Help! My Teenager Hates Me: What Parents Can Do (and Say) When Your Teen Hates You
Updated: Jun 16
Takeaway: In this post, I explain why teens hate their parents, examine the “hate” that is expressed by teens, what to do when your teen hates you, and things to remember when experiencing this.
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My Teen Hates Me
A parent going through the teenage years with their children can be plain brutal. Daily, you are met with resistance, attitude, talk back, silence, and rejection. One of the questions that I hear often is “Why does my teen hate me so much?” Being a therapist in Orange County, I work with teenagers and parents of teens who struggle with finding common ground and connection in their relationship.
The teenage years are hard, and it can be very taxing on them, as well as their parents. Just when you got the hang of things while they were a toddler and child, you get side swiped by the teenage years. One of your biggest fears may be hearing the words, “I hate you,” from your teen. It is heartbreaking to watch your teen be angry and distant with you. I’m sure all you want is to have a relationship with your teen and a mutual understanding between the two of you. You are tired of arguing and walking on eggshells not knowing what to say to your teen because you don’t want things to get worse.
Have no fear! In this article, I go over why teens hate their parents, how to respond when your teenager hates you, and things to remember so you can stay steadfast in your approach.
Why do Teens Hate Their Parents?
Teenagers are tricky and often difficult to figure out. Most parents are scratching their heads having no idea where to start.
Let’s start with some reasons why teens feel as though they hate their parents:
Teens wanting their independence might push back with their words saying mean things to you or create physical distance between you and them.
Teens not getting their emotional needs met might act out.
Parents projecting their stress and frustration on their teen can lead to teens feeling hate towards the parents.
Parents who are emotionally unavailable and don’t have the capacity to listen to their teen’s emotions can cause hateful feelings.
Teens who receive constant criticism by their parents may respond negatively because they can’t seem to get it right by you.
Parents who aren’t willing to compromise or be flexible with teen’s wants can lead to frustration.
Teenagers who feel responsible for every conflict between them and their parents are filled with anger because they are tired of always taking the blame.
Teens who feel their parents don’t trust them and give them little opportunities nor explanation on why.
Teens who feel their parents are pushing their own agenda on them might push back by doing what they want to do at all costs.
The common reasons above are just a few that might resonate with you. It’s important to look through the list to pick out what might be causing your teen to hate you. Being aware of the possible motivations behind why teens hate their parents is a stepping stone in the right direction. Stay hopeful; it’s possible for you to have a better relationship with your teen.
Is It Really Hate?
Now let’s be honest, when you are sitting there heartbroken and sad wondering if your teen truly hates you, is it really hate that your teenager is feeling towards you?
I want to let you know that your teenager does NOT hate you. Teenagers long to be loved and cared for by their parents. It’s a natural instinct to want to be needed, attended to, supported, and taken care of by your caregiver. So then you might ask, well if my teenager doesn’t hate me then what are they feeling towards me? Great question.
Here are some possible feelings your teen could be experiencing towards you:
Your teenager might feel hurt towards you. There could have been something that was said or done that caused emotional pain. Teenagers who are emotionally hurt might respond by being angry and defensive toward their parents. It’s a way of them letting you know that they are wounded. Your teen doesn’t have the effective communication skills yet to let you know what exactly hurt them and how they would like to resolve it.
Your teenager could be feeling disappointed in themselves or you. Managing disappointment is really hard. There is shame involved and it’s difficult to shake. Some teens tend to respond with anger towards their parents because their expectations of their parents or themselves weren’t met.
When you are wondering why your teen hates you, it’s usually because they feel rejected by you somehow. Maybe in the past, your teenager attempted to talk with you or ask to spend time with you and was met with rejection. Most parents don’t have ill intentions or plans to reject their teen however, your teen can still feel dismissed and not a priority in your life.
With repeated hurt and rejection, your teen’s negative behavior towards you could be a response of loneliness. Feeling lonely is scary because you don’t know when the loneliness will end. “Will my parents ever notice me?” “My parents will never understand me.” “It’s like my parents don’t know I am even there.”
Your teen hating you might be a sign your teenager is overworked and projecting their stress onto you. Sometimes, I see children taking out their negative emotions onto their parents because they know their parents are a safe place to do that with. Even though it doesn’t feel good to be projected onto, your teen is just trying to use whatever available means to let out their emotional energy.
Most teenagers aren’t secure in who they are. It’s normal for teenagers to be figuring out their values, beliefs, who they want to be, their passions, and who they are in relationships. It’s uncomfortable and an insecure time going through the journey of adolescence. They might not like how they look or how they handle their social relationships or stress. Your teenager showing hatred towards you is more than likely a reflection of how they feel about themselves.
At times, your teenager is going to push back against you and it’s going to feel like they hate you. Teenagers are trying to figure out who they are outside of the family unit. This is a healthy and a very important developmental stage to go through. They are trying out what it takes to be an adult and how to make adult-like decisions. If your teenager feels restricted by you, you might be met with resistance to seek out independence away from you.
It’s imperative to go deeper than just thinking your teenager hates you. Hate is a symbolic response to more complex feelings and experiences that have affected your teenager and their relationship with you. Once you have narrowed down the motivations behind your teen’s hatred and dug deeper into why teens hate their parents, the next steps are figuring out how to respond and what to do when your teen says, “I hate you.”
How to Respond When Your Teenager says, “I Hates You”
Your worst fear just came true. In the midst of an argument, your teenager said those three words, “I hate you.” You feel like a knife went straight to the heart. You are shocked and overflowing with emotions.
Some parents respond with anger due to getting triggered by feelings of unappreciation. “How dare you! With everything I have done for you.” Other parents who respond with anger do so by feelings of hurt and guilt. “I hate you too. Why do you have to make things so hard?”
Instead of looking back with regret on how you responded to your teenager saying they hate you, here is what you can say to help you feel more confident in yourself as a parent when dealing with this situation.
1. Acknowledge what they said hurt you.
“Ouch, that was really hurtful.”
Acknowledging what your teen said is hurtful is really important. It sets the stage in showing them that hurtful words are going to cause more distance and damage in the relationship. Highlighting the words “I hate you” can cause emotional harm is going to increase reflection and set boundaries on what is healthy and unhealthy communication skills.
2. Take a moment to think and calm down.
“I need a second to breathe and take a break.”
Showing your teenager that you need space to think clearly and allow yourself to calm your nervous system is great modeling. In the end, you do not want to regret saying or doing something out of spite. Taking a moment to give yourself permission to think about exactly what you want to say in return and tease out the initial “anger” response will only help you become a more balanced parent.
3. Examine the situation.
“It appears we are both really overwhelmed with emotions. Let’s cool off and come back in a little bit.”
It’s helpful to examine the level of tension and conflict that is going on in the room between you and your teenager. Being aware of when the conversation has turned unhealthy and toxic, this may become a space where words and actions will only do more harm than good.
4. Revisit and let them know it’s not okay to express their emotions like that.
“When you are feeling overwhelmed with painful emotions, it is not okay to say those hurtful words to me.”
When the tension has cooled down, it’s important to revisit the conversation. By revisiting the conversation and attempting to resolve the issue, you are showing your teenager that you care about the concerns and are willing to try and come to a resolution. Also, during revisit, you need to let them know that it is not okay to express their emotions by saying “I hate you.” Letting your teen know it’s not okay sets boundaries and teaches them how to treat others.
5. Verbalize healthy ways to express anger
“I feel __ when you __ because___. I would like___.”
Using “I” statements are a great way to illustrate healthy communication. In the heat of the moment, parents verbalizing healthy ways to express frustration and hurt encourages teenagers to do the same.
6. Let them know you love them.
“No matter what you say or do, I love you.”
The most important response after your teenager says, “I hate you,” is meeting them with love and kindness. As parents, you need to let them know you love them no matter what and nothing will change that. Teenagers are desperately needing you to reassure them that you unconditionally love them.
What to Do When Your Teenager Hates You
In the long run, you might be wondering how you can have a better relationship where you don’t feel like your teenager hates you. After becoming more knowledgeable about what is underneath your teen’s hatred towards you, the next step is to come up with an action plan on bring you two closer.
Here I list several things you can do when your teenager hates you:
Strive to understand your teen more than you want to be understood. Your teenager will feel heard and seen when you take the time to understand their perspective.
Say “I’m Sorry”
You are not a perfect parent. No one is. When you do not say sorry for your part in the conflict or disconnection, it sends the message to your teen that you expect them to be perfect. Saying “I’m sorry” shows humbleness and motivation to be better in the relationship with your teen.
Several parents who feel their teens hate them tend to avoid and stay away from their teenager. Avoiding your teenager isn’t going to solve the emotional gap that is between you two. Genuine compliments can help ignite positive energy between parents and teens.
Compromise and show flexibility
Always saying no to your teen’s requests can fuel resentment. However, compromising and having flexibility with your teenager is demonstrating willingness to negotiate with them. The act of negotiation and coming up with a compromise are great opportunities to learn effective communication skills and make good decisions.
Make them feel like a priority in your life
Show your teenager that you are thinking about them and you would like to spend time with them. It is so easy to get caught up in the business of life and your teenager can feel like they are low on the totem pole. Ask yourself, how does someone make you feel special and a priority in their life? Try out those couple of things on your teenager and see what happens.
Give them small opportunities to trust them
Your teen wants you to trust them. As a teen therapist, one of the top responses I get when asked why teens hate their parents is because they feel their parents don’t trust them. Giving your teens small opportunities to build trust is crucial to your teen feeling acknowledged and self-sufficient. You are sending the message that you feel they are capable and good enough to handle these small opportunities to be on their own and make their own decisions.
Nurture their dreams
Their dreams will more than likely not be the same dreams you have for your teen. Take the time and effort to nurture their goals and passions for the future, which can signal to your teenager that you are truly interested in who they are and that you want them to be happy.
All of these strategies will enhance your relationship and connection with your teenager. As a parent, take the time to be intentional with understanding who your teenager is, praise their beautiful qualities, and give them chances to be self-sufficient and independent.
Things To Remember When Your Teen Hates You
There are going to be times where your teenager hates you, whether that means they verbally tell you to your face or they act like they hate you by being distant and aloof. It is heartbreaking and difficult to manage when you and your teenager aren’t on the same page. You might be worrying, “Will our relationship always be like this?”
In this hard time, here are some things I want you to remember when your teen hates you.
Don’t take it personally: Your teenager is trying to figure out all of life’s complexities. Teens are testing out how to communicate their feelings appropriately and effectively. They are testing it out … on YOU. You might feel like a punching bag and that is probably the closest description of what's happening. When you feel hurt by your teenager’s hatred towards you and it’s difficult for you to shake, try and remind yourself to not take it personally. Remember all the struggles, confusion, and hardships you had to face as a teenager and that will help take the focus off of taking their interactions and behavior define you as a parent.
You are doing the best you can: You are a perfectly imperfect parent who has faults and weaknesses. I know you want to have it all together and be the best version of yourself for your children. But let’s be honest, you are doing the best you can with what you are dealing with and what is in front of you. Give yourself grace and compassion. If you are reading this article, you are motivated to make some small changes. Getting down on yourself isn’t going to help you nor your teen. Remember you are doing the best you can and today is a great day to make a couple tweaks to reconnect with your teenager.
They do love you: Most importantly, remember that your teenager loves you even if they don’t show it or say it. Truly your teenager wants a connecting relationship with you where they know you feel proud of the person they are, and they are able to lean on you for support when they need it. When I hear my teen clients discuss their painful feelings they have with their parents and what they wish they had, my response is “you love your parents very much and wish you had a better relationship.” When you feel like your teenager hates you, remind yourself that they are going through something deeper, they are learning the skills to have a healthy interaction and relationship, and they love you too.
Get help with reconnecting with your teenager:
Sometimes no matter what you do, nothing appears to help. At Ashley Hudson Therapy, I help parents and teens heal broken communication and trust by coming together to talk about problems they may be having within their relationship. If you are in California and ready to start feeling better, schedule a complimentary consultation with me today.
In addition, Ashley Hudson is the founder of Illuminate Your Connection LLC, a coaching service that has online courses and products to help parents and teenagers illuminate the relationship they once had.