My 2.5-year-old daughter is a good educated child that hasn't many bad behaviors. Sometimes she turns out to be more the defensive type than the aggressive one, but all in normal frames.

When she wakes up (and cries) at night I come over and give her something to drink and calm her down. After 6 o'clock, once she's awake, I'm fetching her to our bed where she joins my wife and my other (half year old) daughter. This worked very well for us for a long time now, she cuddles me or my wife and sleeps another hour or two. She is also going very well with my other daughter.

But 3-4 weeks ago she started to keep crying when I wanted to fetch her in the morning and didn't want me to pick her up. She wanted to keep on crying and I wasn't able to calm her down. A few minutes later after the crying intensified, my wife came over and suddenly my daughter wanted to be picked up by her and was instantly calmed down on her arm.

This behavior has occurred since then seeming randomly about 1 or 2 times a week. No specific day, no specific crying or action the day before or anything special in the night.

My neighbors told me they got the same problem, but vice versa with the child wanting his father (they both fetch their child in the morning).

I don't want to know what to do against that behavior, I'm more interested in the roots of this problem and why only one of us can calm down my daughter in this cases when every time else both of us can calm her down easily. Why does she act that way only sometimes?

  • Does your half-year-old sleep next to Mums side of the bed?
    – skymningen
    May 15, 2018 at 13:32
  • @skymningen Yes, my 2.5yo sleeps at both sides of me any my 0.5 yo sleeps on both sides of my wife. My 2.5yo does't care where to lie down, if next to me or between us or between me and 0.5yo+my wife. May 15, 2018 at 14:41
  • "I'm more interested in the roots of this problem " Time to get used to all kinds of things that make no sense. Parenting will blow your mind if you try to understand it all. Just go with it and don't get hung up thinking you can/will/should 'fix' things or make them right. That will just put you on edge.
    – Adam Heeg
    May 15, 2018 at 17:44

3 Answers 3


This is a pretty common thing for kids to go through, as your neighbors confirm with their child doing the opposite. It's usually sporadic and often alternating - a child will be more easily calmed by mommy for a while, then by both, then daddy.

With a six month old child, I'm not at all surprised to see this, in particular. Your older child sees the younger one getting more attention, particularly mommy's attention if she's breastfeeding, and so is a bit jealous of that attention.

There's not a whole lot to do about it other than wait, and give her loving attention. Try not to be offended by it; it's not that your child prefers mommy more, she's just jealous of the attention the younger one gets. You can try to schedule some time where you take care of the younger one exclusively, perhaps, and the older child gets exclusive mommy time; sometimes that can help (and is a good approach in general, at any age).


This will be a lifelong alternating phase that you will begin to see as kids begin to be able to determine preference. I find that my children's preference for my attention ebbs and flows just as my preference for one parent ebbs and flows even now.

One week my daughter doesn't want to talk to me at all when I call the two that live with their mother on the phone. The next week she is extremely chatty and happy to see me. Same with my son. I find even myself sometimes wanting to talk with my own mother over my father OR vice versa at points in my life.

The most important thing is to not take it personally. Children are humans and they make decisions consciously and subconsciously just as all humans too. Sometimes they can be a little more blunt about it so prepare yourself when they vocally scream "I don't want you!" and run to the other parent.

Continue loving unconditionally and being there for her. I'm sure one day it will be your open arms she will jump into for comfort and your wife will be just as stunned as you are now.


It's a phase. Don't take it personally, and don't worry that it is some deep-seated problem that needs resolving.

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