Hatred in Children: What You Should Know

Even if they don't know exactly what it means, children can develop their own understanding of what hatred is. Parents need to be able to help them with this so that they're able to better manage their emotions.
Hatred in Children: What You Should Know

Last update: 03 April, 2019

Hatred in children isn’t exactly a joyous thing to talk about. Many mothers simply can’t believe it when their child says, “I hate you.” But then you might also ask yourself, “Do children really feel hatred?”

When they get angry, children don’t really measure their emotions. This honesty and sincerity are typical of children, and when strong emotions are involved they tend to go to extremes.

It’s quite likely that at some point the phrase “I hate you” will come out. But surely your child doesn’t really know what he or she is saying.

It’s a very strong thing to say, and we don’t say it every single time we feel frustrated, angry, or reject something or someone. But sometimes, the only way children have to express what they feel is with this extreme and confusing sentence.

What is hatred?

Defining hatred isn’t easy. If we look at the dictionary, it can be said to be an intense aversion towards something or someone.

Defending yourself is natural. When humans feel under threat, they try to protect themselves using different mechanisms. Our basic needs cause us to release our most primitive instincts, no matter how old we are.

The fact that your children are trying to defend themselves in some way doesn’t mean that they really feel hatred towards you.

Can children learn to hate?

In a way, yes. Children can experience this feeling at different stages of their lives.

In the early stages of childhood, children develop their intelligence and are able to recognize the things they like and don’t like.

Hatred in Children: What You Should Know

A whole range of emotions soon develops, leading them to show their dislike towards something and someone. This usually happens towards food or some activity.

These days, the media and social networks can be a source of violence, rejection, and aggression that all children can access and be influenced by.

Society, as it’s currently presented, is perfectly placed to cultivate feelings of hatred in children, which can lead to them becoming violent and destructive adults in the future.

Can hatred in children be avoided?

The world is full of violence and hate, and unfortunately, children see it, whether they be school shootings, terrorist attacks, or racism.

As a result, it’s difficult to try and hide these things from children. It’s therefore really important that parents take action to try and help their children understand these kinds of emotions.

Pay attention to your mood swings

Parents need to be attentive to changes that children experience in any situation. If they get upset, then they need to feel support from their parents.

Parents need to take care of their children psychologically and emotionally and teach them to understand themselves better, channel their emotions correctly, and keep a positive attitude.

Explain why things are the way they are

Depending on their age, children should be explained the facts. This way they’ll better understand things. Don’t lie, but be careful when explaining things and the reasons behind them.

If children don’t understand why things happen, this could cause them to feel an aversion towards something based on an incorrect understanding of the way things are.

They may even fill in the gaps with their own imagination. They might think that someone is behaving inappropriately when in fact they are not.

Hatred in Children: What You Should Know

Hatred in children can stop them from developing properly in society and cause further problems. It can lead to suffering, difficulties, and often loneliness.

Identify emotions

Parents should learn how to identify what is bothering their children. Find out what is leading them to feel “hatred” and discuss it with them firmly but with empathy.

Once you’ve established what is bothering them, you can take steps to try and channel their emotions in a more positive way.

Hatred in children shouldn’t be dismissed or ignored. It needs attention so that your children can rise above it and make room for more beneficial and positive feelings. It’ll be better for them and everyone around them.

Show them love

If there is one thing that combats hatred, it’s love. A well-loved child will be less likely to hate. With a little understanding, quality time, and parents’ love, the child can grow and learn about respect and tolerance.

Values taught in the home, such as solidarity, will make your children joyful and kind, and turn them into good, well-rounded adults.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Redl, F., & Wineman, D. (1951). Children who hate: the disorganization and breakdown of behavior controls. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1952-04106-000
  • Varma, V. P. (1993). How and why children hate. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
  • Baumgarten, F., & Prescott, D. A. (1928). Why children hate. An experimental investigation of the reactions of school children of Poland to the enemy occupation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 19(5), 303. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1928-02823-001

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.