What do I do if I’m not the favorite parent?

My son has a clear favorite parent—it’s not me. In some ways, it’s easier. In other ways, I'm jealous.

Dear Is This Normal,

My son has a clear favorite parent—it’s not me. In some ways, it’s easier. In other ways, I’m jealous. I thought the Mom was always the favorite.


Second Best

Dear Second Best,

I hope you’ll forgive me for giggling just a tiiiiiiiny bit when I read your post. Because oh my god, we’ve all been there! And then not there. And then there again! And it’s incredibly sweet but also? It’s annoying as hell, because mom SHOULD always be the favorite (I kid, I kid). This is completely normal, healthy even. And believe me when I say that this is not the last time you will fall out of favor with your boy. I sincerely hope dad isn’t gloating too much right now, because his time at the top will be short-lived.

Listen, kids are fickle little people. They love something, then they hate it! Carrots are great, then god forbid you try to kill them with a carrot at snack time. Kids love baths! Until they don’t and they react as though you’re trying to turn them into people soup. Their tastes and preferences change all the time, so it makes sense that this fickleness will apply to interpersonal relationships too, right?

Your son having a favorite parent is not a personal attack on you, and even though it can sting sometimes, you really shouldn’t take it as anymore more than your son’s preference at the moment. Not only that, but parental favoritism is actually a sign of cognitive and emotional growth! Developmentally, he’s exploring different bonds and relationships, asserting his independence a bit, and showing off some decision-making skills that will serve him well in the long run.

Kids also start to realize at a pretty young age that each of their parents has different things to offer. For example, maybe mom is better at reading stories with the silly voices, or maybe dad makes bath time extra fun. Mom might give the good talks, while dad puts band-aids on just right. By singling out each parent when he needs something in particular, your son is developing special bonds around shared interests or preferences, and that’s a good thing! Right now, dad might be his favorite parent, but that will change. Our relationships with our kids, even from a young age, are constantly evolving. Having a favorite doesn’t mean he doesn’t care for the other parent. It just means that he’s bonding with one of you more than the other right now.

Plus, think of it this way: your son preferring dad during this stage just shows that he is confident and secure in your love for him, and he knows that he’ll always be welcomed back when he decides you’re his favorite in a month or two. This definitely won’t be the last time he switches sides between the two of you. Remember, there are still the tween and teen years to deal with! At least when they’re young, we can bribe them back to our team with ice cream and no bedtime.

Your Time at the Top Will Come,

Is This Normal


Want to know if whatever you’re going through is "normal"?

Ask us anything

Want to know if whatever you’re going through is “normal”?

Go ahead and ask us anything, staying anonymous is fine 😉
If you’d like to ask a question to a specific expert on our Expert Panel or to one of our contributors, head to our Advice Column and select an advisor.


    Looking for more tips on parenting, nutrition & all the WTF moments of this life stage? Sign up for our weekly Is This Normal by Little Spoon newsletter.