You might feel shocked and wounded when the child you’ve nurtured and protected suddenly explodes in your face with a vehement “I hate you!” Instead of responding negatively or in a way that will add fuel to the fire, explore the outburst to learn what lies beneath the surface. Kids often have difficulty recognizing and expressing negative emotions, so lashing out toward a parent becomes a coping mechanism.
Stay calm when your child explodes verbally toward you, advises professor Glenn I. Latham, with Utah State University. Your child probably already feels angry and out of control. If you add your steam to your youngster’s anger, the situation will devolve even more. Instead, your calm demeanor should help diffuse the volatile situation.
Avoid personalizing the angry outburst. Remind yourself that your youngster probably feels angry and frustrated and this declaration is her knee-jerk reaction to these uncomfortable and overwhelming feelings. Think of the declaration as nothing more than an expression of frustration directed at you because of your presence.
Communicate your empathy with your child’s feelings, advises psychologist and author Carl Pickhardt. You might say, “I can hear how angry you feel right now” or “I imagine it might feel like you hate me right now.”
Make yourself available if your child wants to express anger or sadness after the outburst. After hearing an empathetic response from you, your youngster might feel validated and nurtured enough to confide in you. If your child does confide, listen carefully, reflect what you think you understand and accept your child’s feelings. Often, just listening and accepting your child’s feelings will provide for your child’s needs. Solving your youngster’s problem isn’t necessary; just showing him you care is enough, advises Patty Wipfler, founder of Hand in Hand, a parenting resource.
Maintain whatever stance you took that incited the outburst, advises social worker James Lehman, with the Empowering Parents website. For example, if you told your son he can’t go to the pool until he cleans his room, then stand firm with your statement. If you change your mind, your child might learn he can manipulate you to get his way by telling you he hates you.