Despite the differences between the Dragon Ball and Naruto franchises, the two series' main protagonists actually have a lot more in common than one might think. Both Goku and Naruto devoted their very lives to gaining power, protected people from imposing outside threats, fell in love, got married and then had kids. Oddly enough, the similarities between them don't exactly stop there when it comes to fatherhood. Both Goku and Naruto have two children, and they are equally famous for devoting more time to their duties and responsibilities than their own families. This has led to their reputation as fathers being scrutinized, but which one is a worse dad, Goku or Naruto?
Between the two of them, they probably comprise only half a parent when combined. Thankfully, they both have strong partners who help them bear the responsibilities of parenthood. No matter how strong the mother is – physically and emotionally – kids will always long for their absent father's attention. On the rare moments they tear themselves away from duty, it's obvious just how much Goku and Naruto both love their kids. Those moments are so few and far between that resentments are born that put major strain on the relationship. A lot of elements factor into determining who could potentially be the worst father, not just time spent with one's children. The quality of those interactions and the guidance offered along life's wandering and sometimes confusing paths are tantamount to determining who those children grow up to become, suggesting at least one of these men could have major problems on his hands by the time his children reach adulthood.
How Goku Fails As a Father
It's easy to say things like, "Goku couldn't help it, he was dead that time," but it's the times he wasn't dead that matter most. The first fact to consider is Goku's absence during Gohan's birth. To this day, fans still have no idea where he was, or why he missed the birth of his first child. Whatever he was doing was probably important, yes, but bringing a child into the world kind of trumps it. Later on, when Goten was born, Goku was dead, so he missed that birth too. It couldn't be helped, of course, but taking into consideration the dangers Goku often faces, maybe he could have made different choices when it came to starting a family in the first place.
Goku's wife Chi-Chi yells at him a lot. It could definitely be seen as nagging, but raising kids as a single mom while her Saiyan husband is out doing everything but be a family man would definitely provoke a lot of resentments in their marriage. Raising kids is hard enough when they're just normal, regular kids, but her kids aren't like other kids. Chi-Chi needed help, and Goku wasn't often there to support her. Looking at this from the kids' perspective, there is a strong possibility they would develop a stronger bond with their mother as they picked up the slack of their absentee dad.
Piccolo abducted little Gohan from Chi-Chi in order to train him, and during their time together he became the father figure Gohan was lacking. It didn't matter that Piccolo originally planned to train him as a weapon against Saiyans, his relationship and bond with Gohan grew into something unexpected that softened the former Demon King's heart. In every way imaginable, one of Goku's most ruthless enemies became a better father to his son than he was. On the other hand, the example Goku's absence set influenced the way Gohan parents his own child, Pan. It wasn't uncommon for Gohan to rely on Piccolo's help when he was too busy to attend to his duties as a father. That is often a role grandparents gladly play, but it's also reminiscent of Goku's absence in his son's early life.
Goku's relationship with his boys is often portrayed as loving when they are actually together. However, he's also a lot like that stereotypical strict and ambitious doctor father who wants his sons to grow up and become a doctor just like him--only replace doctor with Saiyan hero. Goku has always stated he wants them to be happy, but he could be overbearing and pushy which pushed Gohan fostered resentment.
How Naruto Fails As a Father
From the moment fans were first introduced to Naruto Uzumaki, they glimpsed a rambunctious, attention-seeking little orphan boy with no one on his side. Shunned by everyone in the village because of his role as jinchuriki, he had no sense of family, comfort, camaraderie, or acceptance until he joined Kakashi's Team Seven. Those early years of his life shaped the man he would later become, and that child wanted family so badly he began declaring that he would become Hokage one day. The fact that he did exactly what he set out to do should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, but much like Goku, Naruto probably should have told Hinata outright before they got married that kids were out of the question because the people of the Hidden Leaf Village would become his children when he was Hokage.
The introduction of Naruto and Hinata's oldest child, Boruto, was like a de ja vu of young Naruto. Racing through the streets causing trouble, spray-painting his father's face to mock him and whining to anyone who would listen about what a deadbeat his dad is, Boruto wants attention so badly he will do anything to force his dad away from his duties to get it. Even after meeting Sarada's deadbeat dad, Sasuke Uchiha, Boruto latches onto him as a student for several reasons. Sasuke is cool, unlike his dorky dad. Sasuke spends quality time training with Sarada; never mind his missing the first 11 years of her life, Boruto didn't care about that.
As Boruto: Naruto Next Generations began advancing, it was clear that Naruto was actually a better dad than Sasuke, despite Boruto's feelings on the matter. Maybe he was away from home nearly every hour of every day, but he tried desperately to be there when it was important. And when he couldn't physically be there himself, he sent a shadow clone to take his place. That usually enraged Boruto even more because he could have left a shadow clone to do his job and spent actual time with his loved ones. What Boruto probably didn't realize was that Naruto's control over his shadow clones was almost as good as him actually being there. When the clone returned to him, he would have the memories and the experience, which is probably why Naruto saw nothing wrong with it.
Naruto's relationship with his youngest child, daughter Himawari, was a direct reflection of his efforts. Even when he managed to disappoint her, Naruto went out of his way to make a special day for just the two of them. Even though he did spend that day searching for a toy she wanted him to buy her, in the end it wasn't even about the toy for Himawari. She was just grateful to have a whole day with her favorite person in the whole world – her daddy.
When Naruto adopted Kawaki into their family, Boruto should have probably been a lot more jealous than he actually was. Naruto devoted a lot of personal time and attention to Kawaki, who suffered a great deal at Jigen's hands while he was being raised, but why didn't he do that with Boruto? Naruto needed to foster trust and show Kawaki that there were good people, good experiences, and hope in the world. Hinata more than likely had Naruto's back on this front when it came to Boruto and Himawari.
Another clear difference is the freedom Naruto and Hinata gave their children over their futures. When Himawari wasn't sure she wanted to go to the academy and become a ninja, no one pushed her into following in their footsteps. Both parents encouraged her to follow her dreams and do what made her most happy, which says a lot about Naruto's visions for the future. The sacrifices he made with his family were a constant effort to maintain the peace Master Jiraiya encouraged him to pursue. So long as he continued to devote himself to the protection of the village and its people, Himawari could go on to become whatever she wanted in life.
Is Naruto a Worse Dad Than Goku?
While both men are obviously absentee dads, Naruto is actually a better father than Goku, at least through representation in the anime and manga. While Boruto may consider his father's explanations as excuses, at least he tries to explain why he isn't always around. Some may see his use of stand-in shadow clones as awful parenting, and maybe that's true to an extent, but they do provide some semblance of effort on his part. It's also important to consider that unlike Goku, Naruto never left his family for years at a time.