Children are smart. They know how to push our buttons and they will if we let them. It’s important to understand the underlying cause when a child suddenly screams, “You hate me”. It presses on raw nerves and causes us to question ourselves. We tell ourselves that we have somehow failed our child. Stop torturing yourselves.! The reality is that, most of the time, underlying this phrase is a disobedient heart.
For example, I ran into a friend who said that her six year old daughter screams,,” you hate me “, every time she was told to brush her teeth. She asked for my advice. It became clear as we talked that she did not recognize her child’s misbehavior was disobedient. Instead, she spent time trying to reassure her which only adds fuel to the fire. Instead, I told her that first of all, she needed to develop a zero tolerance policy for disobedience. Secondly, she needed to tell the child that if she persisted in this behavior, she would be punished. Finally, she needed to follow through on the consequence if the behavior persisted.
Sometimes withholding a bedtime story can be a natural consequence for an obstinate child who does not cooperate at bedtime. My son and I use to look forward to story time at night. We would snuggle under the covers and enter into an exciting world of talking trains and ravenous cookie monsters. Sometimes, all it took to nip his disobedience in the bud was to withhold his nighttime story. It worked because it was an immediate consequence and it was something he valued dearly. If this push back only occurs at nighttime, there may be more going on. If the child uses the “I hate you technique throughout the day, chances are he /she is probably demonstrating a disobedient heart.
On rare occasions, when a child screams,” I hate you”, there really is some kind of disconnect going on between the child and the parent. This tension can exist for a myriad of reasons. It is important, in this case, to find out what is going on with the child. Gentle probing and good listening skills can usually illuminate the cause for this behavior.
I can almost guarantee that underlying this behavior is a child that is determined to have his/her own way and finds that this method really works. Our jobs as parents are to, not only curb their disobedience, but to teach them how to become less self-centered. Small instances such as these give us opportunities to develop a child’s character. My advice is to view this behavior, as frustrating as it can be, as an opportunity to raise a child that they can be proud of.