As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, who has worked with hundreds of children and families, relationship discord between parents and children is not unusual. Though you may feel as though your son hates you, it has been my experience, that children who act out hatefully, are actually hurting and want their parent to fix their pain.
We will discuss the various reasons why your son is acting out, from being a defiant toddler throwing a tantrum, to an adult who doesn’t want to come home for Thanksgiving, and the possible solutions for various stages of development.
Does he really hate you or is he acting out? When someone says they hate you, usually it means they are hurt, and they need something from you to alleviate the pain.
Why Does my son hate me? Reasons Explained
Maybe you are experiencing this hateful behavior with a toddler, a young child, a teen, or an adult son. Let’s look at these different developmental stages, uncover what may be going on, and discuss possible solutions.
The terrible twos
This challenging stage represents a child wanting two different things, independence and reassurance from his parents. When a toddler says he hates you, this is most likely an expression of his frustration from desiring these two opposing concepts.
Hate is a concise word, summarizing many emotions. If you hear this from your toddler, the best response is to ignore it and don’t take it personally. He is just learning to express himself with words and he’s most likely feeling a lot, as the entire world is new to him.
If he is repeating this to the point of embarrassment, the next step is to acknowledge his anger, and then follow it with a confirmation of love. “I see you are angry, I’m sorry about that, I love you very much.” No need to engage further. If he determines this is a good way to capture your attention, this can quickly become a game. Simply say it as a matter of fact and do your best to carry on.
Young children, ages 5-10, are still learning to express and communicate their feelings. A young boy may tell his friends he hates him. The very next day, they are the best of friends again.
Likewise, when a 9-year-old boy is angry at his parents because he’s been told no more T.V., his retaliation of “I hate you” is more of an attempt to express his outrage regarding limits on his freedom, than a deep-seated notion his parents are awful.
Acknowledge his anger and demonstrate this emotion is acceptable. Then offer him examples of how to express his anger more effectively. For example, “I hear you are angry and it’s ok to be angry, but when you tell me you hate me, the conversation has nowhere to go. Perhaps you think I am being unfair. When you communicate your anger by telling me what specifically angers you, I can better understand why you are upset, and maybe I can help you find a solution.”
The teen years
Adolescence is a challenging stage for several reasons.
- There are biological challenges such as hormone fluctuations and bodily changes.
- Adults begin to expect more from them socially and academically.
- Peer groups, often fraught with discord, begin to take precedence over family.
- American society tends to treat teens like second-class citizens.
- This generation has grown up with the anxiety of active shooter drills, climate change catastrophes, and the pressures of social media.
Combine all of these factors with a myriad of individual circumstances, and it becomes clear, teens are experiencing tremendous challenges.
Teens may flat-out tell you they hate you. If it’s a one-off, it’s usually better to ignore it. If it’s something said consistently, it’s best to address it head-on as in the example with young children.
Typical teen behavior can often be misinterpreted as anger. One-word answers and detachment can indicate a preoccupation with other things or simply, a desire to limit engagement. Reluctance to follow rules can be an attempt to gain more freedom, and test limits. Sometimes hiding in their room can indicate overstimulation from school, and they simply prefer to be in a secluded environment. This is their individuation process at work, they don’t actually hate you.
The best thing to do during this phase is to let them know you love them, give them space, and offer comfort and connection whenever you can. Sometimes, your attempts to connect will be dismissed. Though it may feel like rejection, do your best to see this as a natural phase separate from you.
Other times, these attempts to connect will be happily welcome. You can connect with your teen in several ways such as: taking him on a drive somewhere, playing a game together or listening to his music with him.
If you have an adult son whom you believe hates you, this can feel devastating because you may fear too much time has passed to fix your relationship. If he is willing to have a conversation with you to discuss his grievances, you are halfway to a resolution. Listen with an open mind and try not to be defensive. The goal is to create a healthy relationship, the goal is not to win a disagreement or save face.
He may express his hurt because of something you said or did, take accountability for your part and apologize for hurting him. It will help him tremendously to have his pain validated. As long as the two of you are alive, there is always an opportunity to heal your relationship.
Oftentimes, when our children have children, and we become grandparents, our adult kids begin to understand the difficult realities of parenthood. Becoming parents may help them release grievances from their childhood. The caveat here is, as every generation aims to improve parenting, sometimes resentments can pop up as our adult children may believe they parent “better” than we did. They may question why we couldn’t be as “successful.” Once again, this is a good opportunity to listen and validate missed opportunities when it feels authentic to do so.
But my son cannot resolve his hatred, I’ve tried everything
If your toddler or young child is constantly telling you he hates you, or is constantly angry and there isn’t an obvious reason for it, such as a major transition like moving to a new school, there may be more going on. This would be a good time to employ the help of a child therapist. When working with you and your child, they can help decipher the impetus for behavior and offer solutions.
They can also suggest different parenting techniques which will help diffuse heated situations. Many child therapists will suggest the toddler or child see their pediatrician for a physical. This will help rule out any possible medical issues, which may be contributing to his behavior.
Likewise, if your teen is frequently angry without an obvious cause, it would be advisable to seek the help of a licensed therapist. A therapist, who specializes in treating adolescents, is familiar with the pressures modern teens and families are facing. Since they work with a variety of teens with various concerns, they are better equipped to detect certain behaviors indicative of requiring more attention. They can help assess the issues, and develop an action plan to support you and your teen.
If your adult son refuses to talk to you and nothing you say or do appears to improve your relationship, individual therapy can be a positive next step. A therapist can help you with your side of the issue. Perhaps the work is about making peace with the past and accepting the present. Or, the work might involve taking accountability for mistakes and trying to make amends.
Help is available
Many online therapists at Betterhelp.com offer free consultations, allowing you to interview a few to determine the right fit. Hire a therapist who has a lot of experience working with the appropriate developmental stage. Often, the therapist’s bio is listed on the website, indicating their specialized population such as teens and children.
Whatever struggles you are experiencing with your son, know that help is available. Each developmental life stage has its own challenges, requiring different solutions. Often what we consider to be a personal attack, is actually our son acting out his frustration and trying to engage our help.
If you still asking the same question – Why does my son hate me? Then get some help with online counseling services like betterhelp.
Change may not take place overnight, but it is certainly possible. Whether the work involves repairing your relationship with your son or healing yourself individually, a positive resolution is obtainable.