Gulf News spoke to parenting experts to find out what the mother’s best approach should be…
Difficult but not uncommon
“It can be difficult and hurtful when a child seems to favour one parent over the other,” agrees Dr Sarah Rasmi, licensed psychologist and founder and director of Thrive Wellbeing Centre in Dubai (www.thrive.ae). “But rest assured, it’s not uncommon. Many children, especially sons, show preferences for their fathers when they are toddlers.”
The toddler ego
Jewell explains that this is not manipulation or rejection the way we would understand it as adults, but rather it is a key part of his growth into a person who has a social and emotional awareness of others – “but only after he has learnt his own!”
“A three-year-old does not consider the feelings of others as they are only just learning to recognise and understand their feelings about themselves,” adds Jewell. This is why teaching them the skills of listening, empathy and compassion are so important, she explains: “and we teach these through role-modelling and using these skills with them.”
Presence not presents
Different parents, different relationships
“It’s important to understand that this doesn’t mean that your child loves you any less than he loves his father. The relationships are simply different.”
How to react when a child prefers one parent over the other
Joanne Jewell and Dr Sarah Rasmi share their advice:
- ONE-ON-ONE TIME: “If possible it would be ideal if you could manage 10-15 minutes per day one-to-one time with him,” suggests Joanne Jewell of Mindful ME. Be emotionally responsive to him and engage in child-led play where he chooses the activity. Sit and listen to him, read a book and have a cuddle.”
- AVOID GUILT TRIPS: “Continue to be loving, even when your son rejects you,” says Dr Rasmi of Thrive Wellbeing Centre. “Pulling away will only create more distance. Also, try to avoid guilt trips because they won’t work”.
- REMEMBER IT’S A PHASE: “Children go through phases where they prefer to be with one parent or the other and this is natural,” explains Jewell. “The important thing is to make the time to ensure your connection with him is positive and responsive.”
- PHYSICALLY CONNECT: “Cuddling and tickling release oxytocin (the bonding hormone),” says Dr Rasmi.
- TRY BEING THE ‘FUN’ PARENT: Join your son in his favourite activities, says Dr Rasmi. “Mothers often get caught up in the day-to-day tasks, meaning that they miss out on the chance to be the ‘fun’ parent.”
- START A NEW TRADITION WITH YOUR SON: “Pick an activity that he really loves and do it with him on a regular basis,” says Dr Rasmi. “It will give you both something to look forward to.”
- BE PRESENT: “Be fully present when you are with your son,” Dr Rasmi says. “Put away all distractions to show him how much you value him and your time together.”
- ASK FOR SUPPORT: Dr Rasmi advises the mother to ask for her husband’s support: “Remind him not to swoop in when your son protests (and don’t worry when he does, it won’t last forever).”
- GET DAD ON SIDE: “Tell your husband to vouch for you,” says Dr Rasmi. “Encourage your husband to share stories about how fun and cool you are. These stories will pique your son’s interest – run with it.”
To book an appointment with Dr Sarah Rasmi at Thrive Wellbeing Centre visit www.thrive.ae, or to book with Joanne Jewell at Mindful ME visit https://mindfulme.me/.
Do you have a pregnancy or parenting-related question you would like to ask the Parenting team at Gulf News? We can get your query answered by the right experts – email email@example.com.