Some sayings are known to trigger many parents; I hate you, coming from your child, is one of them.
I want to start by saying that every child in the world will tell their parents they hate them at some point in time. Also, every parent out there will hear these words coming from their child at some point in time. Maybe even often.
Yes – this is normal 🙂 Let’s deconstruct the entire situation and see what’s happening.
Why does Hearing Your Child Say I Hate You Hurt SO Much?
There are quite a few reasons why hearing your child say they hate you hurts so much, and all of them stem from the fact that you’re an adult and they aren’t, yet you often forget that.
You can hold two emotions simultaneously; in other words – even when you hate your kids – you remember that you love them. However, children can only have one emotion at a time, so when HATE takes over – everything else is out of the window.
And lastly – you’re taking it personally – “you have the nerve to tell me that you hate me after everything I’d done for you”?
Or – “I’m doing this in your favor, and you’re telling me that you hate me”?
Let me ease your heart – the following paragraph is about why children say they hate their parents.
Why do Children Say they HATE their Parents?
Children say they hate their parents for the opposite reason than you think – you are the center of your children’s world. You are responsible for everything, and the biggest disappointments come from the biggest love.
As simple as that.
When your child says they hate you, it’s not you that they hate – it’s their current reality that doesn’t meet their needs. And yes – you are <probably> responsible for that.
The more connected you are to your child, the more you see and hear them, the more they expect you to meet their needs. When the desired reality is no longer an option, immense pain walks in and comes out – directed at you when that doesn’t happen.
Remember – it is not about you – it is about them and their wishes and desires.
What NOT to Say When Your Child Says I HATE YOU
Don’t enter any power struggles over the feelings or the situation.
Don’t tell your child “I do still love you” or “I love you even when you’re mad” because “I hate you” is not about you or your love, so this response is irrelevant to the situation.
Don’t say “I don’t believe you” or “of course, you love me,” because, again, “I hate you” is not about you. In addition, this response would make your child feel even less seen and less heard.
“I hate you” are triggering words coming from a triggered child. If you let these words trigger you – then the two of you are a triggered mess that can’t say or do anything beneficial or empowering.
When you feel triggered – own your space and autonomy and leave the situation. Not doing anything is better than making it worse.
What to Say When Your Child Says I HATE YOU
And now we’re getting to the hot sauce, as I say. How to react? What to do when your child says they hate you?
First of all, breathe, and remind yourself it’s not about you. Then remind yourself that it’s not even hate; it’s pain and disappointment, but not hate.
What I always advise to say in these situations is, “oh wow, you’re really disappointed that you can’t watch another episode/go to your friend’s house/have to go to sleep now.”
When you’re reacting to the situation rather than the words you hear, you translate your children’s big emotions back to reality and help them understand what’s going on.
In addition to helping them figure the world and themselves out, it grounds you in reality rather than interpretation; sticking to the facts prevents your brain from spiraling (like your kids do).
So next time your child says, “I hate you,” stay focused on the situation. Then, later on, when the two of you are connected again, complete the cycle and say, “you know, earlier when you told me you hate me, I knew that it wasn’t hate; I knew it was because <insert situation> and you had some powerful feelings about it, right”?
Your child would say “yes,” and you have used this incredible exchange as a learning and connecting opportunity!
Positive Parenting is the best parenting experience 🙂
I’d love to meet you!