The Preschooler has somehow picked up the phrase 'I HATE YOU' and will throw it at us whenever he feels we have done him a disservice. This is new to us. Things One & Two have never uttered this. We've always explained things such as the true meaning of words and to mean what you say. They know that they may strongly dislike something or someone but the chances are they don't actually hate them and vice versa with the term love. So it's somewhat trifling as to where The Preschooler garnered this phrase from that he throws around so readily. It seems we're having to go around this development somewhat arse over tit insofar as to say rather then emphasising the words power and meaning we're having to simultaneously strip it of it too. Why is this parenting lark never simple?
So how do you react to a three year old declaring that he hates you, or his siblings?
Things One and Two have that instinctive response of 'I hate you too' to which we have to insist they refrain from using, because they don't...hate him, not really. They'll readily admit this when they think about it because that's part of what we're doing, trying to make them think about what they say. To only say something if they mean it. It's like when The Preschooler states 'You're not using my crayons, EVER again!' their instinct is to respond with 'well you're not allowed to use my [whatever] then!' Which isn't terribly helpful. rather than diffuse the situation it merely ignites it. It's teaching The Preschooler that his initial declaration was the right thing to do, that this is how we operate. This is how we treat each other and that too not share out of spite is acceptable.
I'll admit I'm working blind here but I respond to the infamous 'I HATE YOU.' with something along the lines of 'well that's a shame because I love you' I feel it's important to face adversity with security. That he realises no matter what he says, I still love him and he can't make me stop that. It often diffuses the situation. Other times I may reply with 'Oh, that makes Mummy feel sad as she loves you very much' which I feel, subtly without reproach, expresses the effect his words can have on others feelings whilst still re-enforcing that he is loved regardless. Most of all it's accepting what he's saying. I may not like it or agree with it and hell, I don't even think he means it but it's important that he feels his thoughts and feelings are valid. Often we reflect more upon them once they're accepted.
Nine times out of ten within ten minutes he'll either spontaneously tell me he loves me or ever start a conversation with me. With the latter I'll occasionally respond with 'oh but I thought you hated me?' A rather sincere little voice will then tell me 'I don't really' he's had time to reflect on what he's said without being made too.
His other favourite phrase mid rage is 'I'm not talking to you anymore! ' usually said when you're trying to explain something to him. My usual response is an 'okay'. It's frustrating yet I know if I rise to the bait to make him stay and discuss something it will ignite. The lack of reaction is what diffuses this ticking bomb. Predictably within five minutes he'll start a conversation, this is where I remind him of his previous actions 'Oh but I thought you weren't talking to me? ' It's subtle and silent but this is where the penny drops and he realises the ramifications of his words and offers an indignant little 'But I am now! '
Often the above scenario is accompanied by a quality sulk. Usually if I'm trying to have a conversation with him or get him to do something I've asked of him the 'I'm not talking to you! ' is accompanied by him storming off to sulk somewhere. The Little diva even slams doors en route. The huntress within me is raging and indignant. How dare he walk away when I'm talking to him? ! How dare he refuse to pick the pens up that he threw! It goads me to chase and confront. To hunt him down until he submits.
And that urge? That instinctive indignant drive is exactly what fuels his behaviour yet how on earth is he to learn to control it if I can't as an adult? Instinct is a powerful thing and we shouldn't smother it, the learning curve is that we shouldn't always act upon it.
Practising restraint I have to use the ancient art of patience. Not something that comes naturally to me so it's no surprise that with inheriting my explosive temper they'll also inherit my lacking patience.
Now it's the waiting game. Usually he'll either return with a sincere little 'sorry' or else he will ask something un connected.
If it's the former I'll ask him to tell me why he's sorry. It's important to establish whether he's understood what's happened or whether he just feels it's something he should say. Often he'll surprise me and relay what happened.
If it's the latter I'll calmly state that I'll happily talk after he's picked the pens up. This option he dislikes. It's important that whilst I'm not conversing with him I'm also not completely ignoring him as I feel ignoring is counter productive. To close communication channels completely is sending out a harmful message which could have repercussions on how and what your child communicates to you in the future.
However, I will firmly refuse to engage meaningfully until he's addressed the issue and embarked upon its resolution.
So for now it's the 'I hate you's' and the 'I'm not talking to you's' with the door slammings and sulks. Yes, he's a diva but he's our diva. He's also just a four year old learning how to deal with strong emotions and concepts. It's inevitable that he'll have to push some boundaries in the process. It's intrinsic that he feels secure enough to be able to do this. To know that although his reactions may not always be acceptable, they are valid.
He's learning important life lessons here like people piss you off and likewise you probably piss them off too.
And that's okay.