Tag Archives: Child

Why Your Kid Says “I hate you!”

Part 1 of 2 ~ What To Do When Your Child Shouts “I hate you!”

A Client Writes* . . .

Dear Gemma,

Can I get some advice? Just recently Alice (age 7) has been shouting “I hate you!” She says this right after I have to tell her to do one thing, or stop another. I’ve been saying “I love you!” back. But yesterday I lost my cool and yelled “It’s so easy for you to hate! You can’t mean it – you’re just mad that I’m telling you what to do!”

Later she told me I hated her – where did that come from?  Am I just giving her negative attention?  Should I just say nothing next time?  Help!”

Dear Alice’s Mum,

Great question!

When we take what an emotional child says at face-value, as an accurate self-assessment, it’s very tempting to respond with ~

  • “Alice! I never want to hear you say that to me or anyone ever again!” (which puts your embarrassment and hurt ahead of helping Alice through her emotional confusion)
  • “Well, I love you.” (hoping to role model, or shame her into, what she should say)
  • “No you don’t, you love me!” (which denies her inner turmoil)
  • “No need to get all upset over this!” (which belittles her feelings).

However, when we take what an emotional child says as an inaccurate “first draft”  (because learning how to recognize and name emotions is tough, like learning maths only harder) we can stop taking what they say at face value and recognize a learning opportunity.

Let’s imagine a child blurting out an inaccurate response in maths class.

Maybe Suzy shouts out “six times eight is eighty-four!”
An unhelpful, “face-value” teacher might say:

  • “Suzy, how can you possibly get this wrong! What will your parents think?” (takes a child’s mistake as a personal attack on her competence)
  • “Well, Jimmy, can you help Suzy? (hoping for reassurance as a teacher, but this comes at the cost of shaming Suzy)
  • “No, wrong. Look it up!” (Which doesn’t help Suzy figure out where she went wrong in this problem)
  • “Now Suzy, maybe this is too hard for you. Why don’t you go back and review the four times tables? You got those right I think?” (Which belittles Suzy’s very real ability to master her eight times tables).

Similar ideas, right?

Tomorrow I’ll share how to use these opportunities as golden moments for understanding our child’s attempts more fully (both in maths and emotions). I’ll show how to help this elementary-school-aged child learn how to recognize, name and use her emotions to not only get her needs met more effectively, but also (added win-win) to connect her with her mum, instead of pushing her away.



* My clients get much more than the typical “50 minute hour.” I’m on their team 24/7. I often write between sessions, and encourage regular texts and emails. In these intermittent “A Client Writes” postings, I share some tools and tips I’ve been asked about (after removing any identifying details of course). If you want some of this – let’s chat!

Helping Kids through Divorce

How friends and relations react in the face of a couple’s troubles can make a huge difference, often for the worse.  I am dedicating this week’s blog space to addressing the five types of couple distress I see most regularly, with tips for how family and friends can help, not harm, the hurting couple.

Part 4 of 5  HOW TO HELP WHEN ~ The Divorced Couple has Kids

1. Never badmouth either parent in front of the children. Children know (even if adopted) they’re a combination of both parents. It’s never OK to say anything negative about either parent. If a child tells you they are “mad at dad” by all means acknowledge “Boy, right now you’re so mad at dad you could scream!”  But avoid character assignation. If you hear “mum’s a looser – if she’d just stop drinking dad wouldn’t have left,”  challenge this gently. “Your mum’s behaved badly, but she’s not a bad person.” Good people can make bad choices. This is key or the child might grow up thinking they too have some ingrained character flaw “just like mum or dad.”

2. Cut the kids some slack.  When your parents split, your home’s sold, you divide your time and stuff between mum’s house & dad’s house, your friends are gossiping, family finances suffer, you have to meet a parent’s new partner, and-life-as-you-once-knew-it is forever changed, it can be hard to find comfort. Counselling might be good. But anyone can help by taking the child out, listening, empathizing and offering simple kindness. A regular zoo date; movie night and sleep over at your house; an introduction to something new – a sport or art or book – shows you care.

3. Include them in your family traditions. “It takes a village” yea, yea, but it really helps! If your divorced friends are not up for the Easter egg hunt, pumpkin carving, tree cutting, carol singing, Thanksgiving feast, bake sale, Waitangi Day races, cabin-on-the-lake trip for a while, include your friends’ kids with your own. As the child of an unhappy marriage, I longed for these immersions into happy family gatherings and model my own parenting on the many aunts and friends who included me along the way.

4. Be an advocate for the children.  In a recent study of young adults from divorced families, many of those surveyed identified loss of control over their lives as very upsetting. Few kids said their parents had talked with them about the divorce and only 5% had the chance to ask questions. Help your friends put their love of the children ahead of their hate for the “ex”.  Just because the parenting plan says Mum’s house on Thursdays, but there’s a Father’s Day tea – what does the child need and want today? Might it be OK to listen more to the children?