Our New Year’s Resolutions have come and gone. Was it your weight? Did you need to quit procrastinating? We all do, but we also know these changes will last about a week. Another thing to consider is that maybe your children have some nasty habits to break. This leads us to what I call “The Great Pacifier Debate.”
Ever since my five year old was able to talk, she would call her pacifier a “Ni-Ni”. And of course, no one knows why. Be that as it may, my three year old has followed suit so in our world the pacifier is now known as the “Ni-Ni”. Both my girls have either had, or continue to have a serious “Ni-Ni” addiction.
Think of it this way: It would be the same as asking an adult to give up cigarettes or coffee. Sure, there may not be a chemical dependence with a “Ni-Ni”, but the psychological dependence is certainly there. Therefore, both my wife and I struggled with getting rid of the “Ni-Ni’s”. “Well, maybe they can have them at bed-time, or maybe just in the car…”
This line of thinking got us nowhere. Then we began to rationalize and ask some experts. Why is it that people in general are so upset when they see older kids sporting the “Ni-Ni”? Why is there such a cultural stigma around this topic? I mean, what would you think if you saw my five year old carrying her favorite stuffed animal around? Absolutely nothing. But what if you learned that she carried it everywhere she went 24/7? Still, my guess would be nothing.
The biggest opposition my wife and I encountered was the “It’s bad for their teeth” argument. Fine, but let’s see what the experts have to say. We went to our child’s dentist and what was his first reaction? And I quote: “I love the pacifier!” This is where we learned that the pacifiers they were using were pliable, meaning that they are flexible enough for a child to bite correctly, as if right through it—thus creating no abnormalities in their bite or jaw alignment. What our dentist doesn’t like is the dreaded thumb sucker. When it comes to sucking one’s thumb, it’s of course not pliable. The fact that it is continually in their mouth means the teeth are affected. The bite can also be affected with possibilities of slanting or cross-bites. These problems are not associated with teeth that are not permanent. Baby teeth usually correct themselves. Due to this fact, pacifier users are actually at an advantage because typically thumb suckers will do so longer than pacifier users.
Our child’s doctor basically told us the exact same thing. Obviously she didn’t want them using a pacifier when they were seven or eight years old, but at the time, even at the ages of four and two, she wasn’t worried at all. My wife and I finally relaxed. Who cares what other people say. Both our daughters are hitting all their milestones, and in fact, we have been told that my five year old has the vocabulary of a typical nine year old. Not to mention the fact that neither child has teeth or language problems.
When my first born turned four we finally put our foot down and she is doing just fine. How did we do it? It’s really simple. Make it fun instead of traumatic. We told our four year old that we had to hide all the “Ni-Ni’s” and that the “Ni-Ni Fairy” would come. As she found the “Ni-Ni’s”, she would leave a small gift in return. She was so excited to hide them, and then in the morning she found all her little trinkets and was more than thrilled that she was now a big girl. We’ve never looked back since.
We intend to do exactly the same with our three year old. But my advice to you is when you choose to break that habit…only do it with compassion. This is the only thing your child craves at this point in their lives. Pacifiers, food, love and attention. We all know it could be worse. There are certainly much harder and more dangerous habits to break.