Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I don't love you Mama!

Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting advice!

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month we're writing letters to ask our readers for help with a current parenting issue. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


I love my daughter! She's my first child and now 5 years old. She turned me into a happy breastfeeding, baby wearing, co-sleeping mama and she's the apple of my eyes. When she was 4 (at the arrival of her brother!), she started to write notes that she would leave in front of her door after a tantrum or an argument, like those: I don't love you, You don't love me and NO!
I don't love you mama, 4 yo

You don't love me, 4 yo
NO, 4 yo

So here we are, my daughter sharing her feeling of anger, sadness, frustration and resistance. The first time she told me that broke my heart! Oh boy, am I ready for that? and how to react? The same way that my parents? (a smack on my face and punished?) or what? My daughter doesn't feel loved when she doesn't get it her way... She cries a lot! If she's allowed to express her feelings, does it mean she's spoiled, and disrepectful? Am I a good mother? What to do? When she gets into that mood, I ask her how she feels: sad? frustrated? angry? She tells me and then we talk about it and we hug and kiss. I want her to know that her feelings and needs are important but at the same time she has to be a team partner and follow some rules. It isn't easy to raise kids, but this is what I get when she calms down:

And it makes me think of this quote:
Remember, you are not managing an inconvenience; You are raising a human being ~ Kittie Franz


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

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(This list will be updated by the end of the day April 13 with all the carnival links.)


  1. I think you are handling it wonderfully. You don't give in to her wants, but you talk about her feelings afterwards.

    I remember telling my mother once that I hated her when I was little and she slapped my face and told me never to say it again. While I understand her reaction, it caused us to never have a relationship where I could tell her what a am feeling. So my family lived years with keeping everything bottled up inside. My older brother (26 years old) just felt brave enough to tell her he has been seeing a counsleor for a few years. Not the kind of relationship I want with my kids. So let her feel what she is feeling. And then talk with her about it.

  2. My son is only 2 1/2 so I can't yet relate, but I do remember being 5. I wish my mom had been able to help me talk about my anger and frustration with her/life/the rules/whatever like you're able to do with your daughter. So often we stamp out kid's "negative" emotions when all they really need from us is channeling and understanding. Teaching kids to not feel their emotions is a dangerous road to go down. I think you're doing a great job leading them down the better path :) I hope I keep it together like you when it happens to me!

  3. Alexandra and Jessica, thank you for your comments. I too think it is vital for our children to be able to express and understand their negative feelings. i was smacked and spanked for hurting my parents feelings. I don't want my kids not to be able to be themselves because they fear my reaction...

  4. Have you read Aldort's Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves? It has some excellent advice for dealing with our kids' strong feelings. In a nutshell, Aldort advises parents to use the SALVE method. S: first separate themselves from the child's behavior/emotions. Don't say the first thing that pops into your mind. A: shift your attention to your child. L: listen to your child. V: validate your child's feelings without dramatizing or adding your own perceptions. E: empower your child to resolve his own upset. I'd really recommend picking up the book - it's given me a lot of insight!

  5. It is important not to think as a "me" when tantrum occurs and I have to admit that I wish I had read this book BEFORE my daughter first started to show us she was a hyper kid! lol! Thank you Dionna, I am definitively adding this book to my list, baby boy looks like he's a hyper too!

  6. I think the very fact that she's drawing her feelings is a sign that you're doing a wonderful job.

    I also think that it is so important to take a step back before responding. When I was a teenager I was really sarcastic and cutting with my mother (typical teenager stuff) and she always responded by being equally as sarcastic. As soon as she stopped and started telling me how I'd hurt her feelings, I stopped being sarcastic and was a lot more sensitive.

  7. I triple heart love this post. The drawings are just ... awesome. Thank you for sharing them!
    Instead of asking her how she is feeling (she still might not know for sure as childhood and emotions, especially towards parents, can be confusing) I would say "oh, you're feeling angry at mama," or "you drew that to express your anger/sadness/frustration, etc."
    I know sometimes when I give words to my daughter she is relieved. She doesn't have to tell me, she just nods her head and gives me a hug and is more able to open up and talk about it. It sounds like your daughter might not need this, but it's my 2 cents for whatever it's worth.
    I really do think it sounds like you are doing a fantastic job though.

  8. I am actually so very impressed by the fact that your daughter is so expressive and artistic, even if the strong emotions in the first set of drawings are negative. You must be doing something right if she feels comfortable enough to trust you with those emotions.

    I know I'm supposed to be giving advice, but I feel like I'm just taking away. I have trouble validating and not shutting down other people's, especially my son's, strong negative emotions, and I don't want him to feel stifled like that. Thank you for this post and for showing us your daughter's drawings!

  9. Awesome drawings!

    I joke all the time that with DS1 I went through three distinct phases.

    1. I don't love you
    2. I hate you
    3. You don't love me / you hate me

    At first omgosh those words would cut me to the core! After a bit I realized it was just a phase and assuring him that I DID love him that I could NEVER hate him every time (which probably helped ME more than him lol), and eventually he grew out of those phaes.

  10. I was called mean mommy for a long time by our oldest. Then she started telling me she wanted a new mommy.
    I was crushed! Someone suggested I look at what it was that I was doing that she felt that way. We also talked about why she thought I was mean and wanted a new mommy.
    I am glad that phase is over.

    Like everyone else has said, I think it's great she is able to express herself by telling you how she feels, and her drawings.
    We weren't allowed to say how we felt when I was growing up, it often resulted in a spanking from my mom. We do not have a relationship at this point in my life.

  11. If she's allowed to express her feelings (in a way that doesn't harm anyone -- like those drawings!), it means you're doing GREAT, and she's going to be a lot safer as a teen and adult woman in this world.

    I think it sounds you're handling it perfectly. Ask her about what she's feeling ("Are you angry? Hurting? Hungry? What was going on when you drew this?"), don't tell her she's NOT feeling what she says she is, assure her you do love her (but not to the extent that you start arguing with her about it: "I'm pretty sure I DO love you." "No you don't!" "Hm, why do you say that?"), don't react out of your feelings of hurt but DO tell her how you feel, and connect with her again when she's ready to.

    That's basically the recipe for raising a really emotionally healthy person. So *hugs* for how much it hurts, but way to go! for doing so well with her already.

  12. I'll second everyone else- you're doing great. Obviously if she is able to draw out her emotions that is a fabulous outlet for her to express how she feels and share that with you. Of course I understand how crummy it probably makes you feel to see those things, but in her eyes it's only temporary. It's how she felt RIGHT THEN not how she feels about your relationship. And who hasn't wanted to give their mother a good kick in the shins every once in a while? I have. :)

  13. My heart kind of hurts for you, reading those notes, but I'm also so impressed by how you've handled them so far. I think it's SO important for children to express their feelings and be allowed to feel "big" negative feelings without feeling shame. But it's rough on you, poor mama! Like the previous commenters have said, asking her to talk would be my first recommendation, but other wise knowing that she loves you enough to say she doesn't love you is a healthy paradox (sp?). It reminds me of that 10 Things...My Teenage Daughter what-ever-it-was-called and how they handled it when that main actor passed away. They were able to sculpt a happy end for the daughter whose last words were "I hate you" because her father understood how much she loved him. I didn't have that kind of relationship with my family (I imagine the whoop-a$$ I would've recevied if I'd said anything like to that my parents!) and I find myself hoping that my daughter will feel comfortable talking to me as yours is with you. Especially in the media she's using (a little removed from the direct face to face, which might make it easier for you both).

    I admire your post and your relationship. Thank you for talking about this. It's going to be something many of us come up against, I'd imagine.

  14. You know what? I think your daughter is amazing! How wonderful that she is able to express her feelings so clearly!! I know the words she's using aren't so kindly put, but I think she's really saying "I feel frustrated mama" or "I feel mad at you mama." Congratulations on encouraging a family culture where it's okay for her to express her feelings... isn't that wonderful?

  15. I think "I don't love you" translates into "I'm feeling hurt." It's difficult to put feelings into the right words, especially for children. And sometimes we can't actually say what it is that is bothering us because it hurts too much, so we say something we don't really mean.

    I wouldn't know exactly how to handle this, but I do know it's important to accept our children's feelings. It validates them, makes them feel loved, helps them understand that strong feelings are okay to have, and encourages them to keep talking to you...even when they are teenagers! I would absolutely protect the relationship and do what it takes to allow your daughter to trust you with her feelings.

  16. My DSs are still infants, buy I've watched my mom handle the "I hate you/don't love you" phase with my much younger brother. Her response was always: "I'm sorry you feel that way. I love you very much. I can see you feel angry. When you are ready to talk with me, I will be in the kitchen, waiting for you." It worked every time, validating his feelings while giving him a safe space to process them.

  17. It seems like you all have a handle on this situation so, maybe you can help me with mine. My daughter is 4 and completely head over hells for her Daddy. My problem is her Daddy is being deployed for a year. How do I break the news to where she understands and help her respond to me while he is gone?

    Also, for all of you eco-friendly moms out there, I imagine you know all the problems with BPA in the plastics of our toys. I have found a new websites just in time for the holidays that has BPA-free toys made out of sustainable and recycled materials. I love their toys! If you stumped on the gifts, try www.greenostrich.com/greentoys or www.greenostrich.com/greengifts