6 Things To Do When Your Child Says “I Hate You!”

By Bill Corbett, author of Love, Limits & Lessons: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Cooperative Kids, and member of the API Resource Advisory Committee, www.cooperativekids.com.

We’re all trying to get more done in less time and with less money. When it comes to our kids, we do our best to spare no expense to give them the world. Then, without warning, they hurt us with words because they don’t like a limitation or boundary we’ve set or the word “NO.” Here are six things to do the next time your child screams, “I hate you!”Bill Corbett

1. Remain calm. In order to do the next five things, you’ve got to keep your emotions from getting the best of you. It’s also an opportunity to model self-control for your child.

2. Acknowledge that the words stung. It’s hard to think of anything more hurtful that our children can say to us than hearing them say these words. Accept the hurt, but don’t let it determine your behavior at that moment.

3. Avoid the urge to hurt back. It is a normal human reaction to become defensive when someone attacks or hurts us. Remember that it’s your child in front of you at the moment, and know that he doesn’t mean what he has just said.

4. Say to the child, “You look like you’re mad at me.” A child either loves or hates us, there is nothing in between for her. Our children do not know hate as we do. Help them put into appropriate words what they are feeling at the moment.

5. Remain silent, and let them express their anger without retribution or defensiveness. Here’s one of those opportunities I’m always talking about—talking less. If a child is allowed to express his anger, it is emotion released and not forced back inside to build up and explode sometime later.

6. Examine what it was that triggered your child to get angry to begin with, and take responsibility for your part. Children need plenty of advance notice to help them transition from one activity to another, and visual cues (something they can watch for) work best. Also, giving in to a child’s demands just to get her to calm down only teaches her to repeat the demanding behavior whenever she wants something.

One more thing—our parents would not have tolerated hearing us say those words when we were kids. That was a different world and a different time. Don’t let your parents’ voices in your head control your own parenting in today’s modern world. Ignore their voices, and do what you know is right.


6 thoughts on “6 Things To Do When Your Child Says “I Hate You!””

  1. Hi, and thanks for this great article! I wonder if you could explain a bit more about the things you wrote in #6. I understand what you mean by the statement in bold, but I’m having trouble understanding how the text below relates to that statement.


  2. Hi Karen,

    Parents can look to their own behavior to determine if they may have inadvertently contributed to conditions that result in an angry outburst from the child. The author gives two examples of this, the first being the parent not providing plenty of advance notice of transitions from one activity to another. In the second example, parents at times may give in to a child’s demands just to quiet him in the moment. Doing this may result in the child using the same kind of demands to get what he wants in the future. A consistent approach by the parent may help reduce outbursts from the child.

    – The Attached Family

  3. Item number 6 in my article urges parents to spend more time in “proactive parenting” rather than in “reactive parenting.” A child’s resistance or use of hurtful words is a symptom of something else. If we put more emphasis on determining and fixing the root cause of the challenging behavior, it is less likely to happen and may even stop. I am always asking parents to examine what it was that caused the child to scream the hurtful words. It is often a direct result of a parent using demands, commands, and orders with little or no advance warnings. Children do not like sudden change and neither do we adults. Because children get easily “lost in the moment” of what they are doing, a tantrum, meltdown, or even an outburst of hurtful words can occur. But if the parent learns to ease children into transition, these outbursts are less likely to occur. Thank you ATTACHED FAMILY for the explanation. Thank you everyone for reading my article.

  4. Near the end of the article it mentions how our parents lived in a different world, time. What this article fails to mention is they still need to be treated like any other child, with discipline. Now I’m not saying beat them, the choice of punishment is up to the parent, but there should be consequences to their actions, not just the parent blaming themselves for the child’s behavior. I have GOOD control of my two autistic children, because I treat them like any other child would get treated.

  5. Hi Scott, thank you for reading the article. When I wrote that we were raised in a different time, what meant was that autocratic parenting was the normal style of parenting, which allowed for punishment, control and spanking as common tools. Today we know that all three of those tools are ineffective in raising resilient children. And I agree with you that consequences should be used instead of punishment, but the logical consequences should be respectful, reasonable, directly related to the infraction, AND teach a child responsibility. I also like to encourage parents to avoid controlling their children and instead, use methods that teach children self-control. Thanks for taking time to comment.

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