The Preferred Parent Game


Dear Nanci,

My toddler prefers my wife to me and wants to deal with her exclusively. It makes sense, since my wife spends more time with her and understands her better but it's getting to the point where I'm feeling really left out of things. How can I get my daughter to like me more? When we are together, she doesn't listen to me very well.

Feeling Rejected

Dear Feeling Rejected,

Oh, I feel for you, but realize that this is a very common problem and it doesn't mean she doesn't like you. It does mean she's testing things out and isn't sure about the best way to get what she really wants from you which is attention, love and security.

Your daughter's playing a power game and you'll get along much better if you draw the lines at certain times, plus give her power in a good way at others. Here's what I think will work.

Spend 15 minutes hanging out with her each day and watch her play. Go along with what she says (within reasonable limits) and let her talk and play, you can comment or ask questions. Pick out words you understand and ask. Relax and let her lead the play. You can do what she says and wants during this time without losing any authority.

At other times, try not to negotiate unless it's really is a negotiable point. When you need her to cooperate you can say:

Sometimes parents decide and this is that time.

Remember, I'm in charge of you.

You can have 3 minutes according to my timer and that's it. (stick to it)

This is your last chance before I ..... (You decide what you'll do and stick with it. Make sure it's something you're willing to do if she tests you. I might say 'scoop you up' or 'go out the door first' or whatever small thing you decide. Time-outs are a big hassle so avoid them if you can or plan them very carefully.)

Kids respond better when they know who's in charge and they tend to enjoy being with adults who make things clear. Kind of like the benevolent dictator who rules with kindness and compassion.

Before you start this, make a list of your daughter's best traits and simply notice out loud when she shows them:

That was really helpful, Penny.

Thanks, Amy, you really cooperated and came quickly!

Thanks for thinking about him, Bernie.

Your smile makes me smile, Etta!

When you put your own shoes on, we get out the door faster, That was helpful!

Thanks for remembering, Sammy.......

note: This commonly happens to both moms and dads of any gendered child.

That's it.

n.joy!

Nanci J Bradley is a child and family educator with 42 years experience and an MA in human development. She helps parents manage relationship and weight issues. Click on the"before" photo below if you want to learn how she lost 100lbs. while raising her own child and running a full-time child care business.

Before After


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