Confused about children's favoring mother, mother's reaction

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anonymous user
Registered: 12-31-1969
Confused about children's favoring mother, mother's reaction
Sun, 09-09-2012 - 7:20pm
I'm a father who can use some input. I have a 4 year old boy and 7 year old girl. From an early age, my daughter would get upset when my wife left, and even at age 7 wants to go with her, have her drop her off at school, pick her up, etc. I focused a lot of attention on her and was thrilled to have children, so these daily actions hurt but i've lowered my expectations to try to compensate. My son is mimicing this behavior. I was very close to my dad so this confuses me, A pattern has recently developed. My wife will get tired of dealing with the kids, so she will ask me to "do something" with them. I will offer to take themto the park, something i used to regularly do, or around the block on their bike, etc. Either one or the oher will then protest that they want to stay with her. I will then, under pressure to please my wife's desire for a break, try to coax them to just leave briefly to give her a break. I don't like it when I sense my son not just resenting me but distespecting me, So modt recently I tried to force the issue and raised my voice. He and my dsughter left, but when my wife heard him cry, she became very protectiv and told them to come back. I thought that was a bad idea, since it seems he'll learn to start complaining if he doesntbwant to do something and either I give in or my wife eill interfere on his behalf. I almost feel sometimes as if I'm being set up. The result is I feel isolated from her and my children. She asked me today to take them and I said only if she convinced them to go, to which she rolled her eyes. She knows my feelings are hurt and doesnt seem to care. She would probably call me overly sensitive. If the shoe were on other foot, I would do everything I could to have the kids stop being hurtful. I'm ready to go to therapy but have a feeling she will dominate the sessions with complaints and dismissal of my views. Any input is very appreciated.
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-29-2002

Is your wife a Stay At Home Mom?

If the answer is yes.  My next question would be....

How much down time does your wife get for herself?  Is she currently active in any personal hobbies or social groups that do not revolve around the kids?

How often does she get a chance to go and do something for herself?

I would say your DD is probably needy by nature, and your wife has grown accustomed to accomodating her.  The 4 year old then sees how their relationship works, and follows suit.  They both know exactly how to behave in order to maintain a constant with their Mom.  If you work outside of the home, and see them on a more limited basis, then they have less of a understanding of what your boundaries are.  And probably with what exposure they have with you, they know there is less they will get away with.

Having been a stay at home mom for 12 years, I will tell you the most important thing you can do for your wife.  Help her find something that is entirely hers, that she can do on her own and without the kids.  And encourage her to do her thing.  Come home a little early if you can once a week, so she can go to the gym or take a class.  Give her an incentive to get out.

I personally have 4 kids.  When my older two were younger, they were very clingy towards me and relatively stand offish with my DH.  The reason being, he was in the military and deployed a lot.  It wasn't until #3 came along that kind of forced them to be a little more independent.  And #3 never got a chance to be clingy, since #4 was born soon after him.

#4 however, he was super clingy and would not go to anyone but me.  And this went on for 4 years.  Even when I joined a gym with a nursery, he knew if he cried long enough I would cut my class short and come back.

I got a part time job, when he was 4 1/2 and he was forced to be with a sitter at least one day a week when I went into the office to meet with my manager.  Amazingly, he became a very independent little dude. 

He is now in school full time, and he is thriving.  The reason being, he realized he could function without me, and was ok with being on his own.  Although, he does still prefer me over DH.

I would also make it a point to do regular dates with your wife.  And also regular family outings for all of you together.  It is super important to expose your kids to different family environments. 

And it is also super important that your wife has the opportunity to have an identity beyond her kids.  It's so easy to get lost in Mommyland and have no way of recognizing yourself.

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-29-2002
I guess I would be pretty blunt with her then.

I will admit,it is super easy to fall into a routine where we neglect our spouse, once kids come into the picture.

But I would do so in a neutral manner, and approach it constructively.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999

I really think that counseling is in order now that you have resorted to working more to avoid being with the family.  i think kids at different ages will prefer the mom or the dad and you shouldn't really take it personally.  I think little kids do naturally prefer the mom--I don't know if it's biological or whether the moms seem to take more time to be with the kids or what.  My exH was always an active dad yet my DD (1st born & 6.5 yrs older than my son) always seemed to want me to read her the bedtime story.  thing change when they get older and being resentful now is surely not going to help your relationship with them, and raising your voice isn't either.  My Dd is 23 now and is very close to her father--her personality is more like his--although she is also close to me.  Maybe your DW could start going out by herself instead of asking you to take the children out--then you won't have to convince them to go somewhere.  I do think she could be more positive by saing to them "daddy is going to take you to the park now" in an enthusiastic voice and if your son starts crying, she can't give in--she has to be positive and say how fun it's going to be.  But you have to be the mature adult about it too--if he starts crying, comfort him, don't yell at him--that's surely not going to make it better.  By the time he gets to the park & you start pushing him on the swings & he's having fun, then he'll forget what he was crying about.

Avatar for tobermory
iVillage Member
Registered: 01-29-2001

This very much reminds me of my grandparents during the Great Depression. My grandfather ended up working out of town all week and would come home on the weekends, and my mother and my aunt would not want to spend time with him and would scream and cry because they didn't really know him. (This killed my extremely over-protective grandfather). But every Saturday my grandmother would just go to the movies for several hours and on Sundays she would go visit her sisters and leave her daughters with my grandfather anyway, because he was their father, and a good one, and they had to get used to him. And then they became very attached to him. 



iVillage Member
Registered: 12-22-2007

Timshweaty, I can see and understand why you're putting your foot down.  However, I'm concerned that you're going about it the wrong way.

Respect from others (even our children) isn't something we can command or achieve with discipline. Sure, your reaction and punishment will teach them that you aren't to be messed with - and as a result they will probably hold their tongues - but this does not equate to respect.  Fear could also generate the same outcome.   

Wouldn't it better to have your kids being thoughtful with their words because it's the right thing to do rather than because you will punishe them?   If you want this, then you have to teach it.     What if (after your son had calmed down) you'd taken your son aside and gently told him that it hurts your feelings when he says that he wishes you weren't his daddy?   Sure, put him in time out as well, but he needs discussion about how his words make you feel.     Kids need to be taught how their words effect others...punishment alone does not achieve this.

You've said that you've lost interest in their friendship.  I hope you don't mean this literally.   Does this mean that you don't want to have conversations with them about their day..or their hopes or dreams?     As much as children do need boundaries, they also need someone who's interested in them.   I understand that as a parent, we can't always be on their good side - but it IS possible to be a mentor, guide and a friend. 

Telling your son that mean children don't deserve toys is almost guaranteed to push your son and his mother further away from you.   Yes, your son displayed mean behaviour - but he's NOT a mean child.  There is a huge difference.  Telling a child that they are mean, stupid, whatever is not at all helpful.   We need to focus on the behaviour - not the child.   

You said in one of your inital posts that you are hurt when your child doesn't want to go out with you.   Thing is though, it's unreasonable to get hurt by the actions of a 4yo.    You're an adult and he's just a little boy testing limits.   You need to grow a thicker skin - or you will really suffer when your daughter is a teenager!    My 15yo disabled son has the mind of a 4yo and says much the same about his father.   But he intends no hurt by it and it would be wrong of my husband to take it personally.   When DS says this stuff, we just reassure him with "you'll be fine, off you go with dad".    

To sum all this up, the reasons your wife doesn't respect you need to be addressed.  I suggest both of you get into marriage counselling and family counselling.    I understand that you are worried that your wife will dominate the sessions with her complaints, but her issues are equally important if you're to find understanding and balance.   Besides, if you don't try to understand and address the wedge which drives her away, you won't ever have her respect.


iVillage Member
Registered: 12-22-2007

Tim, we acually agree on a lot.    

I completely agree that a parent is not an equal to a child.  And your use of the word 'buddy' gave me a better insight into what you meant.   I was just a bit worried that you no longer wanted to share pleasant time with them.

When I suggest talking with the child about their behaviour, I'm suggesting it be done as well as disciplining.   Not instead of discipline.    I agree 100% that a child needs consequences and I see far too many kids who don't have adequate discipline these days.   And if a child burped at me after the discussion, they'd have even more consequence and discussion to deal with!!!  

For what it's worth, I work with 3 and 4yos.  And even at that age, our language is all about the behaviour.  We'd see ourselves very strictly reprimanded if we denigrated the child as a whole.    I guess I was just shocked because I (literally) never hear the phrase 'bad child'.    Likewise, when acknowledging the good behaviour, we talk about the specific behaviour as opposed to just saying "good boy".   Eg; "you were such a great helper when we were packing up the toys" 

I agree that bad behaviour doesn't deserve toys.  I was concerned about the phrasing of 'bad child' - not the punishment you were giving.

When talking about getting hurt by the words of a 4yo, I guess it's more about not allowing him the emotional power to hurt you.    And I agree that mean words need consequence (and discussion about the impact of his words).    I'm not at all suggesting you should just ignore it.

You said  I don't know many people, and certainly not my children, who are born with such strong moral characters that they just accept rules.   Is it moral character or an act of blind following which makes one just accept rules?  At any rate, as an athiest, not blindly following written rules rings especially true to me.      I do the right thing because it's morally correct - not because rules (law or bible) tells me that's how I must behave.    If anything, it's my moral character which makes me question rules which I see as being unfair or unjust.    Where would we be if we hadn't  morally questioned the rules around segregation of black and white people? 

Having said all that, my views on parenting aren't what's at stake here.   Whether or not you and I agree with each other is not important.   It's you and your wife who really need to get on board with joint parenting strategies.   With my disabled son, when we couldn't agree on a way forward, seeking professional help was great.    Hubby and I agreed to put our individual opinions aside and work together using the ideas of a professional.      

And please get some couples counselling to uncover the reasons behind your wife's disrespect.  I'm sure we all agree that her negative role modelling to the kids must stop   But in order to end the disrespect, you both need to look at why she feels this way in the first place.    I guess that having her hide her feelings is an option too....but surely it's better to actually fix the problem than plaster over it?         

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-22-2007

Tim, I know this isn't what you asked....but I just wanted to throw it out there....

Are you aware that your marriage is on very shaky ground at presen?.   For a wife to behave as yours is, I'd be fairly confident that she's got one foot out the door.    

Has your wife told you what will help her regain her respect for you?    I know you don't want to do counselling because you don't want to hear her complain...but I can't help but believe that your approach is akin to sticking your head in the sand.     Alternately, if it's really is so tiresome to hear her talking about what's wrong, why not just call the marriage quits now?

Do you want to save this marriage or are you happy for her to walk away?