I don’t like you. Those are four words you never want to hear from anyone let alone your toddler. But regardless of what you want to hear, this phrase will most likely be uttered from that sweet little cherub you love and cherish. It will sting. It will make you tear up and it will most likely be said as a result of telling them something simple such as to put their pajamas on. All you can do is Let. It. Go.
This is very hard for some people – especially grandparents, who might not be around children often due to the fact that they live far away. Typically before we are going to see someone we haven’t seen in awhile and they might have the opportunity for solo interaction with our son, I will tell them, “occasionally if you have to reprimand AJ or if you tell him no for something, he might tell you that he doesn’t like you. Please don’t take it personally. He is 3 years old.” This works well for most people. Not everyone. But most people.
We had a situation with a new babysitter that she told us about when we got home. She had told our son it was time to go to bed. He stomped his feet and rolled around on the ground because he didn’t want to complete her request. He looked at her and said, “I don’t like you.” She said to him, “that is okay. If you would like to go upstairs by yourself and get yourself ready for bed, that is perfectly fine.” So he did. She watched him in the monitor get his pajamas out and attempt to start getting himself ready for bed. During this time he was calming down. Once he reached a point where he needed assistance he called for her to come upstairs and help. Once she got in his room, he looked at her and said, “I’m sorry for saying I don’t like you. I do like you.” In some ways, this phrase is a lack of coping skills. While he has a substantial vocabulary, he doesn’t know how to express himself all the time. He learned this phrase and he knows that occasionally it will get a reaction from people. So he sticks with it.
When I talk to other moms, I hear that this is normal. But as a working mom (who travels and has volunteer commitments) it hurts. Bad. In my head I say, let it go. But it is hard. Every time he says it, we sit down and have a conversation about how that is not nice behavior and that it hurts mommy and daddy’s feelings when he says things like “I don’t like you.” He says he understands and I do think we are making strides (consistency is key, right?).