Help! My Toddler is so Clingy.

Some days  it can feel like toddlers  wake up, walk by a giant container of glue and decide to stick themselves right onto us for the rest of the day.  On these days, to manage even just a quick dash to the bathroom alone can be a difficult sometimes tear filled process.

Let’s be honest, no matter how much we love and enjoy our children, sometimes a mama has got to have a break.  Over the years, all three of my children had their clingy days, even clingy phases that lasted weeks if not months.  Coping with the clinginess in a positive and peaceful way although at times, a bit time consuming, really is possible.

Here are 10 ideas to prevent and get through the clingiest of times:

1. Start every day with snuggles and smiles: Even if you need to get dressed, or prep breakfast and your child wakes later than you, once your child is awake, choose a comfy spot to sit with your sleepy tot for just a few minutes. Ensuring a positive connection first thing in the morning really helps to build a connection and trust and reduce uncertainty in toddlers.

2. Involve your tot: Having tasks your toddler can do around the house that relate to what you need to do can go a long way in keeping your hands free and your toddler feeling connected, involved and important. Check out this list for ideas.

3. Set a routine: Toddlers crave predictability and routine. When your toddler knows that after breakfast there will be time to wash dishes followed by a story, followed by playtime, followed by a trip to the grocery store and so on they can start to predict their day and it reduces any possible fear of the unknown.

4. Communicate changes: It’s ok to be flexible with the routine or to change plans, just try to keep your toddlers perspective in mind too. Avoid sweeping them up abruptly and instead try to communicate changes clearly and prepare for transitions gently.

5. Use a carrier: Soft carrier, backpack style and hip carriers are a wonderful way to have your toddler nearby, feeling secure and still get things done.

6.Encourage independent play: Helping your toddler learn to play independently is a gift to both parents and child. The more you discover which activities really captivate your child’s interest, the more they will be inclined to play alone.  This post has lots of simple and fun ideas toddlers really enjoy.

7. Special time: Create a habit of setting aside time for your toddler throughout the day where you disconnect from the TV, web, cell phone and really just connect with your toddler. It could be breastfeeding followed by a story or building with blocks together for twenty minutes. Stay present, enjoy your toddler’s discoveries and share in the joy uninterrupted – truly uninterrupted.

8. Investigate underlying causes: Sometimes toddlers become extra clingy when they are getting sick, have a bit of constipation, are learning to master a new skill such as balancing, new words, new concepts. Try to tune into your toddler, it may be a matter simply providing lots of extra comfort and time together until it passes or you may need a visit to a health professional.

9. Change locations: Sometimes being home doing the same things over and over can lead to a bit of boredom. Why not explore the park, try the swings, visit a farm to look at animals, or take a neighborhood stroll. The change of scenario can be beneficial to everyone!

10. Adjust your expectations: Sometimes the need to get the house cleaned, errands done, meals cooked etc has a way of working on us that translates into being rushed, anxious and possibly less than patient.  Slow down, focus on your toddler and let the dishes sit for a while longer.  You do not get a do-over with your toddler, the days of must have hour-long cuddles to prevent tears will eventually phase away.

Clinginess is not a sign you have spoiled your child or that they will never be independent. in fact most clingy toddlers when reassured, loved and cared for in this stage blossom into fearless, independent, resilient and happy preschoolers.

Peace & Be Well,

Ariadne

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Ariadne is a happy and busy mama to three children. She practices peaceful, playful, responsive parenting and is passionate about all things parenting and chocolate. Ariadne has a B.S. in Communication, is a certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator, and has completed several graduate courses in child development, psychology and family counseling. She lives on top of a beautiful mountain with her family, one cuddly dog and "bluey" the fish.

10 thoughts on “Help! My Toddler is so Clingy.

  1. My 18 month old son has become so clingy that I find some days I am basically just reading, playing, singing dancing and cuddling until he goes to bed. This blog has been an excellent source of information on dealing with it although one pervasive problem that I have with the clingy behaviour is that he has started to forcefully reject his daddy – if I am carrying him and dad comes over to ask for a cuddle he will lean away or push him away saying “no”. My husband will sometimes just take him and it all ends in tears and screaming to get back into my arms “cuddle mummy” etc. very unpleasant and I feel guilty that dad is being rejected on a daily basis. Any advice?

    • Hi Patricia,
      Children sometimes will go through a phase of preferring one parent over another, but this preference doesnt mean more love but rather just a stronger pull to be together. I know it can be tough for the other parent to watch, or maybe the parent that is the preferred one in that moment feels guilty, perhaps overwhelmed, in need of a break even! At 18 months there isn’t a lot to do in the short term that will force a change, but there are things that can be done to encourage more balance. One thing is to avoid language that confirms those thoughts like “mama’s boy” and “oh you just prefer mama” or “well I guess only mama will do” or “yeah, daddy has no idea right?” instead if your child is refusing to go with daddy but it has to be like that you can empathize and encourage for example: “Daddy and you can figure this out, I will be back in a bit and you can tell me what you did!” and then really leave them to it. The back and forth, or looking sorry or sad is confusing and confirms that doubt. Leave with confidence and trust daddy to figure it out!! Also finding things that can be just daddy’s job helps. If daddy can create a ritual, maybe a story or a game that they play together, starting at a time when everyone is relaxed, maybe mom is close by but does not interfere…this way they get to create that special little moment together. Sometimes children will cry about having to be with another parent or caregiver but with patience that parent can help them realize, “uhm…actually I’m ok and safe with you too! Hope that helps!!

  2. hi my name is candace and my 3 yr old son and 2 yr old daughter fight for my attention and mine alone they wont let anyone else help me out with them like putting for naps or bedtime baths eating or anything…i dont know what to do because i also have a 5 month old daughter and i cant grow five arms and do everything for them all at once …my mom and boyfriend try to help me but they just wont let anyone in…what do i do???

    • Hi Candace,
      In what ways do you think your 3yr old and 2 yr old could build some connection with your mom and boyfriend? Are they spending time playing together and enjoying each other, building a relationship, with blocks, puzzles, story time etc.. this can help a lot when it comes time for them to help out with other things like bathing and bath time because they will feel more at ease together. Also can you try to make 10-15 minutes a day to spend with each child, when baby is napping for example to refill your kids needs for undivided attention from mom? Thank you for sharing your story.

  3. hi, we have a 5 years old boy and 1 year old twin girls. one of the twins, recently has become very clingy to either mom or dad, as long as we are carrying her and walking around she is fine, even when we sit on the floor or sofa with her on the lap, she starts to cry, and shows us she wants us to carry her, we are stumped, really not able to do anything, my wife has help in the day, and still not able to eat drink or go to the bathroom or even change after waking up, please help, we are getting depressed…

    • Mo, this sounds like a challenging situation for your family. Sometimes when children are going through learning or developmental milestones they may feel a need to be closer to a parent. Many children also feel comfort from moving around and being carried, however it is important for the balance and well-being of your family that everyone have a chance to eat well, rest and go to the restroom. Since you mention this has become difficult and that your child is in distress often, it might help your family to contact your pediatrician or health provider for assistance.

  4. So I have an almost 3 yr old. I recently got into a new relationship. My son was fine in the beginning, but now seems to not like him. I dont handle disipline very well, as I like to cuddle and be with my son. He likes to follow me around and well my bf seems to be against it. When my son is told to do something by my bf he will come to me and cry. if my bf says he cant follow me, he cries. So In return he gets told by my bf to go to his room till hes done. My bf seems to put his foot down when it comes to disipline. He wontever hit him, mainly just puts him in his room and takes toys away when he wont listen. I need help. Why is he being so clingy and whinny now. What can we or even myself do to make the days go by better.

    • Hi Stacie, imagine being in your sons shoes for a moment, his world has been changed quite a bit, how would you feel if someone you don’t really know that well suddenly started giving you orders and keeping you away from the person you love the most when you felt scared and upset? If you got angry and your boyfriend took away your purse, car keys or phone and told you can have it when you are being “good” I bet you would feel very mad at him!? At age 3 children are learning to be independent but they also need a lot of attention, reassurance and love, they want to be able to make decisions and choices, as parents we need to give them the right boundaries to make those choices in. While it’s important for you to spend time with your boyfriend, your son really needs his mom for guidance, love and attention, each and every day, your son has relied on you from birth for guidance, not your boyfriend. While you can help your child and boyfriend bond, it takes time to build trust and a real relationship, I would encourage you take time to do things one on one with just your son, give him the attention he needs, play games, read together, go to the park, and then also do these same activities with your boyfriend and your son. Discipline that works comes from trust and mutual respect. If your son hits, hold his hand, look him in the eyes and let him know hitting hurts, empathize with his feelings “you are angry” or “i think you are mad” and then let him know what he can do “you may not hit, but you may tell me you are mad, I will listen to you.”

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