What should I do when my child prefers a grandparent over me?

Q: My toddler is so attached to his grandmother that he'll usually turn to her before me. This breaks my heart and makes me feel guilty about going to work. What can I do?

A: It's very painful when your own child prefers someone else over you. Your son's time with his nana may have forged a strong bond between them, but that's rarely enough to produce this kind of preference. Even a grandparent's habit of spoiling a child usually has only a slight influence on his basic preference for his mother. The most likely problem is a mismatch in style between the you and your kid. For example, if your son is very quiet, he might find an active, demanding pace from you upsetting. Being so laid-back can be hard for working parents who want to make the most of their time with their children, but do your best. Your instinct to be concerned is a good one. You may want to see a children's behavior specialist if this doesn't work. In a few weeks, a child will almost always come around to preferring his parents again.

Originally published in Child magazine, October 2006.