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“I Like Daddy Better!” What to Do When One Parent is the Fun One

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For the last two hours, you’ve been asking your son Tony to finish his homework. He’s repeatedly gotten up and found distractions to delay the process. Then dad comes home from work and whips Tony up in the air and flies him like an airplane around and around the house as Tony squeals with glee. You tense in frustration. By the time you get Tony settled down again, dinner will be ready. The homework process will now interfere with bath time and bedtime.

It can be super frustrating when you feel like you’re parenting alone, and your child’s dad is Mr. Fun while you have to be the heavy. You may be married to him or dealing with a divorce situation. Whether your kids live with both of you or go from one house to the other, the need for you to be steadfast is crucial. Here are some things to keep in mind when your spouse is the fun one.

Ask dad to share the burden of discipline.

When dad leaves you to be the heavy while he’s their best playmate it’s important to have honest conversations with him and share what your values are in raising children together. Begin the conversation by affirming how much you appreciate his connection with the kids. Encouraging what he’s doing right more than emphasizing what you don’t agree with will make him more inclined to hear your ideas. He may not be aware of the same things you are. He may not know your child has been behind in school and needs to get that assignment finished tonight. Ultimately, you can’t control the actions, attitudes, or beliefs of the other parent, so don’t try. It’s difficult enough to control yourself, let alone trying to control someone else. Using coercion or manipulation will only make matters worse. If he won’t agree to what you feel is best, trust in your own influence in their lives. Remain a consistent foundational force for them.

Don’t make it a competition between you and their dad.

When your kids see you two openly divided and conflicting, they will learn how to manipulate for their benefit and they will lose respect for both of you. Kids are smart and they see past the circumstances to the dynamics at work with you and their dad. If you’re in a shared custody divorce situation you can say things like, “Yes. Things are different in Daddy’s house but here you have to go to bed at 9:00.” The more matter-of-fact you are the better for your kids. You don’t need to defend your decisions or explain their dad’s decisions. Your confidence in your own parenting choices gives kids stability and security.

It’s not a popularity contest.

You have to stay focused on the needs of the children over your own needs for acceptance.  They may say hurtful things when you make decisions they don’t like. In those moments you have to keep the big picture foremost in your mind. Fun is very important but so are boundaries, guidance, and responsibility. Focus on your connection with your kids. Give them the discipline and guidelines they need but also give them your time, your ears, and your attention. Create your own fun memories with them or join in the fun they are having with dad. Perhaps it would make you feel better to lighten up a little too.

Boundaries and limitations make a child feel safe.

They will hate the fact that you make them brush their teeth, eat their vegetables, or do their homework. Having the consistency of rules and boundaries in their lives will build a structure inside them for long-term success in life. Insecurity is germinated and grown when kids feel like they are totally responsible for themselves. They may fight you now but they will thank you later.

Readers, have you experienced your children favoring one parent over the other, and if so, what have you done?


What are some fun things we can do together?

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