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Whining for Attention

My husband has started traveling for his work and ever since our 17 month old boy has had intense attachment to him when he comes home.  He clings to his legs and cries unless he's getting direct attention from him.  I am not sure if I should discipline him for the constant whining because it stems from love for his dad.

How can we help make this better for the next time he leaves town and comes home?

In the first year of life my children prefer their mom. Around two years of age, “Daddy” takes on Rock Star status. This seems more exaggerated in my sons. I often have a “helper” when doing chores or eating a late meal. This is a stage and this will pass.

This situation you describe is a difficult one as it has lots of “grey areas”. We want your son to be excited about seeing his father, but you cannot allow poor behavior to be rewarded. It is not an discipline issue if your son simply wants to be held and is otherwise well behaved. I suspect you have more screaming and disruptive behavior. If this is the case, I would use time out to help. Put him in time out until he calms down. If he is not use to time-out this can take a long time. When he is in time out do not give him any attention. By being consistent you will teach him better behavior. See time-out

I’m impressed your son is verbal enough to whine at 17 months. When whining begins at the Gordon home, we say “I can’t understand you - your whining. Please say it again in a big boy voice.” If the whining continues we send our kids to there room or put them in time-out.


Follow up 2 months later

We ended up taking him later in the evening for an emergency sick visit only to find out he had strep throat which was obviously causing him to be miserable on top of it all. 

We also changed our tactics and instead of my husband "sneaking out" while our son wasn't looking, we switched to a formal goodbye and hugs.  It was difficult at first, but after a few days he began to realize that even when daddy says "goodbye" he still comes home eventually. 

There are still good days and hard days, but overall this really helped his behavior.



Written January 2011 by
Dr. Gordon, Orlando Pediatrician

follow up added March 2011






gregorygordonmd.com is intended to help parents understand the needs and behaviors of children. The information presented in the site is the opinion of Gregory Gordon, M.D.and does not reflect the opinion of his partners. This website is owned exclusively by Doctors insights LLC. The advice in this site does not apply to all children. Always consult your healthcare provider for your individual needs.

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