Tackle the Thumb-Sucking Behavior Early On

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Tackle the Thumb-Sucking Behavior Early On

March 26, 2013

Rory Mycek is a guest contributor from www.TopDentists.com, a dental resource site for all dental health information.

Since the time many children are babies, they start sucking on their thumbs or fingers. They do this because it’s a comforting behavior and gives them a sense of security. Some babies can even be seen on ultrasounds sucking their fingers in the womb! While many children stop this behavior around the time they’re 4 or 5, some continue and it’s hard to knock them from the habit.

Why should you encourage your child to stop sucking on their fingers?

When children are young this is acceptable behavior, but as they age it can begin to jeopardize their teeth and mouth. Sucking on a thumb or fingers can push teeth forward and cause them to not grow in correctly, which leads to higher dental and orthodontic bills down the road.

How do you help your child not depend on their thumb?

The most efficient way to deter your child from thumb-sucking is to start early on. By the time your child reaches 4 or 5 they should not be turning to their fingers for security. Start deterring your toddler around 2 and a half to 3 years old so by the time they reach the age to stop they’ve already begun the process and may cease the behavior on their own. A few encouraging ways to help:

  1. Create a rewards chart for your child so that they can track their progress with stickers. Each time your child doesn’t suck on their thumb or fingers for the night, let them put up a sticker and have some kind of reward in sight.
  2. Try spending a little extra time with your toddler at bedtime. Since thumb-sucking is a behavior that gives children security, maybe all they need is an extra bedtime story before they doze off.
  3. Talk to them about some of their favorite super heroes or characters, even their older sibling(s), and how they don’t suck on their thumbs. Every child wants to be more like their idol, so pass on that small bit of information and ask them how you can help.
  4. Make your child aware that they are sucking on their thumb when they’re doing it. It may be a behavior that they sometimes don’t realize.
  5. Offer a small stuffed animal or a blanket. While most children already have a stuffed animal or blanket that they’re attached to, encourage them to bond closer with that object so that it will become an outlet to seek more security.

What to avoid when helping your child slow down the habit?

There are some things you should avoid that could only hurt the situation or turn it into a negative experience.

  • Avoid yucky-tasting ingredients that deter children from sucking on their thumb. Children turn to thumb-sucking for comfort so to associate it with a negative feeling is not the way to go.
  • While you want to encourage your child to limit or cease the habit all together, don’t force them to stop or limit them to set times when they can suck on their thumb.

In most cases your child will stop the behavior on their own, but just in case they don’t I hope these tips will help!

For some additional tips, check out WhatToExpect.com.

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