It’s safe to say that 45th U.S. president Donald Trump isn’t exactly a natural when it comes to dealing with children. He’s had numerous awkward encounters with little kids at his rallies, and his bizarre interactions with Halloween trick-or-treaters will go down as some of the weirdest White House moments ever, but if you ask the man himself, he’ll tell you (like he told New York Magazine) that he is “a really good father” to his kids — and they agree with him.
Donald Trump has five children by three different women: Ivana Trump, his first wife and mother to Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump; Marla Maples, his second wife and mother to Tiffany Trump; and Melania Trump, his current wife and mother of his youngest son, Barron Trump. While Barron is still too young to be let loose on social media, the other Trump kids have routinely used it to heap praise on their divisive dad. Donald’s daughter Ivanka once compared him to Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, and her half-sister Tiffany thanked him for his “constant love [and] guidance” in a sweet Father’s Day tweet. His two older sons have been just as forthcoming with their public praise, especially his first-born. “Anyone can be a father,” Don Jr. said in an Instagram post, “it takes time and work to be a dad.”
They all appear to think highly of him, but what is Donald Trump’s relationship with his kids really like? Let’s take a look.
Donald Trump struggled to engage with his kids for years
Donald Trump’s marriage to ski instructor turned fashion model Ivana Trump lasted from 1977 until 1992, and they produced the three most well-known Trump kids in that time. Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump became fixtures at their father’s side during his time in the White House (Don Jr. and Ivanka are among the top Republican picks for the 2024 presidential election, polls suggest), but back when they were growing up, they apparently struggled to connect with him. There’s no doubt that Donald has the gift of gab, but according to his first wife, he was totally lost when it came to conversing with his kids. “He did not know how to speak the children’s language,” Ivana said of her ex during a radio interview with AM970’s The Answer.
Ivana also brought up Donald’s inability to properly communicate with their young children during her interview on Ireland’s The Ray D’Arcy Show a few weeks later. The Czech-American businesswoman reiterated that while her former husband was always “a good, loving dad” to them, he struggled tremendously with “kids talk.” It apparently wasn’t until many years later that Donald and his first three kids started to find some common ground and he was finally able to engage with them. Ivana explained, “He did not know how to do that until the kids were in university and he could talk business with them.”
Diaper duty isn't Donald Trump's thing
When Ivana Trump stopped by The Ray D’Arcy Show to promote her memoir Raising Trump, she revealed that Donald Trump had “never changed a diaper” during their time together, and he appears to have maintained his stance that doing so is a woman’s job ever since. In 2005, the then-host of The Apprentice called into the Opie and Anthony radio show and was asked if he ever got his hands dirty with diapers. “No, I don’t do that,” he responded. “There are a lot of women out there that demand that the husband act like the wife, and you know, there are a lot of husbands that listen to that … I’m really, like, a great father, but certain things you do and certain things you don’t. It’s just not for me.”
Melania Trump was pregnant with Barron Trump at the time of her husband’s public comments on diaper changes. Speaking to Parenting a decade later, Melania confirmed that he absolutely stuck to his word. “He didn’t change diapers and I am completely fine with that,” the proud mom-of-one said (via Express). “It is not important to me. It’s all about what works for you.” The former model went on to say that the arrangement actually suited her just as much as it suited Donald, adding, “We know our roles. I didn’t want him to change the diapers or put Barron to bed. I love every minute of it.”
Business has always come first for Donald Trump
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that Donald Trump dedicated a lot of time to his various business ventures when his first three children were young. According to their mother, he was a “caring” father who “loved the kids,” but he didn’t show it in the traditional way. “He would not really be the dad who would take them for a stroll in the Central Park in the stroller or go and play soccer with them,” Ivana Trump said during her candid appearance on The Ray D’Arcy Show. “He was always on the phone making the business.”
Donald’s second wife, model and actor Marla Maples, had the same trouble. “He loves his kids. There’s no doubt,” she told People. “But everything was a bit of a negotiation.” Like her predecessor, Maples tried and failed to make Donald a more hands-on father. “Marla used to say, ‘I can’t believe you’re not walking Tiffany down the street,’ you know, in a carriage,” Trump told Howard Stern in 2005. “Right. I’m gonna be walking down Fifth Avenue with a baby in a carriage. It just didn’t work.”
When Donald and his current wife sat down for an interview with People in 2015, Melania Trump revealed that business still very much comes first for him. “[Barron] needs somebody as a parent there, so I am with him all the time,” she said. “As you know my husband is traveling all the time.”
How Donald Trump's affair brought him closer to his kids
Donald Trump’s marriage to Ivana Trump came to an end when details of his affair with Marla Maples hit the tabloids. The topic of the divorce and the media frenzy surrounding it came up when Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump took part in a revealing joint interview with New York Magazine many years later. Being a few years older than his siblings, Don Jr. was hit hardest by the scandal. “Being driven into school every day and you see the front page and it’s ‘Divorce! THE BEST SEX I EVER HAD!’ And you don’t even know what that means,” he said. “At that age, kids are naturally cruel. Your private life becomes very public, and I didn’t have anything to do with it.”
By all accounts, Don Jr. wasn’t very happy with his wandering dad. Speaking to Vanity Fair, a friend of Ivana said that Donald’s heir apparent gave him a real dressing down. “You don’t love us, you don’t even love yourself, you just love your money,” the then 12-year-old Don Jr. reportedly said. He would eventually come to accept what was happening, and, according to his sister, their bond with their father actually became even stronger. “Bizarrely, it also made us closer to dad,” Ivanka told New York Magazine. “Every morning before school, we’d go downstairs and give him a hug and a kiss. We didn’t take his presence for granted anymore.”
Paying equals parenting for Donald Trump
Donald Trump is apparently of the opinion that, so long as he’s covering all the costs associated with raising a child, he’s doing his bit as a dad and doesn’t have to lift a finger. When Howard Stern asked the future president about children back in April 2005, he said that he likes having them but he “won’t do anything to take care of them” because that’s not his job. “I’ll supply funds and she’ll take care of the kids,” he said, before taking an apparent shot at his second wife’s suggestion that he take their daughter, Tiffany Trump, out and about in New York more often. He added, “It’s not like I’m gonna be walking the kids down Central Park.”
When Donald and Marla Maples split up, the latter took their young daughter to California and essentially raised her as a single parent. Tiffany’s famous father did keep his side of the bargain, however. “Her daddy is a good provider with education and such,” Maples told People, “but as far as time, it was just me.” According to Donald, he only agreed to have another child because his third wife was more than happy to do the hard work. “Melania really is going to be fantastic, she’s going to be a fantastic mother,” he said during a phone call to the Opie and Anthony radio show. “If I had a different type of wife, I probably wouldn’t have a baby.”
Donald Trump Jr.'s dad is reportedly 'very hard' on him
Donald Trump’s relationship with his first-born son apparently took a while to recover following his high profile affair. According to Ivana Trump, Don Jr.’s dad found it easier to talk to him by the time he enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, but they reportedly weren’t always on the same page. In a 2016 Facebook post (via Philadelphia Magazine), former UPenn student Scott Melker alleged that Donald lashed out at his son when he came to collect him for a baseball game. “Don Jr. opened the door, wearing a Yankee jersey,” Melker began. “Without saying a word, his father slapped him across the face, knocking him to the floor in front of all of his classmates. He simply said, ‘Put on a suit and meet me outside,’ and closed the door.” (According to Philadelphia Magazine, the Trump family denied the allegation.)
Don Jr. appears to have gotten much closer to his father in the years since, though those with intimate knowledge of their relationship claim that it hasn’t actually changed all that much. The House Intelligence Committee released the previously classified testimony of former Trump Organization lawyer Michael Cohen in 2019, and in among the hundreds of pages were details of Donald’s “complicated relationship” with his eldest. “He’s very hard on Don Jr., harder than he is on Ivanka or Eric,” Cohen said. “And Mr. Trump is not shy in front of people to say that Don Jr. has the worst judgment of anyone he’s ever met.”
Those eyebrow-raising comments about Ivanka Trump
Speaking to GQ in 2018, one of Donald Trump’s advisers said that he “has a special place in his heart for Ivanka,” which is one way of putting it. The former president has a long history of making cringeworthy and flat-out inappropriate comments about his eldest daughter, particularly on The Howard Stern Show. He gave the shock jock permission to call his daughter a “piece of a**” in a 2004 interview. When Howard Stern asked if Ivanka had gotten breast implants a few years later, Donald responded, “I would know if she did … She’s actually always been very voluptuous.” The most famous instance of Donald being weird about Ivanka took place on daytime TV, however.
When father and daughter appeared on The View together in 2006, the business mogul was asked how he would feel if Ivanka decided to pose nude for Playboy, and his response made everyone (including, judging by her expression, Ivanka herself) super uncomfortable. “I don’t think Ivanka would do that, although she does have a very nice figure,” he remarked. “I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.” Time hasn’t made Donald tone down his comments, either — he made more eyebrow-raising remarks as recently as 2015. “She’s really something, and what a beauty, that one,” he said in a Rolling Stone profile. “If I weren’t happily married and, ya know, her father…” Thankfully, he trailed off there.
Eric Trump was 'raised' by his big brother
The youngest of Donald Trump’s three children with Ivana Trump and his middle child over all, Eric Trump was just six years old when his parents separated. The real estate mogul moved ten floors down in Trump Tower when he and Ivana called it quits, but even though he was just an elevator ride away from him, Eric didn’t get to see his dad all that much. With no full-time father figure to look up to, he turned to his big brother, Donald Trump Jr., for guidance. “Donnie’s always been my friend, a mentor,” Eric said when he and his two siblings sat down with The New York Times in 2006. “In a way, he raised me. My father, I love and I appreciate, but he always worked 24 hours a day.”
Eric may love and appreciate his father today, but their relationship went through a rough patch when Donald started dating other people. “I had a lot of resentment,” Eric told New York Magazine, which noted that he went silent when the name Marla Maples came up. He chose to make no comment on his dad’s second wife, but when Donald’s then-fiancée Melania Knauss was mentioned, Eric had nothing but good things to say. “We’ve actually seen our father being happy, you know, really enjoying this person and her doing a lot for him, and therefore we appreciate her as opposed to resent her.”
Tiffany Trump apparently doesn't suit 'the brand'
Raised on the opposite side of the country away from the reach of the New York tabloids, Tiffany Trump has often been painted as “the other Trump” by the press, much to her annoyance. Speaking to The New York Times in 2016, Marla Maples revealed that being portrayed in this way hurt her daughter’s feelings and made her determined to get more involved in her dad’s life. “She’d like to get to know her father better and spend time with him like his other children did: by going to his office and watching him work,” Maples said. “Only now, he’s not in the office anymore. He’s on the campaign trail.”
Tiffany did help her dad out on the trail (her RNC address was dubbed a “sad, vague tribute to her distant father” by Slate), but sources say that their relationship suffered following his inauguration. “Tiffany and her father have sometimes gone for months without speaking and she went a very long time without seeing him,” a family insider told People. “The last time she was at a family function with him, it was awkward for her and she didn’t feel totally welcome.” Tiffany addressed the RNC again in 2020, but she was largely a bystander during her father’s presidency. Why didn’t she figure more? “I don’t think she’s part of the brand,” Trump biographer Gwenda Blair told Business Insider. “And for Donald Trump, the brand Trump is everything.”
Donald Trump thinks very highly of his youngest son
Donald Trump and Melania Trump have gone out of their way to keep Barron Trump’s life as private as possible, though the older he gets, the more interest there is in him and his relationship with his famous father. According to journalist Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (via the New York Post), Donald was an “absentee father for his first four children” and has been “even more absent for his fifth, Barron.” Melania did admit that she does the vast majority of the parenting when she spoke to People in 2015, but she also said that there’s a “beautiful respect and admiration” between father and son.
“Barron loves to be one-on-one with dad because normally he’s almost always all the time with me, so I give them space when it’s Daddy and Barron time,” Melania said. “They go alone for dinner, one-on-one. They play golf together. He looks forward to that.” Those weekend visits to the golf course have been going on for years now, according to a family friend. “I’ve seen Barron out there with him on a few occasions and he’s a good athlete by his own right,” one insider told Politico in 2019. Barron’s athleticism and height are apparently a source of great pride for Donald, who raved about his youngest son at a rally in 2020. He said, “My Barron. My tall Barron. He’s very tall. My beautiful Barron. Handsome. He is handsome.”
Donald Trump's kids may never escape his 'shadow'
Donald Trump has always been a strict father (he told People that he routinely tells his kids to stay away from drugs, alcohol and cigarettes), but following his rules is decidedly easier than following in his footsteps. Speaking back in 2010, his first-born son revealed that being Donald Trump Jr. — a name his dad was hesitant to bestow upon him in case he turned out to be a “loser,” according to his mother’s memoir — comes with certain pressures. “There probably shouldn’t be, but there is [pressure] for me, because you want to please someone like that, and he’s a perfectionist,” Don Jr. told a reporter, per GQ. “There’s definitely always that shadow that follows you around, like how is this guy, the son of someone so good at what he does, going to act?”
It’s clear that Donald loves his children, but his relationship with them is far from conventional. According to Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio, he treats his kids more like employees than his own flesh and blood. “I think that who Donald really is in relation to his family members is exploitive and demanding,” D’Antonio told Business Insider. “He has these expectations that everyone exists to serve him.” The Trump kids served their dad dutifully during his time in the White House, and there’s a chance that one of them could be returning to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with their own kids in the not too distant future.
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