We have two boys aged 3.5 and 2. They are your average rambunctious boys. Pretty good at daycare and with dad, but when it's just mom they start acting out. Not listening. Don't stay in time out. Difficult to put to bed. Fighting with each other. They are fine all day at daycare or when it's just dad. but when mom walks in they do complete personality change to sucky and clingy. I have to leave home for a few days for work every now and then and these are very stressful for my wife. I'm just looking for some advice or suggestions for this behaviour.


3 Answers 3


There are a couple possible causes that children act differently for one caregiver.

  1. Kids are known to save their stresses for their primary caregiver. So much of the frustration they felt at daycare they release not there, but in the safety of their mom's (or dad's) presence where they know they will still be loved after throwing a fit. Parents magazine published an article about this impact 2 years ago.

  2. Do you and your wife have a different style of enforcing the rules? Does it seem like your sons can get away with more with their mother than their father or daycare teachers? Is she the one who is always giving that last cup of water at bedtime while you are the one who enforces lights out?

    It might not be that obvious - it might be that your wife could use practice in staying calm during a temper tantrum or providing a logical consequence to a misbehavior while this response comes naturally to you and the daycare providers are well-versed in it. Even something as small as tone and manner - which are actually huge to toddlers - can make a big difference in their actions.

Since you mentioned that your sons are clingy with your wife, I would guess that possibility number 1 is probably a big contributor.

  • Good points all; chief among them is that when children have different authority figures, they learn who is strictest and most lenient (or most or least funny in reaction to their acting up), and act accordingly.
    – KeithS
    Aug 26, 2013 at 18:47

Many boys at this age behave in a self-centered way unless this is overpowered by another "force" which can be a positive or a negative influence. I would also begin taking careful note of how much of the behavior by the 2 year-old is his own idea and not just following the leader. Your problem may be a him problem, not a them problem. In the twos there may not be much reasoning going on, at least as we adults understand reasoning.

With the help of a neutral observer (friend with parenting experience) see if the change in Mom's presence is simply a me-centered habit that needs to be changed, Mom's completely different expectations or actual volitional behavior. Self-control is not a area of instruction common to parenting today. But it is a goal that can be communicated to and practiced with children under 5.

I should also note that parents need to exemplify self-control for the training to be of any value. I also promote the idea of explaining the moral reasoning behind the behavior at a young age. When you say "We don't do this because..." at times when the behavior is not an issue, you are planting seeds for morally based action later. A moral idea (such as don't hurt others) can be placed in the child's inventory. Then the child can be trained to act according to his morals. The osmosis method for moral training is very slow. Deliberate moral training is hard work, but works well with young ones.


Every human action depends on the environment, and most of the environment is people around us. As behavioral psychology says, our actions are reactions to some stimulation.
So to find out the cure to your problem, try to find, what kind of your acts is causing this reaction.

  • 1
    I'll be very thankful if anybody will edit the grammar of my post.
    – Alexander
    Aug 28, 2013 at 6:32

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