kid says I hate you

How to Respond When Your Child Says “I Hate You”

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What to Say When a Kid Says I Hate You

When you’re a new mom gazing down at your precious bundle of joy you never imagine the day when your little darling will stand in front of you screaming the words “I hate you”. It’s a knife through the heart when it happens. And unfortunately, it will happen to most of us. So as the parent, how should you respond? Here are some tips for surviving this dreaded phrase from your child.

When a Young Child Says I Hate You to Mom or Dad

In the back of my mind, I always knew the day would come. I just pictured it differently. I thought when my daughter was older, maybe thirteen or so. Going through teenage hormonal drama, we might have a fight that ended in “I hate you” from her.

Instead, my child was five. And frankly, a pretty volatile kid. A kid who gets passionately angry when anything doesn’t go her way. To be honest, I’ve heard the distressing phrase, “I hate you” from a child more than once. Here is how I’ve learned to respond.

Related Parenting Post: How to Help Your Child Manage Anger

When Your Kid Says I Hate You It’s Not About Love

There is no question that having your child scream “I hate you” at you is distressing. You may be wondering if it’s true.

Or if you’ve failed them somehow in terms of making them feel loved and loving towards you as their parents. Or you may just think your kid is being a brat. I guess it depends on how personally you take it.

The good news is, your child loves you. Probably more than anything else in their little world. The bad news is, your child is very, very angry at you.

Or maybe that’s not bad news. Sometimes we have to do things our kids don’t like. Things that make them angry. Maybe angry enough to say they hate us. Sometimes being a parent sucks. No surprises there.

Why Do Kids Say I Hate You?

For some kids, especially the very young, their ability to verbally express their feelings is limited. Instead of saying, “I’m so angry you won’t let me have a treat!” They just say, “I hate you.”

As kids get older, they learn more words. They also learn how powerful words can be. Which means they learn to use them as weapons.

Is mom or dad not giving them what they want? They know just how to hurt you. So, “I hate you” becomes a way to be hurtful when they’re feeling angry or frustrated with you.

In either case, the bottom line is it’s not personal. They don’t really hate you. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt you to hear it.

How Should You Respond to Your Child’s Angry Words?

1. Stay Calm Even When Your Child Has Hurt You with Their Words

Honestly, I sometimes fail at this. I have trouble not getting emotional and matching my kid angry voice for angry voice when an issue comes up. But I’m working on it. If you can stay calm in any discipline situation I can pretty much guarantee you will handle it better.

This is where it helps to understand why your child is saying “I hate you”. And that it isn’t and shouldn’t be treated as a personal attack.

2. Say I Love You in Response to I Hate You

When my child says “I hate you” I often respond with something along the lines of “That’s OK. I love you enough for both of us.” For other ideas for an immediate response, I love this list from CafeMom on the best comebacks when your child says “I hate you”

If you say this calmly enough it can have a surprisingly quieting effect on an angry child. But it’s not a fix-all. You’ll want to address your child’s method of dealing with their anger.

3. Help Your Child Find the Words to Express Their Anger

If your child is saying “I hate you” when they feel angry it’s a good time to teach them better ways to express their angry feelings.

You can try giving them the right words. Some good phrases might be:

“It sounds like you’re really angry with me”

“You must be really mad right now.”

“It sounds like you don’t like what mom and dad decided.”

Paraphrase what you think your child wants to express without using “I hate you”.

4. Provide a Correction to the Ugly “I Hate You”

Even with the understanding that you shouldn’t take this personally, you also don’t have to let the “I hate you” stand uncorrected.

Once you empathize and help your child express themselves and calm down, you need to let them know what they said is not ok.

I hate when my kid says “I hate you”. I’m sure you do too. And it’s something I want her to know is not acceptable.

Once your child has had a chance to calm down, have a separate conversation about what words are and are not used in your house.

You might try, “I know you were angry, but we don’t use that word in our family.” And express to them how hurtful that phrase is and why we don’t use it. 

No parent wants to be on the receiving end of the dreaded “I hate you”. But the truth is most of us will have to deal with it at some point.

I was surprised at how early it came up. If you’re dealing with this issue in an older child, I encourage you to read this Age by Age Guide to Dealing with I Hate You.

The Bottom Line on Responding to “I Hate You” or Other Angry Words

Your child is normal. Saying “I hate you” to a parent is normal. And you can handle it. With these tips and your expert knowledge of your own kid and what they’re really trying to say. You’ve got this!

Has your child ever said, “I hate you”? How did you handle it?

How to Respond When Your Child Says “I Hate You”

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10 thoughts on “How to Respond When Your Child Says “I Hate You””

  1. I know this post was from several months ago, but I really appreciate it. I remember the first time my son said “I hate you” when he was 4. It hurt, but I didn’t let it get to me. Too much. Now, I’ve heard it many times from my youngest child as she is quite a spit fire herself. However, I don’t respond with negativity. I know without a doubt, I am her favorite person. She just hates that I’m not giving her another sugary snack!

  2. It’s not always easy when your child says this to you, but if you’re prepared for it and you don’t take it too personally, it won’t hurt as much 🙂 It’s good advice (as you mentioned above) to give them the right words for it. Although I think for some kids, when they’re really angry, nothing sounds more satisfying than lashing out those words. 🙂

  3. These are such great tips as to what to do when it happens! Staying calm is key and helping them really understand their feelings and words is a great way to teach them! Great advice! #WanderingWednesday

  4. I’ve had this happen to me before with our firstborn. He can be such a strong-minded individual. Thank you for laying out the foundation as to why this happens and not making me feel as though I’ve failed my child.

  5. I believe handling the situation calmly is best. I have not had that experience with my kids. I was told I was not nice but not I hate you. I do remember saying it to my mom though. I agree though they are words thrown out in frustration.

  6. My child has said it, and the worst of all “I don’t love you.” It really hurt my feelings and she saw how emotional I got and I told her it’s ok you’re upset you don’t mean it, I love you. Then she got emotional and we hugged it out. She realized that she should never say that now she says I’m mad at you or you’re not my best buddy. It’s usually when she doesn’t get it her way. Thank you for your tips.

  7. I like how you help readers remember to not get lost in the moment and to remember that when a child tell you “I hate you”, it’s usually a sign that they love and trust you to be that sounding board for their emotions. It’s super hard in the heat of the moment, but hopefully this post will help all parents remember that it’ll be ok.

  8. I really liked this blog post. It’s not a subject parents talk a lot about, but as you said most every parent will experience these dreaded words at some point from their child. I like your suggestions and resources.

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