When children get older, especially in their teens, they say things that may hurt you, so what do you say when your child tells you, “I hate you?”
What’s a Parent to Do?
I remember hearing about children, some young and some grown and still living at home, that would scream at their parents “I hate you!” In fact, it happens so often that I thought it was necessary to write about this because I recently heard a child scream at his mother like this. Here is a fact that I hope will help parents. When children are at their worst, when they are absolutely being the most difficult, when you feel like screaming or giving up on your child, and when it’s the hardest to love them, is precisely the time when children need your love the most. The most effective way to respond to children who are the hardest to love is to give them what they need at the very time they need it, and of course, that is love. We don’t give them what they deserve but we give to give them what they need. At the time you feel least like loving them is the very time that they need your love the most, and yes, even when you feel it’s impossible. That is unconditional love. Loving them and praying for them when you feel it’s the most difficult of all, shows them that you’ll love them, no matter what they say or do, and children desperately need that!
When we love our own children and even our own enemies when they’re at their worst, and love them at times when they seem to give us the most grief, is really a time when they need our love the most. A child screaming at a parent on the outside could be saying on the inside, “I’m hurting and I am confused about life, and I can’t handle all of this, and so I’m taking it out on you.” We, as human beings, seem to always hurt the ones we love the most. It doesn’t make sense, I know, but be kind to them when they despise you…pray for them when they verbally abuse you….kiss them when they curse at you (Luke 6:27-28) because that’s how Jesus wants us to respond. I know this may seem strange, and I’m not saying don’t discipline children for their actions, but love really works wonders. This actually mimic’s God’s love for us because we don’t deserve it, we have not earned it, and we are not entitled to it, yet God loved us while we were still enemies of Him (Rom 5:10). He loved us first and His love was not conditioned on our behavior; otherwise none of us would be saved, so we have to think of how God loved us while still being unlovable when our children react in ways that make it hard to love them. It’s not logical and at times, it seems impossible, and it goes against the grain of our human nature, but it works. I know. I was in this stage of life when I was young (although I never swore). God saved me when I didn’t deserve it, and even though I was angry at God, He loved me first (1 John 4:19). I tried to take my anger out on God but He responded by loving me. I was broken and didn’t understand, but He understood me. He saved me. He gave me what I didn’t deserve (called grace), and withheld what I did deserve (called mercy). In short, He sought me, He caught me, He bought me, and He taught me, what I ought be.
Pray for your children every day. They have things going on in their life that you probably don’t even know about…in school or with friends. They’re not going to tell you everything, so ask about their day. Tell them they can come to you any time at all, and about anything at all. Keep that door open and make it a “safe place” when they come to you and unload on you. If they feel they’ll get a lecture or chastised when they come to you, they may never come to you at all, and that means they’ll try to handle everything on their own, or even worse, they may seek the advice of a friend instead of a parent. Peer pressure is terrible these days. The children who behave are the ones most ostracized. Being good in school these days is almost asking for trouble, but that’s the way of the world, and it’s not going to get better. If anything, it’ll get worse, so talk to your children and make them feel they can tell you anything without getting reprimanded. If they don’t have that “safe zone” around you, they’ll find someone else, and that’s not generally good. They may be told to do just the opposite of what they should do, so it’s up to parents, grandparents, and foster parents to be approachable at all times, and for all reasons. If they fear coming to you, then they won’t. And that silence could be deadly in some cases.
Whatever you do, don’t take it personally when your children say, “I hate you.” They don’t hate you. It’s life that they might hate at the moment. Maybe they’ve just had a relationship destroyed, so it’s not really you they hate, but the way things are going. They may say, “I hate you,” but they are probably saying, “I’m hurting and I don’t understand this pain…why is this (whatever it is) happening to me,” and for some reason, it seems we always hurt the ones we love the most. Maybe it’s because they mean the most. It’s the way of adolescence today. Hate is not hate but hurting, so the next time your children tell you they hate you, try to look deeper and below the surface. Keep the door open because you may be the last thread they’ve got to hang on to, so don’t let them fall if you can help it. Be approachable, have a safe zone, and let them know they can tell you anything, no matter how bad it is. If you don’t, they’ll seek counsel elsewhere, and probably from someone who doesn’t have a clue about what’s really going on in their life.
May God richly bless you
Pastor Jack Wellman
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