Favoring One Parent over the Other

Parent Q&A

  • I have an 8 month old daughter who will be 9 months in a week's time. She was born by C-section, as she was breech and has never managed to latch on. I pump expressed for 4 months and a week, but it took a long time to express the milk and the pump wasn't even efficient, even though it was sold as hospital grade in terms of efficiency. As a consequence, I was tied to a pump for 6 hours every 24 and had to wake up once or twice a night. I was very tired, especially in the mornings. I stayed at home with my daughter until she was 4 and a half months, when she started day care. My husband was always very involved and she spent quite a lot of time with him as well and it was great seeing them bonding so well. To make matters worse, I fell down the stairs in the house when she was 7 weeks old , which limited me immensely in the care for her, as I suffered from neck and back pain for months. Only in the last week and after a lot of physiotherapy have I been feeling better. I still did what I could and insisted on feeding her, getting her up and putting her to bed, but things like nappy changing were very challenging. I have started to notice her preference for her dad when she was around 3 months. Simple things such as staring solely at him when we were both around her in her changing table. In the last month things got a lot worse. If we are both next to her in her play area, she will hold on to his neck and "kiss" him (as much as an 8 month old can), put her head on his lap, crawls to him when she sees him and enjoys thoroughly being next to him. She beams happiness. She will sometimes come near me, maybe one for every ten times she holds on to my husband, but she very rarely touches me. It is like there is a barrier and she just turns back before she reaches out for me. If we are on our own, she will mostly ignore me. I spend whole afternoons trying to play with her on weekends, but she only gets excited when dad enters the room. I don't know what else to do. I do as much as I can. I have read a lot about babies and especially toddlers developing a preference at one stage or another and how this is only a phase. However, I am worried that this is not a phase, as she has always favored him from her early months. I am desperate for advice and feeling quite rejected. But mostly I am worried about the future and that it will get a lot worse, as things have changed so much in the last month. It is bad enough having to hear my mother-in-law tell me that girls will always prefer their dads and that is how she always felt in regards to her own dad. Has anyone had a similar experience? Thanks in advance! RT

    First of all, you've had a tough start and shouldn't be so hard on yourself. Second, please don't think it is "bad" or "worse" that your daughter is so attached to her dad; when a child has a strong, positive bond with a parent, everyone benefits. I can't speak to your specific experience because I was able to breastfeed (most of the time) the first 10 months, but during that time I was never able to snuggle or play with her much because if she was in contact with me she was only interested in eating so her dad was the recipient of all the snuggles. Human babies don't "imprint' the way some animals do; she won't reject you for life because she has a more overt bond with her dad now. As parents we always have to meet our kids more than halfway and so long as you do that, rather than detaching or expressing displeasure, your bond with her will establish itself. I have only one child and have that impulse to try to make every step of the way "ideal" since I won't get another chance, but there is no ideal; it all just unfolds and you learn to roll with it. Do the best you can and don't worry.

    I highly recommend reading Janet Lansbury- she had two easy- to- read books, or you can find her on Facebook and read her articles there. This is normal and your baby loves you. Janet gives good advice to help you feel confident again and restore the relationship. Hang in there!

    first of all, i just want to say my heart goes out to you. this is especially hard because of course your want your daughter to love your husband but you also want to feel she loves you. and not feeling that from your baby can be heartbreaking. 

    ok now i'm going to give you some advice that i hope will help. i'm both an adoptive mom and a bio mom. my oldest  daughter came home to us at 16 months and i had to do a lot of work to get her to bond to me. but it's doable. here are some things i was instructed to do that really helped. 

    SKIN TO SKIN--this is huge for bonding. both of you get as naked as you can--fine to leave her diaper on. and just spend time this way. if she resists this, the best place to be is the bathtub. you have to hold on to her there. i lay back and put my girl on top of my chest and snuggle her. but you can even start with her back to you if that what she insists on. just get your skins touching as much as possible. make this a daily ritual if you can. or every other day. have your husband help get her in with you and out but otherwise be out of the room. sing to her, stoke her back and legs. play this little piggy. just use this time to adore her. also if you can do a baby/mama swim class, this is another great way to get lots of skin to skin time. and it's fun. 

    FEEDING--skin to skin is also great to do during feeding. take off your shirt and have her in a diaper and rock and feed. also, eye contact while feeding is huge. if she looks away, remove the bottle till she looks back at you. then resume feeding. when you feed her food, get her to look at you first as you put the food in her mouth. sing songs, talk in a happy voice to her as you feed her. this is HUGE. you may want to be the primary feeder for a while. your husband can always step back in later, but right now you are focused on increasing her bond to you. 

    PLAY--lots of it. some babies enjoy more active play. i also have an 8 month old and she loves for me to hold her in my arms and swing her around, or bounce her, or dip her. babies love this sensory experience of being swung, dipped, etc-- it meets an important sensory need. and anything that brings excitement that is related to mama play is huge. also do peek a boo--again it's exciting to them and promotes eye contact. 

    Listen to her--listen to her when she cries. stay close to her. sometimes we don't even realize that we move away or have shut down body language when our babies/children are upset. listening to your child is one of the most powerful things you can do for them. i learned this through some parenting by connection coaching. you don't have to solve the problem, just be close, offer cuddles, make your voice empathetic. say things like "i'm going to stay with you till you feel better. i'm right here> mama's here. it's ok to be sad, mad, frustrated." babies understand so much more than we give them credit for. and showing them empathy in their tough moments is crucial for bonding. 

    there aremany resources online around promoting healthy attachment and games you can play. you can also check out AHA parenting or parenting by connection sites. these have helped me SO much! also you can look for a parenting by connection or hand in hand parenting coach. i worked with one and she helped me immensely. good luck! email me directly if you have other q's! rmprince77 [at] gmail.com

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7 month old only wants his father

Jan 2011

I am a stay at home mom of a 7 month old boy. I feel that I have practiced attachment parenting - he has been exclusively breastfed until recently when we started introducing solids, we co-sleep, I carry and/or wear him daily, he has only been watched by someone other than his grandmother or father twice in his life. Yet recently he has started to show a very strong preference for his father. My husband is a wonderful and very involved parent and I am thrilled that my son has bonded with him but I am starting to feel very rejected. My son rarely smiles or laughs for me like he does for his father. When I hold him, he reaches for his father. He will cry sometimes when I hold him but calm down as soon as my husband holds him. He still nurses wonderfully but when he is finished eating, he pushes me away and looks for his dad. I am trying to be mature about it but am starting to feel very unappreciated and sad. I have even contemplated just going back to work. Has anyone else had this experience? Am I doing something wrong? Missing my mama's boy

We went through the exact same thing - I'm also a big fan of attachment parenting, and my now 10-month old became his dad's biggest fan for awhile at around 7-8 months...though he's since moved into more of an equal preference mode. After I got past the initial hurt/sadness, I realized that it showed how secure he was - the babies that I've seen that I would characterize as ''less secure'' (Admittedly a judgment on my part!) wanted only mommy all the time, and never made the natural move beyond the mommy-only phase (which I've been told happens at about 4 months, again at 9-10 months, and again at 2-3 years). It did sting a bit when he first started preferring dad to me, but at the same time, I love that he feels confident enough in me to be able to expand his boundaries this way. I think all the holding, cuddling and co-sleeping is paying off, because he's not afraid that I'm going to go away if he leaves me for his dad. It also really helped his Dad to bond more deeply with him. :)I know this first small step of independence hurts a bit...but I truly believe that it shows how healthy your baby's attachment is! Samantha

It's totally a phase. My son went through the same thing around that time and I remember being jealous then too. And then it passed. So don't worry and be glad that your baby is bonded ot his dad! Lisa

My son, who is now 14 months, went through a similar phase, but it was only for a brief time, say maybe a month or so, at a similar age as yours. It was very hard for me also and of course brought up lots of issues. My husband reassured me a lot during that time, saying things like ''He needs you more than anyone else in the world right now'' and ''Just keep loving him, no matter what''. Hearing those two reminders over and over again helped me immensely, as I was so sleep deprived and feeling rejected and confused and wanting to give up. Hold tight, it will shift soon. Just focus on the love you feel and don't take it personally. If things continue to be difficult, and you are able to, I would seek some therapy help. Your baby can't afford to feel rejected by you because you feel rejected by him/her. I hope this helps and that the love you have for your child will fuel you through this difficult transition. Getting more sleep can help, too. An empathizer

I'm so sorry you're going through this, as I know how painful it can be. I have had very similar experiences with my son, and it has been extremely hard. Please feel free to contact me through the moderator - talking together might be helpful. Hang in there, and all my best to you. mama hanging in there too

9 month old always favors daddy

June 2009

This isn't really a problem, or shouldn't be, and sounds really selfish. But my 9 month old daughter just adores her father and seems to be not really bothered about me! If it's just me and her, or me and her out together she wants her mum, but if my husband's here all she wants is Daddy. She crawls around the house after him, and if I go to take her from his arms she shies away and hides her head in his shoulder. She's even been known to cry when i take her from him. And if she's in my arms and he cames close she reaches out to go to him! He can also make her laugh hysterically at the slightest thing, and while she smiles at her mum I really have to work hard to get a laugh.

It's not really a problem, and I'm happy that she is a healthy and happy baby, but I'm with her 24/7, I feed her, change her, bath her and put her to sleep. Selfishly, shouldn't I be popular??

Has anyone else experienced this? Will it last forever? I really hate that she turns away from way or cries. Emma

Oh boy, that happened to me, too, when my daughter was about a year old, and it really hurt. BUT, it was a phase. Soon I fell back into favor or was at least accepted. Then it was my husband who fell out of favor and he got jealous. So in my own experience these things come and go in waves. Now I know to take advantage of those times when she's favoring daddy and reclaim some personal time. Hope this helps. fellow mama

3mo suddenly won't be soothed by dad

March 2002

I have a 3 1/2 month old daughter who I breastfeed and stay home with. My husband (her daddy) has been very interactive and participatory from birth. He spends a lot of the time on the weekends with her and I usually leave her with him a couple of times a week for about an hour, during the evening. Suddenly about 3 weeks ago she decided that she won't take the bottle (of breastmilk) that I've left for her so, she would be hungry and refuse the bottle and only get herself upset. Plus, it's in the evening so she's overtired anyway so she's hungry and overtired and then nothing he does will soothe her so she cries and cries. Then I'll get home he'll hand her to me and immediately she'll calm down. He hasn't been able to put her to sleep or do any of the ''soothing'' activities for the past few weeks. It's making him really sad and making me feel like I can't leave her... I'm wondering if she needs to just cry and cry with him until she figures out that he can soothe her and calm her. I want us both to be equal in her eyes - we both just love her so much! Any advice? Thanks in advance! KMH

This happened with us too. It was hell for my husband. It only lasted a few weeks, a month at most. He ended up simply putting her in her bassinet, sometimes for as long as a 1/2 hour depending on his mood/patience. She quickly learned she can cry and be by herself or be quiet and be held by daddy. It got to the point that if she started crying and he started walking towards the bedroom, she quieted down. So, it will pass. Also, I encourage you to be able to talk about the feelings it brings up in each of you, as fully and honestly as possible in order to avert potential feelings envy and resentment. Good luck.

I feel for your husband! It's so painful when a child has a strong preference for one parent over another! This may be the first time, but it's likely not the last.... It's hard to balance everyone's needs with a baby because sometimes it's so hard to understand what's going on. I'm guessing that your daughter is needing the stability of the connection with you and the physical safety she gets from the familiarity of your body and from nursing. This does not mean that you don't get to have any time for yourself, though you might want to consider taking that time at a time of day that is less challenging for her if that's possible.

You and your husband may also want to talk about how to be with your daughter through the feelings that come up for her around your leaving. Crying is both an expression of feelings and needs and a release of feelings. If he can stay right with her, holding her and really being present with her, I believe it can provide her the support she needs and will assist her in creating the trust and safety she needs with him. This is tricky, because I really don't believe at all in ''letting children cry it out.'' It's all in both of your attitude: don't ''leave'' her - really be with her when she's crying, and it can be healing. You may want to check out information on children's crying in Althea Solter's books, such as ''Tears and Tantrums,'' or do a search on the web under the author's name to find some articles by her. I don't like everything she's saying, but as always, take what works for you and leave the rest. Anonymous

I am very sympathetic having dealt with the same situation you describe with both my daughters. I would try to leave the house to exercise in the evening and the baby refused to take a bottle and would cry the entire time I was gone. Niether of my girls would take a bottle willingly and we used up a lot of energy trying to get the first baby to take one which was very hard on everyone. I tried everything and asked advice from everyone who would listen because I was very claustrophobic and needed a break. One way my husband was able to deal with it was to take the baby for a walk in the Bjorn which worked for a while, but utlimately it was too stressful for me to know that it was a constant struggle for my husband to keep her from crying.

I ended up settling for taking my breaks on weekends during the day when my husband was home since it was a less fussy time for her. During the week, we went for walks as a family. After she was four months old we started giving her food (cereal) and it took another month before she was really eating it. At that point, I was able to leave her with him and know that he had something to offer her that she could take. Evenings are still a fussy time, but my now 7month old goes to bed at 7:00 and I'm able to do a 7:30pm workout.

I know how hard it is at this stage for your husband who is anxious to show support and to be nurturing when he is home. All I can say is that babies go through periods when the only want Mommy (or the primary caregiver), but it passes. I had wanted my husband and I to be equal in our kids eyes too and have found that we are ''equal'' for our two year old. But while nursing and being the primary care-giver to an infant it will be uneven at times.

My advice is to not give up trying new ways of accomodating your need for time away and your husband's and baby's need for spending time together. Your baby will be going through so many different stages in the next year that what doesn't work one day may work perfectly a month from now. It took us a while, but there's nothing better than coming home in the evening to a smiling baby and husband who says everthing went great. Don't worry - it will happen! Diana

I sympathize with you. I had a similar problem. My husband had a hard time soothing my son and would also get very sad when he was unable to. About the only thing that would work for him was to take him outside. One day when I came home I found my husband sitting in the rocking chair with my son haphazardly strapped in to the Baby Bjorn fast asleep.

Breastfeeding makes it harder for men to sooth babies, at least that is what I found. When they are fussy with mom she can nurse them if nothing else works. Dad's do not have that option, and they are frankly less soft and swishy. You could try having your husband put on a T-shirt that you have worn to bed.

As for not taking the bottle, maybe you should work on that when you are home. It is almost impossible for my husband to sooth my son if food is not involved.

Good luck and keep breastfeeding. I have for 11 months so far and would not trade it for the world. Joelle

You might try sleeping in a tee shirt or with a blanket at night, then have your husband drape the tee shirt or blanket over his shoulder when he holds her when you are gone. This may make her little 3 1/2 month old self feel more comforted by your maternal smell. This method has worked well for others with young babies who get babysitters or use day care. Best of luck to you for getting some time off and for your husband to continue to be such a great father and partner! anonymous

We went through the same thing with our daughter at around the same age. I went back to work very part-time at three months and my daughter cried for the first month every time I left. In the evenings when my husband came home from work, she wanted nothing to do with him. We were both frustrated- I wanted a break, my husband wanted to bond. We solved this by me giving my daughter to my husband to hold. When she would start crying and was inconsolable, I would take her back and soothe her. I would then give her back to my husband. We would go back and forth the whole evening. We did this for about a week and it worked. I think she wanted to know that I would comfort her if she needed it and once she knew that, she was fine. It's very common, though, for babies to just want mama at this age. They will get over it, eventually. Brightstar

My son did exactly this -- I used to leave him with his father for an hour on most evenings, so I could go for a walk, and he would cry inconsolably. My son's father has also has been very involved with him (he took a month off after the baby was born, stayed at home with us, did half of the night feedings, etc.). He too found it almost impossible to soothe him. It just went away on its own at about 5 months, and now my son loves being with his dad. It seems to me that the babies are just going through a lot of developmental changes at this point, they are exhausted in the evening, and they probably want mommy's smell as much as anything. If your husband can hang in there for a few more weeks, things will probably get a lot better. Karen

6 mos old more attached to dad than mom

March 2009

Our six month old baby boy is way more attached to his dad than to me. It started around two months ago, when he woke up one morning and seemed to ''find'' his dad for the first time. Ever since then, our baby seems to be fascinated with my husband and is frequently content to just stare at him. I have always had to work really hard to get and keep our baby's attention - my silly faces aren't as funny or captivating as his dad's and he is way more likely to get bored or fussy when he's playing with me. He does track me when I move around the room or if he is in someone else's arms and little by little seems to be engaging with me - smiling and laughing more. He is a very social little boy and likes to stare and smile at everyone (especially men and people with dark hair). I was worried that I had done something wrong, but our pediatrician said that everything is fine and this is just a phase I'm super happy that our baby is so attached to his father, but can't help but feel a little sad when it comes to our relationship. Has anyone ever experienced anything similar? anon

I think this is perfectly normal and even healthy. My oldest didn't do this but when I had my daughter, she went through a phase where I was #3: daddy first, then grandma, then me! I was home with her and I felt like she had a lot of attention. Even tho it did hurt my feelings, I just ignored it as best I could and it passed. I think, overall, my kids like us equally now so it's all good. Don't sweat it. Just hand jr. over to dad and go RELAX. Take advantage of the situation, Mama! Ha. mom in demand

Take my advice: Revel in it! B/c in a few months that's all going to change and you will not have a single moment to yourself...your little one will want to be with you all the time (while you shower, going to bathroom, resting, going to the store) and if you're like a lot of my moms, you will feel guilty for disappointing them when they ''need'' you so much.

Furthermore, the better attached with dad s/he is, the easier your life will be later and less likely you're going to face tears and seemingly agony when you leave (but you will face that too).

I was very self-disciplined with my son when he was a baby and ensured that I was NOT THE ONLY one who took care of him. Dad put son to sleep, gave baths and I occasionally had nights out with friends. Now at 2, when I explain why I have to leave ''I have a meeting'' ''I have a class''. He's fine with it. But we still did go through a phase where despite all the time he got to spend w/ dad, he still desperately wanted me.

So rest assured. This is good and healthy. And babies at that age don't really give you all the ''I'm so in love with you mommy'' signs. They are discovering their world and the people in it. Right now your baby relates to You/mom as part of/an extension of themselves rather than a novelty. I wouldn't say s/he is more attached to dad, just more fascinated with. So if she wants their daddy, go have a cup of tea, go read a book and enjoy while you can.! attached mama

The pediatrician is right - babies do go through phases where they are interested in particular people (or dogs, fish, special toys etc). Dads are often highly valued if they aren't there as much. Mothers get taken for granted. It's not a competition for love, it's part of your child's learning process. Fiona

Answer: Yes...99.98% of dads. But, seriously, the good news is that these situations (i.e., baby/child feeling ''closer'' to one parent) are not static, but constantly shifting, depending on a whole host of factors (developmental, situational, and changes in interests). I really doubt what you are experiencing is a long-term situation. My almost-5-yr-old has already gone back and forth between ''favoring'' my wife and I about a dozen times. Hang in there! John

My little boy who is now a pre-teen, has shown favoritism for his dad on and off throughout his life. I think a lot of it is male/male dynamic. But, as they grow older, you will find there are other things that they enjoy more with mommy than daddy. For example, my son likes to watch cooking shows with me, and hence cook with me - and he watches the latest pop crap with his dad. This is fine with me. ;)

There are cute little things that he only does with me, and his dad doesn't understand. Certain sense of humor, that is different with me than with him. Think about your own siblings or cousins or other family members that you have that special connection with and noboby else does.

There will be things that tie him to you over time. And, kids know when you're faking it. It will be the real sincere things that are unique to your personality that will be a special bond with your son, and not the same things your husband has with him. Little Boys Love Their Mommies Too!

8mo daughter favors her father over me

April 2002

My 8 month daughter favors her father and even her 2 day a week caregiver over me. When I say ''favors'', I mean that when he walks anywhere near her, she will cry if he doesn't pick her up. She tracks him wherever he goes. She does not do this with me. Even when I nurse her in bed, after I am done, she turns from me to stare at him. The amount of time I spend with her does not seem to affect this behavior. If we have a wonderful day playing and laughing, she still ''ditches'' me when she sees him. Or, if I return from an absence, while she smiles at me she is content to stay with him. She seems equally attached to her caregiver who comes twice a week and sometimes on weekend nights. My husband works at home and is able to spend time with her during the day or in the morning. However, I spend the most time with her. I nurse her and feel we have a very good relationship. She is an easygoing, affable little soul who seems continuously happy. I like being with her and feel like she is happy with me. I tell myself how thrilled I am that my husband and she are so close, and that we have a caregiver to whom she clearly feels conected. However, deep down, I feel very sad. I always assumed most children, especially those who nurse, develope a primary bond, at least in the beginning, with their mothers, and I can't help but feel I have failed on some level. This feeling is pretty visceral and hard to ''think myself'' beyond. Has anyone else experienced this? anonymous

My daughter who is 17 months old has also always favored her dad. Additionally, she adores her caregiver and never ever cries or seems distressed when I leave. Like you, I also have a very good relationship with my daughter. I understand your feelings about this. It has been hard for me at times but I also truly appreciate the freedom it gives me. I know so many mothers whose babies and toddlers cry when they leave and where no one else can put them to bed at night. I have no problem going to work or having a babysitter on Saturday nights. In some ways it really is a blessing. I guess the best thing is to try to have a sense of humor about it. Also, just because your daughter favors her father now doesn't mean it will be like that in the future. The great thing is that your relationship is very, very good with her. My advice would be to focus on that. Madeleine

I had a similar problem when my daughter was about 9 months old. Instead of my husband she favored my mom, who stayed with us 2 days/week; her preference for my mom over me was * very* pronounced. She basically wanted nothing to do with me while my mom was here, except to nurse. I thought it was odd since I was an almost full-time mom, with about 10 hours a week of childcare. It hurt my feelings a bit, because I felt like a feeding machine and nothing else, but I balanced those feelings with gratitude that my mom and baby had such a strong bond. As I recall she ''preferred'' my mom for a few months, then it relaxed a bit. I think she prefers my company over anyone else's now. I'd tend to think your child is going through a similar phase, at a similar developmental time, and it will pass. You are the mother and you mean the world to your child. 8-9 months may be the time they really start to bond with others besides the mother (but I'm no expert). I can't tell you not to feel sad, but I can assure you that it will balance out in time. Christine H

I've felt your pain. My one-year-old daughter kisses everyone but me, and this has been happening since she was about your daughter's age. She also beams when she sees her grandma, and she prefers her male relatives (daddy, uncles and cousins) over me more ofter than not. I felt sad the way you do, and I rememered how I felt about my mommy and wondered why she didn't seem to feel that way about me. But take heart - you are the center of her world. When my daughter got her first cold, I was the only one she wanted to comfort her. When she has a little hurt, she comes to me because I am her mommy. She STILL didn't kiss me goodbye when I went to work this morning, but that's okay. I know that she loves me. Christina

I've had a similar experience in that my 1 year-old son seems to favor his dad over me. Even though I work part-time whereas his dad spends more time away from home due to work, it seems our son is more thrilled/happier being with his dad. (We have been practicing ''attachment parenting'' from birth.) When I asked other moms who had similar experiences with their children, they have told me that this is probably just a phase he is going through and that he is learning to relate to his dad in a different way. I would be lying if I said that I've never gotten insecure and sad over this situation. However, I am trying to count my blessing that my son has a very loving and wonderful dad to whom he is very well attached. Hope this helps. Monica

Boy, your posting could have been written by me. Only difference is my daughter is 9 months old. I don't have any advice per se. Just wanted to let you know that I am having the idential experience and feelings. I'm with our daughter full time while my husband works outside the home. It is wounding but I think we must be careful not to harbor any ill feelings. They pick up on EVERYTHING. theresa

Both of my daughters clearly favored my husband as babies. I was somewhat disconcerted when my older daughter was so clingy to him and always wanted her daddy over me. This actually persisted until my younger daughter was born, and now the older one is a ''mommy's girl'' all the way. Now my younger daughter prefers him and my older prefers me. I think the preferences go in stages, and you should not feel that it is something you are doing wrong. It sounds like you have a wonderful relationship with your baby and your husband does too! Emily

I was glad to read this message. Last summer, I went through a 3-month period where my then 2.3-year-old daughter sought most of her comfort from my husband when we were all together. When I was alone with her, she did want me, but when the 3 of us were all together, she preferred him. While I was truly glad that they had this connection, I felt upset and envious and then felt guilty because I felt upset and envious. It was a vicious cycle of feeling bad and I knew I had to get out of it.

I received a lot of support from my husband and friends. I was also able to start looking at it psychologically and philosophically. For one thing, I realized that throughout my life, I've loved both my parents, AND really adored my father. That relationship was a true gift in my life and it felt wonderful to know that my daughter would have the same kind of connection with her father.

After that 3ish-month period, things shifted. When we were all together, my daughter sought my husband for some things, and me for others. Lately, she's been going through a mommy phase. I've learned a lot over the past year, and trust that when she has daddy phases again, I'll be able to handle it better. Good luck to you. Jill

Although it is probably very hurtful, she is probably very secure about you being around, she is not afraid that you will leave and knows that she can turn her back on you becuase you are always there. That is great, but I am sure a bit hurtful. Rejoice in knowing that she trusts you and your bond. maribel

10mo baby prefers everyone over mom

Dec 2002

Several weeks ago, my ten-month old baby began showing a preference for her father, grandparents and nanny over me, her mother. In fact, she seems to prefer everyone -- other than complete strangers -- who are in her life over good ole mom. I've looked in the archives and have seen postings about preference for one parent over the other, but in this situation the preference extends beyond the immediate family. It doesn't seem to be related to the amount of time I spend with her (the nanny and her father spend far less time with her than I do) or to gender. And it isn't that she doesn't like me at all. When I'm the only one around, she smiles and plays and hugs and is generally fine. If anyone else walks into the room, however, she turns away from me, reaches both hands out to the new person and ignores me. When I mention this problem to other parents, I get puzzled looks -- something that leaves me feeling alone and ashamed. I know that it's good for her to attach to other adults and to feel comfortable with people other than her parents. I also know that her attachment to her nanny means that the nanny is doing a good job and that I should be thankful for it. So -- I'm not really looking for solutions or for ways to change the situation. I guess I just want to know that this is not unusual and that it will pass. I'd also love to hear from other people about ways in which they coped. Anonymous (please)

I want to offer a different interpretation of your child's behaviour, and, most of all, about your achievements. I doubt that your baby has a preference for other people over you. A baby that spends most of the time with her mother will take her attention for granted. While your nanny did a good job making your baby love her, you probably did a very good job - and one which is much more delicate - in the first place: building up your baby's confidence in you which enables her pay lots of attention to other people.

I have an almost 6 months old daughter, and she already tries to get other peoples attention. When she sits on my lap in a cafe, she would systematically look at each person around us, one by one, until she can exchange smiles with that person. Then she would move on to the next one. If someone doesn't pay attention to her at all - and some people really stare at their notebook computers with no breaks - her persisting flirting would eventually turn into frustration. She doesn't care about my trying to comforting her, she is just upset her effort doesn't pay off. Nothing I can do for her except asking that person to a smile at my baby!

There are different ways to smile and laugh, by the way. There is a quick smile, like ''Hi, how are you doing?'', or ''Hey, look at me!'', or ''Do you like me?''. It's about getting attention. I also get that one sometimes - not when she happy, but when she is anxious. For example, for my strict ''No!'' when she starts stretching or chewing on my nipple during breastfeeding. And there is a very relaxed, life-enjoying fat laugher which can go on and on over long peoriods. She would do that only with people who really play with her paying full attention to her, and who she knows well.

You may want to read a about early child development to get more professional opinions than what I am making up from my observations. I remember from my mom's group, that children typically build a strong tie to their mothers around 6 months. After that, they ususally look for a strong bonds with other people, typically the father, grandmother, nanny etc.

So, while I can see that your baby's ''cheating you'' is heartbreaking at first sight, it probably means that you did well as a mother, because your baby learned she can trust you. Julia

This was my daughter, age 9 mos to 2 yrs. The only difference was she was afraid of most men except daddy and grandpas and she had a strong preference for women over 50. In fact, if she saw a woman of that age with an open lap, she'd just hop in. If given the option to stay with any woman or me, she'd always choose the other woman. (I'm surprised I didn't get out more.)She also seemed generally blase about my presence. When I showed up to get her from daycare, she'd look up, say ''oh hi, mommy'' and go back to what she was doing.

To what do I attribute her abundance of enthusiasm for others over me? Don't know really. There could be lots of reasons -- five days in an incubator in the NICU so we didn't touch enough when she was a newborn, my having to return to work when she was two mos old and grandmother caring for her, her naturally independent personality and love of novelty?

Believe me, this did bother me. I thought I must be such an innately horrible mother that she can't even feel attached to me. But my husband demonstrated to me that she is attached to me -- she does cry for me when I'm gone, she draws pictures for me at school, when she's scared she seeks comfort from me, she nursed until she was 2 1/2 -- just, for whatever reason, she doesn't show it in all the other ways kids often do. His argument was that she felt so secure in my presence that it allowed her to explore interactions w/ other people w/out worrying about my being around. Do I buy it? I don't know. but I do know that she is still independent, still prefers school to hanging out w/ me, still adores all the older women in her life. It's just who she is. Sometimes I wish she were a little more obviously attached to me, but I'm also glad that she moves so easily in the world and feels so confident in new situations. Sometimes I can predict the clashes we'll have when she's a teen, and I dread them. But I do know she loves me, so what else does a mother need? I feel ya

11mo Baby Prefers Dad

July 2012

I have an 11-month-old daughter and an almost 3-year-old son. My son has autism, so I am not really sure what is typical behavior for a baby. I am a stay-at-home mom, while my husband works full-time. Despite all the time I spend with my daughter caring for her and playing with her, she clearly prefers her dad. She would rather be held by him and crawls to him when both parents are present. She is definitely attached to me, but when Dad is around, she wants his attention.

Am I doing something wrong as a parent? I feel sad about this. I am definitely more stressed than my husband because I manage my son's therapies, which is a lot of work. Could my stress be pushing my daughter away, or is this just a normal phase that little girls go through? I worry about this constantly and feel such a loss. Any thoughts would be welcome, as it is very important to me to have a good relationship with my daughter. Thank you.

I went through this with my daughter from the time she was a baby until she was about 4 years old--very attached to her dad. He was the one she wanted if there was ever a choice or not. This definitely worked in my favor during nighttime wakings but was not fun otherwise! She could be very adamant about not wanting anything to do with me. It was very difficult for me to handle emotionally, and did speak with a therapist about it. I really had to let go of taking it personally, which took a very long time. And I had to not give up & let him do everything--I kept trying & offering, even if I knew she'd not want me to put her to sleep,etc. Eventually (and like I said it took years) she started asking for me too and since about 4 yrs old on the preference has basically disappeared. She still loves her dad, but also her mama too. It will pass, just keep loving her and taking care of yourself too. mama of a daddy's girl

Don't worry, it's a phase. This too shall pass.

Hi, I am writing to say, don't worry. Something similar happened to me, too. I have two sons, 25 months apart. When my second was born my older son turned to his dad. He always wanted daddy (and this was unusual because he had been such a mama's boy)and barely gave me the time of day at times. My husband loved it, but I was left so very sad. This lasted for several months (it seemed longer when it was happening, though) and eventually things evened out/balanced out so he wanted both me and my husband. Now in retrospect I think this was just his way of coping with a new baby. Not a terrible coping strategy. Try not to take on too much responsibility about this. This could be how your daughter is coping with sharing your attention with her high needs brother, or it could just be a phase. Try to relax, maybe carve out some 1:1 time when you can do FUN things with her and focus all your attention on your relationship. Just wait, my guess is that everything will come back into balance. I know it is painful though. Hang in there!! Mamas need love, too

1yo Loves Dad More - Mom's jealous

Dec 2002

Lately I've been filled with angst because of the way my one- year-old acts towards his father, my husband. I'm a stay at home mom and I spend all day with my son, playing with him, entertaining him, feeding him, etc., but when dad comes home from work, his face lights up and suddenly mom is old news. He cries when my husband leaves the room (not when I do) and only his dad can put him to bed or there will be a screaming fit. When he does something new he looks to dad for approval and the worst of all! He says ''Dada'' and not ''Mama.'' (I know that's very common, but still...) I feel unappreciated and jealous. Why does he get all the smiles and the laughs when I do all the work? I buy clothes and diapers and groceries and formula and toys, I make sure everybody has clean pajamas and that the kitchen is clean, I make my own organic baby food for god's sake! but as soon as dad walks into the room, my son will practically knock me out of the way to get to him. I feel like a crazy jealous fool, and when I tell my husband how I feel (we have a very close relationship and I can tell him everything) he literally laughs at me and tells me I'm crazy. I suppose it's a good thing that they have such a good relationship, considering they don't spend that much time together, but I can't help but feel rejected and depressed about it. Thanks

Isn't that unfair. I too am a stay at home mom of a little one. What I have come to realize is that my son is very happy to see his dad because he doesn't see him a lot, a couple of hours a day, maybe. He is completely comfortable and knows that I will be there for him, but he thinks he has to vey for my husbands time. I know that because he is so comfortable, I have done one of the hardest jobs well. Remember that stay at home motherhood is one of the toughest jobs you will ever love. I know that it is hard, but try to let him bond with his father, he will always thank you. Kids tend to feel and act out on your feelings, so try not to show too much jealously. Good Luck k

My kids are almost 4 and almost 2, and I have had the same feelings you are having. You turn yourself inside out for your child, then Daddy comes home like the conquering hero, and you feel left out of the equation. It feels terrible, but you know the old saying about lemons and lemonade. This is your chance- lock yourself in the bathroom with some suds and a good paperback. Do something to feed your ego, treat yourself well. Go off-duty for a little while. Your baby loves you and wants you, but a change of faces is good for everyone, you and baby included. Take care of yourself, and good luck. mary

For what it's worth, my 9-mo-old daughter was fine with both parents until I went away from home for four weeks. When I came home, she became obsessed with me: she cries when I leave the room, she always wants me to hold her over anyone else, and she always lights up when she sees me. If I ask my husband to put her to sleep, she is always bitterly disappointed (until she gets too sleepy to protest).

My point is, you are a given. Take it this way: your baby feels secure about you, knows you are there for him, knows you will not leave him. He doesn't know that about your husband. Remember, he's too young to have any concept of time, so as far as he is concerned, Daddy simply goes away at various intervals, and your son doesn't know why or understand the regularity of the departures.

You are doing a wonderful job. Know that your son ignoring you is a sign that he feels completely at home with you, and only a mom who had done a good job would get that from him. I know how you feel, my first daughter was very like that, and I felt terribly left out, terribly unwanted. That way lies madness! I ended up realizing I had some postpartum depression going on, and just couldn't see the positive side of it.

Don't let it get to you, you are doing everything right, and your son loves you. Take it from me, if you were gone as much as your husband, you would be just as much in demand -- because your son would not be as sure of you. Heather

My baby seems ready to go to sleep every night and I can't imagine how I would entertain her any longer - and then dad comes home and keeps her happy for another hour or two. She always gives him a huge smile when he gets home, even if she's been fussy with me. She will also cry when he leaves the room. I am also a stay-at-home mom, and have decided that she just gets tired of looking at my face all day. I've read many books that say that the baby's allegiance will switch back and forth between Mom and Dad, so I really wouldn't worry that it will be this way forever. Also, Dads often have a much more rambunctious style of playing with the baby, so perhaps your child really loves that stimulation. Remember that your baby has no idea that you are cooking and cleaning and washing, etc. and can't possibly know that he should be grateful for it (and might not, of course until he's grown and living on his own and has to do all of it himself)! Your baby loves you, he's just having a lot of fun with dad right now. Don't take it personally. LK

it's funny I have two almost opposite reactions to this question and the other one about baby preferring others. The first reaction is based on my own experience. My baby preferred Daddy mostly and only rarely preferred me and it broke my heart. I hated it and complained like you are. Now my son (age 6) still would probably rather do certain things with Dad (Dad will roughhouse and play sports forever, I won't) but we still spend more time together and are very close....So it did balance out over time.

My second thought is to imagine you have spent the whole weekend with your husband and then your best friend comes over for dinner. Aren't you likely to pay more attention to your friend than your spouse? Maybe even seem to be ignoring your spouse as you catch up with your friend? I wonder if the babies arent' so secure in the knowledge that you will be there that they don't need to capture your attention but these other people who come and go require more wooing and are extra exciting.....So the very fact that your baby is able to ignore you shows how important and special you are! OK, I don't know if that would have reassured me during the throws of jealousy but it's worth a try. been there

I think this piece of advice applies not only to this posting, but to the one about baby preferring everyone to Mom. What's going on right now is NOT that the baby doesn't love you. In both cases, the baby loves you lots, and you'll see that manifested in many ways as the baby gets older. What's likely happening is that the baby is at the age where he prefers novelty, and gets more excited about something he doesn't see as often. My son went through a phase when he was so excited to see daddy that he almost seemed not to notice that I was there. It was the same age when he started really disliking being in our house for more than a day at a time without going out. The very fact that you stay all day with your child and spend so much time and energy with him is likely the cause of this (temporary) behavior. You are simply not ''novelty'' -- the kind of stimulus a baby around a year old really craves. Later on, as your child becomes a toddler, your child will likely cling to YOU so much that you will wish for an occasional break. When a child becomes a toddler, the most familiar parent becomes extremely important. Karen

First of all, this is a stage and will pass. Probably, your baby is acts more crazy for dad *because* she sees him less than you.

Secondly, please, please please, ask yourself: did you have a baby in order to receive emotional validation from her? Because that's what I'm hearing: you want validation from your baby. If you are looking to your child for validation, you are bound to be disappointed. Our children simply cannot (and should not) be counted on for that. Does that mean you shouldn't want your child's appreciaion? No, it is fine to *want* that. However, if your sense of self-worth is dependent upon her expressing appreciation for you, you're setting yourself up for a lot of pain. Validation is something that we all have to learn (and we ALL have to learn it, it doesn't seem to just happen automatically!) to do for ourselves. I think you'll agree, when you think about it, that this is not something we should put on our children - for one thing, we cheat OURSELVES when we do! If we rely on others for our sense of self-worth, there is no way they can ever give us enough or do enough to make us feel that we are worthwhile people, because we haven't developed that core sense of self for ourselves.

So, how to stop feeling jealous of dad? By remaining true to yourself and who you want to be as a person. When you KNOW you are behaving in the world as the person you want to be (some one *you* value and respect), you won't feel bad when your baby behaves as if she prefers daddy, because you won't need to look to her to reflect who you are back to you. You'll already know. You're a good person and a good mom. This is the same journey I am on, and I believe we all are. Best of luck anonymous

I felt the same when my daughter was that age. It hurts, yes, it hurts! I stayed home with her until she was 15 months. She was really into her daddy, as soon as see was able to sit up and look toward the door when she heard him come in at night. Big smiles and laughter! And when she began to talk -- mercy! ''No, Daddy's turn'' when I tried to give her a bath, change her diaper, etc. She'd run to him for comfort, prefer him to take her out of her car seat. She began daycare at 15 months and she'd sort of look up and continue playing when I picked her up at the end of the day yet ran yelling ''Daddy, Daddy!'' when my husband would do so.

I was very sad about this. If someone had told me that it was a stage, and that she would one day run to me yelling ''Mommy, Mommy'' I would not have believed it. Well, my daughter is now 2.5 and it this has long passed. She still has a thing for daddy but she and I also have our special relationship. What helped me get through this time was this: 1) my husband did not laugh about this when I brought up my feelings. He would comfort me and pointed me that the she was probably just used to seeing me all day and therefore Dad was a novelty, someone to have fun with, etc. and 2) I would literally force myself to give her extra hugs, kisses, ''I love you's'', during those times that I was feeling rejected.

So, good luck you, Mom! I've been there I know how you are feeling. My daughter still prefers Dad to change her diaper and you know, that can be a good thing! :) anonymous

17mo daughter's preference for dad making me sad

Nov 2013 Pretty much from birth, my now 17 month old daughter has adored her father, and appeared to even favor him from the onset. Over the past 17 months, it has become more and more clear that he is her favorite. When she is upset about something, it is him that she reaches for, sometimes now eve batting my hands away or shaking her head when I try to console or hold her. At bedtime, when it is my turn to put her down (we alternate nights), she lets out several whimpers when I exit our living room to take her to the bedroom. Nary a sigh when it is his turn to put her to bed and she has to leave me! When he gets home from work, she squeals and gesticulates wildly with glee. When I have been gone for a few hours, I get barely a smile. The number of times throughout the day that she reaches for him over me is countless, and now that she is more and more expressive, it is becoming harder and harder to deny her preference for him, and consequently harder and harder for me to deal with.

I know everyone says that ''they change'', ''she's just going through a phase'', etc., but it has been almost a year and a half now, pretty much uninterrupted. Just for some context: I stay home with her (here again, I know many people will say that that is the reason why she prefers him, she takes me for granted, etc., etc., and maybe this is the case, but I am looking for something more), and my husband works, though he is only away from home 3 days a week (so it's not even like he is gone all the time and she doesn't see him!).

I understand that there's a very real origin for the phrase ''daddy's girl,'' I just didn't think I would learn so brutally how heartbreaking it is for it to feel so lopsided. It is especially sad for me because my own mother is the person I am closest to in the world, and have been since birth. I was so excited to have a girl, hoping for that connection. I know that one cannot predict what will be five, ten, twenty years from now between her and I, but I feel somewhat robbed of this special time with my daughter. And, unfortunately for me, all of the other SAHM friends that I have have daughters who adore them, and favor them over the dad. I am starting to think that I a) have bad karma, b) have done something to her in some way that I know nothing about, or c) that my husband is just a more lovable person than me. Whatever turns out to be the case, I am feeling pretty low about it all and would love some words of empathy, related tales, moral support, etc. Thanks! rachel

I feel your pain, Mama! I was in the same boat for a few years with my now-5-yr-old. We are a two-mom family, and she naturally felt closer to her other Mama between ages 1-4. It was hell. I was the one who carried her, nursed her, was a SAHM for her... But she always had (and always will have) this amazing, deep connection with my wife. It was very, very hard for me. The hardest was between ages 1.5-3.5, when I was also dealing with the complications of adding a second child to the family- being pregnant with her, nursing her, having a NB, etc. All of that drove an even deeper wedge between us. It was horrifying.

Now we're good, though. I got through it by: 1)allowing myself to acknowledge the awfulness of the situation (no guilt-trips for feeling hurt!), 2)being strong and giving her all the love and attention I was able to -no passive-aggressive bullshit (she's just a kid and can't help the way she feels!), and the same went for my relationship with my wife, 3)accepting that even if we didn't have the kind of relationship that I had imagined for us I could still be there for her, in every way a mother should.

Over the last year and a half things have shifted again. I would say she appears to be equally attached to both of us now. I am pleasantly SHOCKED by this turn of events -never would have predicted it.

You'll get through it to. It's hard. It sucks. Talk about it with your friends and/or therapist. Allow yourself to acknowledge the hurt you feel. Then step up and be her parent, through thick and thin. Remember, how you handle this now might just end up having a HUGE effect on your relationship with her forever. So tread carefully. This is a crucial time for you two -and maybe for her and her daddy, too. Her being ''allowed'' to be uber close to him right now may end up serving her very, very well for her future relationships with men. Who knows?

You can do it! Good luck! mailisha

I've been there-- really-- and I understand. I cannot even describe fully the extent of my daughter's dad-preference in her early years. She would have full, screaming, head-banging meltdowns during the day, screaming that she only wanted Daddy-- not me. She never willingly let me buckle her carseat, push her stroller, hand her a cup, practically anything, when he was around.

I was a SAHM and a pretty darn good one. Furthermore, I nursed her until she was 2. I held her in a sling for hours every day as an infant and toddler and let her fall asleep in my arms day and night. I'm a pretty patient, affectionate, kind person most of the time, but it was hard to remember that as she was rejecting me. I wondered if something serious was going wrong in our relationship. I thought up some pretty good reasons why my husband was just better and more loveable than I was. It was really crushing at times.

I remember many times trying to hide my tears from her when I let this dad-preference make me feel like a failure. I had your fears. All my SAHM friends would complain about the difficulties of their children's mommy preference and it made me feel like such a failure. I wondered ''what is wrong with me that my own daughter doesn't like me-- her primary care giver??'' It seemed the opposite of other mothers' experiences.

The bad news is, this lasted for 2 or 3 years, to some extent. But I tried hard to stay calm and confident that all my love would prevail, that deep down she loved me just as much. I am happy to tell you that she is now 8 and we have a great relationship. She has a great relationship with her dad, too, but I am the one she usually wants when she is upset; I am the one best able to soothe her fears and cheer her up. There is no trace of parental preference souring our relationship-- she is great with both of us-- but if anything, she is the one who is most likely to ask for me instead of my husband. Our relationship came out strong (so far!) and so will yours.

It is hard for any parent to let go of the expectations they have for what it means to have a child. Of course, you will have to let go of some of what you were expecting-- all parents do-- and your relationship won't look precisely like what you'd dreamed of, but you will have a positive, close, loving relationship, just like you'd hoped, if you stay calm and keep at it! (or even if you freak out a bit and keep at it). I was never able to find anyone who'd experienced anything quite like this, so I wanted to write in to say that I understand that after it's gone on for a while, or gotten rough enough, it stops feeling like a ''phase''-- but in my case, that's all it was and I'm sure the same will be true for you. And hopefully a shorter one! -Hope this helps

I have no advice for you, but I can commiserate, because this happened to me too. And not with just one child, but with all three! And not just in toddlerhood, but starting in babyhood and continuing until about age 5. My feelings were hurt terribly. But as they got older, they became more reasonable people and now are pretty balanced. In fact, now they prefer hanging out with their siblings than either parent anyway. So again, no advice, just sympathy. The UNfavorite

All I can say is I know exactly how you feel. My three year old son is the same. He just adores his dad and definitely prefers him over me. He's fine with me when it's just the two of us, but when my husband is around, our son will always go to his dad rather than me if he is upset. He cuddles his dad more and listens to him more too. Often he cuddles his dad when we say goodnight, but refuses to cuddle me.

I would be lying if I said it didn't hurt my feelings sometimes, especially as I put so much energy into giving my child a lovely life, but as he is getting older, we are developing a deeper bond and we do lots of fun things together, just the two of us. I guess you can't bring a baby into this world and expect them to be who you want them to be. My child is his own person and I suppose I can't MAKE him like me as much as his dad. He's obviously just more drawn to him and I don't think it's anything personal against me. I think it's just a chemistry thing. I hope it will change as he gets older but my advice to you would be don't take it personally. Try to just accept your child as they are and like everyone says, I'm sure it will change. As long as you've got a good relationship with your child too, the main thing is your child has two loving parents and will have a great start in life. Second Favorite Parent

17-month-old favors mom

My 17 month old daughter goes through periods where her preference for me, her mother, over her father is quite evident. It is very uncomfortable to watch. When this happens, we take it as a sign that daddy needs to spend more time alone with her. He takes her out of the house to a fun place like the park. I go to the door and wave good-bye and though she looks sad for a moment, she quickly realizes that she is going somewhere fun and forgets all about me. It works like magic! Each time, she has returned with a new, loving appreciation for her daddy.

We've been going through a similar stage with our daughter since 20 months, and now at 25 mos. it is definitely on the wane. Since I (the mother) work part-time at home and spend many more hours with our daughter than her father can, she became a bit of a mommy's girl and would be quite unflinching in her preference for me, often saying very hurtful things to her father (who adores her). She is also quick to say I don't like (Babysitter) when our sitter arrives three mornings a week to look after her. I always cringe when I hear her say that- thankfully our sitter doesn't take it personally like my husband does.

The way we've tried to cope with it is by adding some Father-Daughter activities to our weekly routine that allow my daughter to have quality time with her dad and at those times I simply make myself scarce. I found that when I was around all the time, my husband couldn't successfully get my daughter's attention. So he started taking her to a Saturday morning swim class at the Albany Pool and he also took over responsibility for the nightly bath. This gave me a break (which I needed) and provided some continuity in my husband's relationship with her. At first, she was leery and kept wanting Mommy. But now, after bathtime she is completely receptive to being read to or played with or tucked into bed for the night by her father and I can be involved or not, depending on what else is going on.

My husband and I realized that, from our daughter's POV, Daddy did not seem all that dependable as compared to Mommy. My husband works long, often irregular hours. He travels periodically. Sometimes he leaves home early before she's awake and sometimes he comes home late and she doesn't see him at dinnertime or even before going to bed. So my husband had to make a conscious effort to come home in time to spend the dinner and bath times with her whenever possible. At this age, children really long for the security that comes from having everything in its place (from THEIR perspective). My daughter still asks every day: Where's Daddy? (at work) Where's (Babysitter)? (she went home) Where's Mommy? (i'm right here). Routines (in which both parents regularly participate) and lots of reassurance have helped our daughter. She still has her moments when only Mommy will do, but now fortunately she can also feel secure with her father. Good luck !!

The best explanation I found for this is that the child at that age will favor whomever he/she spends the most time with. So whatever you can do to increase the time that her father spends with her should help. I still find that after I have to work a weekend, and therefore my husband has a lot more contact with them than usual, they are much more likely to go to him for comfort, etc. It actually gives me a bit of a break during the next week.

All I have to offer is commiseration: I'm a mom whose first child favored his dad, especially since I had a caesarean and another surgery during his first 6 months. I also worked outside the home, whereas his father worked at home. This caused me great anguish, so I can sympathise with your husband. To some degree our older son still favors his dad, has to have his dad with him when he goes to sleep etc. In some situations, though I've managed to create a bond--he comes to me when he's afraid of a new situation, and we do homework together now (he's 5) because i'm more patient (sometimes) than his dad.

Our second son, on the other hand, has always cleaved to me. This made me feel better, but it also made me realize that it's not really something I do or don't do, or at least not entirely something I do or don't do...whether it's personality or circumstances or what I don't know. He still demands me, even though sometimes he and his dad have more fun (i don't roughhouse with him, for example, now that he's 34 pounds!).

I imagine it is a temporary phase with your daughter...it helps sometimes us if the less-favored parent spends time alone with the child in question doing something special--but it could just be a phase you have to tough out. Good luck!

In regards to Favoring Mom over Dad. My now 3 year old displayed the same behavior starting about a year ago and it's still happening today. At first he favored me (mom) over Dad. Dad was really hurt and confused because our child always loved to see him come home, hug and kiss him, etc. I tried to comfort Dad and assured him that I'm the MOM so so naturally children show favoritism to MOMS Boy was I wrong. Not much longer after that, DAD was the favorite parent. At first I was a little crushed, but then I realized that it's just a part of them growing up. A part of them making choices of who they want hugs and kisses from at that particular time. Needless to say our son goes back and forth with playing favorites. It's almost like a game now. Nothing to worry about DAD, soon enough you'll be the favorite again. Prepare yourself MOM, that first moment of rejection tugs at you a bit, but it will happen. Just love your kids and know that regardless of their little developing attitudes, they Love you back!

18-month-old is rejecting mommy

Jan 2009

My beautiful, funny, happy 18 month old daughter has recently started rejecting me (mommy) and it's breaking my heart. Unlike with her dad or grandma or older brother (he's 5), she doesn't run to me when I come in the door, she refuses to hug me (says ''no!''), pushes me away when I try to hold her, and only seems to begrudgingly accept my presence when there is no one else around. If Daddy or Grandma come into the house, she runs to them (if they're even in another room, she won't stay with me). My husband says she calls ''momma'' all the way home from her nannyshare when she is there, yet when she gets home she wants nothing to do with me. I work from home, so I see her a lot (the nannyshare is at our house 2 days/week), spend one weekday alone with her, still nurse her morning and evening, and feel like I am generally very hands-on, loving and affectionate. She's never been super cuddly, but I thought we had a very close bond. What is happening??? very sad momma

Totally normal. My DD did this to a lesser extent at this age. I was terribly hurt that she preferred her dad. She would say, ''no mommy. I want Daddy!'' And I would go into our room and cry. Then she switched her allegiance one day and was all about mommy. Now she is 4 and is equal in her affection. Now my 19 month old son has always preferred me and I have done nothing different as a parent. Don't worry. It's a phase (and I sympathize) anon

I would come home from work and my daughter would run up to me but only to nurse then run off to my mom. My mom said that she would tell her she misses me while I'm at work. But when I got home, I never got hugs or kisses or any signs of her missing me at all. But when her dad came home, she would say I love you loud enough that people at the end of the block should be able to hear her. And she'd run to him, hug him and kiss him. Then she got older and at some point she liked me again. Hang in there, she'll come back.

Welcome to my world. I have to say, reading your post was a huge validation for me. My son started ''rejecting'' me right around the time he turned 18 months and I was completely devastated. I think the worst was when I met his dad (we are no longer together) at a grocery store and my son ran from me to his dad, gave hiim a big hug and kiss, and then proclaimed to everyone who passed that that was his ''daddy.'' I actually started to cry in the store. I called one of my girlfriends sobbing wanting to know how come I do all the work (including breastfeeding) and his dad gets all the credit. She listened and told me how she went through the same thing with her little girl (they all live in the same household). She told me how it was a natural phase children go through and that they do get over it. I talked to several other women and they shared the same. I hope this helps. I know it can be very painful. My son is now a little over 19 months and it's getting a little better and I'm not as hurt anymore. I hope this helps you even a little, if not a lot. Take care. anon

21-month-old favors mom

Our 21 month old daughter has started showing a strong preference for her mother (me) and is rebuffing her father. She used to run to the door to greet Papa when he came home, throwing her arms around his leg and kissing him. Now she barely notices when he comes home. She has always run to me for comfort, but used to prefer playing with Papa. It has been a gradual distancing over the last two months or so. Tonight she repeatedly refused to let him read to her, hug her, play a game, or look at him. Needless to say, it makes my husband feel awfu. I think that she is probably just going through a phase. Any advice for how my husband could go about reconnecting with her or any words of comfort for him while he waits it out? Thanks.

We've been going through a similar stage with our daughter since 20 months, and now at 25 mos. it is definitely on the wane. Since I (the mother) work part-time at home and spend many more hours with our daughter than her father can, she became a bit of a mommy's girl and would be quite unflinching in her preference for me, often saying very hurtful things to her father (who adores her). She is also quick to say I don't like (Babysitter) when our sitter arrives three mornings a week to look after her. I always cringe when I hear her say that- thankfully our sitter doesn't take it personally like my husband does.

The way we've tried to cope with it is by adding some Father-Daughter activities to our weekly routine that allow my daughter to have quality time with her dad and at those times I simply make myself scarce. I found that when I was around all the time, my husband couldn't successfully get my daughter's attention. So he started taking her to a Saturday morning swim class at the Albany Pool and he also took over responsibility for the nightly bath. This gave me a break (which I needed) and provided some continuity in my husband's relationship with her. At first, she was leery and kept wanting Mommy. But now, after bathtime she is completely receptive to being read to or played with or tucked into bed for the night by her father and I can be involved or not, depending on what else is going on.

My husband and I realized that, from our daughter's POV, Daddy did not seem all that dependable as compared to Mommy. My husband works long, often irregular hours. He travels periodically. Sometimes he leaves home early before she's awake and sometimes he comes home late and she doesn't see him at dinnertime or even before going to bed. So my husband had to make a conscious effort to come home in time to spend the dinner and bath times with her whenever possible. At this age, children really long for the security that comes from having everything in its place (from THEIR perspective). My daughter still asks every day: Where's Daddy? (at work) Where's (Babysitter)? (she went home) Where's Mommy? (i'm right here). Routines (in which both parents regularly participate) and lots of reassurance have helped our daughter. She still has her moments when only Mommy will do, but now fortunately she can also feel secure with her father. Good luck !!

The best explanation I found for this is that the child at that age will favor whomever he/she spends the most time with. So whatever you can do to increase the time that her father spends with her should help. I still find that after I have to work a weekend, and therefore my husband has a lot more contact with them than usual, they are much more likely to go to him for comfort, etc. It actually gives me a bit of a break during the next week.

All I have to offer is commiseration: I'm a mom whose first child favored his dad, especially since I had a caesarean and another surgery during his first 6 months. I also worked outside the home, whereas his father worked at home. This caused me great anguish, so I can sympathise with your husband. To some degree our older son still favors his dad, has to have his dad with him when he goes to sleep etc. In some situations, though I've managed to create a bond--he comes to me when he's afraid of a new situation, and we do homework together now (he's 5) because i'm more patient (sometimes) than his dad.

Our second son, on the other hand, has always cleaved to me. This made me feel better, but it also made me realize that it's not really something I do or don't do, or at least not entirely something I do or don't do...whether it's personality or circumstances or what I don't know. He still demands me, even though sometimes he and his dad have more fun (i don't roughhouse with him, for example, now that he's 34 pounds!).

I imagine it is a temporary phase with your daughter...it helps sometimes us if the less-favored parent spends time alone with the child in question doing something special--but it could just be a phase you have to tough out. Good luck!

In regards to Favoring Mom over Dad. My now 3 year old displayed the same behavior starting about a year ago and it's still happening today. At first he favored me (mom) over Dad. Dad was really hurt and confused because our child always loved to see him come home, hug and kiss him, etc. I tried to comfort Dad and assured him that I'm the MOM so so naturally children show favoritism to MOMS Boy was I wrong. Not much longer after that, DAD was the favorite parent. At first I was a little crushed, but then I realized that it's just a part of them growing up. A part of them making choices of who they want hugs and kisses from at that particular time. Needless to say our son goes back and forth with playing favorites. It's almost like a game now. Nothing to worry about DAD, soon enough you'll be the favorite again. Prepare yourself MOM, that first moment of rejection tugs at you a bit, but it will happen. Just love your kids and know that regardless of their little developing attitudes, they Love you back!

My older son preferred his Dad from the time he was old enough to express a preference. It hurt like hell. It seemed unnatural; I was the Mom, and Moms are supposed to be the closer bonded. It seemed personal; I spent more time with him, and took care of everything to make his life easy (all the shopping, all the pre-school looking, all the planning). It seemed endless; it lasted for three years or more. Then along came son number 2. >From the get-go he was Mommy's boy, though he never pushed Dad away like the first pushed me away. They are now 8 and 4. And while both are connected with both parents, and neither plays one parent off another, their respective personalities mesh most (and are most like) the personalities of the parent they preferred early on. My older son is a math wizard (like Dad), a punster (like Dad), and a thinker (like Dad). My younger son is emotionally connected (like Mom), very warm (like Mom), creative (like Mom), and irrepressible (like Mom). What's cause, what's effect? Who knows. Just don't take a toddler's preferences personally, hang on, and everything will iron out by the time they are four or so.

My 17 month old daughter goes through periods where her preference for me, her mother, over her father is quite evident. It is very uncomfortable to watch. When this happens, we take it as a sign that daddy needs to spend more time alone with her. He takes her out of the house to a fun place like the park. I go to the door and wave good-bye and though she looks sad for a moment, she quickly realizes that she is going somewhere fun and forgets all about me. It works like magic! Each time, she has returned with a new, loving appreciation for her daddy.

Two Year Olds

2-year-old on a Daddy-rejecting bender

Dec 2011

My son who is 28 months has been on a Daddy-rejecting bender. My husband is totally sweet and loving with him but is at the end of his rope. Yesterday he'd had a hard day and as he came in the door the first words out of my son's mouth were, ''Go away! Go back to work, Daddy!'' My son and husband used to have a special bond. But now as Mommy I am the preferred for everything. I have no idea what to do or say to either of them. I'd like advice only from folks who have experienced this themselves and have something positive to say about being on the other side of it. Thanks! -Caught in the Middle

It's been a long time since this has happened in our house -- my son that went through this phase is now almost 11 and often doesn't want to be around either of us, but that's another story. I seem to recall giving him a heads up that Daddy was on his way helped a lot. I'd heard or read that transitioning from the attention of one parent to two can be over-stimulating if they're not aware it's about to happen. I'd have my husband give us a call when he was almost home and then I'd let my son know he was coming. And, I'd move onto very busy tasks (like dinner!) and let them have some alone time to play, chat, bond, etc. I was no fun and Daddy was all fun and availability. I remember it working. Can't hurt, might help.

The same thing happened to me. What we did was determine certain activities that only I would do. Now I give my son his bath and read him stories every night before bed. At first he whined for my husband (the primary caregiver) but my husband was very firm that I did the bath and story time and he just comes up for hugs when we were done. The key is not giving in even if it's tough the first few times.

Now my son doesn't want anyone else to do his bath but me. We're much closer and seem to have gotten over this hurdle. It's horrible to come home from a long day at work to a kid who doesn't want to see you. Now those days are few and far between. Been there, hated it

I am in just the same spot as you: my son is 27 months old (mid-July birthday), and his dad is super kind and playful with him. My husband had two solid weeks of hard work where he barely saw our kids, and now, as if overnight, my son won't have anything to do with him. He's developed extreme separation anxiety from me as well, and will freak out when I so much as leave the room to use the bathroom. It's hard on both parents: my husband wants more time with our son, and I'd like an occasional break from doing every little thing for him.

All I can say is I remember when my daughter (now six) went through this also, and it does pass. I remind my husband now, who like yours is dismayed by all this, that the time came when the tables turned and my daughter wanted dad, dad, dad all the time. I'm trying to make him feel secure and enjoy that it's my lap he wants, as that will change soon enough. Hang in there! In the same boat

2-year-old's preference for his dad hurts me

Dec 2008

I've been feeling hurt by my son's preference for his father over me. Since he was 12 months old, he's asked for his dad whenever he's hurt, scared, or wakes up in the middle of the night. If he has a tantrum, he rejects me (runs away and says, ''No mama!'') and clings to his dad. He will come to me if dad's not around, though.

My husband and I both work from home, but I take greater responsibility for the kids if the nanny needs help. On the whole, though, we share parenting equally and have similar parenting styles.

What can I do to foster a better relationship with my son? We have regular outings, just the two of us. We have a solid relationship... until he gets upset, then he looks for his dad. I'm sad because this has been going on for two years now and I'm hurt every time it happens. Mother of Daddy's Boy

Hi. I've had your experience too with my sons and I have felt the same way too but you know, it's all in how you look at it. I think it's wonderful that your son feels so safe with his dad. If you stop applying the pressure or feeling jealous and insecure, before you know it, he'll be seeking you. Just give him space and you'll see. Good luck and enjoy the bond. anon

I reviewed the responses to earlier posts like this, and saw one I had written way back when my boys were 8 and 4. (The gist: Yes, it hurts like hell. Don't take it personally. It will pass.) Now they are 17 and 14. And, I am pleased to say, the 17-year-old, once the Daddy's boy, now hates us equally. :) As my (very wise) grandmother used to say re all kid behavior, when you think you can't stand it any more, it changes. Hold On and Keep Smiling

2-year-old refuses to have dad around

Jan 2007

Hi, Not sure if this is common or not, but my 2 year old daughter refuses to have anything to do with me at night. She yells ''no dad, no dad'' and only wants her mom. Sometimes this is because she is tired and wants to nurse and wants the comfort of mom. There are times during the day where she will refuse to come to me, sometimes ignores me and sometimes even goes to play with other dads in a playgroup.

Luckily, this only happens 30% of the time, and when she is not acting this way we play together, she hugs and kisses me, wants to read and play with me.

It is very hurtful when she doesnt want me and even more hurtful when she goes to other dads in the group. Anyone have adivce or been through this? Thanks

My 2.5 year-old son is the exact same way, although I'm the mom so he only wants me and not daddy. he's mean too, yelling things like ''no, not you daddy!''. I feel so bad for my husband, but after we read ''Your two year old: Terrible or Tender'' (by Louise Bates Ames, http://tinyurl.com/2jxbyf), we relaxed as this is apparently normal. Twos often want the ''unavailable' parent. I often want time to myself to clean or cook dinner or to just have a break at night. I think this makes me mentally 'unavailable' and my son senses this so he only wants me. One thing that helps: specific time with Dad only. I go out or my husband takes our son out during the weekend (to a park, museum, etc.). The more time they spend together alone, the more my son wants to hang out with him, although he still reverts back to wanting mommy only. My only advice: this is a phase, she will grow out of it, and please try not to take it personally (easier said than done, I know!). Sometimes now he wants daddy only and is mean to me, and I am relieved as I want a break! (And dad is very happy.) This too shall pass

This helped us: the ''favored'' parent would say something along the lines of, ''You're being disrespectful to my sweetheart. In our family we treat each other kindly. You need to be polite to dad.'' Took a while, but in the end seemed to help. Occasionally (now at 3yo) our daughter will test, such as saying, ''I don't want daddy to read stories, I want mommy'' when it's daddy's turn to read stories. We reply that it's fine, she doesn't need to have any stories! She always changes her tune after that. Heather

2-year-old only wants dad - pushes mom away

July 2004

I have a happy 23 month old daughter and have recently been lucky enough to leave my career to be at home with her full time for awhile. we spend lots of quality time together, going to parks, the zoo, music classes, etc. She and I have a good relationship and I make lots of effort to connect with her and show her how much I care for her. A couple of months ago, she began to develop a great attachment to her father. She\x92s always been fond of him - but suddenly she only wants to play with him when he\x92s home, only wants him to read her books, etc - often pushing me away. When the three of us are together, she has stopped giving me hugs and kisses in favor of cuddling and hugging her dad, and only says hello to him in the mornings, even when I\x92m the one to get up early to greet her. I feel slightly silly writing this because I know it must sound like I have nothing major to complain about - but it is painful to feel excluded by your child and I just wonder if anyone out there has experienced a similar situation, in which their child seemed to favor one parent over the other quite suddenly, with no appparant trigger (I am not aware of anything I did to push her away emotionally.) My husband is equally surprised by her sudden extreme affection toward him - and though charmed by it, he is empathetic and tries to make sure she includes me too, to which she usually refuses with a \x93no mama!\x94 Strangely enough, if she and I have a particularly playful and happy time together during the day, she will call me \x93daddy.\x94 I wonder if this is a normal developmental stage she is going through, or if there is something specific I should do to try to reconnect with her? - mother of a daddy\x92s girl

A wise 9 year old boy was telling my fortune when my daughter was a baby. What he said, ''Sometimes your daughter will love her daddy more, and sometimes she'll love her mommy more, until she's a teenager and doesn't like either of you.'' It was very comforting, and true! anon

This is a really really typical reaction of a 2 year old with a new baby. In fact, I find that reactions to new babies tend to peak at about 2-4 months after the new baby arrives. It sounds to me like she has recognized that she can get a reaction out of you and its a control/manipulation thing. Children can be very perceptive about this stuff, they will always find the one thing that really gets to you and then work it, esp if you are spending a lot of time with the new baby. If I we! re you, I would really really try to act like I don't care. And have your husband ignore it too. Not even a sad look, just go about your business like she didn't reject you (I know, its hard). Give it a couple of weeks and see if she stops once she is not getting a reaction. In the mean time, give her extra alone time if you can. Don't worry, she is doing this because she loves you, not the opposite. But beware, if you get rid of this behavior/reaction to the new baby, you may have another even more difficult one lurking just around the corner. good luck

2-year-old prefers dad

Nov 2003

I have an almost 2 year old son and ever since he was able to express feelings / preferences he has clearly preferred my husband. When I'm the only one around or pick him up from daycare by myself he is running up to me and hugging me, but as soon as my husband is around, he doesn't want anything or much to do with me. Sometimes he even pushes me away when I come too close to him and his dad. This is really starting to weigh down on me and I feel more often than not very sad and am crying a lot over this. My husband is understanding to a certain point, but he thinks I'm taking it too seriously since our son is just a little kid. He also thinks that I'm holding him responsible and show it in my attitude towards him. I don't think I'm holding him responsible, but I do have to admit that I'm envious of him being the prefered one and that probably shows. I know that everyone says little kids can only concentrate on one person at a time and that the preference is supposed to switch back and forth between mom and dad (then again, aren't little boys supposed to be more attached to their moms?) Since this has been going on for about a year now, I can't imagine that it will ever change or turn my way. I also have to say that my husband was always very involved with our son and (except for breastfeeding) did at least as much as I did in respect to all the chores like getting up at night, feeding, cleaning etc. He is also a very happy and fun person and is great with our son when they play or goofe around ... I'm thinking that this might be part of the problem since I just can't live up to the fun interaction he has with our son. I'm trying hard, but I am who I am and can't really change my personality.

I just wanted to see if anyone is or was in a similar situation and what they did to deal with it or overcome/change it. This is starting to affect my life and my relationship/feelings towards my husband and son who are both wonderful people. a sad mom

I didn't know if whether to laugh or cry when I read your posting. I'm going through the exact same thing with my 2 year old son. Although I don't have advice to give I thought you might find comfort in knowing you are not alone. It is constantly on my mind and I'm getting increasingly depressed about it. You are right - everyone says it's normal and it will change but sometimes I feel like it's hopeless. I just want to be myself and be a great mother without constantly trying to ''win over'' my son. I look forward to reading the responses to your comment. Good luck!! anon

Your post could have been written by me. For more than a year (I didn't really keep track, maybe 18 months), my son always favored his dad. If it was just the two of us, he'd love to see me and have fun with me usually, although there were also many demands (and sometimes crying jags) for his dad if he wasn't there. In fact, often if his dad was there, he would push me away and shout, ''no, mama!Mama go away.'' This was worse because often my husband and I would share childcare enough that my kiddo worried if I came into the room, that meant his dad was leaving. My husband was also very involved in childcare, but also less there than I was (working more hours) so more highly prized. Also he tended to be more ''fun'', concentrating solely on him, whereas I tended to multitask and try to do laundry, phone calls, dishes, cooking also. Also my husband tended to be easy with discipline whereas I enforced cleanup, leaving when I said we would, etc. I also felt sad about it. It helped to have some special time where I just concentrated on being with him, reading, playing, drawing, singing. And I think it made a difference to work a bit more. It also really helped to sometimes not listen to him say go away but really stay and be the 3 of us together having fun as much as possible. Or at least be in the room (reading or whatever). But some of it I think was just time. He's 2 yrs 8 months now and he's JUST begun to equalize his preferences and to also ask for me and really seem to enjoy my company just as much. Good luck and know you aren't alone. been there

I'm sorry that you're so sad about this. I know it can feel hurtful, but please believe that it's a phase, and that it doesn't mean that your son doesn't love you with all his heart. The thing is, you're the one he feels so comfortable and bonded with that he takes you for granted in his own toddler way. It will most likely go away in time; on the other hand, he will probably always have a special kind of bond with his dad that he doesn't have with you (and vice-versa). This happens only occasionally with me, and what I do is let him have his daddy time, and I go read a magazine, or do something by myself. Try to make his rejection of you into something good for you--focus on what good can come of it for you, and not on the idea that he doesn't want you or love you (because he really, really does). And, as with other things toddlers do, if you try not to make it seem like a big deal to you, he may stop sooner. Take care. You're a great mom. been there

Hello, I was in your boat! My son is now almost five and about six months ago he started to see me as someone he could love. I hope your son comes around. anon

We have this problem in my home too. Occassionally I will get a little green with envy, but mostly I just let them have their fun. What seems to irk me the most is that Im busy sorting laundry, vacuuming, cooking, packing the diaper bag for daycare, etc. and stop for a minute to listen to my son's hysterical giggles. Hey!!!! If I wasn't doing all this stuff I could be giggling too. My advice is to just let it go. If you find some quality alone time with your son, he will show you the affection you crave. Im lucky because my partner works odd hours and I do get a lot of alone time with my son and we do get to play and cuddle, plus my boy still nurses (Daddy aint got nothin on the breastmilk). So enjoy the times you are alone with your son more. Maybe you and your husband can make a deal where he loads the dishwasher or something while you get your boy into his bath and jammied and ready for bed. That definitely works in my house. Lori

I'm in a similar situation, in some ways. My husband is the SAHD/primary caregiver and so it's natural for our 15 month old son to prefer him since he's with him more often. I do feel envious at times and hurt when Ben needs to be comforted and only wants Da-Dee. It was especially difficult when I came home from work one day and met them at our neighborhood park. My husband had an errand to run and so left us there and Ben was very upset, pushing me away and crying for Da-Dee for 5 minutes straight.

But...I have to understand that this relationship is what's important to Ben and so I step aside when I have to and never force him if there's no need. Our situation differs in that Ben will switch over to me if I spend the day with him. Maybe my husband takes a weekend day for himself or Ben and I go for a day ourselves. If I spend the better part of the weekend that switch is stronger. Also, his preference does seem to be the strongest on Friday (after a long workweek) and weakest at the end of the weekend (after spending a lot of time with me).

I know our situations may differ in some significant ways but for me the solutions were part attitude and part logistics. 1) spend as much time with him as possible, 2)keep my needs separate from the needs of my child (my feeling left out vs his need to bond with his daddy), 3)keep in mind that I will be his mommy forever and there is plenty of time for me to find my special place with him, 4)when he is showing a strong preference I participate in the activity with him and daddy, and become as involved as Ben will let me, 5)always look for the windows when he^Rll let me take the primary role and step in, 6)when I'm comforting him and he calls for daddy I try some gentle distraction (like walking out on the porch) to see if he'll calm with me. If not, I call in the daddy, 7)keep in mind that it is true to an extent that young children often bond with one caregiver, who is preferred over all others (usually it^Rs the mommy and so it feels odd to us when its not), 8) this has NOTHING to do with my love for my son or my abilities as a mother, 9)sometimes I try to see the blessing in disguise ^V if he wants to play with daddy then I get a free minute or two to eat my lunch in peace or do a personal chore. And at night it means I get to sleep while my husband often has to get up and comfort him, and 10) if I was to be honest with myself, wasn^Rt there one of my parents who I preferred over the other (and for me it has switched over time as my maturity level and needs changed and it has switched with the situation at hand).

I hope something in my experience helps you. Hang in there and know that you are the Mommy, and that^Rs something that your husband will never be. part time caregiver, full time mommy

oh, I can empathize with you. I could have easily written your post. My son preferred (and still prefers to some degree) his dad. Like you we shared parenting pretty equally and his dad is a really fun guy that kids LOVE. I shed tears over it! Things that helped at the time were spending time alone with my son doing fun things. Then I could see that he really did love me. Over time the strength of the preference faded and my son would even ask for me in the middle of the night instead of daddy, however it never switched back and forth equally like the books said it would.

Now my son is seven if asked he probably would say he still prefers dad but we have a tight bond too...I still try to find time to do special things alone together. It can be hard because my son's interests are really different from mine but I just try to keep showing up.

Our second child appears to prefer me so far....is this because parenting is less equally shared this time around or because daddy is not quite as doting since big brother needs attention too or some other reason? I don't know but I can't deny that it is a big relief!

I think you just have to weather through it and try to nurture your relationships with son and daddy as best you can. Be kind to yourself, you are a great mom. Sometimes I comforted myself by saying '' I am a great mom it's just that he is a SUPER great dad''. been there

Our daughter also has gone through phases of favoritism of one parent over another. It can be emotionally hard. However, if you can remember that your son really does love you and be confident in your parenting, then you can enjoy the break you can get while he is playing with daddy. Kids get different things from different parents, and no matter what, you are the mommy and he needs the ''mommy'' things he gets from you. You don't have to worry that you're not as fun as daddy. I know my daughter loves me and has fun with me, so when she says ''Go away mommy! I just want to play with Daddy.'' I say, ''Fine, I'll just go relax and read a book!'' Frances

2-year-old son is preferring dad

Oct 2002

In the past few month, my son has become very attached to my husband. He's very vocal about preferring that my husband do everything from putting him to bed, giving him a bath, getting him dressed, etc. I'm trying to look at this as a break for me, and not feel rejected by it, but in truth my feelings are sort of hurt. My husband and I split our workdays so we both have large amounts of time with our son during the week. Is this a common occurence? How long does it last? Should I just ride it out? What's it all about anyway? anonymous

Our son prefered me (Dad) starting when he was a few months old. When he was about four months old, she took him to work, and I went along. She was trying to show him off to her workmates, but every time she would hold him, he would cry and reach out for me. Absolutely painful. He is now four and the preference continues. This has been extremely hard on my wife, lots of tears etc, as one might well imagine. But the impact on my wife is lessening, partly because my son is now simply prefering me, and not actively rejecting her.

Things that have helped are 1) Being very demonstative in my affection for my wife. He sees this and wants to get in on the hugs and cuddles with his mom. 2) Reminding my wife that this is NOT due to something she has or has not done, because it began when he was just a few months old, before he could reason about such things. It is simply an innate preference, like his preference for eating only white and orange things. 3) When mommy is gone, we occasionally talk about why we like her, why we are so happy she is the mommy etc.

The intensity of the preference has lessened over the years. But it is very trying, for both parents. Best wishes. Steve

2-year-old son cries when mom holds him


While there is a wonderful write up on the issue of a child having a strong preference for one parent (see below) I would like to get more input into this.

My two year old frequently cries when my wife holds him and holds out his arms to me. He will often say to her way which means away which means Get Away! After a hard day at work, she comes home and will often get rather hostile treatment. He can reduce her to tears very easily. It is awkward for me, and horrible for my wife. He has had a preference for daddy since a baby, perhaps because I have been more of the care giver.

I have tried telling him he hurts mom's feelings, and ignoring him (easier for me to do than my wife). This behavior is getting worse, not better. Any thoughts?

Please don't tell your son that his crying is hurting Mom's feelings! He has strong feelings, and being made to feel bad about his feelings is not good. That's guilt, and it's too much for a 2 yo to handle. The same goes for ignoring him. Despite their amazingly grown up talents, a two yo is still emotionally very immature.

I had good luck with my daughter when she was 2 with discussing her feelings. This seemed to work especially well with tantrums. We would talk about her anger and frustration. I would say things like You're very angry, aren't you? - well, you know the routine - the whole active listening thing. Those feelings are very personal, and the kid seems to feel a strong proprietary attachment to them. Denying or condemning the feelings can be quite injurious, I would think. The trick is to distinguish between thoughts or feelings on the one hand, and behavior on the other. He's free to think and feel what he likes, as long as he behaves properly. (I only learned that lesson when I was 38!)

Saying way doesn't sound like a very serious offense in itself - except for the fact that it's very hurtful to Mom. And asking him not to use that wonderful power-word is taking away a piece of his control over his environment. He does need his own space, after all, and he needs to be able to tell people to back off. Control is a big 2 yo thing too - and maybe that's it: Maybe he gets a kick out of watching everyone react with extreme emotion when he just utters a single syllable!

Or maybe your son is reacting to Mom (a) being away, and (b) being dog-tired when he gets to see her. (I think Penelope Leach has something to say on this topic.) He's feeling rejected in some way. In that case, the only remedy in my opinion is for Mom to make some accommodations so that she can devote more time (preferably when she's fresh) to your son.

Easier said than done, I know. And, given the fact that Mom is so deeply affected by these incidents, I'm sure she feels a tremendous level of guilt about it all too.

Is your son in some sort of daycare situation? If so, make sure that everything is OK there. Is going to daycare contributing to his sense of rejection?

After following the Oedipal Victor discussion, I am rather sensitive to the issue of our duty as parents and partners to make sure that our mariage/partner relationship is healthy. You sound like a caring person, so this is probably something you have considered.

Two is a difficult age - like adolescence without the hormones. Be gentle with yourselves.

I have some good perspective from your sons point of view. My father was my stay at home care provider while my mother worked and I remember vividly her getting off the train and bursting into tears upon seeing her every night. I can't imagine how painfull this was for her. I really resented my mom for interupting the one-on-one realtionship I had with my father since his attention was immediately focused on her (I felt). From a childs perspective, I think I would have been happier to see my mom if they both focused on me when she came home. Instead they talked together and I did not feel like part of the conversation. I am only speaking from my situation but I know my father sort of abandoned me when my mom came home since he turned into someone else (an adult!). I became very protective of my father and was very resentfull of my mother for a very long time. Maybe this perspective can help you in your situation. Good luck! Hadley

My son preferred his dad over me, his mom, mightily at that age and it did hurt. Over time the preference has become less pronounced (he's four now) and he asks for me at times rather than Daddy. I think things that helped me get through it were having time alone with him (which we did just due to our schedules), and having time alone with my husband so I didn't feel like the odd one out (harder to manage). Also having my husband be affectionate to me in front of our son helped. It's great that you are supportive and thinking about solutions, that alone probably helps your wife feel better. The transition at the end of the day can be tough. maybe talking about what you're going to do when Mommy gets home would help prepare him When Mommy gets home we'll say Hi, How was your day? and give her a big Hug. I hope the preference for Daddy means our sons have great bonds with their fathers and will be wonderful fathers and husbands themselves someday.

We have the same age son, and the reverse (and probably more typical) situation. My son pushes his Dad away hits him, screams NOOOOOO, and all sorts of things. He gives me special snuggles and hugs, which he has only a few times given his Dad. When he wakes at night and Dad tries to comfort him, he goes into a really splendid tantrum. So of course, I do the night comforting, he rarely gets his Dad, and that makes it worse. My husband feels bad enough in the privacy of our own home, but this has been made worse by the fact that my son really loves my own Dad who lives in the area. When they are together, my husband feel sad that his son will have nothing to do with him, except to push him away in front of my Dad. While I really don't know what to do about this, and I hope it is a passing stage, I got a good suggestion from this advice line a while ago. When it gets bad, it's time for my son and husband to spend more time together. For us, this is usually most of a whole weekend day. On other days, we have noticed that if I am with my son from the time he wakes up, it seems especially hard for him to part with me. So, my husband frequently plays with him first thing on the weekends (we both work full time), and they do something special, like dig up worms in the yard. This really helps, at least for the remander of the day. I hope you get an answer from a more experienced parent, because on weekday evenings, it's just mommy, mommy, mommy- NOOOO DADDY.

2.5-year old rejecting daddy

Oct 2010

Hi, I need advice with my sweet 2.5-year daughter (only child so far) and my equally sweet middle-aged husband. Our daughter reject her daddy most of the time. She doesn't want to cuddle with him when in our bed, doesn't want to kiss him or be kissed by him at any time, no voluntary hugs, or diaper changes, or feeding, or reading books. The most frequent phrases he hears from her are ''Daddy go away'', ''No daddy'', ''I don't like daddy'', ''don't touch me'', ''don't talk''. She would also occasionally hit him.

This situation drives both of us (parents) absolutely nuts. Me because I have to do everything and have to deal with tantrums on both ends, my husband - because he dotes on our naughty toddler and wants her love and attention. He is a very touchy-feely dude and doesn't want to give up on trying to get some hugs from the mean girl. As the result, both of them get very frustrated and upset. He even suggested that we start punishing her (giving her time out) every time she is mean to him, and not just when she slaps him in the face but also when she refused to kiss him good-night or says ''go away''.

She will play with him when she's in a good mood. They would have lots of fun playing hide-and-seek or trains or watching a cartoon. She's scream ''I want daddy'' when he goes away with his buddies to grab a beer. So I don't think she genuinely dislikes him, but rather messes with him and tries to manipulate his feelings. All of our friends, mostly parents of girls, tell us that this is a phase and will go away soon, but my husband doesn't have the patience to wait. He wants to start disciplining her for being mean to him, and I really don't think this is a good idea.

Are there any good, fast-working strategies to handle this situation? Any books on the issue? We do read toddler books about daddies, but I was wondering if there is an authority on father-daughter relationships my husband and I can seek advice from.

Help! stuck between a meanie and a touchy-feelie

Please stand your ground. If you start punishing her you will only prolong this phase and make her resentful of her father. She probably already understands that this upsets him, so a better strategy is for him to not react at all when rejected, and not to push for hugs or attention when she doesn't want to give it. Hey, I am an adult and I really don't like it when people demand hugs or kisses - I give them when I feel like it. As an aside, you said that he is touchy-feely and that you have to deal with tantrums from him too. How does he interact with you? I know that my 3 year old daughter really dislikes it when my husband gripes or is unpleasant to me (even when right before and after he is pleasant and kind to her) and she will get protective of me and tell me she doesn't want her father. Anon

I also think that kind of discipline would backfire. I think your husband should step down the hugging/cuddling thing for a while. Pushing it is not respecting her space. Children this age should be able to say when they do not want physical affection. They need to feel their body is their own. Love doesn't always have to be expressed physically, and maybe now is just a phase where he should express his love for her with more physical space. It's not forever; the phase will pass.

That said, kids should not be able to decide who changes their diaper every time and that kind of thing. If it's Daddy's turn, it's Daddy's turn. Otherwise, the preferred parent ends up feeling like a slave and nothing ever changes. We had to tell our kids many times, ''No, it's Daddy this time,'' and usually they eased up after a while. To me, this falls in the health, hygiene, and safety category where kids must sometimes be forced to do what has to be done, whether they like it or not.

Maybe he could also start doing more fun things alone with her, and without the forced hugging and what not. He could take her to the zoo, out for ice cream, that kind of thing, to build more positive associations with Daddy time. anon

I'm really sorry to hear this, but I can truly relate to your problem! My husband works 60 hr workweeks, so being away from us is something that we all have to sacrifice. What we noticed was our daughter, like yours, was very resentful for my husband being away so much or my husband not spending enough quality time that she so lacked - so for her, it was her only way to make him feel badly for not being around. Children don't know how to express themselves, so the way my daughter showed him that she was hurt emotionally for his absence I'm assuming, was by attacking him emotionally & physically. It worked!

Although, my husband is a very affectionate, loving, and patient man but he too, was feeling like he needed to punish her. So we tried doing something else & when he got home early enough before she went to bed - he would help prep her for bedtime, brush her teeth, read her bedtime stories, etc...just so that she would spend some QUALITY TIME with him! And that's whats so KEY!!! Also, on his days off, I would let them go out together by themselves & join them later - just so that they would have that father/daughter time. It also gave me a break which I needed! So give it time & patience, I'm sure she will turn around. It is a phase & kids don't come with instructions, so if your husband just tries to do what he can when he can - I know she will turn around & be more loving. A parent should always take the high road & not let the child get you down or run the show. Good luck! -Be strong, patient, and kind

2.5 year old is obsessed with dad

May 2007

My 2 1/2 year old son is obsessed with Dad. I don't think any of this is unusual; however, after a while, I start becoming affected by it. He's constantly asking for daddy, telling me how much he misses him (while he's taking a shower), etc. His father is VERY present in his life, so he's not reacting to a lack of interaction.

Does anyone have any advice for how to swing the pendulum the other way a bit? I know it's very immature, but my son starts to hurt my feelings after I hear about daddy for the millionth time. I'm afraid I'm going to start developing resentment toward both of them (again, not rational or mature) and the begging and pleading will be just become exacerbated.

I'd appreciate any advice, feedback, etc. I know that just about everything is a phase; this one has just gone on for a bit too long and I'm getting resentful. Thanks for anything. Anon

Yeah it is a little silly, but I think its pretty typical for the non-''desired-at-the- moment'' parent to feel a bit rejected. What we do when this happens (and mainly because the desired parent needs a break!) is that the other parent just kinda nonchalantly takes the kid out - to the park, the zoo, outside, whatever - and spends some one-on-one time together. There may be initial balking, even crying, but I mean, he's 2. (Like our son is 2 also). They do these things. At least for us, when we just ignore or make light of the emotional tantrum and head out together anyway, we have a great time together and the desired parent is barely a blip on the memory. jenny

I completely sympathize. My 2 1/2 yr old daughter goes back and forth, but when she's into Daddy, she's REALLY into Daddy. I spend the most time with her, and it definitely hurts my feelings when she's in her NO MOMMY phase. What worked for us was not me spending more time with her, since I'm already with her every afternoon, but I really worked on it being quality time. I tried to be more fun and engaging, I tried to come up with activities that we could do together that she would like. I tried to focus on her instead of the laundry and the dishes. It has definitely helped. She goes back and forth still since she's trying to figure out what each parent is good for. What we are really working on now is getting her to understand that while it's ok for her to want Mommy or Daddy for something, she can't express it in such a mean way. We think she's old enough to understand that she can't yell and scream NO MOMMY or NO DADDY and push the other one away. Teaching tact to a 2 year old is impossible, but we thought we'd try. Good luck to you. I know exactly where you are coming from.

You know this is a phase, but it is still hard when you are going through it. My 2 yo son adores his father, who watches him half-time, and sleeps with him. when he is gone he asks for him, pleading, sometimes for a long time. I just keep telling him where daddy is and then when I get sick of it I distract him. that works well. I had resigned myself to it, then recently he started to favor me when we were both in the room and has been asking for me more. I have started to feel more secure as a result of this shift. He does seem to go back and forth about it. so, my advice is to distract him and change the subject when he asks for daddy, and to be patient; you are his mommy and you'll get the sugar soon!

2.5-year-old's intense attachment to mom

Aug 2003

Hello, I have a 2.5 year old boy who has developed what seems like a total infatuation with me, the Mommy. My daughter was very hooked into me at the same age and it was absolutely fine (I do attachment parenting, so this seemed within the bounds of our close bond). My son's passion, however, is much more intense. It's hard to explain but it's partly physical (he's just all over me all the time) and partly emotional (refuses to let my husband hold him, read to him, serve him food, anything!). I am still breastfeeding my son a tiny bit (a couple times of week) and one friend told me that it's the breastfeeding that's fueling his intense Mommy focus. I'm not so sure I believe that and I wouldn't ''cold turkey'' wean him even if I did believe it--we are gradually weaning and something sudden would be quite a betrayal, I think. My real question is what is the most healthy way to deal with my son's passion--my instinct is to absorb his ardor (i.e., not push him away) and mirror his feelings so he feels like it's ok to love someone passionately. But I don't want to create an over-Mommified boy (or is that just dominant culture stuff that's seeped into my addled brain?) Any thoughts on this would be much appreciated--I do believe in raising sons who are sensitive, loving, receptive, etc. but I am also aware of the dangers of mothers who don't have good ego boundaries (having been raised by one myself, alas). Anon

This sounds completely normal to me. My 3-y-o son is still very mommy-centric. It is both wonderful to be the center of such adoration; complicated, because I, too, worry about boundaries; and draining, because I seem to be the only one who can perform certain tasks. But at the age of 2-3, and with your own awareness of the need for boundaries, perhaps you can just go with it. Your son is very affectionate, and that's great. Plus, every mom of older kids I've spoken to says it changes, and changes quickly.

Still, you have to weather this stage. When my son was about 2-1/2, my husband and I started to consciously add activities and projects that were just for them. They'd go on outings, or have an afternoon together at home, and my husband started taking certain day-to-day tasks (like bath time). It gave me a break and gave them time to bond. There were tears at first, but we all stuck to it and now there is a lot more room for everyone. another mom

My 2 year old son is the same way: his favorite line is ''I need my mommy,'' he's fascinated with my breasts and my bra (we haven't nursed since he was 12 months old, and he's now 27 months, so breastfeeding clearly isn't the origin of the behavior) and will often stick his hand in my shirt when we're out in public. Just this morning he threw a pretty big fit when Daddy was going to put his socks and shoes on (''MOMMY do it!!!''). I think this is just pretty normal little boy behavior. I downplay the hand in my shirt thing -- it seems so absent-minded on his part that I let it be when we're at home, and gently remove it when we're in public. If he asks about my breasts or bra, I matter-of-factly explain their function (breasts are to feed babies, bras are underwear for breasts).

I give him my love and attention when I can: lots of play, lots of hugs and kisses, but I do let him know when ''my hands are busy and you'll need to wait,'' so I don't feel overwhelmed. And whoever has started with the diaper change/dressing/reading a book continues, regardless of whether he decides to scream for the other parent, because I want him to learn (a) to interact effectlvely with both of us and (b) that he doesn't get to change things by yelling and screaming. If he asks nicely for me, I will do it if I can. Karen

Your instincts (accept and reciprocate his affection) are sound. My 4 year was the same way at your son's age, and I only nursed for 3 mos., so that has NOTHING to do with it. Dealing with the overriding preference that mommy do everything required patience and some scheming - I didn't want to be the only parent who could feed, put on socks, wipe the butt, etc. (My sister happily adopted this role with her kids and I think it made her crazy, frankly.) For example, when he demanded that mommy put the socks on, I'd say, I'm going to put on the right sock and daddy will put on the left one. Sometimes, when he wasn't overtired or otherwise ''fragile'' I'd just insist that daddy do it. Now that he's 4, he accepts daddy much more readily, although daddy is almost never the first choice. He goes willingly with him on errands etc. and doesn't have a fit about going without me, or (much worse) tell daddy he can't come with us when we're going to the grocery store. As he gets older, the higher fun quotient that daddy offers, compared to the loving but lower-key mommy, seem more appealing, I think. I don't think you need to worry about overpowering your son for a number of years yet. And believe me, your daughter, when she hits her teenage years, will challenge you in this area first!!! Fran

p.s. to my post a minute ago - I read somewhere that you should reciprocate all physical affection, and use verbal messages when you need or want space. In other words, hug back and say Mommy's busy right now, daddy needs to put your socks on, or whatever.

2.5 year old is rejecting mom, wants dad

Dec 2003

Over the last few months, our 2.5 year old boy has increasingly adopted a strongly antagonistic stance toward his mother, though only when both parents are present. Since he was about 1.5 years, he has expressed a certain preference for his father. This preference, however, is now accompanied by a vocal rejection of his mother, constantingly asking her to leave the room, to not do anything for him (feeding, changing diapers, playing, etc.)but rather have his father do it, sometmes telling her he doesn't like her. If the two of us are present, he does everything he can to be alone with the father and push his mother off into another room. When he and his mother are alone, on the other hand, they get along fine together. It has reached the point where we can not do anything together as a family. We expect that some of this must be due to the fact that we have done a number of moves over the last 6 months, uprooting him from his once stable world. Indeed, he does seem generally unsettled and easily irritated since we moved to Berkeley a couple weeks ago, though his antagonism toward his mother began well before this move, back when, otherwise, he seemed calm and happy. We are at a loss to know how to respond to him best, how to help him feel comfortable, nurtured, and joyful with both of us together. If you have had any similar experience, would we appreciate your suggestions on how best to deal with it. Thanks.

Two year olds (anywhere from 1.5-3.5 years this can occur) are in the process of pulling away from Mommy and working to be more independent. Some of this behavior of identifying so strongly with the father is normal.

That said I think a very important aspect of what you are asking is the relative power situation you describe. Your description tells me that your son has way too much power in this situation. Children desperately need parents to be in charge of the family. It seems to me that you need to be asking your son to fit into your rules more (and that they be clear) rather than working so hard to fit into his.

When my daughter was close to three she had a difficult time having her father and me in the same location at the same time. We however were divorced. She sensed the tense feelings between us and tried to keep us separated because the tension was too difficult for her. Are there any tensions between you and your husband? Are you worried each time the three of you come together thus creating a tense feeling that your son picks up?

It is my experience that most behavioral difficulties with children are corrected when the parents make changes in how they are operating. Most of all it is important that you not take your son's behavior personally. My experience (32 years as a psychotherapist as well as 20 years as a single parent now an adoptive parent as well--and with grandchildren!) is that the child is working desperately to handle emotional energy that feels overwhelming and not good whenever a child behaves in this way. Hope these thoughts are helpful! Ilene

We just went through this very thing. It was VERY HARD for me to deal with. My husband stays home with my daughter while I work and while they've always had a special bond, my 2 1/2 year old daughter was always glad to see me and we had great times together on weekends and evenings. Suddenly, she started saying ''No Mommy'' and would throw herself on the floor screaming if I even entered her visual space.

The way we handled it was this - whenever she would say ''No Mommy'', my husband would say, ''when you say no mommy, it makes daddy sad. If you say no mommy then daddy will go away''. Then if she said it again, my husband would go into his office and start working on something. He didn't leave the house or close the door, but he took his attention away from her. Since his undivided attention was what she was after - after awhile she stopped saying it and is now putting up with me again. Now, when I enter the room, she'll look at me and instead of saying no mommy she says, ''no mommy makes daddy sad''. You can see that she really wants to say ''no mommy'' but stops herself. Over the last few weeks things have gotten better and better.

I was SOOO glad that this ended. It was incredibly demoralizing for me to be rejected like that. I hope that your child's phase ends quickly. Please try not to take it too personally, it really is just a phase and will end.

Good luck Lonely Mommy

2.5 year old only wants mom, all the time

August 2003

My daughter will be 3 in October. Increasingly, she has become very clingy and wanting me (her mom) to do everything for her: get her clothes on, get her a snack, take her to the bathroom, etc. She also gets upset if I leave her with her dad even for a short time. Tonight I needed to move our car from one place outside our house to another and she screamed and cried because I wouldn't let her come with me. It was not possible for my husband to move the car instead of me. In the two minutes I was gone she didn't stop yelling and deliberately urinated on the floor in our bedroom. My husband has been on vacation for the last two months (and I'm a SAHM), so it's not like she's not used to him being around. In the past, things have improved dramatically in their ability to do things together over the course of the two months. This year, though, it seems like she is more desperate for my attention. Thankfully, there are times when she is content to stay home when I have to go out for a longer period of time, so it's not totally constant. Frankly, though, I'm sick of it. Overall, I do far more than my share of taking care of her (and her older brother) and don't feel like she is deprived of my attention at all. Furthermore, I feel that her relationship with her dad is very important and that she needs to recognize that he can do things for her too. He goes back to work in a week, so I know the dynamics will change soon. I hate leaving a screaming child when I have to go somewhere (like to the bathroom by myself when we were camping), hate feeling like I'm the only one who can satisfy her, and am at the end of my rope. Any suggestions? Wrung-Out Mom

Be careful what you wish for. My partner would bemoan the fact that he could do NOTHING for our (then 2-3yo) and she only wanted me. Now she ONLY wants Dad and doesn't have the time of day for me. What did we do? Nothing. I simply met her need for me (as much as I could) because I knew the day would come (she's our 3rd).

Be patient, one day she'll only want daddy and you won't be able to do ANYTHING without screams of protest. :) Kathy

Is that MY daughter you are talking about? Because my daughter who will be 3 in August has been going through exactly the same thing! I have no advice for you, in fact I can't wait to see what advice you get back, but I can offer you tons of sympathy! smothered mommy too

Three & Four Year Olds

3 yr old daughter likes Daddy better

Oct 2007

My 3.5 year old daughter just told me that she likes Daddy better than me, because he does more fun activities with her and takes her fun places. True. Just this weekend he took her to a festival where she had a blast, while I stayed home with the napping baby and took advantage of the empty house to get some cleaning up done. Should I be concerned that she is not developing a positive relationship with me? Should I try to do more fun stuff with her, or should I accept that Daddy and me have different roles? Is she connecting with me in a different way? I am a little worried that later, as a grown up, she might remember me as the one with whom she never had any fun.

This too shall pass. When I had my second and had to be the primary parent on the baby, my then 3 yr old stated many times that he loved Daddy more and wanted Daddy to read books. Sure it pulled at my heart strings, but he wasn't meaning to hurt me. It all passed as the baby grew and we could trade off so I could have more one on one time with our 3 yr old. Take some special fun time with your 3 yr old. Let Dad have the special time he deserves as well. patriica

Come on! You can't take remarks like this so personally. Parenting is a forever thankless job. Developmentally, your 3 year old's words are right on: Daddy time is fun time! But don't be offended or concerned. She likely thinks you provide comfort, safety, nourishment, etc. Those concepts are just more difficult to articulate and not as ''sexy''. And yes, maybe good to create your own ''fun'' times but this could be playing with a hose in the backyard or having a playdate in your home with some ''fun'' activity. The comparisons/complaints never end as your child gets older. You need to protect yourself from taking them personally or you create a vicious cycle. According to my 8 year old I have bad taste in music; some ok but also some pretty darn ugly clothes; I sing off-key; my home- cooked meals sometimes suck; I'm not as pretty as her best friend's mom; etc. Oh, well! She does know that I love her and appreciates our special moments--reading together, walks, laughing at her baby sister's antics. Developing a thick skin and being yourself in a caring, nurtuting, compassionate way will well serve all of you. thick-skinned mama

It's normal at her age to be more attached to dad than mom. My husband and I have days when we do activities as a whole family, but we also do alone times where it's just him and her and then another day it would be just the two of us. During these special times, she gets the fullest attention. We don't do other work and we don't answer phones unless it's an emergency. Crystal

No doubt you have had some good times with your daughter over the last 3 years. I think it's pretty normal for girls to start favoring their daddies at some point. It's also normal for daddy to seem more fun if he is around mostly on the weekend, etc. I would be happy if my husband took my daughter out just the two of them. I do both all the mommy things and the special fun things, 9 times out of 10, and I'm sure she will still ditch me for daddy at some point. anon

My 3 yr old son spends Monday thru Friday every week with his Dad while I am at the office. The have loads and loads of fun. For example....watch trains or make Mac trucks honk horns at them, go to construction sites to watch the tractors and so much more! I would never do those things with my son because that's just not exciting to me. When I go to pick him up, he doesn't want to come home because he has so much fun with his Dad and sometimes he even puts on the sad face and cries. However, once he is home with me, he is fine. His thing with me is a whole lot of hugs and kisses and closeness, which he doesn't do with his Dad. He gives me so much love when he's with me. So, don't feel bad if your 3 yr old prefers Dad over you sometimes. We all bring different things to the table and they all balance out. At that age, it's all about having fun and of course your 3 yr old is going to lean towards Dad if he's the one dishing out the fun stuff. Your child loves you just as much. Just be happy that your child is happy! Nicole

3 yr old daughter is mean to Daddy

March 2007

I know it's normal for kids to go through a stage of favoring one parent over another, but it's still tough to know how to deal with it. Our 3yo daughter has always been a momma's girl. We worked on this by scheduling fun classes with her dad on weekends, which helped a lot. About two months ago, she got very sick (pneumonia). I did too, and I stayed home to take care of her. While she was sick she didn't want anything to do with her dad. If he came near her, she'd scream, yell, flail, kick, and slam things (which sure made things tough, since I was unwell at the time). When she got better, so did her behavior, but lately it seems like we're back at square one. This morning he said hello to her and she didn't even look up at him, she just kind of snarled. It's gotten so that my husband's reluctant to confront her and I'm always being called in to make peace after she throws a fit. I suspect that she needs more attention and is feeling insecure, but I'm just not sure which way to lean. When I comfort her and help her, I feel like I'm reinforcing her negative attitude towards her father. When I refuse to accept her behavior, she just completely loses it. Sometimes I lose it too, and end up yelling at her or her dad, which of course only makes things worse. I try to talk to her about being nice and not hurting Daddy's feelings, but it just makes her dig in her heels. Nothing my husband says helps either. I just feel like we're stuck in a rut. I also worry that she's picked up her volatile temper from me. My biggest challenge, in fact, is trying not to overreact to her outbursts. I've noticed that things defuse faster if I stay calm, but it's just SO hard when it's always on me and I'm having to deal with so many tantrums - especially when I'm nursing her younger sister! What can we do to restore peace?

It seems your daughter is jealous of you being taken away from her now that you have a little one in the home that your now focusing on as well as nursing. It's terrible that she's so disrespectful to your husband but you stated that you yell at him, too. It's easy for our children to imitate how we treat our spouses. I'd suggest that you have your husband set up some playdates with himself and your daughter. They obviously need to get to know each other and you also need a break from her. I know how tedious and exhausting it is to deal with a little one and a newborn. It's hard. But anyway sometimes you just have to pull out of it and let them deal with it. Take a breather and let your husband be more ''hands-on.'' I can't help feeling you've been controlling their relationship to a degree and now it's time for you to let go and let your husband in. Good luck! been there

We have a 2 y/o daughter and she goes back and forth with favoring one parent over the other. She can be quite mean about it and has reduced me to tears on more than one occasion. No Mommy. I want Daddy!!! Right now, she's a mommy's girl and won't kiss her father goodbye or greet him when he gets home. Yesterday morning when he went to get her out of bed, she wanted nothing to do with him. She didn't even want him to touch her. The favored parent usually sits her down and says that she can't treat Daddy (or Mommy) that way. Sounds to me like your daughter is reacting to a couple of things: I don't know how old her new sibling is, but that probably plays a role in it. She sees that you are busy and she wants your sole attention like she used to have. Your husband also needs to spend more time with your daughter alone. Is he fun? Does he play with her and act silly with her? Does she enjoy playing with him at all? I have also found that it's best if the rejected parent doesn't react to the outbursts. When my daughter was in a Daddy phase, she said she only wanted to play a game with Daddy. When I said, Can Mommy play too? She said NO! Go away! So I said ok and went and sat on the couch to read. She was on me in a second and said, Mommy, you want to play too? I think she discovered that she couldn't control me or my emotions, which is honestly what I think she was trying to do. It's a hard phase. Good luck. Anon

3 year old son has strong preference for dad

Jan 2007

Our 3 year old son has shown a strong preference for his dad over me (mom) ever since he was old enough to express a preference. When dad is home, he only wants to be with him - he tells me to go away, does not want me to play with the two of them, only wants dad to help him get dressed, brush his teeth, make his breakfast, etc. We do our best not to give into these kinds of things, which results in a lot of tantrums. When he crys out in the middle of the night, and when he gets hurt, he wants dad. He is fine with me when dad is not around and does not cry for him when he's not there (I work 3 days a week and am home the other 2, while dad works 5 days a week). It has gotten somewhat worse since his little brother was born last summer, but it was already going on before that so we can't attribute it solely to that. I do tend to be the parent who does things like doctor and dentist visits, and a lot of the more mundane day to day tasks, while his dad is a really fun playmate (though I want to be clear that he does take on an equal share of discipline and has done his best to back me up on this in every way).

I deal with it okay most of the time, but sometimes it makes me really sad. My questions - has anyone else had experience with a child whose preference is so clearly for dad over mom? If so, what have you done to try to balance things out? How did you deal with your hurt feelings? I've tried taking him on special outings, just one-on-one - we always have a lot of fun, but nothing is different when we get home. I also try to respect his need for alone time with his dad, given that he doesn't get to spend as much time with him. But we're struggling with how to handle him doing things like ordering me out of his room when dad is around. We've tried the route of telling him it's not acceptable to talk to either of us that way, and have given time outs, but that hasn't really seemed to work - it stops the behavior in the moment, or even for the rest of the day, but then it crops up again. Would it be better to just ignore those behaviors? Would appreciate any insights! anon

I don't have a lot of advice for you but I thought it might help you to know that we are going through an almost identical situation. My son (2.5 years) also strongly prefers his dad for everything. And I mean everything! Only dad can unbuckle my carseat, only dad can put my jacket on, only dad can get crackers out of the box for me, and on and on. It has been going on for over a year now and it makes me really sad, too. I try to be logical about it but it's hard. It's hard on my husband, too, because our son is a pretty spirited kid and he ends up having to deal with more of his meltdowns when we're all together, because our son won't have anything to do with me, especially when he's upset. And in our case it can't really be attributed to my husband being the ''special'' or ''fun'' parent, as we both work full-time and do equal amounts of the dirty work (diapers, getting up at night, etc.) when we're at home. I really don't know what the cause is and it is exhausting both emotionally (for me) and physically (for my husband). What we are trying to do is especially not let it get between me and my husband, so that we resent each other (me for not being the preferred parent, him for having to be with the toddler more). We talk about it a lot and resolve to prioritize our marriage over our son's whims. Now that our son's language is better, we are also trying to be tougher about things like rudeness (he can't scream at me to ''go away''), and also to be tough about sometimes daddy can't pick you up while he's carrying the laundry, etc. Our son also is better behaved when he's with just me by myself, so we try to do fun things just the two of us. Sometimes it seems like it's working, sometimes not. So I'm looking forward to seeing your responses. I think it's especially hard when the preferred parent is the dad over the mom, because you feel like gender roles would suggest that you should be the ''softie,'' and that you must be a mean cold parent for such a young child not to prefer you. Not to suggest that that's true of you at all, only I understand completely why this is hard for you. I feel your pain!

Wow! I wish I could say I have advice for you, but really wanted to write to tell you I could have written this myself - as well as the 1 response you've received thus far. My son is 2 1/2 and we are experencing the exact same thing. We have no idea what it's attributed to. We both work full-time and he's in day care during the day. I too feel quite emotionally drained and I know my husband is physically drained. He's fine if it's just us together, and is quite loving to me most of the time. However, if daddy is around, and especially if the little guy is upset about just the slightest thing, ONLY daddy can respond to his needs - whether it's wiping his nose, throwing away a banana peel, changing his diaper, or taking off his shoes. It's nuts, and causes quite the stir of emotions in all of us. I'm the mom - it's natural he should prefer me, right?

I don't have an answer, and wish that I did. It's been going on for over 6 months now. I guess I just wanted to write to let you know that you're not alone. I look forward to seeing if anyone out there has advice or words of wisdom. santina

I responded to a question like this years ago. It is in the archives, and I won't repeat. It is now 11 years later. The son who preferred Dad then has discovered, at 15, that both parents are equally useless and know nothing. So take heart. Parenthood is a long road. Things will balance out, many times. My grandmother always said that when you think you can't stand it any more, it changes. She was a wise lady, and dead-on right on this issue. Keep a sense of humor, love your kid like there is no tomorrow, and he will come around. Been there, done that

3-year-old daughter is mean to dad


I'd love some suggestions about this. We have a delightful 3 1/4 year old girl, single child, who is more and more frequently being mean to her dad. It takes the form of speaking in a very, very cross voice to her dad, rejecting all offers of help from him, saying don't talk to me don't look at me, making a growling-whining sound at him when he walks into a room etc...I'm sure you can imagine. Is this a normal 3 yr old stage? There haven't been any new stresses or changes in our lives. We have tried: 1)ignoring her outbursts,2) saying I don't like the way you are talking right now, 3)telling her that it hurts dad's feelings when she is treating him in this crabby way all the time. We'll try to find some humorous thing to shift the mood....but I'd love other insights. Thanks!! Karen

From: Regan

I'm no expert on toddlers - my oldest child will be three in January. But I've had the same concerns recently, i.e. she's sweet and generally cooperative with me but lately not only uncooperative with her dad, but also physically abusive with slapping and kicking. I believe that a big part of the problem was that she wasn't seeing me treat him nicely. Since realizing this, I've made an effort to be extra demonstative, kind and affectionate with my husband and our daughter's behavior has greatly improved! Actually, we're all happier now...

From: Alexis

I don't know how normal this behavior is, but I can assure you that my son (3.5 years old) exhibits the same sort of behavior, but it's directed towards *me.* His father has always been the primary caregiver, and we also had a second son in December, so our circumstances are a bit different from yours, and issues of jealousy about his little brother may be contributing to our problem, although our older son is always really sweet and well behaved towards his brother.

In my son's case, the behavior isn't relentless, but it sure happens regularly enough to really hurt my feelings, especially if I'm tired or have had a rough day already. Generally, the more lightly I react to it, though, the less severe it is. It's almost as though it's some sort of test that I flunk if I react strongly to it.

I'll be very interested to hear what other people's experiences have been with this sort of thing.

From: Karen

Response to parent who asked about their 3-1/2 year old daughter hitting her father. My daughter's behaviour towards her father began to change at around 3-1/2, including hitting and name-calling. We spent a lot of time trying to figure why. Here are some of our findings or theories....

At around 3-1/2 her Daddy became a much more important part of her life. It's not uncommon at this age for children to want the opposite sex parent all to themselves, to talk about marrying them or having them fall in love with them. I know that spending time with her father began to become much more important to her (and has increased over time - she's 4-1/2 now). As a result, it hurts and angers her much more than ever before if/when Daddy isn't around, even though he wasn't around less than before. Some of these feelings seem to get expressed in hitting and name-calling. My husband has made more of an effort to interact with her, and for them to have some special time together.

Another big change is that rough-housing has become really important to my daughter, and Daddy is the most fun for her to do that with (and he enjoys it more than I do). She has increasingly enjoyed feeling physically stronger and mastering the world, and rough-housing is really important way for her to experience these feelings.

My daughter has always been on the meek side and she's found it disconcerting and very frightening to have aggressive feelings now that she finds herself the big girl at pre-school instead of the intimidated little girl - she is now what she both wanted to be and was afraid of just a year ago. The way she talked about this was by telling me a scary story about a ghost who wanted to kill everyone in the world, but eventually decided not to and everyone like her. Rough-housing has been an important outlet for some of those feelings. We've encouraged this because we don't want her to feel that agressive feelings are bad - I think they are somewhat new to her and sometimes very strong, which has been scary, since she knows it's not right to hit people. The rough-housing lets her know it's ok to have these feelings and express them in the right kinds of situations, and that she shouldn't feel that she is bad for having these feelings. My husband says things about how strong she is getting, or what a good punch she gave him (and she always wins). But it's also very important to make sure she's clear about when it is ok to hit, or what it takes to start or stop rough-housing; we let her come up with code words to start and stop.

She still sometimes hits my husband when she is mad at him, but he continues to remind her to use words to tell him what she's feeling. The fact that he listens is important and it seems to be a big factor in her expressing feelings to kids, too, for example when another child is doing something that bothers her.

It is of course possible that children who are hitting and name calling can be angry for some reason, at the parent they are hitting or about other things in their life. Of course this is more difficult to figure out. My daughter can sometimes talk about her feelings, but at other times we get more insight into what's bothering her by listening to the stories she makes up.

We figured much of this out by trial and error and by talking with friends with kids of their own. I hope it's helpful.

3 1/2 boy rejecting daddy

March 2005

My son is 3 1/2. I know that children of this age are notoriously fickle and moody, but he has been going through a very intense MOMMY phase recently which is threatening to get out of hand. We also have a daughter who's nearly 1, and this happened also right after she was born, but I thought he was past it now. (And he's doing better with his sister than he was before.) It's to the point where if his dad--who is affectionate, gentle, playful with him--looks in on him in the bath, or comes downstairs in the morning for breakfast, my son greets him with a scowl and/or says ''NO Daddy! I don't like you!'' or ''Go away Daddy!'' Yesterday after a nap, when I was somewhere else, it was more extreme even, ''BAD Daddy! You're a bad person! You're not my friend and I don't like you! I want Mommy!'' etc. Meanwhile with me, although sometimes he pulls the ''Bad Mommy'' line too, mostly he's all sunshine and affection.

Can anyone tell me whether this is all perfectly normal and will pass, or whether we're in some crazy Oedipal drama that will only end when he has driven his father away completely? My husband is very patient with all of this but has admitted lately that it's beginning to wear him down, and affect his feelings toward our son. He loves him very much, of course, but is finding all the rejection hard to take.

Any advice or anecdotes much appreciated. Mystified Mom

There is a fine line between allowing/encouraging your child to express his feelings, and allowing him to express abusive feelings, or rule the roost.

Kids can easily pick up when they've hurt a parent's feelings or even when they are tugging on heartstrings. And they will use it to their advantage (Who wouldn't? We all prefer to get our way). The problem is, by letting the child have inappropriate amounts of power, they have no security, because there is noone to rein them in, or provide structure. It's scary to know you can get your parents to do what you tell them to, because it puts adult responsibility and decisions, for which you're not ready, on your shoulders. (Been there - this was my childhood; there was a constant feeling of being on shifting ground. Plus, my parents always lost their power to me, making them feel frustrated. All in all, not so good).

My advice: Reactions and responses should be consistent and unified when he expresses these sorts of feelings. Both of you should try hard to not feel bad, especially with him able to see it. It's easy to pit parents against each other unless they're a unified force. As tempting as it is to cave and play the good guy role, don't let yourself.

Calmly, without bringing emotions into it, tell your child ''No, it's not okay to be mean to Daddy''. or ''It's ok, you don't have to like me, but sometimes you're going to spend time with me anyway''. And don't give in to the tantrums or screaming. Model what it WOULD be okay to say: ''It's okay to say 'I want some alone time now, Daddy''' so he learns what to replace his bad habit with. The first several times you do this, he likely won't even hear you due to screams. But over time, he'll learn there's a new way things are done, and that you draw the line at him abusing one of you. If possible, let him have space if he doesn't want to play with Dad, but he should not have Mom running in to console him either. Alone time means he gets space, not choice about who takes care of him. This is really to respect a personal boundary. He might not want to be touched by the less-favored parent, and that's ok if the situation allows. He doesn't get to constantly choose who takes care of him. Good boundaries

Its normal, sorry. My advice to you is to be extra nice to your husband until it blows over, and to store all the warm, fuzzies you can with your son --- because its likely your daughter will have equally strong feelings the opposite way when she's 2 1/2 -3 1/2.

As long as your husband is good-humored enough to get through this, and your son is not actually hurting anyone, I'd just wait till its over. By the way - my son went on being sweet to me well into middle-school, even after he reconciled the Oedipal stuff and decided his dad had redeeming value. ''Boys are Different''

I have a girl, and she's a little younger than your boy, but maybe my two cents (or 15 cents..) will still help. I think the little ones have a variety of reasons for preferring one parent over the other, and it probably will change over time (for example, when my daughter is 8-10 and really into the knock- knock jokes, I expect she'll reject me, and have a great time with dad...). However, there seem to be a few factors that can change things a little bit; some are things that the preferred parent can do, and some are things the rejected parent can do. First and foremost, I no longer tolerate rude behavior from my toddler toward my husband. If she rejects him outright or says she doesn't want him around, and comes running to me, I tell her that it's not very nice, and that we need to go back and tell Daddy that we're sorry for hurting his feelings. This is a delicate balance, since there are times when Daddy doesn't understand the reasonable request she's making, or when she forgets to ask Dad instead of coming to me (simply because Dad isn't around as much, and frankly, doesn't always pay as much attention when he is around). Sometimes, I simply say, ''No, that's not very nice, and I can't pick you up when you're screaming and whining.'' It can be difficult because it used to be that when she was little, her whining and screaming were her primary communications mode, but now our job as parents is to let her know that she needs to use her words to communicate (and trust me, she CAN), and the primary way of doing that is to not let her have her way if she communicated her wants by whining, screaming, or rejecting Dad. The bottom line is that I don't want to give in to her misguided thinking that Mom is the only parent or best parent, and I certainly don't want to let her pit us against each other.

The other part of this problem is Dad. In my case, Dad has a tendency to be very passive and simply shrug his shoulders when our daughter says ''NO!'' and runs away from him. He also is so impractically thin-skinned that he takes a 2-yr-old's rejection personally, without noticing that she occasionally does the same thing to me. And of course, if I am alone with her, and we need to get out of the house for a doctor's appointment, and she runs away from me, her rejection is irrelevant. We get dressed, we go. Get over it. Dad hasn't figured this out yet because it's easy enough to rely on Mom as perennial backup. So clearly, there are things that Dad can do. For example, he can say, ''I know you want Mom right now, but it's my turn to help you, and I really want to play with you.'' And give the kid some boundaries (and gentle discipline) when she pushes them and tries to reject him. She needs to learn, and you need to help her learn, that everything will be ok with Dad too, and that Mom will be there later. She will probably even learn that some things are more fun with Dad.

The third part of this equation is how to train yourself and your husband to be firm and consistent. Which means, first off, that you need to be willing to walk away from your screaming child who is busy rejecting his dad for no apparent reason, and explain to your child that you're not going to tolerate this behavior. The older the kid, the harder it will be to retrain everybody, but I believe that with consistency, it can be done. I've got a pretty sensitive kid, and if she doesn't get with the program, and she keeps misbehaving, I tell her I'm going to pick her up and put her on the sofa inthe other room. Then I follow through. It sometimes takes 3 times before she gets it, and sometimes the final one is to tell her while she's on the sofa (she gets up almost immediately and follows me back to the other room), that I can pick her up and give her a hug if she stops crying. (It helps to have some extra ''buffer time'' in your day- having a tight schedule makes it difficult to do these things.)

I also have started working more actively with my husband. This is the most aggravating part of it (and the reason why I am writing this long post, since I suspect I'm not the only one with this issue). Of course it seems so obvious to me that even though theoretically he's ''doing no wrong'' by being so passive and standing by while she runs back to me, he is tacitly handing her off to me, and making me take care of it. The aggravating part is that he sees himself as a victim, while I see myself as the 24-hr cop who never gets to have a break. (And you MUST not give in to the idea that you should ''rescue'' your screaming kid, even though you know that if you pick him up, he'll stop crying immediately. You have to give up the idea that you are the backup too.) And of course I think Dad should put as much active thought into it as I do, but that's not going to happen, so what I have begun doing is explaining to him in as nice a way as I possibly can that our daughter will learn to accept and respect him to the extent that he accepts and respects his authority over her. Although his first (angry) response to this was that he would ''strong-arm'' her to put on her pajamas or whatever the task at hand was, I gave him a few more ''empowering'' suggestions of how to discuss things with her (since it won't be long before strong-arm tactics just won't work anyway)--such as, ''tell her this is what we're going to do, here are your choices, and tell her I'm sorry if she wants to do something that's not within the realm of those choices.'' (By the way, we do not have these conversations in front of our daughter, and I usually wait until the screaming episode has passed to have these discussions, because otherwise we're all pissed off and unreasonable. but it usually falls on me to figure out how to resolve the problems.) And I explain how, if he does nothing after she screams and runs away, then he's basically rewarding her for her poor behavior. She gets what she wants by screaming. So, for example, I've suggested that he needs to have a plan: we're going to the playground, we're taking our pajamas off, etc., and to know what he's going to do if she screams. Then if she still comes back to me, I can check what his plan is, back him up with whatever plan he's got, and send her on her way.

This is not as awful as it sounds. She can still get hugs along the way, but she doesn't get rewarded for screaming, and if she comes back to me, she can get an explanation that it's Dad's turn to help her, and it will be my turn later, and that we need to go back to Daddy and say ''I'm sorry,'' and give him a hug, and that we need to talk to Daddy and let him help, but that's the way it's going to be. The intensity and duration of the crying gets less and less over time. In fact, as I write this, Daddy and daughter have *happily* gone off to the playground after resolving this morning's Daddy rejection. Once she realized that this is the way it is, and that Daddy can do it (and once Daddy realized that he can and must do it), they both had some fun, and it was easy. anon

3.5 year-old daughter says ''I hate Daddy''

April 2003

I'm hoping someone has some advice on how to handle the following situation. My 3.5 year-old daughter is in a phase where she is particularly nasty to Dad and loving towards me. It should be noted that I am 33 weeks pregnant, and I'm sure this has something to do with it. Several times a day, she rejects Dad with statements like ''I hate Daddy'' or ''I want Daddy to go away forever'' or ''I don't want Daddy in here doing xyz; I want Mommy.'' Often if we take her words lightly, and my husband engages her in one of her favorite activities, the rejection quickly fades, but of course, it's challenging to face her harsh words repeatedly through the day. Has anyone else dealt with this? Any suggestions for constructive responses? Many thanks. Dana

We had a similarly painful situation. My 3-year-old daughter rejected ME for almost 2 years after my second child was born. It was very painful to be rejected, and though I tried to ignore it, it really bummed me out. What saved us was that I started to read Harry Potter books to her (only I could read them, Daddy refused), and she became obsesses with hearing me read the first book, so it became OUR thing together. I think she was longing for something to bring her back to me, but whatever the reason, it worked. So, in hindsight, I suggest you and your partner find something really great/fun/intimate that is special to Daddy, and have him do it with her exclusively. Good luck! Anon.

4 year old being mean to/rejecting Mom

March 2010

This may be a mixture of my post partum depression lenses and my son's post partum unraveling because of his 7 week old brother, but...

I am heartbroken because my son has started really rejecting me and being mean to me. While he probably always enjoyed his dad a bit more (wrestling, better at playing cars, etc), we have always had our own nice relationship. In the past few weeks he has been letting me know that he doesn't really want me around (''you go make dinner/feed the baby so daddy can play with me'') or even saying that he acted out at school because he wanted his dad to pick him up and not me.

It doesn't help that I am the disciplinarian in the family and the one who thinks he needs to be polite and listen, etc. My husband is more than willing to try to more of the disciplining, but he isn't really as quick as he needs to be in putting our son in time out or telling him to use polite words. (And sometimes he piles it on too thick just because he doesn't have a natural sense of what the discipline should look like. It is just awkward).

We don't know what to do. On one hand, I think kids should know when they hurt someone's feelings. On the other hand, i think if we do too much of that, our son will ramp up his bad behavior even more because he knows it gets me. Tonight at dinner I had to excuse myself after he said something rejecting to me because I just had to go cry. It made me so sad.

What should we do? Where is the line between helping our son be compassionate and appreciative of who I am and not either dumping on him responsibility for my emotions or fanning the flames of rebellion to make it worse? Thanks jj

First, I think you are suffering from post-partum hormones. My son has said some very mean things to me, and he doesn't hurt my feelings. He just turned five, but age four is when they test out the boundaries. He will likely start lying a lot right now too. You can't take kids personally because they don't know what they are saying. You don't want to overreact, I think I would just say something like ''that's a rude thing to say''. Since you are the natural disciplinarian perhaps you can come up with an appropriate discipline for him when he's being rude. Also he might feel a bit rejected as you have your new little one. You could offer him a bit of time every day (15 minutes) when you play any game with him he wants and he gets your undivided attention. The discipline you give your child now, will help him through life. Good luck

My older son was and even does once in a while expresses things like you are bad.. i like dad, he is more cool etc.... And he has always been emotionally independent and i am the strict one so all these things add to his reaction. couple of things that we did to change things around, I hope it will help you as well.

1. Dad needs to be more strict: talk to him and let him take charge whenever necessary. This also means you need to hold yourself back. In our case my husband didn't discipline him because i overdid it. So we decided that when both of are home and our son needs to be disciplined, dad will do it. If he doesn't I shall simply remind my him about it but not do anything myself. If he is not home then i will try to discipline him in much more calmer and if it doesn't work I simply tell him that i will have to talk to dad later about this and have him work with you on this.

2. SHOW him that mom CAN BE FUN TOO: spend some quality time alone with your kids. with the second child its possible that your older one feels left out and this is his way of expressing it. And when i say quality time i mean fun stuff and not chores and day today stuff. Take him for a game/show or park alone while dad can spend that time with your younger child. This will give you some bonding time. later when things get better and also when your second child is slightly older to interact have a quality time fun thing with both kids together.

3. Make him realize that mom is needed very important in his life: When you kids asks you to go cook or do something else. make him realize that cooking and cleaning and other things that you do are necessities of life and someone at home needs to do it. if you were not around then he will not get all that. It might seem like too much info for the kid but trust me they need to know that mom does this not for fun but because she love you... and cares for you.

4. AND above all when your kid dismisses you like that MAKE DAD REACT TO IT. Ask him to talk to your kid and explain that that's not ok, or it hurts ur mom and that he doesn't approve of it etc. HTH

PS: my son still expresses that his dad is cool but then their are days that he comes and hugs me and wants me around which he has never done with his cool dad so trust me they come around BUT we need to make it happen Shree

It can be so hard when our children let out their anger at us, especially when you are post-partum and feel vulnerable. It's hard as parents is not to take things personally, yet so important to practice!You know he is going through an adjustment process, some of which has nothing to do with you. Have you heard this story? Imagine that one day your partner comes home and says, ''Honey, I've decided to have another wife. She'll arrive in about 6 months and we'll all live happily together. We'll all love her, don't worry.'' This is a bit what a child feels, the parents who loved him only, now have more attention for the new baby, and especially he/she can feel the mother is the ''bad guy'' since she is the one nursing the baby, and doing all this hands on care that they no longer get. No wonder he is mad!, not so much at you as a person, but for what he has lost. At some point, when he is not mad, you could help him understand his feelings. ''You know honey, there have been so many changes with the baby coming. I know it's hard for you sometimes, and you probably feel mad that I'm not as free to do the things with you that we used to do. Its ok to be mad. It takes time to get used to having a new baby.'' When he is mad that you pick him up from school instead of his dad, you could possibly say ''I know it's fun to spend time with your dad, and you are disappointed it's me with baby. You really like playing with dad and being with a parent without the baby sometimes. He'll be home a bit later. What would you like to do with him when he comes home?'' Sometimes expressing the feelings we think our children have helps them to understand themselves, even though they might not say anything. It's easy as a child to get confused by strong feelings, and think you are ''bad'' for having them. You could also say ''I know you are mad, and you can always say 'I'm mad'! but I don't like it when you call me ''....'', or we don't call each other names in this house, please say ''I'm mad'' instead, or ''I don't like that.'' Giving our children tools to express their frustration, and differentiating it's ok to feel feelings, but we have to learn (over time) how to express them in ways that work, and avoid the ones that don't work for others.

Also perhaps learning parenting tools that are kind and firm. Time-outs sometimes make things worse for small children who need connection. Maybe your husband and you could take a parenting class together? Positive discipline classes can be very useful and can bring parents on the same page. Hope this is helpful. Good luck! Having a new baby is a hard transition time for everyone. Anon.

I was there! It may be hard for you to see this, but I am convinced your older child is angry/hurt because you are giving your attention to the baby! When I had my second child, my 3 year old girl (who was previously super- attached to me) suddenly started refusing to let me read to her or cuddle her before bed, saying I should go feed the baby so Daddy could read to her. She was not openly angry with the baby but she totally rejected me soon after we came home from the hospital. Some of this you cannot fix, it just has to pass as your older boy matures a bit and realizes that you are not totally gone. Here's what helped: Dad took the baby away from the house or I and my daughter left them at home, to do things alone together. You can call it ''special time'' and mention that the baby can't come. Also, I took her out to shop for books that she would realize would be more fun to read with me than Dad. I bought them and just put them on the shelf, saying ''tell me when you want to read these with me, Daddy doesn't want to read them.'' Try not to be holding or tending to the baby while you try to interact with him. Point out the ways in which he can help you or do some ''big boy'' things that the baby cannot do with you. Try not to take it personally - it is developmental. He is hurt that you (in his mind)''replaced'' him with another baby. It will pass. Don't forget to enjoy the simple sweetness of your new baby during this bittersweet time. This all happened 12 years ago, but I still recall how painful it was. Been there

Hi, I have gone through similar times, especially when my second child was born. I am also the disciplinarian while my husband slacks off and gets to be ''good time dad.'' I can't tell you exactly what the issue is or anything, but I would suggest that you carve out time for you and your son to do something special together every day. On regular days, maybe you just sit and play with him for 15 minutes, letting him direct the activity. My son and I love to play the game Trouble or build things with Legos, or draw and color, or bake muffins.

On days when your husband can be with the baby longer, go out and take your son to the zoo, a museum, the park, or beach. I think your son is a bit hurt and jealous that you've got the new baby and he's reacting to that. Don't make a big deal about it, but give him some special time so that your interactions with him or more than just discipline.

Now, if you're PPD, that's another story and if you need help you need to get help. Life with the two kids was way harder for me and I took a year to realize I had PPD. anonamom

Hi JJ, I'm in the almost exact same situation; have a 4 year old son and a baby boy just a few weeks older than yours. My 4 year old has always favored daddy a little bit (loves that rough stuff!) and it definitely got more extreme at the end of my pregnancy and now that the baby is here. While my feelings do get hurt sometimes when I take a step back it all seems pretty normal and natural. Let's face it small babies take a lot of mom's time and energy that used to go to big brother. Seems normal to feel a little bit rejected and act out in kind. All that nursing and soothing gets tiring for everyone. At 4 our boys know it is not ok to take it out on the baby (thank goodness!) so they take it out on us instead. Combine that with the fact that our 4 year old little guys are at a stage where they are learning about gender and really identifying with dad.

I work hard to enjoy and foster the good times between myself and my 4 year old, going so far as to make comments like ''It sure is nice to play with you like this'' etc when things are going well. My son is especially rejecting around bedtime and when he is acting out or screaming ''go away Momma'' I let him know that it hurts my feelings and that I love him all the time. In fact, we've made ''I love you all the time'' into a game that diffuses the situation.'' ''I love you when you're happy; I love you when you're sad. I love you when you're awake; I love you when you're sleeping. I love you when you're loud; I love you when you're quiet. I love you all the time.'' He enjoys coming up with more opposites to add to the list.

I hear ya, it's hard! Jenny

Kids go through normal phases of preferring one parent over another. This is just one of those times that he prefers Dad. My daughter was 3.5 yrs old when her brother was born. She favored Daddy from birth, and even though she was sometimes interested in the baby, she was often hurtful to me. She's 7 now and we have moments of real closeness, but she still favors my husband. And that's okay. The best advice I can give you is to keep doing what you've been doing, such as leaving the room when you're at the point of tears, and remember that this too shall pass.

I feel like too many parents today spend a lot of time explaining and discussing things with their kids, in a way treating those kids as adults. Remember how the adults spoke in those Peanuts cartoons? ''Wah wah wah wah wah wah.'' That's what our kids hear when the parent spends 20 minutes explaining how little Johnny hurt Mommy's feelings. Just deal with your newborn, take care of yourself, and let big brother adjust to having to share your attention. And still, remember to do things with your 4 yr old, even if it's just little things at first, and eventually this will all work out. So take him to the park and leave baby with Daddy, or take him to get ice cream and just sit there and enjoy watching him become a sticky 4-yr old mess. He needs to see that Mommy is not the only person who takes care of baby. It gets better, it gets easier, just don't make a big deal out of this behavior. anon

My kids go through phases where they prefer one of us to the other. It sucks when you are the one they don't like, but don't take it personally. It will change. I think your instincts are right in that trying to force it will make him act out all the more.

Remember that having a new baby is a big adjustment, especially for him, so give him time. Carve out some time for just the two of you. Start with things that are fun and always give him the choice -- ''Do you want to stay here with Daddy and baby or do you want to go out to ice cream/ to the park/ to ride the train with Mommy?'' Have your husband ask him to do things for the baby, like bring you a blanket for the baby when you are nursing, then you praise him for helping out and being such a good big brother. He's probably feeling displaced and is looking for ways to fit into the new family structure.

You could try to let him experience some logical consequences when he says means things. Like if you go pick him up from preschool and he says he wants your husband to pick him up, say okay, leave, and let your husband come half an hour later.

If he says mean things to you, your husband should be the one to deal with it if he's around or you are too upset. Not through punishment but just talking to him. ''Wow, that was not a very nice thing to say. I think you hurt Mommy's feelings. How would you feel if someone said something like that to you?'' Or you could just say, ''In our family, we don't talk to people like that.'' I try to go with a fairly neutral tone of voice -- no shame, no guilt. Because, after all, it sucks that he doesn't like you right now but you can't force affection. The best you can do is require him to keep nasty comments to himself and that takes awhile to learn how to do.

Also, if you are moved to tears by something a 4-year old says, you may well be having some post-partum issues.

BTW, I, too, am much more the disciplinarian than my husband but right now all 3 of my kids like me best. So don't feel like you need to give up that part. Anon

I'm sorry to hear about your situation but I'm pretty sure it's totally normal. Our then 3 year old daughter did a bit of that type of rejecting (less sophisticated b/c she is younger) when her sister was born last year. What helped then, and continues to help is: 1 - Spending time with the older child without the baby. 2 - Letting the older child see the other parent actively taking care of the infant (without mom's intervention).

So I would recommend taking just your older son to the park (or some other outing) while your husband takes care of the baby or have your husband take the baby out for a walk while you play cars with your older son.

As your infant gets older and is less (literally in some cases) attached to you and your husband gains confidence in caring for the infant, your older son will see that you aren't just the baby's parent but his too. Anon

I cannot really speak to the specifics of your case but I can say looking back now (with 14 months of hindsight) that bringing a sibling into a young child's life is an an extremely difficult thing. The first 6 months were really brutal -kids act up in different ways - but I really did see my kid and the kid of a close friend have major behavioral problems. It does get better (it takes a while). I suggest you get some books about managing siblings - I had one by Judy Dunn - it at least made me realize that my kid was not a complete nutcase and the behavior was normal, even if extremely difficult to manage. now that my kids are 3.5 and 14 months it is truly adorable to see them kiss and hug each other and make each other laugh. had a rough first year

My four year old was exactly the same way in the weeks following her baby brother's birth. I can't help but think that this is a way for your son to protect himself from his hard feelings about the baby's arrival. The way it seemed to me when my daughter would reject me (which was the first time this had happened in our family dynamic - I was usually the ''preferred'' parent) was that she was being pro-active when she rejected me because she felt rejected by the baby. All of a sudden, here was baby brother who changed my physical and emotional availability for her, no matter how intentional we were in making sure I had some time with her or involved her with the baby. It actually seemed kind of emotionally smart, a way to preempt her own rejection. She adores the baby, and always has, and in many ways doesn't have many of the struggles with her baby brother that I hear other kids experiencing. Directly. But I think she directed her feelings toward me. I remember nights where I was just devastated. It's such a big change for all people in a family to welcome a new person into the family dynamic - you're developing your relationship with the baby, your relationship with your eldest is changing, your relationship as parents together is changing - it's overwhelming! I don't really remember anything in particular helping, as I tried to spend time just with her, to be as available to her as possible, and to keep the parts of her routine that seemed important to her. I just let myself cry when I needed to (mostly not in front of my daughter - my feelings were so complicated and it wasn't just about her). I would tell her when she made me sad. I talked with other second-time parents and tried to trust that it would pass. Now, months later, I can tell you that things are MUCH easier and my relationship with my daughter is back on track now that our family is more settled into this new era overall. And we have the joy of seeing their relationship really start to get deeper as the baby grows, which makes it all so worth while. Get support from people who've been there. Be gentle with yourself and also with your eldest child, who is going through a huge transition. Acknowledge the transition with him, and give him some avenues pro-actively for expressing his feelings about it. He shouldn't feel that all his feelings should be happy ones. Of course they're not. And hang in there, it will get easier. Those first months are hard

My my 4/5 year old did the same thing to me when our 2nd baby was born. She had just turned 5 so she had been an ''only'' child for year already & already had the ''me'' attitude. She also has ADD, which my husband denied.I was unable toget her diagnosed until she was about 10. My husband was not on board with therapy for that either. He is not a very good disciplinarian, so my oldest daughter was able to manipulate him a lot easier than she was me. I became the ''mean mommy'' while HE was ''mr fun guy''. In addition, the little sister has developmental delays more time than a child without such issues. So even less time for older sister. Had my husband been more into his own family than his friends, had I been able to work less and take care of both kids more, had daddy been more in tune with discipline& backing me up(In other words being a PARENT rather than my child's FRIEND) a lot of issues may have been avoided. The 5 year old is now 14 1/2 & treats me very poorly. She is nice when she wants something, but mostly she smarts off at me,is rather lazy & expects things to be done for her. She is also jealous of the younger sister. What is sad is that the older daughter is extremely smart, she applies herself, she will be able to go far. But she has adopted this attitude of ''what mommy says means nothing''- she doesn't clean her room, spends hours on the computer, etc.& when she smarts off there is no comment from my husband. So my advice in general is: Dad have to support each other. If the child is being mean to Mom, then Dad has to step in very firmly that this is NOT the way to treat a parent. Some problems I see with some kids may be the lack of both parents being on the same page, lack of discipline (I don't mean spanking etc.- I mean teaching the kids a disciplined work ethic - doing homework before playing on the computer tv,etc) along with general respect for parents. It appears to me that that in some cases there has been too much ''power'' given to the child and somehow you have to work back to re-establish roles of parent and child so that the child is not running the show. This is extremely diffcult to do when the child is an adolescent! You may contact me if you want to talk about this issue some more, although I don't know if I can help much. turtlesrus

I am sure you will receive tons of responses, and while I have not been through a similar situation I empathize with how upsetting this must be. My first reaction to this is that your son is jealous and feels like since his sibling was born he is not getting enough attention from you. Have you thought about pumping milk for your new baby, leaving him with your husband, and taking an afternoon to have a ''date'' with your son? Go to the zoo, or some other fun thing where you can spend time just the two of you. Give your husband the baby to feed once a day and spend quality time with your older son, read some books, play with cars. Make sure he knows you have a special time with him too.

I agree that kids need to know when they are hurting someone's feelings. You can tell him so, but tell him you love him too. He doesn't hate you, he is just having a hard time sharing you. This too shall pass.

I've had this issue with my 3-year-old daughter after my 2nd baby was born (9 months ago). Take heart. It's a jealousy thing. At first, whenever I was holding the baby -- which was a lot since I was bfeeding -- my older daughter had to be siting on daddy's lap at the same time, etc. and started saying she wanted daddy to this or that. It broke my heart, bc she was always a ''momma's girl.'' So I made a point to spend time alone with her, and do special things with her - the playground, reading books, etc. to balance things out. It's important to train your child be polite, etc. but it's also important to play with them. So things are now balanced. And we don't let her state ''I want mommy/ daddy to do it!'' regarding reading books, brushing teeth, etc. We decide, not her. Best of luck, been there. anon

Is there any way you can get your husband to really do more of the discipline and you just try to ignore him? It is hard and seems immature, but it might really work better. If he is getting mileage out of being hurtful, he is learning that it works. If you can 'act' unconcerned and ignore him, he won't get the message that being mean gets to the soul... another easily hurt person

You expressed the dilemma very well.I'm glad to hear about the addition to your family. Obviously I don't know all the circumstances, but it is possible that son is angry about something. It could be as simple as feeling that you had stopped paying attention to him! It could also be something different. Maybe when they are playing, dad could just causually ask him if he is angry at mommy about something. It might turn out that he is just a little jealous. It could also be that he is adjusting in his own way to his new role of being big brother, and is taking ownership for being more independent. This would be a positive thing. It's a time of adjustment for everyone. Since you've got plenty to do, maybe just let dad handle son for awhile. Best wishes! Latest blog post about why I don't like time outs at www.parentmoment.com R

Older Children

Kids prefer one parent ALL THE TIME

Dec 2009

I hear a lot that it's normal and expected for young kids (1-6) to favor one parent over the other, and that typically this changes over time, having phases of preferring each parent when there are 2 in the house. In our family, both my kids want me most of the time, ask for me, cry for me, and at times refuse my partner. My partner is just as loving and involved as I am, and mostly is able to roll with this and understand it probably has to do with the fact that I work part time and spend more time with them. But occasionally my partner gets hurt and upset and feels like an inferior parent because of it. The preference has never shifted between us -- it's always me. I don't like it either! Do other people have this dynamic and what are your theories about why, if both parents are actually great, loving parents? Thanks for any input.

Here's what we did. On certain nights of the week, one parent would be responsible for a specific duties, like bathing and bedtime, with NO exceptions. No matter how much tears, we'd say sorry, it's Daddy's night, Mommy will do bath tomorrow night, (or the revere.)

Very quickly the preferred parent became the one not on duty. And quickly after that, because we NEVER gave in, the tears dried up too.

And for the previously neglected parent, there's nothing better than hearing your child blubbering that she has to have you. anon

6-year-old daughter doesn't want mom around

Does anyone know, can anyone explain to me the concept of an Oedipal Victor and what the dynamics are like? My husband and I have one child, a daughter, who is almost six, who has, for a long time, been a real daddy's girl. The only problem is that it has been coupled with a very strong rejection of Mommy. Mommy is asked to stay back from family outings, and to generally keep out of the play and interaction between father and daughter. I used to think our daughter just preferred more quality time with Daddy, since she gets me all the time (I'm a stay-at-home-mom). But now I suspect there is much more to it.

My husband is very solicitous of our daughter and lavishes lots of affection on her. He makes his love for her a very obvious and constant thing. His affection for me, on the other hand, is extremely rare and almost never demonstrated openly. On the contrary, my husband and I have many rifts and disagreements and, though I try to behave civilly and even warmly towards him, it is much harder for him to do the same. From him I often get a cold shoulder, he won't answer or react to me, gets annoyed when I persist, and now my daughter has taken it one step further and actually treats me like an outcast whenever we all three are together. She attacks me viciously if I try to relate myself to them if they are involved in something together, particularly if she perceives that I am trying to influence or control how they play. But she will also not let me mother her or nurture her in his presence. It feels like her rejection of me is an extension of his hostility towards me and quite frankly the situation is untenable.

When my daughter and I are alone, she is usually very cooperative, sweet and loving - which has always been her true nature. But when she gets angry with me, she flies into a rage that includes many hurtful or -attempts to be hurtful- statements, such as, everyone hates you.

Though my husband has enunciated to her that he loves us both equally (his wife and his daughter) I fear his behavior belies another truth and that is what is creating this extremely painful situation. Any input that can shed light on this matter would be very greatly appreciated.

I extend my deep compassion to you as you seem on the verge of facing some issues for which the outcomes are unknown and pose great risks for you and your family, but hopefully, great opportunities for growth. Even in this anonymous e-mail setting, it is very brave of you to take this step.

From your description, I hear you say that your relationship with your husband is being played out through your daughter. Your daughter needs you and needs to have a healthy relationship with you..because you are her mother and regardless of the relationship you have with your husband. It is time to assert yourself and require respect from your family and yourself. Go to a counsellor or a minister or rabbi; go with your husband; go by yourself if he will not go.

After my sister divorced her husband, she said, based on her experience, The most important thing a husband can do for his children is to love his wife. For her, that wasn't to be and she divorced him. Because of conservative divorce laws in another state she ended up having to move out of the house and not live with her children. She went through several years of her teenaged children rejecting her. With support and patience and unconditional love for her children, she managed to reestablish her relationships with her grown children as they passed into their early 20's. Of course, your personal circumstances and dyanamics are unique and what happens will be different. But at this point is does sound as though something needs to change. If I could bestow gifts upon you it would be courage, truth and compassion for the journey ahead.

Unless there is a lot of missing information about this situation, and even if there is, I am terribly concerned about the mom (and her family) who writes about Oedipal Victor. There seems to be a severe disconnect between what the father says to the daughter (mom is okay) and his clearly unfriendly & distancing behavior to the mother. The child is (correctly) reading his behavior (hostility) rather than what he says. Kids are hard to fool, as they lack the intellectualizations we adults use to justify things or reduce our cognitive dissonance (which see). It must be exquisitely painful for the mom to be triangled out of the romance being fostered by Dad between Dad and girl child. Whatever he wants to do with or about his wife and their issues, he has no right to visit this conflict subliminally on the daughter. It sounds very dangerous to the child's future mental health to me. Not to mention the mom and himself. He needs to get with counseling immediately, and preferably with his wife. Another thought: people tend to recreate their families of origin, because they feel comfortable with the dynamic, however dysfunctional it may be. God luck, Mom, I am really feeling your pain. At the very least, I hope you have some girlfriends you are talking to for support. I believe they will echo my thoughts on this. (If this person would like to contact me it is okay.)

I have no formal training in psychology, sociology, or child development and I know there are plenty of people on this list who do, but I feel strongly enough about this to want to add my two cents where I feel comfortable doing so.

First, your husband's behavior towards you: Regardless of what his behavior arises from, if it is behavior that either of you do not want your daughter emulating, I would talk to him about it in as unjudgemental a way as possible and simply state that children (or your daughter) emulate the behavior of their parents (you can give specific examples in your case), and you would like him not to do X [whatever X is] in front of her. Second, your daughter not wanting you on family outings: My husband and I have great respect for Rudolph Dreikurs, a well known child psychiatrist and author of Children, the Challenge, whose teachings we have successfully used with our own son. Dreikurs says that the needs of the situation must always be considered and children must not be allowed to interfere with those needs. Decide privately with your husband beforehand whether you should be included in the outing, and if yes, then he or you should state firmly that you will be going and ignore your daughter's protests. Otherwise, she will be using her behavior to get her own way, and that is a power struggle victory for her. Dreikurs has lots to say about children who always win power struggles with their parents. The bottom line is, the child ends up an unhappy child.

On the other hand, Dreikurs makes it very clear that a child builds his or her own relationship with each adult in his/her life. He doesn't believe that other adults should interfere with that relationship. That's why I believe that you and your husband have to agree on those things that really matter in private and then present a united front to your daughter. If nothing else, I suggest you get a copy of Children, the Challenge (available at Cody's) and study it thoroughly. It will probably give you a lot of insights into other issues you listed.

I am not well acquainted with the Oedipal victor (or loser), but I do recognize an unhappy family situation. In lieu of more specific advice, I'll repeat what you'll doubtless hear from others: Are you all in counseling, preferably together? I hope so. Good luck.

Unfortunately in the situation you describe there are no victors. Speaking from my own experience growing up in a similar family I feel that your daughter could suffer long term emotional/sexual problems from being put into the situation you describe. A good couples counselor might help you improve your relationship with your husband or, if he will not go to a counselor, an individual counselor can help you decide how you can best deal with the problems yourself. In the long term this should take the burden off your daughter and hopefully make for a happier family. Best wishes.

Mom is the taskmaster, dad is the popular one

Dec 2008

My 7-year old is starting to actively dislike me and it's rubbing off on my 3-year old. They jump around saying things like ''we like Daddy'' and ''we want to be with Daddy.'' Part of the problem is that I am the taskmaster in the house, and I just don't seem to know how to convey authority. My husband doesn't care if the kids take their plates to the sink or put their clothes in the hamper. He carries my son's backpack to the car in the morning because it's just easier to do it himself. When he takes my daughter to school, her hair is never brushed. So when I brush my daughter's hair, make my son carry his backpack, make them take their plates to the sink, I'm the meanie in the house. Somehow I don't have the authority to get them to take their plates to the sink with one request. It takes six. We have cleaners come in once a week, on Saturday afternoon, and I try to get the family to put toys, clothes, etc away with me before the cleaners come. My husband often refuses to help, saying that's not how he wants to spend his Saturday morning, and then the kids refuse too. Then they hang out while I clean up. My husband does the laundry, most of the dishes, drives the kids, etc -- he does a lot to keep the household going. He just doesn't want to involve the kids in household chores. My son is quite behind in math, and we have been told by his teachers that he should be doing extra math each night. Although my husband was a math prodigy who taught math to kids for many summers, he refuses to get involved. So there too it's mean mom and fun dad. My best friend says that this is just how it is -- moms are the ones who make sure the homework gets done, and dads get all the breaks because they're more fun. The difference is that her kids take their plates to the sink. So I have two problems: how do I civilize my kids with no cooperation from my husband, and how do I maintain a good relationship with my kids, when my son is already telling me that I'm too hard on him? My husband is not going to change. I think that the only way is to have better cooperation from my kids on my own. How does everyone else out there do it? tired mom

I hate to say this, but unless you and your husband get on the same page when it comes to parenting, the situation with your kids is not going to improve. For the record, I completely support your approach. In fact, my kids had age appropriate chores and responsibilities since the age of two (not that we donbMarch 2009t have our share of challenges; but it would have been a million times more difficult had me and my husband not been consistent in our parenting philosophies). I would really urge you to have a serious discussion with your partner. Good luck. anon

You need the support of your husband if you want your kids to shape up. I have a similar relationship in that I am all about the daily maintenance: teeth brushing, cleaning, homework, meals.. my husband will play hide and seek and rough house, etc. However, he is extremely supportive whenever I ask the kids to do something. I usually have to ask more than once but they always do what I ask (eventually) and if he is around, he will back me up 100%: ''You heard your mom, pick up those toys.'' I don't think it is necessary that your husband do all the chores and tasks you want to have happen but he needs to be supportive of your efforts, otherwise you are fighting a losing battle. fellow taskmaster

First and foremost, you and your husband have to get on the same page about the issues you have raised. IbMarch 2009m sure that you have heard that your kids need consistency from their parents, and it is quite apparent that they are not getting that. Without consistency, things will continue as they are and probably get worse. Dad will be the good guy and you will be the bad guy. Frankly, it is not healthy that your daughter is baching for parents who are facing exactly the kinds of dilemmas that you are. I would be delighted to speak to you at no cost to let you know what I do and how I can help you and your husband reach agreements and carry them out. If you are interested in talking to me, please send me an email and I will get back to you. Good luck! This is very tough stuff. Regardless of how you decide to deal with this, the important thing is to take action and quickly. Your kids need it and are counting on you. Michael

I can relate to being the ''taskmaster'' and I wondered a few things about your post: 1) Do you get to do fun things with the kids, too? I mean, do you feel 100% of your interaction with the kids is getting them to do stuff? Or do you make time to do fun things too? 2) If your husband does the dishes, why don't you let him be responsible for having your kids bus the dishes? If they don't, your husband would be responsible for doing busing the dishes. 3) Do you set up consequences for not doing chores around the house (e.g., if you don't clean up the toys on the floor, you don't get to play with them for a day/week)? Or do you give allowance for doing chores? I do feel kids need some external incentive for doing things (neither of my kids seem to intrinsically value a clean house). good luck! taskmaster, too

Actually I feel strongly that you need to change your husband to get him to see that doing everything for your kids is not helping them in the long run. Set aside some time to talk about it just the two of you, not in the moment of negotiating with kids! Perhaps you will need help from a couples counselor.

Right now I have a spoiled, entitled, unappreciative teen (way beyond normal teen behavior) and it is in part because we did too much for him and didn't expect enough from him (in the way of household responsibilities). My husband was expected to do way too much as a child/teen at home and in his family's business so he wanted to let our kids be kids, but it has backfired. So you and your husband need to talk about how to get your kids to be the kind of people you both are: taking responsibility for getting things done around the house. You both need to agree on what the kids' chores/responsibilities are (and revisit this each year or so). And then he needs to help you enforce the new system. Start now or regret it later!

It sounds like you are hurt. Have you told your children that it hurts your feelings when they say they prefer being with Dad?

You call yourself a taskmaster and a taskmaster isn't very fun to be around. Rules, such clearing dishes, are reasonable requests and it's not surprising you have to request this again and again. But give your children loving, polite reminders. I'm thinking it might be your tone that people are responding negatively to in your household. You might have to tell your family that you're sorry you're grumpy sometimes but there's lots to do and you can all have more fun together if everyone helps pitch in.

As for cleaning before the cleaners come, you can choose to do that or not, but you can't control what your husband does. It does sound like he does a lot for the family, and that's great.

As for the math, this is the biggest concern. Have you asked your son to ask his Dad for help? I think it will be hard for your husband to turn down his son's request for help in math. Maybe you can remove yourself from this and let them work it out. Good luck. grumpy sometimes too

Hi. I am the in the same boat at home. I think you and your husband need to get on the same page. Being a parent means training your children so that when they grow up they can function well in society. Appropriate responsibilities can start fairly young. My 6 and 8 year old help me unload the dishwasher and fold clothes. I make them clean out their lunch boxes after school every day and make their beds in the morning. I am the one who pushes the school work, piano practice, TV off, reading, etc. I really don't mind being the ''bad guy'' because I know it's to the benefit of my children in the long-run. They resent me too (the older one does). He calls me ''strict''. I have to really stay on him to make him do things himself (like pick up his own backpack that he forgot on the floor, etc.) same with my daughter. Being a parent isn't easy. It would be easier if you got your husband on board. I'm remarried and my husband is helpful but when the kids are with their dad on the weekends he is very laid back and permissive. It really bothers me because my son doesn't like coming home because I welcome him to the real world. Who cares about being popular with the kids? Parenting is serious business. These are lives that we are shaping. I grew up as the youngest of 7 children and we all had little jobs around the house (although I always felt my brothers got off easier). You're doing the right thing. Hang in there. anonymous

Wow, I know this is not what you're asking but your husband is the problem here! Seriously, he's undermining you and doing a disservice to your kids in several ways. Your somewhat deteriorating relationship with your kids is because of your husband and I don't think you can deal with the kid issue alone. He's passive-aggressive and disrespectful and I wonder how you're OK with it. You expect your children to learn a number of new habits, yet you don't expect him to back you up on things he already knows how to do? I guess I don't get it. Anon