Second place sounds like a win … until it refers to parenting. It's fairly common for children to single out one parent and shy away from the other. Sometimes, they even dig their heels in and refuse to let the other parent run the bath, push the stroller, or help with the homework.
Kids form strong attachments to their primary caregivers, and many times, that means that Mommy gets all of the attention, while Daddy feels like the third wheel. Rest easy if you're the one on the outside looking in — these attachments do change over time — and there are steps you can take to build the attachment.
Warning: Unconditional love and patience required.
How to break the mommy (or daddy) obsession:
Divide the tasks
My husband travels a lot. In his absence, I do absolutely everything to keep these kids healthy and happy and to keep the house running. They think I have superpowers — I call it coffee. Either way, Mommy is in charge 24/7 for months at a time.
To say the least, their attachment to me is strong. But when my husband comes home, we divide the parenting tasks as much as possible. He gets bathtime when he's home for it, and he reads the chapter book to our 7-year-old when he can. He also takes them to the park and on various other adventures.
Even if your little mommy-lover resists at first, it's important to hand over some of the parenting tasks to Daddy when possible, particularly the soothing ones that help build a strong attachment.
It helps to create a schedule. Daddy does the bath and bedtime routine certain nights, and Mommy takes the lead the other nights. Often, children resist the other parent because they fear that they won't have the same soothing experience that they crave. When the other parent takes over and introduces new, fun ideas, it can really decrease those fears and help your child adjust.
Daddy's “crazy tubs” are much preferred around this house, that's for sure.
It's hard for the other parent to take over and find the key to making things work when the preferred parent is always standing there. Get out of the house! Run! It's your chance to take a much-deserved break while daddy (or mommy) figures things out.
Sure, there will be tears at first, and perhaps even a strong-willed protest, but when Daddy the Silly Chef takes over the kitchen and makes breakfast for dinner, the tears are likely to turn to laughter. Let him be. He can handle it.
Make special time a priority
Each parent should set a weekly date with each child. You don't have to leave the house or plan some great adventure. What your child needs is a weekly (predictable) time with each parent where he or she chooses the activity and enjoys uninterrupted time with each parent.
Parents, shut down those screens and hide your phone in a drawer. Special time means letting the rest of the world fade away while you give 100% of your focus to your child for at least an hour.
Increase family time
We live in a busy world with a lot of responsibilities. It can be hard to fit in regular family time when the demands of work, school, and multiple activities for multiple kids take over.
Just do it. Make family game night a priority on the weekends. Let each child choose a game. Find time for at least one family meal per day, and make sure that all of you are present, both physically and emotionally. (Hint: It doesn't need to be dinner.)
The more family time your child enjoys, the more your family begins to function well as a unit.
Love them anyway
The rejection of a child can really sting. Love that child anyway. Pour on the hugs and kisses and declarations of love, and channel every ounce of patience you might have.
When we love our children unconditionally, we show them that we are there for them no matter the circumstances.
The more they internalize the message that Mommy and Daddy are always there, the stronger the attachments they form with each parent become.