When Your Child Says, “I Hate You!”

If it hasn’t happened to you yet, consider yourself lucky. It’s not a matter of “if” it will happen, but rather a matter of “when.”

Sooner or later, your child is going to say “I hate you.”

It might happen when you put your foot down and deny your preschooler the treat at the grocery store. Your 3rd grader might say it when you tell him he can’t go to a friend’s birthday party. The 12-year-old might say it when you refuse to bring her the assignment she forgot. Even after you reminded her three times to take it with her.  Your teen might say it when you won’t let him attend a concert in another state with his friends.  

If you’ve already heard those three hurtful words, I can almost guarantee it won’t be the last time.


What to do when your child says I Hate You

This morning, my daughter had a meltdown after she couldn’t find something for school. I have constantly reminded her to put it in a certain place so she always knows where it is. Having to go to school without it is a learning experience for her, since she will have a consequence for not having it. As my daughter stomped out the door, she shouted angrily, “I hate you.”

I have to admit, my first thought was to yell at her and punish her. Instead, I took a breath, then called after her, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but I love you and I’ll see you after school. Things will be fine. We’ll deal with it.”

We have enough hugs, long chats, and shared fun experiences that I know my children don’t hate me. I know my daughter didn’t really mean it. Sometimes, though, children have these really strong emotions of anger, frustration, or fear, and they don’t know how to control it. So, they lash out. As parents, we are easy targets. I choose to acknowledge this and show love back to my children as much as I can.

However, that doesn’t mean we have to let ourselves be whipping posts for our children. It’s not okay to speak like that to anyone, and it would be wrong to let them think so. Later, when the anger has passed and your child is ready to talk, that’s the time to explain. This afternoon, I will tell my daughter how her words hurt my feelings. I will explain that it’s never okay to talk to someone that way, especially to someone who is such a huge part of her life. She needs to know that it’s okay to be angry and frustrated, but it’s not okay to take that anger out on someone in such a hurtful way. I will tell her I forgive her, and I hope she’ll forgive me for mistakes I make as a mom.  

I will remind her that nothing she does or says will make me stop loving her.

Mother Daughter hug

So, the first time (or the tenth) you hear those three angry words, remember you’re doing your best to chart these parenting waters. In those difficult moments where you want to tear out your hair and throw things, take a deep breath. Find a way to show your child you love them, no matter what.

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