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How to Parent an attached child


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#1 Bendigedig

Posted 08 February 2013 - 12:16 PM

sorry if the title is confusing, wasn't sure how to phrase it.

DD is 3. She hates being on her own. She will now play a little bit on her own as long as we are in the same room as her. Its not us she is attached to in particular, it could be anybody. She just hates to be on her own. She also wants us (or others) to do everything with her or she wants to do exactly what we are doing.

It is becoming a source of frustration for us. Particularly as we are trying to do up the house and garden and things like painting walls or spraying weed killer and she wants to do it (and when we explain she can't we get the 30 min tantrum). I work full time, DH works part-time and she goes to ELC when DH works (which she loves). She also hates going to sleep (my theory is that she thinks she will either miss out on something or that it is because she is on her own, which she hates) and this at the moment is translating into a 1-2hr tantrum every bed time. Now it is worse apparently with us than it is with my parents (who have had her, without us for a week or so recently).

My big question - how is the best way for us to parent her without all sides becoming frustrated?
I guess the biggest issue is that we both feel that we have no time to ourselves (as individuals or as a couple) unless someone else has DD. Everything feels like a battle and whilst that is probably part and parcel of having a 3 year old, I suspect we make it worse in our parenting style.

#2 amandamac

Posted 08 February 2013 - 01:34 PM

Hello, has she always been like this or has this behaviour escalated recently? You mentioned that you recently had left her with your parents for a week while you and you DH were away.

If her behaviour is relatively recent or perhaps if it has just escalated, perhaps she is feeling insecure after being left behind, even if she is comfortable with her grandparents? Or even if she has always needed to be close and attached to you, perhaps being left set her back a little?

I'm not judging at all. I have a DD, now 4, who has been extremely attached. Whereas my husband and I could leave our DS (now 8) with his grandparents when he was small so we could go out, we never could with our DD. Recently we went out together at night for the first time in four years, leaving her with a trusted babysitter who she knows well (her daytime nanny).

I know that it is frustrating, but she may just be signalling to you that right now she needs you close. Secure attachment is critical for later psychological development, so perhaps try to reframe it if you can. I'm not sure that anything can be done to change her in the short term. The one thing you might be able to change is the way that you and your DH think about it. Your DD will not always want you close so try to see it as a positive if you can. In terms of painting and spraying etc, can you and your DH take it in turns to do one of those jobs each. Or for the least problematic ones, such as painting, can you set her up near you with paint and some paper? Or even let her have a paint on the sections that you will go over anyway. Spraying weeds obviously isn't a task to share, but maybe one of you can take her out while that happens so you won't feel hopeless not being able to help.

In terms of bedtime, I am still sitting with my daughter and giving her pats on the bottom. It is what she asks for and what she needs for now. Sometimes it is really frustrating when I have other things to do. But I read in a book somewhere that a child who is upset and wound up will not go to sleep. So for now I give her what she needs so we all get some sleep.

Good luck!

#3 Bam1

Posted 08 February 2013 - 01:44 PM

My middle DD is an extremely attached child, even though my other children were not like this, I just go with the flow and just accept it as it seems she needs more closeness than the others. I know it doesn't solve the "problem" but it certainly keeps my frustration at bay. I just try to involve her in everything I do and ensure I have a little bit of me time each week.

The attachment lessened as she got older and she will now stay overnight at Grandparents (took 2 years for grandparents to try again after first time at 3yo with her older sister!) and happily goes off to school.

#4 feralisles

Posted 08 February 2013 - 01:51 PM

I had one like that OP and remember the frustration of it vividly.
I agree with the PP though, your DD needs you for now so you are best coming to terms with it rather than fighting against it.

I found with mine it was best to let her "help" if possible.  For example if you are painting, give her a brush and some water and let her paint the fence or pavement beside you, or some real paint as suggested if you are going over it later anyway.  For weed spraying, she could have some water in a spray bottle and spray away to her hearts content.  You can keep her away from the poison by saying "now you help me by doing this side of the garden, and I'll do over here..."

If you are doing something where you really don't want her involved, set her up with an activity then leave her to it for a while, promising to come back soon.  "OK, I'm just going to load the dishwasher then I'll be back to see what you've made and help you with the next bit..."  She will get the idea soon enough, and bit by bit you can extend the time you leave her to it.

We did a similar thing with the sleeping.  "You need to lie here quietly, then I will come and check on you.  I won't come back in until you are quiet..."  Again you gradually lengthen the time between checking until they go to sleep.  I found that once mine knew I would be back she found it easier to settle.

It seems like forever OP, but believe me it does pass!

#5 Bendigedig

Posted 08 February 2013 - 05:52 PM

Thanks for the replies.

I think that you are all right in that she is signalling she needs us. She has always been this way  (in terms of needing to be with people). She has spent time with my  parents by herself several times (she loves going to them) but with us getting ready to move,  suspect that might be a cause.

We are talking about altering our routine to suit her more, and I have asked friends to come and help do stuff whilst DH takes her out. I guess we need to accept that this is howitzer is and plan extra time to do things as she will be involved and slow us down. Now, just have to get her listen rather than be a 3 year old in the listening stakes!

It helps to get an outside opinion and to reaffirm that we generally doing the right thing but need to regain our patience back.

#6 FeralCrazyMum

Posted 08 February 2013 - 06:55 PM

One thing I've always found, with XP's children and now DS, if they're on their own, they can't help but attach to you, but once you give them a playmate, you hardly hear from them. She might be a bit young yet, but could you start organising playdates?


#7 bettymm

Posted 08 February 2013 - 07:12 PM

Just wanted to say that my DD1 was very attached as well.  I peaked around 15 months- close to 3! , then it has started to wane and she has just started pre school this year..aged 4 and she is so confident! Went off happily without us ..no tears!  

It is so frustrating when they wont just entertain themselves for  while..i found it extremely draining!  Couldnt even go to the toilet without my constant companion.  

My DD will now entertain herself for short bursts.  Especially now she seems to have got this sudden ability/interest with drawing and colouring she will do this on her own for ages!  and imaginative play with her dinosaurs and toys all started around 3.5 +

Around 3 we also bought a sand pit and I noticed she would also happily sit there and play for a while on her own too without looking around for me.  As long as i was in the back yard too but i could at least hang the clothes out or do some gardening (and have a break from "play")  So, it hink what you mentioned about her starting to play on her own while you are in the room is a really good sign! just build on this..find out what really takes her interest, set it all up and let her go.  Perhaps crafts?  Around that age i would cut out a few shapes and glue out and start pasting and glittering?

As for bed time..we have taken the path of least resistance.  One of us sits in there with her till she drops off.  We figure she will eventually stop needing this and it doesnt bother us too much so we just do it.  Easier than the fighting and in and out of the bedroom for hours.  

Good luck , it will improved before you know it.

#8 gabbigirl

Posted 09 February 2013 - 11:57 AM

My eldest is/was like this.  After much frustration we have come to accept this is her personality.  She is now4.5 yo,  am sitting here on my iPad whilst she is outside playing with a friend.  I never thought I would be ale to do this! We did what most pp's did, just went with it and whilst  'needier' than your average kid, she is way way better than she used to be.  

Good luck.

#9 kay11

Posted 09 February 2013 - 10:31 PM

I've got one like this. It has been a tiring few years. We get frustrated at times though, but try to do as much as possible with her. She just seems to be needier and to need more going on than others, like her younger brother. We were seeing a psychologist with her for other reasons and one thing he said was that girls did more social play then boys. He also said that she looked to be quite bright and her games are quite complicated at times. Not everyone agrees with this and we've come up against my Dad in the past who believes we should be teaching her to play on her own better. We're trying to teach her a little bit of this, but honestly the kid just seems to need someone to play with. I'm hoping she makes a friend at kindy this year.

#10 Natttmumm

Posted 10 February 2013 - 05:07 PM

I know how frustrating it can be. DD 1 was like that from birth until around 4 ish
Once her sister got old enough to play at age 2 and DD1 was 4 it helped us a bit. She gave me a bit of space.
How is your DD in social settings and at. Daycare?
In the end we just accepted that DD was like that and needed the attachment. We gave as much attention as we could and when we just couldn't we didn't - even if she cried. We just. Did the best we could. By age 4 she was a bit better and it was bearable. We never allowed it at night though as I needed my sleep. We would say we will check on you in a few minutes. Every 10 mins I would go past her door. This seemed to be enough for her.
Happy to say she is 5 now and has started school and is doing brilliantly separating and being independent at home. She goes to sleep well without us.
Was also going to add that I believe it's personality and not what you do. DD2 is 3 and really couldn't care if I'm  near by. She plays happily alone unless she is tired and cranky. We have the same parenting style with both.

Edited by Natttmumm, 10 February 2013 - 05:09 PM.


#11 Bendigedig

Posted 11 February 2013 - 09:34 AM

DD loves interacting with anyone. So she is great at daycare as there are people there. She is great meeting new people. She is definitely not shy. It's just at home she needs people and thus it's DH and I and we are trying to do stuff that a 3 year old cant help with.


However, this week, we have decided to put her straight into our bed with one of us going to sleep with her, DH has been great taking her outside to help (hinder) his gardening, driveway prep stuff. And surprisingly she has made a but of a leap to doing some on her own role playing stuff with her toys and empty boxes. However, I need to be in the room (every time, I go out of the room, she stops and comes).

We are trying to be more patient. It's gotten better this week, so thanks for replies as it has helped to re focus.

With the sleeping thing, we were doing the "back in 5 mins" thing but even that caused tantrums this week, and the last few nights she has said very quietly she is very scared. I think it's the moving thing. So I think it's not worth the battle and we will pick that up again when she is a bit more settled. It's amazing how much easier it is to cope by accepting it rather than battling against it.

#12 tenacious2

Posted 12 February 2013 - 01:31 AM

Have you noticed that the busier you are, the more needy they become?! My DD is a child who feels the need for LOTS of interaction. As a baby she would be banging on windows and screaming with tears as I brought the shopping in. I was so worried she would hurtnherself breaking a window that I used to put her in a baby carrier backpack to bring the shopping in.

She has always wanted someone to interact with and even now when drawing or playing on the iPad, she'll tell everyone what she is doing and try to get them involved. Now she has a brother to play with, he's become the new object of her attention, as she ropes him into her games/activities. Unlike my DD, he is a lot more independent and is quite happy to play with Lego, play in the sandpit or look at books by himself.

I agree with those who have suggested starting her up with a similar activity to what you are doing and plan for your jobs to take twice as long. If you both work full time and are renovating a house I'm sure she is just craving your attention. Sometimes giving a little undivided attention when she's starting an activity pays off and once she's engrossed in the activity you can continue with your own task.

#13 beabea

Posted 12 February 2013 - 02:24 AM

If I can go a bit Myers-Briggs on you, it sounds like she's an extrovert. An introvert can also be clingy, but usually it's more about not wanting to separate from familiar figures. With your DD it sounds like she just thrives on and craves social attention - to an extent which is overwhelming when you're the only ones to supply it (are you two introverts? or is she just off-the-scale?).

If this is the case - extrovert child with introvert parents or just less extraverted parents - the best solution is probably to keep going with the strategy of sharing her around, but adding in a strategy for holing yourself up to recover from all the social contact.

Or it could be a clash between wanting to be organised (due to the move) and a normal 3yo being disorganised. In which case... I don't really have much more of a solution... more babysitting and telling yourself it'll be over soon?

#14 Bendigedig

Posted 14 February 2013 - 10:33 PM

Beabea, I think you are right. On M-B she probably is an extrovert, we are definitely introverts, in that we both need alone time to recharge. With all the stuff that is going on, my coping levels are over stretched and I desparately need some alone time and I am just not getting it. It's something that I need to make a priority. dH has gym time which I suspect is his recharge. Something to ponder I think.

#15 IShallWearMidnight

Posted 14 February 2013 - 11:42 PM

I have 6 hrs a week on my own (4 gym sessions and the travel time) and I really feel like a better parent for having that break.
Ive found it so much easier to 'give myself' to my children, and be there as they need me, with the regular break to be 'me'




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