim’s sixteenth birthday, he receives a gift from a mysterious stranger—a box that can’t be opened. Initially believing it’s a bomb, Tim’s first instinct is to get it as far from his family as possible. This highlights the tragic mental health reality of being Robin: even on his birthday, Tim can never take a day off. When the box finally does open, it reveals a holographic video of Alfred from the apocalyptic near future, explaining that someone close to him will betray him and that it’s up to Tim to prevent these events from unfolding. This puts an overwhelming amount of pressure on Tim, leading to him to mistrust everyone: Batman, Batgirl, Spoiler, even Nightwing. He spends several days and nights spying on his allies, waiting for one of them to slip up.
Batman Pushes His Robins To Be Like Him
Eventually, Robin discovers that Bruce himself is behind it all and gives Batman a well-deserved chewing out for deceiving him. Unperturbed, Batman congratulates Tim on passing the “test.” Due to this experience, Robin hardly knows who or what to trust. When Tim Drake calls out Batman for setting him up, Bruce corrects him: “Training, Robin… Not a setup, not a trick… it was all part of the module.” As Robin questions what his reality has been for the past ten days, Batman admonishes rather than apologizes, pointing out all the flaws that could’ve “easily” been debunked. Having had enough, Tim quits on the spot.
Batman Only Cares About The Mission, Not His Family
Unfortunately, the longer he considers it, the more Tim realizes that quitting Robin means quitting the most important relationships in his life: an older brother in Dick, a father figure in Bruce, basically all his hero friends. He’ll have no reason to see them out of costume. So, in the end, Tim “sees reason” and dons the Robin costume once more. What’s worse is that Batman expects it and when Tim tells Bruce he won’t even ask for an apology, he responds, “I hope not.” It’s stories like this that showcase the more abusive aspects of Batman, manipulating his sidekicks to the point that even when he hurts them the most, they keep returning to his side.
This method of “training” does not develop Tim’s skills of detection like Bruce believes it does. Instead, it acts as a trigger for Tim’s already dangerous levels of paranoia and shows Bruce’s lack of regard for the mental stability of his young sidekicks. Even when Tim is aware of Bruce’s abusive behavior, he knows that Batman has made his life better. And due to Batman’s training, Tim is the perfect Robin—one who becomes more like Batman every day.
While Batman may be the World’s Greatest Detective, his detection of emotions is considerably poor. Rather than supporting his sidekicks and naturally encouraging them to develop their strengths, Batman resorts to manipulation tactics that only drive his Robins further away.