When Your Teen Seems To Hate You
Eye-rolling, snide comments, laughing at your suggestions, slamming doors, discounting everything you say – sound familiar? Any parent with a teen in their house has experienced this behavior at the hands of their once sweet child. This is a very difficult time for parents, but part of adolescence is finding their identity, separating from their parents, and riding a roller coaster of emotions resulting from raging hormones.
Believe it or not, when questioned in surveys, almost ninety percent of teens admit to really liking their parents. So, why all the drama? Sometimes teens are expressing anger with hateful behavior. Instead of calmly discussing why they are mad, they have a teenaged-sized temper tantrum. Sometimes teens feel misunderstood. Parents tend to trivialize the importance of things in teenagers’ lives, because they recognize the high school romance won’t last or missing the ‘big’ party isn’t the end of the world, but those things are very important to your teen. Sometimes teens are simply frustrated that they are not getting their own way or that they still need your help when they really want to be treated like a grownup. Sometimes teens feel they must reject their parents in order to find their own identities. And sometimes, teens are simply reacting to the raging hormones that are coursing through their veins. So, when a teen screams “I hate you,” it is not a reflection of your parenting skills, but an expression of frustration or anger derived from the reasons listed above.
Teens still love their parents and absolutely know they need them, but their job is still to separate from them. They are not going to tell you how important you are to them. Sometimes parents feel so hurt by their teens’ treatment that they respond by returning the rejection. Although this is an understandable response, it is a mistake. Teens are on an emotional roller coaster inside, and you, as the parent, are their compass, their guide, their rock. If you respond emotionally to their outbursts, you will only make your teen feel more unstable. You need to stay calm and weather this teenage rebellion phase. Although parents should remain calm, they should not tolerate truly nasty behavior. When everyone is calm, parents should establish, and later enforce, basic behavior standards.
Following are some guidelines on how to handle the “I hate you” (or similar) scream:
- Don’t take a teen’s irritability personally. If your child hurts your feelings, allow yourself a “cool down” period before you talk to them. This will help you to stay calm.
- Communicate with your teen and be an active listener. Validate your teen’s feelings, which helps to dissipate anger. Also, be perfectly clear what your expectations are in your home. Do not nag and/or lecture your teen.
- Once you have recognized the child’s feelings, you can begin to establish guidelines for appropriate behavior. For example, after an argument, you might tell them the next day, “I understand that you were mad at me yesterday when you said, ‘I hate you,’ but in our house we don’t talk like that because it’s hurtful.” Discuss more appropriate ways your teen can let you know when he or she is angry or frustrated with you. Let your teen know that even you have feelings of anger and frustration. These feelings are normal, but how you deal with them is a sign of maturity.
- To help prevent these types of scenes, instill confidence in your teen. Give them responsibilities. Let them own their mistakes so they can own their successes. Empower them by saying things like “I know you are smart enough to make an important decision like this.” Compliment them on well-made decisions. Tell your child that you love him or her every day.
In the end, please realize that your teen does not hate you. Your teen is smart enough to know that, even though they push you away, you love them too much to go too far.