3 Ways to Set Better Boundaries with your Clingy Child
Do you have a child that is a stage-5 clinger, and will never let you have a moment's peace?
Do you want nothing more than just to go to the bathroom alone?
Is it difficult for you to tell your child 'no' because they are just so darn cute?
Well, you are not alone my friends. My little daughter is this way too. Ever since she was a baby, she has been extremely needy. She always wanted to be held when she was small, and now that she is older she wants us to play with her 24/7.
At some point, you have to step in and set boundaries with your kids, and tell them no.
Otherwise, they are going to end up spoiled and overly needy for the rest of their lives. This isn't going to play out well in school, or in their future relationships either.
When kids go to school, they are going to have to learn to follow a set of rules, and the teacher isn't going to be able to devote their full attention to your child all the time.
Furthermore, when they have friends or partners, they are going to be set up with unrealistic expectations about relationships if they expect other people to cater to them 100% of the time.
Your kid is not the center of the universe. Stop treating them like they are. You are setting them up for failure in the future.
Are you encouraging your child's clinginess?
My partner tells me that I encourage my daughter's clinginess because I never tell her no. I come from an upbringing where I was neglected, so I have rebounded in the opposite direction.
I try to tell my kids yes as often as possible.
Has this set up some damaging results? Possibly. My daughter comes to me with something that she needs or wants me to do constantly and won't take 'no' for an answer, even if I tell her that I need to work.
Have you done something similar with your own child? Do you just love them so much that you feel like you can never tell them no without damaging their little hearts?
Hearing 'no' is a natural part of life. No one can possibly get their way all of the time. That just isn't the way that the world works.
When you tell your kids yes all of the time, it is setting them up for failure when they get out into the wider world.
According to The Swaddle,
Cling child behaviour might make a parent second-guess themselves and become overly responsive. But when we do things for kids before they ask, or reassure them before they’re uncomfortable, they don’t get the chance to learn explore and attempt things for themselves. The point is to be a safety net in case of a fall, not to never let kids trip.
I finally figured out how I got into the 'say yes all the time' mindset.
When my older daughter was growing up, I worked a lot. So, I didn't have a lot of time to spend with her. This made me want to ensure that all our time together was quality time.
But, if I was only with my daughter for say, 4 hours a day and all of it was spent as 'quality time' then that means there was another 20 hours out of the day she wasn't getting quality time. And she grew up just fine.
Since I work from home now with my younger daughter, we are both home 24/7. But, I have still been applying the rule of giving her 100% quality time, which is becoming impossible. Instead of giving her 4 hours of quality time, I am trying to give her 24 hours, and it is just unsustainable and unnecessary.
Kids do need quality time, but they also need to learn moderation and that there are limits in life.
Explain your rules
It is important to explain to your child that you can't play with them all the time, because other things need to get done around the house.
Let them know that they can come in the room with you while you are doing the dishes, or doing your work, as long as they are being quiet during that time.
Be sure your child knows how much you love them, and enjoy spending time with them. This is likely the need of their clingy behavior. Some children really do need a lot of attention and reassurance.
However, this doesn't mean that you can't set boundaries. Kids do need to learn to have limits. Enforcing them doesn't make you a mean mom.
When there is a time that you need your child to do something alone quietly, sit them down and explain what the rules are, and what you need from them. Ask them to be a big helper and play by themselves for a while.
Let them know that when you are finished with what you need to do, then you will be able to do a special activity with them. You can offer to play a game, or read their favorite book after you are done. This way, they have something positive to anticipate.
Set a timer
Now that my daughter is getting older and getting ready to go to school next year, I am trying to teach her there are limits to the amount of time that I can spend with her.
This is going to happen naturally when she goes to school, but I don't want her to be in for a giant shock when she realizes the world doesn't revolve around her.
One thing I've learned is to set a timer for play time. I tell her before we start playing tag that I will play for a certain amount of time. Then I set a timer. At the end of the timer, I tell her that play time is over, I need to work, and she needs to find something to do.
This has been extremely difficult, and she pushes back, asking for just one more game, or 5 more minutes.
It's important to hold firm to the time limit so that kids know that they can't just wear you down with whining to get you to comply with them.
Take time for yourself
In addition to spending quality time with your kids, you need to take quality time for yourself. Otherwise, being mommy all the time can lead to burn-out, even for the best of us.
There is a value to self-care as well. If you're taking time to care for yourself, it allows you to be at your best, so that you can be a better mom for your kids too.
When you are feeling depleted emotionally, you can be snappish and mean with your kids without meaning to.
However, when you're feeling good about yourself and your life, then it allows you to be a better mother too.
Some ideas for your self-care time are:
Taking a hot shower
Drinking a cup of tea
Reading a book
Going out with friends
You can choose one of these ideas, or do something else that you enjoy, just for yourself.
If you haven't been taking time for self-care, try to start with doing something for yourself for at least 10 minutes every day. Once you get used to spending that time on yourself, you can gradually increase the time up to half an hour or an hour.
If you've allowed your child to be too clingy, then it's important to learn to set boundaries with them, and to take time for yourself as well.
When you tell your child yes too much, they can learn to be spoiled, needy and whiny. This is setting them up for failure in school and later in life as well.
Setting boundaries with your kids isn't mean, it is setting them up to be self-sufficient and to succeed later in life.