When Your Child Says “You Hate Me”

All normal and healthy parents naturally love their children. Loving our children is an instinctive parental response. We brought the child into the world, and do so much for the kid, obviously we love them. Well, most of the time, that is.

Sometimes when we feel disappointed or upset, relationships can become strained. Perhaps the child was discouraged, or simply did not understand the parent. Occasionally, there are emotions that arise that are difficult to admit even to ourselves. When stressed to the max, sometimes a parent even hates their child for a while. Not a lasting hatred, but an irrepressible feeling that arises when we just “don’t know what to do with that kid anymore!” Although the emotion will pass, within that momentary hatred, a parent may demonstrate the ill feeling by using a certain tone of voice, eye contact, or language.

Children are extraordinarily perceptive. When a child shouts, “You hate me!” he believes his words to be true.

“Don’t be silly, how could I hate you?” Mom will often retort.

Of course, the parent is correct, and does not truly hate their child. However that momentary flash of dislike manifested itself and the child recognized it, and responded it to it. Parents who love their children intensely can sometimes become frustrated and send their child a mixed message.

Reprimands should always be done softly with love. However, in real life that is not always the case, and sometimes we respond to our children’s behavior in a way that does not convey any love. When it is difficult to reprimand our children with tenderness, it is an indication that at that moment we are confused as to how we really feel about our children. If the adult is confused, then the child is most definitely upset and confused. When you hear, “You hate me!” from your child, do not be shocked, because he has verbalized something that is more real than we care to admit.

The initial reaction, the spark of hatred which is conveyed unintentionally can have lasting damages if not corrected quickly.

You can test yourself, as a parent, to see whether your burst of anger was simply harsh discipline which will blow over, or spiteful vengeance that can create an emotional wound in your child. Five minutes after your outburst, reach out to your child and give him a hug. Although it is likely that the child will resist your overture of affection, you want to test your side of the relationship.

If you find that you cannot embrace your child, then it is an indication that he is right, and he correctly sensed a very negative emotion directed at him. He picked up on something that you do not want to express, nor even admit to yourself.

It is appropriate that you be able to reach out and hug your child even though you were very angry a moment ago. When you expressed your anger in order to teach your child an effective lesson, the harsh demeanor was really for the benefit of the child, because you want him to grow up to be a successful, responsible person. Had your intention in your outburst been intended to educate and instruct the child, you should be able to demonstrate your love with a hug within a few seconds.

Recognize that when children cause you challenges and pain, it is because they are experiencing challenges and pain. Your child is not “out to get you”, rather he is suffering at that particular moment.

At the end of a long day, always remember: Reach out and touch them with love.

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  2. Tambrey says:

    There have been times when I feel dislike towards my son…and my comment to him when he yells that I hate him is that

    “I do not like you very much right now…I do not like what you did/said but I always love you.”

    sometimes I tell him I am putting ME in a time out in MY room and to not come bother me because I do not want to say something I will regret, and we will talk about the issue when we are both calmed down…

    Of course, he is a teenager now (16 today), so he tends to feel he owns the world, the world owes him and we as parents can never seem to do anything or say anything right…

    But on the flipside…with his BiPolar, I never know if or when I will be talking to Jekyl or Hyde…and when he snaps, and we argue, he is usually the one to come first crying and saying he is sorry for whatever he siad/did….even while I am still giving him a chance to calm down…

  3. Hi Tambrey,

    I appreciate that line; “I do not like you/ what you did right now… but I will always love you” Children instinctively know what we are feeling anyway, so demonstrating how to express your feelings is very valuable.

    Sometimes I say something like this to my children during a “let’s calm down” time: “If you would smash the glass in front of the fireplace do you think I would stop loving you?” They know to respond, “You would be angry but you never stop loving me!”

  4. My 3-year-old just started saying, “you hate me” this weekend. I don’t know where he got this from and it absolutely broke my heart. I only said to him, “I LOVE you very much, I don’t hate you. I am just angry at your behavior right now.”