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Offices in Garden City, Roslyn Heights, and Rockville Centre
info@lipsychologist.com

“I Hate You” – How to Response When a Child Lashes Out

by Feb 20, 2024Child Psychology

We all are still learning to manage our emotions. Even those of us in our 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond are learning new ways to keep ourselves calm, address frustration, and communicate more effectively with ourselves and each other.

Children – including teenagers and even young adults – are especially prone to wild emotional swings and the outbursts associated with them. The ability to express emotion, maintain composure, show self-control over what we say, etc., is one of the very last things to develop.

Which is why it is not uncommon for children to yell out a phrase that can hurt parents at their core: “I hate you.” We see hate as such a strong word, especially how we use it as adults. But for kids, it’s often just the way that their immediate emotions are coming out. They’re so mad at you in that moment, that to them it’s “hate,” even though the emotion fades and they do not entirely understand the implication.

How Should We Respond When a Child Says They Hate Us?

Part of helping your child learn to manage their emotions comes from how you respond to the emotions they do show you. They need help going from extreme emotions to something calmer and more manageable. While it is not something that happens overnight (they may yell they hate you many times during these high emotional states), you can take this as an opportunity to help them become more in tune with their emotions.

You CAN let them know you feel sad. Saying something calmly like “it makes me sad when you say that” helps them understand that their words have consequences. But once you’ve shared that with them, you can work on helping them learn to control how upset they are:

  • Acknowledgement – Tell them that it’s okay for them to be upset, and that you understand they’re feeling really upset/mad at the moment. Acknowledging the feelings and putting words to them helps them feel seen and understood.
  • Problem Solve – Work through their emotions with them to help them understand why they are so upset and what they can do about it. “Have you been feeling like nobody is listening to you?” and “was there a way that I could have responded to you that would have made you feel better?”
  • Explain and Offer Solutions – Once you’ve been able to talk through it and problem solve, you can then explain how you felt about the incident (no need to rehash the “I hate you part,” but instead the experience that caused the backlash) and then discuss what could have been done differently. You can then ask them what they need in order to feel better, and if they’d like a few minutes to relax.

This approach isn’t going to stop hurtful words overnight, but it will help your child gain more understanding over themselves and still give you a chance to show them that their words did hurt you. Over time, as they get older, the “I hate you” parents experience will stop, as your child learns new and better ways to manage their emotions.

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info@lipsychologist.com

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