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A clingy toddler: How do I get my child to interact with other people?

By September 30, 2009 - 7:48pm
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This is the problem I have a 19th month old baby girl. She is very clingy she will not stay with anyone outside of the sitter. My husband and I have tried eveything to get her from being so clingy. I dont know what to do I love my child but I really need some time to myself. She screams bloody murder if I try to leave her with anyone including family. I am desprate at my wits end. I dont know how to give my child that independence that she needs so that she will not cling to me so much. So if anyone has advice on how to deal with this please help me!!!!! I cant even take a shower without her in the bathroom with me or even go to the restroom alone.

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Thanks for your comments diane, My little one has been like this every since she was a baby. She used to cry when she went to the babysitter in the begining. Now she does not go to the babysitter anymore since I lost my job so it has gotten worst. She was getting along with the sitter fine before I lost my job. But now she is home with me everyday so I am all she enteracts with outside of my husband. Sometimes I just feel like she will never grow out of it and I will never be able to have me time again. Dont get me wrong I love my daughter and I would not give her up for anything in the world. But I crave for some adult time with friends.

October 2, 2009 - 9:58am

Hi, Unhappy in Brooklyn. Thank you for your question!

First, I think you should feel great that your little girl will stay with the sitter. She clearly can adjust to other people given time and patience. So you've done a good job there.

Second, many many toddlers go through an incredibly clingy stage. Has she always been this way, or is it something you have noticed more in the last few months? (Especially since she has learned to walk?)

Here is some great information for you from parenthood.com:

"The late Dr. Benjamin Spock’s venerable classic Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care points out that separation anxiety, of which clingyness is a part, is completely normal in 1- to 3-year-olds. Children’s desire to stay close to their parents once they learn to walk is an instinct probably related to the young of other species, such as sheep and goats, who follow closely after their mothers and bleat when they get separated. Unlike little lambs or kids (of the goat variety), who walk right after they’re born, human children don’t learn to walk until around 1 year old. But both kinds of young ones, once they begin to “toddle,” need the “trailing-after-mom (or dad)” instinct to protect them from getting lost or harmed.

"Dr. Kyle Pruett, a clinical psychiatrist at Yale’s Child Study Center and author of Me, Myself and I: How Children Build Their Sense of Self: 18 to 36 Months, says that clingyness is actually a toddler’s natural response to his or her primary “assignment” – becoming autonomous. Even at the tender ages of 1, 2 and 3, children want to be independent, and their entire childhood will be about making that happen – but it’s a very gradual process and it can be scary. Clinging on to Mom or Dad at certain moments is an attempt to downsize that scariness.

“It’s really important for parents to understand that clinging is a toddler’s course-correction, as if he’s saying ‘I’ve gone too far, I need my mommy, I need my daddy. I’m scared,’” Pruett explains. “It’s a response to this normal process of becoming his own person.”

Here's that link:


Here's another mom writing about the same thing you're experiencing:


Here are some tips on how to deal with separation anxiety from the What to Expect When You're Expecting website:

" • Start small. Get him used to the idea of you leaving by disappearing behind a door for a moment ("I'm back!"), then into another room for a couple of minutes ("Here I am!"), and finally leaving the house for (gradually) longer periods of time.
• Watch your body language. That smart little creature can detect anxiety or ambivalence through your facial expressions, movements, and tone of voice. (So no furrowed brows or nervous toe-tapping, please.)
• Exude the three c's: calm, confidence, and caring. If junior cries, don't scold, tease, and get annoyed. (Imagining yourself in his tiny shoes may help you keep your cool.) Tell him you understand how he feels. ("I know you want me to stay, but I'll be back soon. I love you.") Then make a quick exit.
• Never sneak out. It'll only make your child feel more anxious the next time you need to separate. Instead, create a "leaving ritual" (e.g., a parting phrase like "See you later, alligator," five kisses on each cheek, or an exchange of wacky waves from the window).
• Provide a mommy-reminder. Some kids like having a photo or a hand-drawn picture of your smiling face, or some other personal memento (like your glove or sock)."

There are more tips here:


and here:


The good news? Separation anxiety often peaks right around 18 months. Your baby girl has learned that you are a separate person from her, and she's trying her best to not lose her identification with you even as she is becoming more independent. So you may be dealing with the worst of it now. It typically fades by about age 3. Here's a bit more encouragement:


You're totally not alone in this. Hang in there, and maybe we'll get some other moms to relate their experiences with a clingy toddler as well.

October 2, 2009 - 8:54am
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