Parents don’t want to admit an ugly truth—that sometimes they don’t like their child. If you feel this way and are scared, it’s okay. Parenting is challenging and often emotional, especially when our kids are defiant, disrespectful, or not who we wanted them to be.
We all have expectations for how our kids should grow and behave, and when these expectations aren’t met, it can be very painful. Maybe your child isn’t the person you thought they would be: perhaps they’re not academic or outgoing enough, or perhaps they are negative and like to complain.
Instead of feeling upset and guilty, there are ways you can build a healthier relationship with your child and like who they are. Here are some tips.
Don’t push your feelings away because you feel guilty or think it’s wrong to dislike your child. You don’t have to like the emotional truth—you only need to own it. Change can’t begin until you are honest with yourself about how you feel. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling and why?”
It’s important to accept the fact that you won’t always like your kids—and they won’t always like you.
Find some time to think about the root cause of your feelings. Are there external influences affecting your child’s behavior, such as problems at school? Or is it more to do with your preconceived expectations?
Maybe you don’t like your child because they’re so different from you. Or perhaps you don’t like your child because they act out, are defiant and oppositional, and wreak havoc in your home. These are all understandable reasons to feel dislike towards your child. Why would you like someone who treats you poorly?
If this is the case, try to remember that it’s the behavior you don’t like, not the child. We can love our children and hate their behavior, but sometimes the two get entangled.
If you look closely, you may realize that disliking your child is more about you than them—because it has to do with your reaction to their behavior.
Sometimes, as parents, we are triggered by memories of our own childhood, causing feelings of inadequacy, fear, or anxiety. We then project those feelings onto our kids. For example, if you were heavily criticized as a child for not having a stellar report card, perhaps you are hard on your child when they drop below an A average. Be mindful of this, and don’t let it control your parenting.
Be on the lookout for other factors that may be contributing to your feelings. For example, your child may be caught between your difficulties with your co-parent. Perhaps your co-parent (or you) aren’t holding your child accountable for their behavior.
Accept your child for who they are, and you can move toward a better relationship. If your child is different than your expectations, then manage those expectations.
Remember, ultimately, the only person you can control is you. Learn to find the space between your child’s action and your reaction. It is here that you can learn to be a calm parent and stay emotionally separate. No matter how your child acts, promise yourself you’ll try to remain calm.
Make time to do something fun. Learn what your child’s likes and dislikes and what makes them tick. Try to listen without judging—children are more likely to react negatively when they feel scrutinized. Your child will appreciate the chance to open up and tell you how they’re feeling.
Talk to your kids as if you like them, even when saying ‘no’ or giving consequences. Don’t scowl, and speak with a soft tone that gives them the message you care about them. Staying positive can be hard, especially when you’re frustrated and your child has been disrespectful.
Still, be as positive as you can when dealing with them because they pick up on any negative feelings quickly and soon internalize them—or rebel against them aggressively. And remember, the look on your face and the tone of your voice communicates more than your words do.
Focus on what’s right and begin building on what is good. Don’t obsess over the negative or try to change who your child is. You’ll have a better relationship if you try to praise your child and affirm good behavior. Sometimes, as parents, we are too automatic with judgment. Make an effort to watch what you say. Remember: your child needs a coach, not a critic.
Finally, bring more playfulness and less seriousness to your interactions. Recognize that your child may have a problem, but it’s your interactions that have led to your feelings of dislike. Try to accept them for who they are and love them without worrying about them so much.
Here’s a trick that works for me. I get up in the morning, and I say to myself, “Okay, not one criticism can come out of my mouth today.” I make it a very conscious thought and activity. It’s so automatic for some of us to criticize, and half the time, we don’t even know we’re doing it. So make it a conscious effort.
Notice when your child does something well. Point out your child’s strengths and describe what you see. For example, you can say:
“You looked like you were about to scream at your brother, but I noticed how you pulled yourself together and walked away. How did you do that? That was impressive.”
If you can do this, it will help both of you gain an appreciation for one another.
What if your personalities simply clash? Maybe your child is not a friend you would have chosen. Perhaps you’re too different or too similar. Problems start when you carry around a lot of disappointment about somebody and try to change them in some way or another. That’s when the negative cycle begins.
Keep in mind that your child is not your friend. Your role as a parent is unique, and you can be friendly without necessarily being a friend.
Understanding that you don’t have to be your child’s friend can help you come to terms with who your child is–and accept them.
By taking responsibility for your emotions and making an effort, you’re showing your child that you want things to be better. Tell your child:
“I know we haven’t always gotten along in the past because I’ve been too hard on you. I apologize and am working on it.”
That effort will go a long way with your child. Get calm, accept your child, and help them become the person they’re meant to be.
“Am I a Bad Parent?” How to Let Go of Parenting Guilt
“I Feel Like a Failure as a Parent.” How to Turn That Hopeless Feeling Around
Empowering Parents Podcast:
Apple, Spotify, Google, Stitcher
For more than 25 years, Debbie has offered compassionate and effective therapy and coaching, helping individuals, couples and parents to heal themselves and their relationships. Debbie is the creator of the Calm Parent AM & PM™ program and is also the author of numerous books for young people on interpersonal relations.
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As a kid, I grew up with an alcoholic mother who was simply not a good mother. She did not like me because I was not the right kind of person for her --she wanted a drinking buddy to stay home, watch soaps, drink beer until you pass out. She would have been happy with a daughter who became a grave digger barely getting by rather than the over-achieving professional I am today. I escaped, going to college & professional school was my running away from home (financed with loans, grants, scholarship & the military). Having kids, I was going to do it better.
I now have a 26 year old learning disabled daughter - not Down's and severe, but she needed major (very costly) tutoring to make it through middle and high school. I believe she is on the Asberger's spectrum (never diagnosed). She will never live on her own with any type of fulfilling, meaningful life, never earn enought money to support herself, never date/marry/love or be loved by anyone other than her dad. She has had major medical problems since birth, had major surgery before age 2, needed so much support my husband completely dedicated every waking moment to her existence. I love my husband, I love my son (first born), but I feel anger, resentment, despair, failure and loss when I look at my daughter. I am embarrased to say she is my daughter; she mumbles, no one can understand her until you make her angry and she yells - so she is capable of enunciating when it serves her. She cannot process a thought, however simple - like what to order off a menu without us essentially doing the work for her. Even going out to dinner is a painful experience, but my husband refuses to leave her at home.
I want my house organized in certain ways, but if it doesn't work for her, she undoes everything to her liking. I am the one who works to pay for it all (long hours for many years). I work for it, it is MINE, but I have to be the one to be disappointed all the time when my things are lost, broken or pitched. I was not the right daughter for my mother; karma, I guess. I feel terrible - my whole life I have felt terrible about not liking my daughter, but I just don't. I am planning retirement for 3 and I just hate it. Dinner for 3, vacation for 3, concert tickets for 3, a new house for 3, laundry for 3 and a trust to take care of her ass when I die. I wanted to be a mom...what was I thinking? A very lonely life.
I am so fed up. I have just googled 'I don't like my child' and came across this .
I have always clashed with my youngest who is approaching 13 in the next month.
She always takes and never gives.
She is a bright and intelligent girl, never wanted for anything . She's polite most of the time.
She goes on and on at me about silly things I then blow up. I can't stand her around me I have no interest in what she says or does . I have an elder daughter who I absolutely adore..how can I have such different feelings for them both. I feel really bad but I really don't like her !
I hope someday you will write an article entitled, "What to do When You Dislike Your Grandchildren" This was a good article, the comments even better because it makes me realize I'm not alone in my ugly thoughts about my grandkids.
My mom was the most amazing grandmother ever, and I hoped that when my own grandkids arrived I'd be like her; loving, endulging, no discipline, laugh and play and send 'em home to mom and dad. That's not the reality. My son and DIL adopted my DIL's 2 nieces and nephew. They had been removed from their home by CPS because of sexual abuse (the oldest grandaughter) abuse, neglect and substance abuse. My son and DIL were only 26 when they took "H" in-she was 12. They weren't even married yet and were really just starting out on their journey together as a couple. a year later they took in H's two younger half siblings, "E" who was 7 and "D" who was 5. Now they are 28 with 3 kids, all with significant emotional trauma, ADHD, autism, abandonement issues, eating disorders, you name it, these kids have it. My DIL cuts her work schedule down to 1 day a week because each child has multiple therapy appointments each week. It's rough from the get-go, but we all have the (incorrect and in hindsight foolish) idea that with enough love, patience, structure and therapy they will improve and there will be some kind of peace and normalacy in the home. I live in California and they live in Colorado. I call often to provide as much love and support as I can from a distance. Two years ago I retired and committed to visiting every 2 months to give hands on help. There is nothing peaceful or normal in the home. The oldest self-harms, has attempted suicide, been hospitalized several times, has run away numerous times, is sexually promiscuous, argumentative, lies, steals, sneaks food, threatens to call CPS, tells school staff she is abused at home. My DIL spent hours and hours convincing insurance to place her in a long-term treatment facility. She was finally admitted and we hoped to see improvement. Insurance ended treatment early-when she came home it didn't take long for the old behaviours to start up. H will be 18 in January. The goal is to get her graduated in December and out of the house as soon as she is 18. E just turned 11 and I see all the signs of ODD-since she already has a diagnosis of ADHD it's not too big of a stretch for her to have ODD as well. She's acting like her older sister, but starting 3 years earlier. She is the most foul mouthed child-uses every curse word there is, defiant, argumentative. Has started throwing and breaking things. When she's in the tantrum cycle she looks and acts like a wild animal-her pupils are dilated and she mentally just not there, but yelling and crying and screaming. She is manipulative and can be so angelic around strangers or when it gets her something, but at home she turns into pure evil. D is 7 and autistic. He's strong and a handful when he gets into a mood. He threatens to kill himself (he's heard this from both girls) and copies what they say. He's a handful at school as well. He goes to ABA therapy everyday but I sometimes wonder if it's helping. At least he's not home during that time to give mom and dad a break.
Do I feel like the most dispicable person for truly disliking/hating my grandchildren? Yes I often do. I am fully aware that they have all been through so much and these behaviors come from their traumatic background. How can one possibly dislike/hate someone who has all the emotional baggage? Shouldn't I feel nothing but compassion and patience for them? I used to all the time, and would encourage my son and DIL to look at it differently and to be patient, but as time has gone by and the behaviors have escalated/not improved, and I've spent more time with them I more often feel tremendous resentment and wish my son and DIL had not adopted them. They have a 14 month old baby and I worry that all of the chaos and horrible behavior will affect baby N.
This is the ugly and very unflattering truth. I'm not sure how this story ends but I hope and pray my son and DIL and stay strong in their marriage and can manage to find hope and positivity.
I have a greater compassion and empathy for anyone dealing with a situation like this. Not liking my grandkids is a hard thing for me to accept.
These comments are incredible. I feel less alone.
I thought I had to blame my distaste for motherhood on my zodiac sign...being a Sagittarius..a natural born free-spirit who is far too mutable to be chained to and held down by something...or someone. I had convinced myself that motherhood just wasn't for me and that I am simply facing the consequences of my actions, as negative as that sounds.
I'm 23, and my daughter will be 4 in 2 weeks. I've been homeschooling her in Kindergarten workbooks for a like a month now. The time we spend in the books keeps getting shorter and shorter, to the point where I don't even bother with it anymore, even when she asks. She's incredibly smart, but incredibly manipulative and it drains me until I'm completely shriveled up with nothing left to give.
She is defiant. Doesn't listen. Tells me she hates me. (Don't even know where she heard that). Screams bloody murder over everything. (Which is a frequency of sound that absolutely irks my entire soul). She a quitter. Gives up on everything she tries. Has angry outbursts when she feels like she can't do something or do it right. She'll scream. Throw everything that's in front of her. Break stuff. Rip her pages. Whatever we're doing she'll completely ruin it.
She sucks the life force out of me. She's entirely the opposite of me. And who I was when I was her age. My dad says she's exactly like he was. That's great, dad. Glad you can relate.
Yet he won't lift a finger to help..lol.
I can't help thinking I caused this. I'm incredibly introspective and can't keep from blaming myself and trying to find links between her current behavior and what kind of a parent I was in the beginning.
Postpartum hit me really hard. At about 8-9 months in. When she started screaming blood curdling screams all the time over little things. It was just a level of loudness and disruption that I was not built to respond to well...given that my father was..and IS..a yeller.
I began to scream back. Cry even. Beg her to shut the fuck up. Obviously as a baby she doesn't know what else to do. But neither did I. I would scream back at her with some of the nastiest sounds I could create. Especially early in the mornings when she was back in her carseat and I was driving her to the babysitter and literally could do nothing for her until we got to where we were. I'm tired and cranky too.
Things got better for awhile after postpartum passed. I'd say it lasted a few months for me. Until I started working more and had enough time away from her to actually miss her and want to be around her again.
But here I am. A few years later, in the same position again, just slightly different. To improve the situation, I've decided to re-enroll Brailynn in daycare, gymnastics, and taekwondo. As well as have a weekly family get together with my closest cousins and their children who are Brailynns same age. To give us all a break, a safe and non-judgemental place to vent, and it gives our kids an emotional reset and tires them the hell out.
Gives us something to look forward to every week. And builds that support system that we all need desperately right now and don't fucking have.
Hope this helps or speaks to someone. I'd love to meet some of you.
Thanks for reading.
This is my problem too I can really relate. But I find it’s making me depressed because I know it’s in part my fault. I feel my life is a mess and I don’t know how to get out of it.
My 9 year old son has traits that I hate so much. He is like his father in so many ways I can’t get him to do anything without threatening his screen time. All his father and him do is spend time together playing games and that’s all he enjoys in life. I feel like I’m losing him or pretty much lost him. I am in a pit of bad mother habits and I just don’t know how to dig my way out.
I recently (8 mo.) became the caretaker for my 6 year old nephew, and his sister. His sister and I get along, but the boy grates on my nerves and drives me crazy. I always thought that if I had kids I would want a boy, so it's not that. It's that he's rude and entitled, doesn't listen even a little, and has several incredibly annoying personal behaviors and habits. When I expect something of him, be it a one time request or a general rule, like no running in the house, I have to tell him over and over and over, and it never sinks in. I don't believe in spanking, but his reaction to time-outs or losing privileges is a shrug and a couldn't-care-less expression - and then he's right back to doing what he's not supposed to be doing. I've tried sitting down and explaining to him why we have this rule, or why that behavior isn't okay, but I can tell from the look on his face he's tuning me out and just waiting for me to stop talking so he can go do his own thing again. The *ONLY* thing that seems to get a reaction of out him is having to go to bed early - but then he has full blown melt down tantrum as if I'd tried to murder him. I thought he might tire himself out if I left the room, but I came back to find him out of bed, so I had to sit there and wait and try not to validate the tantrum and he can last 45 minutes to TWO HOURS. I stuck it out, and tried to talk to him the next morning about it. I asked him if he knew what he did was wrong. He did. I asked him, when you do something you're not supposed to do, do you get in trouble? Yeah. Okay, did I warn you that you were going to get in trouble? Yes. Did I tell you what would happen? Yes. And you did it anyway, right? So do you think it was wrong that you got in trouble? No. That's right. Yet I'm still having to tell him every couple of hours not to do the same damn thing - and I can't do a 45-120 minute tantrum on a regular basis. It's a punishment for me too. I've done it, I'm sticking with it, but it makes me DISLIKE HIM. I don't want to spend quality time with him because I don't LIKE him, and I feel terrible about it. I realize that I need to build a relationship with him, because not doing so is harmful to his emotional development and it certainly won't help the disciplinary aspect, but my gut reaction to him is to avoid him like I would an adult who is an annoying ass.
I don't know what to do.
Exactly! My nephew is so sneaky and dishonest. He wants to do what he wants to do, rules and restrictions be damned.
For example, his teacher called and said he's only going through the motions and not engaging at school so he's going to be 7 in a few months and can't read or even consistently write his own name. I had already been concerned with the low quality crap tv/youtube he liked and after hearing that, they were banned from the house.
I've caught him under the couch so he can watch them on an old phone, using the wifi.
Likewise, he lost his Nintendo DS (grounded) at one point, and I had to run an errand with his grandma watching him. I forgot my face mask and had to go back in the house to get it, and I ran into him, walking out of my bedroom, DS in hand. He hadn't even waited for my car to be gone before he'd gone in my room to take back his electronic and play with it while I wasn't around. I was shocked. I couldn't believe him.
I never would have dared do something like that. It just wasn't something I could even begin to imagine I'd get away with when I was his age.
I just need to get this out there. I hate myself over this. I just don't like my son. We dont have a bad relationship, hes s good kid. Hes smart and well behaved I just don't like him and it's not even his fault. Being around him is physically and emotionally draining for me.
This kills me because I try every day not to dislike him. I play with him and I talk to him. He's a good kid but I genuinely get depressed when I have to spend a lot of time with him.
And the thing is I know how awful it is to have a parent not like you. My mother doesn't like me. But I can't fix how I feel and I feel like a failure because of it...
I agree and think this article is wonderful. The only question I have is - if you've truly addressed the questions in your article and applied as much as you can (no one is perfect yet I am a calm, loving, fun, and follow through always type mother) and I truly loathe my amazingly awesome and almost unbearable 4.5 son. He is oozing with charisma but is extremely oppositional, thrives on negative attention, and causes negative drama whenever he can. The more loving time we give him, the more he needs - no matter what it is not enough. Nothing I do, seems to change his responses to things. I accept that he may be a negative person and not my cup of tea, and truly try to love him no matter what, but I definitely understand when people that say they would not be friends with their child unless they were family. I feel that way and I don't judge myself for that. So my last question is - am I destined for a life with this negative tyrant and how do I minimize his domination over my entire family - me, husband, two sisters? I feel like he is being sent to his room for bad behavior about 50 times a day.
Side note - I have two 18 month old twins and a nanny and I'm a stay at home mom. I plan special dates with my son, pick him up from school, play dates. I am truly emotionally available to him. Lack of time is not his issue.
@ Trying very hard:
I'm not sure how long ago you wrote this comment or whether you are following this thread, but I feel like you are describing my life perfectly. I also live with a tiny negative tyrant. My five-year-old son makes no sense to me. "Extremely oppositional, thrives on negative attention, and causes negative drama whenever he can": that is my son EXACTLY. He has an objectively wonderful life: two caring and fun-loving parents, far more toys and enrichment activities (art supplies, etc.) than most kids, he walks to the beach almost daily to play in the sand and look at tide pools, no hardship or strife beyond a couple of chores that take maybe 5 minutes per day. He still complains constantly and torments others relentlessly. It's like he lives to create drama and make others suffer. It makes absolutely no sense. For years we blamed ourselves, thought about how we could give him even MORE positive attention than we already were, and nothing ever worked. Ignoring the behavior didn't work. Laying down consequences didn't work. Modeling good behavior didn't work. All the stuff in the article above -- it didn't work AT ALL. We've spent thousands of dollars seeing specialists and have followed their advice to a tee. NOTHING HAS WORKED ON THIS KID. Thank goodness we have his little sister, or I would be driven to madness. She is, as far as I can tell, a completely normal child. The parenting "best practices" actually work on her. This tells me that his father and I are not just completely inept; there's something else at play here. I wish I could solve this puzzle.
If you're still reading this, I would love to hear how you and your family are doing. Is your son still a "negative tyrant"? Did you ever find anything that worked for him?
Hoping you are doing well, or at least hanging in there! Best wishes.
Get the book on Oppositional Defiance Disorder. The color may be yellow. A counselor specializing in oppositional defiance disorder recommended me not to micromanage my child, but instead to give her more space. That helped, but it was years after the problem started.
My daughter is now 24. She is now doing fine, and has been since late high school.
But it was agonizing before that.
This disorder starts young - I believe in the child'first year. But what parent is looking for that? The problem is that you do start to see it that early, this unusual defiance, but you just don't know it has a name.
I was referred years ago to the Total Transformation Program. It is now called Empowering Parents.com., but it is still the same comoany.
1-800-460-2235. CUSTOMER Service.
For $99 You can sing up for unlimited email coaching, with some phone counselling appointments set up by them.
Then for $119 you can get Oppositional Defiance Disorder Lifeline, which is comprised of CD's and a book, written by two women who both had an ODD child.
You can also get the ODD lifeline for the $119 and then unlimited telephone counselling fir $99. So, instead of email counselling, and some pre-arranged telephone appointments, you can call whenever you want, and as often as you want.
Keep in mind the following: I haven't needed their services for years, but they were helpful when I did. And I sure wish I had known about them thirteen years before I did. And that us why I am referring you to them, and other readers of this lost. It helps so much to know that one is not exaggering their child's behavior, and that other parents are experiencing the same thing, and that you are not alone. I am not affiliated with them in any way at all and never have been. And Amazon has a good number of books for sale about oppositional defiance disirder.
I called Empowering Parents today at the old number I had l just to get an Idea of what their current pricing is, so that I could give you and others a heads up.
So withat, I wish you and other readers well. It will help you just to get some good books on this topic. It is so hard to know that other parents don't have this problem. But, in fact, many of them are probably suffering in silence with the problem also. It us just so embarrassing to admit that you have a child with this behavior, and unless someone knows about this condition, and then tells you about ut, you don't know about it, and have no idea how to deal with it. Read up and you will start to have your reality corroborated, instead if feeling that you are imagining things, or just an ineffectual or bad parent. You should feel better just knowing that this condition actually exists, and there may be some things you can do to ameliorate it, and that there is hope at the end if the tunnel, and most of all, you are not alone, and you can find help in various places.
@Trying very hard
Thank you for writing in and sharing your experiences.
It can be very difficult when you feel as though you have tried everything, yet
you still have a difficult time making a positive connection with your
child. As Debbie notes in this article, sometimes it can be helpful to
have some additional support to help you manage your emotional reactions and
responses to your child, such as a therapist or support group. For
assistance locating these and other supports available in your community, try
contacting the http://www.211.org/ at
1-800-273-6222. I recognize what a challenging situation this can be, and
I wish you and your family all the best moving forward. Take care.