5 Tips for Dealing with Clingy Toddlers

September 5, 2015


   Does this sound familiar to you?  You're making dinner in the kitchen and you little one is happily occupied in the living room.  Your daughter is playing with the camera in the kitchen with you:


  Suddenly, you hear the patter of little feet and then a force field wraps itself around your legs.  You try to gently pry it off but it's amazingly strong and, because it's demanding something that you're not giving it, the force field also starts screaming.  At the same time that the timer on the oven goes off.  Your daughter takes a picture to memorialize this all-to-common event:

      I'm sure you've guessed by now that the force field is a toddler, in this case Fire, demanding to be picked up while D was just about to do something the he couldn't do if he was holding a child. What do you do?  You need to finish dinner but your child obviously wants your attention.  D and I have been parenting the under two set since February 2011 and we've learned a thing or two about dealing with clingy toddlers in the last four years.  Here are some of the ways we deal with clingy behavior in our house:


USE A CARRIER
  We love baby carriers in our house and this is my favorite way to deal with a child that wants "uppy" just when you need to be doing something with your hands.  I love that they allow a child to be near you and for you to engage with your child but keep your hands free to finish the task at hand.  We've used multiple brands of carriers in our home and you can find a review of our favorites here: Baby Carriers in Equatorial Climates

GIVE THEM AN ACTIVITY TO DO NEAR BY
A clingy toddler is one that wants your attention.  Sometimes a distraction will help pass the time until you can focus on them.  Fire loved playing with goop or small toys in his high chair and one of the best ways that I've found to distract Water while I'm cooking is to give him his own pan and spoon to play with.

FIND SOME MIDDLE GROUND
She wants picked up, you want her to walk.  How are you going to get where you need to go without a full blown temper tantrum?  If you're child is old enough to understand a bit of compromise, you can ask them to walk a certain distance before you'll pick them up.  Younger kids respond better to games- try picking your child up and then start tickling them.  When they start twisting away, put them down and tell them you're going to "get them".  Our kids love it when a walk turns into a game of chase.

GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT
Even though the laundry needs folded, the living room is a disaster area, and you really just want to sit and drink a beer, sometimes you need to do what your child wants you to.  Pick your child up and ask what they need, or take some time out of your day and read them a book.  There will always be more work to do but maybe this time it can wait for a few minutes.

IGNORE THEM
This is my least favorite way to deal with clingy behavior but there will be times when you just can't pick your child up or pay them the attention they want.  I will tell my kids that my hands are busy right now and that I need them to wait.  I've done lots of cooking with Fire wedged between my knees and the kitchen cabinets.  Sometimes he cries until I can pick him up and sometimes he'll get tired of waiting and wander off to find something else to do.


How do you deal with clingy toddlers? Do you have a suggestion on how to distract them or to help them wait?

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11 comments

  1. I love these ideas, but I have triplets. And it's soon hard when they all want to be held or need attention at the same time!

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    1. Triplets- you're officially amazing! And yes, it's so hard when all the kids want something all at once. My husband figured out a way to hold two kids while he cooks (one in the baby carrier in front and one holding onto his shoulders and standing on his belt in back) but now that we have three, that doesn't work as well. We end up doing a lot of "divide and conquer" these days, like you, I'm guessing!

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  2. I deal with clingy toddlers by constantly chanting "This stage doesn't last forever." ;) It can be so hard! Especially when NO ONE but Mama will do.

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    1. Hi Jamie- thanks for stopping by. My internal chant is "This too shall pass, this too shall pass!" It sounds counter-intuitive but having more kids has helped us, simply because we've been though all the stages at least once before and have the confirmation that it will actually end eventually.

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  3. We've tried all of these - sometimes as a series during the same meltdown, I think! We also use American Sign Language as part of our communication, and pull out our Signing Smart tools to ask them to wait, and to try to help them tell us what the problem is.

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    1. Sometimes, there's nothing you can do to head off a melt down, no matter how hard you try. That's great that you've been able to use signing with your child. I wish we'd been made more of an effort to use that with Fire- with his verbal delays it would have been a big help. Thanks for reading!

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    2. There are lots of extra benefits for kiddos with a speech and language delay....it's never too late to get started - research has shown that kids as old as 4 when they were introduced to American Sign Language showed advances well into elementary school!

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  4. These are great and it sounds like my list, too. Agree with the activity near you. Since Mads is a bit older, she joins in with what I'm doing. A compromise. If she helps me do (something) then her and I can do something together/I'll hold her/etc. The clingy behavior just started all of a sudden, which is wild. Sometimes frustrating,but sometimes I kind of love it. Ha
    #SHINEbloghop

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    1. Having the kids do an activity near me is one of my favorites and it's worked pretty well with the boys. My daughter HAD to be held so we brought the baby carrier out a lot for her. I hope you enjoy the sweet moments of clinginess without too many frustrating ones!

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  5. Very similar to how I handle it too! I love carriers for that, but making dinner with a baby on the front and toddler on the back can be quite challenging! Other thing I would add: order take-in or make a frozen pizza, similar to you "give in" the food can wait cuddle them now!

    I wrote a similar post too: http://www.raisingfairiesandknights.com/tips-for-surviving-a-cranky-toddler/

    Your blog seems really interested I am really looking forward to following you and seeing other posts.

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    1. Giving in on food is something I still need to work on! It would be so much easier sometimes if I just made something easy for dinner (and then dinner would go smoother too) but for some reason, I just don't think to change courses like that mid-stream. Thanks for the reminder, and for stopping by my blog!

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