Having a clingy 4-year-old is complicated to manage. Many parents complain that it is difficult to deal with a clingy child when they don’t want to leave their parents even for a minute.
Clinginess generally refers to a behavior in which the child reacts strongly to separation from their parents, also called separation anxiety. However, this behavior is a normal part of a child’s development.
A child can become clingy at any stage, from infant to primary schooler. He may cry, cling or act differently if their parents leave them.
In this article, we’ll discuss what clingy behavior looks like in a 4 -year-old child, the reasons for such behavior, and how to overcome this patch.
What does clingy behavior look like in 4-year-olds?
1- Crying on pity issues:
When a 4-year-old becomes clingy and develops separation anxiety for any reason, they would cry on pity issues like;
- Why are his parents leaving the room?
- Why they left him sleeping in another room?
- Why are they going out alone?
- Why are they sending me to school? Etc.
2- Continuously annoys the parents at home or outside:
It’s not necessary that a clingy child behaves well when he is with his parents, sometimes such kids continuously annoy their parents at home or outside, like
- By not leaving them for a minute.
- Wants their parents to answer every question they ask.
- Do not let parents do any of their personal or housework.
- Continuously mischieving around the house to get parents’ attention.
- Do not let them talk on the phone, Etc.
3- Tantrums when left at home or school
As most 4-year-olds start preschool, separation anxiety is the major reason for getting clingy. As a result, they would endure extreme tantrums when the parents dropped them off at school.
Even when they are not at school, they throw tantrums if their parents leave them at the house and go out for any reason. So it’s not like they feel unsafe at school, but they always want their parents in their sight.
4- Stubbornness over little things
To test every inch of the parents’ patience, the clingy child does not listen to his parents in one go. The parents have to repeat and repeat little things like
- Complete the homework.
- Go to the washroom.
- Screen time is over.
- Prepare yourself for bed.
- Eat dinner.
- Get ready, Etc.
A clingy child would show stubbornness over daily routine tasks and delays them through tantrums and meltdowns.
Reasons for clinginess in 4-year-olds:
Of course, you don’t expect a 4-year-old to be very clingy because kids start to become independent at this age. They would like more “me time” instead of supervised time.
But some 4-year-olds are very clingy; here are a few reasons why they would behave like this:
1- Due to his personality:
Every child is different. Some children like to make friends and are social; some are shy or introverted.
Some kids are more prone to emotions and overreact. So if a child has such a personality from his infant age, it may be continuous till primary school or beyond.
2- A major change in routine/life:
Sometimes a child becomes more clingy when something major happens in his life. For instance, he may become a big brother to a new sibling and get jealous when he sees his parents involved more in the newborn.
It can also happen when your 4-year-old starts pre-school because being away from home and parents makes them anxious, plus the change in routine makes them more grumpy and clingy.
Sometimes the death of loved ones also makes a child disturbed and clingy and want his parents to be with him 24/7.
3- Parents’ personal problems:
Family problems sometimes make the children disturbed, clingy, and very demanding. Whether it be the parents’ separation, divorce, or mental health problems, the child would not understand that his parents are going through a challenging phase of life; instead, they become demanding and want them around him at every time.
4- After sickness:
If I tell you about my children, they become so moody, grumpy, and clingy during sickness and after it. They continuously ask me to hold them or simply do not leave me to even go to the washroom.
My 4-year-old, whenever he gets sick, became so crabby and clingy for almost 2 weeks that he tests every inch of my patience. After that, he simply does not like food for weeks and becomes a crybaby.
Boredom can also be a reason for clinginess in a child. If he does not have toys or activities at home, he will automatically look towards his parents to entertain him; hence he just tags along with them all day.
9- Parents’ ignorance:
If the parents don’t give enough attention to their 4-year-old, he will get on their nerves. For example, if the mother has started a job and becomes busier the whole day, the child will follow her and want to be with her all the time when he sees her at home.
The same goes for the father if, due to his busy office schedule, he does not give enough time to his child. He wants to be around his father as soon as he sees him at home.
10- Being the only child in the family:
Being the only child in the family, everyone pampers the kid too much. Whether it be parents, grandparents, or relatives, everyone gives him so much attention that he becomes the darling in the family.
But sometimes, these kids become clingy, demanding, and stubborn as they grow up and start school. They expect everyone to treat him like he is being treated at home; hence, he finds adjusting to a new environment difficult.
How to help a clingy 4-year-old?
Dealing with a clingy 4-year-old is challenging; your little one will take a lot of time to become independent and provide the parent with some space. but try a few things to make this phase easier.
1- Acknowledge his feelings:
Clinginess is a way to communicate feelings, so if a child is clingy, it means there is sometimes that is bothering him.
As a parent, if you ignore, resist, or shut down the clingy call, the child will either do it more or become a child who hides his feelings.
It is important to acknowledge, normalize and deal with the feelings with patience and love.
2- Make him feel safe to settle in a new place:
4-year-olds usually start preschool at this age, so it would be beneficial for you and the child to spend some time together in the new space before leaving him alone.
Through this practice, the child will get used to the environment while being happy to see you around him.
3- Model calm behavior while starting new things:
Being parents, it is on you how you perceive the new change in life. For example, never show your anxiousness or worries to the child before you start a new thing for yourself or your child.
Instead, model calm and confident behavior in front of the child and remind him that everything will be smooth.
4- Give him some cuddles in the morning and at bedtime:
If you have a clingy child, acknowledge his need for love and closeness.
Of course, an extra hug or cuddle in the morning and at bedtime won’t take away a long time from you. But it will remain in your child’s heart that mom or dad was there for me when I needed them the most.
Even when you are busy on your phone, put down your screen and listen to the child if he comes to you; after listening to him, gently tell him that you need some break for a while.
5- Get them involved in chores to make them independent:
Make the clingy 4-year-old busy around the house; this way, he will forget to annoy you and become more independent. Give him small tasks like putting away the laundry in the cupboard, setting the dining table, picking up the toys, and helping with easy household chores.
6- Make them understand that you need time for yourself too:
If your child comes to you when you are having your me time, listen to him calmly and then let him know that you have some time to recharge yourself for the rest of the day.
4-year-olds are verbal, and they can understand what you say. It’s about how you communicate. Do not be afraid of speaking in straightforward words thinking that your little one is not mature enough to understand your words.
Tell him what you feel and what you need.
7- Prepare them in advance/ discuss the plan:
If you have a clingy child, try preparing and discussing the plan with him before when it is about to happen. For example, if you plan to go on dinner with friends and leave him behind with his father or grandparents, let him know about it rather than just suddenly disappear and make him more anxious and clingy.
8- Avoid yelling/punishing/shaming the child:
I know it is easier to say than done, but yelling, punishing, or shaming would be useless. The child would do it anyway.
Children being yelled at, punished, or shamed over their clinginess eventually stop expressing their emotions and like to spend most of their time in their rooms alone later in life.
9- Praise and encourage them when they don’t cling:
There will be times when your clingy human will not get on your nerves for some time, highlight those hours and praise him for being a good child.
In this way, he would get to know that you, as a parent, like his behavior, and he would get encouragement.
10- Don’t compare with other kids/elder siblings:
Lastly, a comparison should not be made in any situation, may it be the worst situation. Comparing a child to other kids or siblings not only develops revealers/hate but also kills the self-esteem and self-confidence of a child.
11- Help your child make friends:
Help your 4-year-old make more friends so he can confidently engage with people other than his parents.
Most kids start becoming independent by age 4, but some 4-year-olds happen to be very clingy. It can be because of their personality or the effect of their environment.
Fulfill your child’s wish to stay close yet try to make them independent by engaging them in healthy activities. Enroll them in sports and help them make friends so they can be confident while engaging with people other than their parents.