Parent Child Relationship – Parents Rejected by Children
This is a topic that features quite a lot in our house, and a quick look online will reveal that it happens in many homes all over the world, parents rejected by children
It can be very frustrating for the ‘chosen’ parent and extremely devastating for the ‘rejected’ parent. However, as frustrating or devastating as this can be, it is perfectly normal and is in no way an indicator of bad parenting, or that your child does not love the other parent, or that the other parent has done any harm.
So, why do children do it?
The short answer is, it is a phase and like with all phases it will pass.
It is in many cases that the child only wants mummy, however occasionally daddy is number one. Whichever parent it is, when your child favours one parent over another it will leave you both asking why?
Generally, a young child’s preferred parent is usually the one who has cared for them the most, the primary caregiver. The primary caregiver is usually the one who has the opportunity to responds to the child’s physical and emotional needs, who the child has the opportunity to develop and strong bond with, and who is there when the child needs comfort and reassurance.
All these things are just circumstance and opportunity and nothing to do with anyone’s parenting ability.
What do we do?
This situation is the main reason why my husband, wherever possible, takes over and does bedtime. We have made bedtime daddy son time. It gives them the chance to bond, and my son knows to expect that daddy does bedtime; it is not a surprise to him.
As the favoured parent, I know all too well how hard it is to let go, especially when your child is calling out for you, however always going running at the first instance is not always the best way to allow your child the opportunity to form a bond with the other parent.
Even now, long after its been established that daddy does bedtime; my son will still ask for me and/ or play up for my husband. However, I do not always give in or go running the first time he asks. Often I finish what I am doing and then assess the situation. If all is good I let them crack on with it, if he is still playing up then I go in. If (on the rare occasion) I am not actually doing something, I wait a while. If my husband manages to get the situation under control then I leave well alone, if he does not then I go and assist him.
The main anything mummy can we have tried to establish is that daddy can do anything mummy can, daddy is just as capable as mummy. Sometimes mummy can help him and sometimes daddy can help him. If I dropped everything the minute he wants me then I would never get anything done.
However, this is how we do things and what works for us may not necessarily work for you.
How should I respond to my child’s favoritism?
The main anything mummy can you need to focus on/ be aware of is
- be aware of your feelings but do not make your child feel guilty/ punish them
- allow time and space for both parents to bond with your child alone
- both parents will be struggling for different reasons – empathise with each other
- share knowledge – if you know something that your child likes/ prefers then help each other
- remember that parenting is hard whoever you are – its normal to struggle, feel guilty, or think you are a failure or a bad parent
In time your child will grow up, the phase will pass, and your child will realise there is more than enough love to go around.
We’ve tried everything but nothing works!
Deep breath. Unfortunately, there is no time frame and whilst this phase can be short for some families, in others it will last for longer. As with absolutely everything when it comes to children and their development, they will do it in their own time.
I have found the more I try to push my son in one direction then more he resists. Therefore, now we do not push, we more gently encourage. If my son is happy to spend time with my husband then that is brilliant, I do not interfere and I let them crack on with it.
However, on other days my son needs a little more encouragement so I create the opportunity for my husband and my son to bed alone, “I need you to stay with daddy while I prepare lunch/ put some laundry on/ insert some other task that needs doing”. If my son resists then I reassure him that I will not be long and then we can do something/ play, “mummy won’t be long, let me prepare lunch/ put some laundry on/ insert some other task that needs doing and then I promise I will play cars/ take you to the park/ do whatever you want”. On my son’s particularly clingy days this does not work, this then calls for a hasty retreat, I repeat what I need to do, I repeat my reassurance, and then I say goodbye and leave.
This is when my husband gives lots of reassurance and distractions. Take the opportunity to do something fun and bond with your child. Do an activity that you know they love or find something special that is just for you. Yes they may cry, yes they may reject you, but do not give up. If you ask them if they want to do something and they say no/ run away then try to do the activity anyway, sometimes this is enough to make them come to you. If they do not come to you and they start something else, go over to them. Ask them questions, if they do not like this then just observe them.
In time, they will come round, do not push
It is horrible and it never gets easier but sometimes you just have to leave and let the other parent get on with it. Just ensure that when you get back that you make a fuss about what a good boy (or girl) they have been and that you were gone but you came back just like you promised.