How to Stop Thumb-sucking Habit in Children

How to Stop Thumb-sucking Habit in Children

How can you stop your child from sucking his or her thumb? Do you know why your child likes this habit and what are the ill effects of continuous thumb sucking? Keep reading to get all the answers.

Thumb sucking is a fairly common habit among children. Most children stop sucking their thumb on their own, but there are some children who find it harder to break the habit. In such cases parent may feel the need to interfere and put a stop to the thumb sucking habit.

Why do Children Suck their Thumb?

As per child experts, here are the three most common reasons children suck their thumbs:

  • Helps them cope: For most children, thumb sucking is a coping mechanism. Babies have a natural tendency to suck.
  • Makes them feel calmer: Baby thumb sucking is a way for the child to deal with anxiety and stress. It makes them feel calm and helps them deal with stressful situations
  • Feels good to them: Sometimes, babies start sucking their thumbs simply because it feels good to them
  • Helps them sleep: Some children suck their thumb to help fall asleep or soothe themselves if they wake up at night

Most children stop sucking their thumbs on their own between the ages of two and four as they learn new coping methods. Some kids find this habit a lot harder to shake.

If your child is still sucking his thumb after the age of 4 or 5, then you may need to intervene. It is time to step in with some thumb sucking remedies or replacement behavior for thumbsucking.

Why is Thumb Sucking Bad?

Thumb sucking beyond a certain age can start to have detrimental effects on your child’s teeth. Excessive and aggressive thumb sucking can cause damage to the soft tissue of the palate and the sides of the jaw. This is why thumb sucking is bad. Some of the ill-effects are:

  • The upper and lower teeth may not meet properly
  • The child may need braces
  • There might be speech problems such as a lisp
  • Overall structure of mouth and jaw might be affected

Watch: Dr. Aniruddha KB, Dental Surgeon, discusses management of thumb-sucking in children

Should you Stop the Thumb Sucking Habit of your Child?

Yes, as discussed earlier, if your child is still sucking his thumb after age 4 or 5 years, it may be time to help him drop the habit. Not doing so can have side effects on his health.

However, keep in mind that eventually, the habit will stop as your child grows out of it. Peer pressure is one of the reasons children stop day time thumb sucking. If you put too much pressure on your child to stop the thumb sucking, you will only give them more stress and this could end up delaying the process even longer.

How to Stop Thumb Sucking

So, how to stop a child from sucking their thumb? Here are some doctor-approved methods you can try to answer how to stop thumb sucking. They will help your little one get over the habit and protect them from the ill-effects of prolonged thumb sucking.

1. Don’t use harsh methods

Do not use the products that are meant to cover your child’s thumb and cause a bad taste in their mouth. Some parents use gloves, bitter-tasting ointments, etc., to discourage thumb sucking. However, these types of techniques are cruel and will only cause trauma to your child. The thumb is a source of comfort for them and so you should not snatch it away.

2. Find out the cause of thumb-sucking

Pay attention to why your child sucks his or her thumb. Is it a way for them to get your attention? If yes then the best way to stop the habit would be to not give it any attention. If your child uses thumb sucking to cope with anxiety or stress then you should try finding the root of the problem. What is causing the anxiety? Finding the cause and addressing it is the best way to stop thumb sucking.

3. Help your child stop passive thumb sucking

If your child is sucking on the thumb without even realizing it then you should point it out. Don’t be harsh or critical, just casually point out that they have their thumb in their mouth.

4. Give them an alternate means of comfort

Provide your child with an alternate means of coping with some kind words and a few hugs. This will teach them that they do not have to rely on their thumb for comfort. You can also give them a soft toy, a rubber ball, finger puppets, etc., as these items will keep their hands occupied and also distract them from anxiety. This is one of the best and natural ways to stop thumb sucking.

5. Use positive reinforcement or rewards

Your encouragement and support is the best remedy for your child’s anxiety. If your child successfully keeps away from thumb sucking for a certain time period, reward him with a little gift, for example, an extra story at bed-time or a cuddly toy. Positive reinforcement is excellent for building good habits. Do not punish or scold your child if they fail at it on occasion.

Finally, do not be too alarmed or too aggressive with your attempts to stop thumb sucking. Your child will stop when he or she feels ready to let it go. If the above ways to stop sucking your thumb are not helping and you are worried about your child, don’t hesitate from consulting the paediatrician.

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