Dear Band of Mamas,
My 3 year old tells me he hates me when he gets mad at me for telling him he cannot do something or that something he is doing is not ok. I know he doesn’t really hate me but it is still hard to hear. Do you have any advice for how I should respond when he says this?
Dear Mamas of Toddlers,
There will be a day, or a time, or many times, when your toddler will shout to the rooftops, that they hate you, or that they don’t like you, or that you are a mean mommy. And it stings. But guess what? You are not that. Whatever boundary you’ve chosen to set in that moment, just didn’t fit their narrative. And they will be fine.
A Toddler’s World is Small
I like to remind myself often, that our toddler’s world is very small. They have sleep, and play time, and mommy and daddy, and maybe siblings. And of course, they have their favorite toy, and whatever sparkly thing has taken their interest. Their life doesn’t revolve around bills or appointments or car troubles. Furthermore, when we deprive them [of] or take away whatever it is they want, to them it feels as if their world has collapsed. They show it by having a tantrum or saying “I Hate You”.
My best advice for toddlers acting out is to use the fast food rule– Dr. Harvey Karp, in his book, The Happiest Toddler on the Block, says that using this technique allows the toddler to feel heard and empowered, while also allowing you a chance to voice your opinion. “Mommy knows how angry you are because you can’t x/y/z. If they reply by saying that they hate you because of it, I would remind yourself that you are in control and walk away (make sure the child is safe, of course!). Or, If you are able, try and redirect or distract with something else. For example, “Mommy is going downstairs to switch the laundry. Do you want to push the button to start it?” When they calm down, that would be the time to offer a hug, say how it makes you feel, and offer a chance for them to share what made them so upset.
Kids can’t hear us when they are acting out
Kids cannot hear us when they are acting out– they have one thing on their mind and our “explanation” means ZERO to them. Additionally, I love using our kids’ stuffed animals to help, too– I will put my face behind the animal and talk in a different voice, and pretend that the animal is telling me a secret– I will share the secret with my child, “Owl says it hurts her feelings when you say you hate mommy…” and then offer a chance to have them share to the animal as well. It works wonders!
I also know that many of these things are just a phase and they will “grow out of it.”Then, it’s likely they will have a gap of saying this until they’re a teenager. I’ll let you know my advice at that age when we get there 😉
People are reaching out with great advice needs! Be sure to check the last couple posts to read advice on relationships and accidents at night! And of course, come hang out with me on Instagram and Facebook with my Reels series!
You’ve got this, Mama!
XO, L. L. Murray