When Our Kids Say Negative or Hateful Things
One of the toughest moments for parents is when our kids say hurtful things about us. Yet like so many things with parenting, when we see things for what they are, it helps us to react much more appropriately.
All of us have feelings of hating those we love at some point. Kids are much less tempered by experience and have much less control of their emotions. We aren’t as quick to go to the place of hating someone, as we have the experience to know that our feelings will cool down and we may lose the hateful thoughts altogether.
Not only do kids have extreme thoughts like that they hate people more frequently, but they also have less ability to stop themselves from acting out on those feelings. In other words, kids often feel strong, even violent, emotions more often than they will when they are adults, and they have less tools for keeping themselves from lashing out. So that means that most kids are going to say negative, hurtful things to those they love.
One huge gift we can give our kids is for US not to buy into their hateful thoughts. When your otherwise sweet daughter says, “I hate you mommy”, it helps so much to see that your child is overwhelmed with a thought that is driving her behavior. She’s lashing out verbally not because she hates you globally, but because in that moment, she has the thought that she hates you, and she doesn’t have the executive function yet to stop herself from blurting out the words.
Your child may well regret the words as they are coming out of her mouth.
Your reaction becomes a teaching moment. It will either:
- help your child quickly move on, or
- can cause your child to start developing a self-image as someone who is mean, hurtful, etc.
It’s critical that we don’t overreact to our child’s emotional over-reaction. If you have in the past, as 99.9% of parents do before becoming aware of what’s going on, be gentle with yourself and move on.
If you can be calm and hear your child out, you can use the moment as a bonding moment. You know that your child loves you, so hold on to that thought for your child. You may be able to empathize with your child. Try something like, “Oh sweetheart. You are so mad at me you feel like you hate me right now. I’ve felt that way and it’s an awful feeling. I’m so sorry that you are so upset and I’d love to help you to calm down.”
The actual words aren’t that important. It’s the overall attitude that is so important. If you are clear that you are sorry that your child is so upset, and calm about the hateful words that are being said, you’ll help your child learn not to be too freaked out by his or her violent thoughts.
Many of us as moms need to learn ourselves to question our thoughts. I remember feeling like a monster because of the hateful thoughts I had towards my colicky son. One of the best things that ever happened to me was having kids that led to me finally learning that I not only didn’t have to freak out about my thoughts, but I also didn’t have to keep having the same negative ones again and again. When we learn this ourselves, it helps us to model and then teach our children this powerful, life-changing skill for having a great life!
In other tips I will talk more about changing our own thoughts. In the meantime, I want to refer you to TheWork.com. Byron Katie has a ton of free resources there that will help you learn to change your thoughts, including the ones about parenting being too hard, you not being good enough, etc. Those have more to do with your parenting challenges than you may have thought. They are like the iceberg below the surface that makes issues inevitable.
If your kids are young enough, I recommend the book, Tiger, Tiger, Is it True? by Byron Katie and Hans Wilhelm. It can help you coach your child on how to deal with the next time your child has negative, violent thoughts.