I Hate You!

February 12th, 2013 posted by Elizabeth Pantley

angry boy

Question:

When my son gets angry with me he yells, “I hate you! I wish you weren’t my mother!” and other hurtful things. It really disturbs me, but I don’t know how to respond.

Think about it:

When children feel angry and powerless, they sometimes resort to hateful words to express their feelings. These outbursts should not be taken at face value. In other words, your child doesn’t really mean he hates you – he means he’s extremely angry that he can’t have his way, and you’re the one imposing the rules! These reasons don’t mean you should tolerate the behavior. But, when you look at it this way, you can temper your own emotions so that you can take control of the situation.

Teach:

Children need to be taught that it is okay to have angry feelings, but that there are acceptable and unacceptable ways to express their anger. It’s usually best to walk away from a child who uses such strong language after making a short parting comment, “I won’t stay and listen to you talk like that.” Allow some time to pass so that both you and the child can calm down. Then, tell your child that his outburst was unacceptable. Instead of simply telling your child what you don’t want, teach what alternatives you will allow, such as, “I’m really mad at you for saying no.”

Respond calmly:

If this is an unusual behavior for your normally respectful child, you might want to respond in a calm manner, “That language is unacceptable. I know you’re smart enough to come up with an acceptable alternative.”

Find the source:

Determine if your child is hearing someone else talk this way, perhaps a friend. Talk about this person’s behavior and ask your child what he thinks of it. This is a good time to have a chat about the power and meaning of words, what you feel is acceptable, and what you will accept as alternatives to hurtful comments.

Be firm:

Let your child know in advance that if he uses those kinds of expressions with you he’ll be restricted to his room. The length of time would be determined by the intensity of the words, for example, “I hate you!” might warrant a one-hour solitary confinement. Swearing at you in a verbally aggressive way would warrant spending the remaining day in his room. Should he not follow orders and go to his room when asked he’ll lose a specific privilege (such as watching TV, talking on the phone, or going outside after school). Once you’ve set the limits, be calm and consistent when enforcing them.

Elizabeth Pantley (57 Posts)

Elizabeth Pantley is also the president of Better Beginnings, Inc. She is a popular speaker on family issues. Elizabeth’s newsletter, Parent Tips is seen in schools nationwide. She appears as a regular radio show guest and has been quoted in Parents, Parenting, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, American Baby, Twins, Working Mother, and Woman’s Day magazines. You can visit her website at http://www.pantley.com/elizabeth/


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