Toddler Shunning His Dad

Updated on November 05, 2014
M.G. asks from Tucson, AZ
13 answers

Hi there,
I have a 2 1/2 yr old boy. He is having pretty severe separation anxiety from me. This has been occurring off and on since he was 1. Our big issue though, is that he won't have anything to do with his dad. If I am present, he treats him like he would strangers (which I also have a problem with) - he won't say hello/goodbye, won't give him a hug, and actually tries to hit him if he gets too close. This is very distressing for both of us and I fear that it is affecting my husband's ability to bond with our son. Has anyone else gone through this, and if so, do you have any suggestions to how to change this behavior? I find that trying to force it just makes the behaviors worse.
As an aside, if I have to go somewhere, once I am gone, he will interact a little bit with him.

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So What Happened?

Thanks very much for all of the suggestions. Just to add, that yes, I get out of the house a lot. I work part time, have a pretty active social life, take my older son out alone, go to the gym, etc. I think the problem ties in to the fact that I do leave quite frequently and my son is insecure about that. His dad is not super proactive about taking him to do things alone, so we will definitely work on that. Thanks again!

Featured Answers



answers from Oklahoma City on

It sounds like you need to go take some classes outside of the home when dad is home, go out with friends, leave him with a babysitter and go do stuff with dad. He needs time away from you so he can get over his separation issue.

He's really old to be doing this.

If you're a sahm you need to gain some independence from him. This might be the only way he can work through this.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Columbia on

It's absolutely normal. He just needs to have some fun with his daddy. Try to sit back a bit when things are going on. If you're constantly the one "running the show" he's going to see you as the person to follow.

Also, understand that YOU can't create the bond between your son and his daddy. Your husband has to step into the role and create the relationship with him. Which means he needs to take him places. On errands. Doing daddy stuff. Giving him a little plastic hammer and wood to work on. Turning wrenches in the garage. On daddy's lap on the computer. He needs to NOT always be doing whatever mommy is doing, and then only be handed off when mommy is too busy.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Have his dad take him to the park or out for ice cream. He will bond with his father quickly.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Send them out together for some boy time regularly. for at least 2+ hours at a time. You've got to give your boy a chance to get over longing for you and to get into trying dad on for size.

send them someplace fun- the playground, a bouncy place, a carousel, the acquarium, a rail station, a construction site, a place with a bunch of blocks or cars, or just to a burger joint for fries/ pizza, the sandbox, and ice cream parlor

Best to you all,
F. B.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Normal. We are "M.". You have to make time to NOT be around, on a regular basis. They need fun guy time. My son is 7 and is more connected to me. I make sure, when he and hubby are start doing something together, that I take myself away so that it's THEIR time.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

It's fairly normal.
You are The M..
Dad is Not The M..

Our son went through this.
He was about 3 yrs old when he got mad that Dad and I were hugging.
So our son pushed himself between us, pushed Daddy away and said
"MY M.! Get your own M.!".

Poor Daddy!
We were both pretty surprised.
I told him we love Daddy and we do not treat him like that.
If he's mean to Daddy, M. doesn't like it.

I also got busy elsewhere and let them go do 'guy stuff' together.
Our son became Daddy's Little Helper (with his own tool belt!), they looked at fire truck together, he helped Daddy put his wagon and trike together, etc.
They became best buddies.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Very typical for kids to bond more with one parent - but this will change throughout his life and one day you will feel as left out as Dad does right now. Keep leaving so Dad and child have to get together. Also have Dad be the one to take the child to something fun (zoo, park, playground, ice cream) and put him in and out of the car seat. Sometimes a change of scenery is really key. Also putting him in the stroller so he can't see who's pushing him while he's distracted by surroundings - that's what we did when we left him with a sitter, put him in the stroller, say good bye, and have her go in one direction while we went in the other. (Learned that one from a sitter at Disney World - she took him through the grounds and we went to the monorail, and he was fine in 3 minutes.)

Try not to let it distress you - kids pick up on your change in behavior, the inflections in your voice, and so on. The more confident you and Dad are, the better. If you leave, it will be very helpful if Dad gets out a really fun toy or puzzle. I'd buy a couple of "Dad toys" and put them in the closet, to be brought out only when you leave. Dad shouldn't try to convince the child to join, just sit down in the room and play. He can say, "This is really fun, do you want to try it?" Mostly he should laugh and say other expressions of fun and joy, but not super loud in volume.

Then Dad will be the super fun guy and you will be just ordinary Mom.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

I think the best way to deal with it is *not* doing anything.

My oldest is a huge Daddy's girl. She is loveable to me when we are alone, but when Daddy is home she can be rather rude to me. I just remind her to be nice and go find something to do on my own. They need that time together.

My youngest is the polar opposite. She has always been a Mommy's girl. I'm not sure she even noticed Daddy existed for the first 8+ months of her life. I told him things would change once she wasn't breastfeeding anymore. And they did. She loves to see Daddy now.

Just encourage them to have time alone together.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I recall this happening with our daughter at one point. To be honest she soon became ill. I wonder if your son is not feeling very well.

It really hurt my husbands feelings, I just reminded him, he is the push over when she got older, she was going to call for him.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Just wait until it's all about dad and you are the one being shunned. They bounce back and forth between parents like that.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My nephew vastly preferred his mom...and then little sis came along and Mommy had to do things like pass bath time to Daddy because she couldn't bend over or she had to take care of the baby. Now he prefers his dad and my sister is the one trying to remember that kids ebb and flow who they like more. My DD still prefers me (I'm the middle of the night monster hunter or the "I'm sick, hold me" person), but she does many things with her dad. I would just keep encouraging them to spend time together, and as he gets older, your DH may find their "thing". My DD and her dad like to garden or go for bike rides or play in the park. RE: not saying good-bye - my DD went through a phase where she would not say good-bye because if she said that, it meant you were really leaving. So it was like her 2 yr old brain thought "If I don't say it, they can stay." It may not be as malicious as it appears. Hang in there.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

This is normal. My son told my husband when he was about 3 to 4 that "he wasn't the boss of me, she is" pointing at me. Hubby traveled all the time. It was me and the kids.

I would suggest your husband spend one on one time with his son. Have them go to the park or something like that. They need daddy/son bonding.


answers from Santa Fe on

Does his dad do fun things with him? Make forts and play pretend together? Play superheroes? Throw a ball ?Take him for ice cream or a treat? Take him to the local water park, pool, playground? Does dad read books to him or do bathtime? Does dad like to play? Or is dad kind of disconnected, tired, prone to getting on the computer? I think this is a normal phase, but I think you should step out of the picture for a few hours each week while they have their bonding time. Maybe they can make you a present together? If you are not there and your husband enthusiastically spends quality time with your son, he will come around.

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