It’s a special feeling of pride (mixed with a little smugness) when your munchkin squeals, “I want mummy” over everyone else for all his wants and needs. From playtime, to showers, and tucking him into bed — it’s all you. And why not? After carrying him inside you for nine months, plus going through the painful birthing process, you’ve earned the right to be recognised as your little one’s primary caregiver.
Then, one day, when you and the hubs step into the house after work, you’re horrified when he zooms straight to daddy to show him his drawing. The next day, he wants daddy to play with him, then tuck him into bed, and you can’t help but feel rejected. Betrayed! If it’s any consolation, you’re not the only one who’s been dumped unceremoniously by her toddler.
Why is junior choosing daddy not me?
Daniel Koh, a psychologist at Insights Mind Centre, says, “Children seek simple physical and emotional benefits — like security and comfort — and weigh up which parent can fulfil these needs.”
So you’re thinking, “But I’ve been fulfilling his every want from the start!” While you’re probably right, don’t take this personally because toddlers are often known to be fickle about their preferences. Just as they want to eat sausages for every meal one week, and the following week, only chicken nuggets will do.
Koh notes, “Some children find doing things out of the usual routine fun and interesting.” During this phase, your tyke is also trying to put his feelings and wants into words, so he can exert his influence around him — all of which are important steps in his growing-up process.
If this doesn’t sound like your mini-me, then he might want something specific, and has recognised that one parent will give in to him. Or it’s simply down to gender preferences. Koh explains, “When a son or daughter feels shy about something, they may prefer to relate to the parent of the same gender.”
Your tot is asserting their personality
Showing favouritism is also your child’s way of asserting his “toddler independence”. It’s a way of establishing — and proving — that he has his own will, so he will only watch Barney & Friends over Sesame Street. BAAAAAAAARNEY!!!
Don’t get all twisted up about the sudden change, just know that favouritism is bubba’s way of experimenting with ideas of separation and attachment. This shows the growth of his imagination and memory, and that his relationship skills have developed. “Children respond to what the parent is doing, which generates curiosity,” notes Koh. So, he’ll want to press your laptop keys while you’re working, instead of playing with his toy computer.
Having favourites is another sign of his growth, since he’s proving his ability to build individual relationships. He has also realised that spending time with one parent means that he can get his or her undivided attention.
Koh says, “When a connection and mutual understanding have been achieved between child and parent, the connection remains until the foundations change or are disrupted.”
So, if bedtime means daddy will read to him, this is exactly what your toddler will want to happen, unless daddy’s away for a work trip, which means his routine is disrupted. If so, he could now be open to the idea of mummy reading the bedtime story.
So what do you do about it?
We know it’s tempting to bribe your kid, so that you reclaim the top spot. Don’t. What will really work are unspoken gestures, unconditional love, understanding and the support that you provide.
Koh points out, “If you force or try to break the fixed bond, your child will start resenting you for the disruption.” So, don’t keep throwing carrots his way!
Don’t take the switch personally. Instead, focus on learning the reason behind why your child is “distancing” himself from you. Koh notes, “Understand that a child doesn’t necessarily love you less if you’re not the favourite of the moment.”
To pick up clues as to your tyke’s likes and dislikes, use this time to observe how your husband and son interact. It’ll also show you why and when he picks daddy over mummy.
Also, this may make it feel more fair to your husband — you have been the focus of your little boy’s favouritism for a long time! Let them bond by leaving them to enjoy some father-son interaction, so that he’s not fighting for junior’s affection. Suggest to him, “Daddy is going for a car ride and wants to take you with him, isn’t he the best daddy?”
Koh sums up, “Parents shouldn’t fight for support — instead, show your offspring how you all support and complement each other as a family unit.”
And last but not least: This means you get a little time to yourself…
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Being snubbed by bubba isn’t bad, not when you get to…
• GO ON OUTINGS Just like your hubby enjoys drinks with his buds, make use of this window of opportunity to organise a girl’s night out. It doesn’t have to be over drinks, a simple movie or dinner is a great de-stressor.
• GET ENTERTAINED Hey, you ﬁnally have time to catch up on Scandal and all those buzzed-about shows. Or ﬁnish reading that half-read book gathering dust on your bedside table. Finally — some me-time!
• PRIMP You used to make an effort to dress up pre-baby, so now’s a good chance to re-live those days. Do whatever makes you feel good again. Remember, you were an individual long before becoming a mother, so your child isn’t an excuse to be sloppy about your looks.