Parenting means living in a state of constant conflict. You want to be fun, but you should say no. You want to laugh when your 3 year-old drops an F-bomb in a perfect way, but if you do, they’ll say it again. You want to cuddle your kid while they fall asleep, but it could create a bad habit. You want some alone time, but when you get it, you miss your babies.
And yes, you love that those precious kiddos want to be so close to you all the time, but you really, really get tired of always having someone on your lap (or legs or arm or stomach or back).
While the need to sit on a parent can certainly be annoying (and there’s nothing wrong with admitting that!), experts do think they know why so many kids exhibit this behavior – and it’s pretty sweet.
And, according to Dr. Elizabeth Berger, a child psychiatrist and author, simple – they just love you.
Licensed marriage and family therapist Katie Ziskind told Romper that “it’s healthy for children to want to sit on their parents – they seek affection, warmth, cuddles, physical connection, and they want to be given attention.”
Our laps, says Dr. Laura Vogel, are a familiar refuge – one of the few our kids know at a tender age.
“When children are infants, they spend large amounts of time in our arms and laps. This intimate time together is where children are fed, entertained, and comforted. Our laps become a safe space associated with warm, loving emotions. It’s where children learn to regulate their bodies and calm big emotions. We see children return to our laps as a way of connecting or receiving a moment of reassurance.”
If you’re not wanting your child in your lap right then, for one reason or another, you can try asking them to sit next to you instead – but don’t think that means you can simply go back to what you were doing, says Vogel.
“During this time, really focus on your child. Hug them, make eye contact – give them what they are seeking. If you redirect them to sit next to you and then continue whatever you are doing, your child will naturally seek more connection – meaning they will likely crawl in your lap.”
Also, Vogel says to be aware that letting your frustration get the best of you could backfire.
“What I typically see – and may have even been guilty of myself at one point or another – is a parent becoming frustrated and overwhelmed and scolding their child for crawling in their lap. What this typically produces is a child who feels confused, upset, and possibly even scared. And what do children want when they feel this way? Connection with their parents. So the frustrated redirection can actually increase a child’s desire to be in our laps.”
Basically, getting angry or short with them may just make them renew their drive to get into your lap.
Take heart, though – like everything with kids and parenting, this won’t last forever. Vogel says kids typically improve at being able to self-soothe and regulate their own emotions to a degree around the age of 3 or 4. And while your older kids might still need or want a cuddle at certain times of the day, it shouldn’t be enough to overwhelm you.
Having a little one constantly trying to crawl in your lap is sure to be one of those things we miss – and also don’t – adding a little more to the twisted pile of confusing emotions associated with parenting.