First reaction.

Angry Kid

"My child hates me" ! That hurts when a kid says "I hate you" to his mum or dad. It's devastating because the word "hate" sounds terrible to us. But there is actually no reason you should feel hurt.

As in every things our kids are doing and saying, what's most important isn't our immediate reaction but our understanding of their behavior and words in order for us to react appropriately ! They're not adults and therefore don't express their feelings the same way as we do. Be aware of that.

"My child hates me, he SAID so !". Yes he said it and I'm sure he sounded honest too ! But there's another way of looking at it.

Why ?

Angry little girl

First of all, saying "my child hates me" is not realistic because your child cannot hate you. The feeling of hate belongs to grown-ups. It requires a sense of good and bad, real reasons, it's a psychological state children can't experience. So when your kid says "I hate you", he is actually very angry and anger is a strong feeling for a child. It happens when your kid feels powerless because he does not have control over things and sees you're the one who's imposing the rules !

Children are always trying things, they don't know their limits and they don't know ours. That's why they are so extreme in their reaction and words : "You're not my mother anymore !". But that's also what we're here for, right ? Teach them how to understand their feelings and express them. Don't forget there isn't much subtelty in how they apprehend the world. They like something or they don't. They're happy or they're sad. Then little by little they learn how to recognize a wide range of feelings.

A short word about teenagers to tell you that their use of the word "hate" isn't that different from a child. They don't choose to experiment all these changes in their bodies and minds and they need to express extreme feelings to know themselves better. It's not easy for them and we're here to give them a loving help.

How to react ?

Father and son

Explaining things to children is very important. Staying calm too. It's not always easy but you should never forget that kids actually pay attention to our reactions. They need to know what makes us angry, what they're allowed to do. Yes, they are testing us.

What is important if your child says "I hate you" is to temper your own emotions because the question here isn't "My child hates me, how can I stay calm ??", the question is how to make him understand that you don't accept that kind of language and that there are other ways to express his feelings. Help your child recognize what he feels by pointing it out.

  • Tell your child that it is indeed normal to have feelings such as anger but that he can express it differently. Give him an example, he won't find it by himself : "Instead you can say that you're mad at me because I said no".
  • You can also walk away by saying calmly and firmly that you're not gonna listen to him talking like that. Your child will understand that saying hurtful things is not acceptable.
  • Find what caused the anger and outburst. Children need to know why you say no to understand what's behind their anger. Yes you're the parent and yes you're imposing the rules. The reason is because you know what is good or not for your child, that's why your rules are made out of love. Let him know that. There is a good reason behind each rule and it's very important to explain that to children.
  • Don't hesitate to punish such behavior by asking your child to stay in his room during a certain amount of time. Stay firm. If you don't follow your own rule by accepting that he goes out of his room earlier, you're never gonna be taken seriously. Being calm, firm and consistent is the best way for your child to understand things and change his behavior.
  • Never forget to say "I love you" after sending your child to his room. Children worry fast and doubt our love for them easily that's why it's even more important to reassure your child to make him understand punishments better.

So next time your child says hurtful things to you, don't tell yourself "My child hates me !" but rather "My child needs me !" and react appropriately.

Also, coherence in your parenting style is the key to a constant good child's behavior. And parenting guides can definitely help with this (see the link on the author info box on the right).