My five-year-old son woke up one rainy morning with the firm decision in his head, "I'm not going to school today". I used all my negotiating skills, but to no avail. As far as he was concerned, his decision was final. As the clock was ticking away I simply picked him up and put him, kicking and crying, in the car.

He said: "You are being mean. You don't love me. I want to stay home with my Mum." My logical explanation, that I do it because I love him, fell on deaf ears. "No you hate me," he cried.

The older children in the car were laughing at his remark, as it was clear to them that I was acting in the five-year-old's best interest.

Five minutes later one of the older ones asked me if she could go to a certain party after school. When my response was a categorical No, she seemed to take over from the five-year-old and, with her own sophisticated teenage slang, she said: "You want me to be an outcast. All my friends are going. If you loved me you would let me go".

Children are experts in making us feel guilty. When they don't get what they want, you can hear them say, "You don't love me". As parents we give our children the best so that they can feel loved and reciprocate that to us. We are afraid that if we do not give them what they want love is jeopardized. In truth, however, what the child is really expressing is not hate, but anger at not getting what they want.

Just as it is clear to us that when a two-year-old child wants to run across the street, stopping him is an act of love, so, too, it has to be clear that when we tell a teen-ager not to go to a party or we refuse to write our fifth-grader an excuse note for being late for school due to his own actions, that this, too, is an act of love. Perhaps we can label this as "tough love," but love it is.

The reason we get caught off guard is that, in our mind, we have not clarified to ourselves our reasons for our behavior. Perhaps we have not conscientiously weighed the short term pain and long term gain, so as to be certain that we are truly acting in the best interest of our child. We, ourselves, are in doubt whether we should give our children what they want or not, so we start feeling guilty and eventually give in.

King Solomon, the wisest of all men, said (Proverbs 13:24): "He who holds back his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him early."

To avoid that feeling of guilt and doubt, we should devote the time and effort to formulate our position on the matter. We may wish to discuss it with the other parent or a professional. We must ensure that our decision is not driven by anger, revenge or affirming our authority, but truly by the best interests of our child.

Once we are assured in our own mind that we are acting out of love, our strong and definite opinion will come across. Our children will one day learn the difference between anger, upset, disappointment on the one hand, and hate on the other, and recognize that we are acting out of love, as is the case with someone who forcefully restrains a two year old trying to run across the street.

Learning to identify the differences between anger and hate can help us in our adult relationships as well. Our partner may express anger and frustration at something we may have done. But if we are able to identify the differences between anger and hate, our love for one another will not be threatened as a result.