A Problem Shared: The Dummy Battle

A Problem Shared Parenting & Family Advice | by | 12th Aug 2016

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A little boy won’t give up his dummy. His mum, Meredith from Gwynedd, doesn’t know what to do. Do you have any advice for this week’s A Problem Shared…?

If you have an issue that you wish to share with the FamilyPoint Community, as well as get aanswer from one of our trained and experienced helpline adviser advocates, then click here.

My son is so attached to his dummy that I’m really struggling to get him to give it up. He’s three-and-a-half years old now and is getting too old for it. I’m already noticing other people staring at us because they’re judging us for still giving him a dummy.

We’ve tried to take it away from him but he just cries and cries. I can’t stand listening to him breaking his heart. I always give up and give it back to him in the end. It just upsets me so much to listen to him crying. I’m embarrassed and I’m frustrated, and I really need some advice please.

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A Problem Shared: Tooth Trouble

Our FamilyPoint advice to Meredith

It sounds, from what you’ve said, that you have been struggling with this issue for a little while and are concerned about what other people will think of your son using a dummy. It’s clearly and understandably causing you stress and upset.

Before you start, try to identify why your dummy is so important to your son. This will help you decide on the type of strategy to use in getting rid of it.

How often does your son use his dummy? Is it a tool to help him fall asleep? Is it for comfort?

Restricting use

You could try restricting use to begin with and hand it over to him gradually less each day. Then, move on, for example, to only in the evening or when he goes to sleep, and then alternating nights. If you try this, then consistency is really important. You could also try replacing the dummy with e.g. a cuddly toy, if it’s for comfort.

The “Dummy Fairy”

Another strategy is to involve your son, and older toddlers may respond well to imaginary characters. The “Dummy Fairy” is a well-used technique.

  • Explain to your son that the Dummy Fairy needs dummies for new babies and he can help.
  • Prepare his dummies together, put in a parcel to give to the Dummy Fairy, and then leave for it to collect whilst he is asleep.
  • Explain that the Dummy Fairy will leave him a present in return for his kindness (e.g. something he wants – a toy, new pyjamas, a day trip out).

“Cold turkey”

You might find, if he’s particularly attached to it, or if you think you’re likely to give in, that a “cold turkey” approach is best. This is also generally the fastest way to remove a dummy from your child’s life.

Top tips for this approach:

  • Throw all dummies away – then you can’t be tempted and have to stay firm.
  • Be prepared – have plenty of distraction techniques ready for those times when you know he’s going to ask for it e.g. introduce a new toy, play a game, go for a walk, sing songs or watch nursery rhymes on a device. You’ll also need patience by the bucket load!
  • Hold firm – don’t be tempted – keep going by reminding yourself a) how far you’ve come (even if it’s only a few hours) and b) by giving in, you’ll have to go through it all again.
  • Timing is important – don’t attempt dummy withdrawal if your child is ill, in a bad sleep phase, is going through any change (e.g. moving house, changing nursery, new sibling) or is upset about something.
  • Above all – don’t be too hard on yourself. If initial attempts are unsuccessful, don’t panic and try not to put yourself or your child under unnecessary pressure. When the time is right, they will eventually give it up. Good luck!

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If you would like further information on national or local support services, then you can contact us at FamilyPoint Cymru via phone 0300 222 57 57, text 07860 052 905, or IM/Chat. We are open Monday – Thursday 6pm – 10pm and Friday & Saturday 10am – 2pm.


The FamilyPoint Cymru Team

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