“I hate you Mom!”

Recently, I received an e-mail from a mother in which she included a picture of her son’s bedroom door.  On his door, her son had posted a hand written sign saying, “I hate you mom.”  She explained that her son has some developmental delays, and because of those delays, his behavior can be off at times, causing reactions such as his posting such an emotionally charged sign  on his bedroom door.  I felt awful for her because, as a parent of 3 myself, I know how gut wrenching it can be to hear your child utter the words “I hate you”.

I remember having an argument with my son when he was approximately 5 years old, over picking up his toys.   I remember gettin on eye level with him and telling him to “pick that up”.   He, of course, refused and instead stomped off.  About 10 minutes later, he came back with a folded piece of paper which he handed to me.  I opened it up, to see “Daddy” written in large letters.  Then he had taken a red marker and put an large “X” over the word “Daddy”.  I was stunned that he would have, what I felt to be, such a strong reaction to my asking him to pic up his toys.  But I remember this moment so well, because I feel that this was the moment that my kids started saying “I hate you” when things weren’t going their way.  Of course, we correct that type of behavior at our house by reminding our children that “hate” is a very strong word that needs to he used very carefully, but it still stings.

The son of the woman who sent me the picture is considerably older than my five year old, and in addition he has developmental issues that make getting through daily life a challenge for him as well as his mother.  I would imagine that it is much harder to hear the words “I hate you” from an older child, especially when you have to devote so much attention to him and her to work through the developmental delays.

However, parents should always keep in mind that hearing the words “I hate you” from a child, should be interpreted as a statedment of extreme frustration from that child.  Nothing more.  That statement in no way reflects your child’s feelings about you.  Most kids don’t have the vocabulary to express their feelings aside from using the words “love” or “hate”.   Before you take to personally the “I hate you” statement, reflect on other conversations that you have had with your children.  Most likely, you’ll realize that they always talk about either “loving” or “hating” things or situations.  Very few children will respond with statements such as “this was a very unpleasant experience” or,  “I didn’t like it when you did that.”  It is our job as parents to help them learn to better express themselves.  Brainstorm other words with your children that might express what they’re feeling in a better way.  Talk to them about how strong the meaning of words like “love” and “hate” can be.  Often children don’t realize that words can have lasting effects.

So, next time you are presented with that dreaded phrase, take a moment, let your child calm down, and then go and help your child find a better way to express his or her feelings.

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Jason Spear Miller
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