How to deal with it
A child with a strong preference for its father or mother. That can sometimes be annoying or hurtful. But it does not have to be. This is how you deal with it and this is how your child has that preference! It can start early on: your child will develop a certain preference for either the father or the mother. At the age of five or six months, the child begins to attach itself to the environment and one person often takes centre stage. Let's start by saying that this is only temporary. And quite normal! So don't feel like a lesser parent. And don't think your child loves you less, because that is absolutely not true. How long this phase lasts exactly remains to be seen. It differs per child. Just like how strong the preference is differs. And you may have guessed that the reasons for this are also different.
Causes of preferenceWho is the main carer? Is there a clear difference in who is more often at home with the child? This can be related to the preference. If you, as a mother, are at home more often with the child and you take on most of the care, it is possible that he or she will gravitate towards you. But it can also work the other way round, that there is more attention for the parent who is at home less often. Because at that moment, it is more special; after all, it happens less often. During the 'no phase', such a situation can also occur - between the ages of one and a half and four. The differences in upbringing between the two parents often play a role in this. The child may tend to gravitate towards the less strict parent. Or he may gravitate towards the more obvious parent. He may also gravitate towards the parent who is most like him, or the one who is most different. It may even have to do with your voice. If you are easily panicked or stressed, your child will hear this. He may prefer a low, calm, reassuring voice. So it's impossible to tell! In the 'no' phase, the child will probably start to test the relationships in the family and what he can achieve with whom. Does he get his way if he yells loudly at mummy and not at daddy? Then he may prefer to be comforted by mummy and send daddy away. Again: don't let it get to you. Almost every child goes through this phase and is actually on a discovery tour of sorts. Baby If it is still a baby, breastfeeding may play a part. By breastfeeding, there is a greater chance that the little one will gravitate towards its mother and be comforted more easily by mummy. But no worries, this will go away by itself. It's so frustrating: you do everything for your child, but as soon as your partner comes home from work in the evening, you are cast aside like rubbish. He constantly wants to sit with daddy, wants to play with daddy and wants daddy to read to him. Sometimes it makes you so cranky. But try to see it as something positive. It means your child feels safe and trusts you enough to take a step back now and then. Your child knows that he will always get a warm welcome back!
Please, Dad!Since there is a greater chance that the baby will gravitate towards mummy, due to the nine months of carrying the baby and breastfeeding, we would like to give some tips to the fresh fathers to get the bond up and running as soon as possible. It starts already in the belly: Dad, try to talk to the baby and try to make contact already by putting your hands on the belly regularly, for example. This way the baby feels your presence, your energy and he gets used to daddy's voice. After the birth, skin-to-skin contact is important. Lay the little one on your bare belly to build up a nice, familiar bond. Wearing a baby carrier can also strengthen the bond because the baby quickly becomes familiar with daddy's smell, voice and heartbeat. Then there is the care: divide it fairly: changing nappies, bathing, giving bottles... Breastfeeding? Then make sure you pump enough. Does the baby start to cry? Be quick to comfort, so the mother does not have to go again and you have time to bond. Do this in your own way. Everyone has their own way of comforting the baby, which can work well for both and will provide affection for both.
How do you handle it?. Keep in mind that your child is not really rejecting you. This behaviour is only temporary, it is natural and it is not your child's fault. React well when your child rejects you or sends you away. Don't make a big deal out of it and don't let emotions get the better of you; don't get angry, don't get offended and don't show your disappointment. A simple 'Too bad' will suffice. As the non-favoured parent, do not try to force anything, but do not give your child his way in everything either. Preference is fine, but he doesn't decide who brushes his teeth. It is also pointless to take out your frustrations on your partner. He or she can't help it! Moreover, it can be extremely tiring if the child only wants your attention and it doesn't feel good towards your partner. So keep supporting each other, be a team (doing fun things together, equal in parenting) and keep repeating: it's a phase, it's a phase.
Some tips, though
- No matter how frustrated you are about it. Show your child that you love them unconditionally.
- Don't put too much energy into it. Don't spoil your child, don't be extra nice, don't make them feel guilty. It can actually ensure that you push your child further away. So let it go, it will come back on its own. It really will.
- Try to have similar rules and routines with your partner and stay consistent. Stand strong together and show that you can't be pushed around or played off against each other.
- It can help to watch how your partner handles certain things. Maybe you can reach your child better that way, or understand why. But don't copy the behaviour and don't do anything you don't agree with.
- Does he prefer to be read to by daddy? That's fine. "But are we going to make pancakes tomorrow? - Keep inviting your child to do things together.
- You don't have to go along with everything. Does he want to play with you and not with daddy? Then you don't have time. If he keeps on nagging, we won't play.
- You have jealous feelings towards your partner? Talk about it and let them know how you feel to avoid tension.
- Does the preference persist for a long time and does this cause a lot of tension? Then call in parenting assistance in good time!