I am Not My Child's Favourite Parent: What Should I Do?

Are you worried that you are not your child's favourite parent? Fret not. Here's why this is just a passing phase.

By Shashwathi Sandeep

I am Not My Child's Favourite Parent: What Should I Do?

“I like my dad more than my mom. She's always scolding me but my dad is so sweet”. Most of us would have overheard or been told about such a conversation taking place between a child and his friends or relatives. Also, most of us would have heard from our parents that, as a child, we had also said something similar. At that time, we may not have known how much it would hurt our parents. But now, when we go through the same experience, we realise it. And, not being the favourite parent of our child makes us feel that ‘Favouritism does exist in a parent–child relationship’.

So, why does a child favour one parent over the other?

Meenal Arora, Executive Director of SHEMROCK Preschools and the Founder Director of SHEMFORD Futuristic School says, “A child may develop a special liking towards one parent owing to many reasons. The primary being the kind of rapport a parent shares with a child. A child may develop a special preference for a parent due to the simple reason that the particular parent is close to her or pays her the required attention. The child is close to the parent who understands her well and hence, the result is that the parent is her favourite.”

It might have to do with the personality of the parents, believes Hema Chennupaty, Principal, Oakridge International School, Bengaluru. According to her, “It might be simply because their personalities match. Generally, in a family, there are two different personalities–that of each parent. The child imbibes traits from one of these personalities and will, therefore, align more with the parent who shares a closer link in terms of characteristics.”

How does the less-favoured parent feel?

Akanksha Pandey, Consultant Clinical Psychology, Fortis Hospitals, Bengaluru, says, “It may instil feelings of ineptitude, low self-esteem, low self-confidence, guilt, self-hatred and self-deprecation. Because of this ‘favourite parent complex’, the less-favoured parent may end up overcompensating or withdrawing completely from the expected parental roles and responsibilities. If this tendency occurs in everyday behaviours, the probability of failure to achieve objectives increases, and the consequent impact of those failures can often include the experience of frustration.”

While it doesn't feel good to know that you are your child’s less-favoured parent, with help from our tips, you can turn the tide. 

Here’s what you should do

Try to understand your child: Often, a lack of understanding between you and your child may be the reason why she might distance herself from you. So, talk to her. “Learn to accept children whatever their personality traits or their preferences. In today's world, children are extremely independent and have strong opinions about things. We need to accept that and give them space,” says Hema.

“The less favourite parent is usually the disciplinarian. Try being a friend and understand one another,” adds Arunima Lahiri, a mother of two, Bengaluru.

Wait for the phase to get over: “The less-favoured parent must understand that favouritism in a parent–child relationship might be a transient phenomenon with no specific underlying reasons. The less favourite parent should never blame the partner; rather, they should let the partner know how they feel about it,” suggests Akanksha.

Bond with your child: A parent spending less time with the child may fail to establish a strong parent–child bond. “The less favourite parent should make an effort to get close to the child. One of the ways is to do activities together that the child enjoys doing. Winning the heart of any child is not a herculean task—a little love, a little care and a little attention can do wonders!” exclaims Meenal.

Richa S, a mother of two, says, “I have not faced this ever. In fact, I don't believe in favouritism in parents. It could be a phase in life when one feels that a particular parent is better than the other; but in the long run, when one looks back, there is nothing like favouritism.”

What the favourite parent should do

As a parent, it is not our goal to be the preferred parent. And, when such a situation does arise when the child associates more with one parent, it becomes important to work as a team and change the family dynamics. Here is what the favourite parent should do.

Involve the other parent: Try to involve your spouse (the less-favoured parent) in all the activities you do with your child. “The favourite parent must work in unison with their partner as a team. He must share all the roles and responsibilities on rotational basis, so that the child has a fair share of similar experiences with both the parents,” says Akanksha. She further adds, “Reinforcing or appreciating the other parent’s initiatives and practices in front of the child would improve the dynamics and strengthen the family as a unit.”

Do not get carried away: “Don’t feel too attached to signs of external favouring behaviour or the emotions associated with it … keep telling yourself that this might not be permanent,” warns Yatin Samant, Coach, Powerful Perspective, Bengaluru. Yatin's line of work revolves around working on an individual’s mind space to best bring out his intrinsic worth.

Make use of the opportunity: Use your position as your child's favourite parent to help her grow as an individual. “Since the favourite parent has won the trust of the child and the child loves to obey this parent, the parent should consider this as a chance to develop good, healthy habits in the child, inculcate values and help the child build a strong character,” says Meenal.

Be tough: Sometimes, the lenient parent is the child's favourite. If you think that you are also a lenient parent, and therefore the preferred one, do not let your child’s favouritism fool you. “Supporting a child under suspect circumstances is erroneous. A parent should be objective. The child has to be reprimanded to teach her the difference between right and wrong. Some parents want to be nice to children to earn brownie points,” explains Arunima.

It is normal for parents to expect their child to love them. However, a favourite parent isn’t necessarily a capable parent. Parents should work as a team to help their child develop into a well-rounded individual instead of vying for the position of the favourite parent.

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