When children prefer one parent
Every child will eventually come to a point where one parent prefers them. Of course, as the other parent, you should stand above it, knowing that this is temporary. However, we also know, easier said than done.
At around two years of age, children develop a strong preference for all sorts of things such as food, clothing or toys and thus also for their caregivers. In a two-parent household, almost every child will at some point prefer one parent. This is temporary and may change from time to time. And even with that knowledge that it's just a phase and entirely developmental, not being the preferred parent can still be painful.
Here are a few tips on how to deal with your child's favoritism:
- Don't take it personally: We know it's so easy to say and of course your child's rejection hurts! But as mentioned above, it's a phase and there's absolutely no question that your child loves you both. Be strong!
- Don't put the emotional burden on your child: Of course, any kind of rejection hurts, your child cannot put himself in your shoes and does not understand that his statements and actions can hurt you. At that point, it's obvious to tell your child that they just hurt you badly. However, it is not expedient to let it feel that way. Your child is busy with his feelings at this moment, he wants to go to the other parent and if you were to make him feel guilty now, that would be too much for your child and it would be really overwhelming. If it is important to you to verbalise your feelings towards your child, then make sure that you say it in a calm tone, remain calm and keep it short. "That just didn't feel nice to me." That's enough and doesn't need a more detailed explanation.
- Validate your child's feelings or show empathy: Your child wanted to be put to bed by the other parent and is now upset that you are putting them to bed. Even if it's difficult, show understanding and explain to your child that you can understand their disappointment and anger. That you take over today (for reason XY). Try to calm it down, this can be an extra bonding moment between you.
- Plan targeted “two-person activities”: If your child is currently preferring the other parent, plan a fun weekly activity with your child that just the two of you do together. Take your time with your child and enjoy it!
- Try to create rituals together as parents: You can both be active in your child's evening ritual. One of them brushes their teeth and changes their clothes, the other reads aloud.
- see it positively: If your child is just insisting that the other parent put them to bed - see the good news, now you have time to yourself!
It is perfectly normal for a child to temporarily prefer one parent at different stages of development. But keep trying to remind yourself your child loves you both, you are doing your best and you are and will always be the safe haven for your child.