One Mom’s Confession: I Love My Child, but I Don’t Always Like Him Very Much

Posted October 9, 2008 by

I have a secret that is hard to admit. I really struggle at times with one of my kids. Of course I love him. Of course I do everything in my power to care for him, protect him, and nurture him.But honestly, there are moments when I struggle to like who he is, particularly when he is standing in front of me, stubborn as a mule, ready to butt heads, not willing to give an inch.

This is not to say that I don’t have moments with my other two kids, but at times I wonder why it seems like this particular relationship, with this particular child is fraught with so much angst.This is especially hard for me, because it seems that parents are just not supposed to think this way! There is a very strong message from our culture that we’re supposed to love all our kids equally, be kind, generous and patient in order for us to be proper parents. So, like most things in life that bother me, I’ve decided to take a moment to really focus on what it means to have a child that you love with all your heart, but sometimes find it hard to connect with, to understand, to simply like.

First, I’ve come to realize that this is not an uncommon problem, just a painful, and sometimes shameful, fact that many parents don’t want to admit. The more I talked about it with my friends, the more I realized that everyone feels the same way about one of their kids at some point in their parenting life. For the longest time I worried that this meant I didn’t love this one particular child as much because our relationship can be so difficult. I still think about making his snack for school late one night, teary eyed over a huge row we had right before bedtime. “What if”, I thought, “I’m just not as good of a mom to him? What if I can’t love him the same way that I love my other kids?” Then a saner, more practical voice said, “Of course you don’t love him the way you love your other kids, Joan. You don’t love anyone the same. All relationships are different.” And then it hit me: The definition of love is not set in stone, some ideal that we all have to follow in order for it to be “right.” Loving your kids means different things at different times. Some days it’s cuddling on the couch reading together. Some days, it simply means feeding and washing them before falling exhausted into bed. Some days love means not following through on the desire to whack them upside the head.

I’ve also had to take a long hard look at what bothers me most about this child who I don’t always connect with. And if I am being honest, what I often see in him is……me. Realizing this was a humbling, eye-opening experience. All the traits he shows that bug me most and make me want to count down the minutes to the nearest happy hour are traits that I cannot stand in myself: over-sensitivity, stubbornness, and an inability to follow the rules. It made me realize that if I’m going to help my child be less difficult, I need to be less difficult and more open to changing myself. But I’ve also had to do a little re-thinking about these so-called “bad” traits. Yes, they can make me crazy, and I have always seen them as my child’s (and my own) greatest liability, but at times they are also his greatest strengths. For instance, he is overly sensitive, but also the most empathic child I have. He is stubborn, but boy, can he ever be stubborn about some good things, like not giving in to the kids at school who wanted to start a food fight. And yes, he hates rules (okay, so do I), but I don’t have a more creative, imaginative child than him. He thinks outside of the box more than any person in our family.

So, is my relationship with my “difficult” child always going to be filled with drama, tension, guilt? Maybe. But what I’ve come to realize is that my relationship with my other kids will change too, as they develop, as I grow older, as we all change in this family. Having a child who is a challenge can be, well, challenging. But what I’ve come to realize is that I need to change my definition of what I’ve always thought it means to be a mother. Parenting is many things at different times, and I have decided that I need to ebb and flow along with my kids if I’m going to make this work. There is no “right” way to parent your child, no definite definition of what it means to love your child, and no parent that does it right all the time.


Dr. Joan Simeo Munson earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Denver. She has worked with incarcerated individuals, families, adolescents, and college students in a variety of settings, including county and city jails, community mental health centers, university counseling centers, and hospitals. She also has a background in individual, group, and couples counseling. Dr. Munson lives in Colorado with her husband and three energetic children. She currently has a private practice in Boulder where she sees adults, couples and adolescents.

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  1. Atarah (Edit) Report

    Thank you Dr. Joan for replying to my post. I have really been working on this with my daughter and it seems to be getting better during the past few weeks and being that I’m not financially in a position right now, to seek professional treatment. I will continue to do my best to practice more patience with my daughter and a slue of other tactics I have been trying.

  2. Dr. Joan (Edit) Report

    Well, you’ve already taken the first step in making sure you can be the best mom possible by admitting that you find it hard to parent your child sometimes. Give yourself some credit for that! I always say that when you find yourself at a loss with your kids it’s time to reach out to a professional to figure out how to do it better. A trained therapist who specializes in kids can help you with this. Please call your pediatrician today and say that you are looking for a licensed therapist to help you with some issues with your daughter.

    Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up over this. A loving parent tries everything at their disposal to improve their parenting skills. You are doing this! A less loving parent would just give up. A therapist can help you to find ways to effectively deal with your daughter and discover the best way to solve this issue. Remember that you may never feel exactly the same about your two children, but you can try to discover ways to bond more closely with your child who makes you crazy. Good luck to you!

  3. Atarah (Edit) Report

    You explained how I’ve been feeling for a long time but I hard a hard time explaining it to others (even my husband) or even talking about it to others. My oldest daughter is only 5 and we’ve been bumping heads since she was born. Sometimes I feel like she needs to go live somewhere else in order for me to get a piece of mind. She makes me regret having children to be honest. I also have a 4 year old daughter and we get along just fine. Maybe we are just alike but I try my hardest to do whatever it takes to make her happy but always end up drained or frustrated at the end of day. HELP!!!

  4. Dr. Joan (Edit) Report

    Hi John:

    I agree with Carole’s advice to you regarding your son. You sound like a loving parent who has the ability to get him the help that he needs. Give yourself a pat on the back that you are on your way to helping him.

    In addition to his aggressive behavior I am concerned that your family seems to be struggling as a whole. I don’t know if your wife is interested, but I strongly encourage the two of you to call your pediatrician so that you can go as a couple to discuss what problems your son may be having and the best way for the two of you to come together to help him as a team. It seems as if you have very different parenting styles and this can make situations with a child who needs help much more difficult. If your wife cannot or will not go with you and your son to receive help, I really encourage you to go anyhow.

    Good luck with contacting the people who will help you on your way with your son.

  5. Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor (Edit) Report

    Dear John:

    I just want to comment on what you do know. It sounds like you’re very observant and make good connections between your son’s behavior and anything that might be contributing to it. As you have said, he has less control of himself when he’s overly tired. All kids are like this. Also, you note that he has problems when playing video games—gets too frustrated and can’t manage his feelings. Video games are too much for some kids and they just can’t play them. He does appear to have real difficulties with his temper. He’s quite aggressive from the sounds of it, even hurting his dog. These behaviors need to be reported to his pediatrician. Your pediatrician may recommend further evaluations to determine if your son could use some professional intervention to develop the skills he needs to succeed. He may recommend a neuropsychological evaluation, for example. This evaluation is indicated when kids have uncontrollable emotions. Results from a neuropsychological evaluation help the healthcare professional and you determine the proper rehabilitation, psychological, psychiatric or educational services for your child and family. You’re correct in saying that the problem is worse when you and your wife don’t agree on how to discipline him. It is important to support each other, especially in front of the kids. Getting some direction from a professional outside your home may make it easier for the two of you to join together under that professional’s guidance. I’m glad you wrote in and shared this. Please keep in touch with us and let us know your progress with your son.

  6. john (Edit) Report

    I have 2 boys one about to turn 6 and one who just turned 4. My older boy is one of those kids that is just easy going and causes no problems. My little guy on the other hand is a terror.

    I love him dearly and he can be such a sweet little guy some times. When he fist gets up for instance he gives the dog hugs and kisses and tells him how much he loves him and then always has time to give me big loving. I really treasure these times. I love it when he is a good little guy and gives me the big hugs and such.

    But he has always had some issues. Even as a baby when we went to change his diapers, he cried and tensed up and raised a ruckas like we were hurting him. Our older boy alwyas liked to get the dirty diaper off, not the little guy.

    Then once he started to get teeth, he started biting, unfortunatly, his older brother bore the brunt of this. He drew blood more than once and the older boy is so good natured he did want to hurt his little brother to make him stop.

    Now he flies off the handle for no reason, granted this happens more when he is tired but the level of the “gurmpyness” knows no bounds. Today, he was playing a game on he tv with his brother and was cranky I came into the room and asked him what he wanted for lunch and before you know it, he was calling me stupid and telling me “you going to die”. Then he picked up a toy and threw it at me hitting me in he chest. I had enough. He then ran into the bedroom with is mom and fell asleep with her.

    Later I found him after his nap outside in his PJs with no shoes on at 4:30 pm in Chicago on November first. His mom was sitting in a chair watching TV and when I asked if she knew he was outside she said she wasn’t fighting with him. The temp was only about 45 degrees hardly barefoot and PJ weather so I tried to get him in the house to get some shoes and a coat on. Finally with the help of his brother and the girl next door I was able to get him into the house. It didn’t do much good, as I was trying to get him to put some shoes one he kicked me in the, well, you know. and started in again with “you gonna die” again thing.

    About this time his mom finally decided to stop watching the race or the bears or whatever sporting event she was watching to come to his aid. Yelling at me that I was bineg mean to him. I gave up, I can not win with my little guy and every time I try to discipline him, his mom comes to the rescue. I went to the bathroom and when I had come out she had put him in his room, which he had proceeded to destroy.

    My little guy goes out of his way to do his best to try to hurt people, me, his mom, his grandparents and even his dog when he gets mad. He will lose his temper at the drop of his hat over nothing just like his mom. He is 4 now, but in 10 years he will be 14 and probably 150 pounds or more.

    The real kicker about the “you gonna die” thing is that I have a bad heart and will be getting another stress test tomorrow due to chest pains. I would hate to drop dead and have the last thing my little guy says to me be “you gonna die” or “I hate you”.

    I realize that my wife is probably the cause of much of this as one the days she is away, while the problems are still there the are managable. As it stands though I love my boy dearly, more than anything, but I just don’t like him at all when he is doing his best to hurt me. And I dread me falling over for both his sake and my other boys sake as they would then have only thier mother.

  7. sweetangel85 (Edit) Report

    ok i have 2 daughters 1 is 8 yrs old and the other 1 is 2 yrs of age well i have a hard time of saying i love you to the 8 year old one most of the time i act very cold with her i always favor the little one more and i hate myself for this many times i wanted just to give her a strong hug and say i love you but i don’t under stand why is it soo hard for me to give her so much love like i do with the little one and i do realize some thing is that because my daughter the 8 yr old was from my first relatinship and my ex her father was really abusive with me mentally and he was violent he was everything in the black book to the point that i finally left him when my 8 yr old daughter was 1 years old then year after year i was getting so cold with her that i don’t show any love to her at all i do things for her like making sure that she has all the important materials things she needs but the love is not there and i do need alot of help for this!!

  8. drjoan (Edit) Report

    To: Bakewell11:

    Yours is a difficult situation that needs some detective work to get to the root problem. Yes, 16 can be a difficult age, with kids asserting their independence, hormonal changes, and drama. However, what concerns me about your letter is her seemingly quick change-over into a child you no longer recognize. Whenever parents tell me this about their teen-agers my red flags go straight up. It begs the question whether drugs, alcohol, sex or other psychiatric issues are at play here.

    Your family is in crisis mode–this means that you are no longer able to make healthy, positive decisions with your families best interest at heart because your mind is too clouded by the ongoing crisis of your daughter’s behavior. It’s time to get a 3rd party to help you clear the air, get to the root of your daughter’s sudden behavior change, and learn some tools to help create a better home environment. Please call your pediatrician or other family doctor and get a referral today for a counselor/therapist who deals specifically with families and children.

    Kicking your daughter out is not the answer. This will create an even wider chasm between her and the rest of you. What she needs is serious boundaries and a mom who is showing her that she is hanging with her through this very hard time in her development. This will not be easy. Make no mistake about it, entering into therapy can be harder before it gets better, but I want you to ask yourself what other alternatives are there? Clearly you have few left or you wouldn’t be feeling so desperate.

    Your feelings of anger and disappointment are valid. Kids can push us all to the brink of our sanity and you are not alone in your sadness. Please contact a therapist as soon as you can to help your family find new ways to interact and create some peace in your home. You sound like a loving mom who needs some support. You can do this.

  9. drjoan (Edit) Report

    To So Low:

    Your letter concerns me because you sound very depressed and removed from not only your son, but life as well. It is impossible to function on a day-to-day basis if you are this low. You are in need of more support than I can give you in a letter, so I am recommending you to talk to a counselor who can help you figure out why you feel this way. I think you could use help for your depression as well as figuring out how to be a more happy and effective parent. What you need to do next is call, today, your doctor and ask for a place to go to talk to a counselor who can help you sort this out. Explain to the person at the doctor’s office that you need help for depression and with some parenting issues and ask them for a phone number for a place you can go. Then, make an appointment as soon as possible.

    From your letter it sounds like you have had a pretty rough life, becoming a mother at such a young age, and having almost no support. It is all right that you feel lost and depressed, but know too that you can get the help you need to feel better and be a better parent to your son. The fact that you are writing in shows that you do care about him and yourself. Please contact a counselor soon so you can be on your way to feeling better!

  10. So-Low (Edit) Report

    See I feel bad because everyone is saying how bad ther
    kids are but I have a good kid. he’s 10 years old and I
    dont have anything bad to say about him and even though
    I love him and I worry sick about him when he’s not
    with me, when he is with me I dont interact with him at
    all. I would rather he just go to his room and let me
    be in my room and when he comes to talk to me I short
    anwser him in a mean way. he could have been gone
    all week and when he gets home Im still not happy he’s
    comeing home. its like I dont miss him. its like as long
    as I no he’s safe and somewhere having fun Im good.
    I like to come and go without having to find someone to
    watch him. maybe its because I had him when I was young
    and I never really had time to have fun or time to
    be alone. I lived with a house full and I went from
    ther to being a mom at 18 living alone with me and my
    son and all I did was set in the house and be a mom.
    cook clean wash, all the things a mom does while his dad
    was out with his friends havin fun and stayin out late.
    I dont no what it is, I just feel bad about how I treat
    him because he is a good kid. he’s good in school
    his strong headed to be 10, but I just dont no why I act
    that way to him or any other little boy that I come in
    contact with cause I did it to my sisters son when he
    was a kid and he’s 16 now. and I did it to my brother
    when he was a young boy and now he’s passed away at age
    25. its like I have something against younger boys
    that are close to me that live with me are have lived
    with me. if anyone can help me understand what Im going
    threw, Im ready to listen.

  11. bakewell11 (Edit) Report

    Hmmm…. such a relief to hear that I am not totally alone. My 16 year old daughter disgusts me and I can honestly say that at present she is the most ungrateful, nasty, rude, unpleasant child I know!! I have adored her and been so proud of her all her life, but within a few short months I have gone from dismay and puzzlement at the stranger in my home, to absolute dispair as she has become increasingly cold and unfeeling in her treatment of us her family. Finally, I snapped and asked her to leave my house, no longer able to live with the almost constant jibes, name calling, and complete lack of respect she shows to everyone in the house.
    It is killing me every single day, I feel as though I have played into her hands and she has got what she wanted all along…no rules, no having to get up before 6pm, no time with us, and I miss her…so so much. I miss who she used to be, we were so close. I now wonder if she will ever return? At only 16 what possible chance does she stand?? She was supposed to be entering 6th form this year for A levels…and later on, uni. She claims that she actually wants to go live in a hostel for homeless minors!! The thought fills me with horror and fear for what she is turning into.
    Is it all too late??
    Should I drag her home kicking and screaming?? Ban the chav boyfriend who is a seemingly premanent attachment? Should I let her learn the hard way and pray? Should I be relieved that the house is quiet and I don’t get called abusive names every day?
    Any advice gratefully accepted? 🙁 sad mum.

  12. Dolcet (Edit) Report

    Wow- Needless to say I am glad that I am among other parents. My older daught now 11 is truly a great kid, good grades, good heart, I can’t stand her. She is so rude and obnoxious towards me. Even her little quirks bother me. I tell her all the time, be yourself, that she is great, but I also don;t have backup from her father my ex, nor my mother. I am so very proud of her accomplishments, and she is a great person, but towards me, I relly just dont like her behavior or attitude at all. I have no idea what to do to even bring peace to myself with this situation.

  13. Dr. Joan (Edit) Report

    Dear April,

    It takes a lot of courage to admit that things are tough and so for this I applaud you. I agree with you that it is time to get some help. You don’t say whether or not you are married or have a partner, but if you do, now is the time to enlist them in your search for help. I encourage you to contact your pediatrician and tell them what you have told me and that you are looking for a counselor to help you with your parenting. There are a lot of wonderful therapists out there who specialize in working with parents struggling with their kids. Find one now and begin this process so that you can at least make an informed decision about what path to take next with your son.

    And by the way, graduating with a degree in psychology does not make one an expert on anything. Trust me on this! I went through years of graduate school and my kids still throw me for a loop sometime. You are not alone in this. Good luck in your search for better parenting skills!

  14. April (Edit) Report

    My son is just 4 and I say down at my computer just realizing how sometimes I wish I never had him and how I could be much happier. I love my baby I really do but I couldn’t understand why the heck I didn’t care for him at times. He’s only people tell him and he’s a boy. I hear that all the time but that’s not the issue it’s more than that and people judge you because as a mother your suppose to always love your children. I’ve given had the thought of sending him off to live with his other grandmother. I just don’t understand where these feelings are coming from and the older he gets the worse it gets. I seriously need some understanding and help. I think it’s time to seek professional help. Funny thing is I’m graduating this fall with a BS in psychology and I can’t even begin to think where to start with this!! I’m so glad that someone had the guts to write about this problem and know that I’m not alone.

  15. Dr. Joan (Edit) Report

    Anyone who reads my articles knows that I am a big proponent of counseling. However, counseling is like any other relationship we find ourselves in: sometimes it’s just not a good fit. This happens all the time. I would suggest that it’s time to uproot yourself from this therapist and find a counselor that can provide family counseling for all 3 of you. Many times parents put the problem child in counseling with the hopes that he/she will change. The truth is, when a problem child exists in a family, it’s the whole family’s problem. As a result, your whole family has to find a better way to deal with this stress. Call your pediatrician or local mental health center today. Get a list of referrals and start making calls. Tell each prospective therapist what is happening, how your current therapy is not working, and what you are looking for. Then, make a commitment to your kids that the 3 of you are going to go talk to someone together with the goal of building your family back up. Sitting with your new therapist and giving him/her the most detailed background of your son’s life is what is needed, along with gaining some information from the therapist about ways to control your home life. I wish you luck with your new therapist and your new found goals to make your family better.

  16. Jenny (Edit) Report

    I am in the same boat. My 14 year old son is somebody I don’t know anymore and most of the time Don’t like. I love him and I spend a lot of time trying to figure out who the creature is. He doesn’t follow the rules. everymorning its so much stress just to get him to school and then when he gets home it starts all over again. He is in counseling but it doesn;t seem to work and then add my 16 year old daughter into the mix.My life is one big stress. I am a sigle mom who works 9-4 I am home every night with them(mostly to keep a eye on them). Any sugestions would be great.

  17. Dr. Joan (Edit) Report

    T.J., I’m sorry things are so difficult. It sounds like you have hit a parenting rock bottom and trust me, I understand where you’re at. So I am going to tell you what I always tell someone who is at the end of their rope: It’s time to get some outside intervention. I believe that a call to your pediatrician is in order to get the name of a therapist who specializes in family counseling. Some people think that going to therapy is a sign of parenting failure, but I see it as just the opposite. If you didn’t care and love your child at some level you wouldn’t have written in so courageously about how painful this is for you. When we get to this spot it really is time to gain the perspective from a professional you can see regularly, as opposed to me trying to help you through my blog post. A therapist will help you through all the necessary details and give you advice to help you be more effective with your child. I know you can do this and I strongly support you in your journey.

  18. Marsha (Edit) Report

    Well, I’m another mom of 6 year old which seems to be another watershed year I see.
    I often feel this way about her, and the guilt is overwhelming. I can tell you from experience though that parenting out of that guilty place is ineffective and not actual parenting.
    I read this to my sister who has a 10 year old “one of those” girls just like mine and we both agreed that some days, just “not killing them” is love.
    Thank you!!

  19. Colleen (Edit) Report

    Well, I hear all you parents out there with 15 year olds that test your will – I have one myself.
    However, I never hate him – I am actually really proud of him and impressed by my son – his actions at times are what I disagree with.
    He has siblings and I try to explain to him that he is a role model for his younger sister whom he gets along great with. I try to engage him in rational discussion over mutual respect and how that translates with our life. I also try to help him realize choices and accountability. If he can offend others with little regard to their feelings but rant about not getting any respect – I try to hold up the mirror and let him arrive at the obvious cause and effect.

    The other day my conversation skills were wore out and I just loudly reminded him that his life does not suck – and there are worse things in life than being loved and to pretty much stop with the drama and purposely disrupting some situations because he can – bored? or whatever! I do not know. BUT – I think he heard me some because he has not showed the “attitude” in a while!

    Sometimes a phase really is part of your child learning about themselves and coming to terms (sometimes not gracefully at all) with their reality- like the first time they touch an electric socket – same;same… only in teenage terms.

    Good luck everyone! Although I have never hated my child, I have resented rudeness and been shocked by brazen commentary and actions.

    It is really hard and those who live it understand – those who haven’t – I think fail to appreciate what it is to love and be there for someone else, even though they push you away or in some cases – repulse you. Kinda like that job we all have had that was not worth the pay… in some cases, parenting is a thousand times more extreme. I appreciated the article and I hope my comment serves good to someone!

  20. T.J. (Edit) Report

    All this helps, but my child is only 6 and when I think of this getting worse over the years or even continuing as is, my heart sinks. I not only dislike her at times, I outright hate her. I know this is a terrible sin, but I literally bite my cheek till it bleeds so as to stay patient and calm. Tonight I just lost it. At a big family dinner, she was aggravating, disruptive, refused to eat (she’s super picky eater), in everybody’s face and space, and I do not have an understanding family. It just breaks my heart to see my beautiful child as somebody others want to get away from. When I impose consequences or discipline her, she’s disrespectful in a way that I cannot understand. Tonight, I told her I’m done, that is has got to stop. She wept, saying I don’t like her anymore, clung to me and was generally repentent. I felt so bad for her, but really, I don’t see how I can handle this for one more year, much less as she becomes a teen. She’s an only child. I wish we’d had more because I feel like an utter failure.

  21. Amy (Edit) Report

    Thanks for the post. As it has aldready been said, it helps to know that I’m not the only parent who has felt this way about my son. During moments of clarity and calmness (usually when he’s sleeping) I often wonder what it must be like for him to constantly be the cause of stress and strife in our home. It seems as though he knows no other way to exist unless he’s causing drama and unrest. I try very hard in the heat of the moment not to make him feel that “he” is bad, but that it’s his “behavior” or “choices” that are bad.

  22. Megan Devine, LCPC and Parental Support Line Advisor (Edit) Report

    Hi Everyone, I’d also like to jump in and add something here. Parenting is such a tough job, and all of us have our moments (some lasting longer than others!) of not liking our kids. Parental Support Line specialists often hear from parents struggling with this issue. If you find yourself in a similar situation, be sure to check out the EP article:
    “Temper, Temper: How to Keep Cool When Kids Push Your Buttons”

  23. Dr. Joan (Edit) Report

    It would seem that for many of you writing in, “15 years old” seems to be the age where your kids are making you crazy. Well, know that this is not the first time I’ve heard this and you are not alone. A few suggestions: First, if your family life has reached rock bottom, it is time for counseling, together, as a family. I know it is tempting to send a child to a therapist by themselves, especially when it seems you are doing all the right things and he/she is acting like a menace, but intervention is called for when the entire family is suffering. You may not be able to control what your teen chooses, but you CAN control how you respond to it and live with it as a family. Counseling will help you do this. Second, I strongly recommend support groups. Parents all over engage in these sorts of weekly meetings to help one another discuss, dissect, and reason with each other when a difficult teen is in their family. Lastly, I have some good books to suggest: Yes, Your Teen is Crazy: Loving Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind by Michael J. Bradley; and Stop Negotiating with Your Teen: Strategies for Parenting Your Angry, Manipulative, Moody or Depressed Adolescent by Janet Sasson Edgette. And, as always, refer back to James Lehman’s articles on EP and his Total Transformation Program. These are all wonderful tools to help guide you through these difficult years. Good luck to all who are struggling with this — I admire your strength and sheer determination to try to do the best for your kids.

  24. Susan (Edit) Report

    Boy did this strike a nerve. I knew parents didn’t like kids – my parents didn’t like me! Didn’t make not liking my kid any easier though. My 15yo daughter is fabulous – to everyone but me. We’re getting along better now, in part because she’s come to realize that living with me may be difficult but living elsewhere is much worse (especially since she is allowed to leave with only the clothes on her back and what she can fit in a paper bag and her electronics don’t travel). In part because I made a list of consequences, removed my emotion from the equation and now dole them out as appropriate. Also, I treat her like I actually like her and am glad to see her, which is harder than it sounds. In the past month or so, she’s starting to get with the program (I’ve been working TT for over a year – she is way stubborn, just like her mother!). We’re having conversations at dinner where before it was a silent event or a fight-fest. When she has a problem, she’s calling me for comfort and support – completely unheard of before. After an extremely tumultuous 2 years, which included several police interventions, emergency room visits and forced living out arrangements – it is incredible that she’s living in my house. On top of that, she’s becoming likeable. It is a miracle.

  25. Sara (Edit) Report

    Add me to the list. I have a teen that I don’t always like but I love him with all my heart and I want the best for him. He is a awesome child who will be a powerful man of God. He has a great future ahead if he will follow the right path. He has a tendency to “be above the law” and finally got caught! Instead of jail time the officers decided to send him to Teen Court, he is required to get a job, and I also enrolled him in an alternative school in addition to his regular school. He takes business courses at the alternative school. While I love him, I don’t want him in my house any more. So I am empowering him! He will take all of the business courses available so that when he graduates, he will have the necessary skills to work in an occupation that will allow him the lifestyle he would like to be accustomed to, because I certainly can’t afford him anymore.
    I enjoy this newsletter – it reminds me that I am doing the right thing with all of my kids.

  26. Jennifer (Edit) Report

    What an important reminder that we are all human. We all have buttons that can be pushed and at times, we get frustrated. This frustration is confusing for parents because of the conflicting emotions it brings to life. But don’t forget that this is an important message to your children as well. They need to know that they can only push so far before someone gets angry with them. What a valuable skill they are learning from someone who will love them unconditionally. Stay strong for your kids. They will appreciate it!

  27. Trisha (Edit) Report

    The article was great. I’m looking at it from a step parent’s eyes. I love all three of the boys but the oldest (15) is our “HM” as we call it – High Maintenance! He is the most disruptive, thinks the rules don’t apply to him and is abusive verbally and physically with his siblings and my daughter too. In our two years together as a family he has consistantly been a manipulative and mean spirited person to be around. Just a few weeks ago, after being disciplined by me when his father wasn’t home he decided that he no longer wished to live at our house. Boy did I feel guilty, although the behaviour that got him into trouble that day was completely out of line and neither his father or mother woulnd have have tolerated it. Now that he is gone our home life is much more plesant. The remaining three children all get along a lot better too. Without his influence and pot stirring and name calling it is so much calmer. I do hope that he’ll change his mind someday and want to come live with us again, but not until he’s ready to be respectful and kinder to everyone in the house. I do love him but liking him has been very difficult for me. Like the other people who have written, I feel a tremendous amout of guilt for not being able to like him.

  28. Dr. Joan (Edit) Report

    You hit on a good point — living with and liking (or sometimes not liking)a child who is so different from you. Your home life sounds like it is fraught with tension. I don’t know the details, but I am wondering if some counseling, either you by yourself or with your daughter (or even a little of both) might help this situation? Counseling often times gives us a different perspective and compels us into action when we feel hopeless or completely stuck. I don’t think you would have shared your comment if you didn’t think that maybe there was some hope that things could change. I urge you to talk to your primary care Doctor for a referral or call your local mental health association to find someone who can help make things more bearable. I wish you luck with this.

  29. Jayne (Edit) Report

    I too have a 15 yr old that thinks the rules pertain to everyone else, has a sense of entitlement and thinks any time I ask him to do a household task that it should be in HIS time. That could be anywhere from weeks to months, if I am not insistent. BUT his wishes need to be fulfilled immediately. He seems to be stuck at the age of about 4 or 5. My husband is a great involved father but hates conflict and doesn’t like doing the follow-through that it takes to keep our boys accountable for their responsibilities. It is utterly exhausting. I have taken away the electronics that we pay for, phones, Ipods etc as immediate consequence, but that is only temporary and as soon as they get it back, the behaviors continue. Any suggestions on how to make the message STICK? As with everyone else, I love my children, there are many times that I just don’t like them very much.

  30. Briana (Edit) Report

    I am certainly releived that I am not the only parent that feels this way about their own flesh and blood. My son (15) made this past year so incredibly difficult for my husband and I that I sent my son to go live with his biological father. At first it was the worst thing that ever happened to me and I felt like a complete failure as a parent. I cried nearly nonstop for more than a week. Then I realized something; the angst and tension in my home was GONE. Now when he comes for a visit I really try to enjoy him, but end up saying to myself everytime, “How did you deal with this daily?” He’s happier, I’m happier, his siblings are happier, and I am a much better parent to my other children now that I don’t have the stress of my son on my shoulders. Some kids are high maintenance, when you have one: you know it. Some kids don’t falter with discipline, some kids stop at nothing to get their way: that’s ok, you do the best you can and make the best decisions you can for them. No parent is ever perfect. I’ve come to terms with my relationship with my son. I DO love him, and maybe someday I’ll like him and we can be friends…but I know in my heart that I did everything I could to make peace in my house and I lost the battle. SOmetimes you just have to concede.

  31. Teresa (Edit) Report

    Dear Joan;

    thanks so much for this letter. I have come to realize that I love my 15 yr old daughter very much but I truly cannot stand to be around her. She has turned out to be the rudest, most selfish child and I truly cannot believe that she is my daughter. She actually reminds me of my younger sister. I am at a lose and have no idea where to go from here with here. It’s not just myself it’s my husband as well. We would rather keep her in her room as to deal with her horrible attitude and self righteous behavior. She doesn’t think that rules apply to her and she doesn’t seem to understand that the things her father and I are trying to instill in her are to make her a better person. She fights us every step of the way. She acts like a spoiled brat and I have no idea what to do with her. Any suggestions from anyone would be greatful. she does go to a psychiatrist and she’s on medication as well.

  32. Kathleen (Edit) Report

    Thank you for bringing this issue forward. It took me several years to come to this admission and it is sickening that I feel this way so often. The truth is she is very little like me and that is disturbing. She is an adult child who lives at home and should not be here. It is very painful for both of us.

  33. Brooke (Edit) Report

    Dr. Joan:

    I really liked your honest. I know it gives people a lot of relief to hear someone admit that it is sometimes hard to love their child.

    I also liked the way you said loving your children means different things at different times. I think we put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect all the time that we don’t give ourselves credit for the different ways we show love.

    Thank you.

  34. Tricia H. (Edit) Report

    Dr. Joan,
    Boy did your article hit home. I was just asking my older sister for advice on this exact topic. She is the one who reminded me that my daughter “is just like me!” It is reassuring to know that I am not alone and am, most of the time, doing the right thing. Thanks!

  35. Suzy Sheridan (Edit) Report

    Just wanted to say thanks for this topic. It really helped me a lot. I was just talking to our family counselor about this same topic the other day. I have felt so guilty about feeling this way that I physically was making myself sick. After reading your article I am hoping that I will be able to keep that on the fore front of my mind, especially when dealing with my 16 year old son.



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