HOW TO HANDLE “I HATE YOU MUMMY!”



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Hearing these words for the first time from your sweet, innocent ‘baby’ is pretty gutting really.

I had asked my 7-year-old to start tidying away the Lego as it was bedtime soon, and he replied, “No Mummy, I’m still building this.”   I could hear he was fairly cross and passionate, and so thinking I was being quite reasonable, I said, “Okay, five minutes then, shall I put the timer on?”

But instead of a nice rational “Okay Mummy” (ever hopeful I am!) or even a reluctant grunt of assent, I got a “No Mummy, not FIVE MINUTES.  That’s NOT ENOUGH. I want MORE than that, I HAATE YOU MUMMYYY!”

It sounds a bit dramatic, but I was so surprised I did a kind of cartoon-style, slow motion recoil and stifled gasp of horror, and felt my heart inwardly freeze as though I’d been struck by Elsa’s ice powers.  (If this last bit makes no sense, consider yourself extraordinarily blessed).

But on some level, I recognised that a reaction of this intensity couldn’t be related solely to this specific interaction (i.e. there was other stuff going on for him) and so I was able to pause and just about gather myself.

Although not before ALL of the following ran through my head in a high-speed, back-to-back, potentially crazy-making loop:

‘How dare he say that to me, that is not how you talk to your parents.’

‘I would never have said that to my parents, jeez I’ve totally lost control and messed up this discipline thing.’

‘Shit, he’s never said that before, where did he get that from??’

‘Hmmm, weird.  He’s been playing happily all afternoon, where has this come from, what did I do/not do to get to this all of a sudden.’

‘Oh God, maybe it’s because I’ve been letting him watch and read things too advanced for his age and this is where he’s got it from.’

‘That’s it, all this connection, respectful, peaceful parenting malarkey is all a load of old tosh and clearly does NOT work.’

‘Oh shite, I think I just started too late with him, all this changing around of parenting style I’ve been doing has just totally screwed him up.’

‘Oh no, he actually hates me and I’ve totally failed as a parent.’

‘What if he hates me forever and grows up never wanting to speak to me and thinks I’m the worst parent in the world.’

‘Er, shit, he’s looking at me, I can see he’s waiting for a response, er, what do I say to this??’

‘And his siblings are watching too, this is an important, teachable moment that will set a precedent for years to come…aaargh..’

So, what did I do??

A great big choking sort of half-laugh, half-snort.

A pretty unhelpful nervous reaction, release-my-own-tension thing that I have a terrible habit of doing in these sorts of moments.

Quite obviously, this was not a good move.  To him it came across as disrespectful, patronising and invalidating the strength of his feelings.  I was inadvertently doing what Daniel Siegal describes as ‘poking the lizard’; enraging the primitive part of his brain such that the connections to his logic and rational thinking were even further lost.

Instantly recognising this and feeling a bit sheepish, I attempted to backtrack.  Something along the lines of “Eeek, you sound so mad!  You must be feeling so angry in there to say that to me.”  And then, having learned that, for him, it’s best not to talk or say too much when he’s feeling overwhelmed, I mainly just stayed near and listened whilst he shouted and raged and kicked at things.   He then started to run away, slam doors and tell me he wanted to be left alone (not true).  I backed away a little but stayed close enough that he knew I was still there.

Fortunately, I had the time and head space to let his feelings run their course.  After ten minutes or so (sounds short, feels like a life time) he stopped yelling, and sat looking glum.  I opened my arms to invite him for a cuddle but he shook his head.  We sat there for a few more minutes and then he picked something up he’d made earlier and began to explain what it did.  The storm had passed, just like that.

We never got to the bottom of why my simple request triggered such vitriol, but it really doesn’t matter.  It helped him to clear something, unload something.   Whether that was just scratching the surface of a big emotional project or it was the more superficial gunk of the days residues was also hard to tell.  But no matter.  Afterwards, you could see a weight had been lifted and he looked visibly happier.  He was also pretty cuddly, which I interpreted as reparation for his apparent earlier dislike of me 😉 .  It possibly wasn’t but hey, just humour me on this one 😉

So maybe you’re wondering why I didn’t punish him, yell back, or at least admonish him for unacceptably disrespectful behaviour??

Find out here by downloading my FREE ebook “8 Steps For Handling Tantrums and Emotional Outbursts”.

HAVE YOU DOWNLOADED YOUR FREE STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO HANDLING TANTRUMS & EMOTIONAL OUTBURSTS?

Would you like to know how to deal with the screaming and lashing out peacefully?  Without yelling or punishing or tearing your hair out?

GET THIS FREE EBOOK NOW
HI! I'M DR. NICOLA FARR

HI! I'M DR. NICOLA FARR

I'm a mama of 3 and a parenting coach specialising in picky eating and mealtime stress.

I'm passionate about inspiring parents to enjoy mealtimes & help their children develop a healthy long-term relationship with food.

See here for the services I offer or email me for more info.  You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram.

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TEMPERAMENT & FUSSY EATING: IS YOUR CHILD A ‘SUPERTASTER’?

DO YOU HAVE A PICKY EATER?  DO YOU SOMETIMES BLAME  YOURSELF FOR YOUR CHILD'S FUSSY EATING? Please don't. I know it can sometimes seem like everyone else's children eat everything and yours just won’t. But it's really not true - limited food choice is extremely common...
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Read More

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HOW TO HANDLE “I HATE YOU MUMMY!”

Hearing these words for the first time from your sweet, innocent ‘baby’ is pretty gutting really.
I had asked my 7-year-old to start tidying away the Lego as it was bedtime soon, and he replied, “No Mummy, I’m still building this.” I could hear he was fairly cross and passionate, and so thinking I was being quite reasonable, I said,

Read More

DO YOU HAVE A FUSSY EATER? ARE YOU FED UP WITH MEALTIMES?

 

 

Click here to apply

 to join my
6 week, one-to-one, Fuss-Free Eating for Life coaching programme

 

 

APPLY NOW

IS YOUR PARENTING UP-TO-DATE? (WITH THE LATEST BRAIN SCIENCE)

It is probably true to say that most of us were brought up by parents who expected and enforced a pretty high degree of obedience and conformity to rules, and they did so by liberal use or threat of punishments and/or consequences.

There is no judgement or blame whatsoever intended here; this was the norm, and it was undoubtedly largely done with the best of intentions and considered necessary and important in order to raise ‘good’ children and citizens.

But huge leaps in our understanding of how the brain works have revealed that there is not a scrap of truth to this.  We now know exactly what growing brains need to thrive – and threats, punishment, and coercion of any kind is the exact opposite of it.

And so just as we wouldn’t consider using a 1970’s text book to learn about modern-day physics, it would surely make similarly little sense to parent using out-dated parenting theories i.e. our own parent’s model?

And yet, this is still widely the case.

Why?

Well, one reason I guess is that the research findings are relatively new, continuously evolving and have not been comprehensively shared and become main-stream.  This is definitely an important factor.

But it is also the case that we automatically repeat our own parent’s parenting with very little thought.  Our experience as children hard-wires us to repeat how we were parented, and it takes an awful lot of self-awareness and huge desire to re-wire and overrule this pattern. 

Which is why our default parenting style also tends to involve a fair amount of yelling, coercing, rewarding and punishing.   And why we are inclined to relentlessly continue with this approach, despite feeling frequently exasperated and fed up when it doesn’t work or our kids resist and rebel.

We need an incredibly compelling reason then, to make changes.  We need to be utterly convinced that there is an approach that will help our kids to turn out way better than the ‘fine’ that many of us (lucky ones) use to describe ourselves and our upbringing.

AND THE FINDINGS FROM RECENT BRAIN STUDIES DO PRECISELY THAT.

 

They tell us exactly what developing brains do need and exactly what they don’t need.  These are not theories or hypotheses, or poorly controlled studies, they are stone cold facts. 

If you want to be properly convinced and to get an easy-to-digest but comprehensive overview of all of this knowledge as it pertains to parenting, please grab yourself a copy of Daniel Siegal and Tina Payne-Bryson’s extremely awesome ‘The Whole-Brain Child’.

In the meantime, here’s a brief summary of four of the key findings to help bring you up-to-date: 

 

 

1. RATIONAL THINKING IS NOT FULLY DEVELOPED UNTIL AROUND AGE 25

 

Babies are born with primitive instincts (brainstem) and an intact emotional centre (limbic system) which houses the full range of emotions.   But the rational, logical thinking part of their brain (neocortex) and the billions of neural pathways that interconnect this area are not fully developed until the mid-20s. 

 

What does this mean for parenting?

 

Children do not have the same capacity as adults to rationalise, ‘see reason’ or calm and soothe themselves.  They can appear crazed and illogical sometimes, because, well brain-wise they actually are.  The development of many important brain functions take a LONG time and a lot longer than was previously thought.

It also helps us to understand that a child (or an adult for that matter) having a meltdown or tantrum cannot be reasoned with, negotiated with or ‘behave’ because you ask/tell them to.   Drs. Siegal & Bryson state that “…it’s not that they won’t behave, it’s that they quite literally can’t behave.”

Our job then is to use our fully integrated adult brain to guide the development of our children’s rational brain.  In particular, we need to act as their external rationality during the times that they do not have this capability.  For example, to plan ahead to help avoid overload, and to step in and stop them hurting themselves, others or their environment.  This forms the basis of setting limits and the way we do this is crucial to development (see here).

2. YOUNG BRAINS ARE EXTRA SENSITIVE TO FEAR AND STRESS

 

This physiological immaturity means children are very easily emotionally overwhelmed.  When they experience big feelings like fear, sadness and anxiety, these are experienced as a ‘threat’ and their brain goes quickly into the primitive, emergency fight-flight-freeze mode.   In this state, even any connections to their thinking brain that have begun to be established are immediately shut down.

 

What does this mean for parenting?

 

When we scare children by shouting, threats, punishment or other coercive methods it fundamentally threatens their sense of connection, and they literally stop being able to think.  Their sensitive stress detector views us as a threat and it takes much longer to help them feel safe again, calm down and re-establish connection to their rational brain.

Punishing or disciplining an emotionally distraught child who already cannot think teaches them nothing in the long-term.  It might appear to ‘work’ but this is because the child has been scared into obedience and not because of an internal understanding or desire to please or take responsibility.

A punished child will absorb that hitting is okay as long as he’s not caught doing it, and so it won’t address the underlying motivation.  True understanding of right and wrong has to come from modelling respect and empathy, and teaching through problem-solving.

A parental response that is calm and compassionate sends the signal that they are not a threat; you are on their side.  Staying low and using a soft tone are other examples of how to appeal to their rational brain to help override the primitive, self-protective reactive part.

3. GENES DELIVER A BLUEPRINT FOR THE BRAIN, BUT THE EARLIEST  MESSAGES WE RECEIVE HAVE A HUGE IMPACT 

 

Young brains have enormous plasticity, which is the ability to easily adapt to and be shaped by the environment and experiences.   All of our interactions, positive or negative, affect the way the brain grows and is wired, and the kind of people they will become.

What does this mean for parenting?

 

Responding calmly, kindly and respectfully signals to our children that the universe is friendly, and repeatedly doing so actually wires the brain to establish this.  Treating them this way “means that we’re not only stopping a bad behaviour or promoting a good one, but also teaching skills and nurturing the connections in our children’s brains that will help them make better decisions and handle themselves well in the future.  Automatically.  Because that’s how their brains will have been wired.”   (Drs. Siegal & Bryson)

If we coerce, shout at and scare our children, they will learn that this is the way of the world and is ultimately how they will treat others.  A volatile, aggressive child is just a very hurt, disconnected child who has found the only way they can to defend against the pain and fear of feeling fundamentally unsafe and insecure.  Without help, these negative patterns will also become hard-wired.

4. THERE IS SCIENCE IN TEARS

 

Recent research findings now confirm that there are physiological reasons for crying.  Tears have been found to contain the stress hormone, cortisol, which is produced when the fight-flight response is activated.  Once safety is returned, crying is how the body gets rid of this build-up and heals itself.

What does this mean for parenting?

 

In short, that crying is often a good thing.   Not something we should be scared of or worried about and try to avoid at all costs.

Babies, of course, cry to signal distress and to get their basic needs met.  But what is less widely understood is that they also cry to heal their distress.

They are having to cope with and deal with a lot; their brains are developing at an extraordinary rate and they are bombarded with massive amounts of novel stimulation and environmental stressors.

But rather than being able to say things like ‘It made me jump and scared me when that door banged’ or ‘Another child snatched a toy from me at nursery’, they keep all this tension stored inside.  At some point once they feel safe again, their incredible body will find a way to trigger crying to release this stress and cortisol build-up.

As they get older and can more adeptly express their needs, most of children’s crying can be viewed this way; as an emotional healing process.  So our instinct and conditioning to interrupt or stop crying as quickly as possible (because of our own distress) is not always helpful and can often prevent natural healing from occurring.

If they are rarely allowed to fully finish crying on their own terms, they will continually be looking for new opportunities to release all the emotional gunk they have stored up – often in the form of behaviours such as whining, picking fights and getting upset over ‘irrational’ things.

Just as we often feel ‘better’ and a release of tension after a good cry, so do our children.  Like us, they mainly do not need anything fixed or ‘done’ or ‘made better’ – they just need to be given the space and safety to emote and feel truly heard. 

For brevity’s sake, I have barely scratched the surface of this huge and important topic.  If this information and approach is entirely new to you it can feel quite ‘big’ to take in at first, so I highly recommend exploring it further.  Here and here are two excellent resources to start off with, and for more about brain-science and parenting here is the link to ‘The Whole-Brain Child’ resource mentioned above.

And to get the latest from me and more posts like this, please do sign up to my mailing list using the form below:

HI! I'M DR. NICOLA FARR

HI! I'M DR. NICOLA FARR

I'm a mama of 3 and a parenting coach specialising in picky eating and mealtime stress.

I'm passionate about inspiring parents to enjoy mealtimes & help their children develop a healthy long-term relationship with food.

See here for the services I offer or email me for more info.  You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram.

FUSSY EATER MYTH #5: YOU KNOW EXACTLY HOW MUCH YOUR CHILD NEEDS TO EAT

It's true that we have an incredible understanding now of what is required nutritionally-speaking for optimum health. But there is concern amongst many health professionals that parents are frequently vastly over-estimating the amount of food children can and/or need...
Read More

WANT LESS STRESSFUL MEALTIMES? WANT TO STOP WORRYING ABOUT YOUR FUSSY EATER?

(This article was originally posted on the Mother Tribe blog on 22.04.17) A doctorate in child development and years of working with children and families did not prepare me for the sheer frustration and stress of feeding my own family. Three different children with...
Read More

FUSSY EATER MYTH #4: CHILDREN REFUSE TO TRY NEW FOODS BECAUSE THEY ARE STUBBORN OR ‘TESTING’ BOUNDARIES

Without doubt children have very different personalities and some are much more on the feisty end of the scale than others, but this is NOT directly related to refusing to try or eat a particular food.  Passive, laid back children can be just as fussy when it comes to...
Read More

FLEXIBILITY IS ONE OF YOUR BEST MEALTIME FRIENDS

I remember reading something a while ago along the lines of, whenever you think you know or understand something always leave a space next to it in your brain for new information.  I’ve probably totally trashed a beautiful quote there and unfortunately, I have...
Read More

FUSSY EATER MYTH #3: YOU NEED TO MAKE FOOD MORE EXCITING & TRY SPECIAL RECIPES

You've seen these websites and resources, right? The ones that are aimed at helping you with your fussy eater that focus predominantly on recipes...recipes that even the fussiest of fussy eaters are allegedly 'guaranteed' to eat. Except even after you spend ages...
Read More

TEMPERAMENT & FUSSY EATING: IS YOUR CHILD A ‘SUPERTASTER’?

DO YOU HAVE A PICKY EATER?  DO YOU SOMETIMES BLAME  YOURSELF FOR YOUR CHILD'S FUSSY EATING? Please don't. I know it can sometimes seem like everyone else's children eat everything and yours just won’t. But it's really not true - limited food choice is extremely common...
Read More

FUSSY EATER MYTH #2: FUSSINESS STARTS AT AROUND 12-MONTHS-OLD AS BABY BECOMES MORE WILFUL

Well, it is certainly true that it is frequently around about this age that parents start to regret having told everyone that their child loves food and is such a ‘good’ eater. Very often it can seem like overnight they go from eating everything in sight to refusing...
Read More

WHAT’S MAKING YOUR CHILD ‘FUSSY’ WITH FOOD?

The trouble with many articles offering expert opinions about fussy eating and mealtime stress is that they tend to offer a couple of generic, one-sized fits all ‘solutions’ and fail to take into account that there are many different types of ‘fussy eater’ and quite a...
Read More

FUSSY EATER MYTH #1: YOUR CHILD MUST EAT A RAINBOW COLOURED PLATE AT EVERY MEAL

If you present your child with a beautifully colourful, perfectly balanced plate of food at every meal and they willingly gobble it all down - wow, consider yourself extremely blessed! But if not, try not to sweat it. This is very common for all children, not just the...
Read More

WEANING YOUR BABY: 4 ESSENTIAL TRUTHS FOR LONG TERM FUSS-FREE EATING

(This article was originally posted on at http://mammainpearls.com/weaning-your-baby/ on 03.04.17) Very often when it’s time to take the exciting leap to the weaning stage, our focus is so much on the present that we forget to think about the longer-term eating...
Read More

HERE’S HOW MANY EASTER EGGS I LET MY KIDS EAT..

When you SPECIFICALLY request a trusted relative NOT to buy chocolate for your kids for Easter (but a small inedible present instead)...and they do it anyway. And not even a small one; a very large, indulgent-looking one each. THIS I find mega frustrating. And...
Read More

INSISTING ON ‘TASTING’ IS NOT THE ANSWER TO PICKY EATING

Imagine that you popped over to my house for a cuppa and I put a plate of snacks in front of you. And then instead of saying, "Here, help yourself!" I said, "Look at this yummy food I've got for you, try it! Have some! Just one little bite, go on, I'll give you a...
Read More

WHEN THEY DON’T EAT WHAT YOU KNOW THEY LIKE…

"But you LOVE chicken and rice! Here, have some chicken and rice!" "Don't like chicken and rice." "Yes you DO, you ate a whole bowlful the other day!" Do you ever find yourself having this sort of crazy-making conversation with your toddler or child? You kind of know...
Read More

MY JOURNEY TO FUSS-FREE EATING

I think even as a very young child I knew deep down that being ‘forced’ to eat and rigid mealtime rules just weren't right. I remember sitting at the dining table feeling so confused; I wasn't particular hungry, I'd eaten all the ‘nice’ bits on my plate, and just the...
Read More

HOW TO HANDLE “I HATE YOU MUMMY!”

Hearing these words for the first time from your sweet, innocent ‘baby’ is pretty gutting really.
I had asked my 7-year-old to start tidying away the Lego as it was bedtime soon, and he replied, “No Mummy, I’m still building this.” I could hear he was fairly cross and passionate, and so thinking I was being quite reasonable, I said,

Read More

DO YOU HAVE A FUSSY EATER? ARE YOU FED UP WITH MEALTIMES?

 

 

Click here to apply

 to join my
6 week, one-to-one, Fuss-Free Eating for Life coaching programme

 

 

APPLY NOW

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