March 21

6 Ways to Stop Your Child From Sucking Their Thumb


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There are several effective ways to help your child stop sucking their thumb. Try these six techniques and you’re certain to find one that works.

It’s perfectly natural for a child to suck their thumb, especially for the first few months after they’re born. It’s a way that babies and toddlers have of self-soothing, falling asleep, and feeling good. Eventually, however, they need to develop other ways to cope with the anxieties of growing up.

The time to wean them off the thumbsucking habit depends on the individual child, but if they’re approaching pre-school age and haven’t stopped on their own, it’s probably best to start helping them along. Usually, getting children to stop sucking their thumb is a process of trial and error, with different tactics working for different children. Experiment with the following tips and you’re certain to find a method that works.

1. Don’t Overreact or Worry

There’s nothing to be gained from overreacting if your child continues to suck their thumb after the age of 2-3 years old. Besides, conventional wisdom says that most children can suck their thumbs until the age of about 4 or 5 without damaging the development of their teeth or their jaw alignment. Accurate knowledge is the key to reducing worry and increasing your effectiveness. Contact your local dentist to find out more about your child’s specific needs.

2. Use Positive Reinforcement

While it can be tempting to issue ultimatums like ‘no more thumb sucking ever’ and try to stop the habit in one fell swoop, it’s always more effective to use positive reinforcement instead. Simply put, this means acknowledging and praising your child at those times when they’re not sucking their thumb, as opposed to scolding them when they are.

3. Talk to Your Child Openly About Their Thumb Sucking

Opening the topic of thumb sucking up for discussion is often a great way to get your child to stop the habit. The way you go about this will depend on your child’s personality and maturity level, but the most important thing is to offer your support. Be very explicit when you offer this support, perhaps with a simple promise to be there to help whenever they’re ready.

Shameful feelings can arise if you’re not open about your child’s thumb-sucking habit. This will only lead to more anxiety and make the problem worse, so open up the discussion as soon as possible for best results.

Related – Top 7 Activities To Creatively Stimulate Your Child’s Mind

4. Draw Your Child’s Attention to Their Thumb Sucking

Sometimes, your child might not even be aware that they’re indulging in the habit of sucking their thumb. That’s why it’s often helpful to point it out when they’re in the middle of the act. One great way of doing this is to say something like “I notice you’re sucking your thumb right now. Did you know that?” If the answer is no, simply help them realize it’s happening and work to find them another means of self-soothing.

5. Take Preemptive Action

By paying close attention to the types of situations when your child is apt to start sucking their thumb, you’ll start to notice their patterns and be able to intervene before an episode begins. Once you’ve discerned these patterns, take action beforehand to prevent the episode from starting. This usually entails substituting a pleasurable or soothing activity whenever your child enters a situation where thumb-sucking is likely.

6. Start by Intervening on Night Time Thumb Sucking

Though this is not always the case, some of the most vigorous and potentially harmful thumb-sucking happens while children are sleeping. It’s when children suck their thumbs strongly for an extended period of time that they tend to develop tooth or jaw problems, so night time intervention is often advisable.

The key is occupying those idle little hands at bedtime. You can use a stuffed animal that’s large enough for your child to wrap their arms around while they’re falling asleep, for instance. You can also occupy their hands with a favorite toy or play lullaby music continuously during sleeping hours.

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