ASK MOM: Daughter too clingy, mom's losing patienceSep 16, 2023 08:25AM ● By Mary Follin & Erika Guerrero
Drawing by Suzanne Johnson
THE PROBLEM: My 9 yo daughter wants me to go everywhere with her. When she goes to visit a friend, she wants me to stay. She makes me volunteer for everything in her classroom, including playground monitor, which isn’t my favorite thing to do. I was seriously embarrassed when I dropped her off at a birthday party the other day and she literally clung to me when I tried to go out the door. The only thing that would make her let me go is me promising to sit in the coffee shop across the street during the party. (The mom made no overtures to invite me to stay, or I would have.) I’m tired of my daughter insisting I live my life doing the things she likes to do, but it breaks my heart to tell her I’m leaving, given she practically has panic attacks when I do. Help!
MARY SAYS: I can appreciate your regard for your daughter’s feelings, but I’m afraid she’s been put in the awkward position of being in charge. If you look closely at your post, do you see a veiled thread where you’re blaming your daughter for decisions you’re making? While it appears your daughter is clinging to you, I would gently suggest that you are clinging to her.
Please address this dynamic now, or your daughter will never ‘let you go,’ even into adulthood. Unwittingly, you’ve raised her to expect you to be there at all times, simply because you’ve been willing to do so.
It’s time for you to step into your adult shoes and set boundaries.
For example, I’m hard-pressed to believe your daughter ‘makes’ you volunteer. If you don’t want to be the playground monitor when she asks, the short answer is ‘Not today.’ (No explanation needed.) When the next birthday party rolls around, tell her ahead of time that if she wishes to go, you’ll drop her off, but you won’t stay. And you won’t be waiting for her across the street, either. In fact, ideally you can start ridesharing with a friend to these events, so you only need make a one-way trip.
Your daughter isn’t going to like this new arrangement—at first. But when she begins to enjoy experiences (and relationships) on her own, you’ll see her confidence grow.
Ultimately, the time you spend raising your daughter is an investment in her future as a healthy adult. Do you want her to desperately need someone by her side, or do you want her to independently build a life of her own?
Take this opportunity to explore what you love to do, and let your daughter do the same. If you’re willing to do this, you’ll find your relationship with her becomes healthier, where the two of you spend time together not out of fear (her!) or guilt (you!), but because you want to.
ERIKA SAYS: Sending heartfelt hugs your way, friend! I often joke that my son is the epitome of a stage five clinger. That said, I do realize his love language is quality time. Although his attachment to me was often times perfectly fine, it has recently increased and become overwhelming, which indicates to me that something is going on.
Yes, clingy behavior can be a sign of a healthy relationship. It means your daughter feels safe around you; she enjoys your company and knows you are a reliable parent. It’s sweet and cute until it isn’t!
Could her clingy behavior result from a significant life event or change? Has your schedule or routine changed? Perhaps your day-to-day life and activities have felt a little bit unpredictable to her, and it’s creating anxiety. Try to take notice of what’s changed that could be amplifying this behavior.
Have you tried talking to her about it? Maybe speak with her and see if you can get to the bottom of any issues and come together for a resolution. She may be feeling disconnected with you. If so, carve some quality time with her. Once she feels her needs are being met, she may back off a bit.
When you’re dropping her off at a friend's house, could it be that she’s nervous? Maybe, and from the sound of it, she may have anxiety in social settings. If so, try talking her through it beforehand, encourage her to be herself, and reassure her that she will be okay.
When she tries to get you to volunteer for everything, set clear boundaries. Tell your daughter you love to volunteer and spend time with her, but other parents need a turn to volunteer as well. Don’t allow her to dictate how you spend your time away from her.
You’re the boss, applesauce!
One of my best practices at home is to keep things predictable. We stick to schedules and routines as best we can. I also try to set clear boundaries. If my son is climbing all over me and I feel touched-out, I let him know he’s invading my space. As your daughter grows, she will gain independence and hopefully grow out of this stage. Extend grace as best you can. The world can often feel so significant and challenging to our little humans.
ASK MOM offers parents two perspectives on today’s child-rearing issues—one from a mom with grown children (Mary), the other from a mom raising a small child (Erika). If you’re looking for creative solutions, or your mom isn’t around to ask, drop in!
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Erika Guerrero is a freelance hair and makeup artist, Erika K. Beauty, single-mama to one amazing boy, and author of She’s Not Shaken, a blog offering hope and encouragement to women in all walks of life.