Help: My Teenager Says “I Hate You” – It really makes me mad!

I received this email recently from a parent of a 14 year old teenage girl.

Dear Ted:

“I really need some help. My daughter can be so sweet at times but at most other times, I think she is possessed! She gets so moody sometimes and says the most hateful things to me. I know that teenagers are moody – I remember it well, but I never treated my mom or dad with such disrespect.  I have tried everything and am to the point I don’t want to take her anywhere or give to her anymore since she can be so unappreciative.

I really want my little girl back. She gets good grades and has good friends. I don’t think she is using drugs since she signed a contract with the school. I just want some respect. Can you give me some advice”

Frustrated Mom

Teenagers can be very moody. Research shows that their frontal lobe does not develop until early 20’s which controls impulses such as these. This means they need parents guidance and for us parents/adults to always be bigger, stronger wiser, and kind (Circle of Security).

When adolescents resort to these type of tactics, it is often as a result of the parent preventing them from achieving some goal that the teenager has had. In other words, the parent has said”No” in some way, shape or form.

Teenagers then use various strategies in order to get the parents to capitulate to their desires: negotiation, whining and complaining, badgering, martyrdom, defiance, personal and verbal attacks, threats, and acts of violence/property damage.

Parents often reason with their teens and attempt to help them understand the logic behind their decision – because they are using their frontal lobe while the teenagers are using their amygdala (emotion center). This is a recipe for disaster.

While this is most likely cause by an underdeveloped brain,  it can unnerve the most stable of parents.  There is nothing more painful that to hear your child say, “I hate you.” When parents are told, “don’t take it personally” by professionals they often reply with ” how can I not take it personal – it is!” What I often advise parents in these situations is the old adage of “less is more.”  Less emotion, less talking. Also, I share with them that “anything you feed will grow, anything that you starve will wither and die.” Don’t feed the teens tactics.

Through my work with some parents, we have patched together a type of bullet proof vest that has seemed to decrease the impact of the bullet, but still may leave a mark.  Each one of the statements below is based on some of the patchwork and the “less is more” and “starve” the tactic.  If the teenager uses multiple tactics, that may be a good sign that one is not working for them. If they use the same one over and over, the tactic is likley being fed somehow. Following the use of any of these patches, leave the situation or the arguing will get worse.  Go to a cooling off spot for yourself.

Here is the list – avoid sarcasm:

“That is too bad.”

“Sorry to hear that.”

“Regardless,  what I said stands.”

“That does not change anything.”

“I see that we are not going to be able to talk through this. Conversation is over.”

“I am going to take a time out for myself before I say something hurtful back.”

Of course, saying nothing is another option.

Hang in there…as my friend Dr Bill Whelan at the Mary Ainsworth Institute says, “Always be Bigger, Stronger, Wiser, and Kind.”

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