“I hate you!” is an unpleasant statement for any teen to make towards their parents. The teenager years can be filled with hurt and hate, but that doesn’t mean that parents have to be that way too.
There’s nothing worse than having one of your own children yell at your about your inadequacies as a parent and tell you that they hate you. A rational person could dismiss these barbs as a teen or tween lashing out in response to a realistic expectation or instruction, but those words, “I hate you!” seem to scatter most rationality out of the room and leave lots of raw, ugly emotions bubbling away in everyone. But fear not, in the midst of this pain, there are 10 thing parents can remember to see them safely through this season.
Life through teenage eyes
I remember when one of my kids was leaving primary school their class did some skits about what high school would be like. These skits were a lovely insight into what they were hoping for, fearing and expecting based on little personal knowledge of the real thing.
The teenage years are just like this. Our kids are preparing to become adults with some ideas about what that could be, but no real knowledge or experience to base it on. Because of this, I think most teenagers tend to have one way of seeing the world:
- A short-sighted view. They struggle to see the long term nature of life, that small changes build up over time or that what seems a big deal today will hardly be remembered in a year’s time. As parents, we need to be patient with teens as they develop a sense of time and perspective.
- The glass is half empty. Many teens seem to have a negative outlook on life. Those who don’t, tend to be the ones who achieve great things while their classmates wallow in self pity and get caught on how life is not fair.
- Flitting from one thing to another. The teenage years are a time of discovering your passions and talents, forging lifelong friendships and working out what a meaningful life looks like just for them. This means that they’re not always the steadiest of characters as they try out different things, different styles and different approaches to being themselves.
Counteracting the hate speeches
If you live with a teenager who has developed a fondness for telling you how much they dislike you, it can be wearying to hear this message day after day. So, don’t be too hard on yourself for be hurt by it!
In my article on power and authority, I talked about how during the teenage years a parent’s authority diminishes as their child’s power increases. In some families, this handover happens peacefully, but in others it can feel like a civil war, where a 12 year old can be grasping power from their parents with little understanding of the consequences. When teens tell their parents that they hate them, I think this is a similar battle over power and authority, rather than a report card on you as a person or your parenting skills in general.
Be sure to have a look at that article on managing power, but in the meantime, here are 10 things for parents to remember when they have a teenager saying, “I hate you!”:
- Be clear about your relationship. You’re the grown up, so you can’t expect a teenager to fulfill your needs when it comes to validation. It’s nice if they tell you you’re a great parent, but you can’t expect it.
- The grass is always greener somewhere else. The negativity of the teenage years I mentioned above often leads them to see their life as being worse off than the life they see others leading. Other teens’ parents will always be held on a pedestal above you, so don’t fall for the trap of taking that comparison and feedback on board. Of course someone who they see for an our or two at a birthday party will be far nicer than you when they’re meant to be doing their homework or cleaning up their room. Parenting shouldn’t be a competition because there will be no winners in the long run.
- Respect that there are some decisions teens can make that you might not be happy with. The older a teen gets, the more decisions they can make and others won’t intervene. A 17 year old who runs away from home, will likely be left to their own devices by the authorities. Likewise if a 15 year old decided they’d like to go and live with their other parent, few would see that as inappropriate. As I wrote about in myarticles on arguments, respect is something that teens will want as they get older, and something parents have to give if they want to maintain good relationships. The trick is to find a middle ground where you are showing respect, but also able to express your concerns.
- Put on a Teflon jacket. You have to let the hurtful words slide right off you. I know it’s not easy, but if you let those barbs sink into your skin, they tend to fester and colour your reactions. Keep in perspective that when emotions are running high, people will say things they don’t really mean, and will often try to hurt others so that their own hurt feelings have some company.
- Admit you’re not perfect. The pursuit of perfectionism as parents can be very limiting, as I wrote in my article on letting go of the chase and seeking to be a “good enough” parent instead. Being able to accept your imperfections and acknowledge them when they are brutally pointed out to you, helps to take the sting out of your teens words.
- Deal with your own feelings. Don’t base your self-worth on the words and actions of your children. Get help if you find that your own mental health is at risk, so that you can always hold your head high with dignity, forgiveness and humility. One suggestion I have when you’re under attack from an angry teen, is to keep a journal and write down 10 things each day that you’ve done surprisingly well as a parent. If others won’t champion your greatness, then do it yourself!
- Don’t gripe on social media, like Facebook. They’ll see that! I’ve found that angry teens can be a bit like a hungry shark, and when they see that their hurtful words have hit their target they circle for more. When we share our feelings publicly, it may be to reach out to friends for solidarity and encouragement, but it’s much better to set up a private Facebook group where you can vent, or better yet, meet up in person with a couple of trusted friends over your beverage of choice.
- Keep your comments positive. This can follow on from the last item, but no matter what your kids say about you, you should always strive to focus on the positives when you’re talking to them. That’s not to say that you can’t tell them off or pull up bad behaviour, but the smartest parents do this in a way that builds their kids up rather than tears them down. A simple way is to start sentences with “I know…” and point out something positive about them before giving them an instruction or correction.
- Don’t make yourself the enemy. When teens are angry at life, they tend to look for the weakest person to unleash their emotions on, so that others feel as bad as they do. You have to be on the lookout for this game and constantly choose not to play it. If they’re looking for a fight, then step out of the ring and give them their own space to wallow in, without dragging you down as well.
- You can’t force kids to love you. If you had a good relationship when they were younger, chances are you’ll have a good one again when you get through this season. Just focus on playing your side of the equation well and stay constant.
When I’m facing a tricky parenting situation, I often think “what would Lady Diana have done?”. I know, it’s completely silly, but she usually presented with poise, thoughtfulness and a touch of aloofness that I think we parents can learn a lot from. At some point all teens will realise their expectations of their parents have been unrealistic; even if that’s not until they have teenagers themselves. In the meantime, forget about trying to be a perfect parent, and instead, take the Lady Di approach to being good enough and wait for them to come around.
What do you think? Have you had to deal with a teen full of hate? What strategies have worked best for you?
To read more wonderful posts about parenting tweens and teens head over to Tweens2Teen.com and follow Rachel on all of her social channels.