When Your Daughter Says She Hates You

My eldest and I have always had a fiery relationship. I might have 30 years more experience at controlling my temper, but she has an uncanny ability to hit me where it hurts. We can go from peaceful to shouting at each other in a matter of seconds. I know she loves me, but from just a few years old she has used me as an emotional (and occasionally physical) punch bag.

An 8 year old on her iPod touch which can be a cause of family friction and loss of temper
The iPod touch is a common trigger for arguments with my 8 year old

I don’t doubt that it’s normal for children to tell their parents they hate them, but I thought we might get to the teenage years first. Being a daughter of divorced parents my eldest daughter has the added weapon when angry that she can threaten she no longer wants to live with me and she wants to be with her Dad instead. From early on in our separation her father and I shared childcare 50:50 and since lockdown started this has meant she spends a week with me and then a week at her Dad’s. At least once every stay here she has a bad day and yells "I want to go to my Dad's" or "I don't want to live here anymore". I have told her if she really doesn’t want to come here anymore she needs to speak to her Dad about it, but so far they have been empty threats. 

What happens when parents live together? When children have had enough of their families where do they threaten to run off to? I’ve heard many stories over the years of toddlers through to teens packing a bag and attempting to head out the front door. Often the child is too young to have a clue where they are going or how to get anywhere and they pack an odd assortment of essentials. As M gets older I at least have the confidence she knows how to walk to her Dad’s house, but that wouldn’t make me worry any less if I found she had gone. 

For the time being at least I know her threatening to leave is an empty threat; often she will storm upstairs and we will hear her bang her cupboards open and shut while she packs a bag. I know this is just to get a reaction because when she goes to her Dad’s at an arranged time she doesn’t take a bag and she has a duplicate of everything she needs so there is no need to pack.

"Can I go on my iPod?"

What has been the biggest cause of our recent arguments? Her iPod touch.

We held off giving M her own device for a long time because when she was younger she would get a little lost in the iPad and we would see a negative impact on her behaviour when she used it too much. At age 8 we gave in and she used birthday and Christmas money to buy her iPod touch. A key reason was to allow her access to more music than was available on her older model iPod and we thought she was now old enough she would be able to look after it safely.

iPod touches work pretty well for children. They are cheaper than an iPad and Apple allows you a good amount of control as a parent over what can be accessed and when. Through Family Sharing and a child account M has to have my permission to download any apps or purchases. I have also set up downtime when she can’t access any games, she can only access specified websites and she has a maximum amount of time on certain apps (eg YouTube Kids) each day. I can control this either directly on her iPod via a separate password or on any of my devices so she doesn’t even need to let me near her iPod. Pretty much my only problem with the device itself is the battery life, but at least that limits how long it is used for.

There have been some bonuses to M having an iPod touch. I particularly like that she and I can communicate via iMessage eg when I have been stuck upstairs with the baby I can ask her to do something for me or remind her it’s the for bed. She can ask me questions and has sent some really sweet messages. And then there are the times she is angry and lashing out when I get messages like:

“You are poo head”
“I hate you hate hate hate You are mean and horrible so get lost meanie right now”
“You are the worst mother ever”

All of which I have received this week and they hurt. I know she doesn’t mean it, and later she is embarrassed by her messages, but I don’t find it so easy to forgive and forget.

I shouldn’t hold grudges against an upset child, I should just move on, but when your children say they hate you it hurts. I am trying to help her to understand that words (said out loud or written) have consequences. I will always love her, but others might not be forgiving. 

The amount of time she has spent on her touch, and how often she asks for it, has increased a huge amount since her school closed. I would love to have a week or so small screen detox to help her become less dependent again. We did detoxes when she was younger and after a day or so protest she would stop asking for the iPad. But now it’s not fair on her sister who manages her iPad time better and is using various educational apps to help with Maths and Phonics. The school set M work via an app too which makes it hard to just ignore it for a week. Then there is the bonus that time on devices is a guaranteed way to give me some quiet time when Baby Boy naps. A week without small screens would be just as painful for me as it would her. 

Give me space

With 5 of us living in a 3 bedroom house we don’t have a lot of space for ourselves. My daughters share a room and we all have to make compromises in our living space. My youngest wants to join in his sisters’ games but he doesn’t yet have the physical or mental development. My middle child loves to explore so nowhere and nothing is safe from her investigation. M and I have both lost countless make up, toys and products which have been broken while she discovers how they work.

We all need time out at times. We all need a safe space. 

My partner gets lost in games on his phone or PC, staying up far too late once the rest of us are in bed.
I escape to go for a run because while I’m in the house I can never really be off duty.
For M it’s music, games, reading and YouTube. As much as I curse them for the impact of her creativity and the rise in claims that she’s “bored”, they are also key to her mental health.
Even my 4 year old will storm off to her room when angry or in need of alone time. 

I suspect my daughters are both extroverts like me and I am grateful because a houseful of introverts who need more time alone to recharge might be harder to manage, but a 3 bedroom house shouldn’t be too small for 5 people should it? It wasn’t so long ago that larger families would share smaller houses and they managed without insisting they needed their own bedroom or getting lost in technology. Were there howling arguments in those days too? Storming off and slamming of doors? Maybe the greater freedoms and rights for children have created a sense of entitlement that didn’t previously exist?

Many people have reported that since lockdown began their children have become more clingy and cuddly. While families may have explained coronavirus to their children in different ways it is inevitable they will feel some level of insecurity from all the changes. While these confusing times cause conflict and high emotions, they have also created a need to reconnect with those we love and hold them close for fear of losing them. I am trying my hardest to keep my family safe and provided for in our little bubble. I guess that might be why my daughter’s cruel messages hurt more now than in the past.

My daughter on the other hand has lost much of her freedom, social interactions and control so when anything else is threatened (even if that’s access to her iPod) the full force of her anger about the state of the world is targeted at me. She doesn’t hate me, she hates that she can’t do what she wants, see who she wants and live the life she wants. I am taking away the tool for her forgetting the current challenges as well as one of the few things she has control over. I guess a lost temper is understandable.

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