Why Won’t My Son Say I Love You? – Me, Myself and Kids

Why Won’t My Son Say I Love You?

Kids Parenting

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“I Love You’.  Three very easy words to say, no? Apparently in my house, it isn’t so easy.

My kids are super cuddly and very loving. But when it comes to saying the words I love you, it is harder for some than others.

My youngest, who is 4 years old, will tell us ALL OF THE TIME. He will say it randomly, no matter where we are or what we are doing. He will announce it to the world if he could, he’s that vocal about it!

But then there is my oldest. My 7 year old, who for whatever reason, just won’t tell me he loves me. He used too when he was little. In fact I think it was one of his first full sayings. We would say it every morning and every night before bed. No problem. But then, it stopped. I’m not exactly sure when he stopped telling me, but I can honestly say it has been A LONG TIME. Can you believe it? I don’t understand it, he doesn’t explain, he just won’t say it. I know he feels it, and I know its not because he doesn’t love me, but the words won’t exit his mouth.

Could it be because he’s a shy kid? It sometimes takes him a while to warm up to people, even to say hello to his grandparents when they come over. And saying goodbye is another thing…that takes an arm and a leg to make happen too.

He’s very loving. He’ll give me random hugs, wrap his arms around me, cuddle with me on the couch or in bed, snuggle and say “mama” like he did when he was smaller. It’s as if he wants to say it, but won’t. Is he embarrassed? Does he think its taboo to tell share feelings with his mom? Does he think that he’s too old to say I love you to his mother? God help me when he’s a teenager if he won’t tell me things now!!

Tell me I’m not alone 🙁

Even my husband says it doesn’t happen often…a few times where he’s jokingly asked “do you love me?” and he gets a “yes”. Even after my husbands accident in May he hasn’t really said it often.

Is there anything I can do to get him to tell me? I’ve bribed him (don’t judge you would too if all you wanted was to hear those 3 little words), I beg him, I will repeat myself over and over until he can’t stand hearing me anymore…“tell me you love me, tell me you love me, tell me you love me…”

Nothing works. So now it’s almost like a running joke in the family. And I guess I’ll let it go…for now. All I will say is, he better not tell his dad before me!

Do your kids say I love you? And if not, what do you do about it?

xo

D

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For the last 7+ years I have immersed myself in the "mom life". My blog, appropriately named Me, Myself and Kids is my life; the challenges, the laughter, and the tears. But I also offer my own version of motherly advice. In doing so, I’ve designating myself as an MD or “Mom Doc”. Not because I know it all. Don’t get me wrong. It’s an open perspective; my learnings shared so you can take the good, bad and ugly and adapt it to your own family life. So please join me as I share all of the crazy and overwhelming thoughts and experiences of the mom life with Me, Myself and Kids.

42 Comments

  • Marie March 1, 2017

    My 10 year old son will NEVER say it back anymore and my 7 year old barely ever says it back. I have to kind of ask them tell them to say it back “what do you say?” Because I know they live me and and not saying it back to me just seems rude and hurtful. My 4 year old ofcourse she’s says it back. Not sure what happened or w

    • Debbie Akerman-Davidov March 1, 2017

      My 7 year old will hug me every night and I know it’s his way of saying it. Though I’d love to hear it. It does hurt he doesn’t want to but I also know he does.

      • Tammy July 16, 2020

        My daughter is 14, and hasn’t said, I love you to me for a couple years (about 6th grade). She is a good girl and I know she loves me. It would feel really good to hear her say it though. Until then, I continue to tell her how much I love her.

        • Debbie Akerman-Davidov July 16, 2020

          That’s exactly what I do.

    • Deanne November 20, 2020

      I have been asking my youngest son since he was eighteen if he loved me, I got told when I am 25 I will tell you. He is 21 this Sunday abd it’s killing me

      • Debbie Akerman-Davidov November 20, 2020

        Ugh…did he ever say it before you started asking?

  • How Do We Get Our Kids To Do The Right Thing? | Me, Myself and Kids July 12, 2017

    […] my son has always been the shy, more quiet kid. This is the kid that still won’t tell me that he loves me. He’s not good at sharing his feelings with his dad or I. We don’t force him because if […]

    • WynterRain December 15, 2020

      Hubby says “Ditto”. Oldest hasn’t said it in awhile (20yo), my almost 18yo says it every day, the 17yo says “sure” but will say it when I’m there for anxiety attacks. The youngest (11) is saying it less. Maybe it’s just the way it is…

  • Cheryl H February 23, 2018

    Ah that makes me sad, my kids both still say it but my oldest is starting to say it less spontaneously 🙁

    • Debbie Akerman-Davidov February 23, 2018

      I’ve got him now to say “you too” when I tell him I love him. We are one step closer!! But I guess as they get older it slows… ☹️

      • Tammy July 16, 2020

        I would like to try this. Would you say a little more about how you were able to get started with, “you too”? Right now, Liv responds to my I love you with a hmm, which actually means I love you too, i think., I think.

        • Debbie Akerman-Davidov July 16, 2020

          I’m not sure how it started. I think I told him that although he may not be ready to say it he should acknowledge that he loves me back in some way. I told him some say “you too” instead and so he did that. For a while. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I just get the big smile or a hug. I know he feels it…I just don’t know why he doesn’t like to say it.

  • joanne darrell February 23, 2018

    Our youngest son says I love you but our oldest son who is introverted does not.

    • Debbie Akerman-Davidov February 23, 2018

      How old is he?

  • As Parents We Just Try Our Best | Me, Myself and Kids March 12, 2018

    […] you have a child who isn’t very expressive of his feelings or shows emotion, it is hard when something happens that affects them so much that their feelings […]

  • Evelyn Bateman May 4, 2018

    My son is almost 10 and it’s been since around the time he turned 7 that he stopped saying he loves me. It is hurtful and I have told him that. I am starting to think it’s selfish and if I want to make a good husband out of this boy, he’s going to have to learn to overcome his apprehension and be expressive about his feelings. If not, the relationship becomes very one sided, and I will have a boy who thinks he can take and take and take without giving anything in return. Then I think this is where my mother in law failed. I don’t want to repeat the mistake for my sons wife.

    • Debbie Akerman-Davidov May 5, 2018

      Does he say why he stopped saying it?

  • Jill Crim May 9, 2018

    My 7 year old child (a boy) doesn’t say it :/
    He has told me the three little words about 3 times in the entire 7 going on 8years of his life.
    If I tell him first, he does say “you too”…That’s the most I get from him…
    It does bother me sometimes that he doesn’t ever tell me and I found this discussion by googling…”children that never say I love you”…
    Ha! Go figure!
    I just hope and pray that one day he will be willing to tell me…
    Still waiting and will wait for as long as it takes! 😉

    • Debbie Akerman-Davidov May 10, 2018

      Awww! I now get the “you too”. I know he feels it so I don’t let it both me but I do wish he’d just tell me. He better grow out of it!

  • Doris August 4, 2018

    Literally overnight, when my son was around 7, he stopped saying “I love you”. No amount of bribery, trickery or straight up demanding could make those words come out of his mouth. He upped the amount of hugs and I don’t doubt he loves me but it’s not quite the same. Hes 13 now and I don’t push it anymore. But, man, I wasn’t expecting that

    • Debbie Akerman-Davidov August 8, 2018

      I wonder why they stop. But agree, I don’t doubt the love. He actually went away for two weeks to sleepover camp and since he’s been back has said it more than once!

  • Samantha Forster September 24, 2018

    This is a tricky one..
    I would rather hear I love you once in a blue moon, with real feelings and real appreciation and real heart felt love, over an every day expression. My 9 year old says it once a month randomly and that means the world to me. My 18 year old son… Never ever says I love you. How ever I just look in his eyes and the way he shows his appreciation and love is enough. Love you becomes a daily word that has no meaning, actions speak a thousand words.
    That’s my view on love. I tell my boys I love them all the time I don’t expect to hear the same returned.

    • Debbie Akerman-Davidov September 25, 2018

      Totally hear you. I don’t expect it everyday. And I love whenever he does say it. His actions speak volumes to me so I have no doubt of his feelings.

  • Lisa November 6, 2018

    My 4 year old won’t tell me that he loves me, he actually tells me that he doesn’t love me. He tells everyone else that he loves them but he doesn’t love mommy. It’s actually heartbreaking, he will sit in my lap and watch tv but if I mention cuddling he gets up. He won’t kiss me and he wipes all of my kisses of, he has literally wiped them off in his sleep. He won’t snuggle with me, he will tell me to move far away from him when he is falling asleep. I get really upset sometimes, I would never force anything on him, or make him do anything that he is not comfortable with but I tell him that it’s really mean to tell me that he doesn’t love me. ☹️

    • Debbie Akerman-Davidov November 7, 2018

      Oh no! That is heartbreaking. Does he say why he says/does those things? Have you asked him how he would feel if mommy said that to him? He’s still little…could be a phase he’s going through? I’d love for you to keep me posted on this!

  • Do Your Kids Share Their Feelings? | Me, Myself and Kids December 12, 2018

    […] feelings very often in words. I’ve mentioned before that he doesn’t even use the words I Love You to anyone. We know he feels it; he shows us in actions versus […]

  • Sarah February 19, 2019

    I know this post is old but I’m in the same boat. My 6.5 yo boy hasn’t said I Love You in about 2 years. If I ask him if he lives me he says yes, but he doesnt say anything if I say it to him. He also wont volunteer hugs and if I ask for one he will lean in with his body but not use his arms. He also wont read the word “love” or “kiss” if it comes up in his books so I guess it’s an embarrassment thing but it still hurts. Im very huggy and cuddly so it’s hard.

    • Debbie Akerman-Davidov February 22, 2019

      It is hard but if you know he feels it, then that’s what matters. Xo

  • Thalia April 25, 2019

    My 6 YO stopped saying it since he was 5. He’s said it by accident like once and took it back. He also won’t give me kisses either unless it’s a bribe. He’s very strong willed and sensitive at the same time. I wonder if it has to do with a 5 love languages thing or maybe a power thing?

    • Debbie Akerman-Davidov April 25, 2019

      I wonder as well. Mine will give me kisses though no problem. But very sensitive kid.

  • Chelsea Nolan September 6, 2019

    My son is 6, will be 7 in a month. He literally NEVER says it. In my family it’s been a thing we just say it to each other and often, and it’s not at all some phrase with no meaning.

    Despite hearing us all say it to one another, he will not say it at all.

    Like, I will tell him I love you and silence.
    I’ve accepted it and I don’t really bother to ask anymore . I do occasional ask him do you love me? Which may be a bit immature of me to ask. 10 percent of the time he will say yes, the rest of the time it’s still silence.

    I know he loves me/family. It’s just a very odd thing. His dad (we are not together but coparent well) will say I love you to him on the phone and like awkwardly wait.. and nothing. He won’t even say it to my dad, his poppy, who he is more close to than his father.

    I believe it has something to do with control/power. Not in a malicious or sinister way. But more in a stubborn type of way. He’s extremely stubborn, like I’ve never witnessed the level of stubbornness before.

    I don’t make a deal out of it and don’t really care that much. But it was on my mind tonight so I googled about it and found your blog.

    It’s nice to atleast be something that is fairly common, and I wanted to add my comment here because I can relate.

    Thank you 🙂

    • Debbie Akerman-Davidov September 6, 2019

      Glad you can relate. My son is far from stubborn, but its him. He’s not a big feelings shower. I’m not worried, hope you aren’t either! xx

  • Katie April 9, 2020

    I have triplet girls that are 7. 2 tell me all the time, but my third has maybe told me a handful of times her whole life☹️
    She’s always been my different child but my easiest baby. I wonder if she’s that way bc she didn’t get enough nuturing as a baby as her sisters. When she started kindergarten she became real shy, they are in separate classes and she always looked so sad at school and in pictures at school. She will tell me she likes me but love and talking about feelings really are strange to her. Her dad and I are not together, we split when they were allmost 2. She’s very loving to me and select family members, but she worries me.

    • Debbie Akerman-Davidov April 16, 2020

      I’m sure if you just keep telling her how much she is loved thats enough. some kids just are more private and not as open. We just need to remind them that we are there. I wrote this post a while ago, my son is now 10 and still doesn’t really say it. But he knows I know it. He just doesn’t share feelings well. We always tell him its okay but he should share more. Hopefully one day it will sink in. xo

  • Tina Mays June 26, 2020

    I can’t believe this actually popped up. I am the NaNa. My granddaughter is the exact same way. When she was a baby she would rock herself and hit the back of the couch quite hard. She will be 8 soon. I catch her rocking still but it has calmed a lot.
    Since a super young age she just.simpley would not go to certain people including family members. We never pushed the issue. She continues to be this way.
    She also never ever says‘I love you’. She responds by saying‘meow’. That’s her way of saying it. So ‘meow’ means a lot to me. I haven’t heard her say this to anyone else. I do feel a connection with her that I feel is so strong. Or maybe it’s because I’m the NaNa . I love her so very much.
    I wanted to include other traits to see if anyone here had any similarities. Would love to know.
    So….. what do we do???

  • Kristin Boone August 29, 2020

    I know this post is old but I stumbled upon it trying to figure myself out. I am 30 years old and I am the child that wouldn’t say I love you. I still don’t tell my parents to this day. I remember as a kid everyone trying to get me to say it and the pressure made it harder and harder. It was embarassing to me and also gave me so much anxiety. I also didn’t show affection. Good byes were stressful to me. I have a memory of my parents and grandfather trying to get me to hug him goodbye and I would just go limp and wouldn’t put my arms around him. I just wanted to cry. I still avoid goodbyes and try to make it to the car at family events before things get too awkward. I remember in middle school my mom saw a counselor and came back and told me that he said one day I would just surprise her and say I love you! The pressure of that made it worse. Strangely, I have no issue with saying if or showing physical affection with my husband, just not in front of my parents. If I try to say it to my parents I feel the lump in my throat and know I’ll cry so I hold back. I literally want to say it so bad!!! I don’t get it. I went to therapy at the start of college but kind of stopped going and don’t remember what came of it. I was very premiscuous in college and felt like I tried to get love and comfort from guys that I would never allow myself to get as a child growing up. I’m in therapy now since April trying to figure this out. I feel like it’s my fault, I’m not sure what I wanted or why it was so hard for me. My husband thinks my mom was a narcissist and that may be something to do with it. My sister seemed like the golden child and still does. I was labeled as shy and awkward. It’s always been a hard topic for me. I have no clue what happened or why this became a problem for me, but as a 30 year old woman I am still desperately seeking answers to fix this.

    I can write back if I get a break through. My only advice is to not force if and just assure your child that it’s ok and that you love them unconditionally whether they say it or not.

    • Debbie Akerman-Davidov August 29, 2020

      Thank you so much for sharing that. My son does show affection and isn’t anxious but I truly appreciate this and your advice!! I hope you do get the answers and break through you so truly deserve xo

  • Rachel December 29, 2020

    I googled searched this tonight, as well. Reading the comments has been helpful. My five year old has probably not said “I love you” in a year or more. TBH, I can still remember the last time he said it and it has stuck with me. I just replay it over in my head. I’m of course worried that I’m doing something wrong as a parent. He’s affectionate briefly when he initiates, but is turned off if anyone

  • Rachel December 29, 2020

    I googled searched this tonight, as well. Reading the comments has been helpful. My five year old has probably not said “I love you” in a year or more. TBH, I can still remember the last time he said it and it has stuck with me. I just replay it over in my head. I’m of course worried that I’m doing something wrong as a parent. He’s affectionate briefly when he initiates, but usually turns down a request for a hug or will give a side hug if he does decide to, (we never push it and always say he is in control of his own body). When I talk to other parent friends about it, I feel awkward because no one else is experiencing this with their kids. We also have a two year old who is very openly affectionate and says “I love you” to us all of the time; I wonder if that impacts our oldest’s desire to say it. Anyway, thanks for sharing this post a few years ago…it makes me feel less alone. I just hope I am doing the best I can. I’m also a trauma therapist (so I’m sensitive to children who can be withdrawn), and am constantly concerned I have done something that has impacted him emotionally to stop saying it.

    • Debbie Akerman-Davidov December 29, 2020

      Thanks for sharing. I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong. Just keep saying it to him but without pushing. I wrote this a few years ago and he still doesn’t really say it and he’s now 11. I’ve spoken to someone about it and there was no worry. Just hug when you can and say it yourself. Hopefully one day it will come!

  • Haley January 10, 2021

    Hi I am not a mom but my little cousin will not say I love you to other family members including myself. She told her mom that shes afraid to say it because it might not be true and she’s scared she will run out of love so ive started this new thing with hee where when we say goodbye or goodnight I’ll say I like you and she giggles so hopefully one day she will say it but if not it’s okay she’s almost nine and it’s sort of a new thing but not really.

    • Debbie Akerman-Davidov January 11, 2021

      I honestly think that is a great idea to say that. I might try it!!

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