Our 9-Year-Old Daughter Screams, 'You All Hate Me!'

Filed under: Expert Advice: Big Kids, Expert Advice: Tweens, Expert Advice: Family Time, Expert Advice: Home Base

Dear AdviceMama,

Our 9-year-old daughter is the picture of sweetness and light when she visits other homes, but at home constantly screams, "Everybody in this family hates me!"

We tell her every day how much she is loved, she has her own room, plenty of toys etc. What's the best way to help her?

Upset Mom

Dear Upset,

As wonderful as it is to tell your daughter that she's loved and provide her with her own room and lots of toys, children feel loved when they know that they are cherished and appreciated for who they are.

Whatever words or material comforts you offer your daughter cannot convey the sense of connection with you that helps her know she is cherished. Feeling loved is intangible, fueled by a child's sense that who they are -- as is -- lights up our hearts.
When was the last time you invited your daughter to go for a walk or play a game of UNO, just the two of you? How often do you tell her how much you love the way she tells a joke, or how you adore the tinkly sound of her laugh? Parents can get so caught up in the endless tasks of parenting that they forget how badly their children long to be seen and enjoyed by those most important to them.

I'm not surprised to hear that your girl is sweet and happy at other people's homes. Kids are almost always on their best behavior when they're not on their familiar turf. When she's at home, her defenses are down, which is why she reveals her unhappy side to you.

After spending a bit of good time together, ask her to describe what goes on when words like, "Everybody hates me!" come out of her mouth. Don't try to convince her that she's wrong, or prove that her unpleasant behavior makes it hard to be nice to her; just listen with warmth and empathy.

If you can hang in there, she'll eventually reveal the heart of the issue, whether it's difficulties at school, frustration about sharing your attention with her siblings, or an insecurity that her personality isn't as easygoing as the other members of the family. By truly listening to her and fortifying your connection, you'll give your daughter the precious gift of knowing without question how much she is loved.

Yours in parenting support,

AdviceMama, Susan Stiffelman, is a licensed and practicing psychotherapist and marriage and family therapist. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in developmental psychology and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology. Her book, Parenting Without Power Struggles, is available on Amazon. Sign up to get Susan's free parenting newsletter.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.