Why Do I Feel Like I Hate My Kids?

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated October 24, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

It can be hard to admit, but sometimes parents feel like they hate their own children. If you find yourself thinking, “I hate my kids,” it is important to understand that these feelings are usually temporary, but they can be powerful and intense. If you experience these feelings at times, it may help to understand the source of these emotions so that you can better cope with them and focus on nurturing relationships with your kids.

You might feel guilty or think that you’re a bad parent for how you feel. However, addressing this concern might be considered a sign of strength that means you are brave enough to face your emotions and understand why they're arising.

Below, we’ll examine the possible sources of any potential negative emotions you’re experiencing as a parent and look at possible ways to reduce the intensity of your feelings.

Do You Have A Hard Time With Your Feelings Toward Your Kids?

Possible Reasons For Negative Emotions Toward Your Kids

Child rearing can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, but it can also present significant challenges. Sometimes, negative emotions toward your kids can creep in when raising children, kids, and that's common. It may help to acknowledge these emotions without judgment and try to work through them in a healthy way. Below are some possible explanations for negative emotions that parents sometimes feel toward their kids.

Parental Stress

Stress and burnout are sometimes the cause of negative emotions toward kids. Chronic stress can have a debilitating effect on your health, exacerbating negative emotions and making you feel like you can't cope. As fatigue and frustration build up, it can be challenging to put aside your feelings and focus on being the parent you want to be. If you are stressed, it’s possible you may feel like a bad parent for feeling as though you hate your child. Please keep in mind that addressing the root of your stress may alleviate these feelings, and they do not automatically make you a bad parent.

High Expectations

Parents often have high expectations and feel that there are societal pressures that they have to live up to. They want to be the best parents they can be while juggling other responsibilities. A lack of time and resources to meet expectations can lead parents to be overly critical and impatient with their kids. These expectations can sometimes create resentment, guilt, and a lack of motivation or enthusiasm when it comes to parenting.

Childhood Behavioral Challenges And Developmental Phases

The behavioral challenges of kids can also contribute to feelings of frustration. Reacting to a tantrum or managing your kid's behavior and defiance can feel like a never-ending cycle and leave you feeling overwhelmed at times, even when you love your children.

Additionally, developmental stages can have a significant impact on parent-child interactions. As kids grow and change, parents may have to adapt their parenting styles to the needs of their kids. The constant transitioning can be exhausting, leaving parents feeling like they’re not doing an adequate job even when they’re doing the best they can.

Past Trauma Of Parents

The effects of any past trauma experienced by a parent can also influence parent-child relationships. If you experienced abuse or neglect as a kid, it might be challenging for you to connect with your kids at times. Recent research indicates childhood maltreatment can affect adaptive parental behavior. The dysregulation a person experiences may negatively affect their behavior, leading them to act in ways that may be harmful to their kids. 

These challenges can be common among parents, and you are not alone. There are numerous ways to receive support, including through support groups and online therapy with a mental health professional who has experience helping adults gently heal from trauma experienced as a kid. Understanding your feelings and working through them may help you become a better parent and foster a healthy connection with your kids. This process can take time, but it’s often worth it.

Recognizing And Processing Your Emotions

The culture we live in can influence our perceptions of what a "perfect" family looks like, creating unrealistic expectations and leading to feelings of inadequacy. In addition, the pressure to meet these idealized standards can lead to frustration and self-criticism, thereby preventing us from recognizing our parental strengths and achievements.

It may help to take a step back and recognize your emotions. Identifying the triggers for negative emotions might help you understand how to manage them better. Triggers are typically events or situations that evoke certain emotions. Being mindful of the things, people, and conditions that can trigger negative emotions might help you recognize when they arise and take steps to cope.

You may feel like you shouldn't or can't express negative emotions around your kids, but validating them may help to reduce their intensity and prevent them from developing into more significant challenges. Acknowledging that an emotion exists can make it easier to find a solution.

How Do You Know When Something Is Becoming Unmanageable?

Paying regular attention to your feelings might make it easier to recognize when they are escalating. If you're feeling overwhelmed or thinking that a situation is too much to handle, it may be useful to take a break and step away from parenting for a bit. Taking a moment to breathe and observe your emotions without judgment might help you feel calmer and more prepared to handle the situation.

You might find that a simple act of self-care can go a long way toward preserving your emotional well-being. Taking time for yourself may help you manage stress and remain focused on the positive aspects of parenting—including your particular strengths as a parent. Practicing relaxation techniques like meditating, deep breathing, or even walking can help calm your mind and body.

While parenting can sometimes be difficult, the growth and development that individuals experience as parents can be enriching. It’s common to make mistakes and feel inadequate—many people do. However, by prioritizing your emotional well-being, you may find that you can skillfully handle your emotions and be the parent you want to be.

Do You Have A Hard Time With Your Feelings Toward Your Kids?

Building A Stronger Parent-Child Relationship

Building a stronger parent-child relationship is an endeavor that can take time and effort. This bond can provide a sense of joy and fulfillment for both parent and kid, but you might wonder how to cultivate it and allow it to flourish.

Be Realistic With Your Expectations

Setting realistic expectations for yourself and your kids may be a great place to start. Parenting sometimes involves trade-offs, so it may help to not expect too much from yourself or your kid. Having reasonable expectations might help you manage stress levels and make progress toward goals without being too hard on yourself or your kid.

Set Boundaries

Establishing and maintaining boundaries may also be helpful. When boundaries are consistently enforced, they can help foster trust and respect between parents and their kids. 

Maintain Open Lines Of Communication

Good parents know the importance of communication and open communication between parents and their kids can be another component of fostering a strong relationship. Encouraging conversations about complex topics might provide an outlet for kid to express their feelings. Also, practicing empathy and understanding in your communication may help your kid feel more supported and connected.

Seeking Help To Become A Better Parent

Parenting isn't always easy, and sometimes it might help to enlist the help of a counselor. Whether you need a listening ear or require additional support, you might find that therapy provides guidance while helping you grow as a parent and as a person. If you don’t have time to travel to a therapist’s office, you might consider online therapy, which numerous studies have shown to be effective. Online therapy can provide a safe, nonjudgmental space to explore and process your thoughts and feelings while learning better strategies to manage stress as a parent. 

With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can connect with a licensed therapist via audio or video chat at a time that works for you. Also, you can contact them day or night via in-app messaging, and they’ll get back to you as soon as they can.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of psychotherapy often utilized in online therapy sessions, has been demonstrated to be effective for a variety of challenges. CBT often involves recognizing and challenging distorted thought patterns, which may help reduce anxiety, resolve conflicts, and build resilience. The core principles of CBT tend to focus on the importance of challenging negative thoughts to improve emotional control, relationships, and overall mental health. As you develop these skills, you may find that you experience more positive thoughts and belief in your ability as a parent.


If you sometimes experience a sense of overwhelm or even feel like you hate your kids, you are not alone. Many parents experience these feelings, and online therapy may provide you with new tools and strategies to manage your stress level and foster a more fulfilling relationship with your kids. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a licensed therapist who has experience helping people navigate the emotional challenges of parenting. Take the first step toward getting help with your emotions as a parent and reach out to BetterHelp today. 

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