Childrearing

Splitsville: When Your Kids Choose Favorites

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Welcome to Splitsville. This weekly column will focus on parenting after a divorce, break-up or one-night stand that didn’t end like a Katherine Heigl movie.

Children can be grumpy and temperamental. I’m sorry to break that harsh news to you. I’m sure it comes as a complete shock. You might be asking where the research is to back up this assertion. Well, I don’t have any. But I’m still pretty sure that kids are a finicky, moody lot.

Operating under this assumption, we can conclude that at some point in time, (maybe right after they’ve drawn all over your walls and you not only didn’t appreciate it, you washed away their masterpiece) your children aren’t going to like you. Their arms will be crossed, their noses will be scrunched and they’ll be angry. And if you’re a single parent, that’s the time when your child will say, “I don’t like you! I want to see my daddy!” It’s pretty heart-wrenching.

The fact is, it happens at both houses. When most children want to run away, they just pack up their teddies in a backpack and then sit on their beds with no idea of where to go. When a child has two homes, they always have a viable option of where else they could be. Their grass has a perennial “other side”. So any argument or punishment can turn into a discussion about relocation.

My daughter has told me, “Daddy lets me do it,” “Daddy’s more fun,” “I wanna go see Daddy now.” She’s also said, “Daddy yelled at me,” “I don’t wanna see him,” and “You’re my favorite.” Even the compliments don’t make me feel better. It will never be positive for my daughter to compare her parents or pit us against each other. Here are a few ways that I try to deal with it when favorites come into play.

  • We both love you very much. Whether she’s angry with me or her father, any comparison between us illicits this response. When she gets mad, I want her to know that both sides love her, no matter what. Above all, I don’t ever want to perpetuate her anger by telling her that she’s wrong to feel a certain way.
  • Daddy wants you to listen to Momma. Early on, my daughter’s father and I set up this system. In general, we try to have the same rules. But if something pops up sporadically, we might not discuss it. So if I tell her that she can’t say “stinky” because she just combined it with “head” to insult someone at daycare, my daughter might say, “Daddy lets me say that.” That’s when I pull out this phrase. If she pushes it too far, we’ll call her father together so that he can reaffirm that above all else, he wants her to listen. This works both ways.
  • Love can’t be ranked. There’s no winners or losers. Nothing is best or better. We love each other. That’s it. Even if she says that I’m the best, I can’t let her get away with it. We all love one another. That’s what makes us a family.

These are just a couple of my coping mechanisms. And I’m sure that it won’t get any easiser as my daughter gets older. So what about you guys? How do you deal with your child’s favoritism?

(Photo: Thinkstock)

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