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It's Not About The Pacifier

Wednesday, August 12, 2015



I am all too familiar with the struggles that accompany a child who experiences anxiety and nervousness on a daily basis.  It's often a difficult struggle and an uphill battle to get my daughter to calm down and work through undesirable situations. Anxiety, nervousness and fear surface in many different ways, over many different things and under many different circumstances.  It's difficult to watch and, at times, involves physical pain for the child or parent. Hand wringing, biting fingernails, constant movement, biting and pinching themselves and others are just a few of the symptoms many parents witness their child experience when they're feeling nervous or anxious. These symptoms typically end in running away or major meltdowns if not handled according to the child's needs. 

As adults, we are taught how to deal with anxiety, nervousness, pain and fear.  We are told to take deep breaths, count to ten, accept what we are experiencing or use visualization and positive self talk. It is implied that yelling or carrying on, drinking or doing drugs and other self destructive behaviors are not socially acceptable ways of dealing with environmental stressors. 

Children, on the other hand, lack the ability to make sense out of stressful environments and situations. This becomes even more complicated when children become ill or have special needs. This is where the parental role comes in.  It's our responsibility to help and assist our children through uncomfortable moments. In turn, many parents reach for a pacifier when their child is sick or simply having a moment. 

Needless to say, although I wasn't surprised to read the David Beckham headlines, I was disappointed to see how involved we get ourselves into the daily business of others.  Everyone from CNN to Fox News took the opportunity to chime in on a story covering a four year old little girl who was photographed while walking with her dad and sucking her pacifier, or "dummy" as it's referred to in the UK . For me, this was not headline news. Obviously for others, this was an example of poor parenting.  

The original report in the Daily Mail, quotes a former midwife, who claims to be an expert on the topic, as saying "It can damage her teeth and it is very likely to hinder speech development.  You are far less likely to speak if you have a dummy in your mouth."  This self acclaimed expert goes on to say, "After about three months, most babies should not need a comforter. Children at the age of four really don't need a dummy"  As a special needs parent, I wish my child and other special needs children were able conform to her perfect little bubble and function in a manner which didn't require comforters. After reading this article, I question her experience, knowledge and whether her concern is genuine.

First, not all experts attribute speech impediments to the use of pacifiers. Additionally, not all children who suck a pacifier at the age of 4 are going to require dental work. My now 23-year old went to preschool sucking her pacifier. She never experienced problems with speech delays, her teeth weren't destroyed and she's obviously not dependent on a pacifier now.  Our 16-year old son never took a pacifier, however he experienced speech delays and now wears braces. My precious little girl, pictured above, is 3-years old who sucks a pacifier and I can't get her to take a breath between sentences. 

Many experts actually refer to a pacifier as a transitional item.  It's shown to be helpful in settling a child when they're experiencing stress, nervousness or fear.  It's been shown to reduce a child's perception of pain. Finally, it is a positive way of distracting a child when they are in a displeasing situation or in an unpleasant environment. At the end of the day, it's always going to be a topic of debate and the decision to use a pacifier should be left to the child's parent.  

But what's the real problem here?  Is this really about pacifiers? Was the picture of Harper Beckham walking on a sidewalk with her dad while sucking a pacifier so offensive that we needed to stop our lives and judge these parents based on a decision that effected none of us in any way, shape, or form? 

The real question is, why do people decide to judge parents based their parenting styles?  I've thought on this question for almost three years and think some may judge others when they lack success or experience of their own or feel resentment toward another for his or her accomplishments. It's painful to experience feelings of inadequacy in the parenting department. When the threat of being faced with feelings of inadequacy arises, one will judge another to prevent themselves from encountering these feelings.  They rather feed their own self esteem than show compassion toward another parent. It's an unsophisticated response to the unbearable feelings within themselves.  But ultimately, I've concluded that it's probably not that deep. It's simply an indication that one lacks the intellectual capacity to correctly appraise another person or situation. The solution here is simple, stop judging yourself, accept where you are and in return, you'll not feel the need to judge others.  Just be kind and show compassion to other parents.  Our children are watching how we treat and speak to one another. Show respect to other parents, especially in the presence of their children. It's our responsibility to spread love and kindness to our children through our voice and actions.    

   


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