Help! My Child is a Pacifier Junkie!

mintle03(2).jpgWe are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to and include "? for Dr. Mintle" on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

Q: My child is 3 years old and still sucks on her pacifier. We want her to stop, because we read that this can harm her speech and oral development. Can you offer some tips on how to help her stop?

A: Saying goodbye to the pacifier can be traumatic for some kids. Experts usually recommend you begin trying around 18 months because of developing tooth alignment, language development, and even ear infections.

We actually had a ceremony with our son where we wrapped the pacifier and sent it to another child who was much younger and needed it. Our son gave a speech that was quite moving, said his goodbyes, and moved on with life. He told us weeks earlier that he was ready to give it up, and we allowed him to take the lead. We suggested the ceremony, and he really liked the idea. It doesn’t always go that well, so here are other ideas.

First and foremost is to never shame a child for sucking her thumb or using a pacifier. Don’t nag or chide or you will most likely engage in a power struggle. No threats or punishments. Anxiety will rise and the child will feel the need to hang on to the object even more! Some kids go cold turkey like our son did and others, like our daughter, gave it up gradually. Knowing your child makes a difference in how you approach this, so here are a number of ideas that have worked for different children:

  1. Limiting the time of usage and places it can be used, e.g., naptime
  2. Offering a reward or special treat for exchange
  3. Poking a hole in it and deflating it
  4. Creating distraction by playing an instrument, singing, or doing something else with his mouth
  5. Using a reward chart
  6. Going cold turkey

Some kids will cry for a few nights and then be done. It is also important to time the weaning. You don’t want to try this if your child is sick or experiencing a major change. Our first attempt with our son was when we moved him into his big boy bed. That was not the time to give up the paci! Once he adjusted, we had success! And you will too.

Mom, Can We Have a Dog?


Dr. Linda Mintle answers your questions each month in the Real Life Solutions department of ParentLife magazine. This month Dr. Linda answers questions about kids using cell phones and when kids lie. Each month we post an extra question on the blog. This month Dr. Mintle gives some advice about getting a pet.

Q: Our 10-year-old daughter is begging us for a pet. I have two younger children and adding a pet to the mix feels overwhelming. However, my daughter desperately wants a pet and I am an animal lover. I am not sure about the added responsibility right now. What should we consider in making this decision?

A: Most children will beg you for a pet some time in their young lives. The main issues to consider are the child’s developmental stage and your expectations for taking care of a pet. Obviously a cat or dog would require care and attention — feeding, grooming, exercise, clean up, and more. Other pets, such as fish and guinea pigs, are less time and care intensive and good choices for younger children. They offer you an opportunity to see how committed to taking care of a pet your child really is and how long interest will be sustained.

Go to the library and get a book about pet care. As a family, talk about the needs of a pet, what type of pet you may consider, and what the expectations would be. For example, certain dog breeds are more kid-friendly than others. Goldfish or hermit crab requires very little upkeep and expense. Visit a pet store and talk with a friend who has the kind of pet you are interested in to get a better idea of time and care issues.

Of course your child could lose interest in the pet after several weeks and you may end up with the responsibility. Schedule playdates with a friend who has a pet and see if the interest in the pet sustains over time. Decide what you can handle right now and do not be swayed by the begging.

Finally, consider the cost of owning a pet, family stability in terms of moves and housing, the demand of time and energy, and the possibility of the pet becoming a source of family conflict if people slack off on their responsibilities. The benefits of pet owning should be considered as well. Pets help teach a child structure, empathy, compassion, nurturing, loyalty, trust, and responsibility and provide companionship. Pets are also sources of unconditional love and dependability. Pets can improve mood and blood pressure, increase family exercise, and even reduce stress.

Send us your questions for Dr. Mintle!


Real Life Solutions

Each month in ParentLife, Dr. Linda Mintle answers your questions in our "Real Life Solutions" department. This month we have an extra Q&A just for you.

Q. My 5-year-old son tried to kiss a girl in kindergarten. The teacher called me and told me he chases a girl at recess and tries to kiss her. Apparently the little girl runs away and giggles. The teacher is new and young and wanted me to know. The teacher says he is doing well in class and we don’t have problems with him at home.  He does see my husband kiss me when he comes home from work. How should I handle this and why is he doing this at such a young age? Apparently this isn’t the first girl he has tried to kiss. 


A. Do not panic. This is the age in which your child is learning about what is means to be male and female. He does this primarily through identification with Dad and watching and imitating others. Developmentally, his conscious is activating sexual curiosity and he is learning basic gender identity. He has seen your husband kiss you and watched people in movies and TV do the same.  Your son is curious and experimenting with what he has seen. It is normal to try and copy this behavior. In a few years, he will think kissing is gross! Unless he has been the victim of sexual abuse or exposed to inappropriate sexual content, his behavior is normal.

Simply talk to your son and tell him that kissing his classmates is inappropriate. Do not punish him but do tell him to stop. He can chase the little girl he likes but not kiss her. Suggest that he tag her instead. Your attitude toward this behavior is most important! Be careful not to shame your son or make this into a big deal.  How you feel about his sexual development and how you respond to normal development is important.

Linda Mintle, Ph.D., is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has been in clinical practice for over 20 years. She is the author of 16 books, a national speaker, news contributor and Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, Eastern Virginia Medical School. For more about Dr. Linda, go to her Web site —

Do you have questions for Dr. Linda? Send them to us!


Are You SAD?

Each month in ParentLife, Dr. Linda Mintle answers your questions in our "Real Life Solutions" department. This month we have an extra Q&A just for you about the wintertime blues.

Q: I am so tired during the day and very irritable with my two children. I can’t concentrate. I’m gaining weight and crave carbohydrates. My children keep asking me why I seem so sad, and my husband has noticed the irritability as well. Usually this mood change happens to me in the winter. I just want to sleep and get away from my kids. Any ideas as to why this is happening?

mintle03(2).jpgA: What you are describing sounds very much like the winter blues or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), especially since your mood change occurs in winter and improves with the change in seasons. SAD is a treatable type of depression that is prevalent in northern climates where sunlight is minimal in winter. It usually begins around October and ends in April. Women are most susceptible, but SAD also affects men and children.

The good news is that treatment is relatively easy. It involves getting more light or light therapy. The theory is that light resets your biological clock and increases brain chemicals that alleviate depression. This does not mean you can sit anywhere there is light and feel better. Regular indoor lighting is not intense enough to be effective. You need a special type of light found in a light box designed for this kind of therapy. Some insurance companies will reimburse you for this cost.

Another option is to try something called dawn stimulation, a system of light that gradually wakes you before dawn. Also try getting 30 minutes of morning light by walking outside or sitting under a fluorescent or full spectrum light while working or watching TV.

Finally, do not confuse the symptoms of SAD with other conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure. See a doctor to be sure SAD is the cause of your problems. If you suffer from severe depression, consult a mental health professional. Light therapy will not hurt you but it may not help you either.

Recommended Reading
Seasonal Affective Disorder for Dummies by Laura Smith and Charles Elliott (For Dummies, 2007).
• “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Definition” by Mayo Clinic staff —

Linda Mintle, Ph.D., is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has been in clinical practice for over 20 years. She is the author of 16 books, a national speaker, news contributor and Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, Eastern Virginia Medical School. For more about Dr. Linda, go to her Web site —

Do you have questions for Dr. Linda? Send them to us!

Expert Advice

Sometimes the ParentLife staff gets questions from readers that we do not feel qualified to answer. But we are blessed to work with many experts who are very qualified to answer difficult questions. One of those experts is Dr. Linda Mintle, our monthly columnist for "Real Life Solutions" (pp. 44-45).

Not long ago we recieved the following question from a reader:

"My husband and I have a dilemma we want help with. We have been married for almost 10 years. He has two beautiful girls from a previous marriage. They are 12 and 10. We have many issues with his ex-wife and would like some advice."

We were able to forward this reader’s letter and specific questions to Dr. Mintle. Maybe her suggestions will help you with a difficult stepparenting situation you are in.

Dear Reader,

55.Divorced.parents.gifYou are experiencing the type of issues many do when a divorce occurs with children in the picture. The two households often clash in their values and ideas about raising children. You really have three options.

  1. Set up a time to meet with your husband’s ex and explain your concerns. See if you can negotiate some of these issues on a case by case basis. Divorce doesn’t mean discussion with the biological parent ends. In fact, it often takes more time to work through issues because of the divorce. If you approach her in a nondefensive way, she might work with you.
  2. If she seems uncooperative, you can go to family counseling and try to get her involved or get help with how to respond to her. Now you are engaging a third party who can lend weight to your concerns.
  3. You can pursue legal intervention, documenting your concerns for the children and challenging custody. Some states have Parent Coordinators who come along side families and work through these issues without involving the court.

All these options require some cooperation on her part which doesn’t always happen. Regardless, you should talk to your children about your concerns. Your voice will be important as they grow up regardless of what she does. If at any time you think the girls are being harmed, seek legal counsel or call your local mental health line. 

The fallout of divorce is usually on the children, and parents spend years trying to deal with these difficult issues either directly with the ex or using therapy and legal services. I wish there was an easier way. But God is with you and will give you guidance as well. Prayer goes a long way and people can come into the lives of your children that also can influence for the better. Keep praying that God gives your children those opportunities. Pray your husband’s ex that her heart will return for the things of God she once knew.

– Dr. Linda Mintle

Do you have parenting issues or questions you need help with? We would be happy to help you get the answers you need from one of our parenting experts. E-mail your question to