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Newsflash:
Sunday, 25 March 2001

Four-Year-Old Only Wants Mom

Written by  Sylvia B. Rimm, PhD

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QDear Dr. Sylvia,

My husband and I have a four-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son. The challenge is with our four-year-old daughter.

Just as background, we are a very happy "all-American" family. My husband is an incredible father. The problem we are having is that our four-year-old is what you may call a "Mama's girl." She will only accept Mommy doing things for her. This is not a phase since it has been going on for about a year. My husband is beside himself, and it is now beginning to hurt his feelings. If he goes to pick her up at school, she will not go with him. She begins crying and says, "I want Mommy to pick me up." Once they are in the car and she realizes she is not getting her way, she is nice to him. When he comes home from work, she will not acknowledge his presence even to say hello. Before you even start questioning if there is abuse from the father involved, let me assure you that is not the case. I had to write that since you do not know us.

Have you ever heard of such a thing? We are a family that spends quality time with our children, and our children are our lives. We are so concerned and upset about this. We try to make light of it or ignore it. Sometimes I will discuss it with her and tell her that the behavior is inappropriate. We are at a loss. Can you help?

AOf course, you are correct that my first question would have been whether there was abuse, so thanks for answering the question before I had to ask it.

This whole issue sounds like it must be causing you both considerable stress. Be sure never to give your daughter the choice about who she wishes to participate in an activity with, and definitely ignore her protests with her dad. You can take turns doing some one-to-one fun activities with each of the children, and that will surely help the relationship. Also, having a babysitter from time to time so your daughter can see you go off and enjoy being with your husband will be good for her, and also, incidentally, for your marriage.

Be sure you're not the easier of the two parents. If your husband is stricter than you, he needs to become a little easier, and you need to be stricter so you're both setting limits at the same place.

Finally, be sure not to give in to your daughter's crying for you. Otherwise, she will think that her tears "work." Also, be very certain that her manipulations don't cause an argument between you and your husband within your daughter's hearing.

It does seem that you're already responding appropriately to her, and if you are, by the time you read my response, the problem may already have diminished. If not, update me and I'll try to help some more.

Dr. Sylvia

Copyright 1999, The WholeFamily Center, Inc.

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Sylvia B. Rimm, PhD

Sylvia B. Rimm, PhD

Dr. Sylvia Rimm is a psychologist and best-selling author with a national following. She is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, and is a clinical professor at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine.

Website: /images/stories/sylvia_rimm.jpg

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