Parenting expert Kathryn Mewes, answers one reader’s question about her clingy daughter
Q.) Our two-year old has suddenly started getting very clingy and is refusing to go to bed, which is not normal for her. She was bitten by a horsefly earlier last month and has been freaking out about everything since.
Clinginess is something that catches so many parents out. We tend to look for a reason for it and start to think our child is insecure, unhappy or worried. The fact of the matter is that most children go through a stage of wanting to ‘take control’. The ‘typical’ age for this to happen is between two and four years old.
They will want to follow you around the house, want you to ‘sit there’, continually ask for a cuddle or to be carried. All of these traits are when children are experimenting in ‘taking control’, usually with their parents and no other adult!
In your situation, I think that you have looked for a reason for her behaviour and related it to the bite she had. If she knows that this is your theory she will go long with it. What I mean by this is that she will believe the horsefly is the cause of her not settling to sleep at night.
What started off as her ‘testing the boundaries’ has now become habit. I suggest you start working on this during the day. While you are in the house have times when you build a distance between each other. Tell her you are going to fold the laundry or put the clothes away, or take a trip to the loo.
Say what you are doing and then go. Don’t wait for her permission or approval. When she sees your confidence to walk away for a short period of time this will build on her confidence. She will start to accept this. The first step in erasing the clingy child!
Form a clear bedtime routine and when you say goodnight have confidence in your voice and leave her room with her awake. She may well shout and come out of her room but simply return her without engaging in conversation.
Continue to do this until she accepts you are not going to back down and that you are consistent. Ideally one parent puts her to bed for five to seven consecutive nights before the other parent follows his/her lead.
I truly believe that after three consecutive nights of remaining consistent with the same parent and routine your daughter will start to settle to sleep alone and you will see the clinginess disappear.
Remember that she is a good sleeper and this is a ‘blip’. You will get ‘back on track’ by a clear routine and consistency.