Last month I wrote about ‘Fire and Fury’ and how to avoid escalating the situation when your child or teen declares war by shouting ‘I hate you’ to your face, and you find yourself morphing into Kim Jong-un or Donald Trump.

"I hate you"I promised that I’d return with advice around what you can do if your child’s war declaration makes you crumple inside and retreat.

In this blog you will discover why that doesn’t work either and what to do instead.

If your child’s aggression wobbles* you, two things follow:

Your child will feel that they are stronger than you, and that in turn will cause anxiety.



Imagine an invisible line running through all families and think about who is above and below that line in your family.

Those that are above it have authority, make decisions and protect those below. That doesn’t mean that those below the line have no authority, are unable to make decisions and protect anyone. It simply means that responsibility for the whole family unit lies with whoever is above the invisible line.

So consider where everybody is placed in relation to that line in your family.

  • Are you a single parent family meaning that until you come home from work Oldest Child is temporarily above the line and in charge?
  • Do you as partners share being above the line in all things, or do you each take charge in different areas?
  • Is one parent firmly above the line all the time or do you share being in charge?

This invisible line is flexible. There are all sorts of permutations that work and are healthy, and it will change as your family grows.

When a child wobbles a parent with an aggressive “I hate you”, that puts the child above the line.

But here’s the thing: children are not equipped to be in charge of the family unit so, understandably, this will cause them to feel anxious which can masquerade as (more) anger.

So what do you do instead, when you know your tendency is to feel deeply hurt and upset by your child’s heated and in-the-moment “I hate you”?



Don’t wait for that moment to happen again.

Instead be proactive.

Get help, or learn how to help yourself so that you can be cool, calm and collected the next time Thunder and Lightning strike.

I am not saying this is easy. I am saying it is simple.

You are the adult above the line with the power to change your response, so that’s what you have to do.

Most likely your response comes from your own childhood place of ‘crumple and retreat’ when someone shouted at you. It was the safe option then, but it no longer serves you or your family.

When I work 1:1 with children and teens, I also help parents strengthen their ability to respond in the most appropriate way, whether their tendency is to retreat or to return fire with fire.

Learning how to become ‘unwobbleable’ starts with putting the oxygen mask on yourself first. You can learn more about how to do that in my ‘10 Simple Solutions to Child & Teenage Stress, Anger and Anxiety’ (grab your copy below).

Alternatively, you might be interested in the ‘Parenting SOS Package’. This can really help when you keep falling below the invisible family line and are increasingly struggling to get back up above it.

If you’d like to explore this with me further, feel free to get in touch for a WayForward Consultation. I’d love to hear from you.

*wobble = causing you to feel unstable



Do you crumple and retreat when met with ‘I hate you’? Where would you put yourself and the rest of the family in relation to the invisible family line? Have you noticed how the positioning changes over time or depending on situations?

Do please share your insights and wisdom in the comments box below


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