Sometimes living with a toddler can feel a bit like living with a way less rich Simon Cowell. They’re perfectly blunt. They veer wildly between disinterest and fawning attention. Also, they will eventually make either you or partner cry when they don’t choose you to join them in Hollywood. Or, actually, the park. Which is the toddler equivalent to Hollywood.
A kid who plays favorites can make everyday feel like some awful reality competition. The only thing missing is someone saying, “I didn’t come here to make friends.” But know that like most emotionally devastating kid behaviors, this one too is totally natural. Luckily, there are some fine ways to deal with it gracefully.
What’s With The Cold Shoulder?
As a baby, your kid might have snubbed you because they found your partner much easier to get stuff from. That wasn’t your fault. And in fact, you probably sat somewhere in a broader hierarchy of “people who can get me stuff.” This hierarchy most likely had a deep evolutionary root that allowed our species to survive.
Sadly, you can’t use “evolution” as a way to make yourself feel better anymore. What’s happening with toddlers is that they’re asserting their new found independence. And that is a super duper good thing for a toddler to do. It’s what will eventually find them leaving your home in 30 years (probably). Though, that doesn’t particularly remove the sting.
It’s also possible that you or your partner might meet specific emotional needs at different times. And this will absolutely shift back and forth as time goes on. The important thing to remember is that your kid isn’t trying to hurt your feelings. And, in fact, the ability to say “shove-off pops” might just be an indication they feel confident enough with your love that they’re not afraid of losing it.
Dealing With Toddler Favoritism
There are some ways that you can help your partner or yourself, if either of you are being snubbed by a mini-Cowell. It just takes some subtle subterfuge and some good self-talk.
Don’t Take It Personally
Seriously. You’re dealing with someone who isn’t particularly emotionally sophisticated. They’ve also only been on the planet for a year or so. Shake off that adult perspective and take it in stride. And remember that it’s not your kid’s job to make you feel good about yourself.
Get In Or Get Out
If you’re the one who is being favored, it’s time to escape for a bit and leave the kid with your partner for stretches of bonding. This is good. Because you need to do stuff like get haircuts on your own and have beers with a pal. On the other hand, if you’re being snubbed, get into the game as much as you can. Take your kid on errands. Go get ice cream. Hang out. They need to see that you’re a good choice.
If you’ve been riding on the fun-dad wave and avoiding the tough talk, you need to do your share. Having one bad guy in the house isn’t good for anyone. A united discipline front shared between you and your partner might help your kid spread the cuddle wealth.
Being demanding, or pushing back against toddler snubs can actually make the situation worse. Instead, reaffirm that you love your kid and let them know you’re always around for them whether they want you or not.
Sure, all of this may not do much to diminish the reality competition you feel day to day. After all, kids will be kids. But at least you can start making it feel more like Dancing With The Stars and less like Survivor.