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What Happens When Your Child Favors One Parent?

There’s never a dull day in parenting, that’s for sure. One situation that’s more common than we think is favoritism or situational shunning by a child. While this is entirely natural, the first time it occurs can be confusing and hurtful. 

Children create bonds with their parents in different ways, and sometimes it’s favored more toward one parent over another. In happy, healthy households, favoritism simply means that your child has created a secure bond with you. It doesn’t mean that they “hate” the other parent, we promise! Toddlers and young children are known for displaying strong favoritism, and they can get frustrated when the “favorite” parent isn’t available. While favoritism can be hurtful and make parenting more difficult, the positive is that it shows your child can start distinguishing their basic needs and is becoming more autonomous. 

Despite a child or young adult’s reasoning for favoritism, there are some avenues both parents can take to alleviate stress and help create and strengthen bonds between everyone. One of the most important ones is: don’t change your parenting ethics and values. While a parent on the opposite end of favoritism may feel the need to loosen restrictions or parent on the softer side: don’t. Maintaining consistency and balance will help improve the situation over time. Keep your feelings in control and display empathy. Favoritism does not indicate that one parent is better than the other. For example, if your child is upset because they want their mom to feed them, but she is unavailable, calmly explain that you are here to make sure they get what they need and don’t back down. 

Showing favoritism is a sign that your child is growing and developing into a more independent human. Over time your child will balance out and recognize the strengths and similarities in both parents. Remember to continue working on building and evolving your relationships with your child. Perhaps pick a day of the week and plan a fun activity for just the two of you, one that connects to your child’s strengths and interests. One on one time is an excellent way to develop and hone unique and strong relationships. 

Parents.com developed an excellent blueprint for helping parents work through this issue together. The most important step is acknowledging and accepting the ways your child is asserting herself while also keeping your feelings in check. Recognize that this is an essential part of development in a child’s life and use it as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship in creative ways.