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My daughter would not let her dad hold her. She cried and screamed if he tried to hold her for more than a few minutes.
She wanted her mom and no one else for roughly the first year of her life. It was difficult for all of us.
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Is It Normal For Babies to Prefer One Parent Over the Other?
Yes. Babies will often go through phases of preferring one parent over the other. This is usually due to the child’s age, needs, and the parent they associate as the primary caregiver. It’s also not uncommon for a child to prefer the parent they see less often due to the subconscious need for a bond.
When Your Baby Prefers You
As I mentioned earlier, my daughter preferred me to her father. It was difficult for him because he wanted to develop that all-important father-daughter bond from the earliest age.
She, however, wasn’t having it. She wanted her mom at all times.
It wasn’t just rough on her dad that she preferred me over him. It was also very hard for me. I sometimes needed a break that seemed like it would never come. It was also hard on her brother who needed some attention from me as well.
The good news is that preference was short-lived in the grand scheme of things. Once she got over her clinginess to mom, she developed a strong bond with her dad.
This is true of most children.
Many babies prefer mom from the outset because they are comforted by being in the presence of the person who birthed them.
They have already grown so accustomed to the sound of mom’s voice and the warmth of mom’s touch that they don’t want to let that feeling go.
When Your Baby Prefers Your Spouse
Is your partner the full-time caregiver of your child? If so, it’s not at all surprising that the child might prefer that parent over you.
Children, especially babies, tend to hold tight to what is most comfortable.
In a case where one parent provides more hands-on care than the other, it shouldn’t be a shock to see them behave more comfortably with that parent.
The opposite can also be true. Sometimes, a child will cling to the parent that they don’t see as much because they crave a bond that hasn’t formed yet.
They may subconsciously wish to develop a relationship with the parent who is less familiar to them than the primary caregiver.
Another reason a child might prefer their dad over their mom has to do with pregnancy.
When a child realizes that another baby is being born, they may feel that the new baby has taken their place in the family. The child might reject mom and focus more on dad.
This is what happened in my household. My son was three when I became pregnant with his sister. At first, he was excited about having a new baby in the house.
It didn’t take long for him to realize that the new baby was already taking me away from him. All of the planning, the doctor visits, and setting up the nursery made him feel less important. He proudly proclaimed that dad was his favorite on numerous occasions.
How to Work With a Child’s Parental Preference
A baby can’t be reasoned with. You may want to roll with the preference, knowing it is just a phase.
Conversely, you might give the child more time with the less preferred parent so they can get to know each other better. Neither choice is right or wrong.
An older child can and should have their preference recognized, though not in the way you might think. You could bribe your child into preferring you more. That’s why ice cream exists, isn’t it?
A better, and much healthier choice is to allow your child to have their favorite. Embrace it and embrace them. When my oldest first told me his daddy was his favorite, I said, “I’m so happy you love your daddy. I love him too.”
The next time he said this to me, I said, “I don’t blame you. Your dad is awesome.”
Every subsequent mention of his favorite parent began with him telling me how great his dad was and ended with me agreeing and giving him a big hug.
The truth is, his dad is awesome. That’s the reason I chose him to be the father of my children.
If you are in a similar situation, instead of worrying about your own self-worth, think about how wonderful your child’s other parent is. Feel lucky that your child has two excellent parents and know that this phase, like all others, will be over soon.
It may not be easy to not be the preferred parent, but it will probably happen at some point.
Take it in stride, continue loving your child and wait for the phase to pass. Do you agree or disagree? Tell us your take on this issue in the comments!