Sunday, June 12, 2011

My 2 year old daughter doesn't like her daddy

Questioner: AMY


Subject: my 2 year old daughter seems to dislike her daddy

Question: My husband and I have a 2-year old daughter. He is disabled and stays home while I work retail full time. My hours vary, so there are times when I will be home in the morning and not at night, and vice versa.

Until about a year ago, my daughter stayed home with him while I was working. My husband hated being a "stay at home dad", and it was getting continually more painful for him to pick her up, get down and play, etc. (he has chronic back injuries causing him to be in constant pain)

So when she was a litte over a year old, we enrolled her in day care. She just recently started going full time, rather than 3 days a week. About a month or so ago, she started pushing her Daddy away, saying "no dada" whenever he tried to pick her up, or when he asks her, "do you love dada?" her reply is "no dada."

 It's breaking both of our hearts, as she is very openly a "mama's girl" and wants do do everything with me, and if her dad picks her up and tries to give her a hug or kiss, she cries and says "no dada. Mama" and reaches for me. I keep telling my husband that this is a phase and she will outgrow it when she's old enough to understand that her words and actions make daddy very sad.

Do you have any answers or words of advice for us? I feel so bad for my husband and want my daughter to love both of us equally.

Dear Amy:

My answer is based upon what little you have told me. What first strikes me is this all seems to be about your husband. Asking a 2 year old if they love me is about the parents needs getting met. It is more appropriate for daddy to tell her how much he loves her instead.

Any parent who parents with the expectations of loved being returned on request is setting the stage for a parent-child role reversal. This is even more important because he is disabled. A child cannot be expected to take care of a parent emotionally or physically without compromising childhood development.

Her being old enough to understand how this makes her father sad reinforces what I am saying. He growing up and being happy is not about making you or your husband feel loved.

He needs to start expressing his love for her unconditionally and ignoring her responses. If he focuses on building a healthy relationship she will soon begin to respond to him with her own expressions of love.

Children model the behavior they see not what is requested of them.

Best Wishes!

M Kay Keller