Does your child frequently insist on daddy dropping them off at the bus stop or mommy picking them up from the school? Does your child demand daddy’s bedtime stories or bargain for a stroll with mom in the park for completing their homework?
Such examples are many and are pretty common when your little one is still growing up. Most parents would have gone through at some point in the child’s life, and some parents may choose to disregard this behaviour while others are deeply affected by this preferential behaviour of their child.
The Reverse Toddler Independence Phenomenon
The toddler years are a tricky game of tug-of-war for your tot: Their growing need for independence goes head-to-head (and sometimes head-over-heels) with their age-appropriate fear of separation. Support both sides of your conflicted toddler “” the big girl and the baby “” by letting them set the pace when practicing new skills. Some days she can be an I can do it all and on other days, she would simply cling and cringe to a Mommy do it agenda. This is one of the very first situations where a child displays preferential behavior.
So, why do kids prefer one parent over another?
One of the main reasons kids sometimes prefer one parent to the other can be attributed to the attachment process. The attachment phase begins at birth and continues throughout our lives. The purpose of attachment is to find a person who provides ultimate support and trust. While your little one is mastering this process, they might subconsciously, and innocently, exclude a parent or demonstrate some degree of preferential behaviour.
“Focus on one relationship at a time”
Physically, a child’s frontal cortex is not yet fully developed and they can only manage to focus on one relationship at a time. They aren’t able to focus on both parents simultaneously. For instance, it’s common for babies to initially prefer their mum, as she is often the one who feeds and nurtures them for much of the day, and she’s more likely to be associated with comfort and familiarity.
Emotionally/physically Unavailable Parent
Are you a working mom who is too tired after a long day at work to watch the new cartoon movie with your kid? Or are you the dad who has an important assignment lined up and hence, can’t spare time to color the new drawing book with your kid? Our professional life not only demands, but also drains, the most amount of energy & patience out of us.
So, the parent who’s mostly home with the child is the one who is almost always within the radius of the child’s physical and emotional needs. The more of this proximity, the more the attachment is, and hence, the more the preference of “that” parent over the other.
Behavior of the Parent
Kids, more than you can imagine, are very much affected by the way you act and react to their demands. Hence it is not unusual to find children sticking to the parent who they think to be more clement or, the “softy” – the one who is more likely to acquiesce to their demands, and, would most likely listen and understand their agony instead of being bitter. So, you, as a parent, ought to understand that playing one role for too long is tedious. Only a right balance between the many roles you play can help you to strike a friendly contract with your child. Therefore, don’t try to be his long-loathed tutor all the time. Sometimes being their favorite peer also helps settle the differences and thus eliminate the preferential behavior.
Bringing a balance
Tips for the “excluded” parent
The best way to win your child’s heart is through quality time.
- Share: When it comes to kids, nothing inspires bonding better than treats. Whip up some hot chocolate together or bake – then devour – a batch of warm cookies and you’re sure to score major points.
- Read: Reading a book together means sharing ideas in addition to favorite tales. According to the University of Michigan Health System, reading with children every day opens important lines of communication between the parent and child.
- Listen: Above all, children just want to be heard, says psychologist Dr. Donna Rockwell. Ask your kids about their day, then simply let them talk. “Don’t correct them, don’t try to educate them “¦ listen to who your children are and where they’re going in the world,” Rockwell says. “That’s better than ice cream.”
Tips for the “attached” parent
- Take turns being the bad guy
The parent who doles out most of the discipline is not likely to be the favorite. Sharing the responsibility of discipline more equally between both the parents is what will finally help overcome the favoritism.
- “It can be a draw sometimes”
It’s hard to believe that kids as young as one or two can be manipulative. But toddlers are learning what they can and can’t get away with, and tend to repeat whatever gets a reaction out of mom and dad. If your toddler’s preference for you or for your partner causes one or both of you to react in a big way, whether good or bad, and to pay more attention to them, chances are that your child will keep up the act. “It is also a way of testing the amount of power they have over you – so don’t give in – be firm, and always let them know that you both love them no matter what they do.”
Step back, if necessary
Give the “more often ignored” parent the limelight and see how your child’s preferential behavior vanishes.
Lastly, remember, IT’S JUST A PHASE AND IT WILL PASS SOON. Be patient!