Dear Dr. Bill,
I have a 5-year-old son who is very attached to my wife. She home-schools him and they spent a lot of time together. There are days when it seems impossible to separate him from my wife.
He insists that she sits with him at the back of the car, that only she can clean him up, only mama can read bedtime story, etc. And if this doesn’t happen, he cries like he’s been rejected or abandoned. Since I work full-time, I normally see him for only 2-3 hours a day.
On weekends we have more time and we have great fun playing, reading and doing other father-son things. But I wonder if he’ll ever grow out of this phase where he prefers my wife to me.
Your son WILL likely outgrow this, but here are a few suggestions for you.
First, make sure that you and your wife on the same page. Hopefully she agrees that is a potential problem that needs to be addressed, and she’ll commit to providing more opportunities for you and your son to bond together.
Take a more active role in changing and bathing your son, reading him his bedtime story, and other regular parent-child activities.
Don’t give him the option of having Mom do it. Make it clear – gently but firmly – that Dad is going to do the bathing or reading tonight. If his reaction is severe, you might consider having your wife sit nearby, so her presence is a reassurance to him. But it will still send the message that Dad is in the picture and involved.
If the problem persists or if your wife is resistant to you taking a more involved role with your son, I’d encourage you to consult with a family therapist.
Thanks for writing Steve. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” tab on the Culture Connection page.