If you have a thumb sucker then you know it can be a difficult habit to break. While this is normal behavior during infancy it can begin to cause problems as your child grows. There is mixed opinions on when to break the habit, but most people would agree earlier is better, but definitely by age 5 and before permanent teeth come in. Not only can it affect your child’s jaw and teeth, but thumb sucking can also impact their speech. If you are struggling to help your child break the habit, check out some of our tips below.
1. Talk It Out
Children are often smarter than we give them credit for, and simply talking with them can be a great place to start. You can begin by explaining to them the many reasons why they should not suck their thumbs, such as germs or affecting their teeth, etc. This alone will probably not break the habit but it will get them thinking about their thumb sucking.
2. Positive Reinforcement
Find what works for your kid. It might be a sticker chart, small treats or a favorite book/show. Combine this with lots and lots of verbal encouragement and you will be on the road to success. Remember to start small, it may be rewarding each hour and then gradually moving to a full day then week.
3. Youtube Videos
Youtube has a plethora of content from funny cat videos to instructional DIY’s. Luckily for us, there are even videos to educate your kids on why sucking their thumb is a bad habit. Oftentimes our kids will respond better to a 3rd party then they will to us.
4. Cover Hands
If bedtime is the most difficult time for your kiddos to kick the habit, try putting socks or gloves on their hands before going to bed. This will help deter them from getting their thumbs into their mouth, and lose the appeal of they’re soothing habit.
5. Nail Polish
You know that bad tasting nail polish people often use for nail biting? Many people have had huge success using it to break the thumb sucking habit as well. My mom would actually wait and paint my nails while I was asleep because I wouldn’t sit and have it done once I figured out it had a fowl taste. This method is up for much debate, but you know your kid and what may work for them.
6. Ace Bandage
If your child needs a little more encouragement then just stickers and special treats then you could try an ace bandage wrapped around their elbow. It makes it harder for your child to bend their arm, making it harder for them to suck their thumb comfortably. If they have to work for it, they might just stop making the effort.
7. Thumb Guard
If you want to try a more intense cold turkey approach you can purchase a thumb guard, which essentially covers your child’s thumb and stops them from being able to soothe themselves. Although it does immediately eliminate the option of sucking their thumbs, it also means they will not be able to use their hands or do normal everyday activities while they are wearing it which can be around 2 weeks for the habit to be broken.
Make sure that everyone is onboard. When we were trying to take away the paci from my 2-year old we had to start from scratch after we got back from a week long trip where she stayed with her grandparents, because we didn’t communicate how we were stopping the paci very well. Talk to your spouse, child’s caregiver, and yes, especially the grandparents about what you are doing. Consistency is key!
9. Extra Special Reward
While daily encouragement and positive reinforcement is important, you can help keep the habit kicked by offering an extra special reward after a specific amount of time. Maybe after 2 or so weeks or so, with no sucking. This should be enough time for the habit to be permanently broken.
10. Gentle Reminders
Instead of scalding or using negative punishment, try gentle reminders. Consistent gentle reminders with a combination of the some of the above tips will be beneficial to you kiddos as they transition through this new phase.