Here are the basics. My 3.5 year old son is using a pacifier almost constantly. He has used one since he was around 1 year old. From the beginning he used it only in the house and not when we were out and about. He just naturally did this and it worked for all of us. Then about three months ago with no fuss or trouble transitioning (Daddy suggested and he said ok) he went to only using it during naps and at night. Now for the last month he uses it constantly. In the house, in the car, out of the house...the only place he will put it down is when he is going into a store with me. And no, I truly can not think of any event or experience that could have precipitated this chance.
My husband is extremely considered about the permanent formation of his palate and his language development (he does have trouble forming many sounds but it got better during the time he wasn't using the pacifier). Although not quite as concerning to me (I do feel those are valid concerns though) I notice a marked change in his demeanor and temperament between when he uses it all the time and when he doesn't. When he originally switched to using it just at sleep time I noticed some major shifts including a decrease in the amount of whining he did, an increase in how engaged he was with other people, and also how much better he slept which of course I'm sure helped with the first two things. We feel all of the above are very good reasons for him to leave behind this method of comfort and transition to something else.
Our parenting style is to not use power over our son and to treat his needs and opinions (whether we understand them or not) as just as valid as ours. Given that, we are truly wanting to help him transition to something else that would fill the need that the pacifier currently does. Maybe something we could give him/have him do at the same time he now reaches for the pacifier. Then given a little time maybe he will be able to put the pacifier away without feeling it is a loss because he associates something else with filling that need. He absolutely has never attached to any blanket, stuffed animal or the like. And he is such a busy boy (very physical) that it can't be anything that he would have to hold in his hands. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. And please note, while I know there are other valid parenting styles that might endorse taking the pacifier away I am not interested in these methods. Thanks!