Daughter said she thinks I hate her

(16 Posts)
MsMommy Mon 11-Nov-13 10:20:49

I am feeling devastated this morning because my daughter (8) told me she thinks I hate her. She said she thinks I'm lying when I tell her I love her.
I didn't even shout at her this morning. I expressed a moment's frustration and said we shouldn't have let her watch a TV show last night because it made her tired this morning and then she said this.
Actually we've spent all weekend telling her how brilliant she is and how proud we are of her. She had an amazing week at school getting recognition for several achievements and 'pupil of the week' and then she had a big weekend in terms of out-of-school activities and us and both sets of grandparents went to watch her perform and she and her team did brilliantly. So the whole focus has been on her and all of us - including me - praising her to the hilt.
But then it all seems to count for nothing because apparently she still feels like I don't love her. Which is heartbreaking, actually.
The basis for this seems to be that she feels I treat her younger sister (4) more favourably. She seems to forget all the times I tell the younger one off and focus on all the times I tell her off and she sees it as being very unbalanced.
Partly there is truth in this because my parenting style with the younger one is based on the behaviour and thought processes of a four year old - a stubborn one - which means less shouting, more reasoning, cajoling and turning things into a game to achieve the necessary outcome.
I did all this with the older one when she was four, but obviously she doesn't remember that. As she is older and has her own reasoning and understanding of consequences and things I do tend to be a bit more shouty with her, but actually I have made a concerted effort to be a lot less shouty, tho she still picks up on the times I slip.
They are equally told off when they are naughty, but in a situation where things go wrong when they are playing together I probably am a little unfair on the older one but that's because her responsibility and my expectations are greater because she is twice the age of the other one. Maybe that's unfair, I don't know.
There is some truth to the fact that I am a little softer on the younger one. I try not to be but to a certain extent, psychologically, I can't help it. I had two miscarriages before I had her. One at 12 weeks which was about the most traumatic thing I ever went through. So I was so grateful that she arrived safe and sound. I try very hard not to favour her, and I am better at not letting her get away with stuff, but both my husband and my older daughter say I am too soft on her so I guess there is truth in it. I am trying, and I do tell her off and I try to be fair and balanced. But also she presses my husband's buttons and he is overly hard on her. She was scared of him when she was younger so I tried to compensate. The older one has always been more of Daddy's girl than Mummy's.
I have read some stuff this morning that your children telling you that you don't love them is a really manipulative way to get what they want. That they will say it when they've been told off to make you feel guilty and that you shouldn't respond to it.
I can see there is truth in that but at the same time I can't bear to think that my little girl thinks I don't love her. I mean if she really believed that it would be the most awful thing, can you imagine believing that? How awful. I feel sick thinking about it. I'd love to hear what you think about this and if I can fix it. She has delicate self esteem that has been a lot better recently and I can't bear to think that I might be setting her back because of something I'm doing wrong. She is not a manipulative girl. She is extremely sensitive and caring and sweet, rarely aggressive or argumentative. People are always telling me how lovely she is and how polite and what a pleasure she is to be around. How can I get her to know that I really do love her, forever, with all my heart?

stargirl1701 Mon 11-Nov-13 10:29:46

I would recommend some reading for you. Have you read:

How to Talk so Kids will Listen...

Nutureshock

Siblings Without Rivalry?

My DD is only 14 months so I haven't had to cope with this yet. I have recommended these books to parents in the past (I am a primary school teacher).

MsMommy Mon 11-Nov-13 10:50:58

I have read some of How to Talk, but not the others.
I'll have a look, thanks.

MissPB Mon 11-Nov-13 13:01:13

Oh you poor thing you are obviously very worried and upset about it.

I think that you are right in that children say this a lot to their parents - my oldest (age 7) has started recently. I read something on the Aha! parenting website that suggested you should acknowledge the feelings while at the same time making sure they hear that they are loved.

Something along the lines of "oh you must feel very sad and lonely if you think we don't love you, are you ok" Rather than "don't be silly of course we love you".

Easier said than done but it is supposed to lead to a conversation rather than dismissing her feelings. I have tried this and it really does help.

Hope this helps a little!

MsMommy Mon 11-Nov-13 14:12:01

Thank you. That does sound like a nice approach. I think we do need to have a chat and I need to acknowledge that I probably am a bit tougher on her than I am on the little one, but that at least some of the time there are sensible reasons for it. Other times she is right and it may be unfair but being human I make mistakes and it doesn't mean I love her less or that it means I hate her.
I guess it's the hate word that is getting me. I would never (or very rarely) use the word hate because I recognise what an extreme reaction that is and there are very few people or things I would genuinely hate. But maybe to get this into a bit of perspective I should recognise that 'hate' isn't quite the same for kids. It tends to trip off the tongue a bit more easily and has less impact for them. They might yell it at someone one minute and then be best friends the next. So perhaps I am reading a bit more into it than necessary. But still, I think I need to address the fact she feels my feelings are imbalanced and she is getting the short straw.

mummybare Mon 11-Nov-13 14:22:12

It occurs to me (and I could be way off the mark here, but I am just thinking back to my own childhood) that perhaps her recent achievements - and your praise of them - may have triggered this in some way? Perhaps she just need some reassurance that your love for her is in no way conditional on her achievements, that you love her whether she succeeds or fails?

As I say, perhaps it is coincidental, but it might be another piece of the psychological puzzle perhaps. I was also a high achiever at school and I it can breed this kind of insecurity at times, so might be worth thinking about?

CailinDana Mon 11-Nov-13 14:49:34

What was your response when she said you hate her?

MsMommy Mon 11-Nov-13 19:05:20

Thank you Mummybare. It may be true that we should - 'they say' - be praising her hard work rather than her actual achievements, so there could be something in what you say.
CailinDana, I asked her why would she think that? It's not like I'd even been fierce or shouty or told her 'no' about anything. It seemed to be linked to my observation that we shouldn't have let her watch this programme last night because of her tiredness. She wouldn't really say why she was suddenly cross with me, but then burst out that she wanted the truth about my love for her because she knew I hated her, and then when I asked why would she think that, she blurted about how when she and the little one are playing and she's being annoying and she's trying to get her out of her room and the little one cries and then I come up to find out what's going on and I always tell her off and not the little one.
This is not always true, but more often than not, but then it is usually because she's been quite mean to her sister and she is twice her age and size. But I will try to be more even handed in this regard.

Sioda Mon 11-Nov-13 20:19:27

"But also she presses my husband's buttons and he is overly hard on her. She was scared of him when she was younger so I tried to compensate."

What's this bit about though? Your 4 year old was scared of her DF when she was younger?

MsMommy Mon 11-Nov-13 20:24:13

Yes, she was a bit.

MsMommy Mon 11-Nov-13 20:25:08

I let him know and he eased up and they're fine now.

LondonNinja Mon 11-Nov-13 20:36:14

Maybe chat gently to her tomorrow, on her own. Cuddle her and tell her you understand that she's hurt and feeling bad and apologise for making her feel unloved.

Then maybe stress that you love her always and that your anger towards her has been based on her age, but that it has made her feel unloved as a result, and it's the last thing you wanted.

As you say, you'll be more even handed now, so hopefully she'll see the difference. She sounds like a lovely girl, so I'm sure she'll respond to you pouring kindness and gentleness on her. She's only eight, so has lots to learn yet...

LondonNinja Mon 11-Nov-13 20:38:18

I don't buy the 'saying it to get what they want' btw. Some people/kids may do this, but others may simply be showing their hurt.

MsMommy Mon 11-Nov-13 21:27:56

Those were mostly US sites I found that said it was a manipulative thing. And often about older children. I guess some savvy kids might do that but fortunately I don't think my DD operates that way.
BTW she seemed fine this evening as if she'd forgotten all about it. I was feeling a bit too bruised after this morning to chat about it, but we will have a talk soon.
Thank you.

Andro Mon 11-Nov-13 23:10:33

They are equally told off when they are naughty, but in a situation where things go wrong when they are playing together I probably am a little unfair on the older one but that's because her responsibility and my expectations are greater because she is twice the age of the other one. Maybe that's unfair, I don't know.

Are you unfair or not? Different expectations are one thing, assuming the older one is mainly at fault is unfair (if that's what you do). The other important part is that with a 4ish year age gap it's very easy for expectations to become skewed and too much to be expected of the older one, it's something that needs a little attention paying to it.

There is some truth to the fact that I am a little softer on the younger one.

And this is what your older one sees.

I try not to be but to a certain extent, psychologically, I can't help it.

I'm sorry, but that's a cop out. You can - and should - be fair, it's horrific when you see younger siblings being held to much more lenient standards than you were.

I mean if she really believed that it would be the most awful thing, can you imagine believing that?

I don't have to imagine it, I've lived it.

MsMommy Tue 12-Nov-13 09:53:30

I don't think it is a cop out. I think the trauma of the two miscarriages and the subsequent unending paranoia that accompanied the final successful one has wired my brain in a way I struggle to control to just be so grateful that she's here that I am a bit softer on her in certain circumstances. But I recognise that and try to compensate for it. She does not by any stretch get away with stuff she shouldn't. In general we are pretty strict parents, and in some ways she cops it quite a lot because my first was so malleable and eager to please that we never had big arguments with her nor needed to tell her off much, but the youngest is incredibly stubborn and will argue black is white. 'No' is her favourite word so we tend to go head to head more with her than the older one. The difference is for the youngest it's water off a duck's back, but the 8 yr old is incredibly sensitive and takes everything to heart. We have to tread much more carefully around her.
So in some ways, they're such different characters, and with the age difference, it's inevitable we will treat them differently. The key is to be fair and I do the best I can at that. I've promised her I will try to get better and not always jump to conclusions.
We talked it all through this morning and she seemed fine about it. It turned out it was partly to do with a book she was reading where the heroine's mother keeps putting off an important conversation and the daughter blurts that she wants the truth. So that was where that came from. But still it doesn't hurt (well it did actually!) to be told there are things I should pay closer attention to.
Thanks for your thoughts. Greatly appreciated at a time when I was feeling rotten.

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