Does Your Child Say This? "I Hate You!"

by James Lehman, MSW
Does Your Child Say This? I Hate You!

Does Your Child Say This? "I hate you."

Of all the weapons in your child’s arsenal, the words “I hate you” can have the power to reduce any parent to tears or anger. Children know that saying this can paralyze a parent during a fight, which is why they use this tactic to get what they want. In this month’s issue, James Lehman, creator of The Total Transformation Program for parents, demonstrates how to focus the argument back on the issue at hand, and reduce the emotional sting of your child’s words in the process.

“I hate you!”

Translation: You won’t let me go out tonight, so I’m going to talk hatefully to you so you’ll get upset and give in.

Ineffective parenting response: “I hate you sometimes, too!”

Effective parenting response:
“Maybe sometimes you do hate me. But I’m still not letting you go out tonight.”

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James Lehman, MSW was a renowned child behavioral therapist who worked with struggling teens and children for three decades. He created the Total Transformation Program to help people parent more effectively. James' foremost goal was to help kids and to "empower parents."


Actually, I meant to press 4 stars. I appreciate these one-liners; they remind me who is the adult and who is in charge. And it shows kindness in not retaliating (like the Ineffective Parenting response)

Comment By : momofmany

I used to use these words, but I found it still gave my daughter too much power to even say I hate you because the words were upsetting me inside. So, I've told her she can be angry, but she cannot say I hate you any longer .... it's disrespectful and I won't allow it.

Comment By : lin

when my son said that to me I just responded with: thats ok I love you anyway. He soon stoped

Comment By : what when?

I used hear this one ALL the time from my 15yr. old daughter. It used to really bother me and I'd become uset. I still hear it once in a while, but now I don't let it bother me. I will either say something like "thank you" or "well, sometimes I don't much like your behavior either". Either one usually works to defuse the situation, and she may still walk away mad and mumble something like "stop it", or "be quiet". But, she has came back to me after she has calmed down and apologised; to my amazement! She has ADHD, ODD and a few other dx's.

Comment By : Shel

my 16 year son has never said he hates me. Its never that nice! I just look at him (up to him. he is 6'2 and I am 5'7 and say "don't push me" I have made those three words stick. I don't use them frequently but when I do he knows I mean it and he's not doing what he wants to do.

Comment By : MAP


Comment By : LISA

I have an 8 y/o son who has some serious anger issues. He is verbally abusive. He has just started using this one. At first I reacted emotionally [who doesn't?]. Lately I have been responding with "Then I am doing my job". Kinda messes with his head.

Comment By : mjkmj

I have had this one since my son was about three, that's right just a baby at three telling me he hates me, he continues and now has taught it to his three year old brother, as he is now five. I have never given it much attention, assuming it was an attention getter, but it still continues.

Comment By : Andee

what do u do when a child says he hates u when there is no actual reason...just says it out of the blue

Comment By : sweetdarlingca

my 13 yr old just told me she hates me. yes, it hurt. I just told her we don't say those things in this house and sent her to her room. she knows she did something wrong and said she hates her room but still she went straight on up to it anyways without a fight because i know she felt some guilt there for saying those harmful words.

Comment By : elaine

my 13 yr old just told me she hates me, continued...My husband had a talk with her and explained how mom loves her and it's hurtful to say I hate you to someone when all that someone wants to do is love you. she cried and then came downstairs to me and said she was sorry and gave me a hug. I just told her that I know she didn't mean it. Now all is good and hopefully she never uses those 3 words again.

Comment By : elaine

I have twin 10 year old boys, and one night I told my son Jacob that he could not go out after supper and he got all upset and said I hate you! I have to admit it hurt to hear him say those words, but when I looked at his face I could see he wanted me to get upset, so instead I said " Well, you might hate me but I love you". He did not know what to say to me he just turned around and walk away. It was about an hour later he came up to me and said I love you mom, your the best mom in the whole world. I said I'm glad that you love me and you think I'm the best mom in the whole world, but you still haven't said sorry and why you were sorry. He them said Oh! I'm sorry for saying I hate you. That was a good day!

Comment By : caringmom

My 13-year-old can't stand that those three little words have no discernable effect on me. I simply tell her that that's her right, but I love her anyway. She may get mad for a little while, but she always comes around and appoligzes.

Comment By : mosthatedmominAz

My sweet little boy turned 13 and the first time i EVER heard those ugly words come from his mouth tore me up inside, but he used one weapon, his dad..he called him to pick him up. (my day to have him) I just let him go.....what should i have done? If it had been me, i wouldnt have gone to get him, my ex is enabling his behaviour and attitude.

Comment By : Star

* Hi Star: Itís so hard when you and your co-parent arenít on the same page. Ultimately you canít control whether or not your son goes with his dad, or whether dad comes to pick him up. It doesnít seem like you had any other option at the time. At this point, it might be helpful to have a private conversation with dad about what happened, focusing on your common goals. What do you want your son to learn? How do you want your son to behave? Once you focus on your common goals it might be easier to come up with a plan you can both agree to going forward. Here is an article for more suggestions and ideas: Differences in Parenting? How Your Child May Be Using it Against You. We wish you luck as you work through this. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean. M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor


Comment By : fifi

My 14-year-old daughter didn't tell me she hated me face-to-face, but wrote all her anger and hate and (reading between the lines) frustration in a letter. That was 5 days ago and since then she has behaved as if nothing had happened. I'm so hurt and angry I can hardly look at her and I haven't yet broached the subject because I'm not sure what to say or how to say it. She's never been very good at controlling her anger and she often acts as though she's the centre of the universe. She's very quick to find fault and see the negative side of a situation and I don't know what I can do a) to help her be a more positive person and b)resolve this latest (and biggest) conflict without her having the impression that I've given in under duress.

Comment By : teruash

* To 'teruash': I can hear how upsetting your daughterís words are for you. It can be devastating when a child you have raised and cared for writes such hurtful things. Your hurt and anger in the face of reading this letter is completely understandable. I often talk with parents on the Parental Support Line who are going through similar situations. As hard as this is, itís best to try not to personalize your daughterís letter. When a child says hurtful things to you, such as ďI hate youĒ itís really not about you but about your daughter having inappropriate problem solving skills. The fact that she wrote the words instead of saying them to you points to her beginning to develop a better way of dealing with these issues. As hard as it may be, the best reaction is probably no reaction. I realize it probably will feel like youíre giving in to her. But, in reality, youíre allowing her to have a constructive way for her to vent her feelings of frustration and disappointment. Ask yourself this question, would you rather she write these feelings out or scream them at you? Here is an excellent article that I think could be quite useful in helping you when your daughter is saying mean, spiteful things "I Hate You, Mom! I Wish You Were Dead!" When Kids Say Hurtful Things. Another article that you might find informative is Negative Children: How to Deal with a Complaining Child or Teen. In this article, Debbie Pincus discusses some great tools for dealing with teen negativity. I hope this is helpful. Good luck.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

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