Did you ever think this?
Did you ever hear your child say it?
The worst is when they hate you but not Gramma. Or Daddy. You feel resentful because you live night and day for them, serve them constantly, love them to bits. But somehow they hate you anyway. One reputable author explains it like this: small children have two Mommies—a “good Mommy” and a “bad Mommy.” The Good Mommy gives them what they want and relieves their stress. The Bad Mommy frustrates their wishes. Eventually they will merge the two Mommies together, but for now you have to settle for meeting needs = Good and imposing limits = Bad.
This sounds right on to me! It definitely explains why you can hear the same child say they love you and hate you in the same day! In our house, I can go from being the Wicked Witch of the West to someone’s “favorite” in approximately forty-five minutes. So apparently this is because hating does not nullify loving; I actually exist as two people.
Or perhaps “eight” people, considering I have four children =)
Now I admit that my children not liking me makes me uncomfortable. Displeasure, for me, is one of the hardest feelings to stay rational about. I’ve always been a people-pleaser, and this is difficult while I live with four small people who aren’t. But I recognize by now that I am not present to be loved by my children. I am present to do the loving. Whether or not they reciprocate it, I can’t depend on my child showing love to me or it’s going to be one hard road. As it regards toddlers, while some have harmonious relationships with their mothers, many do not. Most have love/hate relationships, to be honest. Just as the author explains, when you are pleasing them, they love you. When you are against them, you’re the Wicked Witch. This is not because your child is cruel; it is because that’s just the way they work. They are utilitarians—measuring goodness on a scale of how useful something is to them. And because they are fleshly little beings with low vocabulary, this frustration lets out in the simple, common phrase: “I hate you!”
Now in our house, because I am a tyrannical hypersensitive parent 😉 we don’t allow this. We simply don’t allow that type of speech. “Hate” is a word of death, and we don’t speak words of death. We don’t say hate, kill, stupid, or shut up. And because my children are 1, 2, 3, and 4, we can get away with this for several more years. If my child said “I hate you,” I’d rephrase it to be more specific, “You mean, you’re mad at me.” And then I’d try to put words to their feelings like, “It’s ok to be mad at me. I know you didn’t get what you wanted. But you know what? We don’t say ‘hate.’ That’s wrong.” And I would discipline as necessary if I heard it again. Mostly they say, “Sorry Mom” at this point. Then we go from there.
My young children seem to understand this. And I forgive them. My self-esteem is not so tied to their appraisals of me that I go under. It is more important that I teach them to handle their feelings appropriately than it is for me to feel hurt or confused about my parenting. (Note: I DO get confused about parenting, I just do it at other times!) With small children, it is just a fact of life that because you are the Mommy and you are normally the person doling out the privileges, special treatment, love, and whatever else they want, that they feel deprived if they suddenly do not get what they want. They feel wronged… You are wrong for not giving it to them. They protest as if they were the victim of bad treatment, and in some sense, they are. What they do not recognize because they are immature is that that the “bad treatment” is actually fair or even good for them in the long run. And that’s fine. At 4 years old, I don’t (and can’t) expect that.
So keep on what you’re doing. But correct the rudeness. Rudeness at any time or in any form should not be tolerated. You can’t make your children happy all the time, but you can require them to be kind about it. You don’t swear at your husband every time you’re mad at him right? (Yikes if you answer “yes” to this one 😉 So your children shouldn’t “swear” at you. But recognize your child has a right to feel wronged and help them put words to it. Correct them but always give them the kind alternative to what they’re feeling. When they’re older and more verbal, if they haven’t grown out of the wronged feelings, you can talk about it. They probably will grow out of most of it because they will be able to think much more complexly.
Plus they will have experience, which nothing replaces. Once children have more experience having their needs met and dealing with limits, they will be willing to let a little of their victimization go. They will see from Daddy, teachers, friends, and sometimes even grandparents that the same person can both meet needs and deny them. And they will figure out that while real needs are consistently met, sometimes they have to deal with being frustrated. Some kids get this better or earlier than others, but thankfully most ten-year olds aren’t as volatile as your two-year old. So hang in there. Each day that you face the battle is one day closer you are to finishing it.