How to Handle… A Child Who Prefers One Parent
Three takes on managing favorite-parent status
“No! Daddy do it!”
Does it seem like Daddy is the only one who can tie shoes/push the swing/hug/fill-in-the-blank? (And wasn’t it “Mommy do it” just a week ago?) We asked a pediatrician, a child psychologist, and an Attachment Parenting expert for the secret to managing a toddler’s preferred-parent whims.
Dr. Ari Brown, pediatrician and co-author of Toddler 411: Clear Answers and Smart Advice for Your Toddler
“At one point in every parent’s life her/his beloved child will not want to have anything to do with her/him. As children grow, they tend to pick a favorite parent and show their endless devotion… and treat the other parent like chopped liver. It’s even more depressing when the neglected parent is the one in the childcare trenches, spending countless hours entertaining, soothing, and diapering more than their fair share of messiness.
“If you are the one currently left out in the cold—no worries. Just enjoy that free time without a child clinging to your leg or demanding all your attention. You will get your turn in the limelight again. Eventually, your child will strike a balance of affection for both parents based on shared interests or activities. Relax, kick up your feet for a moment and know this is all normal.”
Terrie Rose, PhD, licensed child psychologist, national speaker and social entrepreneur
“It’s typical for a very young child to build special relationships with one, or maybe two, caring, consistent and responsive adults in her life. Having a go-to adult is a sign of healthy and robust development, particularly during the first few years. As the child learns more about how relationships work, how to best get her needs met, and how to communicate her thoughts and feelings, her network of go-to adults will naturally broaden.
“It can feel great to be the go-to parent and not so great to be ‘Number 2,’ but rest assured that preference will go back and forth many, many times throughout your child’s development. The parenting keys are: maintain clear and supportive communication with each other; build in favorite activities with each parent; and keep your eyes on the long-range goal of raising a healthy and confident child.”
Dr. Susan Markel , Attachment Parenting expert and author of What Your Pediatrician Doesn’t Know Can Hurt Your Child: A More Natural Approach to Parenting
“Babies and children go through many phases; it’s typical for children’s preferences—including in terms of their parents—to be in a constant state of flux. If both parents show consistent love and affection, whether or not they’re currently the ‘favorite’ parent, their child will benefit from the sense of safety and self-confidence that their parents’ behavioral consistency engenders.”
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