When a child utters the words, “I hate you” to their parents, it’s usually because they think there is no other way to express their extreme displeasure with their parents or because they’re trying to regain control by saying the worst thing they can think of. There few things that hurt a parent as much as hearing those three little words from the people they care about the most. Whether your child is a grade-schooler or a teenager, here are 10 things to keep in mind when your child throws those vicious words your way.
Stay Calm – All too often, older kids who do understand the impact of the word “hate” simply use it as a guaranteed means of getting an emotional response from a parent. Instead of becoming angry or visibly upset, try to stay calm. Showing the response that they’re looking for only serves to reinforce their idea that using such a hurtful phrase is an effective way to win an argument.
Don’t Give In – An extreme show of anger from a child, especially one powerful enough to produce proclamations of hatred, can often be enough to send parents backpedaling. Though the words are hurtful, they can be seen as a sign that you’re doing your job, making difficult and unpopular decisions for your child’s benefit rather than pandering to their short-term desires.
Don’t Increase Punishments – Increasing a punishment after your child claims to hate you, even if your demeanor is outwardly calm, still proves to them that their words have had a marked effect on you. Keep punishments consistent, rather than upping the ante.
Don’t Undermine Your Child – Though you might be tempted to tell your child that you know that they don’t hate you, it’s important to understand that this only undermines them; avoid telling your children how they feel, and instead focus on helping them to express it more constructively on their own.
Don’t Argue – An argument or shouting match with your child is almost always completely counterproductive. No matter how much your child says they hate you, it’s important to stand your ground and refuse to be drawn into a debate.
Explain How They Can Influence the Outcome of the Situation – If your child screams that they hate you when they’re visibly frustrated about something else, help them to feel as if they have power over the situation by explaining to them what they can do to influence the situation’s outcome. Saying things like, “When you calm down, we can talk about this rationally,” helps him or her to understand exactly what they can do to affect the situation.
Give Them Time to Cool Off – Trying to have a discussion about the causes of your child’s anger while he’s still in the throes of a temper tantrum will not yield any results. It’s best to allow them a cooling off period, and to approach the conversation when you’re both less emotional.
Talk About the Importance of Using Accurate Words – Smaller children sometimes need parents to explain to them the importance of carefully choosing their words, rather than speaking thoughtlessly and saying something hurtful and untrue.
Watch Your Own Usage – When kids hear their parents casually use the word “hate” to describe their own feelings, they don’t get an accurate grasp of how serious the word actually is. Pay attention to your own use of the word, and avoid using it as much as possible.
Treat it as a Learning Experience For Both of You – While your child is learning about the importance of choosing their words and how those words can affect people, you can be learning about their individual needs and their budding personality.
Young children often have trouble verbalizing frustration, and may lash out simply because that frustration is compounded by an inability to express what they’re feeling. Helping your child to put their feelings into words without telling them how they feel might be a good way to curb some of that anger in the heat of the moment.
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