How To Parent: Kids Fighting For Parents’ Attention

Does Your Child Say This? “You love her more than you love me!”

When you have more than one child, from time to time they might ask you if you love one sibling more. This is not unusual, and sometimes children will put the question to you in an offhand way, pretending that the answer isn’t really that important. But the answer is important. And the best answer you can give is, “I love you as much as a mother could love a son. I’ll never love you any less.” And then your child will say, “But what about Jessie?” And you can say, “I love Jessie too, but I want you to know that I love you. Never worry about that.” Kids will sense that you love them, but there will be times when they crave affirmation, and it’s important to give it to them.

On the other end, during an argument or power struggle kids will often say, “He always gets his way,” or “You love him more than you love me!” When they do this, they’re either trying to manipulate the situation, or distract you as a parent. This has nothing to do with love. It’s important not to get pulled into that fight, and to redirect them to the task at hand. Say to them very clearly, “This is not about who I love more, this is about you having to go finish your homework now.”

Your child: “You love him more than you love me! He always gets his way.”

Translation: “He’s more loveable than I am, so you let him have his way.”

Ineffective: “I love you too, but it’s easier to love him, because he doesn’t argue with me all the time. You’d get your way sometimes too if you’d just stop being such a brat.”

Effective: “This is not about who I love more. This is about you finishing your chores.” Or, “This is not about who gets his or her way. This is about the fact that it’s Jack’s turn to be on the computer for an hour. You already had your turn.”

Does Your Child Say This? “You love her more than you love me!” reprinted with permission from Empowering Parents. For more information, visit

James Lehman, MSW was a renowned child behavioral therapist who worked with struggling teens and children for three decades. He created the Total Transformation Program to help people parent more effectively. James’ foremost goal was to help kids and to “empower parents.”

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