My daughter (4) is very close to me. She wants everything from me, and I certainly do her whatever she wants (within limits), however sometimes I tell her ask her Dad to do. When she does ask him, sometimes he does what she wants, sometimes not.

I was always there for her (to feed her, take her out, buy her toys, visit her friends), but I started to work 4 months ago. She is staying with him 3 days a week for 5 hours. Since then troubles began.

Sometimes they do well and sometimes not. Recently she started not talking to him and ignoring him. She doesn't want to answer him when he asks her a question or sit with him, and she asks me to take her to school and to stay home with her.

Her dad's behavior is wrong too (in my opinion) because he's ignoring her too, and doesn't want to talk to her anymore (till she says I am sorry & not going to do that again.) She's very reluctant to apologize, and it's hard for her to say I am sorry even when she is.

I don't know how to deal with them, how to make her love her Dad more, and how I can encourage her Dad to be more sympathetic with his daughter.

In my opinion, if she feels he loves her, she will love him back, right ?


6 Answers 6


The father is behaving in a childish manner himself, and in doing so indicating that ignoring is OK. You need to address that issue first. He needs to be modelling the type of behavior he wants from his daughter, not the other way around.

  • Exactly What I tried to say with a long comment expressed with a short paragraph, I agree.
    – Magier
    Jan 25, 2018 at 23:41
  • Agreed. It's unreasonable to force an ultimatum on a 4 year old, especially one who is your own child, and expect that child to express affection toward you. Mar 3, 2022 at 19:23

It all sounds pretty normal to me - I'm a stay home parent to 4 and 8-year-olds, although a grandparent likes to have quite a lot of input and lives with us. There are a few common things in play here that I can see...

Children have nothing else to learn in their early lives than how to manipulate their parents, they spend a great deal of their time perfecting this necessary life-skill. It is likely that your daughter is practicing to get attention from you just because it's opportune to do so, or to put it another way it's largely going to be an act for your benefit and seconds after you're out the door, all will be fine. Your perception may not be the reality.

They don't understand at that age they simply don't have the skills to reason out that you will be back and that it's a good thing (even though they may appear to when you talk to them). If you're leaving it could be forever as far as they can tell. They will just see that you're leaving and they want you because you're going, even if you spent the last hour talking to them about getting ready for work and where you're going etc.

Children regularly attach to one parent over the other and this may flip-flop between parents multiple times in a space of minutes, it's normal. In our house we have times when it's all about Daddy (I want DADDY to get my water!), and moments later Daddy is the boogieman (Go away Daddy, I want MUMMY!!!) A 4-year-old is at the stage where they will clearly vocalise their preferences but not necessarily in the right way, when they talk it may not be what they mean and sometimes as a parent you just need to get over it.

Ignoring a child sends quite a powerful disciplinary message and doing so is a cornerstone of a number of techniques (like time-out, for example) in which the message should be "I love you but I don't love this behaviour/action." It's useful for reinforcing good behaviour in that children get attention when they're good and not when they're bad. When doing that you do have to think on 4-year-old time, which runs approximately 10 times as fast as our time - if you're still chastising a child of that age after 10 minutes then either they've just flooded the bathroom or maybe a little 'mental reset' is needed on the parent's part, it's usually just a practice thing.

Practice makes perfect and it sounds plausible that Dad isn't used to doing these kinds of childcare tasks. It's common for maternal instincts to take over and you are just used to doing everything for the child as a matter of habit. Also it is likely that Dad has fallen into a stereotypical role of being more of a disciplinarian, meaning his reaction to situations will be different to yours (there's sometimes a benefit to a bit of good-cop/bad-cop later on.)

Children need consistency and it would appear that you and your husband are not working to the same boundaries and responses to any given situation at the moment. It's fixable but can be quite stressful at times.

Don't worry about trying to build their relationship, they need to do it themselves. If they have time together they'll have fun together and the relationship should build itself - if you feel things really need a helping hand then make him look after her while you're at home (perhaps under the pretence of doing something around the house, or just go meet a friend for a coffee). You can also make suggestions for activities for them to do together before you go out (paint pictures, go to the park, even mundane stuff like go shopping for treats/dinner and so on.) You can always look online for seasonal craft things to do (it's autumn now, so fallen leaf collages, decorating pine cones etc are all great fun and easy if it's a nice day.) In my experience busy children tend to be happy children!

  • 2
    I downvoted: "Children have nothing else to learn in their early lives than how to manipulate their parents" - that is ridiculous. They will never ever learn as much again as when they are little! "They don't understand" - of course they do, she is 4 yrs old not 4 months. "Ignoring a child sends quite a powerful disciplinary message" - sorry, I disagree on that point as well. Don't think the child is blamable for her behaviour but the parents are. Instead of ignoring her (even more) they should consider to talk more about things and maybe how to show love to her.
    – Magier
    Oct 22, 2015 at 10:29

It is difficult for young children to understand the necessity for the way adults rearrange their lives. Children crave consistency. I think it comforts them. That's why a child can watch the same video over and over and OVER until her parents are ready to climb the walls every time they hear the music :)

When something goes wrong in their lives, people look for reasons, and often people to blame. It sounds like your daughter is blaming her father for the fact that mommy has gone away. It makes no sense when you can understand the bigger picture, her father certainly isn't to blame.

I'm not even sure if she is old enough to be reasoned with in this. But I have found with my kids that when you bring these things out in the open it sometimes helps to ease or alleviate problems. I think they don't really understand what they are thinking or feeling, they can only experience it. They come up with reasons on their own, but often not the right ones. When you articulate the situation accurately for them, it helps them process better. This helped a lot when my daughter was having to adjust to her father being away, sometimes for weeks at a time. I asked her if she missed her daddy and if she was sad about him being gone, and then I told her that I missed him too and helped her find ways to connect to him even when he was gone.

You might try sitting her down and telling her that you are very sorry that you can't be with her during the day every day any more. Come right out and ask her if she is angry at daddy for something. Tell her both you and daddy are sad that you can't all be together all the time. When he is working he misses her, and when you are working you miss her. This may help reassure her that although she has lost your presence during the day she hasn't lost your love or your thoughts.

Then explain to her that sometimes you have to do things even if it is hard because if you don't you won't be able to pay for your house and your food and all the other nice things that you have. 4 is old enough to understand these basic necessities, even if she doesn't like them. Don't tell her she has to like it, or that she shouldn't feel angry. Share her feelings, don't argue with them.

Maybe you can work out some special "mommy time" that she can count on (do you have a consistent bedtime routine?) that happens even on days that you are working. My family likes to have occasional mommy-daughter or daddy-daughter days that are scheduled beforehand and not cancelled except for emergencies.

What are some of her favorite things to do? Help her father come up with special "daddy time" activities, maybe something only he does with her (to avoid having her comparing them with when she did the same thing with mommy). Sit down as a family to plan these (I'd suggest you plan both a mommy-daughter and daddy-daughter activity at the same time to avoid favoritism, with both mommy and daddy contributing to the discussion for both events)

My daughter finds it easier to cope with the fact that she is apart from me because she has a cell phone and can text me little messages when she needs to make a connection with me. When I text her back it reassures her that I am still 'there". Your daughter is obviously too young to have a cell phone but (assuming you and her dad have them) what if he occasionally lets her use his cell phone to "text" you (she decides the message, he texts). Or if not text messages, what about emails, which she composes, and he reads your messages to her? That will help her get over feeling that he is coming between you and her and will nurture the notion that he is her ally in staying in contact with you.

Now, to address her Dad's issues; he's probably feeling angry and rejected and hurt. His feelings need to be handled carefully as well. When you love someone and they seem to reject you it isn't always easy to understand or deal with the situation because your own feelings get in the way. It may help if he can understand that she is not rejecting him, it is only that she is looking for something to blame because she has lost some stability in her life. Make sure he knows that you are not blaming him for her rejection, because that will make him more defensive and aggravate the problem.

If you can make him a partner in finding ways to overcome her "childish four year old issues" he will be able to feel less rejected and blamed. Above all, don't set yourself up to be the bridge/conduit between him and his daughter. She is already used to just interacting with you (child <-> mommy), that connection doesn't need to be strengthened. But they can't be left to work it out with you out of the equation (child <-> daddy), because your daughter will feel rejected by you and he may be feeling too hurt to work effectively on the relationship. You need to develop the (child <-> mommy+daddy) relationship so that nobody feels excluded.


Her dad's behavior is wrong too (in my opinion) because he's ignoring her too, and doesn't want to talk to her anymore (till she says I am sorry & not going to do that again.)

I think we should think about who is the child in that case. Cannot understand parents to behave like that. Parents should just stand the behaviour of their kids. Of course they behave that way. They are usually not able to give proper agruments in a discussion (if 4 years old)! So they have no other choice than being rude, ignore, shout, cry, throw toys and so on. Some kids get aggressive if they are frustrated, start hitting others. You can be happy if your child manages to handle her frustration without hitting other people. She behaves well.

I can't understand the advice to ignore kids. I personally remember that being ignored hurts more than anything else. It is not required and remember, do you like people that just ognore you in conflicts instead of talking about it?

I don't know how to deal with them, how to make her love her Dad more

My optinion: if her dad loves her HE should take care of that.

In my opinion, if she feels he loves her, she will love him back, right ?

Absolutely agree. Maybe he does not show ot or tell it enough. Some children are VERY sensitive.

I am a friend of supporting children to get self-confident people. I explain my doughters (2 and 3) that they are always allowed to say NO. I never try to manipulate them. Sometimes of course you have to convince them. Sometimes they just have to listen and to what they are told to. But NOT ALWAYS. In case I can live with the NO to my "order", yes, then I just accept it and make them understand that their opinion counts too. This enables them to say NO in situations where NO is the only right answer. I think it's important.

Just a thought: are you absolutely sure the father always behaves correct when being alone with her...? Did you ask her about it in a very private conversation? I am sorry to ask, but this possibility came into my mind reading your post.

  • Currently I can't downvote this answer due to my low rep. So I am going to increase it for the sole purpose to downvote this. Parents should just stand the behaviour of their kids. This very idea leads to disaster by creating very troubled children. The last two paragraphs are also dangerous
    – Sanyifejű
    Dec 11, 2019 at 13:43
  • Sorry. This child already seems to be troubled. For whom is this answer dangerous? You may want wo explain your statements?
    – Magier
    Jun 2, 2020 at 0:25

How did you explain to your daughter the change of rhythm in her life, with you going back to work? It seems to me she is disturbed that you have less time with her than before. So maybe she needs to understand better why this has changed.

Try to make the explanation of you going to work sound positive, you could also tell stories of what you do at work.

Of course, the behavior of her dad does not seem right. He needs to change this, otherwise their behavior is only going to be worse in the next months, imo.

Could you please clarify if you and her dad are together ? I am not sure of your status, reading your question, and that is an important factor in parents/child relations.

  • Can you explain your rationale for the viewpoint that giving less attention to a child who is misbehaving is likely to cause bad behaviour? A number of techniques (such as time-out) are specifically rooted in the idea that when the child is naughty that a carer should withhold attention (and direct it instead towards good behaviour). Oct 21, 2015 at 10:04

It is usually mothers that cause this.. They do not give space to dads to have one to one time with their kids..Mothers are.more attached to their children than the opposite..

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