‘I Know You Hate Me’

When your child says this, pay close to attention to what's really going on

I’ve watched parents raise children for 30 years (and raised four of my own), so I know how challenging it can be.

Here, I share a question that came to me as a pediatrician, as well as my answer to this parent.

I hope this is helpful and insightful for other parents who may have wanted to ask the same question — and who will appreciate some guidance.

Dear Dr. Meeker,
We have a five-year-old son who is bright, active, creative, and happy. Recently he has started making comments when we correct his behavior. These behaviors are not major — mainly just simple things any parent of a five-year-old boy would address. His comments are:

“I know you hate me.”

“You think I’m stupid.”

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And even — “You wish I was dead.”

Each time we have simply stated, “We love you very much!” We’ve shared that, as parents, it’s our job to teach him right from wrong. Any suggestions? It breaks this mother’s heart to hear him say these things and worry that he thinks we don’t love him.

Related: Kids and Self Control: This Can Work

I want to add he is adopted from South Korea and came home with us at 14 months old. He bonded very well to us and these comments are only made when we correct his behaviors.

Thank you,
A Worried Mom

Dear Worried Mom,
You are like many other very sweet mothers who feel pained when your child says these things. Let’s put his words in perspective and see what your son is really saying.

“You are taking him too literally and overthinking his intentions,” says this pediatrician.

First of all, he is trying to get your attention — and it’s working. He’s five years old and knows exactly how to get you to stop disciplining him. When he sees the look of horror on your face when he says these things, he knows he’s got you.

That’s what smart kids do. He’s not saying he really hates you, and he doesn’t believe you want him dead.

He’s not thinking as deeply as you are. He’s playing a game to get into your head so that you will stop telling him what to do — that’s all.

Sensitive parents overthink many things because they want to understand their children well. Sometimes, however, this makes parents understand them less. This is the case with your son’s behavior now. You are taking him too literally and overthinking his intentions.

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Next time he tells you he hates you, look him in the eyes and tell him he’s not allowed to say that to you anymore. You don’t hate him and you don’t want to hear it anymore. Period. Then correct his behavior the way it needs to be corrected.

And put a smile on your face so that he knows he can’t yank you anymore.

Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for 30 years. She is the author of the online course, “The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids.”

meet the author

Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for more than 30 years. She is the author of the book “Hero: Being the Strong Father Your Children Need” (Regnery Publishing), along with a number of digital parenting resources and online courses, including The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids.

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