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I Love You Mom
The four words that every mom is joyous to hear from their child. Saying I love you is important in every parent-child relationship, and moms (and dads) will go out of their way to make sure that their children feel loved.
My son and I say I love you all of the time to each other.
My husband gets our son ready in the morning and drops him off to preschool, so I say it to him before he leaves for the day. We say “I love you” throughout the day as well. Over the phone, during supper time, when we play, and even before Izaak goes to bed. Knowing that my son and I share a mutual love for one another is the best feeling in the world.
On the flip side, the four words “I don’t like you” can be hard words to hear.
Izaak’s first time saying those four words was upsetting to say the least. But now I am a much more seasoned parent. I know that Izaak doesn’t hate me, he just has a hard time expressing himself.
A few days ago Izaak wasn’t cleaning up the huge mess he deliberately made in a matter of minutes. (No one can throw all of belongings in piles on the floor in a matter of minutes on ACCIDENT.) I took away one of his toys, and (no surprise here) Izaak told me that he didn’t like me. I’ve heard this phrase from him often, however it doesn’t really bother me anymore. In fact, I find that four letter phrase words somewhat satisfying when they are coming from my four year old.
Hear me out, I don’t want my kid to look at me as a dictator, but I also know I’m doing my job as a mom if Izaak looks me in the eye sometimes and tells me he doesn’t like me. I cannot be my son’s friend all of the time. Sometimes I have to be the bad guy. (He also says I’m mean.)
At times I’m sure my son doesn’t feel like he likes me, or he may think I’m mean. That’s OK.
He’s working on learning his emotions, and I just remind him that I am taking his toys away because he’s not doing his part by cleaning up his mess. These negative emotions towards me are always fleeting. And I’m happy that Izaak has them and feels comfortable enough to express them .
Izaak can choose to tell me how he feels and in fact I welcome that.
I’d rather have my son be comfortable with sharing his feelings than not feel comfortable and try to hide his emotions, which leads to more explosive actions later on. Being able to express himself freely will allow Izaak to strengthen how he processes his emotions faster.
My son is not yet capable of sharing exactly how he feels yet, so saying that he doesn’t like me is a way for him to express the negative emotion that he feels. Izaak can’t say “I’m upset with you right now because you won’t let me do _______.” But he will get there. Soon, Izaak will be able to say “I didn’t like how you took away my toy.” Instead of simply “I don’t like you.” Eventually he will be able to understand as well that it’s not hate that he feels, and that being overwhelmed, upset or confused is different than hate. We will get there.
Kenneth Barish, Ph.D. states that, in his experience:
“…children most effectively learn to regulate their emotions when they are confident that their feelings will be heard. When a child expects that her feelings and concerns will be appreciated and understood, her emotions become less urgent. Because each disappointment and frustration now feels less painful, less “catastrophic,” she will be less insistent in her demands, and more open and flexible in seeking solutions to problems. She will less often get stuck in attitudes of blaming, argument and denial. She will be more able to feel empathy and concern for others, and to take responsibility for her actions.” Click here to read the full article.
The movie Inside Out is one of my favorite kid movies.
It does a great job of teaching the basic emotions to young children. (Fear, Joy, Disgust, Anger and Happiness.) The more complex emotions are much harder to teach. I’m 27 years old and still sometimes have difficulty processing my emotions. Can you imagine, being a four year old having to figure out how you are really feeling? That has to be hard.
I love that my son says I love you, but I love it more that at the end of the day he still loves me even though sometimes he feels like I’m being mean or that he doesn’t like me. That is unconditional love. And no matter what he does I’m going to love him right back, even if he doesn’t listen, or he is mean to me, it doesn’t matter. I’ll love him forever.
Here are some of the things that I say to Izaak when he is upset that seem to work well:
- I love you and you love me. Let’s try to remember next time you feel this way that you don’t hate your mommy or daddy. We are here for you if you need to talk.
- You don’t like me? That’s not very nice. I love you. And I know you love your mommy/daddy. What made you want to to say that?
- I forgive you, but you can’t say that. Can you say sorry and tell me why you are feeling upset?
- I know you love me, I understand you are upset. Can you tell me what you are feeling right now and why?
The most important thing to remember when a child says something hurtful is to not take it personally.
Every parent who allows their child to communicate with them at some point hears “I hate you” from their child. They don’t hate you. They are trying to spark a reaction from you because they are upset and can’t process their emotions just quite right yet. Give your child plenty of love and patience, and in no time they will be communicating with you about their feelings.
Does anyone have any similar stories? Any other tips to help children process their feelings? Share them in a comment below.
-Holly The Imperfect Momma