My youngest daughter literally only wants to be with me, Mummy, 80% of the time. The rest of the time she is comfortable with her siblings only. She appears to be totally petrified of her Daddy. She has to cling onto my trousers, nearly pulling them down in public, just to be near to me. Her face glues to mine non-stop if we go swimming, not because of a fear of water but because of the other people in the pool. Anytime I feel worried about whether this is normal or healthy, I need to watch Gordon Neufeld’s video below. Then watch it again… and again…
Even after watching this video, it still makes the dependence signs of my daughter challenging to support in today’s society. People witnessing her behaviour make comments such as ‘why don’t you consider the local nursery, to help her socialise…’ etc. My anxiety kicks in as to whether I’m doing her a disservice by homeschooling and struggling to make a support network myself.
Whilst we should never compare children, it is useful to know that it is just how some attached children are with their parent(s). My other two children show signs of attachment, but are comfortable with their Daddy too. Although my other daughter and son occasionally cling to me a little, our youngest daughter, aged 3.5 years, has extreme fear of anyone other than me and her siblings. She does not know why either, so any conversations I’ve attempted about why she feels scared of Daddy go nowhere.
It is also worth reminding yourself that your child’s intense obsession with you is not necessarily a sign that you’re doing anything wrong. In fact, Neufeld seems to suggest it means your child is doing everything right. Also, remember that it is difficult to be essentially the sole safe place for your child, and so when you’re feeling down about it all… watch Neufeld’s video again. And again.
Neufeld’s response to clinginess is to be even more gentle a parent in response. By nature, attachment and dependence go hand-in-hand. That when your child wants you to do something they’re perfectly able to do that you do it for them with love and in abundance. Imagine your relationship with your child is the equivalent of the early stages of courtship with a new lover. You wouldn’t respond with “‘you can do that yourself…”, you would probably just go ahead and meet their requests. This then signals to your children that you are in love with them and makes them feel wanted. They can then rest easy in your relationship.