Toddler Parenting
December 22, 2004 8:42 AM   Subscribe

My two-year-old niece doesn't like guys anymore. That wouldn't be such a big deal, but she also rejects her dad, which makes him sad. My sister wants to know, what can be done?

I remember reading an AskMe about ways to cope with a kid who prefers one parent over the other, but I couldn't find it (and I looked pretty hard).
posted by Turtle to Human Relations (12 answers total)
It was called MySonHatesMeFilter ;)
posted by iconomy at 8:51 AM on December 22, 2004

Thank you so much, iconomy. My sister, who reads a lot of parenting books, says she hasn't seen this issue discussed, so this is useful info. Odd that Google searches for son or father returned tons of less relevant stuff, but not this. I guess it's just a Google mystery. Aah, one thing I didn't try: a Yahoo search for son within the last 3 months returns this in the third position. I should learn to be less dependent on Google.
posted by Turtle at 9:18 AM on December 22, 2004

Has she tried sending the kid out on dad-only outings? My solution would be the drastic one. Make mommy leave for a few days. Sure, your niece will be incredibly pissed off for a day or two of that, but by the time she gets back she'll have probably decided men aren't evil.
posted by u.n. owen at 9:48 AM on December 22, 2004

Well, from the outside, it's easy for someone like me to say "Just wait", but that's not always so easy from the inside of a situation like this.

Nevertheless, there's almost a 99.9999% chance within the next year or so that she'll bounce in the opposite direction, and mom will be feeling neglected, while he becomes the bestest, most favoritest daddy in the whole world. Little kids at that age are figuring things out on so many levels--they're just clumsy. Treating him like this is no different than bumping into a's just that it hurts him instead of her.
posted by LairBob at 9:52 AM on December 22, 2004

I was the one who posted that anon thread. All they can do is give it time and don't take it personally. And whatever he does, he can't reject her back. Even the nights when my son tells me he doesn't love me I still make it a point to say "Well, I love you no matter what."

Last weekend I took my son to the NE Aquarium (his first trip) to see penguins, turtles, sharks, and everything else that can blow a toddler's mind. We had a blast and I was his hero. Then we get home and it's time for bed and he wants nothing to do with me. It's frustrating but I know in my heart he doesn't do it to hurt me.

Then there's nights like last night where he cuddles up to me and lets me read him a story.

If he wants to email me and start some sort of rejected father's support group, feel free.
posted by bondcliff at 9:59 AM on December 22, 2004

The difficult part of this is that there isn't one right answer. As with adults, each child has his/her own personality. So the solution with one kid won't necessarily be the solution with another kid.

Having said that, back when I used to teach kindergarten, I had this kid who from day one wanted nothing to do with me. I wouldn't have made this decision with just any kid, but something told me that with him, the best solution would be to become a total pain in the ass. So I sort of followed him around everywhere. I constantly asked him questions ("what's that you're playing with?", etc.) If he was reading a book, I would plop down next to him and read a book too. If he was playing in the sandbox, I would play in the sandbox.

At first, he did everything he could think of to reject me, insult me, etc. But eventually I wore him down. He realized that I wasn't going to go away or get offended no matter what he did. His defenses went down, and we became great friends.

Once again, I wouldn't try this with any kid. But with him, it seemed worth a chance. If I'd sensed that my attention was traumatizing rather than just irritating, I would have immediately backed off.
posted by grumblebee at 10:12 AM on December 22, 2004

grumblebee, in my former incarnation as a nanny I've found that to work as well.

As a nanny, I found that the children's parents literally refused to discipline their children in any way at all. No time-outs except for physically harming each other - and even then, if they said "15 minutes," they'd still let the kid get out of it the first time they squirmed away instead of making them sit there the full quarter-hour screaming.

The middle child (there were three - ages 4, 3, and 1.5) liked to pee her pants if she was really mad at you, then say "NOW YOU HAVE TO CLEAN IT UP OR YOU'RE A BAD NANNY!" The oldest child decided he hated me because I wouldn't give him additional snacks, and would refuse to talk to me for hours.

My solution was pretty much the same for both of them. For the middle kid, give her paper towels and wait for her to clean up her mess on the floor, then get her out of the peed-on clothes, washed up, and into dry stuff. Then give her a big hug and tell her she wasn't going to get rid of me just by doing that - they'd had 4 nannies in 5 months, these kids' lives were not paragons of stability.

For the oldest one, I'd just hang out with him as he was silent and sullen. I'd pick up his favorite toys and play with them and he'd snatch them out of my hand. So I'd pick up another and he'd do the same - until he ran out of handroom. At that point, he'd generally scream at me, then play.

This kept up for roughly two weeks. And all of a sudden, one day, they both played VOLUNTARILY, and understood that "no extra oreos" meant "no extra oreos," not "if you scream for an hour maybe you can have an extra oreo."
posted by u.n. owen at 10:23 AM on December 22, 2004

It's really weird the number of parallels I'm seeing between raising kids and owning dogs. My puppy hated me, but loved my girlfriend, for about 2 months (8 to 10 months old). One day, it just switched off and she's been my best friend since. It honestly hurt my feelings, and this is just a dog. I can definitely understand how this would be very hard with a child, but I agree with LairBob that it will pass.
posted by knave at 10:34 AM on December 22, 2004

Yeah, it'll pass. One of my friends daughters was scared beyond scared of me when she first met me. Two weeks later, she'd run out the door of her mom's apartment and press her face up against my car window before I even had my seatbelt off. And when they went away for christmas she wanted to know why I wasn't coming with.
My friend's ex-husband is pissed at me because she doesn't like him at all now. I'm sure that'll pass too, unless he continues being the person who became the 'ex' part of that...
posted by SpecialK at 3:18 PM on December 22, 2004

On preview: the last "She" being the 3-year-old daughter, not my friend.
posted by SpecialK at 3:19 PM on December 22, 2004

Err. Whatever. You get the idea. I'm going to go program some more now.
posted by SpecialK at 3:19 PM on December 22, 2004

I posted in the other thread about my daughter not wanting anything to do with my husband. It was at its peak when she was around 2.5 to 3, but even now at 5 she can still go into Daddy-freeze-out mode.

I figured out that, in our case, at least, it was a combination of normal kid phase plus the fact that my daughter can really hold a grudge. Her dad is a medical resident, and so his appearance at home is something rare and usually brief. She was rejecting him partly because she was going through an intense Mommy-only phase, partly because she was mad at him for leaving all the time, and partly to protect herself from being hurt when he left again.

In our case, instituting Daddy-daughter time on the weekends -- just the two of them hanging out, going to the art museum or something -- did help things. It was good for them to just have time together, without me in the middle, and forge their own relationship that was about the two of them, not Daddy vs. Mommy. Also, letting my husband vent to me about his hurt feelings was helpful, too, because then he could get that out in the open with me, and then respond calmly to her when faced with the inevitable "I don't want Daddy" stuff.
posted by mothershock at 6:22 PM on December 22, 2004

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