Skip to Content

13 Proven Ways to Make Your Child Less Clingy

As parents, we want our kids to grow up as happy, independent people. But almost all kids go through phases where they are anything but independent. That leads a parent to ask how to make my daughter less clingy.

Make your child less clingy by:

  1. Encouraging independent play at a young age
  2. Not responding instantly to every call for attention
  3. Let them know you are there when truly needed
  4. Allow them to make mistakes and poor choices so they learn from them, which will boost their self-esteem and confidence
  5. When they succeed, ask them how that made them feel rather than just praising them
  6. Allow them to make choices for themselves when appropriate
  7. Have a set routine, but also occasionally introduce new places and people

But honestly, the tips work just as well for boys.

A clingy phase with daughters is normal behavior for toddlers, but it can be an indication of anxiety in older children. The key is to meet your child where they are to boost confidence or overcome anxiety.

But there’s a lot more that goes into why your daughter may be clingy. So, let’s look into it further.

In this article, we’ll dive deep into why your daughter may be clingy. We’ll explore possible reasons for your daughter’s clinginess and whether she can be too clingy. We’ll also explore some ways to help her through whatever anxiety or insecurity she may be feeling.

So let’s get to it.

Think your child’s clinginess is a sign of a bigger problem?

While it’s somewhat normal behavior in toddlers, in older kids, and especially teens or tweens, it can be a sign of a much bigger issue.

Luckily the folks over at TeenCounseling work with thousands of kids just like yours and mine.

Get matched with licensed therapists who specialize in working with teens. Let them know of the issues and signs you’re seeing. Once you approve, you connect them with your child for online therapy they can access right on a smartphone or computer.

And, of course, they’ll let you know if they sense anything serious.

CLICK HERE to check out TeenCounseling and see if it might be worth considering for your family’s peace of mind!

1. Identify the root of their anxiety or insecurity

There are many reasons for kids to be anxious or feel insecure. If they are younger, it may just be developmental. But it could also be that something external is going on.

It’s important to get to the root of the problem.

If you don’t address the problem itself, your daughter will continue to cling. Make sure your daughter feels understood and shows empathy. This can give her confidence that you will be there for her when she needs you.

Reducing screen time may be a way to help manage anxiety, too.

Particularly getting more movement. Exercise, especially outdoors, is good for our brains and raises our endorphin levels.

There are other benefits to reducing screen time, too. Just read this recent article to learn more. Everyone talks about this, but in my article, I actually walk you step-by-step on how to implement it.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

2. Don’t force them to do something they don’t want to do

Forcing a kid to do something they don’t want to do will only add to their stress and anxiety. It will make them feel ignored and like their feelings don’t matter.

Of course, there are some things they will have to do, like go to well-visits at the doctor and go to school. Those things are for their health and well-being and are just a necessary part of life.

But if they don’t want to spend the night at grandma’s house or with another family member, don’t make them. And don’t make your child feel guilty about their choice, either. They may just want to stay home, and that’s okay.

3. Don’t be a helicopter parent

Don’t hover over your kids.

Hovering over your kids generally means that you are stressed out over something. Don’t project your own stress and anxiety onto your kids.

They can feel that stress, and it will cause your kids to be stressed out and anxious, too.

Instead, give them the freedom they need to make mistakes. Sure, your daughter may fall down at the playground. That is a completely normal part of growing up and a chance to learn some independence.

As the primary caregiver, we naturally want to protect our kids. But part of providing for a child’s needs is to help them develop resilience; the ability to work through a challenging situation on their own without giving up or getting angry.

Let them have the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them.

4. Don’t be too hands-off either

Don’t completely ignore your daughter, either.

If she falls down at the playground and comes to you in pain, empathize with her. Acknowledge and normalize her feelings, and then move on. Teach her that her feelings are okay, but we don’t need to dwell on them either.

Also, don’t park her in front of the TV all day.

You have stuff you need to get done, too, and I get that. But it’s important to include her, too. She needs to be seen.

Including her in your day-to-day activities will encourage her to become more independent and less reliant on you to entertain her throughout the day.

5. Look for ways to build their confidence

Letting your daughter make her own choices and help around the house are great ways to boost confidence.

Finding something she is good at is another way to build confidence. Maybe it’s team sports, drawing, or developing video games.

Finding an activity she is good at is an excellent way to boost confidence.

If she is not a team sport kind of gal, that’s okay, too. Running and martial arts are fantastic solo activities.

Martial arts, especially, can have a very positive impact on your kids. There are many different kinds of martial arts, but all of them teach confidence, focus, resilience, and discipline. All of the qualities that help build a confident and independent adult.

To read more about how martial arts can boost kids’ confidence, just read this recent article. I ran a school for 7 years and worked with almost 1,000 kids, so trust me when I say this can make a huge difference.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

6. Avoid having them seek your approval for everything

Allow your daughter to make her own choices. Yes, even the bad choices, within reason, of course.

She will learn from her mistakes through natural consequences. For example, let her pour her own glass of milk. When she overfills it, she will have to clean up the mess.

Ideally, she will learn from her mistakes and won’t fill the cup so high next time. Or, she will have another mess to clean up later.

Ultimately kids are dependent on us. But our primary job is to prepare them to live in the real world without us. And so when we coddle them or do everything for them and never let them fail, we risk creating an anxious attachment style with the child.

This will cause relationship problems long into adulthood. Our goal should always be a secure attachment style where the child isn’t looking externally for validation and approval.

7. Provide consistency and routine in their lives

Establishing a routine is essential.

A routine doesn’t just keep your kids on track academically. It also gives them an underlying sense of security. Routines provide structure and expectations about what is coming up during the day.

Make sure to include stretches of 1:1 time with your daughter.

Play a board game together, go for a walk, or read a book. Give her some undivided attention. This will help her fill her emotional cup, so she will be less likely to cling to you throughout the day.

That being said, they do need to know how to adapt to a new situation and new people.

So we don’t want to stick to such a strict routine that any deviation from it boosts a child’s anxiety and actually increases a child’s clinginess.

8. When they accomplish something, ask them how that makes them feel rather than just praising them

Praising children for completing tasks independently can help boost self-esteem and independence. It will encourage self-sufficiency, which will help reduce clinginess.

So whenever your daughter exhibits positive behavior or progress towards independence, be sure to shower her with praise.

But while you are praising her, ask her how she feels about what she’s accomplished. She should be proud of herself and confident that she can do more tasks independently.

9. Encourage them to play independently, but let them know you are there if they need you

Children, especially young children, tend to be less clingy as soon as they start gaining self-confidence. You can build that confidence by giving them opportunities to perform tasks on their own.

Assign simple household tasks that are age-appropriate. Toddlers can put away their toys, help make their own snacks, and even make their bed. Understand that it won’t be perfect, but they will gain the confidence and independence to do more on their own.

Encourage her to play independently, too.

There are lots of independent play options out there. Legos, Barbies, and pretend play can all be done independently. Stay nearby while she’s playing, so she will know that you are there if she needs you.

10. Avoid showing your own fears and insecurities to young children

Kids of all ages are remarkably perceptive.

So try your best to model calmness and confidence. Check-in with yourself and your partner about the kinds of messages you’re putting out there.

Be mindful of how much fear and anxiety your daughter can feel coming from you.

Children often look to their parents for how to respond in certain situations. If you are putting out a lot of fear and stress, your daughter will feel fearful and stressed as well.

11. Clearly communicate in advance when doing things or going places out of the ordinary.

Sudden change can add to anxiety or insecurities your daughter may be feeling. If you are doing anything out of the ordinary, make sure to communicate it early and often.

If your daughter has a doctor’s appointment next week and she’s getting shots, let her know.

Even if the doctor or getting shots increases her anxiety temporarily, she will know that you will always be honest with her.

Talk to her about what is coming up and what to expect. This will give her a chance to talk about it, giving you an opportunity to be there for her when she needs you.

12. Let them decide between 2 choices when possible so they feel more in control of their life

Kids need to be able to make choices in their lives. Too many choices can be overwhelming, though.

So pick two things that you would agree to, and let them decide.

For example, let her pick between two outfits to wear for the day. Or let her decide if she wants to go to the park now or later in the afternoon.

Does she want water or milk with lunch?

Making these small choices throughout the day will boost her confidence and help her feel more in control of her life. Being flexible and letting her make her own choices are great ways to be an authoritative parent.

Authoritative parenting is a parenting style that sets clear boundaries and limits for children while meeting their emotional needs at the same time.

It’s not quite that simple, though.

Check out this recent article where I discuss the differences between authoritative parenting and authoritarian parenting. Authoritative parenting works with your kid, while authoritarian is more of a dictatorship.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

13. Make sure the home life is stable, reliable, and consistent

Getting over a child’s clinginess doesn’t happen overnight. It’s going to require consistency and stability.

Give your daughter room to explore her emotions. It is a natural part of growth and development, and she will eventually grow out of it.

Make sure you are there for her. Reassure her that she is loved and understood no matter what.

Even if part of her home life is unstable or going through some sort of change, like a divorce, provide her with as much stability as you can. Maintain routines and be available if she needs you.

As a dad, it’s especially important to be a good listener so you can empathize with your daughter.

You play a special role in the life of your daughter. Daughters with active fathers are less likely to suffer depression, develop eating disorders, or experiment with drugs.

To read more about the vital role that dads play in their daughter’s lives, check out this recent article. Just click the link to read it on my site.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it separation anxiety disorder?

Separation anxiety disorder (SAD) is an actual mental health condition.

It’s important to note that a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist should be the one to make the diagnosis here. Children with SAD have extreme anxiety about being away from parents or other family members.

These children exhibit clingy behavior over a fear of being lost from their families. Or sometimes it’s from a fear of a parent or family member getting hurt when they aren’t with them.

This differs from a normal child’s clinginess mostly in the frequency the child has these feelings and the intensity of the child’s feelings.

So gauge how often you’re seeing this and if the feelings seem extreme. And don’t be afraid to consult a professional if needed.

When they won’t leave your side at a play date

We’ve all been there. You set up a play date or take them to social events and then they are stuck to your leg the entire time. It can happen anywhere, but most often it would be at a new place.

In an ideal world, a play date would actually allow you a moment to breathe and connect with other adult parents. But if your kid is in a clingy toddler phase and won’t leave your side, it can be frustrating!

A great way to meet your child’s needs that still gives you a bit of freedom is to momentarily get down and play with them with the other kids.

Show your clingy baby or clingy kids that it’s a safe place with safe people. Have fun, and allow them to have fun with the other kids.

Then slowly remove yourself from the area. Just don’t make a big deal of your exit and avoid making eye contact which could trigger your child’s anxiety.

How does object permanence impact your child’s clinginess?

Object permanence is when young kids lack the ability to understand that someone or something is still there and available even if it’s out of sight.

For example, a new baby doesn’t understand that his or her mother is still there and available even if she has stepped out of the room for a minute.

So the baby or toddler might have a hard time dealing with the anxiety of not being able to see their parents or other family members.

The best way to provide a little extra support for your child in dealing with this is to clearly communicate where you are going and when you’ll be back. Then you might even talk to them when you are out of their line of sight.

Over time they will learn to trust you are still available even if they can’t see you.

How do you get your child to stop following you?

As a general rule, if a toddler is following a parent, it’s because they are feeling anxious. Get to the root of their anxiety and help them deal with it, and they will naturally become less anxious and be more comfortable when not in your immediate presence.

Anxiety can present itself in many ways. Following you around is one of those ways.

Nobody means more to our kids than you do. They simply love you to pieces. They feel safe with you, and they know you will always be there for them.

Unfortunately, this means that your toddler will often be underfoot!

While this can be cute, it can be overwhelming, especially if you have to cook or clean or even go to the bathroom!

Depending on the age of the child, there are a few things you can do to get them to stop following you, or at least to give you a little bit of space.

No matter what age, make sure their love bucket is filled.

Spend some time every day snuggling with them, reading to them, and being affectionate towards your child. This will help your child feel loved and more emotionally able to be separated from you.

Next, give them some tasks to do.

Kids love helping their parents. It makes them feel like a grown-up, and it helps them feel closer to you.

It can be frustrating for you if your child is younger. She may not do things exactly how you want them to be done, but remember, you are teaching her independence. Let her do it her way, and then later, come behind her and fix it if you need to.

The key is to remain patient.

She can help put the groceries away or use a Swiffer Sweeper to help clean the floors. Let her dry plastic cups when you’re washing dishes. Let her get the clothes out of the dryer and put them in the basket.

Praise her often and without reservation. “I really like the way you dry those cups!” or “Thank you for getting the clothes out of the dryer. That’s a big help!”

Don’t just give her generic praises, but specific praise. This will help boost her confidence and encourage her to try more independent things.

Why is my daughter so clingy to me?

Toddler daughters are naturally clingy as parents represent the ultimate safety. As daughters get older, clingy daughters may be a sign of anxiety or insecurities, particularly if they are drawn to a parent much more than their friends.

So again, if we’re talking toddlers, this is totally normal.

Over time, your toddler will become more confident. She’ll be able to navigate the world without your constant support.

In the meantime, don’t push her away if she is hanging on to you or needs extra love. Instead, give her a stuffed animal to hug on.

If she hangs on in a way that makes it hard for you to move around, like on your leg, try to get her to just place a hand on your leg, or hold on to your pants.

Set clear boundaries in a loving and consistent manner.

This will allow you to move around more easily. It will also help to break the habit over time. In elementary-age and above, it becomes less and less normal for daughters to remain clingy.

So it’s important to get to the root of their anxiety.

After all, while it could be nothing, it could be related to a sexual assault or the beginnings of an eating disorder. And left unchecked, either can be devastating.

Different kinds of parenting styles can affect kids differently.

As a new parent or even a seasoned parent, it can be hard to know the role you play in your child’s life. Check out this recent article to read about different parenting styles and how our actions can influence our kids’ behavior.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Can a child be too attached to their mother?

At a young age, children can’t be too attached, and the more love and security they receive, the stronger their self-esteem will be in later life. Just ensure it’s a healthy dependency and not becoming a co-dependency and unhealthy for both of you.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but the more attached a child is, the more confident they can feel that their needs will be met.

When a child knows that you will be there for them, they will stop looking for love and approval. This gives them the freedom to start focusing on growth and independence.

The biggest thing we can do as parents is to always show them affection when our kids need it. Provide an invitation for a relationship that is unconditional.

The end goal is to be caring yet firm.

This means that you can let your child know that your relationship will always be okay, even if certain behaviors are not.

Don’t meet your child’s demands, but always meet their needs.

Children don’t need to be pushed away to be independent. What kids need most are deep connections and relationships. They need to be freed from their hunger for connection.

When kids can count on their caretakers, they no longer need to cling to them. They know that they will be there when they need them, no matter what.

Why is my tween or teenage daughter so clingy?

Just like younger kids, tweens and teenagers cling to their parents because they want to feel safe and comfortable. As they enter middle or high school, between hormonal changes, and life complexities increasing, it’s natural to see an increase in clinginess.

Clinginess is an instinctual response to a perceived threat and anxiety. It’s a normal developmental phase for babies and younger kids.

But if you notice it in your older daughter, there may be something deeper going on. If you’ve had a major change in your household, or if there are some other external stressors going on, some regression may occur.

You might suddenly find your previously independent 11-year-old following you around the house all day like a shadow. Or you might find your 13-year-old suddenly crawling in bed with you in the middle of the night to cuddle.

This regression is a threat-based response to increase safety and reduce anxiety.

If nothing at home has changed, take the time to talk to your daughter and find out what is going on. If she is being especially clingy or regressing in a way that is concerning, talk to her pediatrician or a mental health professional.

If her clinginess is something that doesn’t appear to be too serious, there are several things you can do to help your daughter. So we’ll get into that next.

Final thoughts

Our kids love us to pieces.

They trust us and know that we’ll always be there for them. This is great, but it can be frustrating as a parent. By making sure that our kids’ emotional buckets are filled, they will know that they are loved, too.

Take some time to snuggle with your daughter when she needs it, provide consistency, and be generous with praise. This will give her the security and the confidence to be more independent.

But don’t run at top speed every time your child cries. It’s OK if they learn how to comfort themselves and how to solve their own problems.

Attachment isn’t the enemy of maturity, but insecure relationships will be.

Think your child’s clinginess is a sign of a bigger problem?

While it’s somewhat normal behavior in toddlers, in older kids, and especially teens or tweens, it can be a sign of a much bigger issue.

Luckily the folks over at TeenCounseling work with thousands of kids just like yours and mine.

Get matched with licensed therapists who specialize in working with teens. Let them know of the issues and signs you’re seeing. Once you approve, you connect them with your child for online therapy they can access right on a smartphone or computer.

And, of course, they’ll let you know if they sense anything serious.

CLICK HERE to check out TeenCounseling and see if it might be worth considering for your family’s peace of mind!


Jeff Campbell