What can you do as a parent when you child(ren) prefer one parent over another?  3 simple suggestions that will make a difference.

As a parent, I enjoy the feeling of being wanted and loved by my children.  When they get hurt or are scared, the little cry of “Mommy!” makes me feel that my kids know I’ll help and protect them.  When they are excited about something and come grab my hand to show me their new “cave” or “store”, I (usually) can’t help but smile.  But to be honest, being a stay-at-home mom can be really exhausting.  Sometimes it’s really hard to muster up the excitement and exclaim “wow!” for the 100th time that day or pick up their drink off the floor or sit down to eat some lunch only to have them ask for more food.

Don’t get me wrong.  I wouldn’t trade staying at home with my kids for anything.  But I also just need a little break sometimes.  Enter Daddy.  My husband gets home between 5:30 and 6 each night.  The kids run to the door, fling it open and jump into his arms.  Daddy is their wrestling buddy, tickle monster and airplane flyer.  But many days when we sit down to the table for dinner, the kids will ask me for whatever it is they want or need rather than my husband.  I get it.  They are with me all day and are used to asking me for help.  And my husband, bless his heart, is always willing to help out by getting them a drink or more food and he always makes sure the kids thank me for dinner every night.

What can you do as a parent when you child(ren) prefer one parent over another?  3 simple suggestions that will make a difference.

But the last couple of months have been rough, mostly when it comes to bedtime.  My son, who I’ll admit is more of a mama’s boy, won’t let my husband put him to bed.  He screams.  He cries.  He reaches for me.  He struggles to escape my husband’s arms.  It’s a bit ridiculous.  My kids share a room and go to bed at the same time.  Since my husband is home most nights, we put the kids down together.  Last night, for example, my daughter asked if I could read her a story on her bed.  This left my son with my husband and immediately he started throwing a fit: “No, I want mommy!  Not you!  I don’t want you!  I want to sit with mommy!” and so it went.  He calmed down for a few minutes while we read a story but started right back up again as soon as it was done.  It took him about 45 minutes to get settled enough to finally fall asleep.  During this time, my husband checked on him periodically while I showered and did a few things around the house.

So what’s the point of this story?  (Hint: It’s not about bedtime routines, parenting styles or kids sharing a room. *wink*)  It’s about what to do when your child prefers one parent over another.  What do you do?  How do you handle it?  While I’m still trying to figure it out myself, there are a few things that I think make a difference.  (And I hope it’s obvious that I’m gearing these suggestions toward healthy relationships, not abusive ones.)

Don’t Undermine
When this first started happening with my son, my instinct was to just take over and hold him or help him or whatever it was that needed to be done.  It didn’t seem like a big deal to me at the time.  But as time has gone on and the behavior has persisted, I’ve had to restrain myself and let my husband take care of things.  The way he tries to help is often different than the way I would do things.  But if I continue to butt in each time, our kids might think that his way is “wrong” and my way is “right” or even that we don’t back each other up.

What can you do as a parent when you child(ren) prefer one parent over another?  3 simple suggestions that will make a difference.

Encourage Relationship Building
As our kids have gotten a little older, my husband and I have tried to be better about spending one on one time with them going on daddy-daughter dates, mommy-son dates, daddy-buddy hangouts and mommy-daughter dates.  We believe, as I think many parents do, that building a strong relationship with our kids is essential for the days ahead as they get into dating, hanging out with friends and all the things that come with growing up.  We want our kids to know that they can come to either of us for help, love and advice.

What can you do as a parent when you child(ren) prefer one parent over another?  3 simple suggestions that will make a difference.

Say “I love you” to Each Other
This might seem like a “duh” suggestion, but hear me out.  I say “I love you” to our kids multiple times throughout the day.  My husband also says this to our kids when he calls during the day or over chat as well as when he gets home.  Our kids also need to see that their parents (my husband and I) love each other.  How often do you say “I love you” to your spouse in front of your kids?  Do you compliment each other in front of them?  Do your kids see your love through words and actions?

What can you do as a parent when you child(ren) prefer one parent over another?  3 simple suggestions that will make a difference.

If you’re going through any of this right now with your kids, I hear you!  It’s not easy and can be really frustrating.  I hope that at least one of these suggestions will be helpful to you.  I’m still trying to figure out this whole parenting thing and we need each other!  If you have anything that you find helps, please share!

Comments

  1. Regardless of how much you say I love you to each other, it is bound to happen. Wasn't that a Freudian theory? Sad to say, it is true most of the time.

  2. I don't want to imply that I think saying I love you will fix the problem, but I do think it's important that kids recognize that their parents love each other and are united. I also know that some kids just get along better with one parent over another. My hope is that for anyone who struggles with this, that they might be able to look at their situation and see if there is something they can do to improve it.

  3. Love this! Although my oldest (4 years old) is a total daddy's boy, he went through a phase a few months back when he wanted only me to put him to bed. I have no idea why…Daddy is way more fun!! We traditionally take turns with each kid and we continued to do so, telling him it was Daddy's night. He eventually got over it…and last week he decided he wants only Daddy to do bedtime. Oh, kids!! But yes, I think the best thing is to remain consistent with your policies and not butt in/come to the rescue.

  4. This definitely hits a chord as both of my younger children prefer to have me with them at bed time. Your first tip, not to undermine, maybe be the most important… at least for us. Sometimes it is easier to just go ahead and take over but it makes it harder in the long run to adjust. This was a great read!

  5. So true Sarah! I'm sure this is a phase that will pass eventually (kids go through so many!). I think consistency and unity in parenting is one of the best things we can do for our kids.

  6. I think sometimes we undermine without realizing it. We just want our child to be happy and sometimes we put that above our desire to be unified and consistent in our parenting. I'm so glad you found this post valuable. 🙂

  7. Caleb totally prefers Nate… But I think a lot of that is that I'm with him all day every day. He loves me but he loves daddy more. 😉

  8. I totally get this! Our oldest prefers me in every single way and has since birth! It's hard sometimes and it will hurt my husband's feelings some days.

  9. We don't have kids yet but as stupid as it sound we have the same issue with our puppy. I think this might actually prepares us for when we will have kids. I will save your tips for when that time comes. Thanks for sharing!

  10. I would have thought my kids would want to hang out with my husband more since he's gone all day, but for whatever reason, they just want mommy most of the time.

  11. Haha, dogs are so funny! My mom had a dog like that. She liked us and tolerated us, but was definitely my mom's dog in every way.

  12. I totally relate to what you're going through. Both of my kids are attached to me and it's even worse when I have to go to work. We have just started doing the one-on-one dates and it's honestly made some of my favorite memories with the kiddos!

  13. My daughter just turned one today and this means my maternity leave is over; I go back to work tomorrow. My husband will stay home with her while I'm at work, which I am thankful for, of course!
    Up until now, I was always the one she wanted when she got tired or cranky. And I love that sweet little "Mama" coming from her mouth.. But now, things are most likely to change. My husband will be the one that's there for her during the day. So, I'm a little scared of things changing..
    Thanks for your insights about how you handle things. I'm sure it'll come in handy when our daughter is older.
    XO! Vanessa

  14. That's great that your husband will be able to stay with your daughter while you go to work. I can imagine that it will be difficult at times to work through some of the changes, but I'm sure you're little girl will still love you lots!

  15. My daughter is only 14 months but wants Mommy for everything! I feel bad for my husband. Sometimes she won't even let him hold her! She's fine if I'm not around, but if I'm in the room, forget about it! The worst part is that we have a new baby on the way and I'll be busy nursing and caring for the newborn! I'm hoping it's just a stage she'll outgrow soon! So even though our children are years apart, I totally get this! Thanks for sharing, Shani!

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