How to handle a clingy toddler?

Sugandha Tiwari
1 to 3 years

Created by Sugandha Tiwari
Updated on Oct 06, 2021

How to handle a clingy toddler
Reviewed by Expert panel

Toddlerhood is a stage when your child is exploring his or her surroundings. And while some toddlers express the desire to be free and independent there are some who cling on to their mommies. Oh, he or she will enjoy everything, be playful as well but the moment you try to touch him or her, he or she will run to the mom and cling on to her. So what did you do to make that playful toddler run into her mommy’s arms and cling on to her? Perhaps nothing, but the toddler did run away right? So let’s see why did the toddler ran away to cling on to her mom.

Why Do Toddlers Cling?

There could be numerous reasons for toddlers to cling to the parents especially mom, but here I am highlighting the most common ones.

  1. Looking for a secure base: Toddlers often cling to their parents to find a secure base they can always return back to. The feeling of trust that someone is always available and sensitive to their needs makes them cling
  2. Unpredictability: From the beginning stages itself toddlers get very anxious and stressed out with unpredictable and scary situations. Your toddler will search for the secured shelter of your cocoon in such times. For eg. Going to the school for the first time, getting introduced to play dates, being sent away to hostels at a young age
  3. Protection from emotional vulnerability: In line with unpredictability comes vulnerability. Every time your toddler is exposed to unpredictable situations, he/she also has to confront his/her vulnerable emotions. Emotions and insecurities of having to deal with strangers, tricky situations and more over their own helplessness to strongly face everything
  4. One of the ways to deal with an emotionally upsetting situation: As a baby the only way they can express their emotions is through a physical gesture, given language is not yet fully developed. This gesture could be hugging, kissing, crying, lying down on the floor or clinging on to you. Lot of times there are upsetting and stressful situations happening at the home front for eg. Marital discord, separation leading to single parenting issues, something as simple as families constantly moving places and shifting their base. All these can be crazy situations for toddlers, they might cling more to you in order to emotionally refuel themselves

What You Can Do To Reduce Clinging?

Here are some ways by which you can help your toddler.

  1. Your response: Under all situations you are the in charge. Stay calm and try keeping your tone of voice low and soft but firm. Remember all situations are also a testing and training ground for both you and your baby. As an adult you may want to consider taking care of your own emotional and mental health. See what are the possible ways and means to do that. Remember you are mainly going to oblige yourself because by doing so you will create opportunities for your transformation and making a better version of yourself for everyone
  2. Reassurance: For sure there would be multiple situations when you will be required to go away from your baby. Try making a kind of bonding where you are able to calmly tell your baby that “Mummy/Daddy is promising to be back soon and that they love you a lot
  3. Encourage regular time with others: If you have your other loved ones and relatives around, give enough time to your toddler to spend time with them. The more your baby spends time with other loving and caring adults, the less anxious he/she will feel Grandparents generally love to spend time with their grandchildren, if they do, you can schedule daily activities with them. Kindly coordinate with them on this, don’t force a decision, they too have their own old age and independence to enjoy
  4. Make them feel being heard: Try spending some quality time with your baby on an everyday basis. Toddlers may not have much to share in terms of using words, but just playing with them probably gives them the comfort that they have an opportunity to express themselves in their own individual and unique way. If he/she is playing independently you can join them and make them sit close to you or in your laps and be with them till the time he/she feels secured to let you go

What You Should Not Do To Encourage Clinging?

Here's what you should not to do to encourage clinging.

  1. Do not give in to unreasonable demands: If your baby learns to manipulate you to get his/her unreasonable demands met, then it will be difficult to break this cycle. Do not give in to any and every demand
  2. Avoid melodrama: At a very young age good byes can be a difficult emotion for your toddler to deal with. Don’t make “goodbyes” a big deal. It gives your baby a message that something is fearful. Your job is simply to be confident and reassuring instead of making the temporary separation a complete melodrama
  3. Complete silence: So, as an individual your personality type might be really the quiet one. Now this might be helping you in lot of places and relationships in life but with children in general it’s not a great trait to have. Your child for the first ten years at least needs loads of language input and ways to express himself/herself. And you are primarily the one who can role model it for him/her. When you are away from your baby, try having frequent conversations with him/her. Just hearing your comforting and reassuring voice itself can make a lot of difference. Children need constant reassurance that they are being loved and needed
  4. Stop your toddler’s over independency on you: It’s quite normal and natural for your baby to be completely dependent on you till the time he/she moves to a formal school. But even then there are things in which you can foster independence from early stages. Start with small things like rearranging the things in your home so that there is more free space for him/her to move around, show him/her the place where snacks and cookies are kept (stack them in moderation since you don’t want all this food to become his/her staple diet), keep other necessary things in lower drawers instead of hidden closets. Whenever your baby is ready to offer you help, rope him/her in
  5. I hope after reading this blog you would have a better idea as to why your toddler clings to you and what you can do to reduce it and make your toddler into a confident child.

    Did you like the blog on handling a clingy toddler? Share your views and feedback with us in the comments section below.

This content has been checked & validated by Doctors and Experts of the parentune Expert panel. Our panel consists of Neonatologist, Gynecologist, Peadiatrician, Nutritionist, Child Counselor, Education & Learning Expert, Physiotherapist, Learning disability Expert and Developmental Pead.

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| Nov 28, 2017

Hello Sugandha, your tips are really very scientific and apt. Very well written blog.

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| Nov 28, 2017

The more the freedom given to child to express and exercise his control over his surroundings , more independent he will become with each passing day.. however if we would keep on controlling and not let the toddler perform even basic chores for himself , very likely he will get dependent and would keep on clinging to us. That faith he would be fine and manage himself well, is very important from early age on to pass on the same message to child. thanks for sharing!!

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| Nov 29, 2017

So much needed to b done by folks. Had nvr thought that parents can improve d situation to a good extent. Loved your suggestion Sugandha.

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| Dec 01, 2017

lli. jhu nom ..

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| Dec 05, 2017

useful information

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