Why I will not shame my children into ‘good behavior’

So long time readers of my blog would know that Fighter is really addicted to his pacifier.

Like really.

This was the first ever time he accepted a pacifier and it was sweet relief for my nips wtf.

An excerpt from my blog then:

I buckled and got Fighter a pacifier.  I didn’t want to have to wean him off it, but then I noticed he was nuzzling at my breast and trying to feed every hour!  We thought it was a growth spurt but he’d overdrink and puke. -___-  And he also started stuffing his hands into his mouth and sucking his fingers so we figured he only wanted comfort and got him a pacifier.  #becausemynippleisnotapacifier

Given a choice between his fingers and a pacifier, I chose the pacifier as the lesser evil — mostly because I thought it would be easier to wean him off a pacifier then his fingers.

How? Can hide the pacifier but cannot chop off his fingers ma wtf.

We try to keep it to sleeping and car rides (because he used to be so cranky on car rides that I ended up giving him the chu chu then to shut him up :X) but if he sees it on the table or anything he’d demand for it.  And he has trouble giving it up unless he’s really distracted.  So when it’s not in use, I keep it out of his sight.

At the same time, the pacifier has been so good to me. When he’s in a tantrum and can’t stop himself, only the chu chu can calm him down.  When he wakes up in the middle of the night, all I have to do is pop back in the pacifier and he immediately goes back to sleep.

But Fighter will be three this August (ZOMG TIME FLIES OR WHAT) and he’s still a chu chu addict.  I’ve been contemplating weaning him off the pacifier.

I had no idea how to go about it, and I still don’t.  But recently, I noticed a change.

Occasionally, Fighter would pluck the pacifier out of his mouth by himself, hand it to me and say, “Mommy please keep my chu chu.”

Or “Jude has no chu chu. Chu Chu is shame shame.”

I am pleasantly surprised!  Nothing has changed at home so I assume it’s something he picked up in school.  None of his classmates take a pacifier (although there are a few thumb suckers) so maybe he’s feeling the pressure lolol.

We’ve also been telling him he’s a big boy while Penny is still a baby in an effort to cultivate pride and responsibility lol.  So maybe he’s coming to terms with his new identity as ‘big boy’ and getting rid of the chu chu goes with the territory.

So I decided to just go along with it; I felt he would continue to grow up and would need the pacifier as a comfort less and less especially when he’s off at school and doing big boy things.  I wouldn’t pressure or set a deadline to remove the pacifier.

But something happened today.

(I’d recently cracked my leg so I uh am currently taking a break from driving).  Normally I drive the kids around but I’ve had to ask our driver Uncle S to drive Fighter and me this week.

Now both my kids like Uncle S and are always waving at him or asking him to carry.

As usual after school, like a pacifier addict, Fighter came out of class and rummaged in his bag for his pacifier to suck hahaha. So when we got into the car he was already sucking it contentedly.

Uncle S glanced in the rearview mirror.  “Fighter, are you a big boy or a baby?” he asked.

Fighter replied, “Big boy!”

“Then why are you taking the chu chu?  Only babies eat chu chu. I thought you said you are a big boy?” said Uncle S.

I idly waited for Fighter to answer but noticed there was no reply from him.  I looked over at him in his car seat and was taken aback to see this.


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Fighter with his lips pressed tightly together, looking downcast.  His pacifier was not in his mouth, but dangling from his fingertips.

I said, “What’s wrong Fighter? Take your chu chu la.” And I tried to pluck the chu chu from his hand, thinking he couldn’t find it.

Fighter just shook his head sharply and continued looking down.  His lip shook and he was blinking hard.

Oh my god.  My two year old has been shamed.  Maybe even humiliated.

I gently pried the pacifier from his chubby hand.  Popping it into his mouth, I stroked his head and told him, “It’s okay darling.  You can take your chu chu.  You’re a big boy who likes his chu chu.”

He accepted the pacifier gratefully.  The chu chu bobbed up and down as he sucked on it.

But he remained quiet for the rest of the car journey. Uncle S tried to engage him in conversation and Fighter would look up with big wary eyes but he stayed silent.  He only cheered up when we got home.

I don’t know if it was the right thing to do — to tell him he’s a big boy and that it’s alright for big kids to take pacifiers.  For all I know, it may have pushed his progress back ten steps.

And I don’t blame Uncle S for it.  He’s an older gentleman and the older generations wielded shame as a parenting tool — “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” “See your cousin got 7As why you 7Ds?” “Big boys don’t cry!” “You’re acting like a spoiled child!”. As a nerve-frayed parent today, it’s easy to slip into nasty language like this too.

But I refuse to shame or to let my children be shamed.

Shame operates by giving children a negative image of themselves, rather than about the impact of their behavior.


Fighter’s crestfallen face is difficult to forget.  There must be more positive ways of teaching which will not make kids feel like shit.  There must be a better way and I will find it.



  • UmmiBee’s Blog

    I really enjoyed this post Audrey!

    My daughter is 2 years and 3 months old and still takes formula in a feeding bottle. To her, feeding bottle is for milk and sippy cup is for water and juice. She rejects any form of change. I have been trying to wean her off the bottle but it’s really difficult. She throws a tantrum and I end up giving in and letting her feed the way she’s comfortable. Even after having solids, she needs a quiet 10 – 15 minutes lying in a quiet nook with her tommee tippee.

    I’ve noticed recently that whenever guests, aunties and uncles see her with the bottle, they make shocked comments like ‘she still takes the bottle? Why hasn’t she stopped yet? As big as you are?’

    She hasn’t started reacting to the obvious judgment, but I worry she’s going to start understanding their comments soon and it may impact her negativity. Seeing fighter looking crestfallen is really heartbreaking.

    I’m always on the defensive regarding this issue and the truth is I know when the time is right with a lot of support, she’ll stop by herself.

  • louise

    Im not a parent. But I am a teacher-to-be. Haha. But I would like to share a method of weaning the pacifier off. I did that with my nephew once and it worked. However every child is different. So no guarantees. Haha. Anyway, what i did was. I told my nephew a month before his birthday that as he is now a big boy, we will have a big party for him. But before that there are some things he may have to give up to become a big boy. For example, his pacifier and his “chou chou”. But we know that these two are his favourites, so we can keep one. He chose the chou chou. After that, I reminded him off and on that he is becoming a big boy soon. He can soon do so many things. He is going to become like “insert superhero” he likes. Then on the eve of his birthday, we said, ok big boy tomorrow, what do you have to give up? While showing him pictures of his birthday party venue of all. He happily threw it away and self declared that he is a kor kor now.

    He did cry for his pacifier a few days after. But we would only ask him,”where is it then?” He would then remember he threw it away. So he would keep quiet and not fuss about it anymore. However, he is still rather moody for a few days before he forgets about it.

    Now that I typed that out. I noticed a lot of flaws in the whole method. However, this coincides with Erik Erikson’s theory. Where children at that stage is going through this period where they either develops their autonomy or become doubtful of themselves. So by somehow allowing him to choose and throw it away on his own, he is not forced, it is a form of autonomy. This is important, because if a child did not get the recognition or help for him to develops this autonomy, he will bring the self doubt to his next developmental stage. And according to the theory, it is hard to reverse that.

    Just sharing! Hope you don’t mind. This is my first time commenting at any blogpost. Haha.

  • Grace Wong

    Hi Audrey,

    My daughter is 4 now and she weaned off her pacifier when she was close to 3yo. I She picked up on biting on her pacifier which will cause it to tear or creating holes on the pacifier teat. I continuously told her not to bite it but old habits are hard to break so she continued on. After replacing her 2nd pacifier due to her bitings, i told her if she doesn’t stop biting, i would not get her a new one if the current one is spoiled with holes. And true enough, 1 day her pacifier got a few holes and i told her the pacifier spoiled edi, and i’m not getting her a new one. i kept repeating it a few more times, and she knew that the pacifier can’t be used anymore and i told her to throw it into the rubbish bin. bid her farewell to the pacifier and into the bin it went. for 2-3 nights after that, she asked on n off about her pacifier and i reminded her that it’s spoiled and she threw it away edi… she got the hang of it and that’s how she weaned off her pacifier. it was the same for her milk bottle, the teats was spoiled by her biting, and she threw it away too.. weaned her off her milk bottle at 3.5yo. she now drinks her milk from a cup nightly before heading upstairs for bedtime.

    Just sharing…

  • Sher Lin

    I’m with you on this one. I’m too still trying to figure out a way that’s less condescending to build up my 2yo son’s character. And hopefully when I find one, I’d be able to shed some light to the older generations in the family too.

  • Elisabeth Eli

    I am sad looking at Fighter’s expression and reading this post.
    I also do not like shaming thing but i can’t control other people’s mouth / way too.
    My son likes to be naked and i am ok with it, he is naked at home anyway. But other like to shame him saying “Embarassing… wearning no pants..” I honestly dislike hearing that.. But i also don’t know how to handle it.. Usually i just ignore it but..

    Fighter … T___T

  • lol

    Dear parenting expert Aud, when your son was shamed and maybe even humiliated, what was the first thing on your mind? OMG I GOTTA TAKE A PICTURE OF MY SON’S HUMILIATED FACE AND SHARED IT WITH THE WORLD ON THE INTERNET. WITH BLACK AND WHITE FILTER FOR DRAMATIC EFFECT LOL GOOD JOB FIGHTER. Yeah? What are you trying to teach him?

  • fourfeetnine

    Fighter also takes the bottle for milk! It’s more of a comfort for him than anything and he only takes it before sleeping. In the morning he drinks milk from a cup. I myself drank from a bottle until 6-7 years old I think hahaha so I don’t think there’s anything wrong either! I agree – when the time is right and they’re ready they will wean themselves.

  • fourfeetnine

    Thanks for sharing this! I don’t think Fighter is ready for this method yet but when he is I may try it!

  • fourfeetnine

    I thought of doing the same thing too! Cos Fighter bites his pacifier too. Thanks for the idea — possible method for me to try next time hahaha

  • fourfeetnine

    Hahaha do you have any idea how laughable you are? I already clearly wrote how I handled it already. Although I don’t think I really need to explain myself to you as I suspect you already realize how pathetic you’re making yourself. I have no time for idiots who can’t even string together a coherent argument. If you think this comment will affect my confidence in my decisions and parenting, you’re out of your mind. 🙂

  • fourfeetnine

    Actually I’m guilty of shaming too I think. It’s just that I don’t think Fighter felt it yet and this was the most extreme example. This blog post is more of a reminder to self to be more aware of it. T___T

  • fourfeetnine

    Thank you and please share if you have found a way! Would be good to learn 😀

  • Nadia Nurazleena Azman

    Hi Audrey!

    Just FYI, I am a huge fan of yours.

    Anyuway, we have 2 girls at home, a 4 year old and a 1 year old.

    I actually share your sentiments on shaming. I remember feeling paralyzed by shame when I was a little girl and I think when someone feels shamed, it will subsequently lead to anger. I noticed that the same thing happened to my 4 year old when I scolded/shamed her for her mistakes like maybe spilling her cup of water. She would visibly shrink, look down and I could see her freeze up. OMG it broke my heart. She takes a lot after me so I think I had a good idea of how she was feeling then.

    Now I still scold her for her mistakes but then I try to provide her with a constructive way to rectify her mistake. Like if she spills water, I’ll tell her its ok but please get a towel and wipe it up. I can see her immediately perk up at the thought of helping me to correct her mistake. Then I hug her and thank her for cleaning up her mess and say please be careful with your water next time ok? I feel that when I do this, she is more open to listening to me.

    For me, the general idea is to provide my daughter with an alternative behavior that I find acceptable and then praise her for doing it. Versus bashing the unacceptable behavior in order to make her not do it. But please don’t quote me on this haha..not sure if it works for everyone.

    With regards to Fighter’s chu chu, maybe you can offer him an alternative the next time he asks for it? Sweets work well as an incentive for my 4 year old. I buy the tiny sweets from Sticky so that I can dole them out in small quantities…but if you are opposed to giving Fighter sweets, maybe an alternative treat that you find acceptable?

    Hope this helps.

    Keep up updated ya

  • potato

    I asked my mom how did she weaned me/my siblings off the pacifier, she said my father threw it away in front of us! “No more already!” And somehow aaaall of us accepted that and moved on lol!

  • Isabella Ngui

    hi Audrey. The trick i use is simple to wean off pacifier completely. If your son have the habit of bitting his pacifier, better. Usually it will tear in the middle with a hole (im using avent too). this is the best time NOT to replace the spoilt pacifier and let him deal with it. I didnt have time to get a new pacifier for my son and guess what, within 24 hours, he decided he can live without the chu chu. He was 2 when he stopped completely. you may wanna try?

  • Tan Li Wen

    Talking about being shameful hahahahaha. I shamelessly sucked my thumb till I was 8/9 despite my parents telling me it’s shameful and it will cause me to have protuding teeth.

    But I honestly think your driver didn’t mean it. He sounded like he was joking, which is what I have been hearing from my relatives as well.

    But then again, Fighter is still so small, he probably didn’t get the concept of people joking in this manner which is why he took it seriously.

  • Serene

    I would like to suggest that shame is not a totally negative thing in education and character building. For non-moral issues like the pacifier or accidents or rate of development, shame is inappropriate. But how about when a child hits or is rude or lies? I think that being able to feel shame when they do wrong is desirable, so that they will avoid wrong and seek right in future.

  • Adeline Tan

    Awww poor Fighter! I don’t agree with shaming kids into submission, and I think it’s like the whole “you must share or give up your toy to the younger/crying kid” logic. I know our parents’ generation will say we are being overprotective, but I do believe that we need to respect our children and recognise that they’re capable of all the feelings adults have too.

  • Francisca Lim

    Awww~ not here to give you yet another tip or judge the uncle/you , but that face! that poor little face just broke my heart. Please reassure him again that it’s totally fine to do things at his own pace, because he will get there, just like everybody else does. Now Im going to mend my broken heart and avoid looking at the same picture when I scroll up.

  • Julia

    Hi Audrey, I’ve been following your blog for years and years but this is the first time I’ve ever felt compelled to comment.

    Even though I’m not a parent yet, but I can totally relate to your post, which is really well written btw. As a child, my parents often shamed me, whether by comparing my studies, my extra curriculum skills, and even my looks with other children whom they perceive to be better than me. Like you said, this is a very common behaviour of the older generation, because to them, these remarks would push me to work harder, and to strive for more.

    It didn’t occur to me until many many years later, as I stepped into my 20s, that their style of shame-parenting might have moulded me into an individual that judges herself ever so harshly and has got ridiculously low self confidence. I would shy away from any sort of attention just because I didn’t want to be judged or shamed. From the point of realisation onwards, I’ve been working really hard to slowly build up my confidence and to convince myself that I’m good enough. But some things, they never really go away. Fragmented memories of ridicule, shame and humiliation always comes back to me, especially when I’m trying to work towards a goal. 5 years on, and I’m still working on it.

    I obviously don’t blame my parents. That was probably the only way of parenting they knew. I guess some people grow up fine even with that parenting style because they are naturally more resilient, and sometimes I get angry at myself for not being that person. But i have faith that I will continue to grow stronger!

    Your post genuinely struck a chord in me and made me tear up on the bus hahaha. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, please keep doing what you’re doing 🙂

    *sorry for the long post heheh

  • QJ

    Hey there , instead of shaming your child if he/she is being rude or hitting other people . You can take it in a better approach . Maybe like “You mean a lot to me, but it upsets me when you keep on lying to me/hitting her . Is something bothering you? ” Hope this helps !

  • Shirley Soh

    Hi Audrey, my son is now 7. We took our time to wean him off the pacifier until a 3yrs old, going 4. Noticed his front tooth is protruding and I showed him what the pacifier was doing to his teeth. So we gave him a “deadline”. Before his birthday. So he knows and he’s prepared. In fact, he was weaned off just before his birthday!! And we gave him lots of praises! Maybe you can try prepping Fighter? 🙂

  • fourfeetnine

    Shaming makes a child feel bad about themselves as a whole, instead of focusing on their behavior. I think what I would like to achieve in disciplining and teaching my kids is that they would be ashamed of their bad behavior, but not have it affect their self esteem and confidence, which is what shaming would achieve. Like QJ said, there can be other ways of teaching right and wrong 🙂

  • fourfeetnine

    Ooh glad I got to spread awareness then! Hehe. Actually I myself am guilty of shaming for good behavior too. As long as we keep it in mind at least we’re making a difference!

  • fourfeetnine

    Hahaha for now I think I will go with the flow first. Like I mentioned, he’s already been showing signs of not wanting to associate himself with the pacifier in front of his friends so maybe he’ll over time be even keener to get rid of it !

  • Grace Leong

    Hi Audrey. I’m a new parent too. My son is 2 years +, he has never liked a pacifier so I did not have any issue about weaning. But I do struggle with how to teach my son the right way. He’s very naughty sometimes and demanding. When he wants something, he will cry and cry and ‘lao gai’ untill he gets it. He is taken cared by my mother, who is still using the old ways of teaching children – using rotan to scare him. He really scared and do not behave mischieviously when with her. We as parents triend not to use rotan and talked properly with him at our own home. But he still throws tantrum for whatever things he wanted which he can’t (non toys stuff) at our home. Sometimes it’s annoying and I can’t find a solution for it. Can you share with me how you handle it when Fighter throws tantrum? I tried naughty corner before but he will not stay there and still cannot control his emotions… Kindly advice

  • Jolie Jo

    i really love your blog Audrey. You have taught me a lot of things as a new mum. I totally agree with not using shame as a tool to work the child into good behaviour! Not too long ago, it happened to me and i couldn’t contain it but to have a face to face talk with the person. It didnt end up well but i do not regret making the decision to talk. Thank you for sharing and pls keep writing. =)

  • Diane Lee

    I’m with you on this…. Never shame our children and bring down their confidence. If he’s ready to wean, encourage him and wean him off gradually. We all have different pace. He will be proud of his achievements… That he did it by himself. =]

    (mommy of a 4yo critter.)

  • Aurora

    My mom rubbed salt of my pacifier! Haha. She said I gave up on my pacifier after a few sucking attempt, since the salty taste was unbearble then LOL

  • Angie Wong

    Thank you for sharing this to show that every kid has their own pace and there’s no right or wrong timeline. My MIL was telling me and my husband that her kids stopped pacifier after 1 year old and my husband thought that was the guideline too until i told him about your post and that my niece was still using the pacifier at 2-3 years old. Every kid is different and i remember that there was a shaming discussion on why David Beckham’s daughter was still pictured with his pacifier at 4 years old but he defended her. Thanks for re-enforcing my belief =)