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.

Acknowledge Your Feelings

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.

Identify the Cause of Your Feelings

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?

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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.

Manage Your Expectations

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.

Get to Know Your Child Better

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.

Stay positive

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.

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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.

Commit to Not Criticizing

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.

When There’s a Personality Clash with Your Child

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.

Related Content:
“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


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.

Comments (28)
  • Kamarie

    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.

  • Rebecca
    I know I have a lot to work on. My children and I have always been close however recently ( since my middle son became a police officer) he isn’t the same person. I don’t think I like who he is as a person. He’s rude and selfish and mean.More I don’t argue with him or have conversations that I know will make him mad at me I’m always walking on eggshells and just mind my business because I’m tired of him getting mad and at me for something as simple as he asked for my help with lawn work and it took me an hour to get to his house to help rather than dropping everything and being there in 10 minutes. My eldest son asked for his help on the ranch and my middle child got irritated and would only help if he was paid a ridiculous amount and it had to be when he wanted to do it. To me this is unacceptable and disappointing, first of all you just lend a hand because someone needs it, 2nd you don’t hold your hand out and greedily ask what’s in it for you, and lastly this ranch is a family business they can’t just wait till he’s damn good an ready to go help. I’m so angry and saddened. I don’t like him as a person at all anymore. It scares me that he is turning into his dad
  • Noni

    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.

  • sad mom
    I'm thankful to each of you that took the time to write your feelings for others to see, it's given me the strength to get this out. I do not like my son.. I hate saying this, I wanted nothing more than to be ay mom I suffered manyMore miscarriages finally he stayed in there long enough to make me a mom. the beginning years were great but him at 12 almost 13 now he's taller than me and out weighs me he hasnt hit me but has raised his hand. he talks back and curses doesn't listen and is so rude to other kids. but then when he wants can be nice and caring or showing genuine concern for others I know the age is hard but it's hard when your child is nothing like you. it's hard when your child says they hate you. it's hard feeling like I did or didn't do something. maybe I gave him too much or too little of something I don't know. all i do know is I feel like a failure as a parent. I see other kids his age making breakfast in bed on mother's day or a special kind word and I ache for that. I admit I lose my temper and say mean things that I wish I didn't and then that makes me feel more guilt.I can't stand him anymore and I'm so scared that he knows this and more guilt sinks in. my days are filled with dread as soon as my alarm goes off knowing the arguing that's coming just to get him to school because in his words "school is stupid and you're ruining my life by forcing me to go." to those that shared; knowing I'm not the only one weirdly makes me feel better for that I thank you all. I wish you all the best
  • Trapped
    I've been looking for somewhere to actually get this out, I don't know what to say really, I have two Boys 8 and 13 and I have to say I am really struggling to find anything rewarding or joyful about being their parent. I know people say children are aMore blessing and to be grateful but I'm struggling to find anything to be grateful for, if anything I get more angry with myself every day because I did this to myself! My 13 lacks any compassion, empathy he is all about himself, all the time! My 8 year old is just so demanding of everything he would actually take the last bit of my dinner without a second thought even if he's had dinner, pudding, snacks and whatever else he can find then spit it out in disgust! I'd say no but the whining guilt trip is to much (it's easier to be hungry) family days out are non existent, they usually end up with my husband and I arguing because it's so difficult to get them to do anything (even if it's for them) they destroyed mother's Day, I'm sick of being ignored, lied to, made to feel stupid, repeating myself and running myself to the ground physically and emotionally for these individuals who quite frankly clearly don't care, they make me cry so often and I thought I raised them better. They take and break my things they have no respect for even though I give them what I can (financially things are tough) I'm just at wits end and feel alone! It's a horrible thing to admit... I hope people understand and I hope they grow out of it!!
  • Sally
    my sons absent father has made a reappearance. We are polar opposites in our parenting approach. My son was gut wrenchingly disrespectful 6 weeks ago, i was looking at my son, hearing his voice, but the words were being spoken were that of his abusive father. My son then ranMore off to his fathers. I havent seen him for 6 weeks, he wont return my calls or messages. I love my son but i wont tolerate bad behaviour. I feel the caring, loving son i raised solely for 13 years has gone. He believes the lies he is being fed by his father and demonstrating the same disrespectful behaviours, including lying and deflection. I am at the point of giving up. The pain of not seeing him immeasureable. But i am not prepared to tolerate the degree of disrespect, simply to maintain a relationship. I feel damned if i allow the abuse to continue, i feel damned if i cease trying to maintain contact. What is the answer pls
  • Going through hell
    I have a 10 year old daughter she constantly has meltdowns everyday she used to live with her father now she is in my care I come from a dysfunctional family so I wasn’t really taught how to raise kids but regardless of that I have tried my best toMore teach her how to behave properly but I find she is constantly in a bad mood,swearing at her younger sibling and just very unbearable to be around our personalities clash a lot the main issues are the constant meltdowns,she doesn’t listen to simple requests to tidy her room and acts like a boy I truely hope she grows out of this phase .i have saved this article to remind myself i don’t have to be my child’s friend and other helpful key points to hopefully give me some hope for the future !
  • Adhd and ODD
    It’s easier said than done. Our 12 year old son has been diagnosed w adhd and odd since he was 5 years old. My wife felt giving him medication at such a young age. For 6 years she has been put through hell trying to make sure he did wellMore in his studies. Countless hours with therapists, pyschologists, pyschiatrists, christian counseling. Countless books read.. Our son continues to lie, cheat, curse , abuse his parents, break everything in home. We are wits end and at this point learning to accept our son will either end up in jail, an addict as he cannot control impulses. I remember 7 years ago a therapist told both of us we cannot be good parents, we need to be great parents. We are good people, good hearts, god fearing christians. I can honestly say one word to sum up how both my wife and I feel- hopelessness.
  • Don't like mine and there is no salvaging it.
    This is much harder to put into practice in real life when you have a child who, lies, cheats, steal, sneaks around behind your back, smokes weed, does poorly in school, sleeps around with boys, send explicit pics to others, flies into rages whenever confronted on anything. Life with myMore child is hell, and no one can really understand unless they have lived it themselves. And, I am not a bad parent, her therapists, her psychiatrist and my own therapist have confirmed this, which took me a long time to even accept. Logically I know this, I have raised 3 other girls, and none like her. She makes everyone else feel crazy and confused. Wish I could like her, but there has just been too much over the past 17yrs. However I will always feel bad about my feelings toward her.
    • Noni

      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.

    • Troubled widow w 4 girls
      Hate to say I feel the same way, her constant actions pretty much the same as described above are disturbing and have led me to hate my own daughter. I also have 3 others, the other three: 1 amazing, 1 trying teen but mostly good, 1 trying 8 yrMore old following in same footsteps. Doing this solo is even harder.
    • Crystal
      I appreciate your honesty. I'm glad to know I'm not alone.
  • Disappointed in myself...

    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...

    • So sad but true
      Hi, i feel EXACTLY like this towards my son and hes exactly the same; intelligent and well - behaved child but i just do not gel with his personality. I prefer when hes not close to me and i cannot cope with his humour. Like other people have commented ifMore he wasn't my child he would definitely be someone i would want be around or in my life. So what do you do when you have to? Its not his fault at all and i feel aweful about it. I wonder have you found any good tips or advice on how to manage this? I dont want a broken relationship with my child at all :(
  • Hili
    I feel annoyed by my daughters talking as she has a lazy tongue but i want to accept her but i find it difficult
  • ChallengingNorms
    I really enjoyed this article. Its a subject that really needs to be discussed more! I hope its ok that I have linked and quoted you on my blog! Lets get the word out there!! :)
  • Shami
    I enjoyed reading this article....It's really helpful and applies to my situation with my son.
  • Trying very hard

    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.

    • Mom of Opposites

      @ 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.

    • Sparkle Dance

      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.

      • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
        Sparkle Dance Thank you so much for your kind words about our company.  I’m so glad to hear that you found our products and services helpful as you were facing challenging behavior with your daughter, and I’m pleased that things have improved as she has matured.  For more information aboutMore the https://www.empoweringparents.com/product/the-oppositional-defiant-disorder-lifeline/ or our https://www.empoweringparents.com/product/parent-ecoaching/, please click on the linked text.  For information about all of our product offerings, please visit our https://www.empoweringparents.com/shop/.  We appreciate you writing in and sharing your positive experiences with us.  Take care.
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      @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.

      • Trying very hard
        Thank you very much. I have seen parenting coaches for my husband and I, plus a physcholigist for my son and a lot of his personality traits are listed as "yellow flags" and I've been told to watch them - that in theory he could improve with age or certainMore traits could worse into ODD or ADHD or who knows what else. If you have further advice, I would love it but understand that this may be some karmic justice for some horrible things I did when I was young. :)
  • Help i am losing it
    Just feels that my daughter is alway making me feel less to make herself feel better or dhe is i am wrong about everything
  • Fed UP with em
    I was interested in reading your article, then found it typical mushy mushy. sometimes it is simple. I do not like them. If they were not related, I would not associate with them. If I hated my boss that much, I wouldn't put up with it, I would LEAVE andMore find another job. what about MY happiness, you are creating another generation of me kids.
    • markl67
      I don't know your situation but let's examine these statements. "What about MY happiness"...and..."you are creating another generation of ME kids."
    • Me
      I swear I feel the same way about my oldest; I would not associate with her if she were not family. Sad, but true.
  • Khai
    Thanks for the info. This could be a great help and guide for parents in handling their child...understanding child's behavior and patience are some of the keys to lessen parent's headache...
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