Is your child too possessive of one parent and rejecting the other? Learn what to do when a child is overly attached to one parent.
It’s never easy when a child is overly attached to a parent.
In one scenario, your child might be all about dad and doesn’t want much to do with you. You can’t even do simple tasks like putting on his shoes or removing his snack plate from the table. Nope, he wants dad to do those for him.
You feel blessed that he has a strong bond with such a great dad, and you know he loves you no matter what. You even understand that he misses dad all day (or vice versa, has fun with him 24/7). But you can’t help but feel sad that he’s somehow rejecting you.
In another scenario, perhaps you’re the parent your child feels possessive about. He whines for your attention all day long and will get mad if you so much as eat lunch. He’ll even throw an all-out tantrum if you talk to another child, or when dad joins the both of you on the couch.
What to do when a child is overly attached to a parent
Whether you’re the parent your child is too attached to or the one he flat out rejects, this is a tough situation for everybody.
Excessive attachment places unrealistic demands on one parent while making the other feel hurt. Your child might also learn that he can get what he wants by whining and crying, or be made to feel guilty because you want him to gush over you, too.
When your child is attached to the other parent
As difficult as this is, know that you can do plenty to ease his attachment and make family life hum along much better. First, let’s talk about what to do if he’s attached to the other parent:
1. Relish the extra time
Does it pain you when your child wants your partner to do everything for him? Rather than seeing it as a personal attack, remind yourself how much extra free time you get. With dad bathing and feeding him, you can tackle other tasks or simply take a moment to relax.
This is especially important if you’re the one with him all day. It only makes sense to share the load with your partner when you’ve been together the rest of the time. Consider it a chance for them to develop their own bond and spend time with each other.
Free email challenge: Looking for actionable steps and quick wins in parenting? The Better Parenting 5-Day Challenge is for parents who know they want to improve but need that little nudge and supportive guidance to do so.
When you join the challenge, you’ll get one actionable tip per day you can do right away to transform the way you raise your child. This is your chance to challenge yourself and make the changes you’ve been meaning to make. Join my newsletter and sign up today—at no cost to you:
2. Don’t make it about you
Sometimes, what we’re dealing with isn’t so much our kids’ attachment as it is our own bruised egos. Take a step back and ask yourself whether you’re making it more about you than your child.
For instance, it’s normal for him to feel excited about your partner, especially if they haven’t seen each other all day. Or maybe you’re relying too much on “being needed” as a way to feel good about yourself.
Try not to take his behavior personally. Most of the time, we project assumptions and stories that aren’t there. His excitement about dad doesn’t diminish his love for you, nor is it a sign that you’re not a good mom. Maybe all it means is that he missed his dad during the day.
Don’t smother him with your own excessive attention, hoping he’ll prefer you instead. Let him decide whom he wants to spend time with, so long as it’s a reasonable request and your partner is available.
Besides, focusing on yourself could make him feel guilty, putting an unfair burden on him for feeling the way he does. You shouldn’t rely on guilt for someone to show you love and affection.
3. Let your partner take care of your child
What if we have it misunderstood? What if our kids’ attachment and longing for one parent isn’t excessive, but a call for attention?
Let’s say your child wants your partner to do everything, from feeding him dinner to tucking him into bed. Only dad can hold him and nurse his wounds. Could his requests be a sign that he simply wants to spend time with his dad, and not an unreasonable ask?
Assuming dad is available to do all these things, let him. This doesn’t make you any less of a parent, but it does fill a need in your child’s heart that yearns for his dad.
When your child is attached to you
Now let’s talk about what happens if your child is overly attached to you. Despite what others might assume, this isn’t always an enviable position to be in.
You barely finish your tasks because he wants to be with your 24/7. You do everything for him, if only to avoid yet another tantrum. Drop offs to daycare or the nanny is a nightmare, and you’re afraid you’re enabling horrible habits that will be difficult to undo.
What should you do in this case?
1. Don’t give in all the time
Earlier, I mentioned giving your child what she wants, especially if she hasn’t seen one parent the whole day or is missing him a lot.
But what do you do when she’s too attached that she won’t even let anyone else care for her? When you’re busy doing something else and can’t attend to her right now?
Hold your ground and don’t give in, especially if your partner is ready and able to do those tasks as well. You should be able to rest and relax after being with her most of the time and let your partner feed and bathes her, for instance.
She also shouldn’t be able to dictate who gets to hug you or sit with you on the couch, just so she can keep you all to herself. Be mindful of her requests: If they seem unreasonable and demanding, you don’t have to bend over backward to make her happy.
2. Have your partner do regular childcare tasks
It’s one thing if your partner takes your child on fun outings on the weekends, but another when he handles regular childcare tasks every day. The more he can participate in routine tasks, the more accustomed your child will feel around him.
Focus on tasks that happen every day, and designate your partner to handle them exclusively. Maybe it’s giving him a bath every night, or taking him to school every morning. That way, your child can feel comfortable and even expect your partner to do these for him.
Whether toward you or your partner, it’s never easy when your child is attached to one of you. Thankfully, you can take steps to ease his attachment.
If he’s attached to your partner, see it as an opportunity to find more time for yourself, whether to do tasks or rest and relax. Don’t make it about you to the point where your hurt feelings take precedent over his natural and expected attachment to your partner.
And let your partner take care of him, especially if he’s able to. Your child’s cries for him could be a sign that he misses spending time together.
Now, if the problem is that he’s attached to you, be mindful of when to accommodate his requests and when to hold your ground. You don’t need to bend over backward to meet his needs when your partner is willing and able to do it for him.
You should also include your partner in regular, daily tasks. That way, your child comes to expect him to do these things on an everyday basis.
In hindsight, a child’s excessive attachment is a “good” problem to have. And thankfully you now have the action steps to take to make your days—and everyone’s feelings—smooth once again.
Get more tips:
- Little Ways You’re Actually Judging Your Child’s Emotions
- 3-Year-Old Attached to Mom? 6 Mistakes to Avoid
- Effective Techniques to Help Your Child’s Separation Anxiety at Night
- Toddler More Attached to Grandmother? How to Cope with Your Emotions
- What to Do when Your Child Cries at School Drop Off
Don’t forget: Join the Better Parenting 5-Day Challenge today—at no cost to you: