What To Do When Your Teen Tells You “I Hate You”
Take a trip with me down memory lane…
Years ago, I was standing in my kitchen, when my tween yelled, “I hate you!” at the top of her lungs.
Wow. I was stunned. It was as if someone punched me in the gut or perhaps it’s more accurate to say I felt like I’d been hit with a 2 by 4 upside of the head.
To say I was angry and hurt is an understatement.
How dare she talk to me this way!
After all I do for her this is how she treats me?
I would never have dared say that to my mom!
What an ungrateful brat!
What am I doing wrong that she’s talking to me this way?
So you know what I did?
Honestly, I can’t really recall what I did.
Chances are I yelled. And then, I probably threatened to ground her for a month and then, a few hours later, felt guilty, reduced the sentence, or gave in out of remorse for how poorly I acted.
It’s nine years later, and my baby is a tween,
“I hate you!”
“Because I said no?”
“Okay. I hear you’re really, really, really mad at me that I won’t let you go….”
“And I know that you don’t really hate me but you’re super angry at me right in this moment.”
“Yes, I am!”
2 hours later….I’m chilling on the couch…
”Mom, I’m really sorry. I don’t really hate you, I am just really upset that…”
Now maybe you’re reading this thinking – you must be a terrible parent that your kids told you they hate you…..or maybe you’re thinking, I should have grounded them for at least a week, or maybe, you’re relieved that you’re not the only one whose kid has said something like this.
I understand all of these reactions.
Now, you need to realize something…
One thing I’d learned about “I hate you” over these years….
Don’t take it personally.
And a close second ….
If you want to have a great relationship with your kids, you need to be their safe place.
I know what you’re thinking…we shouldn’t allow our kids to talk to us this way.
But, here’s the truth…
Our kids need us to be their safe place. AND, we become our kid’s safe place by being THE place where they can express their anger, frustration, sadness, anxiety, and whatever else it is that they need to get out, even if it’s messy.
And let me ask you this – How do we expect them to learn how to express their emotions responsibly if we don’t allow them to practice?
If they don’t feel like they can come to us to share how they’re really feeling, they will find other places to go, places that we might not like.
Our kids live in an incredibly stressful world today.
How can we help them cope?
We can be a place of refuge – a non-judgmental place.
The next time your kid tells you that they’re angry with you, take a deep breath and seek to understand their upset.
I’m not suggesting that we be a doormat or don’t have rules or boundaries.
What I’m suggesting is that you listen first. Validate that their feelings aren’t good or bad, they just are what they’re feeling in that moment. Be curious and seek to understand their hearts and what is happening inside of them.