4yo has always said 'I don't love mummy'

(24 Posts)
Harry79 Tue 03-Nov-15 22:19:08

Hi,
My DD is about to turn 4. She's never said 'I love you' to me, only Daddy. V normal, average family (or so we think!). DD2 came along when she was 20mths old.
She's gone from simply not saying 'I love you' (not saying anything when I say it), to 'I don't love you'. I've always been conscious not to make her feel bad about it, and aim to always say nicely with a smile that I will always love her.
She'll run to me when hurt or upset, and we love hanging out together, and she'll sit on my lap for stories and today did admit that she liked my cuddles.
Today, she said 'I love Daddy, but not you or DD2'. I explained we can love more than one person, and it just means that you care about that person and don't want them to be hurt. She replied 'But I do want to hurt you and DD2'. It was just so simple to her.
I would normally think this is just a phase (she 'wasn't Daddy's friend' for 2 days once!), but she has literally never said 'I love you' to me, and after today's revelation, I'm worried there is something underlying this that I need to help her with.
But how do I find out what it is, and what should I do about it? Has anyone been through this?
Thanks :0)

Lovelydiscusfish Tue 03-Nov-15 22:32:53

This might be totally the wrong advice, but my daughter is 3.5, and when she has on occasion said hurtful stuff to me I do show that I'm upset. I don't mean I burst into tears or start shouting or anything, but I explain, hopefully in a way she can understand, how hurtful it is and why, because I feel like it's important that she realises that words are actions which have a consequence for others. We talk a lot generally about feelings, hers, and other people's, and mine and dh's are part of that too. She will usually be subsequently very apologetic if she feels she has said something which has upset one of us (just as we apologise if we upset her).

I only mention this because you said you don't get upset or react badly when she says she doesn't love you - but presumably you are actually (at least a bit) upset by it, so might it be good for her to see that?

From what you describe of your relationship, it sounds like your general interactions with each other are really positive, so it isn't that she actually lacks a bond with you. Perhaps she's saying it for attention, or just to stubbornly maintain a line she has always held?

Have you asked her to tell you how she feels? Jealous that DD2 gets your attention, sad, scared that you don't love her as much, for example? I just wonder if she is scared that she has been replaced and that you love DD2 more, so has constructed this as a defence mechanism. Maybe encouraging her to talk about this more might uncover some fears you can reassure her about? I'm reading 'It's ok not to share' by Heather Shumaker which has a chapter that covers similar things. Not read it all yet but might be helpful? I would think staying calm is good, as it might make it easier for your DD to talk about and explore her feelings. My DD 2.5 sometimes says she doesn't love one of us. She shouted about 6 months ago 'I no love you! You so BORING!' Currently she's very down on daddy, bless him. She has phases. Maybe your DD only bothers verbalising her feelings when she's annoyed with you, and secretly loves you the rest of the time? smile

SweetAdeline Tue 03-Nov-15 22:53:55

just to stubbornly maintain a line she has always held?

I'm glad you said this Lovely because I was trying to work out how to say it.
This is exactly what my dd does. For example she purposefully won't tell me what she has done at preschool "I don't tell you what I did at school do I mummy". She also doesn't use the toilet at preschool "I'm very good at not doing wees at school". Also there are certain tasks that only dh is allowed to help her with and certain ones only I am. Once it has become a thing she is absolutely resolute about it. I think it's a control thing.

SweetAdeline Tue 03-Nov-15 22:56:02

I should add she is nearly 4 too.

She's also started trying out saying hurtful things to see what reaction she gets but mainly it's aimed at her younger brother.

ohlittlepea Tue 03-Nov-15 23:01:12

Have you read "how to talk so children will listen and listen so children will talk?" It has great stuff in there about hearing difficult things from children.

Lovelydiscusfish Wed 04-Nov-15 06:48:41

Slightly off topic, but SweetAdeline, I almost laughed (in a wry way) when you mentioned your dd not talking to you about what she does at pre-school - mine is absolutely the same. When I ask her, she will often tell me to "stop talking, I'm trying to concentrate', or "I'm trying to sleep" (thus is when she's in the cat, so not doing anything to concentrate on, and it's daytime, so certainly not contemplating sleeping!)

Her stubbornness at times can be an amazing thing to behold. Her lovely child minder recently told dh that she thought dd was entirely motivated by a desire to control adults. Great! (Luckily she combines dictatorship with being a pretty calm, laid back, kind sort of child).

OP, I'm absolutely confident your dd's behaviour derives from some kind of desire to control/influence/get a reaction, quite understandable in a child (I think), rather than any genuine lack of love for you!

VulcanWoman Wed 04-Nov-15 07:13:49

My Son has never called me Mum. sad, he's a Teen now.

Millionprammiles Wed 04-Nov-15 10:45:43

What does she say to your dh when you're not around?

Dd (3.5) is routinely delighted when I go out (as she 'has daddy to herself'), regularly tells me she loves daddy more than me etc.
Yet dp tells me that when I'm not there she often says she wants mummy. I heard it myself a few days ago, just after dd had refused to give me a goodbye cuddle I had to come back into the house for something, dd was tearful and saying to dp she wanted to give me a cuddle - go figure!
And like your dd, when she's upset, tired etc she wants mummy.

As others have said its about controlling adults behaviour or trying to get a reaction. Focus on her behaviour rather than her words (the fact that she comes to you when hurt and you still have cuddles etc says a lot about what you mean to her and how she feels about you).

SweetAdeline Wed 04-Nov-15 10:47:53

Haha that's it Lovely*. They sound like they've both got good.. um... leadership qualities grin

Floggingmolly Wed 04-Nov-15 10:52:26

Stop smiling nicely when she says it. It's not a nice thing to say, even for a 4 year old, but you're validating it for her by acting as if it's ok.

MrsJorahMormont Wed 04-Nov-15 10:57:58

Yes I agree I would say something like 'That is a very unkind thing to say.'

Our DD is 3 and is going through a phase of saying 'Bad mummy!' or 'Bad daddy!' Usually when we're telling her off or giving her a consequence. She is very strong willed but we just say that we are not a bad mummy or daddy, we love her very much and don't say nasty things. No idea if it's working but we're hoping it will be a steady drip drip drip.

Harry79 Wed 04-Nov-15 14:20:46

This is l brilliant advice, and reassuring.
I think you're right Lovely and Flogging - I think it's time I told her calmly that her words hurt my feelings. I felt she was too young to talk about it in that way when it first started, but a year and a half on and it's time I try something else smile
Yep, I've got the how to talk and how to listen book. I've picked it back up to read some more.
Sorry to hear others have similar experiences! These 4-year-olds are going to turn into confident, self-assured leaders that we'll be proud of, I am sure of it grin

TheCreepyContessaOfPlumperton Wed 04-Nov-15 14:26:12

I'm sorry you feel sad about it op sad

If it helps, DS1 does a good line in 'I HATE YOU' (aged 4) and DS2 often shouts that he will throw me in the tip and let the dogs eat me confused

Come to think of it, only DS1 has ever said he loves me, and that's once in a blue moon..... I get hugs though sometimes so it's not all bad.

I'm sure they will all grow out of it and be lovely well-balanced adults.....

Harry79 Fri 06-Nov-15 18:18:58

Sounds scary contessa! Glad you receive it with humour smile
I've started telling DS1 that it hurts and makes me sad when she says she doesn't hurt me. But I'm in two minds - it's books like how to listen / how to talk that meant I never said anything before. I don't want her to feel bad if she feels she doesn't like me (though as you all say, she obviously does really), or that I dismiss her feelings.
I'd prefer a way to try to get at whatever the underlying issue / feeling is that's making her say it.
I think there's something in her just doing it because she always has. She was copying me by saying 'I love you daddy' earlier. When I jokingly changed it to 'I love you mummy' she laughed and shouted 'I don't like you mummy' in the same voice.
Ergh. I'll tell her that it hurts me if she says it unprompted, but not say that she's wrong or she doesn't really feel like that.
And keep reading the book for any other ideas. Wish me luck! I'll report back if anything seems to be working.
Thanks all for your advice.

Misty9 Fri 06-Nov-15 19:12:30

Sounds a lot like sibling related issues op. I've had similar with ds, also 4. He's been an amazing big brother to dd, now 18 months, but was very angry with me when she was first born and it sometimes still comes out now. I think like others have said, you can tell her it makes you sad to hear that - but also perhaps name her feelings as anger (if she's saying she wants to hurt you and her sister she sounds angry) and reassure her it's OK to feel angry and you can still love someone you're angry with.

I have struggled to not react to ds rejection of me with rejecting him in return (as that's my go to response with rejection) eg, coming home today ds ran to the door to open it for me, but then ran off and said "I don't like mummy" to dh.

Good luck smile

Harry79 Sat 07-Nov-15 18:53:20

Oh Misty, that sounds hard.
I hadn't thought too much about the sibling thing - but you've got me thinking. I'll try talking to her about that. I like them planning naming it anger and letting her talk about it.
Some progress made: I asked DD1 whether she loved me, and she said yes. And I'm now allowed to kiss her head (before I wasn't allowed to kiss her at all) ??

Hope your DS works through his feelings so he can be happier to see you come home!!

ImperialBlether Sat 07-Nov-15 19:03:16

VulcanWoman, how does your son get on with you generally? Has he ever told you why he won't call you 'mum'?

VulcanWoman Sat 07-Nov-15 19:37:22

Imperial, Yes we get on fine mostly, he says it sounds silly. Now and again he'll say Mother being sarcastic but that's about it. He writes it in birthday cards if I get one hmm, mind you, last time he just put "happy birthday", so it looks like he even feels silly writing it down, just a quirk I suppose. I've just asked him and he doesn't say Dad either, we don't live together so I wasn't sure.

ImperialBlether Sat 07-Nov-15 19:59:46

It'll be interesting to see how he is if he has children himself! God, kids, eh, you never think they're going to be like this before you have them!

VulcanWoman Sat 07-Nov-15 20:43:48

Yes it will. I just try and go with the flow. confused

Harry79 Wed 18-Nov-15 21:57:52

Well I have an update: as well as saying that her words hurt my feelings, I also took note of the sibling angle,and tried to make sure I was being fair - and not being too protective of DD2, and told DD1 she was important. I've also been trying the active listening stuff and trying to empathise when she's upset or frustrated. We've had a lovely couple of afternoons just the two of us, with her deciding what we do.
Well, she's now declared she's my best friend, and will give me a hug before bed! Her behaviour has got a bit better, but it wasn't bad before.
All your advice helped me get to some of the issues, so thank you all x

Misty9 Sat 21-Nov-15 23:23:22

It's so good to get an update, thank you, and I'm glad some of my suggestions were helpful. I unfortunately don't seem to have the same success with my own child! Our relationship was actually improving, and he was even being clingy with me - but he's been ill with a virus recently and his behaviour has been atrocious. So I've lost my rag many times and daddy is now the secure base again. It's hard not to see dd as more appealing to spend time with too!

Hope it all continues to go well. I probably need to take ds out just him and me, but is it awful that I just don't want to? sad

Harry79 Mon 11-Jan-16 15:35:41

Misty9 - sorry I wasn't on here for a while. Hope things got better over Christmas (though most kids get even worse at this time of year LOL). Hope you managed to get some time just you and DS, and that he was nicer to be with wink.
Daddy gets an 'I love you daddy' every day, and DD1 will often say 'I love you today mummy'. I love the qualification of 'today' - if I step out of line.... smile but even that reassures me we're ok. DS2 has picked up on it now and also only says 'I love you' to daddy. I just need to let it lie, and like everyone advised, know that they do really love me even if they don't say it very often!

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