I remember the first time I heard it. The words cutting deep, the edge in his voice. I remember being hurt so deeply it ached. My eyes welling up at the pain.
I remember feeling slightly ridiculous that I was so affected.
After all he was just five-years old.
Surely he couldn’t mean it?
I said I HATE you he cried again when I hadn’t responded with words just silence as though I hadn’t heard the first time.
The H-word. It hurts doesn’t it?
I HATE you. I HATE you. I HATE you.
The first time you hear it it can be soul destroying. You wonder how on earth this tiny little thing you love and adore and nurture could turn on you.
On YOU. On the one person they are meant to love. The person who is devoting their entire life to them.
I birthed you, I went through pain and agony and you HATE me? You are breaking my heart already. At the age of five?
It’s a shock isn’t it, but one that 99% of parents get at some time. The most painful words that could be said thrown at you by the one you love most.
Were there tears? There often are to accompany the words – mainly from the parents - and who wouldn’t cry when your own child tells you they hate you?
The first time it happened to me it was over a piece of torn paper. I had tried to tear it from the spiral book but I was in a hurry and instead of a neat, straight-as-a-ruler-tear there was a rip.
It was a small rip no bigger than a centimetre or two but to a five year old it was a catastrophe, in the midst of the tears and foot stamping that followed came those three words.
Three words designed to hurt. And they did.
Remember this classic viral video. The Cookies Kid tells his mum what he thinks of her. (Post continues after video.)
It’s a curious part of human nature that even children who are nurtured and cherished will have the instinctive skills to know just how to bring their mother to her knees with just a few words. The thing is, as the rational knows, you know deep down they don’t mean it. You know deep down they are just pushing your buttons as kids do.
One thing I have learnt is that the first time is actually the worst (well, for now anyway) and it could have been the way I dealt with it – my very first instinct being to tell him that I thought it was a shame as I loved him so much.
His lips quivered as he picked up the torn paper and he watched me.
Do you still love me Mama? Of course.
So what’s the best way to deal with it according to the experts?
(l am no parenting expert and if you had asked me after the first few times it had happened I probably would have told you to blow raspberries at your child once their back was turned.)
But Child Psychologist Gail Bell has some much more mature advice. She told Today's Parent that the key is not to immediately try to discuss the language, or react too strongly, if your child says something hurtful.
“The mean stuff comes out because they’re frustrated at not knowing what to do with their feelings, and they want to make you feel bad, too,” she says. “Acknowledge the comment in the moment, but don’t get on the dance floor with your child.”
Instead she says to label your child’s feelings use phrases like “I see you don’t like my decision" and then, at a later time give examples of more appropriate words she could have used.
With three kids who are still young I still only get the occasional H-word and it’s pretty much just something I respond to with a smile and a kiss
I know come the tween and teenage years I might need to resort to something stronger though – maybe then blowing raspberries will be my own answer.
How do you react to the I-hate-yous? Do you have a good response?