Those Strong Feelings

Why is it that children behave better when others are around and don’t throw as many fits when the “other parent” comes home from work?

One thing that gets to me is that sometimes Livi behaves better for her dad than me. We might have had a rough day, but as soon as my husband comes home, she is like a new child. I usually let him know how things are going by sending emails and pictures and I tell him when we are having a rough day. So when he gets home and she is all smiles and hugs, he just looks at me like I imagine things. And boy, does he ever gloat when I tell him that she changed the minute he walked through the door.

So what is this all about? I just cannot imagine nor accept that all my love and hard work results in tantrums, yet daddy gets all the hugs and kisses. So I turned to my trusted friend, the internet. (How did they ever raise children without it?) Sure enough, there is a good explanation for it.

According to what I read, this behavior is perfectly normal for children her age. And better yet, it is most likely a sign that Livi and I actually bonded really well.

“The more comfortable a child is with their parent or primary caregiver, the more they act out, because they trust you’ll be there for them no matter what they do.” (


“The primary caregiver is generally the person with whom a child feels most comfortable expressing his strong feelings. … Acting up may actually be a sign of how safe he feels with you.” (

That actually explains a lot. It is wonderful to know that she feels safe and comfortable with me. Really! I just wish she would find another way to show me her trust.

There is also another aspect to this behavior, one you may notice if you sent your child to daycare for example. “Your child works hard to hold it together all day in an environment where he’s not totally comfortable,” … “Then he gets home and lets it all out.” (

We recently had a chance to test this when we had overnight guests whom Livi had never met before. Initially, she kept her distance and even cried because she was a bit scared in the beginning, which apparently is not unusual for high need babies. Eventually, however, she did interact and play with our guests as long as one of us was by her side.

Once they left, it did not take long and she acted out, was crankier, and even a bit aggressive, something we rarely see with her. I guess, you could call that “letting it all out.”

Still, it is nice to know why she is acting this way. Next time she throws a fit, I will try to remember that it is all out of love. Or at least I will try not get too worked up over it.

Have you noticed something similar with your kids? How do you feel when they behave better for others? And what do you do?

12 comments on “Those Strong Feelings

  1. Sleeping Mom says:

    I haven’t noticed a difference with how he treats me vs how he treats his dad, but I have heard what you said about our kids generally acting up with us because they’re more comfortable with us. Just as we’re likely to snap at our partners but not our coworkers, we know that we can “get away with it” and that they’ll love us. Of course you don’t want to do this often but kids don’t understand that yet, so yeah, they totally take it out on us because they’re comfortable with us.

    • hnMom says:

      That is a great comparison. In a way we have the same tendencies as adults and do not always keep it together at home. I never thought of it as a sign of feeling comfortable or safe, but essentially that’s what it comes down to.

    • the speech monster says:

      i had the exact same thoughts as you when i read hnmom’s post, especially since my folks are now visiting and i remembered how quickly i tend to snap at them especially when i’m stressed out or exhausted. i have learned to be better at controlling my quick temper around them but am definitely less inhibited than with friends. with benji it’s still too early to tell whether he seems happier around me or my husband. my brother who turns 28 in a few days was also a high needs baby but was always really good around strangers or family friends. he turned out okay. πŸ˜‰
      @hnmom when did you first see the different treatment appear?

      • hnMom says:

        It’s not necessarily that she is happier around my husband. It’s more that she seems to save a lot of her challenging behavior for me. But then I also spent so much more time with her and like Carol said, we are the ones setting the boundaries most of the time, and no kid likes that.
        I began noticing it after her first birthday, when she was walking better and suddenly discovered that she had a mind of her own. She also began throwing little tantrums, probably nothing like the terrible two’s, but still enough to notice.
        And thanks for telling me about your brother. So far, all the kids I have heard about that started out as high need babies, have turned out great. That is certainly great to know even if the journey there can be challenging. πŸ™‚

  2. 4eyedblonde says:

    Same thing here. I think it’s normal. What drives me nuts is after a day of time outs and crankiness, Dad walks in and it’s all hugs and hurrays. Dad gets all the smiles and giggles and I get all the ‘no’s” and ‘I don’t like you’s’. Hurts my feelings a little but he’s just a little one doing what little ones do. We’re the ones setting boundaries all day, something little ones aren’t too excited about, so we look like the bad guys. But! We also get our share of hugs, too. And they’ll thank us later for all the boundaries (hopefully).

    • hnMom says:

      I am glad to know I am not the only one. And yes, it does hurt my feelings a little. She’s just started with the “no’s” and hopefully, the “I don’t like you’s,” or worse the “I hate you’s,” are still a ways off.
      My husband does set boundaries too but I guess having him home kind of softens that a bit.
      And you’re right, we do get our share of smiles and hugs and they will always be special to me.
      To be perfectly honest, I’m glad I am the one who gets to stay at home and be there every step of the way, tantrums and all.

  3. merelymothers says:

    This totally happens with us too. I thought it was because my husband was stricter with our son; he doesn’t let as much slide, and he’s much quicker with time-out, but after reading the research you posted, I’d much rather think that is correct! Thanks for posting this; interesting thoughts!

    • hnMom says:

      I’m glad I could help. πŸ™‚
      My husband isn’t really stricter with her. On occasion, he doesn’t respond to her as quickly as I do. But then other times, he does. That’s why the different behavior didn’t make sense to me. I did definitely question what I was doing “wrong” to cause this.
      When I read the articles online it made sense to me and I wondered if others had similar experiences.
      Thanks for chiming in. πŸ™‚

  4. Chris Hall says:

    Now that Jaydon is 1-year-old he is starting to show small tantrums. He is easily calmed but It will be interesting to see how he starts acting as he gets older.

    • hnMom says:

      Yeah, that’s about the time when it started for Livi, too. It’s still all manageable, we’ll see how it goes the closer we get to the 2 year mark. πŸ™‚

  5. Oh yes, this is SO irritating! I think it’s totally normal though. BUT…Bubbs does one thing that does make me feel good. If my hubby is holding her, she’s all smiles, but if I lean in the hugs the 2 of them, she reaches out for me. AND…if I’m holding her and my hubby leans in to hug both of us, she pushes him away!

    I loved the quotes you incorporated into this post as it helps me feel better about the rough days.

    It is really irritating when I look haggard and tired and have sent those snarky texts about what a rough day I’m having, and then the hubs comes home and the mood totally shifts. SO ANNOYING! πŸ™‚

    • hnMom says:

      It is annoying, isn’t it. But I am glad Bubbs has her way of showing you her love even though the days may be rough sometimes.
      Livi almost always comes to me when she is scared or not feeling well. So I guess that’s something. And if I have been gone for a couple hours, she is also very happy to see me. As is my husband, ha. πŸ™‚

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