Tensions in the Exceptional Family When Your Exceptional Child Is More Comfortable With One Parent Over Another

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Being a parent is hard work. Being the parent of an exceptional child is doubly hard or more at times. What is even harder, even when both parents of said exceptional child are on the same page, is if your child gravitates more to listening to one parent over another. It is not always the same parent either who gets the good behavior. Sometimes children will do a little bit of a seesaw and test showing favoritism to one parent over another. Mainly however, the child seems to gravitate to the parent who is calm and in control of their own feelings the best at that moment. I have seen it first hand with Michael. Like most children, he will see things only from his own perspective, so may think that Dad or I are mad at him when we are just being serious and busy. This will translate in his mind that we don’t love him. And unless we reassure him that we love him by gestures and verbal reassurances, he will receive a false message.

It is frustrating for both parents when the child feels more comfortable with one over another. The so-called “better” parent and the other so-called “lesser” parent feel guilt , anger and worry. It is so important that parents are on the same page with parenting their exceptional child, but sometimes as in this case, unless the child knows they are loved by both parents equally, they will attach more to one parent to the detriment of the other. In this case, both parents have to work to see what is the missing link in why the child is acting out. What are they getting from it? There have been times that Michael has been aggressive to only one of us. Looking back, I have seen why clearly in hindsight, as has Dad. I also now see when things are going well, what we are doing. This is due in large part to working with several psycho educators and a great educator who have helped guide us as parents to not take behavior too personally and tweak what we are doing. It is not that we are doing things wrong, but that we not aware of what our child is picking up from our cues. It is all about being a conscious parent.

Don’t ever believe any professional of any kind who tells you they have ALL the answers to figuring out your child or worse, can FIX them. Our exceptional children do not need fixing. They need understanding, strategies, tools, and tweaking, like us as parents, like all of us as individuals. Any kind of good professional help whether it be medical, psychiatric or educational for us and our child, needs to assume at the forefront, that parents know what to do deep down inside, but are sometimes not trusting in themselves to take the next step. They also may not know enough of what is triggering them and their child to act out or turn inwards, equally disturbing. Charting when meltdowns and behaviors occur can really help families see a pattern. With outside help and sometimes even therapeutic  support for the parents themselves, all can benefit. There is never any shame in seeking therapy for yourself, your partner, yourselves as a couple, and for the whole family.

Our family has been lucky to get good therapists and professionals working with us from the get go. A huge advantage has been that Michael is flexible with professionals and has worked amazingly with them since childhood, and Dad and I have always been willing to open our home and our thoughts about what we could do to make things easier. We don’t think anyone has all the answers, but we want to find ways to manage the difficult times so we all can grow together and become versions of our best selves. The last two years for our family have been particularly rough, but we have all learned a lot about ourselves in the process. I have learned over and over again to trust myself when I sense that things were not right. Fight for the right help to get Michael to learn to be his best and one day advocate for himself, and start prioritizing my own self-care as highly as I have Michael’s care in the past. Dad is realizing this too. If we as parents don’t put self-care at the top of the parenting list, we have lost the battle before it has begun.

Exceptional Parents, does your child have a favorite parent? Do they show this favoritism openly or is it more hidden and only comes out in behaviors? Regardless, the solution is for both parents to be open and honest with the child about their feelings, talk with each other about what they agree and disagree with in parenting, and finally be willing to make adjustments in how they communicate in general so that there are no misunderstandings. Remember, all parents have been in the”fallen” camp at one moment where their child preferred the other parent. As long as both parents communicate openly with each other and their child, the problem will eventually get resolved and new ways to parent and live together will happen. Until next time.


I am a writer, speaker and parent coach. I blog about how my exceptional son with autism and type 1 diabetes is raising me to a better human being and exceptional mom. My mission is to empower other exceptional parents to trust in their parenting instinct while letting their exceptional child open their eyes to all that is possible! For more information on my coaching services and to download a copy of my FREE EBOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” see my website, http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com.

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