“I hate you!” No parent wants to hear that. We do so much for our children and we love them unconditionally. For them to turn around and say they hate us can be heartbreaking or angering. And it can be difficult to know what to do.
But, as always, this is an opportunity to tap into the head, heart and soul of parenting and guide your child in a loving and supportive way.
How dare they!
Our heads, or our parenting mindset, can get in the way of dealing with this situation effectively. If we get caught up in “how dare they!” or “how cruel!” or “how disrespectful!”, we can end up embroiled in feelings of anger or sadness or annoyance, which can make the situation worse.
Instead, if we acknowledge that our child is having an emotional outburst because they’re still learning to feel and express their emotions, then we can see it as a learning opportunity. There are, in fact, two key learning opportunities here.
How are you feeling?
If we drop out of our heads and into our hearts, we can bring more loving energy to the situation and we can use the opportunity to teach emotional skills.
Emotional outbursts happen because children are still learning how to manage and express their emotions effectively. You can help your child to explore their feelings by first witnessing what they are experiencing.
You could say, “I can see that you’re angry” to acknowledge their feelings. Once they’ve calmed down, you can then explore the feeling more. You could ask, “What does that feel like for you? Where can you feel that in your body?”
You could share what anger feels like for you and discuss other ways that your child could express that anger without blurting out, “I hate you”.
Even if your child can’t express what they’re feeling clearly, you’ve acknowledged how they are feeling and you’ve opened up the pathways for their greater self understanding.
This is why we don’t say ‘I hate you!’
The parenting soul or intuitive opportunity here is about recognising that this situation can also reinforce your family values.
If you take a deep breath, get down to your child’s level, and say in a calm but loving way, “I understand that you’re feeling angry. But hate is a hurtful word, and there are other ways to express how you’re feeling right now”, you can take the sting out of the situation.
It also helps to reinforce your family values or what’s important in your family. We value respect, love and kindness in our family so we don’t say “I hate you.” Teaching children values gives them a barometer for understanding their own behaviour.
Situations like these can feel hurtful and shocking. But if you don’t take it personally and instead, you stay calm and present in the situation, you can use it as an opportunity to teach your child about their own emotions and your family values.
Jodie Benveniste is a psychologist and intuitive parenting specialist. She is also the creator of the Intuitive Parenting App. You can begin a free trial at: www.intuitiveparentingapp.com.