After pouring your time and love into raising your wonderful child, he turns to you and says three little words – and not the ones you love to hear. It’s amazing how the words “I hate you” can cut a parent to the quik. The best advice is not to take it personally, something that’s hard to do with something so personal.
Yelling or saying a definitive “fine!” does nothing to help the situation. In fact, it acts to increase the tension and hurt feelings. Many parents try to stay calm, reminding the child that s/he loves the child very much. “I’m sorry you feel that way. I love you very much.” However the reactive parent and the reassuring parent have both managed to do the same thing – make the situation about them.
When a child gives those hurtful words, it’s because they are in pain. For whatever reason, they feel unloved, uncared for, or that life is unjust. In their pain, they lash out. It is at that time that children need a parent’s understanding. However, rather than reassuring a child that their needs matter, by saying “I love you” the parent manages not to acknowledge what is really going on and switches the focus to him/herself. Instead of being reassured, the child is left with an even greater feeling that the parent doesn’t understand, doesn’t listen, or doesn’t care.
By not taking it personally, a parent is able to step back and address the real issue, and by doing so, show the child that the parent is listening and that s/he is loved.