Doctor Betti
Dr. Betti Hertzberg Ressler is a Board Certified Pediatrician on staff at Miami Children's Hospital. Dr. Hertzberg developed the toilet training video "Let's Go Potty." She is the co-author of "The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies for Children."

Attachment to One Parent

Question: Is it normal for a little 4 1/2 year old boy (a twin; has a sister) to be so attached to his mommy that he just won't let go? He won't go anywhere with his daddy because he doesn't want to leave his mommy. He'll stay with his Grammy but then he just out of the blue reacts to "I want my mommy." He doesn't give his mommy space. What can we do? Is this something to be worried about at this stage? He is in a daycare but if his mommy doesn't pick him up, he reacts negatively. His twin sister seems to be fine; very independent; he is so dependent and it really is to an extreme. I am his Grammy and his other Grandmom also questions this. - Bernice

Answer: It's not unusual to see two quite different personalities, even in twins. Although they may have many things in common, temperament is something that is uniquely individual.

It's also not unusual for children, even at this age, to become very attached to one parent or significant other. For whatever reason, attachment is stronger and the child identifies more with the particular parent. There are many reasons for this. It may be that one of the siblings (boy) feels that the other is receiving more attention from daddy. It's his way of getting the attention from his daddy. No parent likes rejection. The child knows this!

The independent child (girl) is more confident, so she doesn't need to "get the attention" of either parent in this way.

As far as daycare, children usually wait to have their tantrums when picked up at the end of the day. Reason for this: They feel comfortable showing their emotions for parents because they love them, strange as it may sound. It's not easy showing such strong emotions to a stranger or non-family member!

Being attached to one parent is not unusual. Extreme attachment is also seen. You might want to have a round table discussion with the adults in the family and see if there is anything that may be triggering this strong attachment. It may be something as simple as an extra new outfit or shoes given to one of the children. Sibling rivalry may be the reason, but children are not always able to express exactly what they really feel.

Sounds like you have a nice family.

At times, maybe the family could speak to other friends or clergy and get their ideas. They may have some solutions that have worked for them. Good luck.

Dr. Betti

Also see:

  • Are vaccines safe?
  • My 12 year old daughter experiences difficulty sleeping due to fear of the dark and being alone. Is this normal?
  • Ask Dr. Betti your questions

    This information is not intended to be a substitute for visiting your pediatrician. If you or your child has specific concerns, you should see your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.