Wednesday, 24 June 2009

I Don't Like You Anymore

I have got used to hearing “I don’t like you anymore,” and the even harsher “I don’t love you now.”

When used in comedy context, I have absolutely no problem with them, you know, when we are messing around, switching sides in role playing games of Transformers or Star Wars, I think they are probably fair.

And they are always said with a smile, or at least, a cheeky smirk.

I do not use them myself, but I have regularly become a recipient.

My standard retort is usually “that’s fine” or “join the club”, they regularly work, in so much that they usually encourage my son to retract his earlier, ill thought, claims.

Thing is, the use of such glib and cruel lines has been extended to other situations, and to other people.

‘We’ had an incident recently when on a day out I refused his random request ‘for something – anything – from the shop’.

It was clear he just wanted to buy something, or get something, for the sake of it, so I saw refusal as my only option. Well, not only option, but the right one.

Tantrum on the car park ensued, tears flowed, and then I got a blarty ‘I don’t like you’.

As the waterworks were already on, I felt there was really no risk in making the situation worse, and instead of doing my best to ignore and correct this behaviour, I chose to explain why he really should not be saying such things, especially if he does not mean them.

My diatribe included ‘you are only affirming I took the right decision, I am glad I didn’t buy you anything from the shop’ and if you ever want to give tears a second wind, wield those words, they work a treat.

There was gentle reaffirmation of my thoughts once calm had returned, but I am unsure if he understood, or would even want to understand.

His use of such nastiness has not gone away, and he has also taken to use these to get what he wants in other situations, almost a bribe for his love.

I am impressed by his ability to negotiate, hard line negotiations at that, but I would like him to understand the context of what he is saying, and grasp how mean it can be interpreted.

Yeah, he is four not forty, I get that, just. But grasp it he should.

Will this come, or is this, sadly, a long haul thang?



Kori said...

Here is my two penneths: at his age, I think the only thing he knows HOW to withhold is love; and he isn't, of course, but it is the only way he knows how to express displeasure at things. Like, it would be difficult for him to articulate, "I am upset and sad that you aren't going to give in to my tears and buy me something. It makes me really angry!" but what he CAN say is I don't love you anymore. Owen has just begun doing this as well, at three; he will fold his arms and say, "I mad at you ALL DAY," or sometimes, "all week." and I say why, and he says "because," so I try to articulate for him. "You are mad at me? Because I did...X, Y, or Z" and he says yes...and in time I think it sinks in.

Dan said...

I regualrly get informed that I am no longer invited to my daughters birthday party. Despite the fact that I'm going to be paying for the bloody thing.

I don't care, I don't want to go to her stupid high school musical party anyway.

Coding Mamma (Tasha) said...

Rosemary has taken to doing this a lot recently, though she does also do the opposite (i.e. I really love you, I love you so much, I like you...) more than she did as well. I think she's exploring these feelings that are probably only now becoming somehow understandable. Unfortunatel for Chris, she does use the 'I don't you love now.' on him much more than on me, and he does find it very hurtful. He tends to sulk a bit back at her, whereas I tend more towards 'Oh, OK. That's a shame, because I love you.' or 'Are you cross with me for not letting you do X?', etc. So I think she's getting more of a reaction from him and therefore is more likely to say it to him. Hmm. May just go tell him that now.

Half Mum Half Biscuit said...

I think it's tough when there is only one parent - with two parents at least there's the possibility of a kind of valve or arbitrator...I agree with Kori that helping a child find words and articulate what they are feeling can only be a good thing, helping them to understand their own frustration. Also I think it is good to reassure Max of your unconditional love, regardless of what he might be saying or feeling. i think it's good to let kids express themselves and try stuff out rather than making subjects taboo. Maybe, like most things with kids, it's more about us, the parents rather than about the kids. If you show him that you love him regardless maybe it will stop being a phrase that he can see gets to you... Dylan says stuff like that occassionaly, I think when kids do it's actually a good sign as it demonstrates I think, that they feel secure enough to try the idea out.

T said...

I usually retort with, "Well, I don't like you very much either right now. But I will always LOVE you."

Is that mean?

Actually, you can correct him (and me) by saying, "What you don't like is my behavior because you didn't get your way. I don't like your behavior right now either."

Yep, I agree. DON'T GIVE IN!!!

Mrs OMG Pregnant said...

I agree you mustn't give in!!

I have said 'I hate you' and 'i dont love you' to my mum a few times during my youth. She always replied with, 'good for you' and just moved on. The bitch ;0)

Thumbelina said...

My two penneths before I read the rest - it is not a long haul, but a recurrent theme. Once you have set the precedent, it is easier next time to deal with it because you just return to the precedent - "Remember when... well it didn't work then, and it won't now."
Also, I understand your anxiety about getting him to understand. You don't want him to think you are cruel but at the same time, you can't be a pushover. One of the things I learned was to separate the behaviour from the person. You know - you don't dislike Max, just his behaviour. Well, how about getting him to do the same? Tell him that you love him but dislike his behaviour and suggest he feels the same way about you at that time - that he loves you, but doesn't like what you have said or done. He may understand this.
Whenever I have told my children off, when the situation has calmed (and that can be within seconds once what had to be said was said and tears sometimes ensued) I always offered a hug. This was sometimes rejected but I would retort with a "Love you anyway - just don't like what you did/said. Now, it's over with. Let's get on with the day." Whether the hug was accepted or not, they know I love them even when I am angry with them. This paid dividends in teenagerdom. The Bigun has ALWAYS known I love him, even when I am screaming at him, and there have been hairy moments and I am sure this in the back of his mind kept him coming home and on the right track.
I have been told that I would confuse my children by telling them off and then hugging them. I say - rubbish. Neither of my boys have been confused (now aged 19 and 11) and the Bigun said it was never an issue of confusion, but quite reassuring really.
So, I hope this very long comment helps a bit. I never gave in - let your No be No and your Yes be Yes, but they always knew that it was the behaviour I disliked (and learned to express themselves that way too) and not them.

This is not to say I never heard "I hate you!"
I did. Many times and it broke my heart. But I TOLD him how much it hurt me, even at age 4. Children can understand we have feelings too, even though we are the adults and the ones who need to keep a balance.

You do such a good job and I enjoy your blog and admire your honesty as you grow together, father and son. Thank you for sharing and just remember, there are no perfect parents. We do our best and if we can say that, then our kids have had the BEST upbringing, really they have. They got the best of us. Hang in there. :)

Thumbelina said...

Btw - I also totally get how hard this is as a single parent. I may be married now, but for the large part of Bigun's upbringing I was alone. He had me, or no one. So when he "hated" me or "stopped loving" me it was a big thing - there was no other parent to "side" with or love etc. That is why I felt it was so important to tell him that I loved him always, even if I didn't like what he was doing.

And I'm pleased to see I agree with some of the commenters here too and not sticking out on my own like a sore thumb. Except for length of comment that is... lol

smitten by britain said...

It's like a stab in the heart isn't it? There does come a point where you have to teach a child that feelings are to be respected. Thankfully Ian only said this to me once in 18 years but it killed me. I quickly let him know how much he hurt my feelings. Afterward I could tell he really took this to heart and regretted it. I felt he needed to know that I am human and even though I'm his authority figure I still have feelings. I would say to him, "well you may hate me but I love you and will always love you no matter what. When you say things like that it makes me sad." I know it sounds so Dr. Spock and all but I felt if I allowed him to continue speaking to his parent that way, then what would stop him from speaking to others in the same manner? If he is to learn this before 40 and more preferably before he starts school, now is the time to nip it in the bud. Just my two penneths.

LD2 said...

Ack. It's weird, I probably went through something similar.. well, I used to say things like.. "You're not my REAL parents" (I was adopted).. but then I got the retort, "well, we're the only ones you got.." - which made sense. Of course, I was like 10 and outgrew such behavior..

But, I am curious how this goes... I'm sure you'll handle this situation with care and from what I've read - with ease. Bry is not even 1 yet, and I don't even know how I'd handle this yet...

Erin said...

-Went through the same thing this week. Unfortunately, the fact that I have been giving in lately ( like when we were on vacation) made 'follow thru' on our latest situation a NIGHTMARE! In fact, I cried after I finally got her safely to school. She went full temper tantrum on me because I followed through on a " if you don't listen to mama, then...." conditional. I am NOT looking forward to this getting more challenging in the teenager years. eeeek.

rabidbutterfly said...

I hope you're not offended...I just used your story for my six-year-old. It worked!

Karin said...

I know I'll get this one as soon as my Little Miss can put together the words. She's already pursing her lips, glaring at me, saying "No, no, no!" and pushing me away and saying "Go!". That hurts already...can't imagine what the proper sentence will feel like. :( Well written post. You sound like a brilliant father.

chrisandharvey said...

I get the very opposite of this. And, I find, more painful. If I am angry (with his behaviour, obviously, not with him - thank you Mr Biddulph, LOL) and he sees my anger - then I get "You don't love me".

He's nearly 8, so this is more calculated than the "I don't love you" version I used to get.

Like a guided missile into my heart - but I do my best not to budge. Consistancy is my watchword, as much as possible.

You're doing a great job mate - keep it up. The few vids of Max and you confirm how secure and safe he feels - and how much laughter is in his life.

Maternal Tales said...

We often have 'You're not my best friend anymore' which makes us all laugh and we quickly move on, but the other day I had my first 'I hate you' and I was devastated. I tried not to let it affect me, but it did...I think it's hard not to. You did the right thing with Max - I always think if you try to explain things rather than just saying don't do it or that's not nice then they'll start to think about whether they mean it or why they've said it and the insults will be few and far between rather than the norm. Keep're definitely on the right path!

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

It does hurt! even though they are 4 and we are 40(ish, well not yet but you know in the region of).

My four year old uses it a lot and I really struggle not to be hurt and hit back on that level. I'm hoping the explanations will lead to a realisation that it isn't nice but i'm not expecting it anytime soon.

Potty Mummy said...

Boy #1's favourite - for a while - was "I'm not your best boy anymore!" He seems to have dropped it - for the moment. I think as their ability to negotiate improves they realise there are other ways to try and control you, but before they get there this is how they do it. Don't let it get to you. Of course he loves you. At the same time though, I think challenging him on it was the right thing to do.

SciFi Dad said...

I completely agree with how you handled it. He may still be young, but if he's old enough to know those words hurt, he's old enough to understand why he shouldn't use them.

I'm not saying it's an easy thing to deal with; hell, my daughter has informed both my wife and I on separate occasions that the other is her favourite, but as parents it's up to us to teach them why such talk is unacceptable.

Milla said...

yes, I don't remember it lasting long (but, fret not, there'll be another "stage" for it to segue into). Bopped over from Twitter and don't have long so, sadly, haven't had time to read all the comments, which is often part of the fun of blogging - so can say I agree with Kori, and have done what T does. But it is a phase they pass through, mainly because (and really quite quickly!) they realise a) it doesn't work, b) they're freaked at a shadow reality where they could mean it and know they don't. He's trying it on - hey, he's got to, that's how a personality is formed, they don't just morph into adulthood (shame). You sound like you've got the perfect approach, and your affirmation bit should reassure you as well as all these comments. I once threatened to start having a throwing myself around fit in the supermarkt (carefully choosing an empty aisle). Child was so appalled he stopped immediately. Another good threat (threats are so necessary) which has lasted 7 years as fresh now as it ever was, was that I would stroll up to school in my swimming costume, singing loudly, to take them out of school early. That's a very good one. Even if its effectiveness is a tad insulting!

Canadian Bald Guy said...

It sounds like you did the best you could in that particular situation. The child needs to know and understand the consequences of their action. And for him to say something mean like that, as you said, only reaffirms the decision to not buy him anything.

I think you did the right thing.

Barney said...

If you dont start now.. you will have a teenager on your hands who expects things to be handed to him.

My wee ones are 12 & 15 - as a single mother of two teenagers - and trying to make up for the lack of a father figure in their lives I took the stance of over compensating...once they reached an older age I had to "reprogram" my children.. it was a very long uphill battle.. but now.. things are much better.

Your doing what is right. You cant give into their demands. One thing that I always used was 'remember the last tantrum you threw? Did you get what u wanted then? What makes you think it will work this time'

Yes.. My daugther tells me she hates me. I tell her that's her perogative. Hell I hated my parents a time or two growing up. But.. they dont honestly mean it, and at 4, do they honestly know what it means?

They also need to understand how their words and actions make you feel.. you too are human.. you too have feelings just like that wee little man-child you are raising.
Explain to him.... I love you.. but your actions make me sad/unhappy...

Anyhow.. keep up the good work...raising wee ones is not an easy task but so worth it in the end!

Jo Beaufoix said...

I think you did the right thing too. Miss E used to do this and I usually replied, "Well I love you very much." Then I'd let her calm down and then tell her that it made me sad when she said that. Miss M has done it a couple of times and I've done the same. I don't know if it's the right thing to do, but it seems to stop her in her tracks. It leaves a lump in my throat though.

Petra a.k.a The Wise (*Young*) Mommy said...

He will get it. It's the age. Just keep doing what you are doing, and try not to take it to heart. I know it's hard, but some of these stages they go through are just that!

Not a soccer mom said...

wow lots of advice here. Usually when my children would get in a mood, most often the youngest.... and would tell me she didnt love me anymore..
I would simply say matter of factly- I am sorry you feel that way but I love you!
It is funny how their little minds would comprehend the warmth of my statement and I am assuming the hurt they may have caused to me...
just a thought. Most of the time it worked

Barry said...

Seems like you did the right thing. Of course I am not sure he understood the long correction, but I'm sure he knew you were not happy and that is what counts. Simple mind of a 4 year old just needs to know that what he did was wrong and you disapprove. Repetition will get the job done. The more excited you get, the more he realizes he gets a reaction from you.

It will pass. Easy compared to teenage daughters. That is when the stuff really flies :)

Crystal Jigsaw said...

He might only be 4 but he'll give Surrallan a run for his money one future day! I sometimes get, "if you don't let me have it, I won't be your daughter anymore". I remember when I first heard that I was really hurt. And then my brain caught up with my heart!

CJ xx

rosiescribble said...

It's all perfectly normal, Ian. I'm going through the same with my 5 year old. Apparently, it's healthy for them to tell us they don't like us, so I try to be positive about the whole thing although occasionally I do lose my rag, then she really doesn't like me!

clareybabble said...

Does every child do this?! S hasn't so far (he's 3) and I really hope he doesn't :(

Christine said...

Wait till it's "I Hate you"! That's when it really hurts. BUT you've gotta understand that it's their way of trying to hurt you when you've hurt them. Albeit, it's normally we're really doing something for their own good, they are still hurt. What I did, after I stopped feeling personally hurt by their words, I started telling them that "No matter what they said, or how often they said it, I knew they didn't mean it. That they were just trying to hurt my feelings, which isn't ok to do when I'm being their mommy and doing what is best for them, whether they like it or not." My sons are teenagers now, and they don't use that kind of tactic on me anymore. So thankfully, they grew out of it. Yours will too!

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