We Are Family


I Hate You.

I Hate You. - Jordan Whitt 54480 Unsplash

I was at a meeting with non adoptive parents and somebody brought up the fact that their child had screamed ‘I hate you' at them the day before and how hurt she had been by this, almost all of the other parents said that they had experienced the same and the group went on to discuss how difficult it is to hear  and how hurt they had been.

Both our sons have indeed declared their hate for us in fits of anger - as well as the possibly more dramatic ‘you are not my parents anyway’, but neither my partner or I had been hurt or upset.

It certainly had an impact and it felt significant, but we instinctively knew that it was not meant and not at all hateful.

In fact we saw something quite positive in the outbursts, after (at the time) 3 plus years of us being a family, to hear these worlds coming from our sons actually seemed like a badge of honour.

It was evidence to us of just how settled they were (and possibly that they were becoming more attached) to have the confidence to make such statements with the knowledge that it would not affect their relationship with us or jeopardise their placement.

And that is a huge positive to us adopters and consequently certainly nothing to feel bad about.

Of course we tell them that it is not a nice thing to say and that we love them regardless and ‘tough luck’ because they are 'stuck with us forever' (a playful phrase we have always used to help them understand the permanence of the placement).

We strive for many things as adoptive parents and something that is high up on that list is to be seen and treated like any other parent - and by our sons pushing the boundaries and saying inappropriate things to us, they are indeed doing exactly what all the birth children of the parents at the meeting do and regardless of the words we are confronted with - that warms our hearts.

unsplash-logoJordan Whitt

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  • Anna

    I recognise exactly what your talking about - not being upset or hurt by those words my 6yo says it too at times. The first time I was strangely calm. I think all that parenting prep and courses might have done some good after all. Because i felt it was important for him to say. And for me to hear. I could focus on this. All I really needed to do was listen ...
    I too took it as a positive. That may well seem stranger to others.
    thanks for sharing.

  • Robert Hafetz

    When adoptees express rage or hate at parents its most often because the parents are missing attempts to attach. Anger and hate are in no way a positive behavior and must be seen as a serious red flag. The parents are not getting it. Adoptees are attachment compromised by the memory of loss of the birth mother no matter how young they were when this occurs. Attempt to attach are often confusing and misunderstood. It could be bad or annoying behavior. Attachment creates anxiety because adoptees fear the new parents will leave them also. Thats their life experience and that fear drives the anger when its reinforced by any form of punishment, limit setting, rejection, or redirection. Anger can escalate to rage and vengeance especially if the parent engages in a power struggle.
    All behavior is goal directed, purposeful.
    Bring the implicit memory out into the open by asking the child are you afraid, do you feel alone, etc.
    1. Validate the child’s emotions; it’s OK to feel that way. This deescalates the conflict.
    2. Align with the child reach the goal together
    Communicate with eye contact, touch, hugs (ask first), body posture, facial expression, vocal tone, be present in the moment. You must say I love you without the words. Nothing creates attachment better than by being in the moment when the child is in pain targeting the parent.
    3. Encourage, Say I believe in you.

    • Anna

      Gosh - while I hear you - it is a red flag - I would agree with the original post that this 'can be' positive: the child is expressing feeling, and you as the parent have a great chance to connect over it. Once I had this 'I hate you' thrown at me - it was actually directly aimed at the birth mother (not at me as an adoptive mum), from whom he was removed aged 3.5. Saying it out loud, I take as clear positive - because they can say it without the present parent rejecting them for having such strong feelings. It is another huge step in the road to reconsile many conflicting emotions.

    • MM

      Robert, I appreciate that you are commenting from an academic perspective, but it feels that you are making assumptions and jumping to conclusions, which considering the brevity of your advice seems dangerous. I simply do not agree that in no way can this be seen as positive behaviour, the blog clearly says that ‘instinctively we realised that it was not meant and not hateful’ and to assume that an adoptive parent can not recognise that is rather insulting. We live and breath our children and although we always have much to learn - the assumption that we have not learnt anything is incredibly condescending.

      • Anna


  • Robert Hafetz

    When behavior is a problem What parents must do:
    Since emotional change occurs only through experiences the task of the parent is to create an experience when in the moment of the problematic behavior while the memory is unlocked. The experience must be concurrent with and in contradiction to the memory. For example when the child is experiencing fear of attachment, or feels disconnected and isolated, an experience that contradicts that memory must be created. The parent must create an experience in which connection to the family is secure and makes the child feel wanted and loved. The child must experience this on an emotional not a cognitive level. The child must feel securely attached and loved because knowing it will not change the implicit memory. The experience creates a juxtaposition experience that contradicts the memory. When he child’s memory expresses anxiety triggered by feelings of disconnection, loss grief, isolation, or fear of attachment, the current attachment experience must be secure, and unconditional. Both can’t be true which puts the mind in conflict. The human mind must make sense out of dissonance and will modify the implicit memory before it goes back into storage. Eventually through the experience of a warm loving accepting attachment experience the child will develop a secure bond with the parents.

    • M

      I’m not sure that this is the forum for proselytising. It is a space where adoptive families can share experiences and gain support. This kind of pseudo-academic discourse belongs elsewhere.

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