Clingy Toddlers: How to Get Your Kid Off Your Hip

"Carry me! Pick me up!" Even Supermom and Superdad couldn't listen to endless whining and screaming or stand forever with a heavy toddler in their arms the way you do. If your child is constantly attached to you and it's an exhausting struggle to get anything else done, read on.

Why is my kid being so clingy and needy?

This is natural. Children go through phases of over-attachment with adults they trust. It means you have done a good job of making your child feel safe with you. When things are scary or unpredictable, your clingy child is basically telling you, "Hey, I need a little extra support here!"

What are these scary, unpredictable situations? New people, new places, a change in activity, or even sensing that a parent is uncomfortable. Toddlers can also think ahead: you might be puzzled to find your child suddenly hanging on to your neck when the time comes to put on her shoes. She knows that getting dressed means going to school, which means she will have to say goodbye to you soon.

He's holding my legs so tightly I can't walk!

  • If your child comes running to you, don't push him away. If you do, he will learn that you are not a safe person to be near when he is upset or insecure.
  • Do not try to sneak away when he's not looking. This teaches your child that you are not trustworthy, and he will refuse to let you go.

She wants me to pick her up, but if I do, then I can't do anything else.

  • Don't pick her up! Instead, come down to her level and look her in the face. This encourages her to be independent and to consider her problem while standing on her own feet.
  • Talk calmly and reassuringly: "No, the doggie is not going to hurt you," or "You remember your babysitter, Trisha. Can you say hello to her?"
  • Encourage your child to use words instead of whining, screaming or crying: what is it that she wants?
  • Prevent problems before they happen by communicating: give your child a heads-up when activities change ("In 30 minutes, we're going to meet your doctor.") and keep your promises ("Bye, sweetie, I'll come meet you right here after preschool.").

What if my kid starts screaming and crying for me? Should I pick him up then?

  • Don't give in! Your child must learn that he will only get attention if he behaves well.
  • Step away so you don't get hurt. Give him as much space as he needs to throw his fit, but quietly stay nearby to make sure he is safe.
  • Do not cuddle or hug your child while he is throwing a tantrum. Only give hugs and kisses after he calms down.

For More Information:

Watch a scene from the TV show Supernanny, as a real mom communicates with her screaming, clingy toddler using the "Off the Hip" Technique.