The “Blankie” Principle! Break a Bad Habit. Build a Good one.

shutterstock_108669410One of the strongest addictions in the universe is the desperate need a child has for a blankie. You know, that favorite little piece of cloth that is either rubbed on the nose as they suck their thumb, or gummed into oblivion as they rub their nose?

If you don’t believe it, keep a child overnight when they have left blankie at home. No one will sleep that night.

Have you ever sniffed a blankie? Unless you enjoy retching uncontrollably, I don’t recommend it.

My daughter tried taking her first child’s blankie away “cold turkey.” It’s lucky any of us survived.

With the last child she used an ingenious method I have named the “Blankie Principle.” Every three days mom cut blankie in half. Within weeks, the child was clutching a tiny foul-smelling piece of cloth about the size of a postage stamp. Then one day it was forgotten.

The Blankie Principle works to develop good habits while simultaneously breaking bad ones. When I get up in the morning my brain tells me I can’t run for an hour; my aching body seconds the motion. So, I cut the blankie into small pieces.

Since I know I can walk for a short distance, I head out the front door. I spot a telephone pole, a road sign, or some pathetic remnant of road kill. I sprint to that marker, raise my arms in victory, acknowledging the imaginary cheers coming from the invisible throngs lining the road. Then I do it again. Before I know it an hour has passed and I’m headed for home.

Steve, a recovering alcoholic, called me one night in a panic. He was sitting in a distant hotel room overcome with the temptation to go down to the bar. He’d been down that road enough times to know it was a dead end. “I don’t know if I can stay sober the rest of my life,” he confessed.

“You don’t have to.” I said, “ You only need to stay sober tonight. Tomorrow is another day. You can face that day when it comes.” At the time I didn’t know if that was good advice or not, but looking back I can almost hear the snip, snip of the scissors. When he woke up the next morning, the overwhelming desire to drink was gone. Steve had cut his blankie down to size and has remained sober for years.

I bet you have used the blankie principle. Tell me the story! [reminder]
If you have ever sniffed a blankie, feel free to share! [reminder]

Adapted from a story in Fully Alive.


  1. But, it’s taken me 53 years to perfect some of those bad habits and I don’t know if I have the time to use the blankie idea. I do have to say when it came to stop taking meds for pain the advice my doctor gave me came in handy. He said, “if you are taking the narcotics to combat pain and not because they make you feel good when the pain is gone you can stop the drugs cold turkey you won’t have any withdrawal symptoms.”

  2. I have battled a bi polar disorder with suicidal tendencies almost 20 years. I have wanted to stop my meds so many times and to hurt my self more times than I can count. With God’s help and learning how to live each day as one more victory I have survived another day knowing I have cut away another piece of my blanket and closer my ultimate healing.

  3. I personally think it is mean to take a child’s blankie away (there are so many other real bad habits) ….My older daughter had hers until College, just as deco on her bed (I always and she always washed it weekly and sometimes daily). I have 2 granddaughters who love their blankies, One is now almost 11 (she is a thumb sucker) her mom took her blankie away…:( my other one is 5 and she loves pink blankie… me I have searched Wal Mart late at night looking for blankie and found it under my bed. I had taken care of her that day. Her blankie is also washed often. To me, a blankie is AOK. A Gramma of 19. P.S. My older daughters “ee” was stolen by a young cousin 🙁 She did survive.

  4. Frankly, I didn’t take the blankie away….and the kiddos eventually left it on their own. It’s security. I get the point of the article, but a blankie is NOT a bad habit! Children need to feel safe and if a blankie does it for them, then so be it. Trust me, they aren’t going to go to school with that thing. They will eventually stop needing it.

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