4 Year Old Says He Loves Mom, but Not Dad!

Updated on April 12, 2009
N.D. asks from Saint Louis, MO
7 answers

My 4 year old son says that he loves mommy, but not daddy. He says he doesn't want daddy, doesn't want to be with him, and it is really starting to hurt my husbands feelings. Just a little background; my husband and I are married and we all live together and have a pretty happy little family. My son has behavioral issues that emerged when he was and infant and we are currently seeking diagnosis, we have heard Aspergers, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder and are seeing another specialist soon who is supposedly an amazing diagnostitian and will hopefully come to understand what is going on with him. However, this thing with only loving me is not new and he has been saying it since he was able to talk in sentences. Back then, he still accepted daddy and my husband blew it off. But recently my son says it all the time and I think it's realy starting to hurt his feelings. Luckily my daughter has lots of love for daddy, but still I don't know what to do or say. Tonight my husband came home and my son said, I don't want daddy, I don't want him...I don't love daddy. My husband was finally crushed. I thought he was going to cry. We both told him that he should not speak like that and that it hurts daddy's feelings and when my son persisted, my husband, frustrated, sent him to his room, which only made the situation worse and my son said, I don't like daddy, he said bad words to me. I pulled him aside and talked to him calmly and he eventually apologized to his dad, but my husband is just crushed and as it continues, it's getting worse. Plus, I am terrified of what ground work this is establishing for thier long term relationship. What is going on?! Help please!

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So What Happened?

Thanks for all of your advice. My son has been spending a lot more time with my hubby 1 on 1 lately, which has helped and my husband and I have reached an agreement on how to discipline and respond to the kids. This has helped tremendously, as my son now I think sees us as more of a united front, and since we are both being consistent he can't play one against the other. He has a super attachment to mommy that has always been there and he just ALWAYS wants me instead of daddy. He is literally my 3-dimensional shadow all day long. He bumps into me when I stop because he is THAT close all the time. We are going to see a behavioral psychologist next week who is going to work with ALL of us. I really appreciate your concerns and comments!

More Answers



answers from St. Louis on

I've got to tell you I think this is pretty common. I'm in a local mom's group and I here this a lot. In my personal situation, my husband and I both work full-time. I work three 12 hour days a week and my husband works three 12 hour days as well. So, therefore my husband and I have equal time with our two children (we have a 4 year old boy and 2 year old girl). My son spends lots of quality time with his daddy, but he usually asks for me. He typically will say he wants "daddy" to go to work tomorrow and me to stay home. My husband does happen to be more of a disciplinarian than I am, but I am not lax with the kids. I just think that no one can replace mommy. I also agree with the other post that maybe he is trying to take your attention away from your husband. I wouldn't make an overly big deal out of it, I think you're explanations are right on. And as far as the "bad words" are concerned, toddlers think so many things are "bad words". Mine thought the word wrench was a bad word.
Good luck



answers from St. Louis on

Hi, N.! That's a sad situation, but the thing that troubles me is when you said your son told you that "daddy said bad words to me". Have you talked to him, and your hubby to find out what those words may have been that hurt him? I'm sorry I don't have any other suggestions for you, but that was the one thing that popped out at me. Good luck to you and your family!



answers from St. Louis on

Hopefully all the other posters are right. But I'll just tell you where my mind went. But first, I'll tell you that my husband was a pretty grumpy guy and often made the household unpleasant, yet none of the kids ever said they didn't love him. My oldest daughter had many ugly conflicts with him, horrible ones, in fact, and we separated, and she didn't want anything to do with him. But with just a little time, that relationship mended, and she absolutely loves him. I would say my husband unintentionally emotionally abused the children while he was here, but they always loved him and wanted his attention.

So that's why my mind goes to wondering if maybe your husband has intentionally said or done something in private with your son to make him want to disconnect like that. I hope not.

My advice would be to work with your son yourself to gain his trust and get him to open up as to why he doesn't love daddy. Let him know you won't be upset with him for telling you why he feels that way. There has to be a thought process in his head, it's just a matter of getting it out of him. He is certainly not going to talk to daddy about it!



answers from St. Louis on

I don't know about the medical issues if this is normal with these conditions. But I agree with Christi - Dad needs to connect. And hopefully Dad isn't the bad guy all the time. You don't say "wait till Daddy gets home" do you?

Help Dad connect. I have heard kids say things like this before it's not really out there. When kids are unhappy or don't get their way some will say that.



answers from St. Louis on

Your son may see your husband as competition for your time. Like some of the other posters have said, your son and husband need to spend time together. It will be very hard for your husband because you know your son so well and he knows you so well. Your husband will do things differently. Your son will need to adjust to him, and vice versa. But when they do connect, it is magical.

My neighbors across the street are going through this with their little one. Daddy is a full-time doctoral student. When he has class breaks, he spends as much time as possible with his son in one-on-one settings. By the end of the break, they are each other's best friends. But the breaks are about two weeks long, and mommy disappears for as much of the time as she can so she is out of both of their ways. They need time to be with each other only.



answers from St. Louis on

Hi N.,

I saw that you are a stay at home mommy which def shows the connection your son has with you- maybe Dad and him can have some boy time and go to the park and play ball or just spend some good son and dad quality time together by themselves....this may help your son realize that Daddy is a buddy and not an enemy. Just a thought! Good luck!



answers from St. Louis on

I have not read the other posts and I have not done so on purpose. I think that if I talk to you from my heart without thinking about what other people have said, it might be better.

Setting aside any emotional issues you son may have and just focusing on what he is saying, i can speak from experience. If it applies then maybe it will be of some benefit if it doesnt, then at that is alright as well.

Growing up if you would have asked me if I loved my father, i would have said no. I did not love him, I was not saying it to hurt him, the fact is that I did not love him. In fact I think in my child like way I actually hated him. If you would have asked me if my father loved me I would have said no, I did not believe he loved me. I felt this way until I was around 15 or so.

There were reasons for my feelings. In our family my father was tough when it came to discipline. I could talk to my mother about anything, but if I tried to talk to him it would end in a fight. He was always correcting my behavior and always finding fault with something that I said or done. My mother was a stay at home mom and during the day things went so smooth. If I had any problems at all I coudl talk to her about it. At night when he came home the atmosphere in the house changed. he took control of the TV, he decided if we were being too noisy or not.

It was as if I lived in two very different homes. The home where I felt safe and loved and accepted during the day. Then at night the home where he was in charge. I hated it, and I hated weekends knowing he was going to be home, I dreaded them.

I guess what I am trying to say is that your son may be dealing with a feeling similar to this. People are different, we have different personalities. As parents we can interact with our children in different ways. When that interaction changes the home when one person is there, it can make a child feel pulled in two very different directions.

What could my parents have done differently. I think they could have melded the parenting styles into one cohesive style, at least then I would not have lived in two very different worlds. I think the fact that pulled your son aside and talked to him, shows that you are very different in your dealings with him.

Of course I do not know your family and would not assume to. So take this for what it is worth, and use it if you can, and dont if you cant.

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