6 ways to stop your child’s thumb sucking habit

By Dr Richard C. Woolfson   — January 06, 2020
  • 1 / 7

    Most parents are unhappy to see their preschooler walking around with her thumb stuck in her mouth because it makes her look immature.

    Health and hygiene are issues, too. For example, constant thumb-sucking can break the skin, or make it very red and sore.

    Dentists also warn that constant thumb-suckling beyond the age of three or four years could potentially push the child’s front teeth out of shape.

    So you have good reasons to discourage the habit. Here are six ways to help your kid break the habit.

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  • Avoid battles
    2 / 7 Avoid battles

    The more her comfort habit gains in importance for you and for her, the more she will hold on to it. Try not to become openly annoyed with her.

    (Also read: How to break your kid’s bad habits)

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  • Avoid punishment
    3 / 7 Avoid punishment

    Threats of punishment will probably make her feel more anxious. This could in turn increase her desire to suck her thumb.

    Don’t be tempted to paint her thumb with one of those commercial, foul-tasting but harmless liquids either. She’ll just get used to the taste or simply suck a different finger instead.

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  • Expect resistance
    4 / 7 Expect resistance

    She can’t fully explain why she likes to suck her thumb. But she enjoys it, so she won’t see any reason to change quickly.

    (Also read: 10 good habits to teach your preschooler)

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  • Be gentle
    5 / 7 Be gentle

    Don’t expect immediate and complete withdrawal. She can’t break her habit that quickly.

    Suggest that she tries to avoid thumb-sucking for one specific period to start with. For instance, while you are reading a story book to her.

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  • Move slowly forward
    6 / 7 Move slowly forward

    Once she has achieved one of those early targets, gradually extend that to other parts of the day. Go slow and steady so that she doesn’t feel rushed.

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  • Praise the positives
    7 / 7 Praise the positives

    She needs to feel that change brings benefit, so tell her how happy you are. Point out that she looks like a “big girl” now, and give her a special treat because she has tried so hard.

    (Photos: 123RF.com)

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