Ask Teacher Lisa: Hating “I hate you”

Dear Teacher Lisa,

We have been trying to figure out a good way to get our daughter to stop saying a few things to her friends and family. For instance when she does not get her way she tells friends ‘Fine. I’m not your friend anymore.’ And it seems that it may be hurting some friends feelings. She usually does this to close friends. Despite talking about it many times with her she still does this.

She also says ‘I hate you’ a lot as well to people including us. Lately she sometimes takes it back and just says ‘Fine. I don’t hate you but I don’t like you right now.’

Do you have any strategies we can use for this?


Hating “I Hate You”

Dear Hating “I Hate You,”

This is a tough one, I know. As kids move from trying to get needs met and express feelings physically, the next phase is expressing their malcontent through hurtful words. It is actually a step up on the ladder. Around 5, they start to be more able to access the logical part of the brain that can check this behavior a little more readily and think it through before they speak.

Also, kids are out of practice right now (because of the pandemic) of having these constant social interactions and conflicts and being able to practice it on repeat, so they may revert to old strategies for a bit until they are feeling more secure in their friendships again and back in the groove of regular play and conflict resolution. The fact that your daughter is amending her statement to “Fine, I don’t hate you but I don’t like you right now,” is a great sign that she is starting to reflect and recognize that feelings are fleeting, not permanent.

What I would do is narrate back to her in her moments of frustration what you think she is truly feeling/thinking… so for example, if she wanted a turn with something and someone said no, and she responded with hurtful words, you could say, “Are you trying to let ____ know that you were really hoping for a turn with that toy? Should we ask if you can use it when she’s done?” Our goal is to model for her the words that she could use instead. It doesn’t help if we simply tell her that it’s not nice to say that or don’t say that. She needs to know how to express herself more thoughtfully, so we can supply the language. Even if she storms off and needs to take space to cool down, we can tell the other person, “I think what she was trying to say was that she really wanted to take a turn wearing your dress. I’m sorry that she used hurtful words, she is still learning.” And give her some time to cool down. Then when she’s ready, you could ask her about it. “Were you really feeling mad that you couldn’t wear that dress? Maybe we could write ___ a letter about it, or come up with a trade of something that they might want to try out of yours? Saying you hate someone hurts feelings.” 

Basically, you are the go between trying to model effective language and strategies for your daughter and her playmates, help them understand each other’s perspectives, and offer ways they can repair or reconnect after.

Hope that helps. Let me know if you have follow up questions. It takes a lot of practice and repetition to master these skills. 

You got this,

Teacher Lisa

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