Encouraging the Daddy Love: How to manage a strong parental preference for mom and help your child bond with daddy, too

Disclaimer: For the ease of writing this article, I’ll be writing it to moms who are well bonded with their children and who want strategies to help their child or children bond with dad more deeply. Please know that I fully acknowledge that your family could consist of two moms, two dads, or a dad who is more bonded than a mom. I love all configurations of family so please interpret my words as needed to apply to your family. And for all those single parents out there, I’ll write something special for you soon too!

Attachment parenting, extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping are all wonderfully nurturing to the bond between mother and child, but sometimes dads feel left out of this bonding time. They can’t breastfeed for one thing, and some dads work outside the home and aren’t able to co-sleep for various reasons. I know many dads who feel sort of silly for even noticing that they feel jealous of the connection between mom and child. Most dads will tell you that they’re not sure whom they’re more jealous of, the child who now gets the attention they used to get from their wife or their wife who is more strongly bonded to the baby or young child.

Sure, everyone says that kids and dads have an easier time connecting when children are a little bit bigger and can rough house with daddy, but why wait? I’d like to offer you a few tips we’ve used at home to encourage the bond between father and daughter. I’ll tell you right up front, most of these tips are about taking a step back and allowing dad to engage more with your baby or child. So, here they are:

1)     Daddy day- whether your husband has a flexible schedule or not, one on one time with your child is the best way to encourage a strong bond. Even working dads can have a weekend date with their child. The key here is to make sure it’s time spent away from you, Mom. Family time is wonderful, but when the preferred parent is hovering nearby ready to swoop in at any moment, children are apt to rely on the stronger bond, rather than forging new ground in their connection with their dad. I would also recommend that dads take their child or children out on an adventure. Being in a new environment can create a shared memory that will be more salient for a child than just sitting around the house or watching a movie together.

2)    Bedtime routine switch-up- Allowing dad to take over the bedtime routine can be another great time for bonding. When children are about to go to bed they’re tired and vulnerable which can actually help bonding happen. If you have been doing bedtime all on your own and your child isn’t ready for an abrupt change to the bedtime routine, you can introduce dad into the routine slowly. First he reads one of the stories, then you leave the room for a moment and come right back. And after a few weeks Dad is either involved in the whole routine or doing the whole thing on his own. By the way, this can be a wonderful break for you if you’re a stay-at-home mom. So, if dad and child are willing, live it up!

3)    Remove yourself, Mom- There might be times throughout the day when opportunities arise for dad and baby to bond, but you tend to swoop in and take over simply because you’re used to doing things a certain way. Resist the urge, Mom! When we notice these moments of connection between our child and husband, it’s our job to nurture and protect those moments, not to interrupt them! Take a breath, and step into another room, allowing their connection to grow in your absence.

4)   Love up your hubby- Children imitate adult behavior, so if your child rarely sees you offering affection to your wonderful husband, he might not even realize that hugs and snuggles with dad can be so much fun. Modeling love and affection for your child helps them to realize that dad is an integral part of your family and great to snuggle with. So spread the love.

5)    Be busy- “Sorry honey, I can’t help you right now, can you ask daddy instead?” Without avoiding your child outright, there really are moments when you’re unavailable for your child and instead of waiting for your help, they can learn to seek support from dad. You can encourage this by reminding and inviting them to seek out dad often throughout the day. Or even asking them leading questions like, “Isn’t there a game that you and Daddy like to play that you could ask for while I’m making dinner? I heard he does a really good ‘this little piggy.’”

I hope these tips are helpful for you, but there’s one last thing. Don’t keep your efforts to help your husband bond with your child a secret from him. If he doesn’t know what you’re up to, he’s apt to feel confused, put upon, or boxed in to your plan. On the other hand, if you can have an open discussion about it, the two of you can create a plan together and your efforts are much more likely to pay off.

If you’re not sure how to start the conversation you might say something like, “I’ve noticed that Jack has been asking for ‘Mommy, Mommy, Mommy’ lately and I’m curious how you’re feeling about your bond with him. I just read a great article about how to encourage a stronger bond with Daddy. Would you like to take a look and try some of these things out?”

All right! So there you have it, tips to help attachment parenting moms encourage a strong bond with dad. Please let me know if this is an issue at your house and how you handle parental preference by leaving a comment below.

Thanks so much for being here and have a great week!

Warmly, Shelly

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