Underlying emotions, such as frustration, may lead children to use hurtful language when they’re angry. Feeling heard and validated by their parents can help them regulate and express their emotions in a healthy way.

Childhood and adolescence can bring times of emotional turmoil for many kids. As they grow older and deal with different emotions, they may have difficulty expressing themselves.

In moments of increased stress or anger, they may even say things that they don’t necessarily mean.

Understanding some of the reasons that children become upset with their parents may make the experience a little easier to navigate.

When people are upset, they sometimes use words that exaggerate how they feel. In the heat of strong emotions, bitter or harsh words can find their way out.

“Hate,” is one such example. Despite the emphasis your child might place on this word, there’s an excellent probability that they don’t actually hate you.

Instead, they may be having trouble articulating what’s bothering them. So, they use simplified and misleading language to express themselves.

There are many reasons a teen might be experiencing big feelings, some of which include:

When a person acts out in anger, there’s often another emotion that drives their behavior.

When a child says, “I hate my mom,” they might be feeling:

Sometimes the emotion beneath their anger is easy to spot. For example, if you’ve said no to a request from your teen, disappointment and frustration are likely culprits behind their angry words.

But there will be times that it’s challenging to understand what they’re feeling or experiencing. Remaining calm and opening the lines of communication may help you identify the underlying issue.

According to a research review from 2020, anger can interfere with decision-making and cognitive processing. So, it may be helpful to practice de-escalation before engaging in a meaningful conversation with your child.

De-escalation strategies can calm a volatile situation and prevent it from worsening.

Stay calm

When a child you love says they hate you, it can be upsetting. However, staying calm may help.

Research from 2022 on mirror neurons has found evidence that the areas of your brain that control and regulate emotions become more active when you witness another person’s emotional displays.

So, if you can keep your own emotions in check, it might help your child settle theirs.

Use clear and empathetic language

Because of the way that strong emotions can interfere with cognitive processing, your child might not hear much of what you say while they’re angry.

Until they become calm, it’s preferable to keep verbal conversation to a minimum. Using simple and clear language may also help. Focus on empathy and a non-judgmental approach.

Take a break

Anger is connected to a person’s autonomic arousal, which is associated with fear and anxiety. If your teen is angry enough to say they hate you, they may be in a hypervigilant, fight-or-flight state of mind.

Giving them space allows them to calm down.

You can still discuss the situation with them, but after they’ve relaxed and become less defensive.

Ask questions

Once your child is calm enough to talk, this is your opportunity to understand their perspective.

Your child’s feelings are real, even if you disagree with them. If you ask questions and listen to their responses, it may enable you to reach a compromise instead of resuming conflict.

Reinforce limits

Setting reasonable and simple limits while offering choices allows you to help your child without making them feel overly controlled.

They might not want to comply with requests like room cleaning or hair washing but may be more inclined to cooperate if you offer flexibility with times and frequency.

As children grow, their relationship with their parents can change. This can be due to household circumstances or just the usual patterns of growth and development that lead to increased independence.

Understanding the reasons behind your child’s distance can make coping a little easier.

New boundaries

Sometimes distance is a result of your child establishing boundaries.

Developmental changes to your child’s boundaries may catch you off guard and take some getting used to.

As your child enters adolescence, their new boundaries may include:

  • not being hugged without consent
  • not being told what to wear
  • not having their ideas or opinions dismissed
  • wanting you to knock before entering their room
  • not wanting to share with you their conversations with friends

The presence of new boundaries can feel like your teen is becoming distant, but ignoring those boundaries may cause them to push you away even further.

Busy schedules

Work, school, and extra-curriculars can keep the members of your household too busy to connect. As kids get older, they will likely participate in more activities without their parents.

Intentionally planning to spend time together doing an activity can help. Even if it’s only once a week, having a shared event marked on the calendar can help you maintain your connection to your child.

Changes in activities

When your child was young, you may have found yourself playing along with one of their favorite games. Now their interests have changed, and you may not be included.

You can learn about their new pastimes too. Participating in one or two of your teen’s preferred activities, like having them teach you their favorite video game, sends a strong message that their interests matter to you.

Spending time in your child’s world can help you maintain your connection and learn more about your child.

Parental self-care

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your child still wants space.

Putting too much pressure on them to include you in their life can backfire. It may cause them to withdraw even further.

If you’re experiencing this with your child, it may be an opportunity for you to focus on self-care instead. Self-care strategies can include:

  • revamping your diet
  • trying a new form of exercise
  • starting a new hobby
  • spending more time with your friends

The goal is to nurture yourself and pay attention to your own wellness.

Children and teens experience emotions that may cause them to lash out at their parents. They may use strong language they don’t really mean.

As they age, it can be natural for them to desire more independence and flexibility in their lives. They may also seek affirmation that they’re capable of being trusted with such responsibility.

If your teen becomes angry, you may be able to establish a productive and healing conversation with patience, empathy, and calmness.