Every parent wants their young baby to love them. Seeing her face light up with love the moment she catches sight of you is one of the biggest joys of parenthood – it makes you feel so good.
And knowing that she wants to be with you and not someone else will make you even happier.
But problems can develop if your little one starts to play favourites.
Here are four reasons why you should discourage her from developing a “favourite” parent:
1. She benefits from having more than one loving relationship.
Your little one is capable of forming an emotional connection with more than one person. Psychological research shows that a baby can typically form attachments to, for instance, her mum, dad, grandmother, carer, brother and sister.
2. An exclusive relationship with you is tiring.
True, it feels great to be adored and to be the one person Baby wants in preference to everyone else.
But this feeling of delight soon gives way to tiredness when you gradually realise you can’t go anywhere without her, because she cries the moment you are out of her sight.
3. Having a favourite is divisive.
Imagine how your husband feels knowing that his baby cries when he holds her but smiles when you do; and how your other children feel knowing that their little sister doesn’t like their company, and only likes being with their mother.
4. She needs to learn about getting on with others.
In a few months’ time, your baby will start to mix with other kids. Mixing with other children requires a degree of social independence, and your baby won’t achieve this if she clings exclusively to only one parent all the time.
But why is your baby playing favourites?
There are many possible explanations why a baby prefers one parent in particular. For instance, it could be that you hold her more gently than your husband, or it could be that he sings to your baby but you don’t.
The most common explanation of favouritism, though, is familiarity.
If you spend hours each day caring for your baby, it will hardly be surprising that she wants to spend more time with you than with, say, her father whom she sees only briefly during the week and at weekends.
She is used to your routine, habits and moods, whereas she is less familiar with her dad.
Think about these possibilities if yours has a “favourite” parent. Chances are, the explanation is straightforward.
You and your husband should tackle this problem systematically, without feeling guilty or hurt that the other parent is the one your baby wants to be with.
The first strategy to implement when your baby has a favourite is to make sure that you don’t encourage the habit.
Of course, it is easier to leave her with the parent she prefers because this means she will be settled and contented, but this merely makes her attitude even firmer.
Instead, make sure that both of you spend time caring for your baby, both together and also on your own.
Secondly, resist the temptation to intervene whenever she cries because she can’t be with her favourite. No harm will come to her from crying in this situation.
Each of you is as loving a parent as the other, so there is no need to worry. No matter how upset you both feel inside, stand back and let the non-favourite deal with the situation occasionally.
This basic approach will help Baby strengthen her relationship with both parents, which can only be good for her in the long term.
Each of you has a crucial and distinctive role to play in her life, and she will lose out by having one parent as her exclusive “favourite”.
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