"I hate you!"
It's hard to imagine more hurtful words for a parent to hear from a child who they love more than anything or anyone in the world.
But it's nearly inevitable that we all will hear them from our children ... repeatedly.
Because if we're doing our job and setting the boundaries and making the rules children need, they're not always going to like us. We're going to make them mad -- mad enough to hate us -- which can be as tough for them to accept as it is for us.
In the book The Day Leo Said I Hate You, author Robie Harris offers a nice way to start a conversation about the topic.
In it, the little boy, Leo, gets so fed up with his mother telling him what not to do that he lets loose those piercing words ... and immediately feels awful afterward.
It made me a little emotional just thinking about the first time my son told me he hated me.
He was about 4, and I'm not sure tears have ever sprung more quickly to my eyes.
Those words stung, badly, and I honestly couldn't believe they had come from his actual mouth.
But when I was removed from the situation a bit, I was able to see it as one of those small steps he needs to take along the way to grow into his own person.
Sometimes children need to test our love and know that they can hate us, and that we will still love them regardless of what they do or say. And that's the ultimate job of a parent ... as hard as it may be.
We don't allow the casual use of the "h" word in our house for things like broccoli or shoes that come untied (there's enough hatred in the world), but I do want my children to always feel secure enough to tell me how they're feeling, even if I hate it.
Of course, that doesn't mean it's going to make it any easier when I hear them from him again, or when my toddler daughter throws them at me.
How have you handled it when your child said they hate you?
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