So, my almost 4 year old said “I hate you Mom” a few days ago. Not exactly these words because she still doesn’t grasp the meaning of the word “hate” (thankfully) but she was very angry with me and was wailing and yelling all kinds of hurtful words a 4 year old can say. Stuff like “I will never give you kissie anymore”, “You are not my favourite anymore” and my favourite “Don’t come to cuddle me at night now”!!
I didn’t handle the episode very well. It was not just the fact that my own daughter, my flesh and blood and my life was saying stuff like”you are bad mamma”, “you never let me go out on the road” and so on. It was not even the fact that I had given up my career, embraced waking up at midnight, late night feedings, making her the center of my universe, which made my eyes well up with tears.
However, it was a flashback in front of me, of all those moments when I, the daughter said some (what I now know are) very hurtful words to my own parents time and again, which really made me emotional. In a heartbeat I felt what they must have felt all those times when I said “I hate you” or “You don’t’ understand me” or even “you never care about my happiness” and I must share that it felt like someone had stabbed me.
As a parent, I can now understand why or how parents sometimes make decisions or choices that the children might feel were taken for the sole purpose of making their life miserable but were in all honesty taken by the parents with the best interest of their kids at their hearts.
This incident made me think why it was so hard to hear this from my daughter and why it felt so personal. It is hard to think of things that would hurt a parent more than hearing their child say such hurtful words. They cut like a knife and you think, “Why don’t you appreciate all that I have done for you?” It is natural for you to have expectations when you give up so much for your child but the fact remains that our children don’t owe us anything for all what we do for them as parents and frankly it was our decision to bring them into the world so we can’t expect them to be grateful about that.
I also feel that kids at this age are still learning to manage their emotions. For them love, anger, happiness etc. is all in extreme measures. She needs help expressing her feelings and frustrations and this is her way of stating her extreme emotions. The best way for me to help her would be to name and acknowledge her emotions without judging them.
I also started thinking about what to do if this incident happens again, and I am sure it will happen again because it is natural for kids to not understand their parents. Here is a list of what I would do when my daughter ever says mean and hurtful things to me:
- Staying calm. Although my instinctive reaction might be to say the first thing that comes out of my mouth but I would try to breathe and think hard about what to say.
- Watch my body language. Non–verbal cues like voice tone, volume, expressions, body etc. are extremely powerful while communicating with kids. So I will try not to take an aggressive stance with crossed arms, putting hands on hips or rolling my eyes
- Keep my response short but assertive. Although I might be tempted to launch in a detailed lecture about how I exactly know what she feels since I was her age once or I might want to preach her the way one should talk to their parents but I feel what would really work would be a gentle but firm stance. In my case I would say “I am sorry you feel that way but I can’t let you run on the road because you will get hurt”.
- If it gets too much I will walk away. If my emotions get the best of me I would walk away from the situation because it shows that you are in control and that you have the authority in the situation. Once things have calmed down a bit I would come back and discuss the issue later.
- Remember, she doesn’t really hate me. She is just experiencing strong emotions and trying to put them into words. She doesn’t realize how hurtful they might be for me yet and even when she does she might not mean them.
Most of all I always want to keep in mind that as a mother I might do all the right things and still get an occasional I hate you. In times like these I will keep the following quote by Bette Davis in mind.
“If you have never been hated by your child, you have never been a parent.”
Has your child ever said “I hate you Mom”? What did you do in that situation? I would love to hear your thoughts through comments below.
Swapna Thomas is a Work at Home Mom and a professional blogger who left the corporate rat race to raise her daughter. She loves shopping, writing, black coffee and DIY decor, in no particular order. You can catch her parenting blog TheMomViews.com and join her on Twitter @themomviews.