I Hate You

I was probably 7, standing upstairs, peering out of my parent’s bedroom window down to my friends below.

“I HATE my mom!” I shouted at them as they ran off to continue whatever they were doing when my mom discovered whatever it was that I was doing that got me grounded for the afternoon.

It was an act of defiance, a way to show my friends that I would not stand to be treated like such a… well, a child by my mother. It was also a reaction of embarrassment, and something I would NEVER say to her face. It was actually the first time I ever said I hated her, I think. At least the first time I can remember choosing to use such words.

And I never intended for her to actually hear it, but when I turned from the window, I saw her standing there. I don’t remember her exact reaction, but I remember that it was clear I had disappointed her. I was a child who did not like to disappoint people, especially not grownups, and most especially not my parents.

Perhaps I said I hated her again many more times, but I feel like that wasn’t something I threw out intentionally in battle until I was well into my teen years. And even then, I recall that being a desperate, calculated, risky move, with intent to sting, but never with actual hatred behind it.

Because teenagers are total assholes like that. (A million apologies over and over to my parents.)

So what I’m saying is the phrase “I hate you” represented a lot of power to me, the kind of power that I knew would disappoint.


I think the first time Kendall shouted, “I HATE YOU, MOM,” to me was probably a year ago? Maybe 2?

It didn’t sting because he was so little. I knew he had no actual concept of the meaning of “hate.” But in that moment, I thought, “I have to show him that this can be powerful and hurt people. I have to react in a way that will make him not ever want to say this again.”

And so I recoiled, and tried to show the wounds of hurt feelings to him. I gasped. I did that thing where I scrunched my eyebrows together, knelt down, and explained what that meant.

He said it again a week later. And again. And again. And again, and again, and again, and on and on and on.

Because Kendall is his own person, and I doubt very much that he cares a fraction as much as I did about pleasing people. Kendall lives for reactions. He wants to see how far he can push someone, and then he pushes them more.

So it came to pass that I am the mother of a 7 year old who flippantly shouts at me, “I HATE YOU!”

And all I can do is take the power away from him, and calmly reply, “I love you no matter what.”

Every. Single. Time.

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  1. What a handsome heartbreaker. Man, those words sure do sting, but choosing the appropriate reaction really does take the power away. Now if I could only find a way to avoid the hurt feelings when my little guy says, “I love Daddy more.” Well son, let me tell you all the things I did to my body to bring you into this world…. you damn well better love me, too!

  2. Our rule is that it’s ok to talk about our emotions, like saying “I feel sad” or “that made me very angry”. But we may not say things when angry meant to hurt other people. That means no name calling or saying hurtful things like “I hate you”. I have explained to my 6 year-old many times that even when I feel angry with her, I still love her. That’s what it is to be family.

  3. Is Kendall what one would refer to as a “strong-willed child”? We’re figuring out very quickly in our house that our four year old fits that description to a T. I’d love to read more about how you’re parenting him, and what you’ve found works.

  4. My daughter used to do that to me all the time when she was three and four (she once kicked me in the face too)… I tried the “I still love you”… But it was still a reaction. The only thing that works for her is to send her to her room and wait til she calms down. She doesn’t say it to me anymore.

    With her she just gets so worked up everything else pales in comparison. It’s like the rest of the world is lost and all she can do is feel anger

    • I feel your pain. I tell Scott all the time to just walk away from the situation. There is truly no reasoning with Kendall when he gets like that.

  5. Whenever I would yell “I hate you” at my mom, she would always just say, “That’s alright, because I love you enough for both of us.”

    That’s what I say to my own son, and now I really get it.

  6. Naomi Barker on

    It hurts but I think your reaction is probably the best thing you can do – “I’m sorry you feel that way, but I love you”…..no more reaction than that.

  7. I would suggest to any parent who feels they have a “strong willed” child, to read Raising Your Spirited Child, by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. It may not be for everyone, but it helped me understand and emphasize with my 2 children, (an 8 year old girl and 3 year old boy) a little better. I have also read books about birth order which I find very interesting, and helpful. 🙂

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