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Toddler Behavior: When and How To Get Rid Of Your Toddler's "Comfort Thingie"

The "Comfort Thingie" -- your toddler's thumb, binkie, blanket or other "lovey" -- is a vexing problem to most parents. Usually yucky, stinky, shredded and gross, we'd love to chuck it, but Toddler would FREAK. HOW to get rid of it? WHEN is it OK to get rid of it? And WHY does she need it so much, anyway?

The Comfort Thingie is part you, that's why -- it helps your toddler transition from complete dependence to independence. It carries a bit of parental mojo along with it's stink and shreds. (And by the way, Comfort Thingies also include weird repetitive toddler behaviors -- cramming blanket corners up her nose, twiddling a lock of hair, walking around with her finger in her belly button, or even head-banging to get to sleep -- all qualify as Comfort Thingies.)

Tips for Getting Through The Thingie Phase

  • Know that it’s completely normal, age appropriate, and promotes independence

  • Show that you respect the Thingie, no matter how disgusting

  • Try to understand the draw of the Thingie so that you can understand what comforts your child – these things tend to be idiosyncratic, and reflective of the child’s enduring temperament and personality and preferences

  • Consider keeping the Thingie. If it's OK with you, a tattered blanket never hurt anyone. There's no psychological reason to force the issue. She'll eventually lose interest, and then you can keep it to give her her when she has her own babies. (Awwwww......)

  • Pace Yourself – and your child. Don’t try to give up multiple Thingies at once (for instance, don’t eliminate the bottle, binkie, and crib simultaneously) and back off of the potty training until any Thingie Phase-Out has become routine.

  • Talk to your toddler about how the Thingie helps, so that she can begin to understand (and internalize) it’s power

  • Identify stress in your toddler’s life, and try to decrease it.

  • Don’t even suggest giving up the Thingie until the age of 3. Don’t waste your parental capital on this one, as often, the Thingie will be given up naturally. After 3 it will be easier to negotiate with your child for a “Thingie Phase-Out Plan”.

  • Rule out any medical explanation (especially in the case of head-banging) – just to be sure.

And finally… Look Away and Breathe Deeply – you might as well start practicing now! Your ability to pick and choose your parental battles will be key to getting through all the phases of your child’s development with your sanity (relatively) intact. The Comfort Thingie -- while certainly disgusting now -- resolves naturally in typically developing children.


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