Parenting Tips on How to Stop Thumb Sucking in Children

By | November 2, 2013

Thumb sucking in children has been found around the world and is a common habit for almost half of all children. Images of fetuses have been seen to besucking thumbs in the womb, and this is a natural urge. Most children give up on their own in early childhood between 2-6 years, but for those who continue, the habit of thumb sucking could lead to dental and health complications.

Complications of Thumb Sucking

A prolonged habit of thumb sucking can be the cause of orthodontic problems such as improper alignment of the teeth, an overbite, or malformation of the palate (roof of the mouth). Also a child’s speech can change with sucking thumbs; either creating a lisp or making the child thrust his or her tongue out during speech. Children who have the habit of thumb sucking even in their later childhood are more likely to face these complications up to adolescence.

How to Stop Thumb Sucking

It is important that children are not mocked or ridiculed to discourage their habit of thumb sucking. There are some tactics that parents or child care professionals can use to help children stop sucking thumbs.

  • Most children associate the habit of thumb sucking with comfort, or use it to soothe themselves. If your child has a soft toy or special blanket that encourages sucking thumbs, you could consider keeping it out of sight for some time.
  • Discuss the habit of thumb sucking with your child. Talking about its effects can sometimes encourage the child to stop on his or her own. For older children who suck their thumbs, it may lead to them being laughed at or teased in school. When they share this with you, it offers an opening to talk about how to stop thumb sucking.
  • Putting a bitter, child-safe nail polish or fluid on a child’s nails or fingers can remind them even if they are not aware of sucking thumbs.
  • Using a colorful bandage or plaster on the thumb can be a cheery way to dissuade them from the habit of thumb sucking.
  • If your child responds well to games and challenges, you can create a game in which they are rewarded for every two or five days of no sucking thumbs with something they enjoy doing.
  • Distracting children with an activity when they begin sucking thumbs is a good way to stop them without making them self conscious.

While most children give up sucking thumbs on their own, some children tend to revert to the habit when sad, hungry, tired, bored or angry. This should only be a temporary problem and soon children will grow out of thumb sucking completely. It is also important not to discuss how to stop thumb sucking with children during difficult times, as it soothes them when troubled. Treating the habit of thumb sucking gently and with sensitivity will help your child without causing guilt or shame.

References:

  1. Thumb Sucking – Web MD
  2. Thumb Sucking in children Lead to Overbite – Bio-Medicine
  3. Thumb Sucking – Healthline

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