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16 Month Old Is Driving Me Crazy

so my 16 month old is driving me crazy. for the past few months she's been very needy, crying and whining when i put her down or leave the room (even if her dad is with her). i read somewhere that it's just a phase, and that it passes faster if you provide reassurance that you are available for them. but it has gotten worse. and she's started to whine. she does not do this as much with her father. needless to say this is super unpleasant and i wonder if being too available (i stay at home) is not making it worse. any advice?

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I think it's a normal separation anxiety phase. My nephew is 18 months and going through it. Only wants mama. My sister tells him when she's leaving and when she'll be back and who is going to stay with. Seems to help, but it's a normal phase that passes. Good luck! C.

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Two things to try.
When dad comes home both of you greet him at the door. Get him AND her settled and then say, "I am going for my walk!" Go out the door and be gone for 10 minutes or more, even if she throws a tantrum. Get her in the routine of seeing you away but coming back.
Two, have your husband take HER for a walk or out to play. Same theory applies. She won't like it very much at first but she will get used to it, you HAVE to give it time.
What you are experiencing is classic separation anxiety. She will learn that just because mommy isn't there doesn't mean you won't come back. Remember that kids live in "the now". Good luck. =)

Maybe she is just tired and needs a nap. A sixteen month old needs two naps a day usually.

I studied attachment theory in school and what your child is going through is called the clear cut attachment phase of separation anxiety. It usually begins 6 to 8 months and starts again around 18 to 24 months. Your child needs reassurance and the reason why she is reacting to you more than your husband is because you are her primary attachment figure. She is developing the connection that you are her secure base and this is very important for survival because as children reach the second phase and become more mobile they need to know that they have a safe place to go.
Be patient. Everything is is a phase and this is an important part of emotional development for her.
I would however (on the safe side) take her in to have her ears checked out and get a physical to make sure there is nothing physically wrong with her.
Remember try not to be angry with her, just reassure her and let her know she is loved and she is safe.
Good Luck,
-M. R.

Hi T.! I also have a 20 mo. old baby girl and I noticed that she would be very clingy, whiny and needy when she is starting to get sick. I can understand your frustrations becaue I'm also a stay at home mom. There are times when I just want to quit being a mom! But after finding out about my child's illness I felt guilty for being upset. Goodluck!

D. =)

I have a 25 month old boy. These are just phases. They pass and then you will miss this phase.

What I found helpful during this phase was to distract him with something he just loved. Like going to the park, giving him a new toy, taking him to the garden to "water" the plants... and then when I got back to the house I could leave him alone for some time.

This also happened to me too. I was at my wits ends with holding my son all day and not being able to even step a foot away from him without him losing it completely. I ended up just telling him what I was about to do and then just walking away and letting him cry and deal with his emotions while I did what I needed to do. I was surprised that within an afternoon he was doing so much better! But he did cry one right after another for several hours until he got the point. After I returned from what I was doing I would sit next to him on the floor ignoring him until he stop crying then I would praise him like crazy and we would play. You have to be prepared for a lot of crying and it might not be your style but I worked wonders for me.

It depends on how frightened a child is of her environment and/or how upset her stomach feels (sometimes as a result of being in stressed/frightened). I found that yelling/scolding at her regarding her condition only makes her more frightened.

My first child was a "cling-on" (i.e. in my baby bjorn baby carrier all day until she was almost 3 and then in my arms until she was 4). I was in tears one night when I was sitting on a rocking chair for 4 hours straight. I couldn't even go the restroom without her around. She had a really bad case of colic and will cry a lot...according to her pediatricians.

When my daughter was able to talk, I found out that she was allegic to dairy products and had a sensory disorder called tactile sensitivities. As a 7 year-old, she's still afraid to go into a dark room by herself. She says that she sees monsters. The more we discount the "monster theory", the more scared she gets. Along with her sensory disorder, she throws a fit if she has a tag on her shirt or seams on her underwear/socks. But, she's a straight A student and doing extremely well physically/socially.

After that experience, I decided to try stepping away from the cries when my second child arrived. I checked to make sure she wasn't hungry, wasn't in pain, wasn't cold/hot, didn't need to be burped, and didn't need to be diapered. Lacking the feel of mobility that I gave her older sister (i.e. the baby bjorn baby carrier), my second child almost became a vegetable and developed some serious gross motor problems. A mommy and me music/movement together class brought her back to life, so we immediately started music therapy to continue to fix her speech and gross motor. She's also seeing a physical therapist. Her fine motor skills have always been great though...from sitting on a chair by herself for so long. She's now doing extremely well socially, but we're still working on her gross motor diabilities.

A healthy balance of being with your child and stepping away is what I would do if I had a third child (assuming the child is not cold/hot, sleepy, or in pain...my oldest daughter was clearly in pain all during her infancy/toddlerhood).

Most importantly, moms model to their kids how to behave. Kids know that they need to cry to get moms attention to feed their inner sense of learning how to behave in this world. They are like sponges taking everything that the mom does, even though the kids can't communicate yet.

Most people would never do this to their child, but children who are left outside in the yard with the dog develops dog behaviors (barking, scratching for fleas, no speech, eating with their face out of a bowl, etc...). They've filmed documentaries on these children. The kids who are older than 6 years of age in these films remain the same into adulthood, but the ones who are discovered in time at around the age of 2 can still be helped out.

So, the first 6 years is really a true test of a mom's patience. Involve your child in your own activities/chores as much as possible, even if she makes a big mess, so she can learn from your own model of patience and learn that helping others/the family can be fun. Those 6 years will go by so fast, but forms the foundation of a child's behavior.

I don't think that being too available makes the whining worse, but responding tot he whining does. Also, when teeth come in and growth spurts happen it makes them feel bad and need to be held. I usually respond but intensity level of the neediness. If she seems really needy, sometime is strap her in a sling and within 5 or ten minutes she has gotten her fill. If she is just being whiney I tell her how annoying it is and how much I hate it and let her throw a mini tantrum and when I don't respond she cools it a bit. It is different for each family though. I do work, and if i have worked three or so days in a row, I know it is hard for her and I spend the next day making it up with her by doing things with and for her all day. I don't know if that helped, but yes, the age is right for this sort of behavior. Actually, in the morning she is very grumpy and clingy, so I bring her out in her blanket (a security item really helps when they are at this stage) and put her on the couch with some juice and crackers and Plaza Sesamo (Sesame street in spanish) and she watches an episode quietly. This seems to help a lot with the morning grumpies. (I know the pediatricians say no TZ til 2, but this is really helping her spanish, at 18 months).

While I completely understand what you mean, I never, not even once, said that my daughter was driving me crazy when she was at that age/stage. I, too, stayed at home w/ her, and yes, she also had moments when I would get frustrated. You should feel good about being needed and wanted, especially by someone as great as a child - your child! There will come a time when seh won't anymore and you will look to find out how you can squeeze yourself in her life.

Having said that, when you are getting to that point of frustration, count a few seconds, then reassure her that everything will be ok. She won't understand it, but it will soothe and comfort her. I was lucky to have had an array of DVD's like the Baby Einstein collection, Barney, Wiggles, Disney, toys, etc, to keep my company and occupied w/ her. On the days when we both got 'cabin fever', I would pack her up and go out. She likes the stroller and people watching. I had snacks for her to keep her busy and content.

My daughter is now 4.5 y/o and is still very much attached to me! When I'm around, she tells me that she only wants to play w/ me, or Mommy's going to help her, or Mommy will do it. I recently took her ice skating to teach her, the whole time she kept telling me that she already knew how to do it (in her head, not real life), but made me PROMISE NOT TO LET HER GO! It's so amazing to know that while I have the luxury, my daughter goes out of her way to make sure I know how much she needs me. I count my blessings everyday that we're not at the stage where she doesn't need me - I dread that the most! I see her achievements daily and am so proud that I'm the first person she chooses to be with!

Being a stay at home mom is THE TOUGHEST JOB anyone can ever do!!! It's great that you, not only have the means to stay at home, but the privilege of seeing every stage of her development, and know that her future will not only be shaped with your influence and assistance, but also your undeniable love, support and understanding! Just be a little bit more patient - she's going to grow out of this phase. I know that going through it is tough, but if you can birth a child, there really is NOTHING ELSE that you won't be able to do!!! You can overcome this - give yourself more credit - you're as strong and able as any one of us, and your daughter knows that, that's why she wants you so much! Good Luck!

This is definitely a phase. My son, who is 17 years old right now, did the same thing at that age. I went to a toddler class with him at the local junior college and it really helped with social skill development. You might want to see if there is a toddler class to help with your child.

I'm thinking maybe you are too available and the more available you are, the more she is demanding. Just like anything we love, it's never enough - more is better. I think you need to just try to ignore the cry/whine when you leave the room. I'm sure you're not going into another room and closing a door in her face or anything other such thing (unless you're going to the bathroom.) Children do need to know that you're there, but on the other hand, it does them good to learn patience and that they are not the only person in the world and that sometimes they have to wait. Take twins for example. One has to wait while the other is getting attention (diaper change, bathed, etc.) It doesn't hurt them. It is a phase and it does pass, but if you ignor the crying and whining she may come out of this phase having learned a lesson you will want her to have - patience and trust in you (that you'll come back.) Putting a child in some sort of sling and carrying them around while you try to do housework is the most ludicrous thing I've ever heard of and will definitely create clingy, whiney children. don't do it to yourself or your daughter!

I think it's a normal separation anxiety phase. My nephew is 18 months and going through it. Only wants mama. My sister tells him when she's leaving and when she'll be back and who is going to stay with. Seems to help, but it's a normal phase that passes. Good luck! C.


Has your daughter had a check up lately. My son (14 mos) was being very "needy" and would not want me to put him down so I decided to go to our pedi. to have his ears checked. Turns out he had a double ear infection. He didn't show signs of having one, no tugging on the ears, nothing. He was happy then would not want anything but for me to hold him. It's worth a try.

Hi T.,
It is absolutely, completely, 100% normal! I know it's not pleasant but just try to enjoy her as much as you can. I have found it is helpful keep a chipper attitude and say happily, "I'll be right back. I'm going to get the clothes out of the dryer." Get them and then come right back and say happily, "See, here I am! I came right back." Keep smiling regardless of her protests. In time she will feel better about you leaving the room or even leaving the house.

Kids make decisions about how they feel based on how their parents are feeling. For example, if you are always apologetic and seem to feel bad when you have to leave she will read your feelings and think she has something to feel bad about. If you seemed worried dropping her off at daycare (I know you stay home but just in case), she will think she has something to worry about too. So instead of giving her 20 extra hugs and lingering around to try to make her feel okay about you leaving, give her a quick hug and kiss and tell her she's going to have a great day and you'll see her later. Then leave with a smile on your face no matter how devastated you are inside (and no matter how much she may be crying).

This is so common with children her age. Hang in there! :)

Oh, and one more VERY important thing: Don't ever try to sneak away while she is distracted. She will become more insecure and clingy because she will be afraid that you will sneak away as soon as she is not looking...and the phase will last for a very very long time. She could develop trust issues so just tell her you are leaving even though she is going to be upset. When you always come back she will learn to trust you in the long run.


Hi T.,
Well it may sound corny but it is actually true - you cannot possibly make yourself too present for your young child - there is no such thing! For the first three years of life a child and mother share what is sometimes called the "madonna cloak". This is an "etheric", protective envelope which takes a full three years to dissipate. This phenomenon is what some people refer to as mother and child "bonding". At three years old, a child has their very first inkling of being a separate individual - separate especially from their parents and more especially Mom. Unfortunately, even the most supremely loving and caring dad cannot do anything that will replace this particular bond between mother and child. Some children need reassurance more than others - depending on their own particular temperament and their very early experiences. Although I understand (as a mother of two) how wearying it can be, it is also a great joy to have such a strong connection and closeness with your child. In fact, in later years your relationship will be formed according to how you deal with this need while she is so young. What appears to some as neediness may simply be your own child's way of asking for your love, warmth and comfort...free of charge, free of guilt, free of expectation and judgments....or what is better known as "unconditional love". This is what is asked of each of us a human beings to work toward. However in the mother/child situation it seems a bit more "in your face" so to speak. Working with whatever spiritual resources you connect with -I suggest you look for inner support and strength. Getting enough rest and "space" for yourself can help a lot as well.
Best wishes,
J. Birns
Waldorf Educator/Consultant for Early Childhood, Artist and Author

Both of my kids went through this at different ages. If they were really upset or scared, I always went to them because I did want them to know that they could count on me to be there. But once the whimpering and whining started...I knew they were okay where they were and not scared, they just wanted me in sight... I would just holler from where I was, reassuring that I'm just in the other room and as soon as I take care of such-n-such then I'll be right back. I even talked them through what I was doing so they could keep hearing my voice. I think if you drop what you are doing every single time they make a tiny noise, then you run the risk that they will get used to that treatment. Can you imagine a 4 year old whining and moaning if they want your attention because they never learned otherwise? I know somebody like that right now...it's difficult for the mom to get anything done and a little irritating for me to be around.

Reassurance is always good, then make yourself available and don't worry...she will grow out of it.

Good luck.

Both my kids did this too at different times. I'm also a stay-at-home Mom and they have me 24/7 when they need me. I found that leaving them in the church nursery during service on Sunday helped. It was once a week (sometimes twice if I went to Bible study), and it gave them just enough time away from me, with other kids and new caregivers to get used to the idea that I will return.

It's a security thing. It took a good month before they would stop crying when I departed. I was very fortunate to have caregivers who had the patience and the love for them to hold them even when they were crying and screaming uncontrollable in their faces. Of course I explained it to the caregivers and let them know that if it's really bad they can come get me. Most of them said that after a couple minutes the kids would start playing and soon enough were okay and forgotten about me.

If you try this method here are a few tips:

1. Make sure you really trust the caregivers
2. Give the caregivers a way out (in other words don't just drop them off and disappear to a place that might take to long for you to return)
3. Make it for a short period - an hour at the most
4. Make it often or a routine - twice a week
5. Have other kids there so they can play and be distracted
6. Use snacks to distract
7. Make your exit quickly *** Very important one. Don't make it worse for baby by lingering.

Hope that helps.


As a child development major in college, I was always taught that ALL behavior is based on need. Has ANYTHING changed in her world recently? For example; has her routine changed, has she recently weaned, moved, changed schools, is she learning how to do something new? Without more information , it is really hard to say. She could be going through a growth spurt. That can send any child into a tizzy for weeks or more! Is she getting new teeth (particularly molars)? Children feel safe to act out with their mothers more because we are eternally there for them. No matter what our children do, they see that we will not withhold love or abandon them.
Therefore, we bear the brunt of this type of behavior moreso than other family members. Those who tell you that you should reassure her that you are there for her (that it will build her trust) are correct, however you can set limits and boudaries that are healthy for both of you. In fact, that could be what this behavior is about. At this age, toddlers are testing their limits, and they will do just exactly what they can get away with. You could try telling her that you see that she is really upseet or that she seems really scared and that it is ok to feel that way, and you can also explain that she is safe and that you will always be nearby if she needs you. You are not leaving, but you have things that you need to do. You can tell her that you will check in with her in two minutes (or less at the beginning). Make sure that you do it! She will come to see that you are there when you say and that she is indeed safe. Gradually you can make the time longer between checking in.
Yes, It is most likely a phase, and you will get through it!
Being a mother is no easy job!!!!

Im pretty sure its a phase my 23 month old didn't do it at 16 months old but the past week and a half he's been really needy and whiny, he doesn't want his dad either which makes it hard to get things done but I keep him on my hip if he is having a really bad moment which calms him down, I just think my son is a momma's boy and Im the only one who can really calm him down. I would keep attending to her needs even if it is whining and in a couple of weeks maybe she will calm down I'm sure its just a phase. maybe she's a momma's girl and prefers you.

I am sure it is a phase. But whining can last forever, if not addressed. Once I read that whining is a smaller form of a tantrum and that it should be dealt with immediately. I really notice it with my nieces (bless their hearts). They are almost 3, but they whine just to talk. When they are called out on it they sort of stop. But no one has pushed them to communicate "using their words" so they stop talking and start to stomp or wave their hands in frustration.

Are all her teeth in? She may dealing with a growth spurt too.
As for with her Father versus you, I think as a mother (speaking for myself too) we tend to tolerate more. It may not neccessarily be a male/female issue, but more of one parent is firmer with kids than the other. I don't think it is because you stay at home though. She may get a reaction out of you when she whines, and since it has worked before she goes straight to whining and skips the asking...that is what my friend told me her son did for a while.
Lastly, is there anything that has changed or happening in your world? Like a move? A family dynamic? Children are very perseptive of our emotions, and they love us and feel the difference. My son is very reactive to even just a little stress from me (we are looking to buy a house...).
Try reading the Happiest Toddler On The Block by Dr. Karp.
A good book and you can find them used online cheap.
Hang in there. You sound like a good, sensitive mom.
Good luck! ;)

Enjoy her. I know it seems difficult right now but if you're at home focus your attention on her. The more concentrated sincere attention you give her the more secure she will feel. It won't be overnight but it will get better. Plan activities for just the two of you, outings to the park, finger painting with pudding, building blocks/ puzzles on the floor, etc. Don't let anyone convince you that you're being home is feeding into her behavior.

Make time for you to regain your sanity after she goes to sleep. Take time away out of the house when your husband can watch her. As a mother of five I have found there's no such thing as "alone time" at home. If you've spent quality time with your daughter don't feel guilty about slipping out to take time for yourself. She will probably put on an impressive dramatic display to keep you home, but those usually fizzle out a few moments after you are out of sight. Good luck and hang it there. Oh, girls and whining go hand in hand. Be glad she waited this long. You might just look for articles on how to curb the whining. Its definitely a category all by itself!

Hi T.!

Oh, I remember those days! I just wanted to "hide" and be alone for 5 seconds! But,I didn't.....

You're right....this is a phase. No matter how hard you try to comfort her with Daddy, Grandma, or Blankie, or whatever... she will only need you. It is definitely exhausting, but try to take it as a highest compliment. She is most secure with you and only you.

I don't think it has anything to do with being a SAHM. I have worked with one child, and home with the youngest, and they BOTH went through this stage.

To help make them more secure with what I was doing, I started "talking" more to my boys about what I was doing. Like stupid things, like "ok, mommy is going to get a glass of water, because I'm soooooo thristy".....I basically announced my EVERY move. Eventually, I was able to finally rotate laundry without so many tears :o)

Remember, it doesn't last forever. Try to be patient with it. I know it's hard, because I remember crying about it after being completely exhausted with the whole thing.

You'll be in my thoughts :o)

When my guys were little, someone told me "Independence comes out of dependency needs being met." So hug her, love her and rub her back. Accomodate her at your feet while your work. Just wait for the time to pass.

And when you do leave, exit quickly. Do not return for her whining or delay your leaving for it. Just say good bye and leave.

I used to have a song that I would sing to the boys when I left:

Mommy's leaving
Mommy's leaving
She'll be back
She'll be back
Remember that she loves you
Remember that she loves you
She'll be back
She'll be back.
(sung to the tun of Brother John)

I sang it just before I exited and then whoever was with the kid would hum it or sing it to him when he got upset. Eventually they would hum it to themselves as a way to self-calm.

And now they are 16 and 12 and both can walk away from me at the drop of a hat - to go to school or fly across country alone. They have, indeed, become independent.

Whenever I have questions about phases I refer to the book by the American Academy of Pediatrics "Caring for Your Baby and Young Child". It has been right on target with all of the phases I have had questions about. My daughter is a total cling as well. All kids have personalities and according to this book it does not matter what your parenting style is, if you work or stay home etc - some kids just go through this phase.

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