Everyone grew up with different parenting styles, different forms of discipline and grounding. Me? That look of disappointment was somehow all I needed. I vividly remember how terrifying it was to see that look in my parent’s face- the one that said, “I am so sad you decided to do that.” It would wreck me. My husband, however, did not have the same response to the look. The point is this, not every child is the same. Some are a bit more difficult, some need assertiveness, some need the look. But how to determine what style to use is not why we are here: instead, how do parents handle the child’s reaction? How do we handle the “I hate you’s” and the tantrums? How do we emotionally stand firm in the face of an angry or sad child?
By the grace of God.
Really, the gift of parenting does not come with an expectation of perfection. Nor does the rest of life. In general, most of what we learn is by trial and error; mistakes and repentance; mishaps and growth. So, how do we hear the “I hate you” and the look of frustration or anger in our child’s eyes and still protect our hearts? We first strive to give them grace, the way the Father does for us. Our children are most likely still learning what discipline is or how to navigate disappointment. They are learning that they themselves aren’t perfect and their (and our) natural tendency is to respond in anger. Rebellion is innately wired as we are automatically born into rebellion against God. We are sinners in need of Jesus and in need of Him daily. That doesn’t change for your little one.
So, when they react with anger, sadness, disappointment themselves- remember who you are to them and what that role is. You as their parent are looking out for them, molding them, teaching them, just as our Father does for us. Your role is a humble, serving one where you won’t often get recognition or praise but rather an opportunity to show them God. And that often means discipline. And that means hearing their questions and taking their hits because how often do we shake our fists at God? Are they not doing the same thing to us? If anything, that little fist of theirs means you’re present, you’re trying, you’re loving.
But to get practical, a few thoughts to pray through and think about according to your current parenting stage:
(1) Is your child saved?
Something we often forget is that we want to assume our child has salvation. We forget that he/she too must receive Jesus and produce fruit. So, when we see their rebellion and their hate towards us its easier to take offense because we forget that they might not know Him yet. If they don’t know Jesus, how can we expect them to react and live like Him? We as the parents even struggle with that daily. So, that grace thing really comes in to play here. Give both you and your child grace as you are navigate what you are learning. And remember, most importantly, that you can’t save them. Let that pressure roll off your shoulders and just love them. In the moment of “I hate you” tell them you love them. Let your heart stand firm on your identity in Him.
(2) Reflect on those situations.
Ask yourself and God what you could have done differently? As we’ve already said there is always room to grow. So, maybe you can also learn from that situation on how you can better direct or love your child. But don’t punish yourself for it, learn from it. And if you’re not sure- community! Talk to those in your circle, talk to your pastor- it’s important in parenting to know that you aren’t the only one feeling hated.
(3) Ask yourself how you would handle the situation with a close friend?
How would you love them? How would you communicate with them? I think something we need reminding of is the benefit to looking at your child as not an innocent little one, but instead a soul that needs Jesus. Doing so might help you honestly communicate, teach, and love them better. Because you’d know the end goal to every situation and conversation is to learn the Godly way- to mold further into His image. If we are disciplining like so, we know that that “hate you” is simply the rebellion we mentioned.
There’s no magic sauce to emotionally handling the rejection of our children but I believe that grace and truth are our life-lines in times of need, confusion, and frustration. You aren’t alone in this journey as a parent, and your role in their lives is one of the greatest forms of discipleship- let God take the pressure and just show them Jesus. Your heart will rest on that truth.