When Your Child Picks Favorites

Is it normal for kids to prefer one parent over the other? Especially when they know they can get what they want by asking the right parent?

Favorites are essential to children. They know who’s at the top of their list, from superheroes to YouTubers. They may also have a favorite parent, stings more than their Spider-Man vs. Batman preference.

A child’s preference for one parent over the other is not uncommon. The child often prefers the more lax parent because one parent is more of a disciplinarian. Of course, cuddles and candy will generate more positive feedback from our littlest critics than rules or restrictions. They start to understand that Mommy and Daddy are individual people, and they can get different things from each parent. 

Parental preferences of a child can be attributed to parenting style. It’s not uncommon for the other parent to be the favorite if one parent takes an authoritarian approach to parenting, characterized by being very demanding and unresponsive to a child’s needs and harsh punishments for mistakes.

Insecure attachment styles can manifest when one parent isn’t around very often, leading their child to believe they’re unreliable. In situations like these, the less-favored parent should do everything possible to make their child feel more at ease with them. Try spending more time with the child to strengthen your relationship if this occurs.

On the other hand, children may prefer the parent with whom they spend the least time. This can happen when parents are separated or divorced, or one parent spends extended periods away from home. Because time spent with the parent who does not have custody is “fun,” a child may prefer the parent who does not have custody. You can even things out by having that parent do more homework, doctor’s appointments, and discipline (in other words, the boring stuff). It will also help if the non-residential parent can complement the parent who has custody.

Parents can encourage their kids to share their love by hyping up the other parent and encouraging them to spend more time with them. If your child insists on reading a bedtime story every night, gracefully bow out every now and then. Your child will be more inclined to spend time with their other parent if you tell them how good they are at reading books, drawing pictures, playing video games, etc.

It will also be best if both parents, away from the child, can communicate and try to be coordinated so their responses and actions will be consistent. You and your partner must be on the same page when dealing with your child. 

Indeed, all of this may not diminish the reality of competition parents feel daily, but bear in mind that parents should be happy that their child is attached to a parent. You should see it as positive that the child is confident and feels secure and realize that your turn will also come.