“I hate you.”
Those are the hardest words to hear from your child. And even though you know that it’s an emotional outburst and not truth, it still hurts.
The first time my daughter said those words to me, I was devastated. The adult in me knew that she didn’t mean it, but the mother in me was wounded because I said those words to my mom. I remember thinking that I was going to be the kind of mom whose child would never say those words.
But it happens, and it’s important to keep things in perspective. Sometimes being the parent who is in control is hard when we’re tired or sometimes caught off guard by our children’s behavior. But there is often regret when emotions get out of hand.
I remember an incident when my daughter was about 9. We were on our way to school when we got into a big argument (I can’t even remember what it was about). Parenting and patience was not on my to-do list that morning.
Her last words to me were, “I hate you,” as she got out of the car. I remember the mixed emotions I felt, both angry and deeply hurt that she would say that to me. As I watched her walk away, another thought occurred with such force that I wanted to get out of the car and grab her. It wasn’t because I was angry anymore, but the thought that those could be the last words spoken between us caught me off guard.
At a young age, children will have a range of emotions that they will need to learn to deal with. As parents, we need to work with them and not allow our own emotions to get in the way of what can be a teachable moment. While we do encourage our children to voice their feelings, it is important to teach your child how to express them appropriately. Using a word like “hate” can be very damaging to a relationship if we don’t address it properly—helping them recognize that they hate the decision and not the person.
After that outburst, I went to the store and bought a ring for my daughter. Not only was it important for me to teach her about emotions. I needed her to know that my love for her was always there even when we argue. I gave her the ring to represent that ”I Love You” would always be the last words—even when we have bad days.
I’m not always successful, but being “Mom” to young children requires us to model the behavior we want them to learn.
So when they are having their outbursts and tantrums, I try to be in control the best I can. Then I retreat to my room, by myself to cry and have my tantrum.
Dr. Mom is a Peninsula mother who works in San Bruno. She has two grown children, has years of parenting experience and spends her time working with families to develop healthy relationships.