Hate is a Four Letter Word

Dear Parentworks,

I've heard of parents of little kids having this problem but thought it went away when they got older. But my 5 and 7 year old kids often tell me "I hate you!". When they say this I just feel so bad. I try so hard to give them all the things they ask for or take them where they want to go with their friends but sometimes I really can't afford to or don't have the time. So I have to say no. They get so upset, cry or scream, they've even broken their toys. They won't even let me hug them. I just hate seeing them be so upset and it makes me feel like such a bad parent. Sometimes I give in, even if it means I have to borrow money from my parents but they're starting to say they won't do that anymore. I feel trapped in the middle. What can I do to keep everyone happy?

- Hating being hated

Dear Hated,

It is always hard for parents to hear their child saying hurtful things. One challenging part of our job as parents is to not take it personally when, not knowing how else to show you just how frustrated they feel at their goals being foiled , they say the worst four letter word they can think of "HATE". On a recent interview on NBC's The Today Show, author Nancy Samalin ("Loving Your Child is Not Enough" and many other great books) suggested that if a parent is told by their child, "I hate you!" that parent should pat themselves on the back because it means they're doing a good job as a parent! Children rarely say this phrase when you've just bought them an ice cream cone or taken them for a fun time at the park. You can usually be sure it happens around some limit you've set for them by telling them "No".

We don't do our children any favors by trying to keep an illusion that it's possible to be happy all the time. Life just doesn't work that way and we don't want to set them up for widely unrealistic expectations as they grow up. Dealing with disappointment is a useful and necessary skill. Learning how not to take out your frustration at disappointment on someone else is also a key element in this learning process. Verbally abusing another person is not acceptable. You can let you child know that you see they're upset and provide them with acceptable outlets for their anger. Giving in to their demands only teaches them that if they behave badly enough or for long enough they ultimately get their way. This is not the lesson they need to learn. Everyone feels sad, disappointed, angry at some time - it's ok. Setting limits is part of life, our resources are not limitless including budgets. Through showing understanding of feelings, empathy and compassion for your children while providing appropriate limit setting for their behavior (and your wallet) you will be teaching them much more valuable life lessons and that's what a good parent does. So have faith, take heart and know your doing your job well.