How to Stop Thumbsucking

How to Stop Thumbsucking

How do I stop my child from sucking their thumb? Is a common question asked by many parents.  Children normally suck their thumb as a means of comforting themselves in the same way as they might cling to a teddy bear, or a blanket, or suck on a dummy or pacifier.  The problem with thumb sucking is it can lead to dental problems including protruding front teeth, and possible injury and infections of the thumb.  If you want to know how to stop thumb sucking check out our list of 17 bright ideas. 

Talk to them about it – Explain to them that it is not good for their teeth and that big kids don’t sick their thumbs.  Show them that their favourite characters don’t suck their thumbs – The Wiggles, Mike the Knight, Cinderella etc.

Paint their thumb with something that tastes yucky – Vinegar is popular or there are plenty of over the counter concoctions you can get from the chemist.  Camps are divided as to whether this is a good idea or a little bit cruel.

Use a glove – If your child doesn’t mind wearing gloves then give that a try.  Sucking on a wooly mitten may not give the same satisfaction as their thumb.  Then again you may just end up with a soggy mitten.

Restrict it to bed time – If your child is willing try and convince them to only do it at night.  Tell them that doing it in public and when they are out and about is not acceptable, but they could limit it to before bed.

Star charts / Rewards charts – Some kids respond really well to this kind of positive parenting.  Give them a tick or a sticker if they don’t sick their thumb for ½ day.  Then move to a full day, or a night.

Thumbguard © – A transparent plastic medical grade guard that goes over the thumb.  FDA approved.  Chewing on a piece of plastic won’t be as appealing as their thumb.

Don’t do anything – As with a large number of childhood problems you can just do nothing and see if it passes by itself.  There are not that many 5 year olds who still suck their thumb (although there are a few, and some people carry it on until adulthood).  When children start school there may be some peer pressure to stop.

Ordeal Therapy – Discovery Health makes the suggestion of “ordeal therapy”.  Tell them that the other fingers and missing out and make them suck them all for the same period of time.  The child will soon get bored with all that sucking.  This one wouldn’t be my cup of tea – poor kids!

Distraction –Wikihow suggests distracting them with activities that use both their hands such as video games.   

Get the dentist involved – One of the main consequences of thumb sucking is the teeth pushing out at the front.  If the kids wont listen to you get the dentist to tell them the issues it causes.  Perhaps an outsider getting involved might help.

Books for Parents and Therapists – There are a number of books written on this topic.  Try “How to Stop Thumb sucking and Other Oral Habits: Practical Solutions for Home and Therapy” by Pam Marshalla.

Remind them about it every time you see them do it – Could also be called nagging!  They may be unaware the keep doing it and need the reminder to so they can consciously consider their actions.

Give them a ball – Dr Sears the American Pediatrician and author of 30 parenting books suggests  giving them a substitute such as a ball to play with.  

Teddy Bear or Music – Dr Sears also suggests that for children who suck their thumbs mostly at night as a way to sooth themselves to sleep could benefit by being given a bear to cuddle, or by playing soothing music as a way to calm the child down.  

Adult Thumbsuckers – If you are an adult who still thumbsucks the advice seems to be that you need to replace the beahviour with something else that calms you down.  This could be meditation, writing, deep breathing, exercise etc.

The Dummy – no discussion on thumbsucking would be complete without mentioning Dummies or Pacifiers.  Some Mums believe the best way to stop children thumb sucking in the first place is to give them a dummy.  The dummy can then be removed from the child when the parents think it’s appropriate.  Dummies can however create their own problems – fall out when kids are sleeping and need to be replaced, also can cause dental issues,  and need constant cleaning.

David Decides About Thumb sucking “- A story for children and a guide for parents, written by Susan Heitler Ph.d.  This is the story of a 5 yr old who thumb sucks and the process of him deciding whether or not to give it up. 


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