Love-Hate Dynamic With Teens

Love-Hate Dynamic with Teens

What to do when your teen tells you they hate you

Teenage years can be explosive when your teen’s desire for freedom is just a strong as your desire for them to be responsible and safe. This clash of values can create dilemmas. Do you choose the relationship or the rules? There are more options than those two choices, but finding the equilibrium can be challenging. When your teenager expresses resentment, claiming the relationship is hanging by a thread, it's time to pause and reflect.

Taking a Step Back

It can feel like you have to have the answer immediately when you are facing a teen demanding answers of you, but use the line, “I need some time to think about it” to buy yourself some space. If you are finding these heated moments are happening regularly and you are worried about the future, take your own gut instinct seriously and invite in a family therapist to help navigate a healthier path through the tumultuous teenage years. If recent events triggered this surge of anger, assess whether professional help or relying on existing support is the appropriate step. Take a zoomed out look at the circumstances and assess if your teen has strong support from your social network, their own peers and from you. 

Social Support Assessment

Consider the presence of trusted adults in your teen's life. This is the payoff of all of those years in organized sports or spending time with friends and family. Call in the adult that you child has seemed to bond with over time. Allow other adults to join you as your “village” and get their perspective on decisions your teen is considering. If they have relationships with other adults, it's likely they can find support and guidance. However, if your teen is isolated or influenced by unreliable sources, professional therapy can be instrumental in building a supportive network.


Acknowledge your own emotions. It's normal to have moments of intense frustration or hurt with your child's choices. As they get older there are more and more opportunities for parents to experience pouring from an empty cup. You are trying to provide your child with the best childhood possible and give them experiences that you may not have received for yourself. This may look like trying to instill in them a sense of responsibility or stability and protect them from the world that you were not protected from. Notice is you are particularly vulnerable around certain topics or issues with your teen. Staying consistent, firm and loving is difficult if you are processing your own emotions and history. As the adult, taking the initiative for reconciliation is essential. You may even find that you would benefit from your own care to process feelings that are coming up for you so that you can put your best foot forward with your child. If you find yourself in an emotionally strained state, scheduling a session for your teen with an adult offering unconditional positive regard can be a wise choice.

How to Respond

If worse comes to worse and you hear the words, “I hate you,” come from your teen, providing a safe space for them to express their feelings is crucial. Create a safe environment for discussion. Understanding their perspective is key to bridging the gap. Knowing your teen best, you’ll know if they need some space to cool off before continuing the conversation. If you believe your actions hurt your teen deeply, as much as you may want to pull them close or insist they listen to your perspective, allow them space to retreat. Acknowledge their need for distance, offer a sincere apology, and express your readiness to talk when they are ready. Resist the urge to reciprocate hateful words with more negativity. When conflict is actively happening, the plan is always to deescalate. When either of your is triggered or emotional, there will not be much problem solving accomplished. Avoid escalating the situation by refraining from hurtful comments, screaming, or physical aggression. Instead, recognize that your teen is grappling with intense emotions and needs assistance in navigating and expressing them healthily. Remaining neutral and acknowledging your role as their main source of guidance can foster a more effective and nurturing response, bringing you closer despite the challenges.