Breaking bad habits

From thumb-sucking to dragging teddy around, here’s how to break your little one’s bad habits — fast!


It’s common for kids to rely on a pacifier, their thumb or a favourite teddy to lull them into the Land of Nod. And while there’s nothing wrong with a baby needing some comfort to help him drop off — especially during the first year — there comes a point when he needs to stop. Here are expert solutions to encourage your little one to ditch his bad habits, before they become ingrained in him.

Reduce his need for the pacifier

Using a pacifier during the day can slow down his speech development, so try and get rid of it. If binning it seems harsh, keep it just for bedtime and store under your toddler’s pillow or in a special box next to the cot, so he associates it with night-time. If you want to ditch it entirely, Sue Atkins, author of Parenting Made Easy: How To Raise Happy Children, suggests you make a “pacifier tree” together with your mini-me. “Use ribbon to hang the pacifier on a tree in the garden or a potted plant for the ‘dummy fairy’ to take away. And make sure the ‘fairy’ leaves a thank-you toy behind.’’

Wean him off his blanket

As with pacifiers, having a favourite blanket or teddy bear in the cot is one thing, but clutching it all day can become problematic — especially if it gets lost. “To help wean your child off it, try saying, ‘Now that you’re a big boy, you don’t need to bring blankie today, do you?’” says Atkins. “The next time you’re going out, ‘accidentally’ forget to bring along the blankie.” It’s normal for small children to need a security boost from a beloved item, but if you give him extra hugs, smiles and praises during the day, it will be enough for him to slowly forget about it.

Reassure him

This can occur anytime during the first few years, and is often due to separation anxiety, which usually peaks by 18 months. He might start crying when you leave the room or even appear at your bedside. Atkins’ advice is to stay calm, return him to his bed, then help him to self-soothe by keeping to a familiar routine, like a story. She notes, “It will take four nights for him to relearn how to settle. If he’s crying, reassure him, but don’t make it into a big deal.”

Feed him earlier

It’s fine to feed your sweetie to sleep occasionally, especially during the first three months. But carry on for too long and he may not be able to nod off without a feed. To break the cycle, make feeding an earlier part of his bedtime routine and finish with a song or story instead.

“Expect some crying but smile, reassure him and don’t give in,” Atkins advises. If he continues crying, get your husband to take over and calm him down.

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