Parental preference, and the parent guilt that goes along with it, is SUPER COMMON!
Do you ever have it where your child really wants you to put them to bed, but you can’t?
Your partner tries to put them to bed, and they scream “NOOOO!! I only want Mommy!”…
This often happens around the time that a new baby is born or during other big transitions in a child’s life.
Your child may be used to you doing bedtime, and suddenly, you can’t. You have to care for your new baby, and your child is upset.
The first thing I want you to do: Release yourself from guilt. It’s not personal. It is very common for toddlers to have parental preference. This can happen for a variety of reasons.
They could prefer the way a certain parent does bedtime, they may have less time during the day with one parent, they may sense a parents hesitation to do bedtime, they may be seeking control, or other reasons… It is NOT about them loving one parent more than the other and it is typically NOT something that lasts in the long term.
Here are four steps you can take when your child is upset when they prefer the other parent to do bedtime:
Acknowledge Feelings: “I hear you want Mom to put you to bed. It’s my turn tonight. I can handle it if this feels tough for you.”
Set the Boundary: “Mom can’t put you to bed tonight. It is going to be me. I get that it’s tough. I know you love that time with mom.”
Collaborate: “I hear you miss bedtime with mom. Let’s take her shirt to bed to snuggle when you think of her.”
Try Adding in Playfulness: “I get it. You only want Mommy. I love spending time with her too. She’s soooo much fun. But can she do this?” (Make a silly face.) Playfulness can help take some of the pressure off the situation and can really relieve both of our stress!
In these challenging moments, remember:
Your child preferring a different parent does not mean you are doing a bad job. It means your child feels safe enough to release their big feelings and express their desires to you.
This is not a personal attack against you.
This feeling your child has won’t last forever.
They are allowed to feel this way AND you can still move forward with bedtime.
Bedtime can be tricky. There is often not just ONE right way to respond. If you’re interested, we have other resources on bedtime on Instagram and courses and coaching options on our website.