41 answers

When Child Says... "I Don't Love You!"

My six year old son recently has started saying "Well, I don't love you!" when I don't give him what he wants. Tonight, he even said he'd take it back if I complied with his request. Now, I totally get it that he is manipulating me. He does love me because I'm the first person he comes to when he's hurt. He's my first born and I love him so much it can't be described.
My question is...
What would you do in regards to discipline or guidance in this situation? Would you ignore him, react to him, punish him, hug him, etc?
I've done many things but I want an unbiased answer from the moms on here. I'll respond later with what hasn't worked thus far later.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you for all of the quick responses! In the past, I've tried telling him how it makes me feel and I did this again tonight. It's not working. It seems to be just playing into the entire situation and making it worse. Next time, I'm going to just say "Well, I love you!" and give him a silly face. If that doesn't work, then I'm going to altogether stop responding at all. I want him to know he's heard, has valid feelings, and I love him, but seriously this has got to stop. LOL BTW, I try to never give into his manipulation or whining especially in these situations. Your responses are much appreciated!!!

Featured Answers

I wouldn't do anything in regards to discipline for saying I don't love you. at that moment in his life he doesn't love you. but you can respond to him that you love him but you don't love his behavior and if it doesn't stop he will receive "x" consequence for the bad behavior (the nagging, hitting, screaming etc" not the I don't love you thing.

3 moms found this helpful

My 4 year old son says this sometimes. I just say "that's ok, I still love you."

I wouldn't make a big deal about it. He's just trying to get a reaction and some attention.

2 moms found this helpful

I would just say, "Thatls okay. I have enough love for both of us...but you're still not getting what you want."

That shows him you aren't upset by his words and he can't use them to manipulate you.
Many kids try this. I think staying calm and not feeding into it is the best way to go.

2 moms found this helpful

More Answers

I would tell him "That's okay, I love you enough for both of us." And move on.

4 moms found this helpful

My son would do this, too, when he wasn't getting his way. I just say "That's ok. You don't have to love me. But you still have to do as I say." Now that he knows it won't bother me, so he can't really use it as leverage anymore. Hope this helps.

4 moms found this helpful

I wouldn't do anything in regards to discipline for saying I don't love you. at that moment in his life he doesn't love you. but you can respond to him that you love him but you don't love his behavior and if it doesn't stop he will receive "x" consequence for the bad behavior (the nagging, hitting, screaming etc" not the I don't love you thing.

3 moms found this helpful

I'd avoid letting him know it stings, or you're setting yourself up for emotional blackmail. He's entitled to his feelings, just as we all are. So I'd just say something light, like:

"Everybody feels that way sometimes, Son. It's okay – you get to feel whatever you feel. I hope you'll work on feeling happier, and let me know when you love me again. I've thought over whether you can have ______, and my answer is still no."

3 moms found this helpful

I say - that makes me sad, but I still love you - and then I move on w/ whatever I'm doing. I still wouldn't give in to whatever initiated the comment.

2 moms found this helpful

My 4 year old son says this sometimes. I just say "that's ok, I still love you."

I wouldn't make a big deal about it. He's just trying to get a reaction and some attention.

2 moms found this helpful

My youngest did this with me for a bit. I would just say, "Ok, but I still love you!" and make a goofy face at him. With him, a laugh seemed to diffuse the situation.

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful

I would just say, "Thatls okay. I have enough love for both of us...but you're still not getting what you want."

That shows him you aren't upset by his words and he can't use them to manipulate you.
Many kids try this. I think staying calm and not feeding into it is the best way to go.

2 moms found this helpful

Its a phase.
Both my kids did that too.

Don't let it get to you. You know its not true.
But teach him that words can hurt.... and it is not to be used, to be mean...

Don't let him manipulate you with that.

Read him the books recommended below.
Another good book is: "Guess How Much I Love You."

Boys... NEED to know their feelings and how to express that... so teach him.

My 4 year old son, even from 3 years old, when I scolded him would tell me "I am NOT happy with you Mommy.... you are mean..."
I did not 'scold' him or punish him for that... but always taught him about feelings... and how to articulate that. Even grumpy moments.
I ALSO taught my kids, that even if they were not happy or grumpy... that Mommy ALWAYS loves them... even at their worst.

2 moms found this helpful

I'd address what's at the root of his saying this, which seems to be that he is mad at you and feels powerless. You could affirm this sentiment by saying "Yes, you're not happy with me right now" or something like that. That helps him identify the nuances of different feelings without arguing with him, which is pointless, or punishing him, which would only exacerbate his frustration.
Of course he loves you!

2 moms found this helpful

I told mine " thats okay, I love you enough for both of us"...

In hindsight I WISH I had said "I love you no matter what, but its inappropriate to say things to hurt others feelings just because you didnt get your way. Now, go have a Timeout."

Yes, they are entited to their feelings. But, they should be taught that they cant act on them. Saying mean things is as hurtful as hitting (cyberbulling) and should be addressed.

1 mom found this helpful

I agree with the other answers don't make a big deal of it. Eventually he will realize it doesn't bother you and he will stop saying it. You hit the nail on the head he is trying to manipulate you.

1 mom found this helpful

Say, "well, I love you anyway," and go about your business. Of course he's trying to manipulate you. You just have to show him it's not working.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi- Get Betsy Brown Braun's book "just tell me what to say" It honestly changed everything for me and she has a great chapter on exactly what you are talking about.
Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Congratulations!! this means you are doing your job well! you are not his friend, but his parent. Yay!! Way to go. LOL

I ignored it and then I asked them to do something and when i got the standard awwwww I don't want to........., I replied with Well, i guess I can't love you then. the reply I got back was, MOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMYYYYYY? You can't do that, I'm your kid, you have to love me! I replied back oh that is how I thought it worked for kids & parents, but you told me different last night. Then my son replied, Oh that? I was kidding silly! He got it and it hasn't happened since.

Best of Luck.

1 mom found this helpful

I know when my daughter started that phase, I just looked at her, smiled and said, well, I love you. You can't change him at all. He is going to try and push your buttons until you give. You need to continue to put him in the wrong by just saying, "Well, I love you." He'll get past this, no worrying.!

1 mom found this helpful

I know it sounds harsh, but when my 4 yro was 3 she said " I hate you!" I said, "Ok, I hate you too" and she stomped away. A few minutes later, after she had cooled down (also an issue of trying to manipulate) she came back and said, "Mommy, I am sorry, I do love you" I then hugged her and replied "I love you too" and explained that sometimes when people are angry they say things they don't mean. And that Mommy will always love her and that I just said I didn't so that she would understand that words like that hurt. She said it again a few months later, and I replied with "Ok" and she quickly said she was sorry and came in for a hug. She is however wise beyond her years, so I imagine this situation would not work for all children. Usually, she doesn't ask for things or whine, because she knows it will not work. I am a single mom, so luckily I don't have to worry that someone will unhand my decision. I have caught her asking other family members when the occasion arises and they learned very quickly to ask "Is that ok with your mom" and She isn't a liar (yet ;) so she will reply accordingly. We also have a one treat rule at the grocery store. That way she gets one thing and knows not to bother asking for more. I have gotten lucky here, because she will pick out things like granola bars or an artichoke (yes you heard me correctly) and that way I don't have to worry about bad decisions. Good Luck with your son. It always helps to be honest. You might try explaining the word manipulation to him. That might help

1 mom found this helpful

Great answers. When my daughter says "I'm not your friend" or "I don't love you", we just say "Well, I still love YOU" and ignore the rest. No drama, no reaction. Usually works. A while later she is full of "I love you's".
I like S.D's suggestion and I think i will try that, tell her to use her words to describe her feelings and that it's not true that she doesn't love us.

Most of all, not making a big deal out of it will show your son that his attempt at manipulation isn't working. If he doesn't get what he wants from you, then he wants you to suffer. Don't play into his hands. "Well, I love you anyway" with no emotion or silly grin, as you are planning, should do the trick!

1 mom found this helpful

It sounds really mean, but my son went through this phase too and at frist I tried the "well I love you", but it didn't stop, so one day I just said "That's ok, I don't love you either". It stopped him dead in his tracks and made him think about what he had said. He then said "I'm teasing, I love you".

1 mom found this helpful

I would say "I'm sorry to hear you feel that way, but you may not have that (toy, ice cream, whatever)." Clever boy, but you are still in charge! Be calm, and continue to do what is best for him disregarding these comments.
Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Lisa F is right. No big deals, no reactions...he's trying to get you going.
Some kids are just button pushers. Like my youngest.

Two years ago, my 15 yr. old announced at dinner that he couldn't wait to turn 18 because he was going to drop out of school and move out of the house b/c we had too many rules.
My husband went nuts and played right into his (son's) hand.

I would just say that I'm sorry he feels that way but mommy loves him and go about your business.

You are going to hear it a lot (maybe not as much as a daughter will say) as he grows up - don't love you, hate you, blah blah blah.

Tell him he is entitled to his opinion but you will always love him, no matter what. I wouldn't tell him that it hurts you. This is what he wants to hear. He wants to know he has power over you with his words. Like you said, you know he loves you. So don't let the words have any power. Always tell him, "I love you no matter what."

I saw your "so what happened" and I think that is a great idea. My son was younger but went through a stage like this around 3 yrs of age I think. What I always said "Ok, well regardless I will always love you". He would say it in anger like when I said no to candy or something like that. I never got upset, just said in a very plain tone that I would always love him, and I would just go about my business and if he continued to say it, I would just do my standard response. He totally stopped after a while, now he says he isn't going to play with me anymore, but that I don't worry about!!

I've also been "the worst mommy in the world" "you're so mean" and the dreaded "I hate you". Sometimes I ignore it, sometimes I respond by saying well I love you and a matter of fact explanation on why he can't have whatever or why he is having a time out etc. You have to make sure that you don't react too emotionally to that type of a response. Stay calm and matter of fact. I often explain to my son that just because you don't like or agree with something doesn't mean you can throw a fit or say hurtful things. Make sure you stay consistent and stick with the punishment.

hang in there!

While growing up I would get angry at my mom and tell her "I hate you" and she would look disappointed and say "Sometimes, I don't like you either". To me as a child those words hurt pretty bad and made me ashamed also that I had said such strong words to her. She always showed me love, but these words taught me that we won't always like each other, and there are ups and downs of life...but we get over those and move on in the relationship to better days.


Hi A. J,

It's really hard to hear your son say that, isn't it?

As parents, we should NEVER leave our kids in doubt about our love for them. A child should always feel loved unconditionally, regardless of what he or she does or chooses to say.

We can draw a loving boundary with some statement like, "well, I love you anyway AND now is not the time for (fill in the blank here)." Humor may help, but that depends on your son's mood and personality. The important point is to be consistant, state your love and your position, and to move on.

If he is open to a gentle talk after he has calmed down, you may be able to get him to share what gets him so frustrated. This can help him to learn to better communicate his feelings. You may also get insight into ways to handle the situation differently the next time it comes up. Know that he may not want to talk and that should be okay, too.

Your son wants whatever he is trying to get from you. If that won't happen, then he will try to upset you because you aren't giving in to his demands. If he gets neither response, he'll stop talking like that after awhile. Give it a few weeks and see if this bad habit goes away.

Good luck,
Parent Coach J. B.

My daughter is 4.5 and her most recent thing to yell at me is "I'm not gonna be your daughter anymore!!" and I just reply- "You'll always be my daughter and I'll always love you" in a calm voice and I leave it at that. If she pushes it further (ussually not) I just repeat it once more and then ignore her. I don't punish her for this but if she is yelling I do repremand and/or punish her for raising her voice at me.

I would just remind him that you will always love him. Start reading stories about unconditional love at bedtime, like Runaway Bunny or I Love you Through and Through.

I know I'm late in the game...but, back in the day(when I was a child) If we said,"I hate you!!' to our mother, she would say"I hate you too!!" Boy!! talk about changing the table!!! We would instantly change our tune. Then again, she was a single mother in the 70's. No computer, MDO's or cell phones. As far as manipulation...she didnt take squat. We all grew up fine...She tells me (my DD is almost 4) dont give 'em an inch...its not about being mean...its about setting boundries.
BTW, my mother is just about the only person I trust my DD with...she's loving and caring...she just doesnt fold under the pressure.

Oh A., my 14 year old was mad mad mad at me the other night and said he would just run away. I just didn't respond and he sulked off to his room, where I think he was planning to stay, until he got hungry. Then he got really nice real quick so I would fix him something.

This is the teen version of "I don't love you".

The other Moms are spot on - just tell him you love him and go on about your business. At another time, after the fracas is over, the next day, whenever, have a discussion about words that harm. He is of the age when he knows that he can hurt you but he does need to learn that it is inappropriate to say hurtful things.

We all go through this with our kids. Rotten things. LOL

Your child still loves you, he is just mad that he isn't getting his way with something. When my daughter use to say this, I would tell her "I'm sorry to hear that. I love you and I always will. I may not always like some of the things that you will do, just like you don't like __________ right now, but that will never change the fact that I love you and I always will." I try to explain the difference between my Love for her and being upset about a particular situation, so that she will learn the difference and be able to make that distinguishment herself also.

Just tell him that you still love him and let it go. It is a phase a lot like "I hate You" they go through that one too. I never got it but my nephew went through the same phases

I frequently get from my girls, "You're the WORST Mommy in the WORLD!!!!" to which I respond, "I can live with that."

My first thoughts on "Well, I don't love you!" were, ". . . you'll come around."
I do, however, like, "Well, I love you enough for both of us."

Best wishes!

I would say "we are a family and we may not always LIKE each other but we do always LOVE each other. You may not LIKE my actions or my reasons but I will always LOVE you and I know that you LOVE me too even when you are grumpy. I am not going to punish you for expressing your feelings, but you do need a time out for continuing to whine when I have already made a decision about ____________".

I think that it is important for him to understand the difference between LOVE - a long term emotion and LIKE which is often a temporary state of being. I know that it may seem unimportant but it will help him in the future to know how to talk about feelings instead of going to the most drastic "I don't love you".

And I LOVE that you are from Pflugerville - one of my favorite bands (Trout Fishing in America) sings a song about your hometown!

Good luck.

I know it's late, but I wanted to suggest something. My son out of nowhere started doing this to. What has REALLY worked for us is that the second he says it, we sit him down and tell him how we know that's not true and that in our family we don't say things that aren't true. It's ok to be mad or sad or cranky, but it's never ok to say things that aren't true. Especially things that are hurtful to mommy or daddy or sister. It, miraculously, has seemed to work. He sometime will be very mad and he'll start with "I don't... " then he'll stop, and continue with "I'm very angry right now" Which we've told him is acceptable. I think something they are just frustrated or upset and don't know how to separate that from a feeling of instense dislike. Good luck.

I tell my boys that "I love you enough to have you hate me. That is what makes Mommys special." I do not budge. He is just wanting his way and will try every "trick" in the book to attain his goal. That is a kid's job. Good luck and I know it is hard but do not take it personally. cb

When my daughter did this to me, I would say "good, that means I'm doing my job right", and then walk away. I did not tell her I loved her. It's not that I didn't want to, I just felt like if I did it would reinforce to her that her words got to me, and I needed her to believe that they didn't. I think she tried this 2 or 3 times before she gave up because it was getting her nowhere.

Peg M has it EXACTLY right...acknowledge his rights to his feelings....tell him that you love him and no..you are sorry...you are not changing your mind about whatever he is fussing about!!! As you already know he is trying to manipulate you...just stand your ground..be calm and kind and loving...this too shall pass!!! And I would not punish him for saying that...it gives him more power...because he knows he has gotten to you!!

I'd tell him, "I'll always love you, no matter what. It's what families do."
"Sometimes, I don't like what you do, but it doesn't affect my love for you."

I say "it's o.k, you don't have to love me, but I really love you" and I walk away. This usually puts an end to their comments because they dont' get a reaction which is all that they really want when they say that.

Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.