“I hate you!!” screams your child, as he begins hurling pillows and blankets at you. You just barely make it out the bedroom door and turn back to close it, only for the door to slam into your face. Retreating, defeated, you wonder how many times this kind of rage is going to happen. Could your child really and truly hate you?
Why is your relationship so strained?
You might wonder how it ever got to this point. Take comfort in the fact that children often use the “I hate you” phrase to knock parents off their feet, knowing it will bring a reaction of some type. Usually, your kid doesn’t really hate you. Many children are still too young to fully understand the concept of hate, anyway. Often, children communicate with anger and hatred because something is strained in your relationship with them.
Here are reasons your child might lash out in anger often:
1. He needs more positive interaction.
If the only thing your child hears from you is what he does wrong, your relationship won’t make him feel good about himself. He may even grow to resent you when he doesn't meet your standards. Some children express anger at their parents because negative interaction becomes the only thing they understand — they never see kindness and positivity in action.
2. You expect too much of your child.
Could there be a chance that you’re one of those sports parents or college enthusiast parents who expect perfection? You might not see it that way, but your child could. Sometimes, you’re so wrapped up in how well your kid can do that you forget to recognize and praise what he did do.
3. You haven't been present enough.
As a parent, life can get tough. We’ve all been there, and we all get it. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your work life or another activity, which can take up all your mental energy before you even realize it. Meanwhile, if your child experiences difficulties in life, whether at home or at school, you might not catch the warning signs.
4. He needs privacy.
As children grow, there comes a point where they all inevitably want privacy. It’s a rite of passage for tweens and teens — just an intense need to be alone as they discover themselves as individuals. Though you may be tempted to read a diary or read text messages, it’s important to respect children and teens' privacy as they express their need for it. Make sure to stay in touch with your kid’s activities, but respect the adult he will one day become.
5. There is a lack of communication.
A lack of communication can be a huge relationship sucker. Sometimes there’s a breakdown in communication because a parent and child don’t see eye-to-eye on something — this happens a lot — so they’re not capable of having a conversation as equals. A child who is always scolded or in trouble won’t be likely to speak up when he needs your help, and he'll be more prone to hiding behaviors from you.
How to repair it.
Once you’ve identified sources of strain in your relationship, you can work on rebuilding communication and trust. Start with small efforts, which add up and grow over time as your relationship strengthens.
1. Talk about your relationship.
Why not put it all out there? Sit down and have a conversation with your kid. Tell him about your feelings when he says hurtful things to you, but more importantly, ask and listen to what his feelings are. When you listen, be sure to fully listen, because your child is struggling with emotions, and you can help talk him through them. Kids don’t always know how to put emotions into words.
2. Create rituals.
Building a ritual into you and your child’s life can bring you closer. By setting a time and day like a date, you’ll both be held accountable for spending this time together. Repeat it every week or few days — whatever works for you. Over time, you’ll both look forward to your set time together, and it will help your relationship be more predictable.
3. Set parenting goals.
We all have room for improvement, even the most picture-perfect parents who send you a card each holiday. It’s important that you, as a parent, set goals for yourself. Choose methods of discipline and stick with them. Hold yourself accountable for who you want to be for your child. This is how you can achieve progress in your relationship.
4. Play with your children.
Sure, it can be a struggle, but by playing with our children we can be present for them in a way they really need. Kids communicate through play while also learning social skills from you. If you just can’t get yourself to play, try another child-centered activity like watching a movie or reading a book together. Being with your child during a child-centered activity gives them confidence with you because you’re on their playing field.
5. Seek counseling.
Depending on how much anger your child has been expressing, you might consider attending therapy together. Whether it’s a counselor to help you communicate with each other or a therapist who can help with more underlying issues, talking it out with a professional is beneficial. Some programs offer parents advice on how to discipline and speak to their kids after observing them together.
6. Focus on giving your child positive reinforcement.
Sometimes, when a child says “I hate you,” it can often be a cry for comfort and love. Though the phrase may instinctively make you pull away or want to become stricter, taking the opposite approach with positive discipline is probably better at this point. Praise and reward your child when they do things you like, which will help them feel good about themselves.
Will my child stop hating me?
Every child is a unique individual with a unique reason for being this angry. But there’s a good chance the root of the problem lies in your relationship. It might take adjustment to discipline methods and closer communication with your child, but he likely won’t “hate” you forever. As long as you continue to provide love and stay open to communication, you can work through this road bump.