Inside His Head: ‘My husband favors one child over the other’

Dear Guys,

Sometimes I really feel that my husband favors one of our daughters over the other. He seems to prefer our oldest. Our younger child doesn’t seem to notice, but I know she will later. How can I promote a better relationship?

GRAY: My daughter wants to be a zombie for Halloween and I’m proud of her for it. Why? Because I like zombies. It’s something we share and can talk about that my wife can’t. I only have one daughter, and it’s probably a good thing because I think I’d almost assuredly favor one of them over the other. And, no, it’s not just because of the zombie thing.

There are times when a certain child simply relates better to one adult or the other. Why should that be discouraged? Sure, if dad spends all his time with one and not any with the other then there’s a problem. But why punish both the father and daughter if things are going smoothly? Why shouldn’t they be able to share interests or conversations?

Then there’s the age factor. I don’t know how much time separates your daughters, but some folks have genuine difficulty finding a real connection with children at certain ages. I get more enjoyment out of time spent with my daughter now that she talks well and has a personality of her own. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like her as a baby, but I can’t have a two-way conversation about The Avengers with an infant.

The younger daughter will notice the difference and there’s nothing you can do about that. Why? Because they’re individuals and are simply destined to be treated differently no matter what. Take pride in their individuality. Being a parent isn’t about trying to dole out some kind of “attention ration” to your children, it’s about respecting them for who they are.

Your daughters may never feel like they’re treated equally, but I have no doubt your husband has an equal amount of love for them both. And what could be better than that? A zombie costume? Well….maybe.

MAVERICK: Unless your husband is a A-1 jerk, he likely doesn’t realize he’s showing any type of favoritism.

It could be an age thing. Perhaps the older child is simply able to do more things your husband likes, say like go for a bike ride, fish, play catch, watch sports on TV or crack jokes about family members. Maybe he’s more like the older child or they share a similar sense of humor or other tastes.

For goodness sake don’t come at him all confrontational and ask why he hates one of his children. More than likely it’s totally unintentional. So, the best thing to do is encourage him to spend time with the younger child. Arrange time for them to hang out. Take the older one out for a shopping trip or any number of other activities so dad gets to spend more time with the younger girl.

If you don’t like the idea of setting up play-dates between your husband and daughter then be direct, but not too direct.

Just say you think it’s time they spend more one-on-one time together. Don’t imply he’s shorting one for the other. Instead, simply tell him you think they need to hang out and get to know each other more.

After a subtle shove or two he’ll figure out what’s going on. Just keep prodding but be smooth.

MICHAEL: You don’t say how old your daughters are. I know that in my case it’s just easier to do things with the kids when they reach certain ages. I can also certainly attest to the fact that each child has a different personality and that we all react to them differently.

He may just have more interests in common with the older one. That being said, I would say that you need to have concrete examples that this is occurring.

Assuming you haven’t brought this up to him before, he probably will deny that he’s doing it. I would hope that he isn’t doing it on purpose. Let him know that you think it’s important that he show an equal amount of time and attention to the younger child.

If you can come to an agreement that this is happening and that something needs to change you need a plan. He needs to consciously start thinking about how he’s spending his time. Encourage him to do things alone with the younger daughter away from her older sister. You can help with this by doing an activity separately with the older one. This will kind of force his hand.

If things don’t get better, you’ll have to step in and fill that gap a bit. It’s not unusual for a child to be closer to one parent than to another. The key is that the family not split into two groups each taking sides against the other on issues. You and your husband have to provide a united front regardless of the individual relationships with the children.


  1. My ex favors our youngest daughter more than the oldest, simply because of personality conflict. The preference would come out in the way he talked to them (critical vs. teasing, tone of voice…) and it was most definitely noticed by both girls.

    If I could do it over, I would have encouraged “date nights” with each daughter, he takes one, and I take the other, so that he could spend one-on-one time with each. That said… if those nights are not fun for the “unfavored” because dad is not talkative or sees the evening as a chore to be endured, it’s not worth doing.

    As the kids grow up, they’ll learn to deal with parents they don’t have much in common with. It might be unfortunate, but you may have to just be the parent that the youngest connects with more, and learn to enjoy that.

  2. Laurie,

    Thanks for the long perspective — and good advice. This must be a hard situation to deal with.


  3. Wow! All of these responses are exactly how my husband is. I thought it was just me but it eases the issue knowing that my youngest daughter is not the only one getting less attention then my oldest daughter. I wll try to take my oldest out with me more often and what not just so it kind of forces my husband to spend time with our youngest. Thanks so much.
    Nicole 🙂

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