Throughout your parenting journey it’s likely that your little ones will go through a clingy stage. Parenting expert Kathryn Mewes, answers one reader’s question about her toddler…
Q) My 20 month old won’t sleep in her own bed and she’s very clingy. What advice do you have?
Many children go through a stage of being ‘clingy’ and it tends to go for as long as we allow it! I have worked with families for over 20 years’ and have met many ‘clingy’ children. It doesn’t take me long to recognise that the ‘clinginess’ is a sign of control.
If a child continually wants to be by your side, carried or sitting on your knee it is often because they want to be able to know your every move and be in control to a certain degree.
I suggest that when you are around the house you always tell your daughter where you are going and what you are doing and if she wants to follow you she can but please carry out the task ahead of her.
Here’s an example: You want to go to the bedrooms to put away the laundry. Your daughter insists on being carried.
Simply say in advance: “Now, mummy needs to put away the washing. I won’t be very long. You can come with me or you can play with your toy here.”
You need to then confidently walk away to do the task. As she starts to whine and shout just say: “Come if you want to”, and continue to walk.
At first she will not like this as she can see you are pulling back some control. If you are able to carry out tasks throughout the day for three consecutive days your daughter will start to accept the change in your behaviour and she will adapt and start to show more signs of independence.
It is not about continually leaving her to play alone, give her the option to come with you but then walk ahead and allow her to follow if she chooses. Once you have established this you can then move onto the night time challenge.
At night your daughter needs a good bedtime routine of bath, book and bed (bottle if she has one) and then she is to be left in her room alone to settle to sleep.
As you leave the room, at first she will follow and you simply need to silently take her back to her bedroom. If she is in a cot simply walk away and accept she will shout due to the change in routine.
Leaving your child to shout is extremely hard emotionally – for you. The child is simply shouting because they want to sleep and are not able to do it yet.
If you can remain consistent and leave them to shout and self-settle for three nights in a row you will then find you are in a totally different place and sleep will be more solid than before.
If you feel strong enough to make this change it needs to be explained to your daughter.
“Now, at bedtime mummy is going to read your stories and then I am going to say ‘goodnight’ and leave the bedroom and see you at breakfast time.”
“You might have a little shout and then you will fall asleep. There is no more coming into mummy’s bed to sleep.”
Once you have heard yourself say this you need to carry it out. This isn’t an easy task but the benefits are fantastic. Everyone is entitled to solid sleep.