Threats or Hurtful Comments

When young children are angry, they scream or throw a tantrum. As they become older, they say hurtful things like “I hate you” when they are upset. Do children try to play psychological games on their parents? Yes, of course.

How should I respond to hurtful comments or threats?

Respect your child’s needs to express angry feelings. Don’t take your child’s exaggerated comments personally. For example, if your child says something hurtful when she is given a time-out, you can reply, “Well, I love you anyway, but you still need to take a time-out.” Don’t allow her comment to change the rule on time-outs.

At a later time, discuss anger with your child. Explain how people who live together normally have both positive and negative feelings about each other. You can add, “Sometimes I get angry with you, but I always care about you.”

If your youngster threatens to run away, say calmly: “That would make me very sad.” Most children then drop the subject. However, an adolescent who threatens to run away needs to be taken more seriously. Often family counseling is needed.

Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2002-02-04
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.

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