25 answers

9 Year Old Son Won't Say I Love You

I have a wonderful 9 year old son...smart, athletic, handsome and popular with his friends. None of his teachers have ever had anything but praise re. his schoolwork and social skills and he is just a great kid overall. He's a top performer in school (in the gifted class at our school) as well as in sports. He's a little shy in social situations at first, but nothing extreme. The problem for me is that he will not respond to acts of affection. When someone at schools passes him in the hall and says "hi", he normally just keeps on walking. It is like he's unfortable saying "hi" back. And if I say "I love you" or "have a great day", all I get is a grunt, if I'm lucky... He has NEVER been comfortable saying "I love you" to me or anyone else. In fact, he's only said it to me twice, when I begged/bribed him to say it! I am a very affectionate and expressive person and while I try to understand that this is just his personality, it really hurts not to hear those words from him. I have a healthy marriage and my husband says "I love you" and shows affection, to a very normal degree. Any suggestions? Or do I need to get over it and realize that he does love me but just can't say it?? I worry about how this will affect his future relationships! Any input would be great appreciated!

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Just because he doesn't verbalize or express his feelings doesn't mean he doesn't feel them. Some people are like that.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi Jane,
I try not to let it bother you. He is of the age when saying I love you and responding to Mom in any way or form is not "COOL" Just know that deep down he does love you..I am going throuogh the same thing.. but my son is 13yrs. old I do not make him say it to me.. I tell him and if he replies it makes my day.. but if he does not I still know that he does love me also.Good luck hun!

Jen

1 mom found this helpful

You know he does. He'e in a phase right now and most likly thinks it's more macho to play the cold bit.

I hardly say I love you to my own parents now. I do, I just don't feel like saying it. I will every once in a while. We're a hugging family as well.

More Answers

You do know that your son loves you. He will say it when he is ready. My daughter is 20 years old and will still not respond I love you. Other than that she is well adjusted. She feels deeply when it comes to emotions. I tell her not to hold things in because of the internal pressrure. She calls me from college sometimes three times a day. When I am not at home and her Dad answers the phone, she talks with him, but she will call back later to talk with me about just chit chat.
I dont think you should worry. Stop the pressure. It will probably come in time. My daughter, even as an infant was not one who seemed to enjoy cuddling or for me to hug her a lot.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi Jane,
I try not to let it bother you. He is of the age when saying I love you and responding to Mom in any way or form is not "COOL" Just know that deep down he does love you..I am going throuogh the same thing.. but my son is 13yrs. old I do not make him say it to me.. I tell him and if he replies it makes my day.. but if he does not I still know that he does love me also.Good luck hun!

Jen

1 mom found this helpful

Hi J.,

Sounds like you're looking for issues here! Your son sounds like a wonderful human being - congratulations to you on a job well done. Just appreciate him as the wonderful person that he his. So yes, "just get over it." Quite frankly, I think it's a good sign that he is sparse with his "I love you"'s...

Best,

M.

1 mom found this helpful

Just because he doesn't verbalize or express his feelings doesn't mean he doesn't feel them. Some people are like that.

1 mom found this helpful

J., I am wondering about the difference between being able to express emotions and common politeness. Perhaps not saying anything is an acceptable response to a greeting in the social circles of your 9-yr-old; but, sometimes children need a little help in practicing polite ways to respond in social situations. I was taught how to politely speak with adults and shake hands when I was a child. When I was an adult, I went through a difficult time emotionally for a short while. During that time, the question of the common greeting 'how are you?' was really difficult for me. I knew that most people didn't really want to know how truly horrible I was feeling inside, and it was not polite or appropriate to tell them, either. So I practiced 'fine, thank you, and you?' in those situations. Learning and practicing to say 'hello, how are you?' (or an alternative slang expression [whasup?] to use with his friends) at this age can be a valuable skill for the rest of his life, especially if he is one of those people who is more comfortable with facts than people. It seems that we often encourage the intellectual development of the 'bright' children at the expense of their social skills. We cannot always expect children will automatically know how to respond politely. It could really be helpful to him if you help him to figure out what he might like to say ahead of time, so it will be easier when the time comes.

Now as for being able to express his emotions with you, this can be learned as well; however it may take a lot more work for both of you. I recommend a book called "Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life" by Marshall Rosenberg. This book will help you with all of your relationships, and getting communications to a more heartfelt level. I am sad to see the current dynamic in your relationship with your son. You beg and bribe him to say something YOU want to hear, and he is not comfortable to say or even explore whatever HE truly feels. Perhaps his need for autonomy is not being met in this dynamic. So I am afraid it might continue to be unfulfilling for both of you in the long run, if he continues to shut you out so that he can have his own thoughts and feelings - or worse, learn to shut off his his feelings all together so that he does not have to express yours. Many times we do not know what our own feelings and needs are. This book can help you to help him express himself in loving and non-manipulative ways. There is hope.

S.

1 mom found this helpful

You said he's never been comfortable saying "I love you." Not only are some people more "touchy-feely" than others but 9-year-old boys are discovering their "cool" which means a manly grunt is more cool than giving your mom that uncool baby reply of "I love you, too!" It's also cool to grunt to your friends and you can't show too much excitement about them either--especially not in front of your mom! Not cool--even though they don't use the word "cool" any more.

They will show affection towards each other by punching and wrestling each other, though.

Bottom-line: Because he doesn't say "I love you" doesn't mean he doesn't. It may not become cool to say those words again until he's 20. That's cool guy law.{:^D}

1 mom found this helpful

While I agree with what most of the others have said here, I do think it is unusual for a child to have NEVER said "I love you" to his/her Mother with out the use of begging or bribery. If this was something new as an elementary aged child, I wouldn't be concerned in the least bit. Boys, especially, tend to "stuff" emotions once they start hanging around the other "big boys", however as a toddler, children usually "repeat" what is being said to them, even if the child doesn't actually "feel" a specific emotion...it is just a typical part of development. Your son seems quite normal, and as you say "gifted", in all other areas. I don't think it would hurt to have him assessed by a child development specialist to rule out or confirm Ausperger's or another form of Autism. Then regardless of the outcome of that assessment, continue what you are doing now: tell him that you love him and continue to accept him just as he is, but I don't think you need to resort to begging or bribery just to hear the words "I love you" from him. He loves you; you are his Mother. :)

1 mom found this helpful

He sounds like a normal kid to me. Pressuring him to say "I love you" might even make him rebel and not want to say it even more. Maybe try giving him space and letting him decide when he's ready to say it. If you don't make a big deal about it, he might not either either. Also, maybe try thinking of it from a different perspective. I came from a family that never said I love you and I never once doubted my parents love for me. They were supportive, loving and caring and showed me in a thousand more ways than using "I love you" all the time. Whenever we say it in our family, it really is something special. Always using that phrase might even make it less meaningful when it's just expected. How often do we say that we love something... "I love those shoes, I love this movie, I love this chocolate cake". Love means so much more than that and maybe to your son, its very sacred. I'm sure that you don't doubt his love for you. Why pressure him? Whenever he does say it, it can mean that much more to you.

1 mom found this helpful

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