Teen Talk: "So...Your Teen Just Said They Hate You...

Teen Talk - Live

Chris is taking “Teen Talk” on the road. If you are a member of a parent group or responsible for finding engaging speakers for student or youth groups, please contact Chris at www.chrislincoln-speaker.com

I Hate You...

At some point in your interactions with your teenage child, the H-Bomb of statements will be dropped on you. Said with venom that shocks, complete with ire and bile flying, is the statement, “I hate you!”

It wounds to the core, as all you do for the ungrateful child flashes before your eyes. Memories of long and painful childbirth, thousands of diapers, the nights of worry over fevers, the endless drudgery of keeping house, the work you hate doing but tolerate for your child, the list is almost endless. This is the repayment for all your sacrifice?

The unfairness of it all can be debilitating, as what you probably consider the most important thing you do, raising your family, is valued, at that moment, as precisely nothing. It is not too strong to suggest that your very reason for living has been questioned. Your self-esteem implodes. You react with hurt, or anger, or both, and you wonder how you can move on from this point.

Think “Baby Rattlesnake”.

Mature rattlesnakes have the ability to inject just the right amount of venom into prey when they strike. The larger the animal, the greater control over the amount of venom injected. This is important as the venom remains in the prey after death, and the snake has to metabolize the poisons when it eats the prey. Older rattlesnakes can still moderate the amount of venom when startled into striking, which demonstrates a remarkable level of control in an automatic defensive response.

Baby rattlesnakes have no such control. They strike and inject with everything they have, which is considerable: maximum venom, minimum concern for the consequences. In part, this is a fear response. They are small and would make a good meal for raptors. They are at greater risk than the mature adult.

The parallels are remarkably close. The teen has very little control over much of their environment. They are not able to function independently, though their brain desires independence. They become ultra defensive of their perceived personhood, and any interference is attacked automatically.

They strike with words for the most part. There are sad examples where the teens use physical violence against a parent, but normally words would be the weapon of choice. With all sense of control gone, the words used are designed to strike hard, in effect, to kill the argument. There are no steps or stages. The automatic response is to use the most hurtful, most wounding words to hand.

There is absolutely no thought as to how you would feel at that time. Even if the child is aware of the sacrifice and effort you put in, which is unlikely, they could not control the response. This is the ultimate knee-jerk reaction to a perceived threat. The ‘threat’ may be something as simple as reminding them of their obligations to the family. But anything, tidying their room, doing their homework, not going out dressed like that, is perceived as a threat to their ‘freedom’. It is another person’s will superceding their will, and independence is, to a large extent, the application of an individual’s will.

You get a glimpse of this in the aftermath. If the adult can remain in control (I suggest saying nothing in moments like this, if you can), the onus is on the teen to find a way to return to the family. I’ve talked about using a reset button in earlier hubs, but after “I hate you,” additional time is needed.

If the teen stomps off to their lair, (their room, or a friends house,) the much needed space and time are created. They need to lick their wounds (remember at this time they see themselves as the victim in their egocentric universe) and let the shock wear off.

You need to find a place to calm down and wait for the inevitable response. Your child may not be able to say sorry, but once the adrenaline subsides, that is what they want to do. They may have to pretend that the event didn’t happen, in order to reinsert themselves back into the regular flow of the household. They may simply respond by saying nothing, but just physically come into your ‘space’ (often the kitchen for women, the garage for guys), and watch you like a hawk. They are trying to read you, looking for a way back ‘home’.

As the adult, you should take the lead, even if the hurt is still fresh. They probably want to tell you that they love you, or that they are sorry, or that they want to move on. Being the strange creatures that they are, they think that pouting or acting moody will help them do this, counterintuitive as that might seem, but how they react will depend on their individual personalities.

They will all be aware that they crossed a line. Some will be concerned that you no longer love them, a genuine fear of teens, as they vacillate between loving and hating themselves. They don’t know if there is a way back, this is unexplored territory for them. Once again, as the adult you make the sacrifice (even though the teen thinks that the sacrifice is theirs), and rebuild domestic harmony.

Will they ever know how much they hurt you? Probably not, or at least not until they are the adult and it happens to them. Hopefully, they will know about the baby rattlesnake analogy.

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Comments 22 comments

prairieprincess profile image

prairieprincess 6 years ago from Canada

Wow! Very well-written hub that uses a perfect analogy to explain what could be a devastating event. Loved this! :)

smartestkidsever profile image

smartestkidsever 6 years ago

very good spin on why my child would tell me this would make a good post at my discussion page.If you want go there and post it don't be scared to ad your back link to this wonderful hub I think it could help a lot of people out http://tinyurl.com/2eemvwq

Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS

You continue to amaze and delight me with your wisdom! I hope you'll put it all into a book (if you haven't already!)

ChrisLincoln profile image

ChrisLincoln 6 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California Author


Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a possitive comment, and of course thanks for the follow,


Still new to some of the ins and outs of hubbing, and have not figured out backlinks yet. I'll give it a go, and thanks for the suggestion.


Thank you kindly. I'm not sure anyone has attributed wisdom to me - possibly because they read my other hubs first! I'm using the weekly hub as a self imposed structure/deadline to do the core writing for a book(s). I've written one novel and the prospect of tackling another "whole thing" is daunting. Piece by piece seems do-able.

Thank you for being such a faithful reader and commentator.


SMAA parent (now graduated) 6 years ago


I wish I could have read this last year when things were pretty tough at home. It explains alot - maybe when you expand for your book you could answer the question of how the child inately knows what issues/facts to attach their parents; how they know what what things to say for maximum hurt, things that parents don't even say aloud but the kids zero in and vocalize with such tremendous hurt that its extremely hard to forgive.

We're lucky - boarding high school and giving some distance have changed the aforesaid teen into one that calls and writes every day and I hate you and turned in to "love you to bits, call you tomorrow"! Just wish it wasn't such an expensive route to get to this place! Keep writing!

ChrisLincoln profile image

ChrisLincoln 6 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California Author

Thank you for the encouragement. The question as to how they hone in on what hurts the deepest is, I suspect, best answered by refering to their acute observational skills. I'm aware, from my time as a Principal, that the students are keen and accurate observers of their family life. I'd go as far to say you can hide nothing from them, their observations, plus their intuition, helps them see through pretty much everything.

Thanks for the response. You might want to try your hand at writing a hub. You have experiences that might really help others.


lisa rieden 6 years ago

so i guess in this scenario it is not appropriate to cut off their head with the shovel? :)

miss you every day! :) L

ChrisLincoln profile image

ChrisLincoln 6 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California Author

Save it for the real snakes...

(I nearly went there didn't I?)

Miss all of you too, especially the kids,


Sandy Palenske (SMAA parent) 6 years ago

So well written. Thank you. Love Lisa's response. I'll have to control myself not to go with her thoughts when this happens to me :)

ChrisLincoln profile image

ChrisLincoln 6 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California Author


Thank You. And yes it is tough...

But it does end, and sometime in High School or College you get to truly love who they become...


sueroy333 profile image

sueroy333 6 years ago from Indiana

I hate you!

Of course, it's completely out of jealousy over you having written such a great piece! :)

I suppose I will get over it.

Thank you for not chopping my head off.

Excellent one, Chris.

ChrisLincoln profile image

ChrisLincoln 6 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California Author


This is the serious me - impressive huh? Bet you thought I could never put 1000 words down without a joke?


Deanna 6 years ago

Our son has gone beyond this level. He is nearly 14, is now angry all the time and soes not want to get back, but instead get away from those he hates, his parents. He is now trying to do things so we will send him away.

We found that every time he went to a friend's house to get away, it accentuated the trying to get away from us, not the healing wanting to come back. Fis friend was an escape.

ChrisLincoln profile image

ChrisLincoln 6 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California Author


I feel your pain and hope that you have the ability to get professional support. This type of isolation by teens is difficult to understand, and harder to resolve. Their behaviour puts them at great risk from all sorts of predatory individuals, something they simply will not see.

Is there any adult that all of you trust who can mediate?

I write these hubs aiming at the mainstream, but I am well aware that most of these situations can escalate to a point where generalized advice is useless. However, that in itself illustrates where professional help is needed.

I wish you patience and good fortune, and hope you find the support that you all need.


Lilly 6 years ago

Great blog! Have passed this along to my daughters-in-law. Thanks for the wisdom!

ChrisLincoln profile image

ChrisLincoln 6 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California Author


Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. As you can see from some of the comments there are no one size fits all solutions, but I hope that my advice adds to awareness and understanding.


Summer Fish 5 years ago

Thanks for this beautiful article. And my husband thanks you for the entertainment of making fun of me crying over my laptop as I read it. I'm such a sap. But it was beautiful, I'm so amazed at your level of insight.

ChrisLincoln profile image

ChrisLincoln 5 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California Author


Glad to help wherever I can...

TeenDad 5 years ago

The rattlesnake clip is perfect. I'll be ready with my big boots!

ChrisLincoln profile image

ChrisLincoln 5 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California Author


Thanks, you seem to be on a reading marathon this morning. Very glad to have you on board. I just figured out that you were the gentleman I met yesterday. Very glad I gave you my card.


mjmommyx3 profile image

mjmommyx3 4 years ago from Southern New Jersey

My children used to tell me they hated me when they we're little. My son whom now is 21 yrs old, first started it and it hurt to hear him say it! Now we laugh about it, my 19 yr old doesn't speak to me at all, I don't let it bother me at all. I am just letting her " sow her oats" , I know she still loves me deep down in her heart and she will eventually come to see the light. thanks for this hub! I now know I am not the only parent to go through the " I hate you" stage.

ChrisLincoln profile image

ChrisLincoln 4 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California Author


it always helps to know you are not alone!


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