When Your Toddler Prefers One Parent

Today I'm writing about something I think all parents deal with at some point in their child's life. AJ and I are struggling through it with Evie right now, so I thought I'd do some research and share what I've found. I also just want to hear how those of you with children dealt with (or are currently dealing with) a child who prefers one parent over the other.

A little background on where I'm coming from- Evie and I have always had a super strong bond. I stayed home with her 24/7 for the first 7 months of her life and when I started working again it was only for a few hours three days a week- so basically, I'm a stay at home mom. I nursed her until she was 13 months, which we both loved. It was such a special time for me and I adored getting to connect with her and be so needed by her.

However, since E was tiny, it has been very hard for AJ not to have that same connection Evie and I share. I'm not saying she doesn't love her daddy or that they haven't bonded in special ways either, they have- he was there for her in different ways. And I don't think he is alone in this. I've heard of many fathers who don't feel as connected to their children until they're older just because of how intensely babies need their mothers in the first year or so of life.

Now fast forward to today when Evie is entering toddler-dom and LOVES making it very clear that she would (usually) rather be with me than her daddy. She knows how to make choices and she isn't concerned with our feelings in the least. And I'm sure she will only get more assertive from here- she's only 17 months old for goodness sake.

I reassure AJ that it's nothing he is doing wrong and she is only learning to make choices. She doesn't actually love me more- and he knows that, but I can see that it still hurts him. And that hurts me too. So, in an effort to make sense of this silly preference, I did some research and this is what I found:

1. It's completely normal

Don't take it personally. As kids develop and learn, making choices and learning to exert their opinions comes naturally. Every child does this, whether it's preferring the mother or the father and whether it lasts a year or a few days. Toddlers make irrational decisions all the time- they will only eat grilled cheese for a week and then not touch it the next day- it doesn't make sense, but it's normal.

2. It's a good thing.

One article I read (listed below) said we should actually celebrate our kids' ability to choose because it is a sign of emotional and cognitive growth. A quote I was particularly encouraged by said this, "(your child) is secure enough in your love to know he can jilt you and still get a warm welcome back". Evie already feels the unconditional love from both AJ and I and so she feels comfortable pushing boundaries and making choices.

3. Set firm boundaries and don't give in:

This one is especially applicable for older children. While it's awesome that our kids are independent and can make choices, it's important to teach them from an early age that their choices have consequences- like hurting someone's feelings. Setting aside time for them to spend one on one with each parent will help them see that they will be fine without mommy (or daddy) and that they are loved equally by both parents.

4. Be a team:

It is equally easy to resent the "preferred parent" or feel a sense of guilt about being the preferred parent, but remember that kids go through phases. Show affection to each other, in front of your kids, so that they know it's ok to do the same. And encourage each other! Parenting is hard, but it's even harder when you and your partner aren't on the same team.  

These tips really helped me see Evie's preferences less as a problem and more as a sign of development. Hopefully they will help you too!

What are some ways you handled your children's crazy phases? I'd love to hear! We can use all the advice we can get ;)

Here are some links that I found super helpful if you want to check them out!-

http://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/development/behavioral/favoring-one-parent/

http://www.whattoexpect.com/toddler/behavior/when-toddlers-prefer-one-parent.aspx

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/galtime/when-your-child-prefers-one-parent-over-another_b_4213068.html?

http://www.popsugar.com/moms/4-Strategies-Toddlers-Who-Play-Favorites-27333394

That's all I have for today. Have a great Monday, friends.

Simply,

Liv