Handling “I Hate You”

Handling “I Hate You”

Mar 27, 2024

Follow the Show

Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Everywhere else


Hearing your kid say, “I hate you” can be one of the hardest things to hear as a parent. Today, I’m giving you tangible, easy to apply strategies for handling “I hate you,” including ways to feel less upset by it and change the pattern. 


What Are They Actually Saying?

When your kid tells you they hate you, it’s easy to jump to thoughts about how disrespectful, embarrassing and hurtful they are being. 

For the most part, kids don’t hate their parents. So, when they say, “I hate you,” what they’re usually trying to say is, “I hate this,” or “I hate this rule,” or “I hate this situation.”

Your child is communicating their frustration, disappointment, anger or hurt about the circumstance they are in. The strategy they’re using is to blame you because, in their mind, you are what is blocking them from getting the thing they want. 


Handling “I Hate You”

Of course, saying, “I hate you,” when they are disappointed is not how we want our kids to cope with negative emotion, so we will work to change the pattern. But we’re not trying to change the pattern because it’s disrespectful and rude. 

We want to change it because it hurts our child to communicate their emotion this way. It is not a healthy way to cope. What we may not always see is that after the “I hate you,” they also have to deal with guilt and confusion over saying that to someone that they really love. 

Our goal is to give them better tools to deal with discomfort and disappointment. 


Step 1: Get neutral (CALM)

Start by reframing the statement. Remember that they are using that sentence to cope with discomfort or pain - a feeling that they don’t know how to deal with. Letting yourself know that it really isn’t about you will help you feel calm. 

Next, find the pattern that you want to change. Is there something that seems to trigger the  “I hate you”? Maybe it has something to do with screen time rules or when you tell them they can’t have a treat. 


Step 2: Talk to your kid about the words (CONNECT)

Your child might not have the words for what they’re feeling or why they are upset. 

Have a connection conversation with them outside of the “I hate you” moment. Share the pattern that you’ve noticed, and help them name the anger, frustration, sadness, disappointment, hurt, or whatever they might be feeling. 

Here’s an example: 
Hey, honey, I've noticed a pattern that when you get really mad about something, you say, “I hate you.” And saying, “I hate you” makes a lot of sense because you are really angry and you want to tell me that. Listen, I know you don't actually hate me because we love each other so much. I think you’re trying to say, “I hate this. I don’t like your rules. I don’t like when you say no to me.” 

Give them some time to talk here, to complain a little about their life. Create space for their thoughts and feelings to come up. Just listen. Don’t try to defend yourself or convince them of anything. If there is something you do in that situation that is really causing a problem for them, take responsibility and apologize. 


Step 3: Problem solving (LIMIT SET)

This is where we teach a new strategy. Set a limit with the goal of raising a kid who is able to communicate their real feelings with their parent (and others in their life). This is a kid who doesn’t have to show up in ways that don’t work and then feel bad about it and carry that guilt and shame. 

We want our kids to be able to talk about the situation and separate the situation from the person. We’re giving the message that it’s okay to be mad about a rule or a situation, but it’s not okay to make it personal and tell someone you hate them.

Ask your child what they can say instead when they want to say, “I hate you.” Preview the situation and get their brain to think and problem solve in advance. They probably won’t always remember to use this new strategy, but you can practice and remind them of the plan. 

I am not going to let you say, “I hate you” anymore because I know you don't hate me. I know you feel bad about it. I want you to be able to say, “I don't like the situation,” or “I hate this thing.” When you say, “I hate you,” I’m going to tell you to try again. 


Step 4: Delay the conversation (CORRECT)

A big part of the parenting process is letting our kids make mistakes. They’re not always going to get this right and be able to self-correct in the moment. 

When things get heated, delay the conversation and consequences. Give some time to let the emotion fizzle out. They’re already caught up in their negative emotions, and they don’t know what to do with those feelings. Threats will only create more negative emotion in both of you. 

When things have calmed down, come back and talk about it. Remind them what happened, and let them know that it hurt your heart. Together, come up with something kind that they can do to make it up to you or something you can do together that you both enjoy.

They probably feel pretty yucky after saying that to you, and giving them a way to fix it feels better. You’re giving your kid an opportunity to repair so that they can make things right and so that they learn that their behavior has a consequence. 

Remember earlier today, you said you hate me? Remember I had said I want you to say, “I hate this” instead? Listen, honey. I know you don't hate me, but when you say, “I hate you” to me, it does hurt my heart. And I know it hurts your heart too, because I know you love me. So why don't you do something that repairs the hurt that you caused? Would you be willing to do something kind for me to make that right? I'd love to do something together with you so that we can show how much we love each other.


Your child doesn’t actually hate you. They just don’t have the skill or language to describe their feelings in a healthier way (yet). As parents, we can give our kids better strategies for dealing with their big feelings and coach them toward emotional literacy.


You’ll Learn:

  • Why kids say, “I hate you,” even though they don’t really mean it
  • How to protect your feelings 
  • Why saying, “I hate you” hurts your child, too
  • How to change this pattern of behavior (with scripts!)

Ready to stop yelling?

Get the one simple tool you need to stop yelling at your kids, so you finally feel calmer and connect better. 

You'll learn why you yell, how to stop yourself yelling, 40 things to do instead and scripts for what to say to your kid when you yell.


Connect with Darlynn: