elevating child care

Calming Your Clingy Child

It’s good to feel needed, but when we become parents, we realize we never knew “needy”.  As Magda Gerber aptly noted, parenting brings with it a “feeling of un-freeness”, whether we’re in the presence of our children or not.
Toward the end of the first year of life (when children become more aware of the separation between themselves and their parents) and periodically throughout the early years, we primary caregivers often become the sole object of our child’s desire. Clingy periods tend to coincide with children taking developmental steps toward independence (like learning to walk).  Sometimes they occur when children face new situations or transitions (for example, mom’s expecting). As understandable as this is, it’s still intensely stifling, frustrating and guilt-inducing when our lovable ball-and-chain can’t let us out of her sight for even a second.

When babies are around 9-12 months old, parents in my classes often share a common, enlightening scenario: “All I’m doing is making a quick trip to the bathroom or taking a shower, and my baby screams and cries inconsolably. What should I do?!” Obviously, they’re deeply distressed about putting their baby through such agony — but then it turns out the baby wasn’t alone after all (or with the Boogeyman). She was with her doting dad.

Hmmm…

Not to downplay infant emotions, but is this baby in desperate need? Or is this a healthy expression of her developing will? Either way, the situation is tough for baby, mom and dad. Here’s what I suggest to ease the anxiety all around and help everyone cope when children are feeling clingy:

1. Encourage autonomy

The way we perceive our children has a profound influence on them. While some experts refer to newborns as “helpless”, Magda Gerber made the seemingly minor — but important — distinction that babies are dependent, not helpless. She believed that babies are innately capable if we allow them to be, and this has been affirmed for me a thousand times over. Magda called this having “basic trust” in babies, and it is key to her approach.

One of the things most babies can do (and seem to greatly enjoy doing) is spend baby-directed time on their own. We might first notice this when we see our newborn awaken and look around for a while before indicating she needs us. These delicate “seeds” of independence are sown when we refrain from showering our babies with love at these times and just quietly observe. If we provide scattered minutes like these in a safe place, they can then evolve into longer and longer periods of baby “me” time, — a time for exploring, learning, creating, communing with “self”. Granting children this uninterrupted time and space from the beginning, but never forcing it, fosters healthy autonomy.

This bit of independence doesn’t eliminate separation anxiety and clinginess, but it definitely seems to lessen the frequency, intensity and duration of these episodes. And that makes sense, because children who have tasted autonomy have the inexorable knowledge that they can be more than fine for a time on their own.

2. Don’t overreact

Babies are aware and impressionable, which means that they are constantly receiving messages from us through our responses and behavior. For example, if our baby is trying to roll over and we instantly swoop in and turn her over or scoop her up at the first sound she makes, she’s going to believe she’s incapable of coping with even the smallest struggles herself.

On the other hand, if we sit down next our baby, bend down to her level, acknowledge her feelings and efforts, wait a little and then — if she continues crying — ask her if she wants to cuddle in our lap, she will receive an equally loving, far more empowering message. Often she’ll end up choosing to persevere with her task once she’s been heard and understood. These messages we transmit to our children add up to them feeling either secure and competent, or dependent on our “magic powers” to rescue them.

3. Separate with confidence

Again, children are very sensitive to our feelings. If we are feeling ambivalent, upset, guilty, etc. about leaving them in a safe place while we separate, there’s little chance that our child is going to be able to let us go gracefully. If we’re unsure, how can our child possibly feel secure?

So I recommend always telling your child you will go (sneaking out creates much more anxiety and mistrust), and doing so with kindness, assuredness and confidence in your child as fully capable of handling this situation. “I’m going to the bathroom and will be back in 5 minutes.” If you can remember to, it’s always best to leave out the “okay?” at the end, since that implies uncertainty or a need for the child’s permission.  If the child cries as you are trying to leave, acknowledge, “I hear you. You don’t want me to go. I’ll be back.”

4. Don’t talk children out of their feelings.

Acknowledge your child’s feelings about your separation without even a hint of judgments like, “But I’ve played with you all morning!” Fully accept them. Encourage the parent or caregiver who remains with the child to support the child to grieve your temporary loss for as long as they need to while calmly assuring the child. “Mommy will come back.”  Ask them not to distract, “shush” or tell the child “you’re okay”, just keep acknowledging the feelings, listening, offering support and hugs if the child wishes.  Children’s feelings are valid and need to be treated as such.

6. Give children confidence-building opportunities to separate (and return to their secure base)

Here’s a reminder I give parents in my classes, especially when they are concerned about their child clinging and not playing: Think about it — we’re almost always the ones who initiate separations with our children. Children also need to feel trusted to separate and return as needed. (Confidence in our children to experience this is essential to them forming secure attachments according to Bowlby’s Attachment Theory.)

But child-led separation can’t happen if we follow babies and toddlers around. This is one of the reasons in the RIE Parent/Infant Guidance Classes we recommend parents find a seat and stay put. When we follow children in safe play situations like these, we send them the message that we don’t believe them capable of being away from us. Perhaps we do this because we think we have to show our child how to play (don’t worry, we don’t). Or could it be that we’re the ones having trouble separating here?

Staying in one place is especially important in group situations, because then the child knows exactly where we are, which frees her to separate with confidence when she’s ready.

5. Accept clinginess readily

I advise never resisting clinginess. Yes, there are times we need (or want) to separate, and that’s a healthy and positive thing to do. Parents’ needs and limits are an integral part of the parent/child relationship. Taking care of ourselves (even when our child disagrees) and feeling confident about that is vital to our bond.

Then there are those times at the playgroup, the park, a party, or even just at home when we might expect our child to be out playing or socializing, but our child is glued to us. Release those expectations or wishes — let clinginess be. In fact, welcome it. Don’t entertain, just let the child sit with you and watch. Coaxing, redirecting, pointing out all the wonderful children and toys our child could be playing with only intensifies her desire to cling.

When we trust that our child needs to be close and give her the assurance that we don’t resist this in the least, separation anxiety eases.

So whenever possible — give in wholeheartedly. Hold your child close and try to imagine the day she no longer wants to spend time on your lap (or doesn’t fit very well). Ugh, never mind, let’s not go there.

***

I share more about this respectful approach in my book:
Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting

 

(Photo by Cristian Bortes on Flickr)

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71 Responses to “Calming Your Clingy Child”

  1. avatar Katie says:

    Very timely post for me. My daughter is very, very into mommy right now… to the tune of screaming through my showers (even though she’s with dad).

    Despite the tears when I’m out of sight, I’ve found that she’s still happy to explore our home and play independently with me nearby. I’m focusing on enjoying these moments as my peaceful “alone” time and also turning my thoughts towards appreciation for being her favorite person in the whole world right now.

  2. avatar VMR says:

    Its becoming a problem with Daddy… He is getting his feelings hurt because our daughter (2.5 yrs old) doesn’t want him to do anything – change her diaper, brush her teeth, get her milk – its always ” Mami’s turn!!!!!!!!!!!” And now (as a defense ) he is getting resentful and anticipates it. I feel like I need to take them to therapy 🙁 Its very sad and very hard for all of us – any suggestions? Thank you

    • avatar janet says:

      Awww, I can totally understand… This happened in my family, too, especially with my first daughter. Please assure your husband that this is typical and healthy and that his daughter will be “his” soon if he can remain patient and unfettered. Acknowledge, acknowledge, acknowledge… “I know you want mom, but you’ve got to settle for me.” Don’t take this personally! Both of you, keep your sense of humor. Payback time comes in the early teen years when mom is under the microscope of criticism and dad can do no wrong. Just keep loving your girl… This too shall pass, I promise!

    • avatar Wildernerf says:

      This might be very late but I try to remind my husband that I am the primary caregiver because I am with our children 100% of the time. I remind that they are happy to see him when he gets home and that they love playing and sitting with him. But when something happens (an ouchie or hungry or the like) that they naturally turn to me because it’s almost always “mommy” that takes care of those things. I try to remind him that he’s important and that they love him and want him around but a ha it for kids is a hard thing to break.

  3. avatar Meagan says:

    I’m always amused and confused when my baby (10.5 months) starts crying for attention, I sit down nearby to give him cuddles if he needs them, and he just turns away to keep playing- while STILL making crying sounds. Usually this means he’s approaching nap time.

    It’s been interesting to see him getting more adventurous. When we go to playgrounds I do shadow him pretty closely (to keep him from eating wood chips, falling off of non-age appropriate equipment, or getting trampled by much larger children). A couple months ago he would just sit near me in one place, maybe pull up on a bench and watch the other kids. A few weeks ago he would crawl back and forth between a few nearby features. Now he’s crawling all over the place, following the bigger kids (usually to their parents’ distress: “look out for that baby!”) pulling up on the laps of strangers and trying to eat the wheels on other babies’ strollers. It’s really fun to watch him getting more… involved?

  4. avatar Jessica Isles says:

    My five year old is going through separation anxiety again. He did the early years phase and became more confident but starting kindergarten has brought it all back and now he doesn’t even want to go to play dates without knowing that he can call me anytime to come home. And even then sometimes he won’t go. He’s always been a child who gets great comfort from cuddles and requests them more than my others and responds very positively to cuddles if he’s angry or hurt etc. I know it will pass but I feel sad when he goes off to school feeling so sad.

    • avatar janet says:

      Jessica, I totally understand how sad this makes you feel… If there’s anything you can do (besides knowing that this too shall pass) it would probably be not feeling sad and sorry for him…as hard as that is. Since our children are extremely tuned into us, it’s important to try to believe them fully capable of handling these situations, even though they express sadness. They take their cues from us. That said, play dates away from home aren’t every child’s cup of tea. And I certainly don’t believe them necessary to happiness and success in life.

      Lucky boy to have such a sensitive, loving mum!

  5. avatar Zoe says:

    We are struggling with separation anxiety with my 18 month old daughter at the moment, so this post has come at the right time for us! She’s always been a bit clingy when we are at home, but was just getting to a point where she’d go and play in her own room while I took a shower, or be happy to play in the living room if I was in the kitchen for a couple of minutes. But she’s just had a nasty tummy bug that lasted 7 days and now it feels like we’re back to square 1 (almost). She is happy to play if I am sitting on the floor but clings to my legs if I am standing at the kitchen counter for example. And suddenly she is refusing to go to sleep unless I am in the room (naps and bedtime). I’m really struggling with that issue, I don’t know whether I should just ‘give in’ and sit in the room with her, or whether to leave her just for a couple of minutes and then come back so she gets used to me going away? I can usually sit just inside the door and she is ok with that, but if I leave the room she screams. Any thoughts?

    • avatar janet says:

      Hi Zoe! This phase will pass if you stay relaxed about it. If you do not want to stay in your daughter’s room each time she falls asleep, tell her what the routine will be. Be clear about it and then leave confidently while allowing her to voice her objections. If the screaming continues and starts to escalate, pop your head back in and acknowledge something like, “I hear you. You want me to stay there, but I am going to let you rest your body. Please call me as soon as you wake up. I love you.”

  6. avatar Kylie says:

    This is so good. You’re so right about not sneaking out on children.
    I was an extremely shy child – never wanted to leave my mum’s side when out and about. I still remember her ‘tricking’ me on the first day of kindergarten. I would have been crying and not letting her leave so she said she would buy me a school jumper and come straight back and she never came back. For me to remember that in such detail it must have been horribly upsetting.

    “For example, if our baby is trying to roll over and we instantly swoop in and turn her over or scoop her up at the first sound she makes, she’s going to believe she’s incapable of coping with even the smallest struggles herself.”

    I think that must be how i was parented by my mum who apparently ‘never let me cry’, ‘attended to me at my first whimper’. I’m now, at 27 yrs old, dealing with dependency issues and feeling overwhelmed with the smallest things in life. I wasn’t taught how to do things for myself and cope with life myself.
    I really want to learn these lessons for the day that i have my own children.

    I think your blog posts are wonderful and fascinating.

    • avatar janet says:

      Kylie, you are very insightful and will be a great mum someday. The tricking and the subtle messages (“you can’t cope”) do affect children profoundly. I’m sorry you have had to deal with that.

      Thanks for your kind words.

  7. avatar Sun says:

    Hi Janet,

    I am hoping you can share some insights regarding our situation.

    Our daughter is almost 9 months. Our extended family members (grandparents, aunties and uncles) would love to hold our daughter to spend time with her and get to know her. Also because they love her!

    However, our daughter turns around when we try to give our daughter to our family members. When our family members hold her she cries even when we are close by or around. They can distract her for a little bit or take her away for a little bit but she ends up crying harder that eventually me or my husband has to hold her and she will stop crying. (I know you mentioned that there are better ways to comfort babies than to distract them but I’m trying to have a balance in respecting how our extended family decide to parent without being too controlling and forcing my parenting philosophies on them.)

    I’m wondering what would be the best thing to do. I would like to be sensitive to our daughters needs but I also would like to balance things for me. I would also like to have some free time and help caring for our daughter when family members are around and available to help. (Our daughter is mainly taken cared of by me or my husband. I am at home full time and when I’m gone, my husband watches our daughter.)

    I’m also concerned because I would also like to be able to have our family members baby sit so me and my husband can go on occasional dates. However, I’m not too sure if that would be possible considering how much our daughter cries even when we are around.

    I understand that separation anxiety is a normal part of development, but at what point do you let your baby cry and leave. I am looking for specific examples of how we can better handle these types of situations. Also, please let me know if you have a good book I can read. Thank you so much and I look forward to hear your insights.

    • avatar janet says:

      Hi Sun! Since your family members want to connect with your baby, try to help them understand how to do that. Certainly they can relate to the fact that relationships cannot be “forced”. Relationships take time, patience and a desire to understand the other person. Are you familiar with my posts on play? I would have your relatives sit with your baby and observe her while she plays. This would give her the opportunity to get used to them and maybe choose to approach them herself. Model talking to your baby respectfully, like you would another whole person. This will hopefully encourage your relatives to connect with her in a respectful manner. Once you see that a connection has been formed, you can leave your daughter with that person and feel confident that she will be all right…even if she cries.

  8. avatar Amra says:

    HI Janet,

    My Daugther is 10 months old and she does not want me to leave the room she is in,ex.if we are together in her room,while i am roaming around and she sees me she is okay,but once she sees my back and if i try to go out from the room she starts crying ,once i turn back she is okay again and she continues with her play.I dont know what to do,whatever i say i believe she cant understand as i am trying with i am going out and coming back and than i am trying to speak with her from other room when she cryes but she does not ract to it and she is in her tears sometimes ,she kick herself on back and i am afraid she might get hurt when i go out ??What shall i do,shall i always take her everyroom i am going or leave her for some time or??Hope i can do something to make her life more happier and to allow myself to do something or go to bathroom at least 🙂

    • avatar janet says:

      Hi Amra,

      I believe she understands what you say, but still doesn’t want you to leave. Since she is at the perfect age for separation anxiety, it may be harder for you to leave right now. If you tell her that you will leave for five minutes (with confidence in your voice and attitude) and she cries for a bit, it will not hurt her. But I would also make sure you are making time to sit with her and be attentive. Also, I would make it a point to give her your full attention during feedings, diapering and bathing. When babies get only half of our attention most of the time, they do not feel refueled enough to be comfortable playing independently.

  9. avatar Jacqueline Gallagher says:

    Hi Janet,

    My son has become more clingy since the end of kindergarten. He is now 6 turning 7 and while he goes to school happily, he refuses to go to friends’ houses unless I am there as well. He has an opportunity to go to a really fun day camp but refuses if me or my husband are not there. Is this normal?

  10. avatar Yen says:

    I totally agree with this approach. Enjoy dembabies while we can!

  11. avatar Lina says:

    I can’t agree more with what you’ve said here. Especially about accepting clinginess. This happens with my 24month old often when we’re in new environments. She’ll cling at first then quickly settle in once she’s feeling secure. Sometimes it take a few minutes sometimes a little longer. I’m enjoying the close cuddles!!

  12. So great and timely post, Janet. My issue has been with working from home. My mother looks after him, but he will often scream and cry asking for me, and since I’m in the next room working, I often interrupt myself to go see him. Often I talk to him and explain that I have to work, and it often works, but not always. I’ve had to move my schedule around for those times where I know he’s more needy of me. My mom feels quite helpless and takes it a bit personally sometimes when he rejects her (she’s feeling that guilt-inducing “oh come on”), but very open to discussion, and I was just telling her today to empathize with him without any “buts”. I know things are much easier between them when I am not at home. Of course, I notice this is worse when he’s very tired, or in an unfamiliar situation. But if you have any recommendations for homeworking moms, I’d love to hear them. Also I wanted to share a story from a few days ago: we were going to our weekly swimming class, but I realized that it was half an hour earlier than I thought, so we ended up leaving in a rush. I was feeling the race against the clock to make it there on time. We finally only made it a couple of minutes late, and I felt a big sense of relief. BUT my son didn’t, all he wanted was cling to me instead of doing the class, because we hadn’t gone through his routine on the steps before class, and it was a different teacher. I admit I felt a huge “Oh come on, we made it, now let’s have fun!” inside, but I rose above it (NOT effortlessly!). Instead, I told him how I totally understood how hard it was for him to be rushed, not have his routine, a different teacher, that it was a lot to deal with. Expecting him to just “dive” right into it was unrealistic. So I let him cling to me as much as he needed. This definitely calmed him down. It was a small victory for me to be able to switch gear for him in this way… Also, sometimes I wonder if I am his “go to person” for a lot of things (when he’s upset) because I am really practicing the acknowledging, respectful boundary setting I have learned here, I do sense he feels very emotionally secure with me, but my husband and my mom, though very willing and trying, have a hard time with it, it’s hard for them not to be tempted to distract, say ‘it’s ok’ or plead etc. They’re working on it, but perhaps some of my son’s clinginess is also due to that. Would love to hear your thoughts on that. Thanks so much 🙂

    • avatar Shannon Adolph says:

      I would like to hear a response for home working moms too. We have an in home nanny while I work, but if my daughter hears or catches sight of me walking through the house (to get a drink or snack for example) she gets hysterical even though she was playing calmly before. Although it is nice to work at home, sometimes I feel like a prisoner in my own home and the separation anxiety is harder than it would be if she was in a totally separate location.

  13. avatar emma says:

    This is so helpful, thank you!

    I’d love some more advice. My daughter is a spirited 19 month old and has only ever had me and her dad around, so she is very clingy and has been since she was a baby.

    We started to try a babysitter out (once a week) this year and whilst she loves the babysitter she’ll scream constantly (max we’ve gone is 40 minutes!) until I come home. In the end, I’ve just stayed at home with them and that has been ok. But that’s an expensive form of child care if I have to stay with them – and I need to be able to go out alone!

    I’ve just started a new babysitter who has more flexibility and can come 4 times a week for 2 hours each. We’ve had 3 visits so far. I’m calling it bootcamp/ operation Mummy’s freedom!!

    – First visit playing inside with me present which went really well.

    – Second visit played inside happily for first hour and then they went down to the playground in our building which she is familiar with and loves. She screamed constantly from when she was still in the apartment and realized I wasn’t going, until she came back 30 minutes later. She took about 15 minutes for me to hold her whilst she calmed down before she happily went and played with the babysitter in her room again.

    – Third visit. Happily played. I explained that they were going to play, that mummy was going to stay in the apartment and do some work, and that I’d come down with a snack in 15 minutes. I thought I’d try a different tactic. She screamed the whole time, stood up for a little bit while crying (progress, rather than going limp on the ground!) and then calmed down very quickly once I arrived with the snack. Happily played afterwards.

    How should I continue to approach this? I was thinking continue with the play, then snack routine and once she’s fine start to space out the time.

    Any advice would be wonderful! I really need some freedom and sanity and don’t want to mess her up in the process 😉

    Thankyou!!

  14. avatar Jen says:

    Hello!

    I was searching for this topic and found this article. I am currently having an issue with this with our eight month old. Honestly, I don’t really mind much. (I am kind of loving the feeling that my youngest likes me so much! My others never went through this to the same extent.) However, I do need to get some things done!

    When my husband watches her, she screams something awful. Personally, I feel like he should continue to comfort her even if it doesn’t seem to be working. He says that he doesn’t see the point in coddling her if she is going to be upset anyway. (Which, I’ll be honest, makes me pretty angry.)

    My concern is that my husband doesn’t have the same outlook on parenting as I do. He doesn’t really try to connect with our baby. In his defense, he is very quiet and introspective. It doesn’t go over well with our little one when he doesn’t acknowledge her, though.

    So, I guess my question is: who is right? Even when she is inconsolable, should he still attempt to calm her down or should he allow her to cry? I feel like it is a no brainer, but maybe I am one of those helicopter parents and don’t realize it.

    • avatar janet says:

      Jen, can you explain what you mean by “calm her down”? I think allowing a loved one her feelings is the most wonderful gift and the very best way to bond. Accepting and acknowledging the feelings while letting them be is what I recommend.

  15. avatar sharday says:

    Hello, I am new mom and my baby is now 7 weeks. When she was born we found out she had colic, so we were always holding her and soothing her. I am now getting ready to go back to work, and all she wants is go be held. I am not comfortable putting her down to cry and if I tell her I am going to step away she cries even harder. What should I do so that her soon to be caregivers will be able to put her down?

    • avatar Lisa says:

      Sharday,

      I remember reading an article of Janet’s a while back. Start by telling her what you will do. “I’m going to put you down now. This will be a little different.” She will cry when you put her down, so acknowledge this. “You’re upset, you didn’t want me to put you down. This is hard, it is very different from me holding you.” Stay calm and loving, but hold firm. Sit with her for a while. If she keeps crying quite a bit, ask her if she’d like to sit in your lap for a bit.

      Eventually, she should get used to being put down and trust that you aren’t leaving forever. Like Janet has said, be fully present during the “necessary” times (diaper, feeding, nursing, dressing), have predictable routines around sleep, and try being near her while she is on the ground. Giver her confidence in you by following through — once you put her down and let her know you’ll be back and acknowledge her feelings, follow through by stepping away. It’s okay for her to cry about being put down, it’s new and she loves you. But each time you follow through and come back, the words make more sense, and the actions make more sense.

      At this age, fussiness ramps up around 6 weeks and then starts calming down as it goes to 10-12 weeks. Take a look into Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Baby by Weissbluth to learn about brain development and sleep patterns. Getting some solid naps and night sleep will help her morale and energy quite a bit.

      Best of luck. My 9 month old has started a fussy/clingy phase and this is our problem right now. I’ve had to reread a lot of RIE articles to get my mind right. It is TOUGH, and feels like newborn stage again. Solidarity, mama!

  16. avatar Lilian says:

    I desagree with “she’s going to believe she’s incapable of coping with even the smallest struggles herself”, point 2.
    It’s a baby, we guess but we don’t know what they think. And I beleve that is different from one baby to another.
    I know babies that reacted bad if the parent helped them to soon… other if the parent reacted to late. And soon and late is different from baby to baby.

    A 6 months baby is unlikely to anticipate, they feel the distress in that moment; I doubt they already make jugements about self-esteem or similar.

    In this line, after 1 year old when they realise the separation from parents, I beleve it’s ok to ask permission to leave. It’s like you involve they in the decision; “I’m going in there, ok? I need to the bathroom, you do to, everybody does; I’ll be back to you, I’ll miss you all the 3 minutes; you don’t like me leaving, but you will not like if I do not go”.
    Ok may be more of an assurence that the child understood my need or that he also had a saying, even if only in retarding the leaving of the parent.

    Also, in some cases the child looks for the resultes of his crying and the cry is possible to be used for something else that expressing the loss.
    In this cases, isn’t better to distract the child?
    Like:”Are you still upset your mom is gone or you’r looking to get something from me?”
    In many cases when the child accepts the leaving of the parent he still cries; sometimes he asks for sweets, for cartoon, for a special toy.
    In these cases, the child adapted to the new situation and is searching to compensate the loss. Sometimes he needs the substitute, sometimes the child only knows that he can get something, so… why should’n he?

    In babies, distracting is always good, crying for long does not help anybody. The cry itself gives the baby a bad state… so I desagree.
    It’s like depression: a bad day can make two and so on; you have to distract yourself out of that state of mind and concentrate on other things.
    But, of course, it is different from one baby to another…

    Lilian

  17. avatar Heidi says:

    This is round 2 for me for toddlers and infants, I have an 18year old and a 14 yr old as well, so I’ve gone through the clingy phases often.

    A few things I’ve picked up over the years, Never bribe your children to leave or stay in a place, my son’s grandmother used to give him a bag of candy everytime we left the house so that he would stop fussing. Even when we told her to stop she would sneak it, so we didn’t see her for a few months, but after that we never had problems with my son leaving. He understood that it was time to go and crying was ok but not going to change that.

    I’ve also nursed my 4yr old until she was 2 and a half, and now my 20mth old son. I noticed and speaking to other mothers who have nurses for long periods, that they get very clingy between 18-20 months, they want to nurse all the time and just be with mom. I always associated these times with some sort of emotional growth period for them.

    As for screaming when leaving them with dad. The dads of my children always understood that it wasn’t personal and would try to help as much as they could.

    I never sneak out, always say goodbye and show my children that I trust that whoever I am leaving them with will care for them.

    I’ve never had too much trouble leaving them behind and during the times they are being extra clingy, I make arrangements around that, after all it is such a short period of time until they are teens and then want nothing to do with you!!! Haha.

    Great Post!

  18. avatar Rachel says:

    Wow from reading all the replies I’m not seeing the extent of what I’m going through with my 23-month old. I am extremely stressed out about it, as our second child is due in less than 2 months. My son is so needy, follows me everywhere, has to sit next to me or on me at all times. I cannot take a shower or put him in his room for a nap unless I want the police at my door from all the complains of banging on the door and screaming noises. My child will barely play independently. The only way I’m able to eat a quick meal is by standing in the kitchen on the other side of the baby gate. If I don’t have his undivided attention he screams, throws things like his bowl of food in his high chair. I know I am clueless, I must be doing a horrible job… and I did realize from this article I am guilty of following him around a play area to ensure his safety and safety of others because he is so rough, etc. I am so drained mentally, can never get anything done, and I am suffering as he is. Please help.

    • avatar Ria says:

      I am in exactly the same boat only my child is 3… you described exactly how she is, and it is draining. No one seems to be able to tell me what to do?? did you have any luck?

  19. avatar Keri says:

    Hi Janet,

    My son is 16 months old and leaving him with anyone but his dad has been, well, ugly. Dad watches him and typically all goes well. In the past I tried leaving him for an hour with a sitter and he cried himself sick, multiple times. I even brought her with me to the gym and she pushed him in the stroller outside, no luck either. When dad was trying to put him to bed the other night he was crying for me so hard he got a bloody nose. I’ve tried having my sitter come over as a mommy helper and when he sees her he won’t go near her and clings to me. If I leave them to change the laundry he will completely come unglued. Although I have not tried this recently. I am concerned over him crying so hard he gets sick or if he gives himself another bloody nose. I really want to have someone watch him for an hour or so at times, but don’t want him to be that stressed. I strive to build our relationship on the thoughts of RIE and Steiner. Just looking for some help. Thanks for all your amazing posts

  20. avatar BND says:

    Cant cook, cant work, cant clean, cant sleep, cant speak to my wife, or visa versa, consumes every waking moment … Her mom works 3 days a week, so its daddys (my) day, I should look forward to it but its so often beyond exhausting… the morning event ‘mom leaving’ blow out hour or so, mother frustrated as shes on the clock, bad start to the day, she leaves, daughters temper tantrum that settles out eventually. I then take her out shopping, ‘i want a toy’ turns to ‘i want mommy’ temper tantrum…. 2 straight hours repeating same demand, I of course cant focus, cant shop, speak to anyone, miserable time… and its not even noon yet, 6 hours to go. Back home a brief quite period, then another ‘i want’ some impossible demand, another hour of repeating escalating impossibility, tantrum… I cant really eat, maybe throw a dry bun in my face, cant cook… kill me now lol, I ask myself – whens mom home? this sucks… now I feel guilty…. ‘i want mommy’ this is fun, ‘ i hate daddy’ ohh nice. .. my life sucks. I know this cant be normal, people wouldnt have children, or never more than one, again I feel guilty for even saying that.

    • avatar Lisa says:

      BND, sorry for your struggle. I’ve heard that kids go through phases of wanting one parent more than the old and swinging back and forth. I’m only 9 months into parenting and my daughter has just started getting very very clingy and fussy.

      The best I can say is to try to not take anything personally, and try to take moments to gather yourself. Acknowledge and validate her emotions, and offer love and affectionate touch if she needs it. See if there is something the two of you can make a routine, something that is just her and daddy (maybe a hike, a certain park or playground, an activity, etc). That’ll give her something to look forward to during the daddy days.

      She may also be going through a developmental leap, testing boundaries as she is developing her will, etc.

      During meals, focus on offering her healthy food that she likes or you think she will like. If she chooses not to eat, don’t force the issue. Make sure she gets fluids, and don’t make a big deal about her not eating. She will get hungry enough to eat. If she throws food, I’ve seen Janet mention “You threw your food, you must be done eating. I’ll take your plate away now, thank you for letting me know you are done.” She can correct me if wrong.

      With toy battles in the store, acknowledge that she likes the toy and wants it, but set the boundary before you walk into the store that you won’t be buying anything that’s not “on the list” or any toys etc. One option I’ve seen is to say “I see you really like that toy. Should we add it to your wishlist for your birthday?” and start a wish list. Another one is to use the opportunity to talk about money.

      Keep in mind, too, that she may be trying to find some control with the days flopping back and forth between you and mom. Take some time to sit down with her and go over parenting styles, see if you two are doing something differently that might be throwing your daughter off. Also, see if she can be an advocate for you on her mommy days.

      Hopefully Janet can weigh in and offer some experienced and educated advice, I’m sort of grasping at straws from all I’ve been reading. Remember, too, to go easy on yourself. It’s okay to feel burnt out and frustrated.

  21. avatar Tiera says:

    Hello!
    My daughter is now 21 months old. When she was born she cried often and I was the only one with her most of the time. I was very stressed and anxious, terrified of the weight of raising a child, and my response to stressful situations is to shut everyone out. So it was just her and me trying to deal with everything. I wish I had let her cry more, instead of worrying that something was wrong that I couldn’t see. Or worrying that she would think I didn’t love her if I didn’t respond to her every motion. But I didn’t, I did exactly what you describe not to do, and I feel that I’ve ruined her self confidence. She is very cautious, stays by my side at the playground or goes on the swing. And it took me a while to encourage her to try a new task. For example, if I presented toothpicks and a salt shaker she only wanted to watch me, and showed no interest in exploring it herself.
    She refused the bottle when I tried to go back to work, I came home and she was hysterical, I tried to leave several times but same thing, so I quit. I have a lot of guilt over this and I feel like everything has just snowballed. I rarely leave her with anyone. I just honestly don’t trust most people, I feel that they don’t respond to her appropriately. And I want her to grow into a different person than I did. I don’t agree with the tough love parenting of her grandparents, who tried to leave her in a swing in front of the tv or let her just scream until she fell asleep.
    I didn’t realize how restricting I was being until she was around 13 or 14 months, when the clinginess was out of control and I was carrying her the entire day. Shes gotten better now and so have I, but I feel like I’ve still damaged her. One of the biggest things is when she goes to sleep. She still nurses and we co-sleep. Everyone tells me to just let her cry. I cant. Its a different cry, a hysterical terrified cry if anyone but me tries to go in there when she wakes. I nurse her to sleep and she will sleep by herself for 4-5 hours before she wakes up and I lay with her the rest of the night. I honestly don’t mind it most of the time. But I worry that I’m hurting her independence. And I also think her Dad is feeling a little left out of time with both of us. Hes expressed to me he would like to be able to put her to sleep, and would also like a night out for the two of us. I want to respect his feelings without disrespecting hers. It’s become such an automatic response, I’m barely awake enough to try something besides the breast to get her back, its like I can’t remind myself to do it.
    Sorry this was so long I just really need advice.
    Thanks if you’re reading,
    Tiera

    • avatar Olga says:

      I know it’s an old post, but I still wish to let you know, Tiera, that I am still going exactly the same scenario with my 2 1/2 year old daughter. Except at night she wakes up every 2 hours and I don’t have her dad support. I don’t know how long ago you posted this but it helped me to hear that i’m not the only one with “difficult” child. Best of luck to you and your lo.

  22. avatar Chandrima Sinha Roy says:

    what to do when my kido is not listening to my words or he is lying down to the floor because what he is asking for is not getting. I a afraid as I can not make myself cool in these moments and scold him, shouted on him. please help me out. i try not to shout but in that moment i could not resist myself. please help me.

    • avatar Lisa says:

      Take a breath before you shout. Remember how young he is, and how difficult it can be to learn rules and boundaries. Acknowledge and be present. Ask if he needs a cuddle perhaps. Try to be confident and calm, as if you were a manager working with a disgruntled employee that you really value and want to help develop. Remember that your feelings are important, too. It is okay to say “I’m going to step away for a moment, I need to take a break.” Even if it’s only for 60 seconds. You’re modeling emotional management, and you’re preparing yourself on how you want to parent in the moment. It’s brutally tough, and don’t beat yourself up when you slip up.

  23. avatar Bayly says:

    I know this post is older now but was hoping you could give me some advice. I have an 18 month old who will be starting a parents morning out two days per week in 2 months. Over the summer I tried her at another preschool to go to “camp” which is basically the same schedule, two mornings per week. I thought this would help get her used to being away from me but she cried the whole time and now it has gotten worse! She is fine when a babysitter comes to the house. She will cry for a minute when I leave but then they can easily distract her and she will play. It is just when I try to leave her somewhere. We have been reading books about leaving mommy and I have been taking her up to the school to play on the playground and in her classroom to get used to going there. Any other suggestions that will help with this situation? I am getting anxious about school starting! Thank you!

  24. avatar Amber W says:

    Hi Janet,

    I’m curious what your advice is for a single parent when there is no other caregiver in the house. My 2 3/4 year old son has always been a bit clingy and on the anxious side. I subscribe to many of the tenets of attachment parenting for the most part and, low and behold, I have an attached child.

    But lately it’s getting to the point that I seriously can’t go to the bathroom or make myself a cup of tea in the morning without him begging me to stay in the same room as him (we live in a small two-bedroom space – he’s always pretty close to me), pulling on my clothes, and crying.

    I have to just carry on as we have a morning routine to keep up with in order to get out the door to daycare and work (and daycare drop offs have also become horrible). But I feel awful that he’s so stressed to not be near me.

    I always tell him I understand that he wants to be near me, that I like being near him too, but that I have to go potty/make breakfast/etc. and he can come with me or I will be back in 5 minutes. Doesn’t seem to help make him feel any better.

    Since there is no other caregiver to reassure him in my absence from his immediate vicinity, what would you suggest?

    Thanks so much!
    Amber

  25. avatar Eleni says:

    Beautiful article Janet!!! Thank you for your inspiring readings!

  26. avatar Tracey says:

    Hi Janet,
    My daughter is going to be 7 months on Sept. 6th but her corrected age is 4 months as she is a preemie. She just started with what I think is separation anxiety. If I walk out of the room she cries/screams so hard she starts to choke. The part I don’t understand is my mom is at my house almost everyday and she started doing this even with her. I am with her 24/7, and most of this was due to her not being able to have a lot of people around since she was a preemie. Please help. thank you!!

  27. avatar mimiB says:

    I think what I have found important is to manage my own expectations. As a parent its easy to think ” I just need 5 minutes, thats reasonable right?” And it is. But we are not reasoning with the needs of another adult. Babies and children do need us in what sometimes feels like overwhelming quantities. As my child has grown working with this, rather than against it has helped. Building environments of love, attatchment and trust do slowly grow confidence and independence.

  28. avatar Patti says:

    Thanks for posting Janet! I am struggling with my almost 4 year old being clingy as well. He has periods of time when it seems like I cannot give him enough attention to “fill” him up, and then start doubting about whether the attention I am giving him is feeding into the clinginess. I meet his needs, spend time talking with him or watching him play, encourage him to do things for himself. If I leave the room (say to do laundry or get dressed) he follows me asking incessant questions or calls “I need you!” I feel bad if I do not respond to his questions or requests but during the periods where they are happening every couple of minutes I am at a loss as to what to say. I do set limits on some things, such as “I am eating right now, I will help you when I am finished.” Many days he is very autonomous and I do have my mom here to help, but I don’t know how to “reset” things when we get into these days when it just does not seem to end. Hope it makes sense, I have found just a few moments and he’s already looking for me!

  29. avatar VJ says:

    Thanks a lot. It came at very right time for us. We were struggling very hard to managed our little daughter during this phase. Now relaxed and confident that we will handle this situation better in positive manner.

  30. avatar Amy says:

    Hi my 5 year old little girl started school in September and although we had a few tears the first few days all was ok then returning after the Christmas holiday she told us another child was being mean and pushing her, she was very distressed and cried to the point of making herself sick, we have sorted out the problem at school but she still crystal every evening to the point of being sick, she can’t tell us why she feels upset just that she is, any help please. Amy

  31. avatar Jessica Millar says:

    Hi Janet,

    great post and just what I needed today!
    My 19 month old daughter is going through a phase of wanting to be picked up all the time and carried everywhere. She was an early walker and usually pretty independent but just recently walking is boring. I’m not sure whether it’s a new phase of clingyness, boredom of walking or whether she’s frustrated being pint-sized and not seeing what adults can see further up. How can I explain to her that I can’t carry her all the time?
    Thanks Jess

    • avatar janet says:

      Hi Jessica! I would be totally honest. All children deserve our honesty. It’s either, “I can’t pick you up now, but after I ___, I’d love for you to sit with me.” OR, “Yes, I’d love to carry you to the car.” Totally up to you. But be confident and comfortable with her objections!

      I would not carry her around for the sake of carrying her (even if that’s okay with you in the moment), because motion has a sedating effect that can be habit forming and tends to “fix” children’s feelings rather than encouraging them to express them.

      • avatar Jessica Millar says:

        Thanks Janet! Being confident and comfortable is the key to so many things, isn’t it. Definitely something I have to work on with my strong-minded lil one! Thanks again!

  32. avatar Jenn T says:

    Oh, this is wonderful! I’ve started letting my toddler have some independent time in the later afternoon. We have lunch, and then Mommy needs to do some dishes. We put on Pandora for music, and before I know it, he’s playing his little heart out in the playroom/livingroom. There’s a gate just before the kitchen, so he can see me, but can’t get to me. He’s pretty content to play for at least 15-20 minutes: at least lets me do some dishes, vacuum, etc. Stuff that I can’t do while he’s sleeping. I’m trying to get him used to at least entertaining himself, before his little brother arrives in a few months. 🙂

  33. avatar Sarah says:

    I am struggling with my 4 year old daughter’s separation anxiety. When I drop her off at pre-school she gets herself into a real panic and becomes hysterical when I try and leave, clinging onto me like I am leaving her to be tortured! This has started since I have started to take her to pre-school rather than the childminder who had no problems at all. She has also started to do the same when I try and leave her at night and I usually have to spend about 30 mins calming her down enough for me to leave the room. Is there something I can do to help her that I am not doing? She is a highly sensitive child but is also very confident in some situations although very clingy in large groups.

  34. avatar Rae says:

    Sorry but I don’t see the help in this article at all. I don’t feel that this is an acceptable solution to the problem. In my case it seems to make things worse. It’s reasonable to say that just accepting the behavior and not doing ANYTHING to try and resolve it would mean nothing changes! Maybe they grow out of it soon, but what if they don’t. Coddling in my opinion is not a solution. There has got to be some kind of positive reinforcement or distraction technique that can help. Maybe I’m just beyond tired of hearing it’s just a phase and soon you’ll miss it because as it stands I look back and wish things could have been better/happier for me and my son during this time!

  35. avatar Amanda says:

    Hi Janet. I’ve been practising RIE for a few years now. My youngest is almost 2.5 and we are in the midst of a very clingy period in developmemt. Whether home or out, he will yell “mommy” over and over despite letting him know when I leave the room. It’s almost an anxious sounding call for me and he repeats my name even if I say “I’m right here.” It’s really getting tiresome as I hear it often. I’m a pretty patient person, but the calling out wears on me. I always tell him with advance if I have to be out of the house and when. He handles those kinds of tranditions with ease (interestingly), but the more day to day separation is really hard for him. It’s also like this in public, but both of my boys stick close to me in public and venture out when they warm up to a situation. I’m more concerned about the calling out when we are at home. Suggestions? Thank you!!!

    • avatar janet says:

      Here’s the issue, Amanda: “It’s almost an anxious sounding call for me and he repeats my name even if I say “I’m right here.”

      It sounds like you’re getting caught up in your concern that calling your name means he’s anxious and that you need to make this better. My sense is that this has become a test… He repeats it because it bothers you. So, don’t let it bother you! So what if he wants to call your name one hundred times? Every once in awhile you can answer, “Hi!” or “I’m here in the kitchen, in case you forgot” in a relaxed, easy tone. Lalalalala. Just letting this feeling of his (or whatever it is) be.

      • avatar Amanda says:

        Thanks Janet. I will work on my reaction.

        I was away for a weekend with my oldest and my husband said our youngest did the same with him. At home and in public, as soon as he would leave the room (at home) or a stranger smiled at him (in public), he would start calling “daddy” over and over. In public he bursts into tears and says “that’s scary.” So glad he can express his feelings. I do hope he can relax a bit more with time.

  36. avatar Nicky says:

    My almost 3 year old is awful with being clingy, she goes to pre school 3 days a week and it’s not helping at all. She screams if I don’t pick her up and with her all the time. This happens even when we’re at home. She won’t play independently

  37. avatar Kendra says:

    I have an almost 3 year old son who is so needy & clingy that he is completely unable to do anything on his own. I have to play FOR him (he will just sit & watch). I only let him watch an hour of cartoons every day, and I have to sit WITH him while he watches. He has to sit in my lap when I’m using the bathroom. I have to carry him everywhere, even room to room. If I don’t do what he wants me to do, he throws huge temper tantrums. I know I need to get a handle on this NOW, but I am at a complete loss as to what to do! Just as a note in case it matters, my husband passed away when our son was 8 months old. When he passed, I moved my son and I home to my parents, so they are a CONSTANT presence in his life as well. Do you have any insight that might help me.

  38. avatar Maria goga says:

    Hi! We have a 10 month old boy, we came to Portugal to visit my husband’s family which he has seen twice this year, we have been here for the last 5 days staying at my mother’s in law house, and we have a 3 day trip to london this weekend only my husband and I. We are a little bit nervous of leaving him with his grandmom because he doesn’t know her that much, and ever since we got here he has been so clingy and sentimental, we have noticed that when he is alone with her he seems ok! But when he sees us he can’t be with her, he only wants us. We leave at 6am on friday so by the time he wakes up he won’t see us! Im so nervous to brake his heart :(, back home he is very used to be with my parents and the person that helps us, but here is different because he doesn’t know them. Will he be missing us the complete time? But we really want to go to the trip! Please if you could give us some advice.

  39. avatar Helen says:

    My daughter has just turned 1. For as long as I can remember she won’t let me put her down. I’m not talking put her down and walk away (but of course that gets a full blown reaction) but even if I sit her at my feet to fill her water cup or make her a snack etc. As soon as she feels she is being lowered down she’ll scream and scream and scream till she’s picked up. My first daughter (almost 3) was nothing like this. My 12 month old won’t go to anyone except her dad, but that’s brief and within a minute she’s screaming to come back to me. My parents look after her the 2 days I work and she accepts that, I hand her over quickly and walk away. Apparently she is ok. In fact it sounds like she’s better when I’m not around. But she will not go to anyone else. Her Santa photo this year is quite hilarious. Even Santa looked like he was going to cry. The problem is my dad has just been diagnosed with cancer, and although my folks have indicated they will still look after my girls ‘to keep them out of Childcare’ I think it’s unfair. I honestly think she’ll be kicked out of Childcare haha!
    She’s been like this for as long as I can remember and I’m finding it difficult to accept this is just a phase! No one I meet can believe how she is. She’s always been a little ahead of herself (rolled at 3.5 months, crawled at 5, walked at 10) but all she’s used this for is to track me down quicker. I can’t believe she mastered these skills when she feels like she’s forever attached to my hip. If my near 3 year old needs me in the toilet I put the 12 month down explaining I’m needed and I’ll be back in 2 minutes. She screams till she locates me then hangs from my legs and screams until she’s picked up (difficult when wiping a toddlers bum). as soon as she’s picked up she stops. She’ll even cry when I put her down and sit with her or nearby her until she realises I’m staying there. When we are successfully playing and I have her interacting in something all it takes is for me to stand up and she’ll start screaming. It’s like I have to be on her level.
    On the plus side she sleeps approx 12 hours a night, eats fantastically and is happy and hilarious (when she has my undivided attention). She’s actually better when we are out and about – maybe because I’m sat or I’m still and the threat of me walking away is less?
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

  40. avatar Anais says:

    I just discovered your podcast, website, and books, Janet! I am consuming this information as fast as I possibly can.

    I came across this post after searching “separation anxiety” on your website because I am experiencing it very strongly with my 17-month-old daughter. I just recently started leaving her on a fairly regular basis to attend prenatal appointments. (I’m seven months pregnant with twins.) Often times, I’ve had to leave the house during her nap time. I’m struggling with how to address this with her. I always say goodbye before I go, but if I’m about to put her down for a nap and know I won’t be there when she wakes up, what do I do? I’ve left notes and photos explaining that I’m gone and when I’ll be back, but the caregivers have reported that she only gets angrier after seeing them.

    The last two times I’ve left, she’s cried for the entire time I was out. It breaks my heart! Your sage advice is greatly appreciated.

  41. avatar Jess says:

    I really love to read articles like this. I learn some but also become more comfortable with my parenting techniques. I’m constantly being told that I’m going to spoil my kids and, in the case of my daughter, told I’m making her into a bully. She’s 6 yr old and fiercely independent. My 13 month old son is becoming the same way. They know what they like and what they want to do or how they want to do things. (Not saying I let them run rampant) But I let them have their say and allow them to explore and try new things or not try new things. My m.i.l doesn’t like that my daughter stands up for herself and others and if she’s uncomfortable with something that grandma wants her to do she says no and won’t budge on the matter. And again my son is showing signs of being the same way. I just do things it said in the article. I don’t rush in, I stay back and let them explore and I let them be vocal. I don’t let my son cry for long periods of time (more than 5 minutes) but that’s because I know it make me feel bad when I cry for a long time so I figure it’ll make feel the same.

    Sorry for the long paragraph. Just read this at time everyone felt the need to vocalize how I’m failing my kids.

  42. avatar Yadira says:

    Thank you! I have been going through this with m 9 month old this week. He has been going to daycare since he was 2 months and has never cried while there. Well this past week he was home for about a week with us. When I took him back to daycare he cried when I dropped him off. I felt really awful. They tell me he is ok for a bit but then while he is playing he begins to cry. Today was his third day back and did a lot better. But now I run into the problem if I’m off work should I still take him? I feel if I keep him home I’m making it harder for him. I talk to him especially in the morning when getting him ready. I tell him, you are going to daycare today to play with your friends.

  43. avatar Rita says:

    What advice do you have on handling two clingy children? I have two girls (3 and 1) who are competing for my attention at the same time. When I carry one, the other wants to be carried, but each doesn’t want me to carry the other. Dad is only available in the afternoons so I’m holding down the fort in the mornings by myself.

  44. avatar Rose says:

    Thank you for this, Janet. I have a 3 month old baby and my 2 year old has been unrecognisable from his former self, since his brother’s birth. He has gone from being a confident, independent young child to a whimpering wreck every time I stand up and leave the room without taking him with me. I had a traumatic birth this time around, and was separated from my elder son for 5 days after surgery in hospital. I wonder if that set the wheels in motion for abandonment complex. I have tried to explain to him that mummy needs to change baby’s nappy, or go to the toilet, but he insists on coming with me, trailing me like a shadow and crying if I walk too quickly ahed of him. Recently, he has taken to insisting I carry him up and down the stairs, which is difficult and simply not possible when I am carrying the baby. I offer him my hand, but he cries at the bottom of the stairwell until I submit to his will and pick him up (having safely deposited the baby.) He has to come to the loo with me, and closes the door pointedly when he does so – seemingly closing the baby, usually in the next door room – out. Having always napped well previously, he now refuses to go down all day without hysterical tears, imploring me not to leave him. I cannot bear to, so end up taking him out of his cot and forgoing the munch needed nap time for him, and time out for me. I am at the end of my tether. He says ‘Mumma’ repeatedly throughout the day, more often than not with no ensuing question, ensuring my attention is on him at all times. The baby is not allowed a look in, and it is making me sad, claustrophobic and resentful. I had planned to send my 2 year old to a preschool for 6 hours a week during my maternity leave, to give me some much needed respite, and encourage some independence and socialisation on his part, but every time i take him to a play group, he cries incessantly when I am out of his vision (to change his brother’s nappy or fetch a glass of water.) I return after less than a couple of minutes to a hysterical child who seems convinced I have abandoned him forever. What is going on? Any advice would be appreciated. I really can’t go on like this.

  45. avatar Jade says:

    Thank you. Just, Thank you x

  46. avatar Ria says:

    My daughter is 3.3 months. She is independent at daycare, always has been, yet at home i cannot leave the room, get of the sofa or do anything without her wanting me and asking me to come back. if it is for something like me cooking the dinner, i explain to her that i cant and i have to cook dinner etc, but she still will cry for me or have to come and sit with me. She will not play with ANYTHING on her own, nothing, if she gets a toy, it will be because we have asked her to get something to play with and she will only play it with us. if we refuse (nicely) she has a screaming fit and wont play with it. She will only read books with us, although she does love books. she had a whole playroom, wouldn’t go in it unless we went in with her to sit down and play. i feel like it should have got better by now, but it seems to get worse. What advice do you have for me or us as parents to try and tackle this so that she becomes independent at home. I’m not trying to get her away from us all the time, but she needs to learn that she can be happy on her own too.. she is a very smart cookie! Any advice form people in similar positions or help that has worked would be incredible. I am waiting to see the paediatrician too about this as well as other things, but it’s such hard work!

  47. avatar Rachel says:

    HI, I appreciate this thread has been going for some time now, but would love some insight and reassurance. I am single mother of 21 month twins. They have always had a really great routine and for the most part very happy, confident little people. However in the last few weeks my son has become very quiet and very clingy. He refuses to crawl up or down the stairs or walk to and from his bedroom instead screaming for me to pick him up and be carried. This is very out of character. Is this a ‘phase’ that is typical of someone his age? Should I be concerned by his quietness? Should I stand steadfast in my refusal to carry him up and down the stairs even though he sometimes cries until he is hysterical and beyond comfort. He’s definitely not himself.Any advice/insight gratefully received.

    • avatar janet says:

      Hi RAchel – is there anything else going on for you or your family? Generally, I would happily carry him when you can and don’t mind doing that and, if you can’t, let him that he can come by himself or you will carry him when you are able to. So, just be honest about your boundaries, but don’t try to force him to walk by himself just to make a point. I think more will be revealed as to the reason he’s behaving this way.

  48. avatar Averjit kaur says:

    Hi Janet,

    Once again very informative reading! I work in childcare and u my room I have 2 girls 14 months and 16 months. I am their primary care Giver. Whenever they come they just want to sit with me while I am inside but when we go outside they are happily play in the yard and always come back for little cuddle.
    When I am inside I have 4 more children to look after as I am their primary caregiver. Every time I leave them to do something they are crying.
    What should I do in this situation ?
    I feel like it’s not fair with other children as these girls are getting all my intention .
    Could you help me out how I encourage them to play or some thing else. They started in January 2017.

  49. avatar Clare says:

    Hi Janet

    I often read your posts and kick myself for not “finding out about” your parenting advice before my Son reached the age of 2.

    Like many UK Mothers I thought it was “Ok” to go back to work when my Son was 1 year old. Our society encourages it, its when paid parental leave ends in the UK and it feels frowned upon to “stay at home” and not return to work to be a “house wife” or “full time Mum”.

    I found a good child minder, but in my head and heart she wasn’t “good enough”. She wasn’t me. I wasn’t perfect but i wish I’d trusted my gut that being with me was the best option for my Son than being with a stranger.

    I dropped my Son off 3 days a week, for 9.5 hours a day for 9 months. Every day he clung to me and cried desperately. And every day I left in tears. Every evening he was clingy, angry, grumpy and every night he woke every hour for the whole night. This went on for 9 long months. I felt like I lost my sanity, I argued with my family about the situation (I felt judged for having a child that didn’t sleep and clung to me too much) and I almost lost my marriage through sheer exhaustion and exasperation. I then finally chose to stay at home or work less and have my Son at home with either my husband, my Mum or I, mostly with me.

    We reconnected and rebonded and have a wonderful relationship now. However my Son often goes through very clingy phases. Through reading your posts I’ve learned to embrace these and give him as much love and words of affirmation that he is loved and safe… to the point that he now says things like “Mummy we are attached” and “I’m filling up on Mummy love”. I let him sleep in my bed if he wants to whenever he chooses to but mostly he sleeps in his own bed but comes and climbs in with me a couple of nights a week which we both love.

    My concern at the moment is that he is constantly telling me he doesn’t like school. That he’s not confident enough to answer questions, that the work is too hard and he doesn’t understand it (he’s almost 5). He’s clingy on a morning (which I build in time for) and grumpy on an afternoon (which I plan for and am usually able to help him with and through these feelings).

    My question to you is, have I caused long term damage with the childminder situation? I didn’t let him cling and took her advice and left him crying most times.

    And, should I be acting on his words to me now regarding not liking school and his low self esteem. My gut wants to take him out of school and homeschool him but society tells me that this isn’t the right thing to do, that he will miss out on all the social side of school and his academic development will be limited at home. But, my gut tells me this is wrong and that for now the best place for him is at home with me supported by a home schooling community and that I should learn from the childminder situation and listen to what he’s telling me know… then my head tells me I’m wrong again.

    Please help!x

  50. avatar Kelly says:

    Hi Janet,
    As so many have said – thank you for your grounded insight into the lives of our children (and myself!!).
    I have a question/situation that I am just not sure what to do about. My 4.5 year old just started morning kindergarten 2 days a week, and a dance class. At first (for a few weeks), she LOVED them both. Like she would say ‘I don’t like it, I LOVE it!’ Her last day of school, she burst into tears when I picked her up and told me another kid would not let her play by herself. She wanted to have some alone time at school and she didn’t know how to get that without hurting the other girls feelings. So I gave her a couple example things to say and told her it’s important to be honest with your friends about how you are feeling and what you need. She seemed resolved and said ‘okay, I can do that.’
    But since then, she has left every single class she has done crying! Which never happened before. She doesn’t want to do anything without me (like an activity) and I even noticed when we were around other kids right after this incident (like at the chiropractor) she was really avoidant of them which is not like her at all.
    So we have decided to home school for one year and try her again after wards if we feel she is ready.
    And I guess I am confused – I don’t want to teach her giving up is right, or make her feel I don’t think she can do it. But I also want to respect her journey and personality and being around a group of kids all morning may be too overwhelming at this age. I have honestly been up for nights thinking about this and just don’t know what to do.
    Any insight you have is much appreciated. Thank you so much.

    • avatar janet says:

      Hi Kelly! Thanks for your kind words! I’m not sure I understand what’s gone on here, but I doubt that at 4.5 she would really need to spend the two mornings she has in a group setting doing activities on her own. Sorry, but I think I’d need to know more to be able to advise.

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