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

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