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I Hate You, Mama!

DSC_0057 To characterize the past few months as going through a rough patch in my relationship with my kids is an understatement.  Nearly every day my 4 year old who reminds me, "I hate you mama!" In between shouting matches, the 6 year old telling me "I'm lying" to him, and the both kids constantly being rough with their baby brother, I rarely keep my cool these days. So as I was perusing our overflowing inbox, I came across this email I had to chuckle:

I have a 5 month old daughter and we are so close!  I can't imagine her hating me, but it seems pretty normal for daughters in this culture to loathe their mothers at some point for one reason or another.  Are there any theories that can explain this?  Is it unique to our culture?  Is there anything I can do so my baby won't hate me when she gets bigger?!

Parenting is awfully challenging especially when the little ones grow and develop a mind of their own and learn to think for themselves.  I tell myself that everything is cyclical and some of the challenges we are facing right now will soon pass.  Despite the challenges and obstacles, there are beautiful relationships between mamas and their daughters as well as mamas and their sons out there.  Do you have one of those?  What is your secret to having a great relationship with your child?  


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Time. Quality and quantity.

My relationship with my almost five year old is not always happy. He frequently argues with everything we say, throws fits, negotiates and yes, even says he hates us. My favorite recently was, " I don't love you and I'm never going to love you!" "Well then" I told him, "I will have to love you twice as much."

What helps is giving him good connection time. Playing a card game with him after dinner, for instance, can change everything for him. Our child has food sensitivities and we also have to be incredibly consistent with keeping his diet clean--no gluten, dairy, sugar, chocolate. Even a tiny bit can dramatically change his personality for the worse for three or four days.

I sure hope five is easier.

It's wonderful to read the above posts. It is so true about having that quality time and connecting. My youngest son who is five is a powerful personality. We love each other fiercely and yet it feels like there is always this tug of war. Maybe it is because we are so alike, I don't know. In some ways he has had to grow up a little faster because his older brother has special needs. I try as well to make time for one on one. He loves to beat me at crazy eights, sorry and to be read to. I constantly pick him up and hug him and tell him how much I love him. Five is tough but I am going to really miss this time.

Ever since my second son was born my 5 year old has been very difficult. I guess if you're used to being the only child for 4.5 years it rocks your world to have to share it with someone else. I thought by the time my son was as old as he is now (14months) things would have gotten better. My 5 year old is consistently too rough with my 1 year old and I feel like a referee most of the time. I am hoping once kindergarten starts things will get a bit better...All I can say is hang in there, seek some support and know you are definitely NOT alone!

I just had a terrible morning with my 3 year old, both of us yelling, both of us in tears. I just have to tell myself to forgive, both of us, and try to forget. He is out with his dad, and when he comes home I am just going to hug him and start all over. I think for a long time I have been waiting, waiting for infancy to pass, waiting for him to walk and talk, thinking that would make it easier, waiting for the 2's to pass, etc etc. I am now working on accepting, and understanding that parenting is really really really hard. For our family all of the above help; time, diet, connection. I also have to have breaks, time alone, time with friends, time to regain my perspective. When I am at my best, there is more room for that beauty.Good luck, hang in there, and know you do have a beautiful relationship, authentic and beautiful.

oh I don't think I have any good advice as I'm frequently termed "the worst" by my 6 year old. I think what it boils down to is that we get to set the limits and bring on the consequences. Maybe turning the tables and allowing them to set some limits and decide consequences might make them feel a bit less helpless? The other thing is remembering to praise the good stuff. It's just so easy to take the good stuff for granted... I'm very much guilty of that. Be sure and help your child get noticed for the good stuffs, too. and *hugs* I'm totally in the same boat.

I agree that time -- and by 'time' I mean actual non-judgmental, uncritical whole-self focus on a child -- is the best way to secure a child's love. I am not saying this is easy or even possible in any continual way; but the more of it one can give, the better things work out, both for a day in question, and for life. when this sort of whole-self focus is impossible, the next best thing is togetherness; looking out the window at the moon, going on a walk/bike ride/run, practicing an instrument, picking berries, reading books in one another's presence, having a child nearby while you do housework/weeding/harvesting/cooking/etc.

I, too, have the worst of all possible times dealing with the "I hate you!" (and we get "you're lying," too, which drives me batty! I'm not lying! you just misconstrued me. or I changed my mind. children need to go to logic 101 ;) and related awful statements. I agree that the best approach is to remain calm and return "hate" with loving statements, though I have upon occasion been known to mutter under my breath, "well, I don't like you much either right now," which may not have been entirely under my breath.

when one loses one's temper or cool or simply does something rather "unkind," I think the best approach is to apologize and own up to the mistake as soon as simmering down is possible. "I'm sorry, I was wrong to have yelled at you, you just made a mistake/were angry and couldn't control your temper/really frustrated me when I hadn't had anything to eat yet, and I love you" is a good way to mend fences.

in a measured and thoughtful evaluation of a number of different and differently functional mother-child relationships, I've determined that self esteem is catching, and strenuously affects the quality of the long-term relationship. specifically: the more a parent communicates both non-judgmental and confident love of herself/himself, and loves the child without guilt, judgment, quid pro quo, or bribes, the more the child will have his own self-esteem and a love and respect for the parent. I've seen it done really wrong (parent telling child he doesn't want to spend time with him b/c of misbehavior, then later apologizing by buying him candy) and really right (parent telling child, after an explanation for misbehavior, that he understands why he felt that way and hopes he responds more appropriately in the future, and going out to play soccer and change the subject), by the same parent.

here's hoping we get it right just a little more often than we get it wrong, and are able to maintain our own self-respect through the "I hate you's" so we can give it to our kids.

Look up "Stanley Greenspan" or "floor time" on google....he has wonderful ideas on spending quality time on a regular schedule with your kids, and it's totally their time...no phone, no interuptions, no agenda on your part. I did an internship during graduate school in a program that used these theories and concepts and it was great. Consistancy is the key. I try to use it with my 4 year old, but I am not as consistant as I should be. It is totally amazing to her when my phone rings, and she says, "Mommy your phone is ringing" and I say "right now is our time together. They can leave a message or call back later." It does a lot to help bolster the self esteem. It doesn't stop her from testing the waters, luckily not yet with "I hate you" but with similar sentiments, but hopefully it will make that period shorter, or more bearable!

This is such a timely post for me because I just had a terrible day with my 4-year-old. We used to be really close, but ever since the new baby was born, it feels as though we are always butting heads and very short-tempered with each other. And to think that I was really looking forward to spending more time with her during my maternity leave! Instead there are days I'd rather be at work, and then I feel guilty for feeling that way when I should be appreciating these limited days. "Whole-self connectedness" feels so far out of reach when there's a little baby in the picture. When she's rough with the baby I feel like a mama bear who'd like to (*gasp*) give her a good smack upside the head. Boy, right now, do I ever feel like I am not cut out for this parenting thing!! :(

Cumulatively, I've spent years traveling, mostly in *developing* countries, and have lived in Europe. I did not see the same anger, resentment, frustration, hateful spewing, rebellions *in general* that I see in the U.S. So, I've thought about it a lot, and wondered about it. I'm not saying that no parents and their kids in other cultures have these problems, I'm just saying that on the surface it is not common, as I feel it is here. And I went through it too! Anyway there is one author who writes about cultural effects of parenting in a really engaging way, Meredith Small. I loved Our Babies Our Selves, and haven't had a chance to read her other book, Kids, How Biology and Culture Shape the Way we Raise Our Children, yet, but I'm looking forward to it. It really helps raise awareness of what we do to maintain or promote our cultural norms, and in turn you can then wonder if it's really appropriate or necessary.

I know adults who just simply never were not close with their parents. They've always known each other well, liked being together, confided in each other (to the appropriate level), turned to each other for support (again, age appropriate), etc. As a mama I'm trying to build that for my family. At this point in my son's development,I'm noticing when I can be nurturing and supportive instead of imposing arbitrary rules or making him do things that are more convenient for me. It sure makes it easier to get something that I want when I need it more. And it helps me tune in to what's going on with him. It's fascinating and rewarding. He has his meltdowns, but it's a lot better than what I've seen with some other kids his age.

I also think it's not always in the parents control; once you start looking at some of the media that kids are exposed to, and consider some behavior that other kids are exhibiting, you see there are a lot of poor influences.

I think it's a balance and it's always changing, and I'm always going to have to be working on it.

Another timely post...my four year old was out of control, as I nearly was today...I know in my heart I need more the floor time one mom talked about, but it is soooooooooooooo so soooooooooooo hard when there is dinner to be made, the garbage that is beginning to smell, laundry to be dragged upstairs, etc. I've heard that four is a totally challenging time and I'm beginning to wonder if one issue (one among many, I'm sure) is that because we mamas finally feel like they're OK for a bit if we go and do the house/work things for just a minute, or ten, etc. Maybe if I still thought of him as a babe in terms of the attention I gave him it would be easier on us..dunno...just an idea...or maybe four year olds are just, by nature, nutty...maybe both...

I have a five year old, who has always been sensitive and frankly challenging, but not in tantrum ways. She started out being terribly intuitive, shy, easily spooked by everything which made "normal" transitions like an occasional babysitter or nursery school very hard on her. She has grown, but now exhibits terrible manipulative behavior (pouting and crying when things don't go her way, trying to convince you nobody likes her despite her friends at the playground doing everything they could to get her to play with her).

She recently threatened to throw herself down the stairs, "I'm going to kill myself!" OK, so I am who I am and when I have a kid threaten to run away I say "don't forget your shoes" but this freaked me out.

What has worked so far is to take away abstraction. Instead of "this is innapropriate" I am now saying "how can we make this better?" I have laid down the law, we have always followed through, but it wasn't working. But actually giving concrete ways that she can make something better, feel better, actually works. For example, I say, "instead of complaining to me that I am not playing with you right now, you can help clean the house and fix dinner so we have more time to play."

Then, I give her very specific things she can do to be helpful and kind (put your shoes away, clean all the toys out of the family room, help your sister find her butterfly) and these things she can do easily and wow, she feels better and is happier. Once she is there, we can have real conversations about things like "do you really want to die?"

Hello Mama,

I am a Parent Coach and a Certified Professional Nanny. I among other things I specialize in behavior modification, focusing on creating lasting respectful relationships between yourself and your children.

I’ve worked with children for more than 15 years, and I too have had the “I hate you” problems with children who I’m very close to. It can be so hurtful to love these children and care for these children and here those words.

When this comes-up, I must remind myself children younger than 6 years old often live in their “emotional” brain. When they are hurt, they live in the hurt, when they are happy, they live in the happy. With this understanding, my response to children who say hurtful things is first, “I hear you’re angry right now” (providing the child words for their feelings) “I’m very sorry you feel so angry” (empathy) “Please let me know if I can help you find your happy” (offering help and love even when you feel hurt) “I’ll love you no matter what you say” (offering security when they feel insecure).

If the hurtful words continue, I say, “words hurt too” or “I love you too much to fight with you”.

These phrases stop the conversation, especially when you continue to repeat the phrases. Your child cannot argue, (much), with “I love you no matter what you say to me”.

If the behaviors/hurtful words continue, I suggest you read one of the books by Foster Cline & Jim Fay who created The Love & Logic method. I love their approach to children and creating loving bonds.

I hope these ideas help. If you have questions, or want more information about my experiences and Parent Coaching services, please feel free to contact me.

Good Luck!


Rebecca Magby
Everything Baby, LLC

No real insight here, just glad to hear not the only one and get some addtional ideas.

My 6 year old and I get along so great while he and my husband butt heads on an hourly basis. My husband can say the same thing to him that I would say and get a totally antagonizing response from our son. While I'd like to think that I'm just a "better" parent than my husband, I know its more likely that its just personalities clashing. So now I'm pregnant with our second, and I'm sooooooo worried that the second one will not like me at all and I've got some karma coming.

I think there is a natural individuation process, that is emphasized by our culture which is very individualistic.

My parents are from another country and are not close to their children, it's not always culture.

I ahave a teenager, who goes from "OMG! I hate you so much right now! you're always ruining my life" to "Mommy, I love so much and I know you do a lot for me" in mere minutes. So I try not to personalize so much. I have friends who have raised kids that fall all over the spectrum, and honestly I would take that off the list of things to obsess about.

You do the best you can. They may be great or become a**holes, or during the teenage years a bit of both.

my five-year-old has never said "i hate you" to me, although i've sort of steeled myself against the possibility since her birth. she's been upset with me before, and upset when i've set boundaries. i don't think she hasn't said it because i'm such a great mama. really it seems likes it's against her nature to speak in that way, for whatever reason. children/people have a range of personalities, and even though she's usually sweet-tempered with me i still strive for many of the suggestions offered above, because i always want to be close with my children in a non-manipulative, mutually enjoyable way. hugs for everyone who is going through tough stages right now.

My three year old in a rage will scream that I'm a bad mom and she hates me. So much for having a verbal child. I try as calmly as possible to say, "It's not okay for you to talk to me that way." Seems like the most important thing is to maintain the boundary and not get too caught up in the drama.

Also, I just have to say, the baby in this picture is one of the cutest babies I've ever seen.

Wow, this has been very interesting to read. I have a four year old and I'm a firm believer in "pay now or pay later." He has been very grouchy/rude for the past few weeks and there is a new baby on the way in a couple of weeks. There is some acting out going on. When he starts acting out, I start looking to myself for the reason but it doesn't mean he's in the clear. I agree with post above that it finally seems like they're older when they're four. But, you know, they're not. I've found that my son needs just as much attention. I just have to find different ways to give it to him that are more "time efficient." For instance, this week, he asked to make pancakes on a school day. At first I thought "No way, we have to get out the door and I don't have time to make pancakes from scratch on a Monday." Then I saw the look on his face and realized that five extra minutes was worth it. He poured the dry ingredients and mixed it up...great quality time, he felt special (pancakes are a BIG deal to him) and I felt good for doing something extra for him in the morning. We actually ended up leaving early! Oh, and I've made pancakes every morning since. Last night we had to build a crib. Rather than have him occupy himself with something else, we had him pretend to be Cranky the Crane and lift the parts to us, carry things to the garbage, etc. Yeah, it probably added another half hour to assembly time but it was so much more fun and he had a blast. I will say that if he ever used the word "hate" in our house, he would be in MAJOR trouble and sent to his room...period...until he was ready to apologize. We just don't allow behavior like that. I remember about four months ago when he started throwing himself on the floor and throwing tantrums when he didn't get his way. After about a week of it, I remembered that I'm the boss and that we weren't going to allow it. Thus, he was sent to his room whenever it happened because "That behavior isn't allowed in this house, period. When you can talk without yelling and find your happy face, I will listen to what you have to say." It took about three days of that and the behavior stopped. Whenever he apologizes he has to say specifically what it's for...ie "Daddy, I'm sorry that I told you not to talk to me." Then Daddy teaches him forgiveness by giving him a hug and accepting his apology. You can't hold a grudge with a four year old. All of these things take time, something we all seem to think we don't have. However, I have personally found that the drama that follows "not having time" takes up far more time than the extra 5...10...15 minutes you can take to go with your heart the first time around.

My kids are little, and my son still plans to marry me so I've got some time before the honeymoon ends, but I've talked with the parents of some of my favorite teens over the years to find out what they did to have such good relationships. It does seem to boil down to time spent together as a family that seems to make the difference. I know it was very common for my brother and his wife to spend every Friday night at the movie of their sons' choosing rather than staying home or sending the boys on their own, just as an example. The kids got the message that the parents were interested in their life and were willing to join their world, which is pretty important. I think little things like that go a long way.

For now, I try to focus on things that keep us connected as a family. We eat dinner together nearly every night. Time-outs happen in a common area so getting in trouble doesn't mean you're set apart from everyone. I try to keep a sense of mutual respect going on, respecting what they're doing/thinking/feeling and balancing that with my adult need to keep structure and teaching going on.

As for words and hitting, that kind of thing, I tend to not focus on it while it's happening as most likely everyone is too angry to hear anthing anyway. I focus on calming the immediate behaviors, and then we talk about what's behind them later. So far it's working for me. We have the usual behavior stuff of a 5 year old, but I feel like our relationships are still very solid.

My 3 yr old tells us who he likes best at any given time and also says who he doesn't like at any given time. I mostly ignore it or say, I know you are angry at me because of x... And, he usually changes his mind in a little while. But, I really appreciated the ideas and discussion that took place. I will try a few. And keenbean, I may read that book. Thanks!

I have five children, the youngest 14 and my oldest 29 and recently married. I have an amazing relationship with my kids and they with each other. The whole parenting thing is not as hard or as technical as some believe or want you to believe. I happened upon the key points early on and really out of necessity.

I was 23 years old and had three little girls, with my oldest not yet 4. I didn't know much about kids and never even babysat, yet found myself the mother of three at 23. Since then I have had two more children another girl and my youngest a boy. Not one of my children ever said, "I hate you" to me. I think what I found to work, works best when started early.

One key item, stated simply, is allowing your child to actually exchange with their family. To contribute in a real way and not the token, empty the garbage either. I discovered this because I was young, alone and really did need their help. As soon as they were old enough, they were expected to help out in anyway they could. This really made us a team. I could go on and on, but don't want to bore you. Your kids are young and can be turned around easily. Don't make the mistake in thinking this is easy, but the really hard part is disciplining yourself to take the time to teach them how to do their jobs, holding the line in expectations on the quality of the work and the time to complete and the communication that what they are doing is valuable and appreciated. Do not propitiate! So many parents gush on about a simple task their child completed. Don’t over do it, just be sincere and honest in you acknowledgement.

There is more to this, and several other key items, but I did what to say something to you. You seem like a kind and loving mother, my children are the world to me and I love them more than anything! My two oldest and own a successful business together here in Portland. We are a very close family, who truly do love each other. I do know how unusual that is today!!

My 3 year old has never said she hates anyone. She does test us with "I don't like/love you." on occasion, but has learned quickly that this language is not helpful or accepted in our family. If someone has done something you don't like tell them what that is, not that you don't like THEM.
She has gotten this idea pretty well and the idea that negativity only serves to spread negativity. So far so good. Hate was a 4 letter word in my household growing up and I see no reason to change that in my own home.

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