My Toddler Hates Me!

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.


19 thoughts on “My Toddler Hates Me!

  1. This helped me tremendously! I’m having problems with my 3 year old he has never liked me! No matter how hard I try he repells my love at one time It hurt so badly I would hug him he would resist, I tried to kiss him he would push me away, I blamed myself for why my son doesn’t like me because I work 12 hour days 5 days a week and I’m a single parent he may have felt like he’s on his own that he has no parents, I want anyone who has experienced the type of pain I’m in to chime in.

  2. Jamie thank you so much you helped me a lot, I think your right he just might not be the affectionate type and I’m very affectionate I was assaulting him with kisses and hugs! I thought I should overcompensate since I’m gone from him so much.

  3. My 2 yr old fears me n its realy affecting my job,my emotions,my relationship with my girlfriend recently i have started being violent to my girlfriend by hitting her.please help am going through hard time.

  4. This is just what I needed to read. My three year old daughter is a complete fan of her father (to my exclusion right now) and says hurtful things as she experiments with her power and language. This is a nice reminder of my true role as a parent – honoring and paying attention to my feelings but still continuing with my bigger role and goals in raising her. Thank you thank you thank you. Needed this today.

  5. “I am not present to be loved by my children. I am present to do the loving.” this line really helped me. I am divorcing my husband and daddy to our 4 1/2 year old. I can definitely relate to the good mommy/badd mommy and I believe because I have been lacking the love I need from my husband I look for it from my son. He wants to do everything with daddy and I tend to feel left out and that I’m doing something wrong, so thank you for these encouraging words…i will take pleasure when I’m good mommy and work on letting the emotions go when i’m bad mommy.

  6. thank you for writing this. it makes me feel a lot better now after my son completely ignored and ran away from me but preferred daddy and grandma 😦

  7. Thank you for this. My nearly 3 year old has been telling me she doesn’t like me anymore. I say that’s ok but I still love you. It does hurt but I know she can’t have everything she wants.Then she tells me she loves me and kisses me. At other times I can go to kiss or cuddle her and I am met with a karate chop. At other times she won’t let me go. It’s all very testing.

  8. I’m so glad I read this! I have a 2 1/2 year old son, and he’ll tell me things like “go away mommy” or “I don’t want you now” etc. I went from being a stay at home mom to going through a divorce with my husband, and living back at home with my parents and son. I do everything for my child, and simply love him to pieces. I work from home, so I am constantly with him, yet when his father or grandarents take him somewhere and drop him back off to me, he will throw a tantrum, saying he doesnt want to go with me. It shocks me and breaks my heart, and I have literally cried over it. Mostly, he is quite loving, and tender with me, and we have a beautiful relationship. I’m confused as to why he does this. I hope he will outgrow it.

  9. It is so nice to know that it sin’t just my child who seems to depise me (“go away, Mommy!” “no see Mommy!”). I truly feel for everyone going through this pain because it stings and weighs on your heart when someone you love sooo much seems to hate you. I am a single mother who lives with my parents and works 10 hr shifts 4 days a week. My mother is the “golden one” in my son’s eyes because she gives in to his desires all the time. I know how important consistency is and since she can’t be consistent, I am always the consistent disciplinarian. I hate the role, but he has to have some guidance and correction. I blame myself a lot and sometimes think that I AM a bad mom b/c I don’t spend enough time with him or give him everything he wants. I worry that sometimes I am too stern with him (considering that everytime I’m with him I am saying “no!” or taking something away or raising my voice, or spanking his bottom). The quote “I am not present to be loved by my children. I am present to do the loving” is really going to help I think. I just really hope that he gets past this stage, but I’m afraid that each year it will be another heartbreaking battle.

  10. Thank you for writing this. It was precisely what I needed to give me some perspective in a very emotional time. ❤

  11. Do you have a book or know of a good book. I am having a very hard time. My 3year old has been mommy little man and all of a sudden is telling me he wants to get rid of me and all this horrible stuff. He comes from a loving home and I have been in early childhood so I know a lot of approaches but this is just really bringing me down. I tell him I love him and he says I love daddy

  12. I am a SAHM and my husbands treats our 4 year old more like a sister than a daughter and I’m always having to break them up like kids and when I try to talk to my husband about it he becomes defensive and says I’m just being a bi**h, and that hurts, I’m so stressed out. Now my 4 year old daughter tells me she loves her daddy more. That hurt so bad and rational wasn’t what I did, I asked her why and she tells me he sits in the chair with her. um ok, that wasn’t good enough for me, so I tell her next time she wants to go to the park, or zoo, or buy a present she can go ask daddy for it, and I went to bed. =(

  13. Guys, I think we are missing something here…. OUR CHILDREN are always trying to tell us something ABOUT OURSELVES. Lets embrace the “hate”, embrace your hurt…. I feel there is a lot of ignoring what is ACTUALLY happening so we don’t feel hurt. It hard to feel that my child hates me but…. If that is what is happening, if that is what the child is ACTUALLY expressing so… TAKE IT in! I believe our children can help us to grow and understand more about ourselves. Maybe you hate yourself? Maybe you are not giving what your child wants but given them what you think they need?! ( I say this in a more emotional and affective level…). Maybe you are not that present? Maybe yes, your child needs you. Maybe your child is asking for your heart to be open for them . Maybe they need more love. It is not easy to fully love and feel loved. It is not easy to see the truth but…. Lets face it. Lets get hurt and understand why! Lets feel bad, feel quiltym feel whatever we are feeling without shame or fear. There is no other way of improving ourselves and our relationship with our children. And…. it is by being that honest with our feelings that we will be teaching our children to manage their big feelings. That is NOT going to happen if we hide or ignore… If we make them shut up and pretend we are not hurt and there is nothing going on.

    Your child is here to help you. Open your eyes!!!
    Open your eyes, and your heart to this situation and ACCEPT it with LOVE and COMPASSION. Such situation is absolutely NOT happening for no reason. I believe there is a chance of looking up our emotional baggage, our memories etc… We all have a LOT of stuff to work on…. We carry our hate, hurt, grief, doubts….. Lets NOT blame the little ones as they are just doing their job: being HONEST and helping us to grow happier. If they love more daddy and grandmother? Stay with that feeling! Stay there and feel the pain. I believe that is the only way we can reach some kind of understanding of the situation. By making our children to stop expressing and feeling what they are feeling ( the way they are feeling) we are just trying to ignore the situation and make it easier for us- so we don’t feel that bad, that hurt…. But…. if now we can avoid them express themselves, we won’t be able to do it when they will be teenager or when they will grow up and cut connection with us. HONEST CONNECTION. With them , with our feelings, with ourselves.

    We feel the way we feel because kids have the ability to push just the RIGHT buttons. And that is good! We should try to embrace this dynamic. Our children feel the way they feel because we are the way we are, because we treat them in a certain way, because the way WE ARE towards them. Hard…. but that is the reality. Our children are mirror. And they will make a lot of feelings, memories and emotional stuff we want to avoid to come out. Everything will show up giving us the opportunity to review, to heal, to forgive, to understand etc…. It is down to us to take it, ignore it or pretend we don’t mind.

    The Argentinian Laura Gutman wrote an AMAZING book called “Maternity- facing your own shadow” ( English version on Amazon).This book really helped me to understand the meaning of motherhood and take it as a precious way of understanding more about myself so I can create a more loving and honest relationship with my child. Give this book a try! I am sure you guys will find some very good tips and have lots of insights.
    You can also find interesting stuff with The Work by Byron Katie. She is amazing in helping us understanding our REAL feelings

    Lots of LOVE to all of you. I hope you will all find a LOVING way of accepting and receiving your children’s behaviour towards you.
    And I hope you keep gentle and kind to yourself because being a mother is definitely not the most easy journey. We are BEAUTIFUL mamas! Lets ALWAYS have that in mind. We are learning, adjusting… We will always have the chance to chance so… no pressure! Be kind to yourself, always- and specially when going through a hard time. Your children LOVE you! Yes, they love us!!! Behind hurting words and behaviour they are just trying to tell us something that will make us a better person and the better mum we want to be. Lets be strong and listen to them with openness and love. Much love to you all. x

  14. Recently, my daughter started hating me. She does not want to hug me or kiss me. She constantly pushes me away. I think its because I always have a hard time with her when she brushes her teeth. She insists on doing it herself when she does not know how to. I get involved by using the finger brush to brush her properly. We starts protesting, screaming and crying. I get frustrated and trying to do what’s good for her. Also, another time, I had to stop the movie “Frozen” halfway because it was her bedtime. She says she only loves Mommy. It hurts when you love someone to death and they don’t love you back. I will not give in to her because I will be spoiling her. I want to be her friend but I will always have to be the father first. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

  15. Thanks for this article. I am in the same boat. I do not know what to do next but am willing to try to save the relationship with my son. He is only 23 months old and has become unfriendly to me.

  16. This helped me out. Since my divorce, my ex husband and his family took primary custody of my son. I’m supposed to get him every other weekend and certain holidays, but they know I don’t always have a car and they somehow always get him for every holiday. Since then when I can get him, he tells them he doesn’t know me and tells me to go away or leave him alone. It’s painful and makes me feel depressed for some time. He prefers his dad and his dad’s grandmother. I’m hoping it will get better eventually, but after reading this, I don’t feel alone. Thank you

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