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.

Conclusion

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.

About

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 (20)
  • 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.
    • 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.

    • 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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