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What to Do If Your Child Prefers One Parent Over the Other

It can be heartbreaking when you pour all of your love and care into your child, but they seem to spend more time with your partner instead of you. But know that you’re not alone in this struggle, and there are things you can do that might help you play a more major role in your child’s life.

We at Bright Side hope that you’ll never have to deal with this problem. But if it ever arises, here’s what you can do about it.

Try to figure out why it happens.

If you spend a lot of time with your child, they might be more interested in spending time with their other “newer” parent, taking for granted the time you spend with them. And vice versa, it could be that your kid prefers the parent who spends the most time with them since that parent knows what they need and want better. To solve this problem, you and your partner could try to spend the same amount of time with your kids.

Remember that it will pass.

Toddlers often prefer one parent over the other, and it’s their way of showing their independence. Your child wants to be able to make their own choices, and they might choose the options they’re more used to. For example, if the mom is the one who reads them a bedtime story every night, it’s understandable that they choose her over the dad. So if you’re not your kid’s favorite for a certain activity, remember that it doesn’t mean they love you any less.

Moreover, it’s hard for little kids to understand that it’s possible to equally love 2 people at once. It’s just how their brain works. Toddlers can be more drawn to the mom at one point, and then to their dad at another. So maybe all you have to do is give your kid some time to grow out of this phase.

Control your feelings.

When you want to do something with your kid and they want their other parent to do it with them instead, it’s understandable that you may feel hurt. However, try not to become too emotional and lash out at your kid because of it.

You can even tell them that you feel sad when they choose your partner over you all the time, but try to do it calmly, without making your kid feel guilty for their choice. This will help you better communicate with your child, and sharing your feelings can teach them empathy.

Empathize with your child.

Sometimes children might refuse your help because they want their other parent to do it, even though that parent isn’t available right now. Don’t get angry and show your kid that you understand their feelings. Let them know you realize it’s upsetting, but explain that in such cases, you’re the one who’s going to help them.

Remind yourself of how valuable you are.

You might feel upset when your child chooses your partner over you, but don’t let it make you feel like you’re a bad parent. It doesn’t even mean that you’re somehow worse at parenting than your partner is. Your child’s preferences don’t define you and your worth, especially since picking favorites may just be a phase.

Don’t forget about boundaries.

As much as you might want to give in to your child’s whims so that they start to like you more, it’s important to establish and maintain boundaries. Otherwise, your child might learn to manipulate you. And it’s also important that you’re not the only one saying “no” and being strict sometimes, but that your partner does it as well.

Mention the other parent’s positive sides.

Try to emphasize your partner’s good sides when you’re with your kid. You can point out what’s similar between you and your partner, especially if you share characteristics that your child likes in you. And you can also talk about the things that make your partner unique. Maybe even try to focus on the things that your kid would enjoy that only your partner can do or help them with. Then you can ask your kid to name a couple of things they like about you and your partner.

Have you ever faced such a problem? How did you deal with it?

Please note: This article was updated in June 2022 to correct source material and factual inaccuracies.
Bright Side/Family & kids/What to Do If Your Child Prefers One Parent Over the Other
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