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

Updated February 7, 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 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 say something like "I hate my kids!" ever. 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 issue. 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 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 feels.

In reality, emotions are a hard concept to tackle for 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 actually 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 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.

Your reaction should not fall under the second reason why your child said those dreaded words. 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. The anger-fueled words might initially make you angry. Since this is what your child is likely looking for, it is best not to respond in this way. Responding properly is key to preventing the statement from being repeated in the future. You are setting an example with how you respond.

A Parent's Response

Being informed that your child hates you can induce any number of reactions. Some parents get angry and sometimes they begin to hate being a mom. 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 little one 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 young child's same eye level. You might squat, pick him or her up, or sit down together so that you can communicate face to face.

What is it about communication 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 is important that you actually listen and have the body language to prove it.

Once you and your little one 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 ways - 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 address emotion at any age can be difficult 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 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 is a big teaching moment in a 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 little one 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 call 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.

By guiding your child in the most effective ways to manage anger and other emotions, they can do better to handle them. This will help to prevent any future exclamations of hating parents. 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.

Future Lessons in Kindness

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 see how others feel.

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, they can learn to control their reactions to emotions better. Raise someone that understands kindness by reacting to your child's negative behavior with kindness.

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.