by Becky Mackintosh
Do you have an unruly teenager that says the “H” word? Do you want to know what your teenager is REALLY saying when they say I HATE you?
Besides the obvious, “My emotions have come to a head and I don’t know a better way to express myself!” What you really want to know is what is BEHIND all that built up emotion. Right?
If you are a parent, you know that raising kids, especially getting through those teenage years is a journey, perhaps a roller-coaster better describes it! I’m not a therapist or a counselor just a REAL parent talking about the nitty-gritty PAINS of parenting, the stuff that keeps parents awake at night!
Growing up I couldn’t wait to be a mother! I love kids! In fact, I wanted TEN kids – I thought how hard could raising TEN children be? I was certain all I had to do was “love” them and be the “cool” mom and have great communication with my children and they would grow up without a hitch. That was my plan!
My husband Scott and I were mostly on the same page in how to raise our children, at least we had the same end goal, which was to raise our children into responsible, independent and productive adults.
We had our first five children in six and a half years – now that alone accounted for some craziness in our home – especially when I blinked and realized all FIVE were TEENAGERS at the same time!! Double yikes! ….and three were GIRLS! Triple yikes! Yes, I wanted TEN kids, but when number seven was born it felt like ten and our family felt complete, so we named him Skye, cause sky’s the limit. And that youngest son just turned 18! Another YIKES! They grow up too fast.
It didn’t take long after becoming a mother before REALITY set in and I realized every child was born with their own unique and distinct personality, and I discovered what worked for one child did NOT work for the next.
It’s no secret that children come into our homes without a “How to properly raise me instruction guide.” – it’s a learn as you go process. And just when you think you have it figured out they hit puberty and you are back to square one!
What was suppose to be a straight line from A to Z turned out to be all loop-de-looped and squiggly.
As rough as it may sound, there is a lot of JOY in raising kids, yes even TEENAGERS! In fact, my husband Scott says,
“If you are not having fun then you are doing something wrong!”
But when you are in the midst of a trial it is rough! There is a reason I color my hair and have bags under my eyes and calluses on my knees from the many long pleading prayers with God over a child – especially during those teen years. Don’t get me wrong – the TEEN years were and are some of my favorite years!
NOW back to the question of the day….
What your teenager is REALLY saying when they say I HATE you?
If you are a parent, you too have had episodes of getting upset, during which you lose all logical and reasoning brain cells and say something you wish we had NOT said.
One thing about kids is that they don’t hide their feeling. You know when they are happy – you know when they are sad, mad etc… They don’t leave it up to you to guess their mood – they show it! They whine, they suddenly strike out at a sibling, they scream I HATE you! Their feelings and moods can change in an instant. Their emotions come to a head and they don’t know any better way than to shout out what they are feeling.
Do you remember the first time your teenager said “I HATE you”? Perhaps you were like me, livid, you couldn’t believe what you had just heard – you their parent, their provider, their nurturer was being told “I HATE you!” I wanted to give them something to really hate me about. But as a parent and an adult, I restrained my initial thought to lash out, and I replied as calmly as I could muster, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but you are not exactly at the top of my like list right now.”
Sometimes the hardest parenting task is keeping your own emotions in check.
The top 3 parenting tips to dealing with an unruly teenager:
#1 Keep your cool – Don’t get too worked up when your teenager says they hate you. If means you are doing your job! You are being their parent which trumps being their friend. Don’t get me wrong, you want to be their friend too, but being their parent comes FIRST and far most. Wait until things have calmed down then talk about it. It doesn’t do any good to try to resolve a conflict when emotions are running high.
#2 Get to the root of the problem – What is behind the built up emotion? Every situation is different. Sometimes what’s behind the anger is obvious, other times you are completely BAFFLED and clueless. LISTEN and LOOK for the hidden clues – the non-verbal clues – their body language. The words “I hate you” may be the outlet from having a bad day and you just got the brunt of it OR it may be masking something more serious.
Asking questions, once they have cooled down, is a good way to find out what’s bothering them. Getting to the root of what is making them feel so angry and frustrated is key to resolving conflict – this is not always easy and sometimes it’s like peeling an onion.
#3 Love UNCONDITIONALLY with no BUT’s. Look for the good and sincerely tell them how much you appreciate them and love them. Rather than only praising your child’s accomplishments, encourage and praise effort. Teenagers need to know they are appreciated and needed.
As I have traveled the world speaking and coaching as far away as India. I’ve yet to meet anyone, especially a teenager that does NOT want to “fit in” to feel loved, safe, trusted, respected, appreciated and valued for who they are. Most important at the end of the day is that your teenager knows you LOVE them, both in words and in action. It could be as simple as a hug accompanied by “I love you”.
What your teenager is REALLY saying when they say I HATE you….
“You’re doing your job as a parent and I don’t like it. But keep loving me – I need to know I’m valued and needed.”
Life’s Short Lesson: See past, through and beyond the “I HATE you.”
Put the FUN back in parenting.