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Intersection of Life and Faith

What Do I Do When My Kids Tell Me They Hate Me?

Jen Wilkin

The following is a [transcribed] Video Q&A, so the text may not read like an edited article would. Scroll to the bottom to view this video in its entirety. 

I think every parent tells themselves, "My child will never say that I hate you." And then, man, that day comes along and you think, "I have failed." And I think that with children, we slip into this mode of, "Everything my child says is valid." Even though we know that it's not rationally. So I think when a child screams something at you, it usually happens. They scream it at you in the heat of conflict, and you're worked up and they're worked up and you think, "They just spoke truth to me." And really, that's not a truth telling moment. That's a time when a child who has a, even a teenager let's just be honest, has a limited ability to express their emotions adequately in words and so they go for the most obvious word selection and they lob it across the room at you. And particularly when it's a two year old, you have to say to yourself, "I am the adult here. This child does not understand what the words that they are saying mean. They would not say them under different circumstances." And you have to not take it personally.

That's part of being the parent is allowing your child to occasionally use words in ways, and I don't mean excusing it, but allowing your child to express their frustration with very hurtful words that really do not represent their true feelings at all. And so you kind of have to go to your happy place and say, "This is not what my child really thinks." And if you take it personally, you've really not served your child well. Because your child needs you to be the bigger person. And so, for you to be able to say, "I'm not gonna let that be a direction on my heart, I'm gonna register that as my child is really upset and now I'm gonna parent through the rest of this." Really the only way you can deal with those kinds of things.

And then later on, when the conflict has passed, you can go back around and you can parent to some of that. You can say, "You know, you spoke some really rough words. I don't think you meant them and I just want you to know I love you and I don't hate you and I won't say that to you. But I understand that you were really upset. And what are some different words you could choose next time when you're in that situation?" So then you kind of replace their lack of language skill with some options next time around and hopefully you're moving towards a time when everyone treats each other with mutual respect in conflict.

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