Help Your Toddler Stop Thumb Sucking for Good: 4 Effective Strategies

Should you be concerned about your child’s thumb sucking?

The answer to that question is a resounding, “Maybe.” Although thumb-sucking can quickly become a concern for parents of toddlers, the habit in and of itself actually isn’t as big an issue as most would think. If your child’s thumb-sucking has reached the point where it has become an issue, this post will give you a handful of effective strategies to use to help your tot stop thumb sucking for good.

Why Kids Suck Their Thumbs (And It’s Not All Bad News)

Children suck their thumbs because it is natural; remember they did it for several months in the womb. So, it’s not unusual for them to continue sucking their thumbs from infancy, or suddenly pick up the habit again as toddlers.

Often, thumb sucking is a self-soothing method that most children will stop doing on their own before they are school-aged. Before then, there is no harm in thumb sucking, as the sucking action soothes fussy children, which can help them wind down for naps or fall asleep at night.

As well, research suggests kids who suck their thumbs were less likely to have allergies because exposure to the germs on their hands makes them less susceptible to common allergens like dust mites, grass, and pet hair.

Around age five or six, your child’s permanent teeth will start to replace his or her baby teeth. That’s when thumb sucking can become an issue. The intense pressure and thrust of the tongue causes tooth deformation, which can lead to years of costly, painful orthodontic treatments.

How to Tackle the Problem of Thumb Sucking in Older Kids

The challenge, as you know, is to find compassionate, effective ways to nudge your child toward more productive ways to self-soothe. So, here are four ways to do just that.

Toddlers can stop thumb sucking for good! Say goodbye to the habit with 4 positive parenting strategies and tools. #thumbsucking #parenting #parentinghelp #parentingadvice #positiveparenting

#1 Show compassion

First things first: Punishing your child for thumb sucking is not going to offer any encouragement for her to stop. You are only hurting the child by punishing her for a habit that makes her feel secure. As children get older they tend to find other methods of soothing themselves which don’t include sucking thumbs.

#2 Pay attention

The best thing that you, as a parent, can do for your child, is to notice when they are doing it, and where you are at when they do. Children who are tired may resort to thumb sucking, or when they are frustrated. Kids who are scared, anxious or worried often suck their thumbs to help them get centered. If you understand what’s triggering the actions, you can offer your child alternatives to thumb sucking before they ever get to the point where they need to put their thumb in their mouths. And, yes, it’s a need.

#3 Bring it to your child’s attention

The benefit of waiting until your child is older to correct the behavior is they get old enough to reason. Psychologist Susan Heitler says her three-year old son was persuaded to stop thumb sucking for good by hearing her tell him a fictitious story about a boy named David who decided to stop sucking his thumb. This story later became her first book, David Decides About Thumbsucking).

In the privacy of your own home, you can sometimes “talk kids out of the habit.”  It is okay to remind older children if they begin thumb sucking, especially when it happens in public. Just be sure to do it in a respectful, non-critical manner. Your gentle reminders can be very helpful for the child as they attempt to break the habit themselves.

Refrain from rebuking your child publicly, which can create embarrassment and feelings of shame that can linger for years to come. But privately, make sure your child knows when she’s sucking her thumb. Often, kids don’t even realize their doing it.

#4 Introduce alternatives

You may also choose to introduce alternatives. This tactic is a bit controversial, as some experts would say covering your child’s thumb is cruel and others say there’s nothing wrong with disrupting the positive association of thumb sucking with displeasure.

What should you use? If you can intercept the behavior in the moments before it occurs, you can offer your child her favorite toy or blanket to help her self-soothe before she gets to her thumb.

There are also several products on the market designed to curb thumb sucking such as using a thumb sucking guard.

Thumbster is glove-like lycra covering that goes over the child’s thumb. Thumbster is best-suited for older kids.

Thumbsucking Stop Finger Guard  and Dr. Thumb are silicone bracelets with “finger pouch” extensions at the end that is supposed to cover the child’s finger or thumb. It’s for kids 1 to 5 years of age.

There are also bitter, non-toxic nail coats made by Orly, Mavala, and Onyx that you brush over your child’s nailbed to stop them from biting their nails. Control-It makes a non-toxic bitter-tasting cream that comes in a 2-pack and is specifically made to help children stop sucking their thumbs.

All in all, the thumb sucking can be stopped if you are consistent with your intervention. Be sure that you praise your child when she successfully foregoes thumb-sucking for a more productive habit. Of course, if you are concerned with thumb-sucking or are looking for other solutions, talk to your child’s dentist. Chances are, he or she can offer some great tips as well.





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