“I hate you.”
“You’re the worst mom ever.”
Have you been triggered by hearing your kids say things like these? I get it. Yet when we understand what is really going on, it makes it way easier to stay calm AND to teach our child more appropriate responses.
Can you think back to a time where you felt hate towards someone or something, even if just for a split second?
Hatred is a common human emotion. However kids have much less control of their emotions than adults. They also don’t have the same depth of life experience to know that their feelings will cool down. As adults, we know that situations change, and we can often remember that we love someone, even while intensely disliking what they are doing.
(With parenting going so poorly nowadays, chances are that you too are feeling strong negative emotions towards your children. Sometimes we lose our cool and speak from that place, despite having more maturity. Learn more here: Monster mama: How to avoid the hidden epidemic of parental rage.)
Not only do kids have extreme thoughts like that they hate people more frequently, but they also have less ability to stop themselves from acting out on those feelings. In other words, kids often feel strong, even violent, emotions more often than they will when they are adults. Yet they have little ability to keep themselves from lashing out.
That means that most kids are going to say negative, hurtful things to those they love.
One huge gift we can give our kids is not to buy into their hateful thoughts.
We can respond from love, and from the knowing that their words are expressing part of what they are feeling, but aren’t expressing their whole feelings.
When your otherwise sweet daughter says, “I hate you mommy”, it helps so much to see that your child is overwhelmed with a thought that is driving her behavior. She’s lashing out verbally, not because she truly hates you, In that moment though, she doesn’t have the executive function yet to stop herself from blurting out the words. She also may not have the maturity to even know in that moment that she actually loves you more than she hates you.
Your child may well regret the words as they are coming out of her mouth.
Your reaction to these hurtful words becomes a teaching moment.
It will either:
* help your child quickly move on, or
* can cause your child to start developing a self-image as someone who is mean, hurtful, etc.
It’s critical that we don’t overreact to our child’s emotional overreaction. If you have in the past, as 99.9% of parents do before becoming aware of what’s going on, be gentle with yourself and move on.
If you can be calm and hear your child out, you can use the moment as a bonding moment.
You know that your child loves you, so hold on to that thought for your child. You may be able to empathize with your child. Try something like, “Oh sweetheart. You are so mad at me you (feel like you) hate me right now. I’ve felt that way and it’s an awful feeling. I’m so sorry that you are so upset and I’d love to help you to calm down.”
The actual words aren’t important. What is crucial is your overall calm, accepting attitude. If you are clear that you are sorry that your child is so upset, and calm about the hateful words that are being said, you’ll help your child learn not to be too freaked out by his or her violent thoughts.
Later, when your child is calm again, you can talk to your child about what to say instead in the future. However don’t expect instant change in your child. Just like we vow to do better, then discover that change is a process that takes time and support, your child may need some gentle reminders to say, “I’m so angry” instead of “I hate you!”
Keep working on finding your inner calm, and you’ll get there. (Read this if you want assurances that you are not alone, and a link to something that can help you stay calm: Monster mama: How to avoid the hidden epidemic of parental rage.)
You have what it takes.
Was this helpful? If so, I’d love to hear what was most useful to you.