Is your toddler rejecting mom or overly attached to one parent? Learn 5 powerful ways to respond when your child wants nothing to do with you.
You can’t help but feel a little jealous. Okay, a lot jealous.
Your toddler seems to love his dad and all but ignores you. He gets excited when Daddy comes home (and of course cries when he leaves). He’ll go the whole day saying “Daddy…” Never mind that you spend so much time with him, from getting up with him every night to giving him all his meals and baths.
He screams and cries when you pick him up, reaching for dad instead. He throws himself away from you, as if struggling to get free from your arms. Trying to comfort him when he’s sad or hurt means endless screaming. And if you try to handle bedtime when dad is around, he loses it and freaks out crying.
You love the fact that he’s excited about dad, but let’s face it: you feel like you might as well not exist. So yeah, a lot jealous.
How to respond to a toddler rejecting mom
It’s never easy when your child rejects a parent, but somehow more so when it’s mom who’s turned down. After all, we hear so much about mother’s instincts and the natural bond between mom and child. Any time you feel like you don’t hold up that model image feels like you’ve failed somehow.
Even if you “know” that this shouldn’t matter, it still hurts your feelings any time he prefers other people over you. You don’t know how to respond, and you end up trying to laugh it off with others around you. Meanwhile, you feel like you’re doing something wrong to warrant that kind of behavior from him.
What can you do to avoid feeling hurt and build a fun relationship with him instead? Take a look at these five powerful ways to respond:
1. Focus on playing
If you’re like me, you don’t always feel inclined to be silly and playful. You’re not exactly excited about kicking a soccer ball in the yard or tackling the kids in a tickle fest.
But sometimes, this is exactly what kids need to feel connected with others. And if dad is the only one willing to do this with your toddler, you can bet that he’ll not only want to spend more time with him, but associate him as the “fun parent.”
So, try it out. Be nonsensical—idiotic, even. Make funny faces and act like a goofball. Get him to take a bath by chasing him to the bathroom, and see his antics not as a hassle to deal with but as hilarious or whimsical. The more you focus on playing, the more he’ll warm up to you.
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2. Do chores after your toddler is asleep
Normally, I’m a fan of doing chores while the kids are awake. You don’t feel overwhelmed and crammed for time, and they can participate and help with household tasks.
But sometimes, this is all we do all day. And for good reason—that stove isn’t going to wipe itself clean of oil splatters, and the laundry will wrinkle if left too long. Except if we focus too much on chores, then we don’t get to simply be with our kids.
And if dad is more comfortable sitting and playing with him, then this will understandably make him the preferred parent.
For now, save the chores for after your toddler is asleep. Don’t obsess about the pile of dishes or the clutter in the bedroom. Spend time playing with him, observing his actions, and enjoying his presence.
Even better: build predictable routines into your day where you’re able to snuggle alone. Maybe you read bedtime books at the end of the night, or watch a funny cartoon during the day. Let this be part of your daily routine so that he has something positive to look forward to that’s solely with you.
3. Don’t ask for affection
We’ve all heard (or even experienced) the “needy” partner. The one who needs you to make him feel better about himself or to be constantly affirmed of your love and affection. And we all know how pleasant those relationships go, right?
Well, you might say the same about your behavior with your toddler.
Are you asking for (or even demanding) his affection? If so, it’s no surprise that the more you need it, the more he pushes away. No one likes to feel responsible for how others feel. Avoid tying your happiness, and especially your identity, with his preference for you or not.
So, don’t act sad or hurt when he doesn’t shower you with affection. Treat it as the way it is, and know that he always loves you no matter what. And eventually, his affection will come with time—the less you “need” him to feel happy, the more willingly he’ll return reciprocate.
4. Make the most of it
One of the most productive ways to respond to a toddler rejecting his mom is to make the most of it.
Does he want your partner to feed him dinner? Great! That’s your chance to finally eat your meal uninterrupted. Does he fuss for dad to play with him instead of you? Use that time for yourself. Rather than seeing it as a rejection, see it as a way for him to spend more time with dad.
Every problem presents an opportunity if you see it differently. An upside to making the most of it? Your toddler will see a change in you and will likely respond to your affection in a positive way.
5. Remember that this is a phase
Kids can go through many phases that, in hindsight, come and go. But when you’re right in the thick of it, this phase can feel anything but quick. In fact, it can feel like it had been going on forever—and it doesn’t help when it seems like you’ve tried just about everything with no luck.
That’s why I want to invite you to see this phase compared to your toddler’s entire childhood. Picture him at 10-years-old—seems like ages away, right? Then, can you imagine him still kicking and screaming because he wants dad to play with him? Highly unlikely.
Remember that, in the grand scheme of things, this is a phase that will go away, all on its own. However hard it is to experience it in the moment, rest assured that this is temporary.
It’s never easy dealing with a toddler rejecting mom. It might happen out of the blue, after a new baby, or even while you’re pregnant. One thing’s for sure: he wants nothing to do with you. How can you respond when he’s overly attached to one parent?
To start, focus on playing and engaging with him in a fun, even nonsensical way. Do chores after he’s asleep so you have a chance to be present with him when he’s awake. Don’t ask for his affection or attach how you feel about yourself to how he responds to you.
If anything, make the most of it and see this as an opportunity for other things, like time to yourself or a chance for him to bond with dad. And finally, remember that this is a phase that will pass. Even if he doesn’t want mom right now, he won’t always feel this way forever.
No more feeling jealous, friend—whether he runs into your arms or not.
Get more tips:
- What to Do when Your Toddler Doesn’t Want Daddy
- Toddler More Attached to Grandmother? How to Cope with Your Emotions
- What to Do When Your Child Is Overly Attached to One Parent
- 3-Year-Old Attached to Mom? 6 Mistakes to Avoid
- How to Deal with a Child Who Cries Over Everything
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