What to do when your child says ‘I hate you!’

‘I hate you!’ No parent wants to hear that.

We do so much for our children and we love them unconditionally.

For them to turn around and say they hate us can be shocking or heartbreaking or infuriating.

And it can be difficult to know what to do.

But, as always, this is an opportunity to get beyond our immediate reaction and guide our children in a loving and supportive way.

How dare they!

Our heads, or our parenting mindset, can get in the way of dealing with this situation effectively.

If we get caught up in ‘How dare they!’ or ‘How cruel!’ or ‘How disrespectful!’, we can end up embroiled in feelings of anger or sadness or annoyance, which can make the situation worse.

Instead, if we acknowledge that our child is having an emotional outburst because they’re still learning to feel and express their emotions, then we can see it as a learning opportunity.

Our children don’t hate us. They just hate the situation or what we’ve asked them to do or how they’re feeling right now.

We are an easy target for that feeling so the outburst is directed at us.

We don’t need to buy into the emotion of the situation. Instead, we can teach.

There are, in fact, two key learning opportunities here.

How are you feeling?

If we drop out of our heads and into our hearts, we can bring more loving energy to the situation and we can use the opportunity to teach emotional skills.

Emotional outbursts happen because children are still learning how to manage and express their emotions effectively.

You can help your child to explore their feelings by first witnessing what they are experiencing.

You could say, ‘I can see that you’re angry’ to acknowledge their feelings.

Once they’ve calmed down or later on, you can then explore the feeling more. You could ask, ‘What does that feel like for you? Where can you feel that in your body?’

You could share what anger feels like for you and discuss other ways that your child could express that anger without blurting out, ‘I hate you’.

Even if your child can’t express what they’re feeling clearly, you’ve acknowledged how they are feeling and you’ve opened up the pathways for their greater self understanding.

This is why we don’t say ‘I hate you!’

The second opportunity here is teaching your child about your family values.

If you take a deep breath, get down to your child’s level, and say in a calm but loving way, ‘I understand that you’re feeling angry. But there are other ways to express how you’re feeling right now’, you can take the sting out of the situation.

You can then reinforce your family values or what’s important in your family.

You could say, ‘We value respect, love and kindness in our family so we don’t say ‘I hate you.’

Teaching children values gives them a barometer for understanding their own behaviour.

When they understand their own behaviour, they can self-regulate and make better choices.

It can be hurtful and a bit shocking if your child says, ‘I hate you’.

But if you don’t take it personally and instead, you stay calm and present in the situation, you can use it as an opportunity to teach your child about their own emotions and your family values.

Jodie Benveniste

Let's hear from you

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *