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Breaking the Binky Habit: When and Why

Whether you call it a binky, a pacifier or a num num, that little rubber doohickey that babies love so much can be a hard habit to break.  And not just for the kids who love them.  Parents often struggle with forcing an unwilling child to part with the pacifier.   And according to an article at CNN, they often resort to all kinds of lies and trickery in order to banish the binky.

But while creative parents are inventing Binky Fairies and elaborate stories to encourage – or trick – their kids into giving up the pacifier, others wonder what the big deal is. Why do so many parents feel the need to force their child give up this beloved comfort item when they hit a certain age?  And what is that magic age when a pacifier becomes a problem?

According to Jonathan D. Shenkin, a pediatric dentist in Augusta, Maine, that age is two.  Beyond that, he says, children who regularly suck a pacifier run the risk of developing dental issues, speech problems and even middle ear infections.

But there’s another reason parents might be in a hurry to permanently pop that binky out of the mouths of their toddlers:  the judgment of other parents.  Claire B. Kopp, a developmental psychologist in Los Angeles, says that a child who insists upon using a pacifier at three and four-years-old may be reacting to stress, such as “insufficient mom or dad time, erratic sleep or boredom.”

In other words, your preschooler with a pacifier is broadcasting to the world that things aren’t so great at home.

And maybe they aren’t.  Psychology professor Jean Twenge says that parents who can’t bring themselves to force a toddler to give up the pacifier are likely permissive parents in other areas as well.   And you know what they say about permissive parents:  They are more likely to raise narcissistic, undisciplined and insecure children.

A someone whose child refused a binky no matter how many times I tried to shove it in her mouth, I am no expert on the subject.  But I think that this is another situation in which blanket statements ultimately do more harm than good.  Not every kid who loves her binky is all stressed out.  And not every parent who waits until the day before kindergarten to pluck it out of her mouth is a bad parent.

At what age did you determine that your kid’s binky had to go? And how did you manage it?

Image: yabosid/Flickr

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