I don't naively think that children are perfect, innocent angels. But I still have trouble believing that a two year old is really working through the angles when he declares a preference for one parent over the other. Do kids that young really have that sophisticated a sense of how to work their parents? Furthermore, if The Boy's behaviour is manipulative, it's not clear to me what the end goal is. So far, all it's resulted in is a frustrated father and a mother exhausted by how clingy he is.
I was curious what the experts -- and other parents -- have to say about parental preference and so I went digging around for some info (using some links sent to me by my wife as a starting point).
The general consensus seems to be that the best course of action for the shunned parent is to keep at it -- to keep on trying to engage their kid regardless of how hurtful their behaviour is. A relief, since -- as discussed in my original post -- that's been my basic approach so far.
A number of other sites also suggest certain activities be set aside as things that are done with the shunned parent. On that score, my wife has graciously let me take over more of the bedtimes -- something we used to alternate throughout the week.
The result is that, no matter how rough the evening may have been overall, I get a good 15 or 20 minutes of reading The Boy stories, giving him his bottle and putting him to sleep. (As I've written before, putting The Boy to bed has long been one of my favourite parenting duties.)
From what I've read, it's very common for toddlers to prefer one parent over the other -- more so, it seems, than at other ages. One of the more interesting -- and reassuring -- explanations I found for this came from the BabyZone site, which quoted an expert arguing that parental preference may just be an extension of a toddler's desire to express a preference for anything:
"It comes out of children both having strong sense of self and some power. Some of it is preference and some of it is control," says Tovah P. Klein, PhD, director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development. "Parents feel really hurt and rejected, but it's a great sign the child is waking up saying, 'I'm my own person, I can make my own choices,'" says Klein.
So there you go, The Boy's shunning of me is an important developmental milestone! I should be proud, not hurt. :)
Source: Vancouver Sun - http://tinyurl.com/y6q729c