Ask Dr. Mary

Rejecting Daddy

Q. My 2-year-old seems to be rejecting his daddy. He doesn?t like his dad to hold him and always wants me to give him a bath and read him a bedtime story. I think my husband is feeling hurt and I don?t know what to do.

A. Many toddlers go through times when they prefer one parent over the other, so your toddler is not unique. However, this can be an emotionally challenging time, both for the parent who?s being slighted and the one who is preferred.

When our children seem to reject us, it?s natural to feel hurt and want to make everything right again. But it?s important that you realize that your child?s behavior is normal and requires little reaction on your (or your husband?s) part.

Your husband does need to be careful not to pull away from your son because of his hurt feelings. Sometimes the rejected parent can unconsciously disengage from the child in order to avoid the pain of being rejected. Your husband needs to stay involved in your son?s daily activities and continue to show love and affection, even if it isn?t reciprocated right now.

Instead, if your son says he wants you to put him to bed tonight, your husband can give him a quick, breezy kiss and say something like, "Nighty, night. I?m looking forward to taking you to the park tomorrow." This will remind your son of the special times he shares with his dad, but doesn?t put emphasis on the issue at hand.

Times of parental preference, although awkward or embarrassing, are just another stage to get through. Before long, your child will likely outgrow this behavior.

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May 25

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