"Daddy, I love mummy more than you". So said our 3-year-old to me yesterday as I attempted my daily high-five ritual as I walked in the door from work (I’m cool like that).
It was only a week ago as we lay on a Mediterranean beach lashing Factor 50 onto our ghost-like Irish bodies that he said the same to my then distraught wife. I on the other hand quickly ordered another Apfelspritz and lapped up the accolades of being the best dad in the world.
One week later and oh how the tides have changed. The fickle nature of kids at that age make you feel like a contestant on Big Brother – I nominate ‘fat daddy’ to leave the house.
What? But wait, wait, hold on, what about all the Star Wars Lego I bought you last week or the ice cream that you loved until it melted onto your hand and you had a conniption fit?
Eh what about all the times....‘Fat Daddy’ it’s time to leave the house'. Goodbye.
Oh, where is Emma Willis when you need her?
I joke of course. It’s completely natural for kids to favour one parent over another whenever it suits them. It’s a part of growing up and exerting their independence and more often than not it boils down to "Who gave me what I wanted today? Who entertained me the most today? Who is easier to manipulate?!".
We went through all of this with Thing 1 (our 5-year-old) so it’s water off a duck’s back but if you’re made up of the ‘sensitives’ it can feel like a real kick in the guts.
Just remember that they are not trying to hurt you, instead, you or your partner might just meet specific emotional needs at certain times....in my case, it’s usually jellies.
So how do you deal with favouritism? In my opinion, it’s quite simple.
1 - Don’t take it personally
Remember that you’re dealing with a little person who isn’t emotionally sophisticated yet. Take it on the chin, laugh it off and carry on as normal.
The one thing about kids is that they are always learning what they can and can't get away with. They tend to repeat whatever gets a reaction out of you so If your child's favouritism causes one or both of you to react in a big way, whether good or bad and to pay more attention to them, chances are they will keep up the routine.
2 - Revise Your Good Cop, Bad Cop Roles
Always being the good cop and avoiding the tough love, tough-talking disciplinarian role isn’t good for anyone. The bad cop will always be seen in a negative light so it’s very important to unite and share both roles with your partner.
3 – Schedule some One-On-One Time
It's common for a child to develop some resentment when one parent is away from home more than the other. If you are the one who’s being favoured then it might be an idea to get out of the house for a bit and let your partner spend some alone/bonding time with the child.
Likewise, if you’re the one up for ‘eviction’, hang out with your kid. Spend some quality time with them. Bring them out. Get them some jellies (sugar-free options available - including natures sweets aka fruit!). Play games with them. Show them that you love them and that you love spending time with them. Get down with the kids so to speak.
4 – Don’t Snub or Punish
Whether they want to know or not, make sure that your kid is aware of how much you love them and that you’re always there for them. Don’t punish them or snub them – jokingly or not –as it could make the ‘situation’ worse.
I say ‘situation’ because fleeting favouritism is more often than not a phase that all kids go through. It's part and parcel of a child’s development and isn't always about true resentment or lack of emotional connection with one parent.
Ps. I was back to being the world’s best dad again last night and never got to meet Mrs Willis. Groan.