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Who’s the Favorite Parent?: What It Means and How to Handle It

Before kids have a best friend, they have a favorite parent. And if that parent isn’t you, feelings can get hurt. Here’s how you can handle it.

How many times have you been trying to do something with your child only for them to shout, “No, I only want Mommy!”? Or perhaps you’re a “I want Dad” household.

In many households, it is not uncommon for one parent to be the “favorite” in the eyes of their children. This dynamic can be both heartwarming and challenging for the parent who is not seen as the primary favorite.

Understanding the Dynamics of Parental Preference

Parental preference is a complex phenomenon that can stem from a variety of factors. It is important to remember that children, especially at a young age, are still developing their sense of self and forming their emotional connections. As a result, they may naturally gravitate towards one parent more than the other.

This preference can be influenced by a myriad of factors, such as personality traits, parenting styles, and shared interests or hobbies. Additionally, children may be more inclined to favor the parent who spends more time with them or engages in activities that they enjoy. It is crucial to approach this dynamic with empathy and understanding, rather than taking it personally or becoming resentful.

Signs That You Aren’t the Favorite

If you’re reading this article, it’s likely you already know whether you’re the favorite parent or not. Regardless, here are some common signs:

  • Your child consistently seeks comfort from the other parent when they are upset or in need of support.
  • They often choose the other parent as their playmate or prefer spending time alone with them.
  • Your child frequently excludes you from their activities or shows a lack of interest in engaging with you.
  • They tend to dismiss your opinions or requests more often than those of the other parent.
  • Your child consistently turns to the other parent for decision-making or guidance.
  • They frequently praise or speak highly of the other parent while rarely mentioning you in a positive light.

These signs can indicate a lack of respect or value placed on your role in your child’s life or suggest that your child perceives the other parent as the more authoritative figure. It could also be simply that they have a stronger emotional connection or admiration for the other parent. 

Either way keep in mind that these signs may vary based on your child’s age and personality. It is crucial to observe their behavior over time and consider their overall well-being to make an accurate assessment.

Navigating Feelings of Resentment and Inadequacy

Not being the favorite parent is kind of like being back in grade school: kids are constantly telling you you’re not their friend. In situations like this, it’s normal to experience feelings of resentment and insecurity. But the goal here is to support your partner, balance your family dynamics, and build a healthier, happier mindset.

After all, your partner and kids aren’t doing this to you on purpose.

Here are some strategies to consider:

1. Acknowledge Your Feelings

It is essential to recognize and validate your emotions. Allow yourself to feel them without judgment or guilt.

2. Communicate with Your Partner

Share your feelings with your partner and express your desire for support and understanding.

3. Put Effort into Supporting Your Partner

Rather than dwelling on the negative emotions, it’s a much better use of that energy to spend it on your family. Support your partner where you can, and where you can’t express gratitude to your partner.

4. Seek Professional Help If Needed

If your feelings of resentment and inadequacy persist or significantly impact your well-being and family life, consider seeking guidance from a therapist or counselor.

5. Focus on Bonding Activities

Engage in activities that promote bonding and connection with your child, such as reading together, going for walks, or playing games.

6. Practice Self-Care

Taking care of your own well-being is crucial. Prioritize self-care activities that bring you joy and help you recharge.

Remember, your worth as a parent is not determined by your child’s current preferences. It is a long-term journey that requires patience, understanding, and unconditional love.

Furthermore, it’s important to recognize that children’s preferences and perceptions can change over time. Just because you may not be the favorite parent now, doesn’t mean that will always be the case. Every personality trait, parenting style, and hobby has its place, and they work to balance the family dynamics. Building a strong and loving relationship with your child is a continuous process that evolves as they grow and develop.

Strategies for Strengthening Your Bond with Your Child

Building a strong bond with your child doesn’t end at eighteen years old. Those kids are yours for life. Here are some strategies that can help strengthen your relationship:

1. Be Present

Make a conscious effort to be present and engaged when spending time with your child. Put away distractions and give them your undivided attention.

2. Show Interest

Ask your child about their day, their hobbies, and their interests. Take a genuine interest in their world and actively listen to what they have to say.

3. Find Common Ground

Discover shared interests or hobbies that both you and your child can enjoy together. This can help create positive experiences and build a stronger connection.

4. Be Supportive

Encourage your child’s strengths and passions. Provide them with guidance and support as they navigate their interests and pursuits.

5. Celebrate Achievements

Acknowledge and celebrate your child’s accomplishments, no matter how big or small. This helps reinforce their confidence and reinforces the love you have for them.

6. Create Traditions

Establishing family traditions fosters a sense of belonging and creates lasting memories. Whether it’s a weekly movie night or a yearly camping trip, these traditions can strengthen your bond.

7. Prioritize Quality over Quantity

While it’s essential to be present physically, it’s equally crucial to be emotionally available. Engage in meaningful conversations, share stories, and create a safe space for your child to express their thoughts and feelings. Because even if your interactions are fewer as the less-favored parent, they’ll be incredibly memorable.

You might get backlash from some of these strategies, but be patient with yourself and your child. Bonds take time.

Having a Favorite Parent Is Normal

Being the “favorite” parent can be a source of joy and pride, but it is important to understand that parental preference is a normal part of family dynamics. As the less-favored parent, it is essential to approach this dynamic with empathy and understanding. Recognize the signs, manage any feelings of resentment or inadequacy, and focus on building a strong bond with your child. Remember, your worth as a parent is not determined by your child’s current preferences, but rather by your unwavering love and dedication to their well-being.

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Shaelyn Topolovec earned a BA in editing and publishing from BYU, worked on several online publications, and joined the Familius family. Shae is currently an editor and copywriter who lives in California’s Central Valley.

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