“I Hate You!”

What teenagers really mean behind the anger statement

There may have been a time when you have heard these three words from your child…I hate you! We know as parents that this phrase isn’t okay. However, what is the true meaning behind this harsh tone?


Over the past decade I have worked with many families, that are struggling with the emotions and language of their teenage child. Even as a therapist, I have had moments when I have been shocked by son’s vitriol language. When someone tells you that they hate you it hurts, but it hurts a lot more when it is coming from the mouth of your own child, the one that you love.
Being a parent is never easy, and if someone tells you it is, they are lying. Being a parent means we are always the first port of call for all of the good, bad and the ugly behaviour. When a teenager is telling you to go way, this is normally because they either need space to think or they don’t like what they are hearing. We ALL do this. When a teenage tells you that they hate you, I firmly believe that they want to shock you and hurt you, but underneath those mean words they are meaning the opposite.


I know, I know, it still doesn’t make it okay or acceptable, I am not saying that. What I am saying is that you, as their parent, are the safe one and maybe the only secure person in their lives that they can fully explode at because they know, no matter what, you will always be there. Yes, it is an oxymoron, because if anyone else said that to me, I would cut them off instantly but not my child.


Teenagers are always pushing boundaries and at the same time, teenagers need boundaries to make them feel safe. Your child, the teenager, does not hate you, they need you more than ever. They are coastally pushing and pulling at their relationship with you. Why? Because in every other setting and all other relationships, they feel the need to conform and to be liked by others, they need to fit in and yet they feel they don’t meet the mark.
Therefore, in my experience, when you hear those three words, you just say… Well, I love you, and then walk away. They may shout expletives, but now is not the time to step in and give them what for. Afterwards, and I mean afterwards, let your child know that you are hurt and that it’s not okay to say that to you again, and then ask them, what is really going on.


I am not a fool, I know full well, that they most properly do it again and maybe next time, after the dust has settled, you will have to put in a consequence, but it is the tone that we use that is import. Try and remember, they do love you and they do need you, and this is the bitter sweet bit of being a parent, and unfortunately at times you will get hurt. Please try and remember, underneath that anger and pain, something else is going on, they need your calmness and your strength to help them unpick what they are really feeling, because you are their strength and their example of how we manage relationships as a whole.

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