when your child says hurtful things to you
Big Kid Development Parenting

When Your Child Says Hurtful Things To You! 3 Powerful Responses

Thinking about what to do when your child says hurtful things to you is never an easy task. Most parents are so surprised and shocked that they go into a state of panic not knowing what to do or say to make the situation better.

There are very few things anyone can say to a parent that cut’s like a knife, but if your child says “I hate you and I wish you were dead” it can feel horrid inside.

Figuring out the reasons why a child is mean to you is never a simple task but there are some effective ways to get around the heartbreak and discomfort.

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It’s very common for parents to feel aggrieved when their kid is acting out. Many parents that think ”my child is mean to me” find it difficult to understand where all the grief and pain has come from.

Common questions parents ask are:

What to do when your child says they wish you were dead?

My child is mean to me, what should I do?

What to do when your teenager says hurtful things?

It’s easy to respond back with hatred and say hurtful things but that won’t help in the long run and usually has the opposite effect of causes more grief and pain in your child.

If you thought the terrible twos were bad you are certainly in store for a surprise as your children now have opinions and know how to use them.

Remember the explosion you’ve just witness is just a surface-level problem. There are much deeper reasons for your child’s choice of harsh words and their action towards.

Before we delve into what that is, let’s look at the 5 most popular hurtful words your child can say to you as a parent.

When Your Child Says Hurtful Things To You: Phrases

1. I hate you!

This is by far the most common phrase used by disgruntled children and teens and can sometimes pop out of their mouth without them really thinking about what it means for you.

Usually, the “H” word is a surface level issue and reflects how your children are feeling about something that’s just happened.

For example, if you’ve told them they have to take the TV off early on a Sunday night as they’ve got an important assignment on Monday morning and they were just in the middle of their favourite film, you guessed it, out pops the “H” Word.

2 – You’re a Bad Parent (dad or mum) 

This phrase cuts a bit deeper and can feel like a jab at your heart. Remember it’s not true especially if it is coming out on the back of a punishment. Try to validate your child’s feelings but including their sentiment in your response t them.

For example, ” I understand you feel like I’m a bad parent, but it’s not acceptable behaviour to wear that outsise the house”.

This will validate that you’ve heard their outburst and have acknowledge that it’s an emotional dilemma you are both facing.

3. I wish I had a different mum/dad!

Comparing your parenting to their friends mum or dad is a perfect scenario of deflection. When your child shouts this to you, you can sit back safe in the knowledge that it’s definitely not true!

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Even if their friend’s parent is a perfect parent (is there such a thing?) they haven’t had to handle what you’ve had to go through and there parenting journey is 100% unique to them.

It’s impossible and illogical to compare the two and to do so just shows how emotional vulnerable your child is feeling right now.

4. You’re running my life!

This is popular amongst teens and it can be difficult to know what to do when your teenager says hurtful things to you. The trick is to take a step back and analyze the situation.

Are you really running their life because you’ve cut curfew by 30 minutes on a school night to prepare for an exam in 2 weeks?

Probably not. Most children are not aware of what sacrifice you’ve had to make as a parent or the emotional. physical and financial struggles that some children have to go through, even in their local area.

Try to remind them, when it’s appropriate to do so, that their experience of life has been supported and encouraged by you and that other children may not be so privileged.

5. I wish you were dead!

The statement of all statements. The one that rips your heart out and stamps on it… repeatedly. You are so shocked and applaud that your sweet, innocent, (baby) child has said it to you that you panic and get defensive and erupt, but simultaneously, feel pain and anguish.

Learning what to do when your child says they wish you were dead is hard.

First, you need to take a breath. If your child has said they wish you were dead, they don’t actually mean it. This statement is throw your way when your child feels powerless. If they feel powerless they only have a few cards to play. One is to say or do something to make you feel the same.

Remember your dealing with a vulnerable, scared child who deep down just wants you to emphasise with them and how they are feeling.  Try to deflect away from the statement but don’t be supportive in your response.

Something like, “I understand your very upset and you feel the urge to lash out but I won’t be talked to in that way. Once you can use respectful words we’ll finish our conversation”

When you think “my child is mean to me” try to remember that it is usually coming from a deep place of pain and fear.

Here’s how to respond when your child says hurtful things to you.

When Your Child Says Hurtful Things To You: Don’ts

1. Don’t Add Fuel To The Fire

Your response should be quick, clear and without emotion. Don’t try to add more fuel to the fire. Everyone is already wound up, the gasoline has been spread and your child has just lit their side of the flame. If you do the same then BOOM, everyone’s in trouble and you’ll be the one clearing it all up.

Remember, children often say things they don’t mean but as parents, we have to be more careful with our choice words and actions as we are the primary caregiver. Children will learn how to deal with traumatic and emotionally challenging situations in the same way we do, so exercise caution with your response.

2. Don’t cuss, swear!

When your child says hurtful things to you, take a break, take a breath and renter the situation in a more cool, calm and collective way. Saying,  “I Hate you too”, just isn’t true and you’re child will see this as a battle of who can say the most hurtful things.

Chances are they will probably win.

3. Don’t yell or scream back

Similar to above this reaction will just make things worse. Your primary role here is to calm the situation down without resorting to more conflict. Sometimes that means walking away, other times it means holding your ground and explaining yourself.

Either way, you must show your child you are in control of your emotions. Think back to your childhood and try to remember how you treated your parents in any specific time.

4. Don’t use the “Can’t” word

Many parents respond back to their children with something along the lines of “You can’t say that to me!” or “You can’t talk to me like that!”. The truth is they can and they just did, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the story.

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Saying to your child that they can and can’t do something is implying a power issue and power struggles in arguments will escalate into bigger problems in the future.

For example, you say you can’t go outside, they are already wound up and go outside without your permission. It’s a receipt for disasters so try and avoid it using the “C” word.

5. Don’t dish out punishments and consequences

It’s the easiest thing to say and you are in a rage.

“Go to your room, you are grounded for the rest of the month!”

Although you may think that this is the best cause of action it’s usually not as you are too angry to see common sense yourself. Plus any punishment or consequence you dish out at that time will not be backed up by your normal rational self.

What if they have important band practice or football tryouts?

What if they have important study groups to go to?

What if they have a prom that month?

It’s not enforceable which makes it more of a diluted consequence to use. Instead, choose your consequences more careful and don’t just shoot out the most hurtful punishment you can think of.

When Your Child Says Hurtful Things To You: Do’s

1. Stay calm

The most important thing to do is stay calm. You can’t effective manage the situation when your temper is too high and your acting irrational yourself.

2. Watch your body language

Your body language will speak more than your verbal language so be careful that you’re saying one thing but your body is saying something else.

For example, crossing arms, putting hands on hips and rolling eyes are all cues that you are cross, anger and not in a receptive state. Your child is in a sensitive state and they are saying these hurtful things to get a response.

Don’t give them the anger, fierce, provoked response they are looking for. Instead be cool, calm and collective in your body stances and your tone. It makes a BIG difference!

3. Be short and concise

Keep your responses short and to the point. Don’t initiate any reasons to invite a conversation or a dialogue. When your child says hurtful things to you your best bet is to include the way they feel in the sentence, but inform them that talking in that way won’t make a difference.

For example, “I understand your upset because you have to tidy your room before you go out, but these are the house rules” Or, “I can see you are upset, but calling me names won’t help finish your homework on time”

4. Walk away and come back more ready

Sometimes it can all get a bit too much and when words are throw out that feel like knives through your heart it’s best to take step back, cool down, regroup and come back more parental friendly.

Walking away doesn’t show that they have won or that you have conceded. Instead, it shows that you are in control of your emotions and can anticipate what will happen before it does. To ensure that you only say things you truly mean sometimes taking a break and cooling of is essential.

10 Things You Should Never Say To Your Child

As parents, we can struggle to say what we mean to our children if they are acting up. There are certain things you should never say to your child, no matter how angry you are at them.

We should be very careful with the things we say as our words have meaning and that meaning can dwell l within your children for weeks months and even years down the line.

When your child pushes you to breaking point try to remember that there are certain phrases, words or sentences that you should stay away from. It’s important to remember that research does show clearly that emotionally abused children can have mental problems in the future.

Learning what to do when your child says hurtful things to you and what to do when your child says they wish you were dead is difficult but you must remember that as a parent you are a role model and being calm in the face of extreme anger teaches valuable lessons.

Parents that think “my child is mean to me” can sometimes feel the urge to say something mean back. Don’t do that as you are the main role model and will probably end up making the situation much worse.

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1. Stop crying!

Telling a child to stop crying rarely works. It’s almost impossible to push back in all those emotions, feelings and tears within a few seconds. It also can have the opposite effect as they will feel bad that they are still crying and cry more!

2. Be a big girl/ Be a big boy –

Maturity is measured by age, but it’s unique to all of us. Children grow and mature at different times and have developmental milestones they need to meet before they are in fact a big girl or boy.

Refrain from saying things like this as it accuses your children of being able to turn into a big boy or big girl before their time.

3. Don’t be a baby/wimp

We all want our kids to show signs of maturity and growth but calling them wimp when they don’t want to or can’t do something won’t do the trick. It’s better to understand the reason behind their behaviour and support it then throw names out that you don’t mean.

4. If you live under my house you’ll abide by my rules!

One of the most popular things you should never say to your child is this. Although this is unquestionably the case, does actually saying it without a more coherent explanation of the reason behind it make a difference?

Be more explanatory in the reasons why your child can and can’t do something as it will help them understand your decision a bit more. Plus it has the unintended consequence of allowing them to do the same to others when they infringe on something they own.

5. Why can’t you be more like your sister/brother!

One of the most controversial things you should never say to your child is this. Being compared a sibling won’t make the other sibling feel empowered. It will just make them feel sad.

Comparing between siblings is usually never the answer as each child is unique and have their own strengths and weakness.

6. You’re perfect!

We all think our child is perfect and of course to us they are. But telling then that they are always perfect can backfire. If they don’t then live up to the A+ standards that we’ve praised them by they may feel devastated.

You may be setting them up for failure!

7. You are so ungrateful!

Even though your child may forget to say please and thank you sometimes calling them ungrateful without properly addressing the reason is a bad combination.

Gratitude is usually learnt by observation and explanation. Try to give your children the opportunity to see what they have and why they should be grateful for it as opposed to someone else.

8. Because I said so!

Sometimes telling your child to do the same things time and time again can be a bore. But not giving the correct explanation of why you are asking to do something is a recipe for disaster as it doesn’t provide content to commands.

Try to explain the reason behind your commands as best as you can to avoid confusion.

9. I do everything for you!

One of the most unpleasant things you should never say to your child is this. Although you may feel this is true, it usually isn’t. Living under your home and abiding by your rules are one thing, but what about when they are at school? Or with friends, family etc.

Try to refrain from expressing yourself in this way as it will leave your child with no-one to turn to if they are in need for fear of overloading you.

10. You’re FAT!

This is by far one of the worse things you should never say to your child.

Children who are overweight or obese can certainly get advice and assistance from parents on duet and exercise. However calling a child fat doesn’t serve any purpose and is very hurtful.

You could even be mentally and emotional scaring them for the future so don’t do it!

Patience and compassion are important when your child says hurtful things to you. Most of the time it is coming from a reactive and usually fragile child so try to remember that when you deal with hot-tempered children.

Ava Miller

Mom of 2 who enjoys blogging, travelling, cooking and spending time with Taylor & Olivia

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