33 answers

Excessive Neediness?

Hey moms! Our son is 14 mos now and a great little guy, but I find myself baffled by a recent behavior development. I know that lots of kids go through separation issues and I don't know what to do. He's fine most of the day when we are together except when I go into the kitchen to make food for a meal, even his. He starts by working his way into the kitchen, then goes for my legs and won't let go! Even if I am standing at the counter, he will push until he works his way to the front of my legs and won't let go. He just holds on with both hands, looks up at me and starts to whine and then cry and scream if I don't pick him up to let him see what I am doing. Once he's off his feet, he's fine and wanting to touch hot things on the stove. At one time, we had a baby gate installed in the entrance of the kitchen, and he would hold onto the bars and cry when I was in there. It doesn't matter if he has toys or distractions or even if my husband is home and is playing with him. Our son just pushes him out of the way to get to me. The minute I go in there to prepare food, he's on me like glue, clawing at me and crying as if to say "pick me up!" I am sure everyone is familiar with this look!
Really, I am looking for realistic suggestions on how to make this stop without making him either reject me completely or need therapy at age 5 because I can't fulfill his "needs" while I am trying to cook dinner. I have tried to redirect his focus with books and toys and even my husband, tried to communicate through signs that it is dangerous for him to be near a hot stove, etc. He's just little enough that nothing is really working and he is so determined and stubborn....ugh!

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Hi L.,

When my son did this, I put him in his high chair so that he could see what I was doing and talked out loud to describe everything I was doing. This helped him him to have an amazing vocabulary at a very young age once he started speaking. I also gave him some "tastes" of each thing that I was making so that he could see the relationships between how foods could go together.
Good luck!
C.

3 moms found this helpful

L.,

My 14 month old son started something similar. What I have been doing is a combination of things. He knows that when I am in the kitchen he is going to get some food. I have discovered he has no concept that creating dinner is not an instant thing. So, I have begun to give him a small snack, either in a snack cup at my feet or in his high chair. I tell him what I am doing and talk to him about it. The snack and drink really seem to help him.

When he does want me to pick him up I tell him that "Mommies hands are busy" and I bend down and show him what I am doing.

He also has a drawer filled with Tupperware, a cupboard filled with all sorts of things that make noise and are fun to play with. (pots, bowls, pitchers, etc.) These are all just things we know we wash before we use them:-)

These things usually last until the meal is ready. If it is going to be a bit longer I pull his high chair up in the kitchen and watches while I finish up. I found if I put him up too early he gets antsy. I usually give him some spoons and things to bang on his try or some other tactile thing to do.

It is not a perfect system, but it seems to be working so far.

3 moms found this helpful

My son is also 14 months, and a very independent little guy. Until I'm in the kitchen, that is. He knows that the kitchen means food, and that Mommy has GOT to be doing something fun. He wants to know what it is, and he wants to eat (I swear he's always hungry). I put him in his highchair in the kitchen so that he can see everything, but can't reach. It's the ONLY thing that works for us.

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful

More Answers

I'll bet you'll hear from dozens of moms that their little ones do this. My daughter did, and now my grandson, too. There's instant magnetic attraction when you combine mommies with food preparation. Plus, it's dinnertime and everybody's hungry. Plus, your son is big enough to be genuinely interested in the fascinating and complicated things mommy and daddy get to do. And if you were that short, wouldn't you want to be up where all the interesting stuff is going on?

Can you give a few minutes of your prep time to including him in your activity? Just plan for it as part of your kitchen activity. It may seem inconvenient and intrusive, but that's what it is anyway, and neither your son nor you are getting any pleasure from the current situation. You can make it happier for you all!

I agree with Marda that you might try a high chair near the stove, close enough for him to "participate" by stirring a bowl or pan (bigger- more "special" – than his usual food bowl), with maybe a few slices of banana, a broken cracker, cheese, water or milk, shredded wheat, some nutritious leftovers, whatever you wouldn't mind finding its way into his mouth. A plastic knife, a few grains of salt, a rubber scraper, some chopped parsley - look around for new props every few days.

It also helps to teach "hot" as one of a child's first words. This was wonderful for both my daughter and later my grandboy when they reached that "grab everything" stage. Sip a very warm, but not scalding cup, just barely within your son's reach. Warn him that it's HOT!!! and it could hurt if he touches it. Well, he will, and he'll pull his hand away (my grandson tried to wipe the "hot" off his fingers onto his shirt – very cute), and you can say the word again. Maybe touch the cup first yourself and pull away, exclaiming HOT!!!

This is a really easy, impressive, and harmless lesson for a child to learn, and an easy word for really young children to pronounce. Maybe repeat the lesson another time or two, if needed. Then you'll be able to warn him about what's hot. Even pre-verbal kids get it. (You will, of course, still need to be careful about keeping pan handles and other real hazards out of his reach for awhile. Little kids can get so eager to participate that they forget to be careful.)

If the high chair doesn't cut it, or wears thin after awhile, maybe daddy can play cooking games with your son. My son-in-law would set up a "kitchen" on a coffee table and start cooking with dry spaghetti and a big spoon in a pan. He'd have such obvious fun that my grandboy couldn't resist, and would head over there to help. Now that he's 2 1/2, he pulls a stool up to the stove and "helps" his mom. He's a little in the way, it's a little inconvenient, and it's just lovely to see him participating at the very heart of family activity. He can actually do a few tasks that are almost helpful. And he loves it. Who knows if this is how great chefs begin?

It's a stage, and an important one, I think. Your son is entering the great learning game of imitation. It's what little children do, what they need to do, what they are programmed to do. If you can find a way to allow him to participate in meal prep, you'll be able to gradually give him "real" tasks to "help" you. And eventually it will become helpful. Good luck.

6 moms found this helpful

Have you tried giving him a cupboard or drawer with cooking utensils in it so that he can "cook" right along with you?

Another suggestion is to put him in his high chair in the kitchen so he can see what you're doing but still be contained.

I think it would also be reasonable to tell him staying out of the kitchen is a rule and everytime he comes in immediately take him out and sit him down similar to a time out. On SuperNanny I've seen her show parents how to break this sort of thing by doing this every time he comes into the kitchen. It may take you a couple of hours to fix dinner and it may take more than one day but in the end you'll have trained him to stay out of the kitchen.

Keeping him out of the kitchen is not "not fulfilling his needs." The needs that the mental health people are talking about are those for love, food, sleep, healthy food, safety and boundaries. Staying out of the kitchen is an important boundary that he needs to learn for his own safety. There will be many, many times that you'll feel torn between enforcing boundaries and meeting his needs. Enforcing boundaries is absoulutely necessary if he is to grow up to be a responsible child and then adult.

I'm still often torn between wanting to give my grandchildren what they want and holding to a boundary. I've found it helps to decide ahead of time where I'll set the boundary. For example I freqently buy my granddaughter a toy when she goes to the store with me. JUst now I've decided I'm going to try enforcing a boundary that says I'll buy you a toy once/month. This means I'll have to keep track on the calender.

Her mother gets irritated when she comes home every time with a toy even tho it's inexpensive. She says I'm "spoiling" her. I tell her that "spoiling" is a grandmother's job.
:):):) However, I'm noticing that she now begs and becomes difficult when I don't buy the toy or do some of the other things for her that are not needed by her. I have difficulty holding my ground.

You probably will find taking her out of the kitchen every time difficult too. We mothers frequently feel that when our child crys it means he needs something. While the child learns that when he cries Mom will do what he wants.

Your son may be hungry and probably tired. My daughter gives her chldren carrot sticks or a piece of apple or crackers while she cooks and I've noticed that they stay out of the kitchen better and don't whine as much. The child's need is to satisfy his physical hunger. The child may also be tired to the point that they want to be held. You could experiment with snacks and nap times.

4 moms found this helpful

you say he wants to see what you are doing, bring his high chair over where you are and talk to him while you are doing things. Let him have items (food or things that you are using i.e. spatulas, pots, bowls, measuring spoons especially things he can see you are using.) Let him help by bringing the garbage to his high chair and have him throw items in. Bring a chair up to the sink and let him "wash" dishes while you are cooking- if you put items you have used in he sees that and feels he is helping. You will need to put towels down and then clean up but it is only water! There are also types of stools that enclose them if you are afraid of him falling, but I have found that get comfortable pretty fast. Put him in a back pack and let him hold measuring spoons, etc. Put him on the counter if there is one he can see from but not be too close to the stove. He might be wanting to taste foods you are preparing or he doesn't think about his hunger until this is triggering it. All sorts of things, but try different things and know that what works today probably won't work tomorrow and that this is just a stage that he will get through. I have 4 boys and they make it very hard to make dinner. You can also start things when he is down for a nap and just have a little to finish- put things in the crockpot or put things together and ready to bake, etc. Good luck- I know it is difficult but I have found that including them seems to make the stages go by easier.

3 moms found this helpful

Hi L.,
I have 3 boys, ages 8, 7 and 5. They all did the same thing as your son. And although you feel like you're going crazy at the time, before you know it, they will be off and running and you will wish they were still hanging on you. I agree with the other responses to have dad take him outside or on a walk, or even watching a few minutes of his favorite tv show while you're cooking. You definitely need to keep your sanity and it helps to have some "alone" time in the kitchen.

R.

3 moms found this helpful

Hi L.,

When my son did this, I put him in his high chair so that he could see what I was doing and talked out loud to describe everything I was doing. This helped him him to have an amazing vocabulary at a very young age once he started speaking. I also gave him some "tastes" of each thing that I was making so that he could see the relationships between how foods could go together.
Good luck!
C.

3 moms found this helpful

L.,

My 14 month old son started something similar. What I have been doing is a combination of things. He knows that when I am in the kitchen he is going to get some food. I have discovered he has no concept that creating dinner is not an instant thing. So, I have begun to give him a small snack, either in a snack cup at my feet or in his high chair. I tell him what I am doing and talk to him about it. The snack and drink really seem to help him.

When he does want me to pick him up I tell him that "Mommies hands are busy" and I bend down and show him what I am doing.

He also has a drawer filled with Tupperware, a cupboard filled with all sorts of things that make noise and are fun to play with. (pots, bowls, pitchers, etc.) These are all just things we know we wash before we use them:-)

These things usually last until the meal is ready. If it is going to be a bit longer I pull his high chair up in the kitchen and watches while I finish up. I found if I put him up too early he gets antsy. I usually give him some spoons and things to bang on his try or some other tactile thing to do.

It is not a perfect system, but it seems to be working so far.

3 moms found this helpful

The best and most realist thing you can do is to put the baby gate back up and ignore his wails. This is a big power play. And at this point you are loosing. This will set the rest of you life.

I speak from experience with a very strong willed child. Patience and rules is what I used with her at this age. It thought it would never end but it did.

His cries will increase to a point that you can't stand. If you can't stand it. Leave the kitchen and lock yourself in the bathroom--or such, or put him in his bedroom until supper is fixed.

It is dangerous to have him in the kitchen, on the counter, close to the hot stove, and knives. You are not being mean. You are keeping him safe.

Whatever you do. do it calmly, with out anger, only love and care. Put him safely down. Your husband sounds like he is a big help.

Don't pick him up when you are cooking.

3 moms found this helpful

Bring the hairchair into the kitchen. He can see what you are doing, snack a bit and he is safe.

3 moms found this helpful

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