Your kid said “I hate you”. Ouch, it hurts. But don’t take it too seriously. When your kid says I hate you, understand why they said this and respond in this way.
Today was ‘Take Your Kid to Work Day’.
The day when parents are expected to miraculously put in a productive day of work with their kids OR deal with serious disappointment if they aren’t able to participate.
On this unfortunate day, since my husband and I both work from home, we didn’t have the ability to bring our three kids to work.
We kissed our two older kids good-bye as they shuffled onto the school bus, head down and feet dragging Charlie-Brown style. Our younger child, who usually has a big soft heart, said it’s not fair.
When he noticed those complaints rolled off my back, he dug deep in his arsenal for a phrase he knew would hit hard.
“I hate you”.
Related: Anger Management Activities for Kids
Why Does Your Kid Resort to “I Hate You”
As parents, you love your children unconditionally.
You focus every last ounce of energy on providing them with shelter, food, love, and joy.
Then, you magically muster up additional drops of energy and spend it on planning birthday parties, teaching them to tie their shoes, and worrying that you aren’t doing enough as a parent.
Of course it hurts to hear “I hate you”.
It’s the most deflating thing a parent can hear.
Until you understand WHY they said it.
Young children and even teenagers are still developing communication skills.
Emotional intelligence is the to the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions, and most young kids still have a lot of growth ahead of them.
Since your child’s emotional IQ is still fairly low (which is expected), they may have trouble effectively verbalizing how they feel.
To get a reaction, they are going to say something that they know will get a reaction – that is why they often resort to “I hate you”.
Also Read: What is Enmeshed Parenting and How Does it Hurt Kids?
As parents, it is important to understand WHY they are saying these words:
The purpose of this sharp phrase is not to say “I despise you”, but it is to say “Hey! look at me! I am mad and I need you to know that”.
This is not actually a hateful phrase, it is more an empty phrase or a cry for attention.
Also read: How to Deal with an Ungrateful Kid
How to Respond When Your Kid Says I Hate You
When your kid uses the H-word, you should avoid saying it back (or any hurtful banter for that matter). Harsh punishments (“GO TO YOUR ROOM!”) in these moments are not effective either.
Instead, these are the three things you should do regardless of your kid’s age:
1) Do NOT Respond with Emotion
In the heat of the moment, it can be hard to hide away how you feel; however, if you respond with anger it will only reinforce the power of those words.
Walk away and take a deep breath if you have, but remain calm.
If staying calm feels difficult, read: The Difference Between Calm Parenting and Reactive Parenting
In fact, some children may need a little space to calm down on their own.
Regardless, they need you to be their safe place, not add to the chaos in their minds.
2) Coach Them Through Their Emotions
When your child has calmed down, you can coach them through their emotions.
This will greatly enhance their emotionally intelligence and teach them how to act in the future.
This post includes great worksheets and tips for coaching children through big emotions.
Try this simple approach where you acknowledge how they feel, listen carefully, talk through solutions, and express love:
3) Express Unconditional Love
Your child knows that you love them, but after an outburst they may be flooded with emotions.
Your child may still be angry, but they may also feel guilty or confused by their actions.
No matter how old your child is, or how upset you may feel, set your pride aside. Tell them you love them, and you are here for them – – even if they are angry with you.
If you feel that your kid is struggling with anger or may benefit from mental health discussions with a clinical psychologist, reach out to your health care provider as soon as possible.
Final Thoughts on Responding When Your Kid Says I Hate You
Whether your kid used the ‘H’ word OR said some other mean thing to grab your attention, these 3 steps will help you respond in an appropriate way.
In exactly one year from today – on the next Take Your Kid to Work Day – I am sure I will be dealing with the same three angry expressions. Hopefully, what we practice throughout the year will help us avoid the phrase “I hate you”.
But if it doesn’t, I know exactly what to do.
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