When your Child Says: I Hate You!

When your Child Says: I Hate You!

The Most Helpful Parenting Response When a Child Says “I Hate You.”

When children feel disappointed, frustrated, angry or other difficult emotions, they may say hurtful words. Sometimes those words are  “I HATE YOU!” or “I hate you so much mom!”

That small phrase packs quite the emotional punch – especially the very first time you hear it.

Last summer, while on vacation, my four year old son asked for a toy at a store and I declined to buy it. My son’s eyes squinted and his face tensed up as he said ever so clearly  “I hate you!”

I had never heard such words from my son before and it was quite the surprise.

The secret message behind hurtful words

“I hate you” is often code for something beyond what we are hearing.  Children aren’t always able to express all their feelings in eloquent ways. Especially when they feel overwhelmed or upset. The words they use tend to represent more of how they feel on the inside than what they really think about us.

What these hurtful words from our children actually mean is more like:

  • “you are really not understanding what I need right now.”
  • “you are not listening to me.”
  • “we are totally disconnected right now.”
  • “I feel hurt.”
  • “I have big feelings and don’t know how to explain them.”
  • “I wish you would see things from my perspective.”
  • “what you want and what I need are not in sync.

As parents we give so much love, of course hearing “I hate you” can feel really hurtful.

 It’s tempting to be reactive or dismissive and say things like:

  • “Fine! I hate you too”
  •  “Whatever”
  •  “Nah, you don’t you are just saying that”
  •  “Go ahead, hate me all I want but I’m not cooking you dinner!”
  •  “How dare you say that, go to your room!”
  • “Haha – good one, I’ve been waiting to hear that!”

The problem is none of those words help restore connection or help children learn to deal with overwhelming emotions.

Responding calmly to “I hate you”  isn’t always easy. In that moment, our children really need us to be sensitive, compassionate, loving and empathetic.

Transform the hate by being loving enough, in that moment, for the both of you.

On that day when I didn’t buy a toy for my son I said to him:   “Wow you must be really upset right now.”  Tears started flowing and a tiny, shaky voice said “Mom, I’m really mad that Georgy died”

My in laws dog had passed away that very same day and we had found out just a few minutes before going inside the store.  My son went on, “now you won’t buy me the toy I really like” and more tears came about.

The tears had hardly anything to do with the toy I wouldn’t buy and so much to do with loss and grief so I offered some kind words.  “Sounds like a really tough day?”

“YES” my son answered clearly upset.

I asked my son if he would like a hug and he melted into my arms. He had no hate in his heart at all. He didn’t mean to be disrespectful. He just didn’t have the right words or the maturity to handle his sadness.

Some positive ways to respond to a child when they say “I hate you”:

Say nothing but stay close: your child may have more upset feelings to unload.

Try saying something gentle and understanding:

  •  “you must be really hurting” 
  • “my words weren’t what you wanted to hear”

Reflect what you think is happening:

  •  “I can see that what I said/did/ may have been very upsetting to you.”
  • “I hear you. You hate me right now.”
  • “Ok. You didn’t like what I just said/decided.”

Accept that time to cool off  may be needed:

  • “I want to listen to you when you feel ready to share with me.”
  •  “I’m here for you, when you feel ready.”
  • “I think you want space, so I will go now AND I’m happy to listen to you whenever you want to talk.”

Hearing “I hate you” is not easy and there are no magic words to say back to erase it. Listening, empathizing, connecting and remembering to be loving enough for the both of you can make a difference. The aim of disciplining children when they use unhelpful words can be to create opportunities for understanding and connection. Hate is a powerful word, with big feelings behind it. Our children need guidance in these moments so they will be able to do better.  Don’t be afraid to show kindness to a child that is feeling hate.

What you give to your child will grow. 

Peace & Be Well,

Ariadne

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Ariadne is a happy and busy mama to three children. She practices peaceful, playful, responsive parenting and is passionate about all things parenting and chocolate. Ariadne has a B.S. in Communication, is a certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator, and has completed several graduate courses in child development, psychology and family counseling. She lives on top of a beautiful mountain with her family, one cuddly dog and "bluey" the fish.

65 Responses to When your Child Says: I Hate You!

  1. My almost 4 yr old daughter has been saying this ALOT lately. It’s usually accompanied by “you’re stupid”. She blurts it out as soon as I or anyone of her sisters says or does anything she doesn’t like. It’s very frustrating. I’m glad I found this article.

    • WOW…for a second there I thought that this was something I submitted b/c I noticed your name…but, then I noticed the date. I swear to God, I could very easily substitute my name on your story, and it would fit perfectly. My family is going through the exact same thing with our almost 4 yr old. She, too, blurts the same hateful words to her sisters and I, daily. We are at our wits end. :/ Hopefully, your now 5 yr old has surpassed this phase! I will be SO glad to be done with it!!! 🙂

      • Sarah, I really do believe that every family needs to find what works best for the whole family. That being said, I don’t believe violence is ever the answer. Hitting does not teach children how to be respectful or kind. I have never met a child that wanted to behave well after being hit or hurt, fearful yes. truly respectful no. Treating our children how we expect them to treat others (and us!) I think really matters. I understand that it can be hurtful and startling to hear such words, but what we model makes an impact, it really does. I wish you much kindness and patience for your children and the very best on your parenting journey.

  2. my 9yr old has started the comment u dont love me…when i tell him do he just keeps repeating it and he wants to live at dads. dad and i have joint custody 1wk w dad 1wk w mom. he has gotten violent w me and screams things like dont make me angry or ill have to hit u. ice spoken w hia father and he insists tht it doesnt happen there. the kids also state dads said they dont have to live w me and other comments similar so i feel depressed cuz im lost at wat to do. help!

    • Hi CaliocoKitty

      I’m going through something similar with my boy. He just turned seven and he seems to want to be with his dad more. We’re 1 week off, 1 week on as well. And he yells and screams at me and says I hate you and I know he does not talk to his dad like that. I may be a bit harder on him but I”m also the parent that does more for him in the sense of going places, tantalizing his mind and doing things that I think help him grow. Dad is more of a low-key guy that likes to watch a lot of tv. :/ I’m saying all that to say that it’s frustrating to know I do so much and yet I’m the parent that get’s all the crap. Makes me not want to do as much…

      • Kat, thanks for sharing your story. Seven is such an incredible age but it can also be emotionally demanding. It sounds like you are a very attentive mama, don’t forget to take time to yourself to recharge!

        • Hello to all three of you wonderful women,
          As a child whos parents went through a divorse that torn my world apart, I’d just like to say this: For a long time I resented my mother for deciding to end their relationship. It was very hard on me, but a lot of it was because, as a child, I couldn’t see things from her perspective. I simply didn’t know how to relate to her feelings. As I grew up and started dating I started understanding more and more. I don’t remember saying “I hate you.”, but I do remember distancing myself a lot. The reason I wanted to share this is because I wanted to point out that it didn’t last. I love my mother very much and now realize that she just wasn’t happy. It can be very hard for a child to go through a divorce because everything they once knew is different and it’s hard to change. My mother did, however, allow us to stay with our dad as long as we wanted (even though she missed us so extremely), but she realized that making us choose between her and our father would have hurt us so much more. (She had moved to a different state and it would have been hard to see our father.) So please, don’t give up on them. They just don’t understand their own feelings yet. It’s still hard for us, but we make sure to tell our mom as much as possible that we love her and I believe eventually your children will do the same.
          Love and peace to each of you.

  3. My son just turned 4 and has been saying “I don’t like you” when he’s frustrated for some time, But yesterday he started saying “I don’t like you. Die now.” I’ve been reacting calmly and firmly, and I hope it is just a phase. I am acknowledging his frustration, but haven’t gotten to the bottom of it yet, and I think he’s partly just tired. Your article is great – so helpful. I definitely have enough love for both and will continue sharing it. Thanks!

      • My husband asked to my 5 yr old son. “Do you love me? and he answered I am loving you dad but you don’t love me. My husband said that’s not true I love you. Why did you say that?The kid answered because you told me before that you don’t love me. My husband thinking when did i said that to him or maybe I really said it but it was just a joke i didn’t mean it. So he asked again “do you love” our son reply no i don’t love now. So my husband go to bed he felt with frustration and angry to our son. Now, I don’t know to explain correctly to my husband that he was just a child and he doesn’t really understand what his saying and I want him to explain to our son that it was a hurt words that to say to anyone. Instead of giving an advice to our son he just walked out to their conversation and said to the kid “I don’t love you too cause you don’t love me. As a mother I felt hurt and irritate. What should I do and how I handle a situation like this.

        • Hi Genie,
          For many adults it is difficult to accept the authentic expressions from children. Children are good at being honest about how they feel in that moment. It can be a special thing for a parent to embrace and welcome that honesty and to be emotionally strong in that moment. As the adults – we have the life experiences our children do not yet have. The good news is that it’s never too late to try and repair a relationshiop. At age five, children delight in being in the company of their loved ones. I wonder what would happen if you encouraged this father and son to spend some time together, playing, going to a park, having a meal together, just spending time getting to know each other. Repairing a relationship is all about taking time to be together and love comes from feeling accepted, secure and spending time together in a fun way is a wonderful way to grow that bond. Best wishes.

  4. My 3 year old said this out of the blue. This article was pretty unhelpful to me unfortunately. I listen, I’m with her all the time and have a lot of patience. Couldn’t help but feel hurt by this. She told me she “wants a different one mommy”.

  5. My 3 yo sometimes comes out with I don’t like you… Usually if upset about being told no to something . I always tell her that I love her, that she may feel like that right now but that I love her no matter what.

    The first couple of times I heard it, it was hard and I remember trying to tell her that had hurt my feelings but this way is much better. It’s taking the comment for what it is, frustration, not really disliking mummy.

    • Nicole, yes as much as it is hard to hear those words, letting our children feel what they need to feel in that moment is really a way for them to move past the feelings and ultimately feel safe that their frustrations can be honored. thanks for sharing your experience!

  6. My son (6) tells me “I hate you” a lot lately. Always because his demands is impossible and I can’t give in. So far, I’ve stayed calm. But what happens when he is 16? Then “I hate you” will not be so easy to shake off.

    • Audrie, it can be hard to hear that “I hate you” sometimes it is helpful to use this as a clue that the relationship between parent and child needs some extra attention. Could you set up a special date with your son, go to a park together to ride bikes or just to run around, it doesn’t have to be anything that costs money, just really time spent together. It’s tempting to worry about the future (part of the parenting thing) but if you could focus on the here and now, cherish your son for who he is and what he is able to do now, try to empathize when he is frustrated, “you really wish you could have …and I really can’t give it to you, if I were you, I’d be upset too. sorry buddy and my answer is no.” Sometimes, just letting them know we actually do understand they are disappointed is enough… you might just be able to build back up a really loving and connected relationship now, well before you get to 16!

  7. My 5 yr old is very hard to deal with. He has to say no to everything even if it is going out to the mall. He has been telling me that he hates me and that he doesnt even want me in the house, he told me once “you are not my mother!” I try to tell him that i love him, and to make sure he ends up doing the right thing, even if a part of it. It is not easy…

  8. I know this is an older post but I came across it in a search. We’re hearing “I hate” a lot from our 4 year old. Not just “I hate you” but “I hate bedtime” or “I hate such n such food”. It’s getting to be a little much. She has a hard time articulating her wants and needs anyway so I think she’s really clung tight to this phrase.

    When she says “I hate you” our first words before ANYTHING else are “I love you” and then we try to figure out BETTER words for her to use. Usually we have a good idea why she is upset or angry. When it’s that or anything else we also encourage her to say “I don’t like” instead. It’s also come to the point where we try to get her to spend some time alone to calm down and think about how she feels so then she can come talk to use about it.

    Hard stuff!

  9. When my 5 year old son says these things I handle it just fine. Yet when my 7yr old daughter says it, it breaks my heart in two and I can’t handle it! Why?

  10. I have the same problem here! I’m more of the disciplinary parent, rules, do’s and do not’s, and I know this may be a lot to handle for my 5 years old son. But also I blame my husband, and this is my biggest problem: he speaks negatively about me to my son and tell him to ignore me when I’m disciplining him!! I’m so mad at him right now! I talked to him about that, told him that my kids wont respect me at all ( and that’s what’s happening right now) I’m so sad and don’t know how to deal with that? Should I ignore what he’s saying and just focus on bonding with my son?

  11. My 12 nearly 13 year old daughter hates me because I was the initiator of the separation due to my now ex having an affair. It went on for 4 years but she still doesn’t understand so blames me for everything. All she sees is that I kicked my ex out (who has 100% care now) and not that I actually protected her and her sister from further heart break. I have tried giving her space but there have been so many lies told and even when I met someone new it was taken as me “rejecting” my daughters. My 5 year old has grown up in this environment (I was pregnant when the affair started) so she knows no different but is affected by my eldests actions and words, sometimes to the point of being scared of her sister. Counselling hasnt worked, space hasnt worked, telling her I love her everyday hasnt worked. I am at a loss at what to do next. My ex doesnt help with saying things to my daughter like “if I would change it all I could” making me out to be the bad one. I just want my daughter to come home. Its been 5 months :(.

    • I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time with your eldest daughter. It may be time to do some gentle, non-detailed explaining about what took place, without resentment or anger towards your ex. Soon she will be entering into relationships of her own, and it’s good for her to understand that people have boundaries of what they can live with. She needs to know it’s okay for people to keep their limits even while forgiving the other person. (As an aside: Are you absolutely sure your ex is saying the above, or could it be that its your daughters version of what she hears?)

  12. My  12 nearly 13 year old daughter hates me because I was the initiator of the separation due to my now ex having an affair. It went on for 4 years but she still doesn’t understand so blames me for everything. All she sees is that I kicked my ex out (who has 100% care now) and not that I actually protected her and her sister from further heart break. I have tried giving her space but there have been so many lies told and even when I met someone new it was taken as me “rejecting” my daughters. My 5 year old has grown up in this environment (I was pregnant when the affair started) so she knows no different but is affected by my eldests actions and words, sometimes to the point of being scared of her sister. Counselling hasnt worked, space hasnt worked, telling her I love her everyday hasnt worked. I am at a loss at what to do next. My ex doesnt help with saying things to my daughter like “if I would change it all I could” making me out to be the bad one. I just want my daughter to come home. Its been 5 months :(.

  13. my 7 year old daughter has autism. She tells me on a daily basis, often several times a day, that she hates me, that I’m mean, and that I’m ugly. I have gone a really long time just meeting her with kindness and understanding and not taking it personally – she’s delayed, she doesn’t quite understand her words, yet; even though I desperately try to understand why she is continually verbally aggressive and abusive toward me. it is waring on me, though. it makes me sad. a person can only hear the same mean words for so long before it starts to have an effect on them.

    • Shannon, your situation sounds challenging. I agree with you that hearing these words and your interactions with your daughter can be very hurtful. I hope you have a source of support like a friend or counselor that will listen to you and give you a safe place to vent your frustrations. When children are verbally aggressive and abusive it is very important to set clear boundaries and also to have personal support, time for self care and help to get through it all. I wish you strength and patience.

  14. I totally disagree with this.

    What about a NORMAL response? My 5 yr old daughter told me she hated me this morning, for the first time. My response was helplessly organic: my eyes filled with tears and I stared at her with disbelief, before telling her that it hurts peoples’ hearts to talk to them that way and you must always think before you yell something bad. I told her my feelings were hurt, and I needed to take some time for myself for a few moments.

    I’m just not down with the suggestion of gritting your teeth and pretending to feel loving, positive and charitable when your heart is choking. Our values are passed down to our children only by being our authentic selves and letting children know what matters to us. If your kid says “I HATE YOU!” and it rightfully hurts your feelings, tell your kid it hurts your feelings. THAT is the way they will learn, that is the way they will know you and love you for who you are, how they will remember you as a good and honest woman in the future.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts Jane. Sometimes children may say “i hate you” because they need help articulating feelings they aren’t quite sure how to express. Many parents feel offended or may punish this authentic expression from the child. The idea here is just to give parents a different perspective on common behavior and welcome those that would like to, to be accepting and loving when the child is upset. Thanks again for sharing.

  15. I read this too late. Tonight after a long day of work (12 hrs) I was hpi g my 6 and 7 year olds with homework. As I was helping my daughter, my son started yelling at me. So I switched to him. My daughter finished her homework then went to get her ice cream, well my husband ate it. So she let me have it. All I heard over and over again was how much she hated me and how stupid I am. Then my son began with the same remarks. Being exhaughsted, and looking back, I didn’t handel it well. I stayed calm, told them they were disrespectful, and now they can put themselves to bed. Then I ignored them. I did it for 20 minutes them they were both sobbing out of control. And it was now after 9. I hugged them and told them I loved them. I read this article and I’m keeping it open on my phone.

    • “I hugged them and told them I loved them.” You got this mama! Some days are toughter than others. The fact that you are willing to show up again, hug and keep trying speaks volumes. It’s so hard to stay calm when children push buttons and say hurtful things. It can take a lot of practice to stay calm, respond and not react. The more we reflect and try, the easier it gets, so don’t give up. This post on reconnecting after a tough moment might be helpful too.

  16. My 3 year old recently overheard a very heated argument with my husband where “I effing hate you” was said more than once by both parents. Not out finest moment at all. A couple of weeks after the fight, our toddler started using the phrase and I have to admit it completely guts me every time. I don’t know how to stop him from saying it. He’s the kind of child who will do it more just for the negative attention, despite the ample positive attention he gets each day. We just spent a wonderful afternoon together at the pool and because I refused to rock him for the third time after he crawled out of bed, he said “effing hate you” and now I’m sitting here in the dark in tears wondering what I can do to stop this….besides the obvious…get his dad and I into therapy and a babysitter, stat!!!

    • Hi April,

      I’m sure this feel really difficult. For young children, when parents fight, it can be really scarry. It is quite normal and expected that they will repeat the words and behaviors they observed. They repeat it, to understand it. Your 3 year old saw you two disagree and he learned in that moment that saying “I effing hate you” is a “CLEAR” ( although not helpful) way to say “I disagree with you. I dislike what you are saying. I wish things would go MY way”. It is hurtful when children (and spouses) use such language. Somethings you may want to consider:

      Make up, hug and smile with your husband, in front of your 3 year old.
      Talk to your husband about creating an argument plan (a counselor can help you here if it’s an ongoing issue) this way you can argue politely or have a safe way to wait until the 3 year old is not listening.
      Tell your 3 year old that sometimes your husband and you will have disagreements, but that you will both ALWAYS love him.
      In those moments your 3 year old repeats this language. Listen and validate. Stick with me, it sounds odd, but in that moment, your little one needs LOVE and acceptance to feel safe. You can let him know you hear he doesn’t like your decision (you don’t like it that mama will not rock you. I love you. it’s sleeping time) So essentially you are validating feelings, keeping your limit and helping your child feel loved, even if he doesn’t like your decision.
      Teach your child (when he is calm) some feelings words so he has better words to tell you he is mad / sad/ frustrated / disappointed / scared.
      Remember children live moment to moment and being willing to re-connect, offer love and support is always helpful.
      Don’t punish the “effing hate you” as this will only make it seem all that more interesting.

      I hope that is helpful to you and wish you all the best.

  17. My ex and I co-parent our 2 1/2 year old. He takes her for extended weekends every other week and I raise her the rest of the time. Recently, when I have to pick her up from her dad’s house, she yells out “I don’t like mama. I don’t want to go to mama’s house”. This upsets me so much since I give everything to my daughter. Her dad and his girlfriend are also present so that doesn’t add to the equation.

    I know I’m not supposed to take it personally and find ways to understand what my daughter is trying to say but it is so hurtful to hear those words. I know she doesn’t mean it but, boy, it rips my heart in two every time.

    • Zhenia, I bet you put so much effort into caring for your daughter. At 2 and half, I would guess what she is trying to say is that going to mama’s house means leaving her dad and she wishes she wouldn’t have to do that. Trust that your constant loving presence will be enough mama. Transitions are hard for toddlers, I bet it would be nice if you try to plan doing something nice together after pick ups. best wishes, and yes keep forgiving and not taking it personally whenever you can!!

    • Carly, my 6 year old is saying the same and she spends a good amout of time with her father. It sounds as though we parent very much the same as well. I’m concerned that dad is manipulating my daughter’s mind. Is there any chance you have those same concerns. I’m hoping you say no, as it would mean that for both our children it’s developmental. My daughter is getting ready to go in to therapy and hoping that this will help her deal with her emotions.

  18. It was refreshing to read through the comments and see I am not the only one experiencing this with their child. My son is 6 years old and the “I hate you” has become a regular occurrence in his vocabulary. I have tried every approach I have read about and I always respond to it with “well I love you” but recently he accompanies the I hate you’s with “now you don’t love me anymore, you think I’m stupid, you wish I were dead” and other terrible things which I have never once even said in any fashion, I actually say the exact opposite, constantly telling him that even when I am mad and upset with him and his behavior that I always love him and am always trying to encourage his learning and praising him when he makes improvements in that respect. I consider my self a very rational parent. I try to discuss things with my children, always allowing them to come to me when they are ready to talk. I use their level logic to try and help them understand situations and what the repercussions of their actions will be….but nothing is working. My youngest is now sharing his brother frustration just out of mimicking.
    I’m exhausted and at the verge of giving up. I also am in the situation as a few I read above that is separated from their father and I am the “stern” parent because I have rules and structure and don’t let them play video games all day or eat diets made up of mainly processed microwave dinners so I have always been getting the “I hate your weeks, I just want to live with dad”.
    It’s a daily struggle that I mainly cry my self to sleep with at the end of every day.

  19. My 4 year old son says that too. It’s really easy to say “so, what!”. But before i respond to him, i look at him for a few seconds and tell him that i still love him. I hug him even if he says he doesn’t like me. I still do it anyway. After he’s calm, i ask why and he tells me. But it doesn’t stop him from saying he hates me every now and then.

    • Kathryn, sounds to me like your son feels safe to express himself freely and authentically! What a wonderful thing that is for him! Even if it’s hard to hear those words, I bet your son loves you so very much. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  20. My 3 year old and I were walking to the car earlier and when I tried to help her get her bag over her neck as requested, she yelled that she didn’t want it on and didn’t want it. She then started crying and said she didn’t want to go home, she didn’t like me and wanted a different mummy. I told her I love her and she replied by informing me she didn’t love me. I’m heartbroken

    • Hannah, it does sting to hear those words. Three year olds do love to express really big feelings during moments of frustration. Sounds like this was your daughters way of saying that leaving was just so hard. Being willing to forgive those words, knowing it’s not really personal and repairing is part of relationship building and showing unconditional love. I hope you will find a way to laugh and hug together later on today. Trust that in her heart, she really does love you.

  21. lol my little daughter told me she hates me because i didnt buy her a stuffed animal , i told her that it hurt my feeling and she said she didnt mean it.but i can see that it dont fix the problem for good. i like what you wrote about figuring out more on there level to talk to them better.

  22. My son is newly 12. He seems to think that we favor his older sister over him. I cannot recall any behaviors that may make him think this. He usually yells and declares that we hate him and that he feels like we don’t love him. Any words of advice? I feel like I am drowning here. Counseling, maybe? Book suggestions? HELP!

    • Hi Angie,

      I would highly suggest some one on one time – you and your son. Doing something he would like to do. “I hate you” is so often code for “you don’t understand me” so taking time to be together, to enjoy each other, can help so much. Also daily chats – maybe before bed time? Sit by him, let him talk and be a listener. At first he may not open up, that is ok. Just let him know he has your company to do anything he would like to do with you, each day, 15 minutes! What do you think?

  23. I am reaching out of desperation and hoping to get some feedback. If nothing else, it is slightly comforting to know I am not alone.
    Our 7 year old daughter has always been more sensitive than her 10 and 12 year old brothers. However, recently things have gone to another level. At age 7 she is very expressive and has a well-developed vocabulary. When something doesn’t go her way she tells us “You don’t understand me” “I want a new family that appreciates me” “You guys are mean to me” “She’s tired of being treated this way” “We take her joy away” “we are ruining her life” and she has even gone so far as to say “just kill me”. The last comment was because we took her tablet away (after she abused her privileges over and over again).
    This evening, at bed time, she didn’t want to sleep in her room (by herself) it is a school night and each child must sleep in their own rooms because otherwise they do not get enough sleep and become grumpy and unreasonable (she’s really the only one that becomes irrational). We let them sleep in our room or together in one of their rooms on the weekends. She threw such a fit over sleeping in her bed and ran and hid downstairs and told us we don’t appreciate her. We said we do appreciate you but we don’t appreciate when we tuck you into bed and you run around the house crying and keeping everyone awake. She then preceded to tell us we’re not her parents anymore and asked where he real parents are. We talked though some things with her and she kept saying we don’t understand her we kept asking how we can better understand her. She said she didn’t want to sleep in her bed because last night she snuck some bread up into her room and got crumbs in her bed and didn’t want to sleep in crumbs (we didn’t see any) and by this time it was so late she was in bed with us and all the sudden ‘just fine’. I am not sure if she is an emotionally sensitive child and truly she ‘feels’ more than others or if she acts out to get her way. On one hand I want to have a therapy session each time she feels so hurt (but the reasons are so irrational at times) on the other hand I feel like we do ‘give in’ and she then is fine once she gets what she was upset about. I guess I am not sure of her reasoning behind the outbursts of emotion and so I am not sure how to handle it.
    We are pretty good about listening to her feelings and talking through them and explain why we’ve made the rules/decisions we have but sometimes she’s just plain unreasonable. I am concerned about our relationship as she ages. I am concerned that we’re not doing something right (right now). We divide our time evenly among the children. Just last week she had a daddy/daughter date day. She complains that we (my husband and I) spend too much time together and not enough time with her (even though most of the time we spend together is after they go to bed). The boys have never complained about such a thing.
    I think because she can articulate her feelings fairly well for age 7 it’s shocking and hurtful to hear these words/emotions (especially because they really are so trivial from an adult perspective –I know at 7 it’s the end of the world when you don’t get your way) I understand emotions aren’t logical and I guess I am trying to make sure we’re doing all that we can to ensure that she turns out okay. I was always told that I was ‘dramatic’ as a child but I don’t remember.
    Any insight or pearls of wisdom are greatly appreciated. Thank you all in advance.

  24. My daughter who is four recently started telling me she wants to go to her dads whenever she doesn’t get her way as hurtful as that has been, tonight she took it to the next level and told me she wants to live with her dad when she gets older, that ripped my heart right out of me. I live for my child and love and support her unconditionally, and when she says these things I can barely stand to look at her. Her father is a jerk to me and I know for a fact is brainwashing her to hate me. I have calls into a therapist but what do I do in the meantime? The thought of her going to his house for the weekend makes my stomach hurt. Mind you we have not been together since she was three months old. He shows her pictures of when we were together tells her I was mean to him, says nasty things about my partner and puts in her head bad things about me! Someone please give me some advise!

  25. Hi Ariadne
    I am the father of two teenage daughters and a nine year son. I am married, but I am a Mr. Mom. I do everything for the kids, from cooking, caretaking, school activities, doctors appointments, etc. I am also the main bread winner. Whenever my son becomes fustrated and cannot get his way, he says that he hates me and I never do anything for him. I am challenged with keeping an appropriate tone, but I have worked on staying calm. His behavior is very hurtful. His expression of hate is usually followed by defiance, such as locking himself in his room and refusing to open the door. After his last outburst, I have since removed the door knob and locks on his door. Discussing his concerns seem to lead no way. He is usually unreasonable and maintains that his actions are justified because I didn’t listen to and fix what he wanted. I believe that there should be consequences for actions, especially disrespect. Some words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated. All three kids perform amazingly at school and demonstrate great individual decisions making outside of the home. Hearing these things from my son makes it very difficult to keep doing what I do. Most of all I am very scare of losing my relationship with him

    • Hi Esmond, Thanks for sharing your story and experiences here. It’s tricky when children are feeling in such a way that it comes out as hate / defiance. What jumps out here reading your experience is this sentence: “His expression of hate is usually followed by defiance, such as locking himself in his room and refusing to open the door” Do you think this can be your son’s way of expressing his disconnection in that moment? Could he be overwhelmed with emotions he does not not yet how to work through? Is he allowed to have negative feelings? Sometimes stewing opens the door for reflection, for making new decisions. If we can trust our children and give them space – being near but not dictating what they do – to fully feel their frustration and the pass through and over it – they can best learn to self-regulate and feel better. What is at the heart of this disconnection? It’s ok for children to NOT like all parental decisions. And it’s OK for parents to understand and even welcome the idea that in not liking the decision, the child needs time and space to feel / process and then organically “get over” (in a positive sense) and accept that decision. So I wonder, is your son allowed to dislike your decisions? Most children will NOT say “wow thanks mom/dad for setting a limit, for telling me no, I can see your wisdom in not allowing me to do xyz…” but they will eventually come to trust and accept the limits we set – IF we give them space and permission to authentically feel whatever they do feel. Validating can go a long way here…”I get this isn’t the decision you expected. I would be frustrated/sad in your shoes too.I’m willing to listen if you need to complain. And the decision is final.” What do you think?

      • Thanks Ariadne. It wasn’t the decision I expected, but one that I can identify with. My daughters have said to me that my way isn’t the only way. I will continue to re visit your response for support of my approach moving forward. I am also going take some advice you shared with another parent and plan some more one on one time with him, so he can speak and I do the listening
        Thanks

  26. I’m really hoping I can get a response from you… I’m not sure how to react to my 4 year old. Just today she told me she hated me and wished that I was killed forever…. It was heartbreaking. I gave her a timeout after she refused to stop whining and fussing about her hot chocolate not being the right temperature! The part that I am having trouble with is that when its time for the consequences that I have clearly laid out for her she says I need you and want you to calm me down. I feel as though she is using this tactic to further get under my skin and prolong any arguing or bargaining but at the same time I want to reassure her. I feel as though I am getting this part really wrong and don’t know how to balance the reassurance with the consequence. Typically I try to fallow through with the consequence first and quite often remind her that I’m sorry and that I don’t want to have to do it and that I love her and that we can have a hug afterwards… Is it wrong to deny her hug? And not going to lie but usually in that moment I’m not feeling so snuggly. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    • Hi Brittany, thanks for sharing your story here. It sounds like your intent is in the right place, you are trying to follow through consistently. The challenge seems to be here finding a balance between setting a consequence and making space for your daughters emotional needs. At age four, a child is still learning how to cope well with dissapointment, frustration, anger etc…And a parent being calm and understanding is often needed so the child will feel safe, secure and understood. It’s often helpful to say back to your child what you are observing when they are upset…in the case of the hot chocolate it might sound like “wow, you are really upset that the hot chocolate isn’t the right temperature. am I understanding you?” this is often much more helpful than saying “stop whinning. stop crying. it will cool down…just have patience..” As adults, we have the life experience and wisdom to know it will change…to a child, in the moment, it’s just so frustrating! Letting a child know we UNDERSTAND them is usually much more helpful than sending them to time out for having feelings of frustration. I would encourage you to notice what your child is feeling and like a mirror, say those feelings back to her. It’s not necessary to deny a hug either. Why? Becuase our job as parents can be to both hold our decision AND make space for feelings. You can both say NO to something AND be kind and offer a hug. for example “You can’t watch anymore TV right now. I see this is upsetting to you….and while you say this you offer a hug” The hug helps the child believe she is SAFE and loved by you…even when the answer isn’t exactly what she wanted. You might like this post on setting limits and following through And this one with three steps for fixing unacceptable behaviors Hope that helps!

  27. So my 4 year old just started saying this. We have a new baby on the way, so I am not sure if it is because of the big changes coming? Recently, we went to the store and my one condition is that he has to hold my hand while crossing the parking lot. Well this time he just ran across the road laughing to the car. I was really upset and I yelled at him, at which point he said that he looked both ways and that he hates me for yelling at him. I know it was a bad gut reaction to yell but I was truly terrified. I told him he will not be coming out with me ever again if he doesn’t hold my hand. He said he is old enough to not hold my hand, and he hates me. Anyway I started crying and I think he saw that he hurt mommy so after a few moments he said, mommy I am so sorry. So now whenever he doesn’t get his way, he always says I hate you for saying that. So he doesn’t say I hate you directly, but I hate you for…. Just trying to figure out how to deal with it. I guess just trying to listen and be there for him. He responds pretty well to “talking it out”. It’s just the parking lot incident scared me to death and being pregnant I am super emotional too. I also am really fearful of how he will behave after the baby is born, I have an amazing bond with him and I don’t want to lose it.

  28. My seven and half year old told her father that she hated me I confronted her and asked her and she said she doesn’t really like me. That she only kind of loves me. We have shared custody 1wk on 1wk off as some others do too.
    Her father and I don’t get along and she feels that tension. She knows we highly dislike each other and she wants to live with him.
    She lies to her dad about me and says some horrible and extreme things, that I hit her and leave bruises (I don’t) that I do other mean things and that I ignore her. She tells him that I ignore her, that I don’t take her to do fun things and that I yell and swear at her all the time. I do yell at her as I find it’s the only way I can get her to listen. The thing is almost every weekend we’re out doing things like going to festivals, the pool, swimming at the beach, going camping and lots of other activities.
    I really don’t know what to do or how to react. I’m so hurt and truly believe she hates me. Her father is well off and can offer her many things and keeps her very busy. I can’t provide those same opportunities and I don’t think that’s helping any.
    I would really love to hear some advise as I’m truly in shock, I’m so beyond hurt and just completely broken hearted. I don’t know what to do or where to turn anymore to help her.

  29. My daughter is 3 weeks away from being born, so i havent had to deal with this yet, but i know from growing up that children can have strong feelings and not know what to do with them. I remember my mother saying to my brother “I hate you too.” when he would say that to her, which always made him cry because he was 4 and his own mom was saying she hated him when he probably didnt even mean it and was just upset without knowing how to say it. Because of the abuse we suffered (she once beat him so bad that a relative had to take him away from her) i sometimes wonder if she meant it and just kept us because she had to (this is something she said to me more than once). I have already begun contemplating how i will handle certain situations when my own daughter gets here, like what to do when she melts down in the store or if/when she says i hate you to me or my husband. I found your article helpful. I wish to break the cycle of abuse, and i think i will print your advice out and put it in my words of wisdom jar (advice other relatives have given to me to keep in mind when i feel stressed out). That way i know i can always find it and use it as guide.

  30. Hi I am need of some urgent help
    I am seeing a lady with a 8 year old kid , and recently these was some issues that arises, one being the son all of a sudden don’t like me and don’t want me and his mum to be together, worse of all he does not even want to see me, and those gifts i got for him he has put them away for good
    My GF now wants to break up because she feels that if her son don’t accept she won’t accept too
    Please help me
    Aaron

    • Aaron,
      relationship building takes time – if you are really invested in keeping the relationship with this mother and child you may need to be very patient. You may want to talk openly with the mother and ask her to help you find ways to genuinely connect with the child. But only do this if you are actually serious about being part of the child’s life. Building a bond of trust takes a lot of effort and it needs to be genuine for the child to really trust you. It’s not possible to know what the history of this family is, what the child may be worried about….the goal would be to create special moments all together like going to the park, playing board games, being available to the child and show the child that his mom and you have his best interest at heart. When you choose to be in a relationship with someone that has a child it is important to ask yourself if you are ready to commit to the whole family – ups and downs – issues and all. Best wishes and I hope you will not give up and instead believe that you and your friend can work this out.

  31. I am 12 years old, and my father passed away not oo long ago. At the start my mom was being strict with uss saying we need to stick together. But these days it’s nothing like that. It’s hard enough for me, since I’m the youngest and I was the closest to my dad, but they are only making it worse. They yell at me for no reason, which would be okay every now and then, trust me I’m an understanding person. My brother, my sister, and my mom argue with me all the time. It always ends up with me crying, hurt in my room, telling dad what just happened. My siblings curse at me, push me andmy sister slapped me once. The last gift I got from dad was a pug. I’ve always been the one who cared about her the most, but now since she is all I have, I need to protect her. Not too long ago she got sick, and I told my sister when she picked her up, stop touching her stomach, because she will throw up like last time. She yelled at me to shut up, so did my brother who happened to hear what I said. Guess what? She did throw up. I could write books about the things they did and said to hurt me. I hate them so much. The famous response I heard to the question “What’s your problem?”… it was “You.” What should I do? They are ruining my life and my personality too. I was told that I’m too serious nowdays and I’m much more quiet and sensitive too. My moods turned into a sudden rollercoaster as well. I don’t want to change. Help me.

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