Allowing baby to stay a baby will help him choose to grow up

PARENT Q&A

June 18, 2000|By T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. | T. Berry Brazelton, M.D.,NEW YORK TIMES SPECIAL FEATURES

Q. My 3 1/2-year-old son still uses a pacifier and wears diapers. I have tried everything to get him to give these up, to no avail. He knows how to urinate in the toilet but only does so when he wants to.

He is very intelligent, so I know it is not because he does not understand.

I want him to get over these things because almost every person we come in contact with comments on how he should not have the pacifier in his mouth and should be a big boy, etc. which I really feel is doing damage to his self-confidence.

He is starting school in September and cannot go with a pacifier or diaper.

My sister-in-law has suggested that he is reluctant to let go of his babyhood because of all the attention that is lavished on him. (He is the baby on both sides of the family.) He has told me that he wants to stay a baby, so I tend to agree with her.

Do you have any suggestions?

A. It sounds as if your sister-in-law may be right: Your son doesn't really want to grow up. Maybe you don't quite want him to, either.

Pressure from you probably means to him that you are pushing him away. My advice is to completely forget the toilet training. You can even apologize to him and say, "I'm sorry I've been so concerned. It's your deal, and I won't mention it again."

If the school can't accept him in diapers, you may have to keep him home for a year or find another school. His self-image must come first.

Getting rid of the pacifier is easy. Find an agreed-upon lovey -- such as a teddy bear or a doll -- that your son can use as a crutch. Tie the pacifier to the lovey until he gets attached to the lovey. Then, try to persuade him to give up the pacifier except at nap time and nighttime. Let him use the other lovey during the day when he needs comfort.

You may just have to relax and let him stay a baby for a bit longer.

Address questions to Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, care of the New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 122 E. 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10168. Questions of general interest will be answered in this column; unpublished letters cannot be answered individually.

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