How to Respond When Your Child Says "I Hate My Parents"

Updated August 22, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

Most kids have said it. In fact, if your child has yet to say it, it is likely only a matter of time. The phrase "I hate you!" is a statement that most parents hear at least once in their lifetime. How do you handle such a statement? The response you provide is likely what will either correct or egg on the behavior.

Not Sure How To Respond When Your Child Says Hurtful Things?

As parents, you and your partner (or co-parent) are responsible for addressing the "I hate you" claim logically rather than emotionally. In other words, don't become emotional and say something like "I hate you, too." This is not likely to help the situation. If you have trouble addressing the issue without feeling excess anger of your own, you might seek professional help in the form of a counselor who can walk you and your partner through exercises that help you keep your cool.

For your children to learn how to keep from exclaiming hurtful things, you as the parent must learn how to do the same. Understanding where these kinds of statements come from is crucial to getting to the core of the problem. It is only then that you can respond in the best manner.

Why Do Children Say They Hate Their Parents?

There are a variety of explanations that can shed light on a child's cruel words. Know that your child does not truly hate you, despite their claims made in the heat of the moment. In fact, they probably love you more than anything else. There are several reasons that those words could have been uttered, none of which involve actual hate. Those reasons include difficulty dealing with emotions and simply trying to make you feel how they feel.

Emotions are a hard concept to tackle for most young people. Even adults struggle with keeping their reactions to emotionally challenging situations within acceptable social standards. It is easy to get upset and say something that you don't mean. If adults make this mistake, how can we expect children not to? As parents, you are responsible for teaching your child how to avoid saying hurtful things.

Your child might be feeling angry, sad, or hurt. However, they are not equipped with the necessary skills to tell you how they feel, so instead, they say they hate you. It is a hurtful statement, but not one that holds a lot of meaning—at least, there is no meaning in the words themselves.

Meaning, rather, comes from the way the statement is said. How the words are said can give you some insight into why they came from your child's mouth. Pay attention to how the words are said: are they angry or sad? Understanding how your child is truly feeling is the start of knowing how you should react.

When your child says this phrase as an attempt to get you to feel like they feel, they are likely waiting for a certain reaction. These anger-fueled words might initially make you angry. Since this is what your child is possibly looking for, it is best not to respond in this way. Responding properly can be the key to deescalating the situation. You are also setting an example with how you respond.

A Parent's Response

Getty

Being informed that your child hates you can induce any number of reactions. Some parents get angry. Others are instantly saddened. You might even freeze up. It is important to understand that how you respond teaches your child how to respond as well. Lead by example.

Before you say anything in response to your child's declaration, remember to note how they feel. Getting a read on their emotions can dictate how you should respond. The words you say can be helpful, but your demeanor is equally important.

Whether your child is angry or sad, you must remain calm. Act as an example for your child to follow. If you get worked up, your child will likely respond in kind. Take a deep breath if needed, and then get on your child's eye level. Depending on their age, you might squat, pick him or her up, or sit down together so that you can communicate face to face.

What is it about communicating with a child in this way that helps the situation? Simply put, you are no longer talking down to your child. Instead, you can talk on the same level and make him or her feel as though you are listening to what they have to say. Getting on their level also makes them feel like you aren't just an authority figure—you're mommy or daddy, and you care. It's important that you actually listen and have the body language to prove it.

Once you and your child are on the same level, you can express your understanding. You might say, "I understand that you are feeling angry" or "I can see how sad you're feeling." If you know exactly why your child is feeling this way, help to explain it to them. This could include saying, "You're upset because I won't allow any more screen time, and that made you feel mad." Your child might know that they are mad but are unsure why or how to express that anger in a structured way. By teaching your child to express their feelings in the most straightforward way—by saying it—you can help them identify the cause of their anger and encourage the skill of talking about their feelings.

By helping your child to identify the cause of their anger, you can better prepare them to handle emotions in the future. Today, many adults keep their feelings bottled up because they were never taught how to explain what they feel. Failing to express emotions in a constructive way at any age can cause difficulty in relationships.

During your conversation, you must address how saying that they hate someone can hurt others' feelings. Try to have your child imagine how they would feel if those words were directed at them. Walkthrough with them how to stand in someone else's shoes and better understand the hurt that words can cause. Talk about those feelings and how to handle them. It's a big learning moment in your child's life, so be sure to focus on them and the situation at hand. This is not a conversation to be had while glancing up from social media scrolling or making dinner. It must be taken seriously.

When your child is feeling angry, tell them that they can say, "I'm angry." You can take it a step further and teach your child to explain why they are angry. At a young age, it is the parent's role to help your child deal with their emotions constructively. You can talk about bad ways to handle anger and good ways. It can even become a game of sorts so that your child wants to learn. If they are still currently upset, teach them how to calm themselves. For example, when your child expresses anger, sit with them and take a few slow, deep breaths. The more parents work with their child on this kind of response, the more they will do it by themselves when the situation calls for it.

By guiding your child in the most effective ways to manage anger and other emotions, they can do better handling them in the future. This may even help to prevent any future exclamations of hate. While assisting your child in dealing with their emotions can make these kinds of outbursts less frequent, it is important to remember that children are people and far from perfect. They might grow up to express emotion healthily, but it is a long road to get there.

Takeaway

Getty Images
Not Sure How To Respond When Your Child Says Hurtful Things?

Teaching children to communicate their feelings is a lifelong skill that needs to be practiced. Handling the situation properly can expand into other life events as well. It provides the opportunity to address feelings and prevent other similar bad behavior. When a child has a better grasp of feelings, they understand their own and might learn to understand how others feel.

If you need help working through parenting issues, consider talking to a therapist through Regain. Regain is an online therapy platform that offers affordable, convenient support. You can work alone or with your parenting partner. Sessions can take place at a time that works with your schedule, and your therapist can connect with you via text, phone call, or video chat.

Many parents have turned to online therapy for help. Parenting isn't easy, but online therapy is easy to access. No matter where you are, you can find an online therapist who can help. Online therapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy in handling a vast array of issues.

A child who understands how words can hurt is less likely to inflict emotional hurt on someone else. By responding to outbursts appropriately as a parent, you child can learn to control their reactions to emotions better and they may be less likely to utter hurtful phrases 

For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns

This website is owned and operated by BetterHelp, who receives all fees associated with the platform.
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started
This website is owned and operated by BetterHelp, who receives all fees associated with the platform.