How to Help Your Child Stop Sucking Their Thumb

How to Help Your Child Stop Sucking Their Thumb

It’s normal for infants and, even, toddlers to suck their thumb. However, it’s not really the best for their teeth, can lead to dental issues, and is a good way for germs to get in their bodies from all of the things that they touch before putting their thumb in their mouth. If you have an older child (age two or older) who still sucks their thumb, then this is a habit that you might be wanting them to break. Doing so is not always easy. If you are finding getting your child to quit sucking their thumb, then here are three steps you can take to help your child alter this habit of theirs.

Find out Why

Children suck their thumbs for a number of reasons. Identify when your child sucks their thumb the most and treat the underlying problem. This is what is known as a trigger. If they suck their thumb in response to stress or when in a large group of people, for example, you’ll know that you might need to help them learn how to cope in such situations.

Use Positive Reinforcement

This is perhaps the most important part of raising a child. After all, negative reinforcement can weaken child-parent relationships as well as prolong various issues. If your child is sucking their thumb, they are most likely doing it out of comfort. However, you can help them to find other sources of comfort—such as personal blankets or a favorite stuffed animal—and reward them for using them in place of thumb sucking.

To help with the positive reinforcement, you may want to consider letting your child have an extra privilege if they can go a certain amount of time without sucking their thumb. You can also use a daily chart with stickers to give your child a visual aid.

Don’t Harp

Most children revert to behaviors like thumb sucking when they feel stressed. This stress only grows when their parents consistently complain about the issue. Give your child quiet reminders without singling them out or making them feel like they are in trouble. You should especially avoid embarrassing them in front of others. This will only make them need to seek the comfort that they get from thumb sucking even more.

There are a number of ways to approach this issue, but one thing is certain: thumb sucking is a common problem and is a common issue for parents to battle. If your child is having teeth and mouth issues due to thumb sucking, consult an orthodontic treatment specialist to see how they can help.

Hannah Whittenly is a freelance writer and mother of two from Sacramento, CA. She enjoys kayaking and reading books by the lake.