Should I worry about my toddler's comfort habits?

Should I worry about my toddler's comfort habits?

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Probably not. Many a toddler goes to bed with a binkie (or sucks her fingers), clutches a grubby blankie, tucks a favorite teddy bear between her legs, and twiddles her ears when she's sleepy. These are all "comfort habits." Most babies have some, a lot of toddlers have a lot of them, and as long as they don't include taking a bottle of milk or juice to bed (always disastrously bad for teeth and even a potential choking hazard) — far from being something that parents should worry about — most youngsters are better off for them.

The advantage of comfort habits is that they're under your toddler's own control, unlike the comfort and affection she gets from you. However sensitive and loving you are, you decide when a cuddling session is over. Your toddler can't make you stay with her, patting her back and singing a favorite lullaby over and over. But she can rely on comfort habits as much as and whenever she wants. It's good for a child to learn how to soothe herself, and to use her own resources instead of being at the mercy of the adult world.

That doesn't mean that comfort habits are always desirable, though. For a start, it isn't healthy for a child to rely so heavily on comfort habits that she cuts herself off from the comfort that other people offer. If your child uses ritualized behaviors to keep herself calm and happy at night, she's doing herself nothing but good. But if she withdraws into self-comfort in the daytime, when you or a caregiver is available to her and toys, play, and exploration beckon, she may be showing signs that something's wrong.

Of course, any toddler can have a day — when she isn't feeling well, for instance, or is extra tired — when she doesn't want to do anything but rock herself and suck her blankie. If she willingly turns to you when you pick her up, there's nothing to worry about. But if she often withdraws into long sessions of rhythmic rocking and sucking, and persists even when you try to cuddle or play with her, she's clearly not getting much satisfaction from the people and activities available to her. Children who are hospitalized without a parent, or who are left with an unloving (or not yet beloved) caregiver sometimes behave this way. An extra serving of attention from you should be enough to restore her interest in the outside world and put comfort habits back in their proper place: valuable additions to comfort from others, but rarely replacements for it.

Finally, there are some "comfort habits" parents need to be wary of, especially habits that involve actual physical pain. A child who rhythmically bangs her head on the end of the crib hard enough to hurt, or who pulls and twists out enough hair to leave bald patches, or who chews and nibbles fingernails until the fingers are bloody is seeking comfort from something worse than the normal stresses of life. If you cannot identify any temporary cause of anxiety, and a calm routine with lots of attention doesn't seem to help, you may want to consult your doctor about a source of professional help.

Watch the video: Were toast: Teacher drops off zoom call and 2nd graders hilariously try to behave l GMA Digital (November 2022).

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