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Solving Thumb-Sucking

By April 2, 2016August 2nd, 2022Blog

Steps to Solving Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking is a habit common for young children that most parents want to stop. However, a lot of parents have a hard time figuring out a good systematic way to help the child break the bad habit. Below are four steps that you can take as a parent to help your child break the habit of thumb sucking.
Step One:

As a parent, it is important to understand why and when your child turns to her thumb. When observing your child’s behavior, keep a pen and paper handy and write down all the times you see her thumb in her mouth. After a week, see if there are any consistencies. Does she suck her thumb when she watches her favorite show? Or does she suck her thumb when she is around the other toddlers at the playground?

Step Two:

Identify what the payoffs are for your child. If you notice that she sucks her thumb when she’s watching TV, then the thumb is used when she is idle.   If she sucks her thumb when she hangs out with other toddlers, she may be nervous and use her thumb as a comforting mechanism.

Step Three:

Once you understand why your child sucks their thumb, you can start to offer your child something in exchange for the thumb. For example, when she about to watch her favorite show, offer her a bowl of grapes or another snack to eat while the show is on. If your child sucks her thumb after she gets hurt, rush over to them and offer them a big hug followed by a quick distraction like a game.

Step Four:

To help motivate your child, create a daily rewards chart to keep track of each day that your child goes without sucking her thumb. You can offer your child a treat or a small toy at the end of each day where she does not suck her thumb. Also, it is important to remember that the more immediate the reward, the better the outcome. If your child is old enough, suggest that he comes to tell you when he feels like sucking his thumb and doesn’t so you can offer him the reward. The reward does not have to be big, a gummy bear or a Hersey’s Kiss would be good for each time he resists the urge.

Remember that any bad habit is hard to break and that it takes time and encouragement. Punishment or nagging does not tend to work well with children because they are known for power struggles. If your child is old enough to understand, you can sit down with him and tell him about a time where you had to break a bad habit and make it clear why you would like him to stop this behavior. If you can think about a way to make the discussion about him and not you, you will have better luck. For example, if you are worried about his teeth, you could say how great it would be if he had the best smile at soccer pictures next week. Continue to encourage and motivate your child to break the bad habit of thumb sucking. Soon enough, your child will stop sucking their thumb for good!