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When Kids Say They Hate You

How Do You Handle a Child Saying She Hates You?

Here's a post from our partners at BabyCenter! Every week, we bring you the best parenting and lifestyle stories from the experts at BabyCenter, including this one about when your child says she hates you.

So, it's happened: She hates me. And I'm not sure what to do about it.

But before I get into that I should tell you something about my two girls. On the outside, they're obviously sisters, both with the same brown hair and cavernous eyes, long, lean limbs and sweet, gap-toothed grins. Scratch the surface, though, and they're different in just about every way imaginable.

Related: How to reduce your children's sugar intake

My oldest has always been sensitive and empathetic, the kind of kid who cries when she comes across a squished worm on the sidewalk. The neighbors cut down a tree in their yard when she was 3 years old and she was inconsolable for a week. She writes me thank you notes for making her school lunches. Given the choice, I think she would rather spontaneously shatter into a thousand pieces than hurt my feelings.

Her 3-year-old sister has been fire since the day she was born. She's funny, loud and full of life. She's magnetic, a force. When she's happy, she practically vibrates with it; when she's mad it's a red hot rage.

Which brings us to today, to the two of us driving home from the library and to her screaming at me: "I HATE YOU!" The first time she said it was actually a few months ago, those three words came firing out of her as she threw a fit over brushing her teeth. My jaw dropped. I looked at her sister, who was of course immediately on the verge of tears.

Since then I've tried different ways of dealing with it: Ignoring, explaining, disciplining. Nothing seems to have made an impact. It's one of those parenting moments that I knew would probably come, but I still feel unprepared for it. And even though I know she doesn't really mean it, that she loves me, that she's just frustrated and upset and using whatever words she can find to let me know that, I have to admit that it still kind of hurts. As far as mommy milestones go, this is one of the worst.

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DeniseBunch DeniseBunch 1 year

I am one of two girls. . .I know every family dynamic is different, but I'll give you a personal example. My sister and I were spanked with a belt when my parents deemed necessary. I had my daughter first then my sister had a son about two years later. I "popped" (country term for a swat on the leg) and "three popped" my kids butts when I deemed necessary (never with a belt, however). Yes, sometimes I would do that while frustrated at their behavior, but never what I would consider angry at them. It was effective for my three, even the more strong willed middle daughter. With all of them I used other methods besides popping them (and never face slapping btw). My sister's son is VERY, VERY strong-willed. She read a lot in magazines. She attempted to opt out of spanking. . .saying that if she "hit" him, it would teach him to hit. BULL. Children who are loved enough to be disciplined in love, will understand it. They will grow to understand that their actions will have negative or positive reactions. This is just my opinion and I am not debating, just sharing. :)

DeniseBunch DeniseBunch 1 year

Jeff, the key words you used to me were "all the time". It doesn't take all the time. Spanking is not an every situation fix, but necessary for some forms of deliberate, disrespectful misbehavior. (remember, this is coming from a "non-perfect, have made mistakes mama!! :) I believe in a chance, sometimes two. . .but no meaning no and being consistent with actions and consequences works a good part of the time. There is no perfect parenting plan, that's for sure, but we've got to remember who is the parent and who is the one needing the parenting. I like to think of it in the way God disciplines us, with the greatest love and mercy, but with a firm hand of discipline when we need it! :) Take care!

DeniseBunch DeniseBunch 1 year

NEVER is it ok for certain things to come out of a child's mouth without punishment. That is one of them. She would have one excused lash out, warned that if it happened again she would be punished. It would not be a time out, but something that is going to really get her attention (as Dr. Dobson says, a defining moment). There IS a way to get a child's attention and demand respect. Demand? yes, demand! A happy medium may be hard to find with some children, but letting them get away with such disrespectful behavior is not doing the parent or child any favors. Also, I feel that God is not pleased with the parent allowing the child to be the adult. He gifted us with these precious lives and we have to honor that the best we can by following His blueprint. I am in no way saying I've been the perfect parent, but with three girls, I've seen three different personalities. . .then, when you add mine in, it's all the more interesting and challenging, but worth EVERY second of my time, energy and love. BTW, neither of my three girls ever let those words escape their lips. I am an advocate of spanking when necessary, but there are other ways to define that moment with authority and redirect that will without breaking it. Children WANT discipline. So many parents are afraid of their child "not liking" them. . .be their parent first, friend second. :) Y'all have a great day!!

LauraLiguori LauraLiguori 1 year

You're so right--and parents seem to be too busy to spend the time needed with kids--I don't mean to put down parents who need to work or have other similar circumstances, but I see so much money being spent on kids--it's really shocking. And I'd love to see more respect for elders and you've described. More thoughts, but hubby is wanting to watch a show quicklu.....blessings!

Miriam1387395117 Miriam1387395117 1 year

I agree...I homeschool as well! It has to start at home with respecting parents first.

Miriam1387395117 Miriam1387395117 1 year

There are differences between races and the way we race our children. In the black race we come well I'm 31 and our generation and older comes from a time where we respected our parents and any adult.

We had parents that knew the importance of raising a child to respect authority. Today you do not see this..you have some of the most rudest kids, they have no care or respect for adults. This is because parents have become wimps with their children, they want to be friends with their child. This where most blacks say "If you want to be my friend pay a bill in the house"!

Children are a gift from God..He gave us instruction on how to raise them and I guarantee if His instruction will not fail you.

But respect has to start in the home...it will stay with the child forever and on their jobs, with their friends and spouses.

People don't realize its important what you put in a child.

LauraLiguori LauraLiguori 1 year

Sometimes I wish I were raising my daughter in a Black culture--there's so much richness to it, and I think we (or I at least) could learn a lot about child-reading that would be helpful. As a White woman, I'm ambivalent about spanking, but I often feel my daughter could really use a different way of doing things. She's a spirited, beautiful child, but defiant as all get-out.

LauraLiguori LauraLiguori 1 year

Great point that their feelings aren't that relevant at the time! How much power do we want to give our kids over us, after all? A sort of half-bored response works well too.

LauraLiguori LauraLiguori 1 year

My six y/o daughter says that sometimes, and I was somewhat prepared for it though it still has a significant sting. I usually respond with something like, "Honey, that's really normal, and I hated my mom too sometimes when I was your age. Let me know if you want to talk about it." As long as she's not yelling it at me or hitting or the like, it isn't fun, but I'd advise either normalizing it (thus giving her room to express her feelings) or ignore it. As a psychologist, I can't emphasize enough the importance of NOT censoring your kids' feelings as long as they're expressed respectfully (eg, no yelling or hitting, etc). It's just a normal, passing feeling even tho it's hard to hear. We've all hated our parents at one time or another.

jodiemercado1391961717 jodiemercado1391961717 1 year

I think some parents don't know how else to discipline. They've tried everything else and still find theirselves losing control of their child. However spanking usually doesn't fix the problem in our house. Whenever I feel this way, I talk very honestly with my child about how I feel. Thankfully understanding and empathy have kept corporal punishment away for the most part.

CamiPringle CamiPringle 1 year

If hearing "I hate you" from a child is one of the worst mommy milestones for you, you're in for a world of hurt when that child hits his/her teens. I will admit that the first time my daughter said it, it stung. But, as she stomped up the stairs to her room, I just turned and smiled. If your kids don't "hate" you, you're not doing your job. Whenever I hear "I hate you" or "you're mean" or something similar, I know without a doubt that I made the right decision.

jeff1376266399 jeff1376266399 1 year

The truth stings doesn't it, dumbshit....

RikkiStrike RikkiStrike 1 year

I tell my daughter. "Good, that means I am doing my job right." If they don't get the reaction they are looking for they move onto something else. They are just looking for attention. In my opinion.

CoMMember1361364534341 CoMMember1361364534341 1 year

Both sound like very appropriate responses to me! As long as you don't let their words stop you from making your child behave properly or from stopping them from taking a dangerous action, then it really isn't relevant how they feel about you in that moment! They are just striking out in an attempt to make you stop making them behave appropriately...they certainly don't really hate you!

CoMMember1361364534341 CoMMember1361364534341 1 year

Why on earth would any parent care if their child says they hate them? Children are children...of COURSE they will hate you sometimes, especially if you are doing your job properly! If you child never gets angry with you, never rebels, never 'hates' you, then you aren't doing your job or you have very weak willed, unimaginitive children! We forget that our job involves preventing children who do not know any better, from doing the destructive/dangerous things they really, really want to do! And when a child wants to do something, they don't stop to think about the feelings of the one who is doing their best to stop them from that behavior! This too will pass...just enjoy the phase and laugh about it when they aren't around!

KarenBoard KarenBoard 1 year

Thank you for sharing your experience. Sounds like you had wonderful parents. You explained what I was trying to say up above so much better. There are certainly times (depending on child's age, the situation, etc.) where corporal punishment is appropriate, but it must be done properly, as your parents did, and not in anger. I think, in the case of a child saying "I hate you" that I probably would not spank in that situation, because it would be hard to rein in emotions at that point in time. But, once emotions had calmed down -- later -- would discuss household guidelines for appropriate and respectful speech -- and let children know that failure to follow these guidelines would result in consequence (I would probably take a privilege away for a certain time, and the child would need to offer an apology and articulate why such speech is a poor way to communicate, and then we would discuss how she could express her emotions and frustrations but still stay respectful).

KarenBoard KarenBoard 1 year

I recall that in my childhood (in the 60's), most children received corporal punishment at home, and also at school. And, there weren't nearly the discipline issues at school that there is today, where teachers and principals are tearing their hair out in frustration. Children were reared to be respectful to their elders,and to respect limits, and we all got along well socially and didn't become violent in our teen and adult years. We loved our parents, not out of fear, but because our parents loved us enough to train us, and because they also spent hours involved in our lives reading, and playing, and volunteering at school, etc. Like Billy Smithy, we did have one classmate who was never spanked at home, and her parents had sent in a note that she couldn't be spanked at school either. She was probably the most mal-adjusted of any of the kids in our class -- quite selfish and sassy to teachers, not well liked by other children.

KarenBoard KarenBoard 1 year

Funny, we were just discussing that in our Parenting Class (for Special Needs kids) yesterday, because it was on one of the little vignettes they share. Fortunately, I've never experienced that with any of our 3 kids, but one of the parents had. Our class basically came to the conclusion that the best (immediate) reaction was to stay calm, smile, and either not respond, or respond with "Well, I love you, and I understand that you're angry" (and maybe add, "and that's why I want you to brush your teeth, so they don't all rot and fall out of your head, and there you'd be" -- kinda make it funny, in other words). But the primary thing for immediate reaction is that the child is trying to get a rise out of Mom, so not responding, or responding in a calm, loving way will give the opposite of what the child want. But we did discuss that AFTER the incident, once emotions have calmed down -- maybe even the next day, that it would be appropriate to sit down with all the children and discuss household guidelines for appropriate and respectful speech -- i.e. no swear words, no name-calling, and no "I hate you" -- but rather words that are encouraging and respectful. We also discussed helping the child find other words to express her frustration.

Bridget1374636242 Bridget1374636242 1 year

a child saying that they hate their parent is hard for a parent to take and, but on the other hand whether a child ever says it to the parent or not, i believe at some point all of us and if not all of us, majority of us dislike our parents for some reason or another. Knowing that, just know that you are doing your job. A relationship where there are arguments sometimes, a time where one hurts another for telling them the truth or a time where one strongly dislikes the other for one preventing another to not do something, with some good times, also that is a true relationship with someone. kids may not feel it, think it, or hear it as much and, but playing the role of a parent, majority of the time and a friend to them, sometimes is the affirmative action for showing true love for them. Love is a verb, not a feeling. kids may not understand that concept just yet and, but you continue to show your love, they will know you love them, them knowing you love them they will not only say it but will show it also in their affirmative actions. shy away the words and turn towards the the affirmative actions of love.

GailUpchurch GailUpchurch 1 year

Oh, Lukithia! No, no, no. Corporal punishment is always a huge mistake. It's our society's last acceptable form of domestic abuse. If your children survived, fared well, they are lucky. But, please, encourage them to evolve when they become parents! They shouldn't use corporeal punishment either. Encourage them to figure out alternatives. The truth is, you have no idea how your children felt about being spanked/whipped, whatever you called the violence. They would never tell you. And I'm sure they love you so much that it pains them to admit it to themselves.

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