Parents face many pressures to encourage their kids to grow up and move on to the next developmental stage, and giving up a pacifier can be a huge source of stress in some families. Children get comfort from their pacifiers and a happy child means a happy parent, so many parents are understandably panicked when it’s time to get rid of the pacifier. Parenting websites and books have offered countless suggestions for weaning children from their pacifiers, but here are ten unique ways to get your child to give up her pacifier:
Make Your Child Ask For It
Many children who love their pacifiers use their pacifiers when they don’t really “need” it. Try putting the pacifier in a cabinet and only giving your child her pacifier when she asks for it. Give her a half hour or so with it then tell her it’s time for her pacifier to go back to its home.
Try a Star System
Kids love star charts that allow them to get a sticker for good behavior. Consider instituting one for a pacifier. Every time your child willingly gives up her pacifier to you, she gets a gold star, and when the chart is filled she gets a new toy or a special outing. Continue using these charts until your child has completely eliminated her pacifier.
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Use It At Bedtime
Eliminating the pacifier except at bedtime is one of the simplest ways to cut down on your child’s pacifier. After she’s done well without her pacifier during the day for a few days or weeks, try taking the pacifier out of her mouth at night after she’s fallen asleep. After this, you can progress to making her request her pacifier at bedtime just like you’ve done during the day.
Trade It In
If your child only uses her pacifier rarely or at bedtime, she may be able to be motivated to willingly give it up. Consider asking her to “Trade in” her pacifier for an awesome new toy or outing with you. Let her know she can take as long as she needs to trade in her pacifier, and you may find she works hard to wean herself off of it.
Ease Into It
Unlike adult habits like smoking or drinking, a pacifier isn’t addictive in the strictest sense of the word. While your child may be dependent on it for comfort, she’s not truly addicted to it, which means giving it up cold turkey may be more difficult than slowly phasing it out. The simplest way to get rid of the pacifier is to slowly cut down on how frequently your child uses it over the course of several weeks or months.
Your child almost certainly relies on his pacifier for comfort, so consider replacing one source of comfort with another. You can go shopping with your child for cool new sheets, pajamas, and a stuffed animal, and offer your child the option to trade you the pacifier for the sheets, pajamas, and stuffed animal. Get creative and allow your child to decorate his bed outlandishly if it works.
Cut the Tip
One way to physically eliminate the pacifier over the course of several weeks is to cut the very tip off. Make sure it’s cut evenly so that no pieces can break off and harm your child. Continue to cut more off of the pacifier each week until it’s gone. Reward your child when there’s no pacifier left.
Grow Up and Donate It
Kids love to feel like they’re growing up, and sometimes just explaining to your child that she’s a big kid now can work wonders. Ask her to “donate” her pacifier to a younger child who needs it so she can be more grown up, and then reward her with a new toy or special trip.
Make Your Child “Buy” It
You can teach your child about money and encourage her to give up her pacifier with a simple trick. Give her twenty coins at the beginning of each day. Each coin buys an increment of time with the pacifier (like one minute, five minutes, etc.). When the coins are gone for the day, there’s no more time with the pacifier. Raise the cost of time with the pacifier each week and eventually your child will have less time with the pacifier and ultimately give it up.
Turn It Into A Craft
Talk to your child about giving up her pacifier, and institute one of the methods above to help wean her off of it. When she’s down to only a little bit of time a day with her pacifier, ask her if she wants to “transform” her pacifier. Then work on a craft project together. Consider attaching her pacifier to a doll, turning it into a hat, or otherwise turning the pacifier into something that allows your child to have it but not to suck on it.
Things to Keep In Mind
There’s been a lot of discussion over the past few decades about the negative effects pacifiers have on developing teeth and gums. But the truth is a few more weeks or even months with a pacifier are not going to doom your child’s teeth forever. Orthodontists are now reporting that, as long as a child gives up her pacifier by the age of four, her teeth should be ok. Some parents also worry that a child who still has a pacifier is “immature” or in some way developmentally behind, but the truth is much simpler: kids use pacifiers as a way of self soothing, and your child’s pacifier is probably a help to her in many areas of life. While this doesn’t mean she can have a pacifier forever, it does mean that you shouldn’t feel under constant pressure to eliminate the pacifier right away.
Whatever you do, don’t punish your child for sneaking a few extra moments with his pacifier or for crying because he misses it. Pacifiers are a source of comfort to children, and upsetting your child is more likely to make him stick with the pacifier longer. Instead, reward successes, even small ones. It’s not easy for your child to give up her pacifier, but with patience, compassion, and consistency your child will eventually move past this phase.