My Child Won’t Let Go!

By on July 22, 2013
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My Child Won’t Let Go!

When a child is confident that you will be available when needed, he will be less prone to show clingy, possessive or anxious behavior. Read on to find out how you can achieve this.

A child who expresses jealousy or acts possessive and clingy towards one parent may simply be showing a natural expression within a normal phase of development. Dr. Nabil Ahmed, psychiatrist in St.

Petersburg, Florida, sheds some light on the possible reasons behind such behavior in general. He explains, ‘Possessiveness and clinginess to one parent in a smaller child may be due to fear of abandonment or anxiety, resulting from witnessing marital problems between the parents; the child trying to ‘push’ the limits of his independence while still battling an internal conflict between dependence and independence; egocentricity where he may do everything in his power to ‘get what he wants’ from the parent; or simply due to the natural ‘testing’ phenomenon that is a part of this developmental stage which may reflect an increasing pattern of manipulation of the parent on the child’s part.’

Dr. Ahmed further explains that generally, it is important for parents to keep in mind the age and the cognitive abilities of their child so that their expectations for his desired behavior remain realistic and reasonable to the child’s developmental stage, as well as to his character and personality. So, how can parents put their child at ease during this possessive and clingy development stage? These six discipline techniques are bound to help!

Most importantly,  parents should talk to the child to identify the problem behind his clinginess, acknowledging his distress and anxiety to provide real and actual solutions to the problem at hand. For example, if the child is being bullied at school and thus feels insecure, then the parent should make the effort to see what can be done to stop the bullying and acknowledge that to the child with a definite ‘I’ll stop the bully at school.’

If a child clings to one parent because this parent is almost always readily available, both parents must then redirect his behavior by telling him together that they are both available for him, not just the parent he is clinging to. Both parents have to sit and talk to the child and resolve this issue together because children usually want to know that both parents (not just one) are there if they need them. Once the child is confident knowing that, he will feel secure enough to ‘explore’ the world around him, which is what younger children naturally do.

If a child is attempting to manipulate the parents through the use of possessive-type behavior (in a sense ‘splitting’ them apart), by constantly clinging or going to the parent who is more lenient, thus aiding the child in doing or getting what he wants, the parents must work together and support each other in front of the child and make all decisions concerning their child’s actions together so that he understands that the decision is not unilateral (taken or made by one parent only), but rather the decision of both parents together.

When faced with a child who is clinging to the more lenient parent in an attempt to get his way through that parent, the parent may say, ‘I’ll talk to your Mom/Dad first and see what we both decide.’ Most younger children will naturally tend to be more possessive of their mother since, in most cases, she is the one primarily responsible for nurturing the child. If that is the case, the father should not feel left out or jealous, and the mother can slowly involve the father so that the child can also feel comfortable going to the father for some of his needs.

In all cases, regularly spending more quality time with the child, putting in more one-on-one time even for a few minutes each day, may do wonders. Not only does this allow for closer bonding with the child (and hence more security), it also shows the child that there are definite regular times for close parent-child communication, which will eventually allow the child to understand that he cannot have the parent all to himself all the time, thus attempting to dispel the evident possessiveness and clinginess.

Dr. Ahmed explains that if the situation at hand involves a clingy and possessive child in a single- parent family unit rather than a two-parent family unit, there may be different reasons behind the child’s behavior. ‘A single parent,’ states Dr. Ahmed, ‘basically does the job of both parents. If the child is young and he was aware that there was previously another parent and that he lost this parent, this child may then become quite fearful that he may lose the existing parent as well.’ Once again, it is essential that the parent identify this problem and talk to the child to try to resolve it to make the child feel more secure and more comfortable. The parent can also call on the support of the extended family, so that the child is made aware that there are other family members also available to take care of him, and therefore help put the child’s mind and fears at ease.

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