What To Do When Your Child Says “I Hate You”

Some parts of parenting are inevitable. One such aspect of parenting is listening to the “I hate you” phrase from the child. Let us find a healthy rescue plan on how to respond when your child says “I hate you” with Calm Sage.

Last Update on August 21, 2023 : Published on August 7, 2021
What To Do When Your Child Says “I Hate You”

Parenting a child is not an easy task! No matter what you do and how much effort you put in, at the end of the day you will find yourself missing something or the other. But that doesn’t hold you back from being a great parent the other day.

In fact, each day you wake up and walk an extra mile to be the best parent for your child. However, there comes a point in life when your child says hurtful things to you or “I hate you.”

Ouch! That hurts, no sugar coating here. It does shatter a parent’s heart in pieces! While the statement is truly upsetting it puts you in a place where your one response can either deepen this phrase in your child’s life and mind or it will simply eradicate it from their life.

Building on that response that vanishes out this feeling from your child’s heart is indeed important. That is what we are going to help you with “how to respond when your child says you hate me.”

So let us start building on our healthy response to this situation.

Rescue Plan for I Hate My Parents Phase

Phase 1: Letting the Dust Settle

Before you direct your feelings of being hurt towards your child, making things more chaotic, step back and cool down yourself. Also, allow your child for the same.

If at this point you have an immense urge to react, remember these words by the psychotherapist Noel McDermott,

“How parents deal with it models for the child how difficult emotions are managed. If we can learn that I can ‘hate you’ and continue to love you, we are learning some very healthy lessons.”

Also if you ask experts the reason why kids end up saying this phrase lies in the fact that they have some strong emotions/ frustrations to share but they could not find the appropriate words.

Give each other time to cool your nerves and only then move to the next phase.

Letting the Dust Settle

Phase 2: Working through the Issue

After giving each other enough time to cool down and mellow down the situation, first ensure that you are on the same page to communicate through the issue. Some of the phrases that you can use for the same are:

  • Let us talk about what just happened?
  • Do you wish to talk over what just happened?
  • I think we should communicate over the little outburst episode that took place.

Once the child agrees to have a discussion on the same, start by asking basic questions like:

  • Why are you upset with me?
  • Are you feeling sad or angry?
  • What can I do to help you?
  • Are you feeling powerless?

This will give the message that you want to understand what is bothering them.

Give age-appropriate responses.

Now that you have started with the communication, comes the time to respond. While responding to your child make sure that you give an age-appropriate response.

For a toddler, avoid giving a massive reaction to them, as they are always looking for ways to grab your attention. Plus, instead of explaining them, look for sources from where they could have learned the word from. Toddlers are always parroting what they observe so avoid using such words in front of them.

For a kid the ‘I hate you’ expression might be coming from the viewpoint of hurting you (because your action or word might have hurt them). So it is suggested that you offer them kindness and love at this time for their hard feelings to melt down. A positive reaction will set them back and give them time to think over what they said. You may say “Well, I heard that you hate me, but I love you and I always will.”

For tweens and teens, do not personalize when they tell you I hate you. Look for reasons, listen to them, and validate their feelings. Only after that explain your views to them. Apart from it, tell them that you have been hurt by what they have said is hurtful. You can also give the child a hug or a kiss, helping them recover their feelings.

Finally, no matter which age group you are dealing with, always ends the conversation by telling them that you love them and need them (preferably in 4-5 words).

Phase 3: Teaching Emotional Regulation

Clinical psychologist Robin Goodman suggests that when a child says I hate you it is an expression of feelings rather than a description of actual feelings about you. That is why it is suggested that you teach the child the right ways to regulate his emotions.

1. Reward the righteous behavior. When the child in similar situations does not use the phrase I hate you, it shows that they are learning to express their frustration more thoughtfully. So, to ensure that such responses keep coming, reward your child.

2. Validate their feelings. Validate your child’s feelings by letting them know that it is OK to feel frustrated or angry at times. But at the same time tell them that it is hurtful what they have said.

3. Model the right behavior. Kids are constantly observing, registering, and projecting what they are learning from their environment. Make sure that you are modeling the right behavior in front of kids. It is advised that you create and share family standards that do not involve saying or doing hurtful things when upset, towards self or others.

4. Show and teach empathy. Respond to your child with empathy and they will learn the same from you. Put yourself in your child’s shoes and understand what they might be going through.

“The more we can model appropriate emotion regulation and empathy development, the better off our children will be in the long run.” – Starnes says

What To Do When Your Teenager Says They Hate You

When the “I hate my parents” phrase comes from a teenager it can be a little tricky to deal with them. Unlike a toddler or kid, their word hate might be more than their inability to find an appropriate word to express themselves. Here are some steps for you to apply when your teenager says they hate you:

Step 1: Let Things Cool Down

Your immediate response can work as fuel in the fire! So let things first cool down before you start working through what they have said. Share with them that you want to know what the matter is but you are giving them to cool down before you both can sit down and talk.

Step 2: Explain It’s Hurtful

Teenagers are in a better state of emotions, words, and their power of inflicting pain. Keeping this point in mind, communicate with your child that what they said was hurtful. It is crucial to bring to their notice how you are feeling and what is wrong with using the “I hate you” phrase. You may use some of these statements:

You know how strong the word hate is, so, why are you using it?

I believe you know how strong the word hate is. I am hurt by you using it. May I know what made you say it?

Apart from this, set firm boundaries here by telling them that next time this statement of theirs comes with certain consequences. Don’t forget to be consistent and stay on your grounds.

Also Read: Parenting Counseling: The Secret Recipe For A Happy Parent-Child Relationship

Step 3: Discuss The Underlying Issue

Daniel suggests that what a teenager says after I hate you/ I hate my parents is more important. It will give you a clue what exactly is bothering them. If it is something that you could have altered it is okay to apologize to your child. However, if it is an unreasonable demand, sit down with them and explain why it couldn’t work. If possible offer them an alternative for the same.

For example, if you refused your child to go out for a night out, give them an alternative for inviting her friends over for dinner or give them permission to go out with their friends the following week.

Step 4: Reflect on Your Bond

Often the distance experienced between the parent and child can also result in these feelings. So when you are done communicating over the issue, end it by connecting with each other. Never miss a chance to tell your child that you love them!

Remember parenting is more than winning every argument or situation, it is about making your child feel loved, understood, and wanted!

Reflect on your bond

Now it is your time to apply this rescue plan to your life when you encounter the “I hate you” phrase from your child.

Remember ultimately it is your response that will either make this feeling of your child stronger towards you or will simply evaporate it from his life. So make a smart choice!

P.S.: It will take work! But you got it!

About The Author

Anjali Singh
Anjali Singh

Anjali Singh is a content curator in the field of Mental Health. She is currently done Ph.D. in Psychology. Her aim is to light up the world with positive vibes through her words, her idea of life is ‘Grow through what you go through’. Apart from this, she is a big-time pet lover.

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