I personally know of no parent who has NOT heard these words screamed at them from their off-spring at some point in their childhood.

What does it mean to hear these words from a child?

How does it make a parent feel?

And most importantly, how does a parent react to hearing these words from the innocent child they are raising into adulthood?

Some parents cannot fathom the thought that they may one day hear these words from their angelic little angel.  To them, it means they have failed as a parent.  Their child is supposed to love them, no matter what.  Hearing these words causes them to turn the blame onto themselves – if their child hates them, then they, the parent, must be doing something wrong!  And if the parent is doing something wrong, it has to be corrected NOW!!  Any course of action that doesn’t immediately change the child’s feelings from hate to love is the wrong choice in their mind.

Then there is the other side.

Some parents remember when they screamed the same thing at their own parent, many years before.  They realize that the defiance being show by the child in front of them now means that they are growing, pushing boundaries and trying to figure out their place in the world.  These parents may initially feel guilty about causing their child to reach this point, but soon realize that if they themselves said the same thing all those years before, then it’s not the end of the world for their child either.  At some point, parents on the receiving end may even feel a touch of pride at reaching this point because it may mean that they are being a Parent, not a Friend to their child.

What is the reality for the child when faced with parents who display both sets of feelings at being told, “I hate you!”?

I can only go by my own experiences to answer this question.

I was the child that screamed “I hate you” to her mom on more than one occasion (sorry about that Mom!).  I was met with laughter several times and anger and discipline at the increasing disrespect I showed to attempt to elicit the first reaction (of being shown Mom was wrong and not me).  It was totally foreign to my mind to say, “I hate you!” and received laughter in return.  Saying “I hate you!” should have had my mom begging me to love her in my naïve mind and in return, I would get exactly what I wanted – whatever it was that brought that response out of me.  That didn’t happen.  Contrary to my usual snarky response, it hasn’t scarred me for life.

So, what did I learn from my own childhood experiences?  That my Mom loved me anyway – no matter how I may have felt in the moment.  That my Mom was trying to teach me that the world doesn’t revolve around me.  That my Mom could see the bigger picture and I couldn’t in my undeveloped mind.

I didn’t know that then, I do now.  Thanks Mom!

So, what does this mean for step-families?  How do we, as blended families, navigate the uncharted waters of normal childhood development that may be hampered by Mommy Guilt or Disney-Dad Syndrome?

I don’t know a GOOD answer to these questions; I just know what we are dealing with.

I know we deal with a bio-mom that insists her children are NEVER to hate their parent.  That if they do (and they certainly do verbalize this loudly and repeatedly to whoever will listen), then it is OUR fault, not hers.  They love her.  They hate us.  They’re never going to leave her.  They’re leaving us as soon as legally possible.  AND IT’S ALL OUR FAULT!  We will have to deal with the consequences of our actions that caused them to hate us.

She responds to their “hate” by giving them what they want.  Grounded?  No problem, let’s go buy some new cloths!  Suspended from school?  Sure your friend can spend the night!  Failing in school?  It’s not your fault you didn’t turn that paper in, you’re learning disabled and the school just doesn’t see it – why don’t you stay home today and recover from the shame?  But the children LOVE her!  So she must be doing something right – right?

Our response to the kids hating us is laughter, and at times, anger and discipline when the disrespect goes too far.  The laughing response to them is usually followed with an explanation of, “Good.  I said that to my mom too.  I still love her.  It means I’m doing a good job as a parent, just like she was, if you don’t always agree with me.”  The child screaming at us that we’re never going to see them again when they move out at 18 is met with a response of, “Good, you’re supposed to move out and start your own life when you become an adult.  You’re not supposed to live with your parent(s) forever.  We can’t wait for you to start your adult life, with a spouse and family of your own.”  It leaves the child frustrated and deflated – that’s not the response they want to hear.  So they try again, “I can’t wait until I can move back in with my mom!”  Our response is usually along the lines of, “That’s okay, we expect that.  Do you think you’re telling us anything we didn’t already know?  We’re okay with you hating us right now.”  So they try one last dig, “You’ll be sorry when you never see me again!”  “Maybe…..but maybe not, we’ll take our chances.”

These responses to the kids rise up the righteous fury of their mom.  How DARE we make the children miserable?  How DARE we not change our parenting style at her and the children’s insistence?  How DARE we disagree with how a child should be raised?

How DARE we indeed?