I spend the vast majority of my day with Hamish as opposed to Brent who spends 90 % of his day at work away from the home.
Because of this I am Hamish’s primary care taker.
I also take on the roles as his friend and teacher. Which means I have an incredibly large influence in his little life.
But even I was rather taken aback when my 4 year old, giving me a huge hug said last week ” I prefer to you to daddy”
He continued with sentences like ” I love you more than daddy” , “I don’t like daddy” and “I love you more”
Naturally this concerned me. So, I asked Hamish why as Brent is really great with Hamish when he is home.
They play, chat and watch stories together.
From a child’s mouth
The answer he gave was that Brent spoke less gentle than I did and was grumpy.
He said I was calm and Brent shouted.
Which if you know us is the exact truth. I am more calm and patient, using gentle tones and words.
I’m less quick to get angry or upset and my children all have me wrapped around their fingers.
Brent is more stern and his words, to a child, could seem angry or punishing.
He is also faster to get annoyed or bugged by small issues.
So, it stood to reason that Hamish, who is naturally gentle, identified with a more gentle tone and approach and thus preferred to be around me.
Still wondered if there wasn’t a more logical and proven answer to this favoritism.
Children under the age of 5 are completely reliant on their care givers in order to survive.
This natural instinct, allows them to navigate and identify who their primary care givers are and how to meet their needs.
Knowing this, you can understand that a child who makes a statement preferring one parent to the other, does so out of need and survival and not as personal attack on the other parent.
What has in fact happened is that the child has identified one parent as more avaliable than the other and so they attach themselves to that parent and fight to keep that care and connection.
By voicing their favoritism, your child is protecting the relationship that they have identified as consistant and beneficial to their needs.
What about love
Just because your child has verbally chosen the other parent or physically fights to stay with their primary care givers does not for one minute mean that they do not love the other parent.
Pushing your child away
And whilst the words may sting or be hard to hear, the parent who is not being favoured should recognize this for what it is –
Your child’s ability to have their basic needs met.
Sadly,often times, on hearing that one parent is favored, the other may instinctively start to push the child away, taking the favoritism of the other parent personally and as a form of rejection.
What should you do?
According to most of the articles I read the first step is to :-
- Acknowledge your child’s favoritism without taking it personally
You can also:-
- Accept that your children are identifying where to get their needs met with the least resistance.
As a Parent it is best to :-
- Offer to assist more in your child’s daily activities or be more present during the times you spend with them so that your child knows that you are also avaliable
- Do not push your child away because you have taken their preference personally.
- Know that children respond to consistency, safety, acceptance and connection
- If you are the parent who is favoured, build up the other parent infront of your child and let your child know that they can rely on them.
No one can be avaliable 24/7 for their children but the most effective way to build love and trust with your child is to be 100% present when you engage with your child.
At the end of the day your child really just needs you to be consistent, avaliable and love unconditionally.