What To Do When Your Child Says They Hate You

Yesterday, I received a gorgeous blogger drop from Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. Because neither Walter or I eat chocolate, my girls knew they were in for a treat. I’d promised them that if they ate their supper, they could have a piece of chocolate before bath time. 

Of course, my go to parenting technique of bribery and corruption is not fail proof and my girls got into a huge fight over dinner which resulted in Ava dumping her juice into Hannah’s bowl of supper. Naturally the reward was revoked and I informed them there would be no chocolate after supper.

What happened next is what every mother dreads! And what every adopted mother fears!

Ava shouted at me that she hates me and I’m not her mother anyway!

It hurt you guys. It was like a knife straight through my heart. 

She was sent to her room and told not to come out until she’d apologized to me, this from her father. After 5 minutes in her room, she was more than happy to give me an apology. I told her she’d hurt my heart and that you can’t go around saying things like that to people. Of course, you can go around saying those things but not when you’re my sweet, kind-hearted Ava-Grace! She started apologizing profusely and saying she hadn’t meant it, but still, the knife in my heart stung.

Afterwards I went and read up on what is the best way to handle this situation, because I know it’s not uncommon for kids to say stuff like this and not mean it, but it doesn’t mean it hurts any less and I wanted to be better prepared for it should it happen again. 

I mean, we’re parenting in a different era to our own parents. I would never have dared say something like that to my mother, because I knew, a snot klap would land before the sentence was even out my mouth! 

Here’s what the experts say:

1. Remain Calm – to be honest, I did’t feel like I was going to lose my cool, I was so shocked and hurt when the words left her mouth that there was no time to even lose my temper. 

Apparently remaining calm is also a great lesson in teaching my child self control, by exercising self control. This could also help her with her own anger and impulse control in the future.

2. Acknowledge that the words hurt – accept the hurt but try not to take it personally (this is easier said than done when I think about how I live my entire life for my kids) and don’t let the hurt determine your behavior in the moment. 

3. Avoid the urge to hurt back – this is an easy step for me, I love my children too much and it’s not in my nature to have a tit for tat response to anyone. While it is human nature to become defensive, remember, this is your child and they don’t really mean what they’ve said.

4. Don’t scream and shout – this response is about as effective as saying something hurtful back. It’s completely ineffective and I’ve learned this time and time again.

As hard as it was, for me, I had to show Ava, through my words and actions immediately after the event. that I still loved her, unconditionally, because I do and that nothing she said could change that. That lashing out and verbalizing her anger, no matter how misdirected, or her sense of loss of control over a situation would not solve it or change it. 

This last paragraph is especially true for me, because my children are adopted and there is already that primal wound in place, I feel an added responsibility to always ensure that they know they are unconditionally and irrevocably loved and that there is NO CHANCE of abandonment, conscious or otherwise.

Lastly, every resource I read on this topic (and there are tons of them) say you should not take it personally. That is a difficult thing to do when such a large part of parenting is sacrificial love for our children. And I’m trying, I’m really trying to not take it personally because in my heart I know she loves me, I know she didn’t mean it, I know it was said in anger, but still……


What To Do When Your Child Says They Hate You




“I Hate You, Mom! I Wish You Were Dead!” When Kids Say Hurtful Things




  • gillianmh

    September 9, 2016 at 8:52 am

    I am lucky enough to not have heard those words from Riley’s (9) mouth. I am not sure how I would feel about it, shocked, hurt, angry I suppose all the negative feels that would be associated with it. As she start venturing into her preteen and teen moody years, I guess I am going to have start preparing myself for the inevitable fights that are yet to come. :/.
    I guess my first response to to that would be ” well I dont like you very much right now either”, but that’s the anger coming through which is not a good idea. Parenting is not easy, I guess we all just stumble along and figure things out as we go.

  • Julie

    September 9, 2016 at 9:06 am

    Ouch for sure. Also made me think (before I finished your post) of how small kids say, I hate you, you’re not my friend, a lot amongst themselves in the heat of bad arguments and anger. Their ‘big statements’ don’t carry the reasoning and specific design…. even thought they wound as if they have been professionally constructed!! x

  • spiritedmama1

    September 9, 2016 at 9:13 am

    oh those words…..it’s a killer! Everytime! Dudie has dropped it a few times and honestly it still shocks me to hear those words…Dude has had a talk with him because quite frankly he feels that I do so much for this child and yet he feels the need to utter those words…

  • Stephanie

    September 9, 2016 at 9:33 am

    Reading this with tears in my eyes, our kids can sometimes say the meanest things to us 🙁 but u handled great and it sounds like she knows she hurt her mama feelings, Hang in there xxxxx

  • sula1968

    September 9, 2016 at 10:02 am

    When my eldest son used the word hate I put tabasco on his tongue, I only had to do it once and it sure worked but Cliff won’t let me test it on the 2 young ones. It sounds like you handled it just right

  • Celeste Booysen

    September 9, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    I’ve heard those words before too and oh those feelings are just heartbreaking. Thank you for this lovely informative piece. I am sure to be hearing the words again so I am sure to make use of some of these tips.

  • cupcakemummy

    September 9, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    Oh my goodness, I dread this day. Because my kid is AMAZING but I’m pretty sure it’s been mumbled when there are arguments and he’s sent to his room. I need to learn the remain calm thing. I’m not a remain calm person and I suck at conflict so it’d end up in things I’d regret as well.

    This said, I have told my parents. Particularly my mother this more times than I could count as I was growing up. I meant it at that moment. Else I wouldn’t have said it. But I still love her. You can’t have love without hate and vice versa. As for the not my mother part… I cried just reading it and I’m not even her mom so you are totes allowed to hurt. But the thing is my stepdad. As much as we argue and shit he’s still been there and he stepped up when my dad couldn’t so despite really not liking him (trust me if you met him you would understand) I do appreciate him.

    You are winning at this parenting thing. You really are <3

  • Pamdora

    September 9, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    Yes, we have heard those words too. Quite often actually. It does hurt, but you have to remember that they are kids. In an argument, we have all the power to punish them, and they have none. Yet they feel just as aggrieved as we do because they only see things from their perspective. I have had to start reminding my child that it’s her actions that cause the punishment in the first place, because when she is punished she says we are mean. She does not see her part in it.
    They are clever, they realize pretty quickly what pushes your buttons and how words can hurt. Words are their only weapon, because they can’t really send us to bed with no supper.
    I have to bite my tongue sometimes, but after its all over I do tell her that her words hurt me.
    It’s hard not to take it personally, but we all lash out when angry and say things we don’t mean.
    Interestingly, I was talking to a therapist about adoption, and she said that many adopted kids have a fear that they will be ‘given away’ again, if they are naughty for instance. Imagine how scary that thought is, so they are using this fear to hurt us in a way, by making us think they want to ‘give us away’. That’s just a completely simplistic way of explaining it, it’s all way more complicated as you know.

  • MrsFF

    September 10, 2016 at 7:35 am

    I felt like a knife cut through my heart as I read those words… And I shed a little year. Sigh… I didn’t know kids said those things until they were older.

    And the sad part is there might be many repeats of that in future (as I know I told my mom more than once the same things as a teenager and always because I didn’t get my way)

  • Janel Sunderlall

    December 7, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    I’m going through that phase with my 4 year old at the moment and it hurts me terribly. I have to keep reminding myself that she will grow out of it and I try my very best not to over react but it’s extremely difficult.


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