I recently read a a post in which the author posed the question, what would you do if your toddler said ‘I hate you?’ I come across a lot of things that worry me (don’t we all?), but this particular issue doesn’t scare me one bit. I know that our girls won’t say those hurtful words at such a young age. (The teenage years might be another story — I’m a realist, and I was an angst-y teenage girl once — but we will cross that bridge when we get there!)
My daughter Lilu is seven years old, and I have never once caught her even begin to form that dreaded sentence “I hate you.” I don’t think it is a thought that has ever crossed her mind. This is a girl that thinks the “S” word means “stupid” and is genuinely offended by it. And she doesn’t hate us — ever. In fact, she can’t find enough opportunities to tell the important people in her life (not just us) that she loves them or give giant, squeezing, almost painful hugs. It seriously blew my mind when at two years old she told me (not even officially her stepmom yet) she loved me for the first time, and I knew she meant it with her whole heart.
Aside from Lilu’s unabashedly affectionate disposition, I am confident that our girls won’t say that they hate us because it is not something my husband and I say to each other. Period. We don’t even say that we hate other people, or places, or things, or whatever. I won’t claim that I’m perfect and I’ve never slipped, because of course I have! But only in private. (The car is a wonderful place for venting!) I am careful not to even whisper that word “hate” in front of the girls because I know they are listening to every single thing that comes out of our mouths, even if it doesn’t seem like they are paying attention.
I’m sure Lilu hears other kids her age speak inappropriately or meanly — didn’t we all learn the “bad words” at school? Occasionally she will test the waters at home to gage our reaction — and a gentle, but firm reminder is all she needs to banish something from her vocabulary. She did say “hate” once: “Mom, I only want an Elsa birthday party this year. I hate Anna.” Even though it was so innocent and I wanted to laugh, I did insist that she find a better way to express her preference for her favorite Frozen princess. And that was all it took. I have yet to hear her say the word since.
Every family has different expectations of acceptable language and behavior. Perhaps I’m dating myself, but I remember when Ozzy Osborne’s reality TV show first aired and being amazed at how they cursed ALL the time and at each other. It was no big deal to them, but it was something that we just didn’t do in my home, and that is something that carried with me to adulthood (minus those few rebellious years). Speaking with respect and without foul language is something that is important to my husband and I, and we hope that by setting an example with each other, it will “stick” with the girls.
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