A reader asked how I handle things when siblings are saying (or yelling) "I hate you!" to each other. Here is my reply:
I've struggled with the "I hate you!" statements made by my children towards each other. It can be hard not to feel reactive when people you love, and who you hope will love each other, are using the word hate to describe how they feel. However, that was actually the answer for me, realizing that the word was being used to describe how they were feeling.
If I say "Don't say that!" I am discouraging them from expressing their feelings. The reality is that they are using such a strong word to express some very strong feelings. When there are strong feeling swirling around it is easy to get sucked into the situation and become emotional or angry. However, I have learned that if I can disconnect from the word they are using and connect with the emotions they are feeling it makes it a lot easier for me to stay calm and compassionate.
It is then easier to say, "You are really feeling angry towards your sister," instead of lashing out at the use of the word hate. Sometimes validating their strong feelings can help diffuse the situation and lead to each child feeling more heard and understood. Sometimes we have to step back and make room for the children work it out for themselves, particularly with older children. In that case we can then make time later on to reconnect with each child to provide them with the opportunity to talk with us about what happened and how they felt about it and how they are now feeling.
If we get distracted by the words that our children use it is easy to lose sight of what our children need. If we start scolding our child for using a particular word we are creating a disconnection. If we focus on how our children are feeling and what their needs are we are creating connection.