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For a while my 1 Year old son has been a bit of a "Daddys Boy" and we have had a similar experience to this question:

However its gotten worse lately:

  • He cries with his mum (for long periods) while I am at work
  • Doesn't like me to put him down (he cries and clings onto my shirt/clothes)
  • Much worse at eating his food (even when I feed him).

With the food sometimes the only thing that works is to put food in front of him and "ignore" him, he cries for a bit and then starts to eat when he figures we aren't looking (I hate doing this but its better then him not eating). As a weird coincidence, when I make the food (as apposed to his mum) he seems to prefer but I can't imagine he notices ..I think this is just a false correlation we are spotting

Whenever we ask a healthcare professional, the answer is "babies cry" but I am worried my wife can't take much more of this constant lack of affection + crying.

Are these symptoms of separation anxiety? Or is it a teething phase (which partly explains the food). Or a mixture of both.

Does anyone have any advice for this situation?

  • 1
    Just to chime in - My girls are exactly the same way. They never cry around me but my wife gets the wrath when it's just her around. And sometimes when it is both of us they may cry a little. It might be because I don't respond to crying and she always does. They learned quickly, as I work from home half the day, that around me they are better off asking for things and playing well than to have me ignore the crying or turn off the cartoons for unnecessary whining. I understand yours is 1, but this has happened since that age. I was always the food maker as well. They eat for me just fine. – Kai Qing Apr 27 '15 at 21:31
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A few things to keep in mind:

  • Kids go through phases of who they like 'the most'. That is normal, and you have to accept it. I can be hard - but it doesn't mean they don't like you at all.

  • Your wife might see more crying since she is with him for more hours. (It sounds like she stays home with him)

  • It can also be that your wife is correcting him when he gets into things he shouldn't, making him take his naps, and with you he mostly plays? I don't know if this is happening, but by 1 most babies start having 'wants' where we as parents have to say no. It makes sense that the more time you spend with the baby, the more you are the one who says 'no'.

  • He could be clinging more to you because he misses, you he doesn't miss his mom. Separation anxiety as you mentioned.

It sounds normal to me, but of course it depends on the degrees to which it is happening. For this, I think you could make sure to spend some time with your kid without your wife, so he 'misses' her. Maybe she can go to lunch with friends, and then a movie on the weekend, or something else she might think is fun. Even if my boy prefers his dad, whenever I go away for some time, I get a big hug and smile when I get back, because of course he loves me too. In addition, your son might miss you less if he sees you more.

I think the food thing is different and might be suited for a different topic.

  • You might double check if you cut up his food in smaller/bigger pieces than your wife, and he prefers one.

  • I noticed that my kids had less appetites for solids, and more for milk whenever they were teething. I don't know if this is normal :).

  • He might be trying to play with you, or get attention instead of eating so he has a hard time focusing when you look at him.

  • Or he might really want to be held, so that is the only thing he focuses on when he sees you. Have you tried having him sit on you lap while he eats (not a long term solution, but it might help in the short term)

  • A very well thought out answer! I am also going to post my own answer with some points about what we have discovered related to your answer :) – chrispepper1989 Nov 3 '14 at 9:13
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To add to Ida's answer.

We had the random luck to talk to someone who is a psychologist and she explained the "way he thinks" about me leaving.

  • He's got used to me leaving for long periods so now every time I leave he thinks it will be that long
  • He thinks that if he clings to me, I can't leave without him

Whereas its extremely rare for mum to leave, sometimes I take him away for long periods but rarely do I stay at home with him while mum leaves. So we will definitely try Ida's suggestion.

The food appears to be a mixture of things that are separate to the separation anxiety.

  1. He is definitely teething at the moment (so sometimes its painful)
  2. His tastes are also clearly changing (he seems bored of his old favorites)
  3. He wants to eat what we are eating

Our solutions to these issues

  1. If he seems happy to eat but cries when he starts to chew, teething gel / calpol, and wait 10-15 minutes
  2. We have tried a whole new batch of baby food recipes ( I will try and find the links)
  3. We eat what he eats

He is allergic to milk, so we were making him something different to us. But this week we have been making the baby food recipes and eating it ourselves (beef stew / soya carbonara) and this has made the world of difference. He sees us eating what hes eating and gets dead excited :)

Its strange because originally when we tried baby lead weaning and him eating what we eat. It didn't work very well, I think this was because he still wanted "plain things" like mash and toast, as well as plain meats, chicken, sausage. But now he has grown out of that phase.

Just goes to show that sometimes a certain technique might only work a certain month :p

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    Just goes to show that sometimes a certain technique might only work a certain month - I have found this to be one the key elements of understanding babies/toddlers. Their development is so rapid the first 2 years, it is mind boggling. – Ida Nov 3 '14 at 17:19
  • I just asked a new question because he has developed this strange crying on schedule thing. We recently tried sending mum away for the weekend and it seemed to make no difference :( – chrispepper1989 Dec 21 '14 at 21:29
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Whenever there are complex crying situations where the child is crying for one person or not another or exhibiting other complex behaviors, inevitably what that means is that you are paying him too much due, in other words, spoiling him.

Children have very simple needs: food, drink, being held. You should answer those needs. What you should not do is react to wanton crying or other manipulative behavior. When you do that, the child begins to see it as a game or a challenge: how can I get the grownup to do X, Y, and Z? Don't even go there, your time is too valuable for that.

In your particular situation, it is likely it would be difficult to unravel all the subtle nuances of the current "game" being played between the three of you, but at the end of the day, it is better not to try to find your way out of this psychological maze; just stop paying attention to the child unless he has a legitimate need, and the problem will go away.


That being said, I should probably discuss a caveat: the engaging parent problem. In some cases, a child may find one parent much more interesting than the other. For example, if one parent teaches and interacts with the child much more than the other, then the child can become attached to the interesting parent and start to resent the dull parent. This can lead to tantrums if the child is left alone with the dull parent.

The solution to this problem is two fold. Firstly, (1) the dull parent needs to ramp up their interaction with the child by talking to it and setting aside specific time periods for interactive play and education. (2) the interesting parent needs to limit their interaction to specific time periods and sessions. If the child thinks the interesting parent will engage with them whenever they are present, then the child will want the interesting parent to be present continuously at their beck and call. That is exactly what you do not want. To fix this, the interesting parent should only engage during specific and set lesson times and never outside those times.

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