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3-Year-Old Son Very Needy

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From the U.S.: My son tends to act this way with only me and we are not sure why. He wants me to hold him most of the time, he has to be in control even over me and doesn’t do well with transitioning. I do think it could be anxiety but how do you treat it and why would it be only when I am around.

Basically I need some ideas on how to respond to him as each evening after work is very stressful. I do try to give him lots of attention, maintain patience, help him feel loved and safe and I pick my battles because I realize he is only three years old. However, I need further ideas on approaches to take with him as my spouse and I struggle with the challenging times outweighing the good ones.

This started around age two but he has always been a needy baby and he did take a pacifier. He is the second child and he does seem to want most or all of my attention. I do my best to focus on him and play with him to give him that love and attention that he craves/needs. He cries often and of course when he is told No he can throw extended “tantrums” but I try to be consistent as does my spouse.

Everything is good in our marriage and not too much stress. I myself do struggle with some OCD type personality but I try to use my coping skills and let things go at home to adapt to having children and being a working parent. I feel like he does increase my anxiety though and I become more irritable when he is crying and yelling nonstop.

3-Year-Old Son Very Needy

Answered by on -


I’m sure this is extremely difficult for the whole family. I doubt it is inherent anxiety, since the behavior only occurs when you are present. But there may be something about your approach or presentation that is making him anxious. Children, especially sensitive children, pick up our feelings regardless of how well we think we’re managing.

Unfortunately, this type of situation can take on a life of its own. The more you try to manage it but without success, the more anxious you are liable to get. The more anxious you are (even if you do your best not to show it), the more a sensitive child will pick that up and become anxious as well.

I’m very happy to hear that your marriage is solid. When parents are mutually supportive, it helps both maintain consistency, which is what your little guy needs the most. Unfortunately, I can’t offer suggestions about what you could change without knowing you better.

For that reason, I suggest you consult with a family therapist — not because I think there is a deeper problem but because a family therapist could observe how you and your spouse interact with your child and could then make concrete suggestions about what to do differently.

The best book I’ve found for parent education is a very old one. It’s called¬†Children: The Challenge¬†by Rudolf Dreikurs. Dr. Dreikurs offers a simple way to understand children’s misbehavior as well as concrete suggestions about how to deal with it. He also provides lots of helpful examples.

Please don’t feel bad that you haven’t found a way to solve this on your own. Managing two children is different than managing one. It’s not at all unusual for couples who did fine with one child to be challenged by two. There are now four people in your family who have differing needs and sensitivities. I hope you will consider getting some advice by someone who can take everyone’s personalities and needs into account.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

3-Year-Old Son Very Needy

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). 3-Year-Old Son Very Needy. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 15 Mar 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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