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Why Some Teens Hate Their Parents

One minute, your teenager is begging you to take her to McDonald’s for lunch. The next minute, she’s insulting your intelligence and calling you a “bitch.”

If you look closely, you'll notice that you've been through this before: When she was a 2-year-old, she needed you one minute, and was throwing a tantrum the next. She was seeking independence then – and she continues to do so now.

Part of being a teenager is about separating and individuating, and many teens feel like they need to reject their mom and dad in order to find their own identities. Teenagers focus on their peers more than on their parents and siblings, which is normal too.

So, why do some teens lash out and use harsh words like "I hate you"? 

Because they are in a difficult stage of "transition" (oh, and by the way, they don't actually hate you, rather they are simply trying to separate from you and haven't found a tactful way to do it, yet).

Here's a closer look at what's really going on with the "I hate you" line:
  • A teen may lash out at this age to test the “safety net.” A healthy teen feels safely wrapped in a comfortable net of parental-protection and love. Ironically, then, it is sometimes the most healthy teens that experience this feeling of distress when they feel this "net" lifting. The more they venture into the world, the less they feel the comfort of that "net." Thus, they may start to do some strange things to test and make sure it is still there. They may become defiant with the subconscious hope that their mother or father will tell them, "No, you can't do that because it’s not safe.” Or they may say harsh things to their mother or father to "test" and see if the parent’s love is strong enough to endure hardships. Teens may give parents any number of tests. They are not doing this on purpose or with an awareness that they are "testing". All they feel is this subconscious pull to do so.
  • The parent may be preventing the teen from making the transition into young adulthood, which influences the teen to make an extra effort to "push away." A preteen often has a lot of adult capabilities, and mature teens even have a lot of adult thought processes. However, many are still treated like small kids, talked down to, or not given enough responsibility and trust. Teens of this age need many venues in which to experience that they can function on their own and that the people around them believe in their capabilities.
  • They are passing into a time period where they are taking more part in the world around them, and they are learning to function more and more in the "real world.” This can be a scary time for some teens, and they may go through a version of what happened when they were experiencing a similar transition as a toddler.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

So what can parents do?

1. A parent can help her teen through this transition by allowing him to take on more responsibility.

2. A parent can help her child through this transition by letting him know that she trusts him to make the right decisions.

3.  Just because your teenager verbally hurls something hurtful at you doesn't mean you should back down. Much like dealing with a toddler in the throes of a tantrum, you need to be consistent and firm. It's hard, but you are the parent, and you get to say what is right for your teen, whether she’s 3 or 17.

4. Let your child know that you love her no matter what, and make sure you set reasonable and gentle limits for her – and that she has consequences when those limits are exceeded. For example, if she has a curfew, make sure she has a consequence if she comes home after her curfew. She WILL become upset and may call you names for enforcing the curfew, but inside she is feeling a strong sense of happiness and security knowing that her mother and father really do care enough to still watch over her in some way and take care of her. Of course, any teen would never admit this at the time. She is in the middle of trying to prove that she is a young adult and can function without her mom or dad. But, she still does need her caregivers.

5. Moms and dads can help their teen through this transition by letting her know they are there for her with unconditional love, and that even if she says mean things to them – they still love her.

6. Reflect back on how your child dealt with that first transition in her life. Did she have difficulty with it? She is probably experiencing that same difficulty now.

7. Regular chores around the house (ones that help a teenager feel he is an important part of the household and is actually helping it run) can help as can giving him more difficult tasks or asking for his help with adult tasks (e.g., changing a tire, assembling furniture, fixing things around the house, etc.).

8. Sometimes moms and dads feel so hurt by their teenager’s treatment that they respond by returning the rejection. Teens know that they still need their mom and dad – even if they can't admit it. The roller-coaster they put you on is also the one they're feeling internally. Parents need to stay calm and try to weather this teen-rebellion, which usually passes by the time he is 16 or 17. But your teenager should NOT be allowed to be truly nasty or to curse at you. If this happens, you have to enforce basic behavior standards. By letting your teen know that you're here for him no matter what, you make it more likely that he'll let down his guard and confide in you once in a while.

9. The parent can help his teen through this transition by giving her opportunities to show and experience that she is capable.

10. The teenager needs to be able to experience things outside the house in the form of field trips with classmates, overnights with clubs, camping trips, competitions or other activities in which he can show he is a strong, responsible "adult.”

11. When teens are at their worst, they need your love the most. We don't necessarily need to like them, but we do need to continue to love and parent them. They may be angry – and we may be angry – but remember that this effort to discipline and guide them comes from your deep love for them.

12. Through these tough conflicts with your teen, you have to keep talking ‘to’ him (and sometimes ‘at’ him). This is an opportunity to demonstrate your unconditional love. Whether it's through the bathroom door, in notes, or in person when your teenager is bummed-out at the dinner table, in every situation, keep the lines of communication open.


==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents


Realmomrealproblems said...

Really very helpful and makes a lot of sense. Thank you for breaking it down.

Unknown said...

Raising a 16 y/o female alone went from being an absolutely amazing daddy's girl to having a horrible attitude in about a year. Even setting some basic standards has become difficult when it was never an issue under 14 years old or so. I'll never give up on trying. Love my girl!

Anonymous said...

So it’s just because mine are abusive except I don’t hate them but I did because my parents especially my dad are abusive once my mom found out I was cutting instead of getting me help like a normal parent she pulled on my arm I tried getting away she grabbed my neck I couldn’t breathe my dad does it more often but in my opinion it hurts more but better than grabbing someone’s neck to the point they can’t breathe I accidentally slammed the door then hid since I knew he would be mad at me for that and he pushed me against the wall and started hitting me then kicked me I had a few marks and bruises

Anonymous said...

Hello! I am interested in hearing about your issues with your teenage daughter if you don't mind can you elaborate more?

Anonymous said...

After I divorced my sons father our son changed into someone I love but don’t like. He started to disrespect/ manipulate and lie and violent. When he was 15 he acted out and became uncontrollable. I was the primary custodial parent after the divorce. So quite naturally his Dad was eager to have him in order to reverse the court order Instead of correcting our son behavior and being a supportive coparent to help our son during that event, while with me. Our son was 15. Moving forward to now 2022 I get call from our son crying saying his DAD had beat him up and kicked him out. I hadn’t heard from my son in 3 years. I was so happy to hear from him. My prayer was that one day he’d return. Be careful what you pray for. I allowed him back but he was way worse. Drugs, enraged, disrespectful, leaving the house through the windows, destroyed property in our home. Failed college 1.16gpa. Violent. Would not get a job. Secluded in the bonus room. I reached back out to his DAD and he said our son gave him and his wife 3 years of pure hell. All the bad behavior he did in their home he was back with me doing the same to me and my fiancé. He was a terror. I feared him. I didn’t feel safe in my own home. Just recently he attack my fiancé. We told him he had to leave. Later that night we got a knock at the door it was the police. He lied to them and said he was assaulted. But the police saw where my fiancé had been attacked and they witnessed the damage to our home caused by our son and how he lived in his room. It was horrible. Our son was arrested. His Dad who initially had an altercation with him, and didn’t want him back in his home got him out of jail. But now he’s angry at my fiancé because of the altercation with our son. Our son is out of control. He was seeing a therapist at 15 for his behavior. He just turned 19. With his out burst when he’s angry he states he hates his Dad, but his Dad said when he was with him, our son said he hated me. When our son became angry here in the home he had no respect for me at all. When he first returned. He apologized for his behavior 3 years ago. He would tell me how much he loved me. But a few weeks into staying here he lashed out totally opposite. He would call me the worst names, he’d approach me as if he was going to attacked me physically. He would lash out like this whenever I expressed to him about his responsibilities for his life and boundaries in our home. I lived in fear of him until the night he was arrested. Again I love my son but I don’t like him AT ALL. He really needs help and be in a program like yours. I know he’s considered an adult but mentally and emotionally he’s still that 15 year old, after our divorce, who is deeply troubled still. His life is continuously spiral out of control and I’m out of solutions.

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