My 3-Year-Old Doesn't Like Me And I Feel Heartbroken

Close up portrait of crying little toddler girl
Close up portrait of crying little toddler girl Milan_Jovic via Getty Images

From toddlers to school-going children, kids go through all sorts of changes dependent on their development. Sometimes they’ll push you away if you ask for hugs and kisses, other times they’ll want to cuddle you at the most inconvenient times.

But that’s what’s so exciting about kids, they’re unpredictable. Often children will have a preferred parent at different times of the day.

This can be dependent on whatever they need at the time — but this one parent on Reddit says she’s been left heartbroken as she thinks her three-year-old doesn’t like her.

On the post she explained her situation: “My daughter is 3, turning 4 in a few months. I have posted a lot on here for advice about my toddler, I absolutely need a therapist, I try my best I really do but I always feel like a mess up.

“Ever since we adjusted the sleep schedule things have been bad, going on 2 weeks. She gets so angry and mad and I think it’s because she’s sleepy but she is getting around 9 to 10 hours at night plus a nap anywhere been 1 to 2 hours.

“However her sleep isn’t the best. We have been having a lot of nightly waking lately. When she is mad she is especially mean to me (mom). She will say ‘go away,’ ‘this isn’t your house leave,’, ‘I don’t want my mamma and dadda’, etc.”

She went on to explain that though her daughter is sassy with her dad, it’s not nearly as bad as she is with her.

“It’s like when she’s mad at something she will yell at me and say mean things. Also she hates whenever I check on her if she gets hurt. Say she stubs her toe and goes oww, I’ll go oh are you okay?! And she’ll yell no!! And run away from me and want daddy.

“Say daddy will hold her and she’ll just be looking at me watching my reaction. I’ve tried changing my reaction thinking maybe it was too big but she gets so pissed when I ask if she’s okay, she’d want anyone in the world but me,” she wrote.

The mum then added that when she went to get her daughter dressed the day before, she goes “no I want daddy” and tried kicking her away.

She even told the mum not to come into the room. The situation has gotten so bad that she “broke down and cried so much yesterday and today” and even started Googling behavioural issues.

But she also stated that if her daughter is scared or wants to play then she will call for her, however when she gets mad she’s like a punching bag.

“I’m starting to feel like she just doesn’t like me. We of course try to discipline and say please don’t yell, I won’t play if you act like that, my husband is getting very stern and saying we treat mommy with kindness but I feel like it’s a big reaction and she STILL does it anyways!

“I want to stay in bed and cry all day but I can’t of course. If I even try to take a walk by myself toddler gets upset and cries and wants to come with me. I’m so sad. I guess I’m not strong enough to be a parent, I’ve always been extra sensitive. I feel like such a failure,” she concluded.

Redditors were quick to reassure the mum that this is a phase and a lot of kids go through it.

One person said: “It’s so hard but you just can’t take those things personally. It’s 100% developmentally appropriate and it never actually means that your kid doesn’t love you.

“Kids have ALL the big feelings at this age and are just learning how to express them and exert independence. Learning how to self regulate your own feelings that come up in these situations might be a good place to start here. Dr Becky on IG/her podcast has lots of good tips.”

Does my child actually hate me?

Rachel Melville-Thomas, Child Psychotherapist and spokesperson for the Association of Child Psychotherapists (ACP) says: “Preschoolers live an intense life. It’s common for them to manage the world, the family and all their feelings by dividing everything into good and bad, lovely and horrible. That’s why you might find yourself at the receiving end of “I hate Mama” or “ Only want daddy to do my shoes”.

“It’s also a way of controlling a big world where they have very little say – so they try to flex their independence and autonomy muscles by expressing strong opinions. It is important not to take any of this personally as their emotions can and will change dramatically.

“Also at this time 2 to 4 year olds are exploring their identity and gender and can identify intensely with one or other parent. Where parents are of the same sex, toddlers will be figuring out the personality differences, and go through periods deciding who they want to be like.

“If you can stay calm, re-phrase their words ‘so you have some big feelings about me at the moment’ and explain why, although they would dearly love the other parent, right now, sorry, but they are stuck with you!”