The Thin Line Between Love and Hate

Father Son

The sting was more than I had I anticipated. I knew this day would come but not this soon. Not now. It seems like just yesterday when we were playing outside in the snow, running, laughing and loving each other’s company. Actually, that was, literally, just yesterday. How did we get from that to this…

“I Hate My Daddy and We’re Not Friends Anymore!”

Of course, I played it totally cool the moment it happened even though my ears and my heart were burning up. All he had to do was say he was sorry to his little sister, who he had just shoved in a fit of anger. It seemed like a reasonable enough request as far as I was concerned, but his refusal landed him in his room for timeout.

Four. That’s how old my precious little bundle of joy is. Four years is all it took for him to go from falling asleep in his rice cereal to figuring out the keys to victory in a showdown with his old man.

Four. That’s how many minutes his timeout would last, unless he was willing to come out and apologize; which he was not.

Four. That’s the amount of minutes I had to sit outside his door and think about a life where my son hated me. It felt like 4 years and I almost caved a number of times but managed to stand my ground.

Where did he even learn that word? It’s not like he knows what it means; at least not in its truest form. We also try not to use any of the no-no words in our house. You know the ones: stupid, jerk, loser, hate, Caillou; see George Carlin for the rest.

He’s bound to hear them all at some point or another. If it wasn’t from me, it was going to be at school or on television, where even toddler programs seem to be pushing the envelope for reasons I can’t explain (I’m looking at you, Arthur).

We sat and talked after the timeout fiasco. We talked about why we should never use that word and how much it can hurt other people. I don’t know if he understood the conversation but he nodded along and then apologized for saying it and for hitting his sister. Oddly enough, I may have been the one who learned the biggest lesson out of all of this. No matter how hard we try to shield our children from the bad things in this world, they are eventually going to find them, so it’s best to be mentally ready for these situations well ahead of time. So far, the only true method I have found to be effective is love, patience and understanding, which I hope rubs off on my kids as they grow older and wiser.

I’m also happy to report that after our chat, my son let me know that we can be friends again, which is all this Dad really needed to hear.

Have your kids told you that they hate you before? If so, what age were they?


34 replies
  1. Trina
    Trina says:

    I think the first time my daughter told me that she hated me was 5 or 6 years old while we were in a heated battle. I was absolutely crest fallen. You handled the situation like a trooper.

    I have to say though hearing them say things like “I hate this place, I hate you. I can’t wait to move out.” hurts so much more knowing that it won’t be long before they are moving out. My son and husband have a real mountain to climb relationship during this awkward time in my son’s life. I still hate hearing those words.

    DS tells me in the heat of the moment “I don’t hate you, but I really dislike you right now.” Which gives me a little solace that there may be a little heart left when he finds the other side.

  2. ModernHouseDad
    ModernHouseDad says:

    I haven’t heard those words yet, but that’s because my little guy is only 1 and a half (all I get is “No Dada”). I’m not looking forward to the day. Though, as long as I am being the best dad I can be, I know that those words will not hurt as bad as they could.

    • Chris Read
      Chris Read says:

      I hear you. It stung to hear it but I knew he didn’t mean it because we have such a great relationship. I’m sure it’ll happen again but I’m also sure that I was no different as a child and my parents were pretty great.

  3. heather
    heather says:

    i don’t think he’s said hate..but he’s said..i don’t like you anymore!!…and when he says stuff like that we make him say one nice thing that he loooooves about that person for every mean thing that he’s said…makes for some pretty warm fuzzy hilarious moments..aren’t we terrible parents..ha ha!…but yeah..i agree..we are on board with the no-no words…and i totally blame arthur too!

  4. ashley picco
    ashley picco says:

    I think Jules was about 3 the first time he said it to me….my response was (and still is, because it still happens now and then)

    him: I hate you mommy
    me: that’s too bad, cause mommy loves you

  5. Nolie
    Nolie says:

    My son tells me I am making him mad and he doesn’t love me right now. I tell him he will always love me but it is ok to be mad at me. Then I tell him to continue marching to his room for his time out.

  6. daniel
    daniel says:

    I don’t remember when my kids first told me they hated me. My oldest is 20, so it’s been a while. The younger kids…. actually August my 9 year old may have never said it. My 7 year old daughter, however, has said it so much I just laugh. I think my 5 year old has said it at some point, but I’ve heard it so much by now that when my 2 year old is mad, it’s just… I shrug my shoulders and say “I love you” to the phrase.

  7. Rebecca
    Rebecca says:

    I think kids use one weapon against us very well – our emotions. I’ve heard it.

    It’s said in anger and instantly they have remorse usually.

    The one that gets more more? “You hurt my heart mommy”. ouch.

    • Chris Read
      Chris Read says:

      Oh man! You hurt my heart? Yeah, that one might just be worse… I have no idea where he learned how to use “hate” effectively but there it was. Daddy’s got some work to do!

  8. kevin
    kevin says:

    At two and a half, my son’s main reaction to things he doesn’t like is “No thank you” (but he pronounces it “No Tee-tee”)

    Even when he had the flu, we knew to get that bucket ready when he started crying and saying “No tee-tee”

  9. Zach Rosenberg
    Zach Rosenberg says:

    The FIRST time my son told me he hated me, it was at 3. He still drops an “h bomb” from time to time. But, hey. He doesn’t understand emotions, and he hears that word on television (and of course, from adult mouths in reference to other stuff). So, I just keep repeating the same lessons. I actually make a bigger deal of it when he says “I don’t love you” than when he says he hates me. Because he hears “hate” enough in the real world to be able to not use it correctly – but saying he doesn’t love me – that’s an intentional thing.

    • Chris Read
      Chris Read says:

      I hear you. My son has dropped the “I don’t love you anymore” atomic bomb a couple times as well. It’s almost numbing after the first couple times. Still stings a bit, but as you mentioned, they don’t get it anyway. Thanks for stopping by, Zach.

  10. Crazed in the Kitchen
    Crazed in the Kitchen says:

    I JUST got “I hate you” for the first time from my 4-year-old son, too–also on his way to time-out. Kind of sucked. I wasn’t sure how to respond, so I ignored it. I think I’ll talk to him about it more the next time it comes up. Iit WILL come up again, won’t it? *sigh*)

    • Chris Read
      Chris Read says:

      Unfortunately it has come up a couple times in this house. I’m hoping to nip it quick but as long as I can explain why we shouldn’t use hurtful words, I think they’ll get it soon enough.

  11. Crys Wiltshire
    Crys Wiltshire says:

    My daughter is only 2.5, so I haven’t heard the ‘h bomb’ yet, but I am dreading the day I do. She has told me she is mad at me and has stomped off, arms crossed, stating ‘you can’t look at me right now’. So I have a feeling we may have a dozy of a drama queen on our hands. But I was a dramatic kid (writer’s soul and all that) so I guess it will be karma if she is too.

    I think you handled it amazingly. I hope I can muster the same level of patience and maintain a cool head when it’s dropped on me.

  12. Linda Kinsman
    Linda Kinsman says:

    What a cutie your son is! I remember well the first time my daughter told me she hated me. She was 7 and I told her she had not earned going to a friends birthday party.
    When she said it, I felt slapped and must have reacted like it because she immediately launched herself at me to “hug away the hurt”. Words are weapons and somehow, someway, our kids pick up on it and use it. You handled your situation so well. Good for you!

    • Chris Read
      Chris Read says:

      Thanks, Linda! I figured he was getting started with at a way too early age, haha. Maybe that means he’ll be done with it at an earlier age as well?? Wishful thinking I guess.

  13. Paula schuck
    Paula schuck says:

    Well I don’t recall exactly. My girls honestly don’t use it often. My oldest is crazy sensitive so if she said it she would feel instantly horrid and cry then apologize. My youngest just reacts. I know now that when they say stuff like that it doesn’t hurt as much and bounces off me a bit more than it used to. Sometimes I say: “i love you too.” or “yes I know. Oh well you are stuck with me anyways.” Or “today is obviously Opposite Day. ” this usually diffuses everyone’s anger here.

    Once in a while I say: yes well I was only put on earth to torture you my love!”

    It actually makes me feel worse if I hear the words levelled at my husband. He takes it personally. Then I feel sad.

  14. James @SaskaDad
    James @SaskaDad says:

    No I hate you yet but I got the I don’t love you which hurt a lot. My daughter was 3. My son (2) has yet to drop the bomb. I know it’s coming. My wife and I run a tight ship so I’m sure we’ll be getting a lot of those.

  15. Raúl Colón
    Raúl Colón says:

    Being a big fan of George Carlin may he rest in peace I have to confess that I got many life lessons from George. I also changed how I saw life with a few of his comedy shows. I am sure your little one is not ready for him yet nor would he completely understand what George spoke about but I can speak for myself and say that we are never ready for those moments in life where our small ones surprise us.

    It seems he just wanted to see how far he could get by playing with dad’s emotions. I congratulate you on standing your ground those 4 minutes or so should have lasted him as long as they lasted you.

    My daughter is 2 years old and I have to say that I don’t know if I am ready for when something like that happens. I get frustrated enough when she wants to breastfeed and I can’t resolve her issue.

    I wanted to share when I did something similar to my mom

  16. jessica @peekababy
    jessica @peekababy says:

    This happened to me just recently with my 3 1/2 year old daughter–my jaw dropped to the floor when she told me that she hated me, because it’s not the kind of thing that her older brother would have ever said at her age. My daughter kind of sounded like a song lyric–she said something like “I hate you a lot and love you later.” Talk about mixed messages, lol

  17. Playstead
    Playstead says:

    Your not truly a parent until you hear those words. You know you’re doing something right because raising kids is about the tough decisions they don’t like, but ultimately need.

    I smile when I hear that, but it isn’t easy.

  18. jodi shaw
    jodi shaw says:

    My son was three the first time he said it and says it almost daily now. Mind you he has special needs and often reacts inappropriately or with behavior that is not acceptable and usually I just smile and say I love you or when angry I tell him he’s offside… a word we use when someone in the house says something that shouldn’t be said. It is a hard word to heart and like you said it’s not like they know what it means. My son learned it from other kids at pre-school and you are right we cannot shield them from everything.

  19. Alyssa
    Alyssa says:

    Oh boy that stings a little eh! Kids sometimes use words not completely understanding. My son thought hate meant another way to say he was mad at someone. Now he knows its a hurtful way to say you really don’t like something and not to say it (even though we catch it slip “I hate this show” or “I hate this toy”) you’re doing a great job with the love patience and understanding. That’s what they need positive reinforcement 🙂 go dad!

  20. Cortney
    Cortney says:

    Sorry to go off topic – but what IS it about Caillou that I can’t stand so much? That show is so banned in our house. Although I have to say it isn’t that much of an issue, considering my baby prefers reality television to cartoons. I guess I watched too much of it while he was in the womb.

  21. Mitchell
    Mitchell says:

    Great post, Chris. I’ve definitely had the hate bomb chucked at me a few times and I try to absorb it calmly and tell my daughter how that makes me feel and, like another commenter, that I love her. Once she’s calm I try to talk to her about what a limiting and inflexible word hate is, that it doesn’t allow for the one doing the hating the opportunity to find their way back from such a negative thing very easily. We work on eliminating the words “hate” and “stupid” from our speech – and from your brilliant idea, I’m going to institute a no “Caillou” policy, too.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] This last post I’m sharing probably should have been near the top so you’d read all the funny posts afterwards.  It takes us to a more serious place and that’s about that moment when your baby says they hate you.  *gasp* It makes my heart hurt just thinking about it.  Being a mom now, I wish I’d never used the “h” word when I was 5 years old.  Candian Dad shares about his experience in The Thin Line Between Love and Hate. […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *