Thursday, March 31, 2011

When She Is Ready, It Will Be Easy

The term "pooty" came from Orange County.
My daughter is four years old. She uses a pacifier, all day and all night. She loves it very much. She has had it for so long now, that I barely even notice it anymore. She speaks very clearly even with it in her mouth. I can relate, because I used to use a pacifier, and I also did not give it up until I was four. I am grateful that my parents allowed me to use it until I was ready to give it up, and my husband and I plan on giving our daughter the same freedom.

Many people feel compelled to comment on the fact that she still uses it, and that she is too old for it. Some share how they were able to break their children of the habit using one trick or another.

The trick stories always include some form of the phrase It Was Easy! As it if should be just as easy for me. And maybe it was for them. But I'm not buying what they're selling. No one knows this child better than Nick and I do, and we know none of the tricks would work on her, even if we were willing to try them. We trust that it will be easy for her to give it up when she's ready, but not before then.

Here are some of the (simple!) suggestions I have gotten over the past couple of years, and some responses to them:

  1. Take it from her and cut off a tiny piece each day, and after about a week, she won't be able to suck on it anymore. (It's Easy!) First of all, as soon as my daughter noticed that a piece of her beloved pooty was missing, she would tell me "this one's broken, let's get a new one." Secondly, how would you feel if your husband didn't like your favorite shirt, and started cutting off little pieces of it until you couldn't wear it anymore? I know I would be pissed.
  2. Tell her it's time to give her pooty to a little baby, because they really are for babies. (Easiest thing in the world!) My daughter would say, "I saw lots of them at the store, let's go get one for a baby there, and I can keep mine." She's so logical. If she is a "big girl," and she still uses a pooty, then I guess pooties are not just for babies. I don't want to make my daughter feel ashamed of the fact that she uses a pacifier. And I would never want her to give it up just because she didn't want me to call her a baby.
  3. Have a big party to say goodbye to the pooty, and then just don't give her another one. (How Easy is that?!) Talk about pressure! How would you like it if your child arranged a party to say goodbye to your cell phone, which you probably use (and think you need, if you are like me) almost as much as she uses her pacifier? I'm guessing it wouldn't cure you of your need for you cell phone.
This is a mistake that lots of people make about parenting and judging other parents. They look at what works or worked for them, with their own kids, and they assume it should work the same way in other families. I have been guilty of this before too. I am a lot more aware of it now though, and I try not to let those kinds of thoughts creep into my head, or worse, come out of my mouth.

Every child is different. Maybe all of the people who gave the above suggestions had children who didn't know that there were millions of pacifiers available to buy in stores, and never thought to ask for a new one. Maybe their children were ready to give it up by the time they were tricked, so they really didn't care to have it suddenly taken away. Lucky them!

Or maybe it wasn't as easy as they say it was. Maybe it was easy for the parents, but not for the child. Some of the giving-up-pacifier anecdotes ended with "she only cried for it for a few nights." That would not work for us.

Did you have a pacifier, or a special toy or blanket, or suck your thumb? How old were you when you gave it up?


  1. It really was easy for us. Kayla has given up hers already all on her own and she isn't even 2. I tried with Braden at 18 months but he was upset so I gave it right back the same day. However at 2 we moved to a big boy bed and before we moved I kept reminding him that we don't use pacifiers in the big boy bed. He had the choice to stay in his crib if he wanted. The day we moved to the big bed he never even asked for the pacifier. If I had encountered any resistance though things would probably be different.

    Pacifier use was allowed in the car or crib only starting from birth so maybe that's what made it easier. Who knows? I don't know why people assume that everyone else's kids are just as easy or difficult as their own.

  2. That is really nice for you, that it was so easy. It's funny because we had a period during which Louise only had hers in bed also, but as soon as Emmitt was born, she started asking for it all the time. I couldn't think of a good reason why she couldn't have it all day. So now here we are!

  3. I had a blanket AND a pacifier. at about 3, my Aunty "taught" me to let go of the pacifier and suck my thumb instead. years later, my Grandmother would rub palmolive on my thumbs in an attempt to stop my new habit. To this day, I cannot stand original green Palmolive soap. And I still have my blanky - i've slept with it on and off, depending on what's going on in my life!

    My stepson has always had a blanky, but let go of the pacifier quite early. He realized on his own that it wouldn't be acceptable to take it to kindergarten with him. he's always kept it in his bed, and on a bad day or a lazy sunday, he will still bring it out of his bed for a couch-cuddle.

    my 2.5 year old son never cared for a pacifier, but he's surgically attached to his blanky. Also, I don't see sippy cups going south as quickly as they might with other children... his cup is just as soothing to him as a bottle to a baby.

    thank you for this post. it's a great reminder, as i've found that my son is not potty training as quickly or easily as his peers. i had it all plotted out in my head before he was born: "he will be potty trained by 3!" ... not so much. like you said, he will catch on in his own time.

  4. @Suzy, How terrible for you that you had soap put on your thumb to get you to stop sucking on it!

    I had similar expectations about potty training with my daughter (my first child). Oh how much I have learned since then. We don't get to write the script for our child's life. They have their own ideas!

    Thanks for reading!

  5. I love how you fearlessly face all impending criticism and fire back with intensity! We have taken many of the same approaches to parenting as yourself and feel wonderful about it. The only problem has been critical family members who feel they have the right to point out why we are wrong and they are right. It's so very frustrating. It's great to hear that someone else is on the same parenting wagon!

  6. @Anonymous, It's funny how family members are the most difficult to handle with respect to alternative parenting decisions. I am very lucky to have an open-minded family, but they still have their doubts sometimes, and I think this blog has gone a long way to helping to explain my reasoning to even them. It's good for them to see that I have thought things through, and I'm not just flying by the seat of my pants! Thanks for the comment :)

  7. Awesome :)
    My now 4 and a half year old daughter didn't give up her paci til just the week before her 4th birthday.
    Honestly I would have liked her to, but we never did try to take it away until I felt that she was ready.
    We didn't use tricks or pretend we were giving it to fairies for fairy babies (this seemed to be the most common idea people kept suggesting to me!) I just told her that she was big and she could be ok without it. She must have been ready in herself because it was easy. The first day she asked and did cry but it didn't persist into the next day or any day after.
    I never could understand how people thought it was ok for some kids to have comfort blankets or toys but it was not ok for my child to have a paci. She spoke early and well also, which was always the big dread for people.

  8. @Anonymous #2, That is great, that your daughter was able to give it up on her own. It is funny how the pacifier has such a stigma attached to it. We definitely get some funny looks in public, but I better get used to that I guess! :)

  9. My daughter had a crocheted blanket made by my mother which she loved to take EVERYWHERE with her. Unfortunately it tended to drag along the floor (we have two dogs that shed profusely, her bed would end up like a doggy bed!)or get stuck in the wheels of the buggy etc... We got on the phone to grandma and put in an order ;) for a small pile of washcloth-sized snuggle blankies. Daughter was thrilled and still drags her blankies all over. I'm even taking up crochet so I can make some new ones!

  10. Very good article! My daughter is a few weeks shy of her second birthday & MUST have her bottle at every nap and every bed time, as well as during the night. This makes me see in a different light how much she just loves her bottles & it's her 'security blanket', so to speak. I've been thinking about just throwing my daughter's bottles away cause it's just becoming too much to take care of, washing, making, giving bottles..but I guess I just need to let her make the decision. When I finally decided to let her cry it out at 20 months old, she did so well & only cried for maybe 5 minutes. It was simple as pie- I think because I let her know what was going on & I didn't just leave her in there. People told me "don't wait til they are older cause they will cry and cry for hours". I think it works better if you wait because they can understand what's going on better, mommy is not leaving you, you're just going nite nite with your teddy & blankie etc..Make it fun for the kid instead of a scary, abandonment issue.

    I sucked my thumb from age 3 until I was 16. My mom tried EVERYTHING to get me to stop, hot sauce on my thumb, nail polish, bandaids, soap, money..nothing worked. I sucked my thumb all the time & everyday unless I was around people I didn't want to know. The day I stopped was the day I got my braces off, because I didn't want to mess up my 'perfect' smile. Haven't looked back since! & My teeth still look great :)

  11. I'm so glad to read this! My daughter is almost 2 and I get those stupid comments all the time. Especially from my mother-in-law. SHE is embarrassed that my daughter still uses her binky boo. Every time we see her she takes it out of Phoebe's mouth right away. It really makes me upset. I finally just told her to stop.

    Phoebe primarily uses it for teething, she hardly ever sucks on it, just chews it. Some days she doesn't want it except at nap and bed time, other days she wants it all day long. My husband and I aren't bothered by it since she speaks clearly, even with it in her mouth. O.o other people can just get over themselves.

  12. My son gave up his pacifier the night before his 5th birthday, I am not ashamed to say! It helped him through some major life transitions - including moving to Costa Rica, and I am thankful for it. My second son, on the other hand, had his taken away when he was 2 1/2. It was heart-breaking and was something that my husband and I did not agree on. My husband was getting tired of them always getting lost and us always in a panic to try to find them, and so when they were finally all lost, he said, that's it, we're not buying any more! Needless to say, my son started having night terrors shortly after that, and I am convinced it is related to his loss of the pacifier. I would highly recommend letting children decide when they are ready. What difference did it make that my older son had his til he was five? - The only difference I can see is he slept more peacefully, had that security a little longer and let go of it when he was ready. My next two sons, on the other hand, would have nothing to do with a pacifier, so we never had to deal with it again!

  13. My 5 year old son never took a pacifier, and my baby girl won't now, but she's a thumb sucker for sure and I don't see how that can be taken away. My son on the other hand uses his belly button as his soother. So yeah, sometimes we get strange looks while walking in Target and he has his shirt pulled up and he's playing with his belly button, is he hurting anyone in doing this? -- no, the same way that your little one isn't hurting anyone for keeping her pacifier. Keep up the great work! Love your blog!

  14. Thanks for all the new comments! I know sometimes it's hard to shut out all the voices from family and strangers saying they know what's best for our children.. My daughter knows she needs her pacifier, and no one else knows better what she needs. Our children will thank us for understanding and respecting their needs.

  15. When I was a kid I had an orange bunny with a blue vest. I would take him everywhere and suck my thumb as I dragged him behind me. My mother hated that I sucked my thumb and she tried everything to make me stop ... her favorite was pepper or hot sauce.
    I guess she clued in one day to the connection between the bunny and my thumb because I came home from kindergarten to find shreds of my beloved rabbit and his stuffing strewn across the dog pen.
    While I was gone, she had taken my favorite friend and given it to all of the Shelties we had. They had torn him to bits.
    I am going to be 33 in a couple of weeks and this still makes me cry. I probably don't have to say it but my mother and I don't have a good relationship at all.

  16. @Anonymous, Reading your story could make me cry, too. Thanks for sharing. I know it must be painful to think about, but it's important or parents to understand that these experiences stick with us. Kids remember! The pain doesn't just go away.

  17. It's messed up to try to make a kid give something away or stop a childish behavior before they're ready unless it's dangerous to their health. If my four year old sucks his thumb, I don't know why anyone would try to make me to get him to stop by putting hot pepper on his thumb. This should be child abuse. I see lots of adults with quirks like having a lucky troll or favorite jersey. I don't see anyone trying to cut little pieces of it off or try to put chili sauce on the thumb of a 44 year old that's still a thumb sucker. Some children may not be old enough to protest but that doesn't mean it won't affect them. I never used to have a favorite object but I did suck my fingers sometimes. My mother used to hit me for it and what she finally did to make me stop was putting some sort of medicine on my finger that I didn't like the taste of. I had a friend who used to suck her thumb but her mother told her that if she continued to do so, they would turn green and never come off.

    Why was this necessary? Why do parents feel the need to lie to their children or use "tactics" like these to get them to give up habits they are not ready to let go of? Why do they even feel the need to make them give them up at all? Are they embarrassed by their children or afraid of what others will think of them? Or is it that they don't have enough trust in children that kids will let go of things when they are ready? And another thing, if society is so focused on making sure kids learn to be independant on their own, aren't they being hypocrites if they proclaim that parents are the ones to decide if little Bobby gives up his pacifier, or the exact age Suzy should stop sucking her thumb?

    1. Sonic,

      Thank you very much for all of your thoughtful comments on the many different posts. I haven't been keeping up with the blog lately but I wanted you to know I read all of your words and I hear you. I appreciate your sharing your story and your feelings here.