No one wants to think that their kids actually hate them. But it would be naive of us to imagine that our kids aren't harboring any negative emotions toward us. They're human, and they experience the same range of emotions we do –– sometimes even more intensely. So instead of wishing the problem away or ignoring it altogether, consider the following reasons why your kids might feel so strongly:
- You live by the old "Do as I say, not as I do" mantra. Kids are incredibly perceptive. When our own actions don't line up with what we expect them to do, it destroys our credibility. If you've fallen into this trap, reverse it by either changing your actions to line up with your words or –– at the very least –– acknowledging the disparity and committing to working on the issue.
- You've turned your kids into confidants. It's natural for parents and kids to develop strong bonds, especially in single parent households. However, when you turn your kids into trusted confidants, you place them in the role of an adult. And while that may seem harmless, it can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety for your kids. Instead of placing your kids in this role, work on developing adult friendships that you can count on for mutual support.
- You're inconsistent. We all have ups and downs, and it's natural for our mood on any given day to affect our interactions with our kids. But when we're so inconsistent that our kids don't know what they're going to get from one day to the next –– a loving caregiver or mom-zilla –– distrust and resentment grow. Instead, work on dealing with your own issues privately. Start a journal or join a support group so the negative emotions you experience aren't simmering just below the surface, ready to explode at any moment.
- You put them in the middle. Expecting your kids to carry messages back and forth between you and your ex puts a tremendous amount of stress on them. Instead, speak with your ex directly. And if you really want to create a clean slate, apologize to your kids for those times when you used them to communicate with your ex instead of doing it yourself. They'll appreciate your effort to be real and own your own mistakes.
- You put unnecessary limits on their contact with the other parent. In some situations, parent-child visitations aren't possible because of logistical or safety issues. But when your kids could see the other parent, but you won't let them –– for reasons that have little to do with their safety and everything to do with your anger, you do your kids a disservice. Instead, work on rebuilding trust with your ex and establishing a regular visitation schedule so that your kids can enjoy a healthy, long-term relationship with the other parent, as well.
- Your love is conditional. Do your kids believe that you love them only when they're cooperative or get good grades? Most of the time, this belief is untrue –– but if your kids believe it anyway, it's going to get in the way of your relationship. Make a point of telling them that you love them unconditionally –– not because of anything they've done to earn your love, but simply because they're your children.
- You're overprotective. Here's another reason why your kids may be seething with resentment. If you tend to be a helicopter parent, take a second look at the limits you've set in place and see if you can come up with a compromise. This isn't possible (or wise) in all situations, but reconsidering one or two areas where you typically say "no" can help break down some of the walls between you and your kids.
- You're unreliable. Be careful about making promises to your kids. It only takes one or two "broken" promises to weaken their trust in you. And if you've been guilty of making promises you couldn't keep, apologize to them directly and talk about the commitments you're willing to make moving forward.
Raising kids is always going to be a work in progress. So as you consider some of the reasons why your kids may be angry with you, remember that the goal isn't to become perfect –– but rather to get better at doing what you do. Better at listening to your kids and seeing their point of view. Better at expressing yourself in ways that minimize conflict and maximize relationship. Better at enjoying more of the work you put into raising your kids. It's all about learning from your experiences and building a closer relationship going forward.