As adults, we know better than to show favouritism to one of our children over another. Why can't kids show us parents the same courtesy? Ah, yes, they are children and less mature so of course we are supposed to give them a pass. But, for how long can we put up with a daddy's girl or a mama's boy?
Over time, it really does get under our skin. After all, we are all humans who want to be loved and accepted by our children, too. It hurts to be passed over for someone else constantly:
"Mommy cut my toast!"
"Daddy do my zipper!"
"Mommy carry me!"
Every child is different and their preferences are their personal choices. Dads can rationalize the favouritism. After all, mom and babe were together during nine months of gestation and mom is often the primary caregiver in the early weeks and months.
But, at age two, three and four? Really? Still? Dads do start to feel discouraged that they have not gained any inroads with the children they love and it is not for lack of trying! They throw their hands in the air: "What's a guy gotta do to give his kid a tuck in?"
Moms have a tough go, too. They can feel they're stuck doing all the tough slogging and then dad sails in at the end of the day, fresh and like a hero. "Of course they want Daddy tuck-ins, they aren't upset with him for having to say 'no' to chocolate chip ice-cream for lunch. Dad wasn't around to dish out the discipline for hitting their brother with the t-ball bat."
Whoever is favoured, that parent often has guilt over it. They see how it hurts their partner: "Sorry love, I am not trying to do anything to squeeze you out." And more tension and resentment builds in the relationship over who is doing more of the parenting -- simply because a child is dictating the orders and over taxing one of you.
So what is one to do?
While I preach the concept of social equality and democracy in families, I don't mean that kids get to rule the roost! A family is a social unit where everyone should have a say about matters that affect them -- but having a say does not mean you always get your way!
Democratic families demonstrate mutual respect as people carry out their roles and functions in the family. Think of the parents as the executive committee and it is their job to make decisions about the division of labour when it comes to childcare issues. When parents kowtow to their child's demands, they are handing this responsibility to their child and this is too much power over others for a child. It can lead to attitudes of entitlement.
Instead, a child should allow parents to create the structures for deciding who does what, and allow the child to increase their frustration tolerance as they experience the reality of life in a group, which is that you don't always get what you want.
Here is the script:
Child: "I want mommy to carry me."
Dad: "Mom is not available, it's my turn."
Child: "I want mommy! Mommy carry me!"
Dad: "Mom is not a choice, it's me or walk on your own. What would you prefer?"
Child: "I hate you! I want Mommy!"
Dad: "I can see you're disappointed, but I am sure you'll manage."
Now continue on and don't drag out the conversation. If they have a melt down, wait till they are calm and then proceed. No words or further explanations needed.
Don't get discouraged at these early protests. Children are accustom to using the negotiating and blow up method to wear you down and make you cave to their demands. They don't know you are changing the game up, so expect them to test this new pattern. The more consistent you are, the faster they will learn that you are serious.
Relationships build over time. Keep working to make memories and have common interests with your child. If you don't, you'll experience more emotional drift over time. They won't have the same relation with each parent, but they can be close to both parents in different ways if you don't take their initial favouritism personally.