Lately, I have been struggling with the realization that my daughter has a strong parental preference for my husband. She’s always subtly showed favoritism to him. However, recently her preference has become increasingly more apparent. Only daddy can rock her to sleep, change her diaper, feed her dinner, or play with her. If I come too close during their special time together she almost immediately starts crying.
It’s hard not to become extremely discouraged in a situation like this. After all, I grew that sweet girl from scratch. I had a 9 month head start on bonding time when I carried her in my belly. I suffered through intense pain to bring her into the world. Then, I struggled and fought to provide her body with the nutrients she needed to grow. When they first handed her to me in the hospital I looked into her eyes and pictured this beautiful life with her. Let me tell you, in this life I wasn’t the black sheep being shunned to the corner. I was in the middle of all of the fun instead of watching from the sidelines.
Luckily, I know that I am not the only mom dealing with this issue. After reaching out on my Instagram page, I realized there are a lot of other moms dealing with the same pains I am. So, if you are struggling with parental preference please know that you aren’t alone. You aren’t a bad mom. There isn’t something wrong with you. You didn’t do anything to make your child feel this way. This exact same situation happens to all types of mothers from all around the world.
If you identified with anything that I shared above, then you will want to stick around. Today, I am going to be sharing with you some of the best tips and tricks for handling parental preference. Some of these are ones that I’ve discovered while working with my daughter. Other tips were shared directly with me from moms struggling with the same situation. I hope this advice will not only help you overcome parental preference, but to also help you relieve some of the blame from yourself.
Get on the Same Page as Your Partner
It’s important for parents to present a united front to their children. In order to do that, you’ll want to make sure you are on the same page as your spouse. The most important part of this conversation will be deciding how and when to discipline your children and what rules/boundaries you want in your home. The topic of discipline can often be a dividing factor between parents. Your child can pick up on the fact that one parent is more lenient and the other is more strict. This difference could be leading them to favor one parent over the other.
Divide Responsibilities Equally
Being the preferred parent can be mentally and physically draining. It can feel impossible to take a break. After all, no parent wants to disappoint their child. However, it’s important to take a break and allow the rejected parent to step in. This gives the preferred parent the break they desperately need and helps the rejected parent strengthen their bond. You’ll want to make a conscious effort not undermine your child’s feelings while doing this. These feelings are very real to them. As the preferred parent, try to use phrases such as “I understand you want me to read you a book tonight. It’s okay that it makes you sad that I can’t. Mommy will read to you tonight and I will read to you tomorrow night. I love you.” It’s also important that the rejected parent steps in confidently and excitedly. This will help your child feel more secure with the decision.
Spend Quality Time with Your Child
When you notice your child showing parental preference, it can be instinctual to back away to prevent yourself from getting hurt. However, it’s important to push past that fear. Remember, your child isn’t doing this because they don’t like you. So, instead of shying away from them try to spend alone time with them. This way you won’t be competing for their attention with the “favorite” parent. Try to set aside one day a week to do a special activity with just you and your child. Bonus points if you find something in they are interested in. These activities don’t have to blow the bank. It can be as simple as going out for ice cream or taking a walk together.
Be Understanding of Their Feelings
Parental preference starts to show during toddlerhood because children are starting to embrace independence. They realize they have choices in life and that they are capable of making decisions for themselves. Parental preference may be a discouraging way for them it exhibit this new skill. However, it is a sign that they are growing and developing. It really is an exciting milestone. So, it’s important as a parent to not discourage these new feelings of independence. Try to use phrases like “I understand you want daddy to give you your bath tonight. Unfortunately, he has to work. I know that makes you sad. Mommy is going to do your bath tonight and daddy can tomorrow.” Statements like this help reaffirm their feelings.
Enjoy This Phase
I know that this seems beyond impossible to do. Being pushed away from your toddler is painful. How could a person possibly enjoy that? Trust me, I get it. I’m not asking you to enjoy rejection. However, I do want you to look at the positive side of this situation. You can finally have a little bit of alone time. This is a great opportunity to practice self care. Having that little bit of time to yourself each day really isn’t such a bad thing. It’s a great opportunity to take a deep breath, regroup, reenergize, and prepare yourself for the next day. The parental preference phase isn’t necessarily a short one. So, taking the time to show yourself some love during this phase is a key way to survive it. Here are a few tips to practicing self care.