This Post: Help… My Teenager Hates Me and It’s Breaking My Heart
Your once amiable child who thought you hung the moon now has little regard for your opinions, rolls their eyes every time you utter a word, and picks fights with you for what seems like no reason at all. You can do no right… sound familiar?
Nearly every parent of teenagers has felt completely hated by their child at one point or another. It’s frustrating, exhausting, bewildering and completely heartbreaking.
After investing so much time, energy, commitment, and love into raising your son or daughter, it’s awful to feel as though they hate you, or worse, hearing those words tumble out of their mouth.
But before you blame yourself convinced you somehow messed up as a parent, take comfort in knowing that your teen doesn’t actually “hate” you. In fact, by taking the time to understand what might be happening behind the scenes with your teen, you’ll be able to approach their behavior with more empathy, work on building a strong connection with them, and get through this rocky, confusing time together.
Help… My Teenager Hates Me and It’s Breaking My Heart
Reasons Why It Might Seem Like Your Teen Hates You
If you’re convinced your teen hates you, here are a few things that might be triggering their intense feelings.
1. You’re Their Safe Zone
Remember when your child was a toddler and they always showed their worst side in front of you? Well… not much has changed since then. They’re still (more often than not) putting their best foot forward with everyone else and then coming home and unleashing their moodiness and frustration on you.
Even though it’s beyond frustrating, take some comfort in knowing that you’re their safe zone. They’re “on” all day long so when they walk in the door after school, practice, or work, they’re tired and irritable. Ask a simple question and they might scoff, shrug, or spurt out a nasty comment. “OMG! School was fine! Enough questions already!” (Ahem… just give them space and food.)
2. They’re Oblivious to How They’re Treating You
Teenagers are notorious for having, well… a flat-out crummy delivery. But so often, they don’t realize how they’re coming across. I’ve actually asked my kids why they rolled their eyes and let out a disrespectful exasperated sigh and they were clueless they even did it.
(Not always, of course. Sometimes, they’re fully aware of their tone and mannerisms and they use them as a ploy to get a rise out of us knowing full well it fires us up. We’ll talk more about how to handle it later in the post.)
Be patient. It’s going to take a while for your teen to learn how to manage their moods and emotions and even longer for them to get the hang of communicating without getting emotionally charged.
3. They’re Struggling with Changes They’re Going Through
Your teen is going through a ton of physical, emotional, and hormonal changes. Their body is growing at lightning speed, their brain is undergoing a massive overhaul building the thinking and processing part of their brain, and do we even have to mention hormonal shifts? Yikes… lots going on there that is triggering your teen’s abruptness, sharp tongue, and rudeness.
4. They’re Learning How to Stand on Their Own Two Feet (and You’re Getting in the Way)
Your teen spent the better part of their life following your lead. Now they’re itching to lead. When you say, “No,” put your foot down, or try to direct their lives (or even guide them) in any way, sparks can fly.
They want and need to separate from you and if that means pushing (or harshly shoving) you away, they will.
According to Joon Therapy, a mental health organization dedicated to helping teens and young adults, “There can be times when the only way a teenager feels like they can define themselves separately from their parents (a healthy and necessary task of development) is by rejecting their parents – either by having conflict with them, or simply trying to be different through hobbies, interests, or friends
5. It’s a Mask to Hide Something Else That’s Going on in Their Life
Teenagers are masters at disguising their feelings. You may not realize it, but your teen may be struggling in an area of their life that’s triggering their argumentative, harsh, combative attitude and causing displaced emotions.
Perhaps they’re struggling in school, their best friend is suddenly dissing them or they were rejected by someone they’re crushing on. They may also be dealing with feelings of insecurity which can unleash a sea of unsteady emotions.
6. Sometimes, It Has More to Do With You Than Your Teen
As parents, sometimes we have to muster up the courage and admit to ourselves that we’re part of the problem and that to be part of the solution, we may need to change the way we’re parenting.
Are your expectations unfair or unrealistic? Are you constantly criticizing, yelling, lecturing, or nagging your teen? Do you dig your heels in the ground and never allow your teen to “win?” Do you compare them with their siblings or other kids their age? Are you lacking trust in your teen? Do you always expect the worst of them or totally overreact when they come to you? Are you suffocating them and not giving them the age-appropriate freedom they crave?
Perhaps you’re too busy to spend time with them. Perhaps you’re short-tempered and not around when they need you. Maybe what your teen really needs from you is to feel more loved, accepted, and validated.
7. They May Be Dealing with Deeper Issues that Require Expert Help
If you’ve exhausted all efforts to understand your teen and build a bridge and they’re still combative and unreasonable, it might be time to seek out guidance from a professional. Don’t consider seeking help a sign of weakness or failure as a parent. In fact, it’s a true sign of strength and maturity on your part realizing that some things in life can’t be handled alone. Remember, your relationship matters far more than your ego.
How to Handle It When Your Teen is Mean to You
Acknowledge What They Said Was Hurtful
“Wow… that was really hurtful.“ Acknowledging that what your teen said was mean or hurtful will help them realize that their words and/or actions are causing more friction, distance, and damage in the relationship and that they hold the power to bring you closer together or create greater division.
Don’t Take the Bait
Don’t let your teen “bait you” into getting into an argument or confrontation. You can’t die on every mountain when you’re raising teens. You HAVE to pick your battles and let some things go. If it’s a roll of the eyes, a grunt, a shrug, or a heavy exasperated sigh, you might want to ignore it (yes… ignore it) and move on. If it’s more than that, consequences might need to come into play.
Give Them a Second Chance to Get it Right
Sometimes, teenagers can come off as mean, rude, or disrespectful without even realizing it. When my kids spewed out something mean or disrespectful, quite often I said something like, “I know that wasn’t about me. Do you want to give that another try?” or “Your comment came across as disrespectful and nasty, did you mean to be so rude to me?”
React With Empathy and Compassion
Fighting fire with fire won’t get you very far when you’re dealing with a teen who’s hellbent on burning the house down (figuratively speaking, that is). You have to model the behavior you want to see.
Approach their behavior with empathy, compassion, and a desire to understand. Your teen’s behavior may very well be more of a cry for help than a mission to make your life miserable.
Lighten Things Up a Bit
A little humor can go a long way to lighten up a tense situation between you and your teen. (Plus, it can disarm them.) At the very least, smile and let them know you’re there to help them should they need it. It’s awfully hard to hate someone who’s nice to you when you’re nasty.
Remember, This Isn’t About You (So Try Not to Overreact)
Just keep reminding yourself that so much of your teen’s rudeness, disrespect, frustration, or anger is centered around them, not you. Put your armor on and brace yourself for what could be a rocky ride, but know that “this too shall end.” Eventually, their internal struggle, hormones, craving for independence, and desire to push you away will fade and you’ll be able to see through the clouds… In the meantime, patience. LOTS of patience.
Put “Respect” Boundaries in Place
You can’t demand respect from your teen, but what you can do is require them to treat you respectfully regardless of how they feel about a situation. Start by identifying what you won’t tolerate. Perhaps it’s when your teen yells at you, or when they slam their bedroom door, or when they swear at you – whatever your “line in the sand” is, make it known to your teen and let them know upfront what the consequences will be if they cross that line. (Then, don’t cave in!) Also, be sure to stay focused on your teen’s “behavior” and never attack their personality or characteristics.
I know it’s hard when you’re convinced your teen hates you, but chances are you’re doing far more right than wrong. Don’t give up!
Parenting teens isn’t for the faint of heart. We have to stand strong to face the hurricane-force winds that blow through during our kids’ teen years, avoid taking their behavior personally, and know that just like so many other phases in our kids’ development… it’s only temporary.