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A Beginner's Guide to Discipline

Cling-On

Excessive clinginess

A newly clingy 1-year-old can make any parent long for a little privacy, but take this as a compliment that your baby enjoys being with his favorite person. All too soon, you'll feel as if he doesn't need you anymore. Still, part of the discipline process is helping your child learn to feel comfortable separating from you. You can capitalize on the respect he feels for you by reflecting the behavior you're trying to encourage. In this instance, that message is, "It's okay for you to play alone; you can handle being alone." If you're on the phone, for example, and he grabs your leg, demanding to be picked up, don't ignore him, but don't immediately scoop him up, either. This just reinforces that there really is something for him to be anxious about. Instead, acknowledge his presence and reassure him: "Mama's busy right now  -- it's okay, you can play a while." When your baby suddenly realizes you've gone to another room and starts to cry, instead of running to him, just maintain voice contact: "Mama's here. It's okay." When he understands that you think it's fine for him to separate from you, he'll begin to believe it's all right, too.

One day, as my wife and I played with our 8-month-old son, Matthew, we developed a theory as to why separation anxiety occurs and why it's healthy. As he crawled around the room, he would look up every few minutes to see if we were watching and would get upset if he couldn't keep a visual fix on us. Separation anxiety, which seems to peak just as your baby begins to learn locomotion skills, may be an innate safety mechanism that clicks on when he has the ability to move away from parents but lacks the ability to protect himself. His body says "go," but his mind says "no."

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