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How to Stop Thumb Sucking

By Edited Aug 16, 2016 1 1

The Problems

Most people do not consider thumb sucking important even though they usually see children engaging it. However, some parents of older children do start to see it as a problem more for social reasons that the other problems that may come with the thumb sucking habit. 

This habit does not only comfort children who are irritated and upset but it also soothes them and for this reason, many parents over younger do not discourage it. However, in order for them to stop their children from sucking their thumbs as soon as possible, responsible parents are aware that they have to act quickly. This habit can cause the following long-term problems for the children who engage in it even though some people say that it sometimes makes them to look sweet

1. Oral problems

Teeth problems

Prolonged thumb sucking can make the teeth to grow in a crooked manner by altering the shape of the mouth. Protruding teeth are a common feature of children who engage in this habit. Orthodontic work becomes a necessity for their teeth when they become older children, teenagers, or adults and in effect, owing to the expensive nature of this procedure, parents start worrying about the ways in which they can help take care of the situation before it gets to this point.   

2. Teasing by their peers

Bullying and teasing by other children becomes a serious problem for children who suck their thumbs until they are 5 or 6 years old since the other kids call them "babies". Consequently, in order for these children to find comfort, they tend to suck their thumbs even more.  The detrimental effect on social interactions is enough to have parents really worried about this habit. 

3. Ingestion of parasites

As compared to children who do not suck their thumbs, the bodies of those who suck theirs on a constant basis are prone to have worms and other parasites. This habit is therefore very unhygienic.  Granted some immunity to germs will start to form, but there are many more hazardous materials that a child can get into than just germs. 

4. Irritation of the thumbs

Thumb irritation
When children suck their thumbs on a constant basis, they can cause serious irritation to the skin on these thumbs. In effect, these children can experience a lot of pain owing to the peeling away of the skin.  The effects can be long term with this as well.  The growth of the nail and bone structures can be changed with the constant sucking pressure applied to them.
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The Solutions

Thumb sucking can cause serious problems and for this reason, it is very important for parents to stop their children from engaging in it by acting quickly and firmly. These children may be unable to stop this habit if parents do not address this problem as soon as they start engaging in it. 

Fortunately, in order for them to stop thumb sucking by their children, caregivers can use various ways or methods. However, mom and dad need to be patient when dealing with this problem in order to prevent it from becoming worse. As compared to caregivers who try to achieve good results by forcing their children to stop thumb sucking, those who encourage their children to stop this habit voluntarily by using a fun filled approach achieve better results. For this reason, it is advisable for them to take the following steps.

i) Bribing or rewarding children does not always produce the desired results. However, these two can help them to stop sucking their thumbs by denying them their comfort since they suck their thumbs to get it. Habit breakers will help in stopping this habit if the children are determined to stop it.  Operant conditioning takes place when this happens.  The child is given a reward that is greater than the comfort they receive from the sucking of the digits.  I have to tell you to use extreme caution with this and it should only be used on very young children.  They older children will figure out when the rewards stop, and they should, that they can go back to sucking and not have to pay consequences. 

ii) Things that break the habits of children who suck their thumbs act as reminders and hence, parents should ask them to take their thumbs out of their mouths by reminding them that they are sucking them. Alternatively, parents can paint their nails with things that have a foul taste such as finger nail polish, vinegar or pickle juice. I have to tell you this did not work for me when I was younger, but some parents have found results with this technique.  There are products found at your local drugs store that have been researched and do seem to help some children. 

Thumb guard
They can also use socks as gloves or bandages to wrap the thumbs of these children if they usually suck them when they are going to sleep. These items will discourage them from doing so because they are very uncomfortable.  The items mentioned should only be used inside the home when no one else will be privy to the situation.  The socks or gloves can be more embarrassing to the child than the actual thumb sucking. 

iii) Parents should discuss with their children about the bad germs on their hands and how thumb sucking helps in putting them in their mouths. This will most likely only work with older children, who have a concept of what germs are and how they can affect them.  I have recommended this to parents quite a bit, but only had a couple that said it has worked.  I put it in this article, because it might work for your child. 

You can also get older siblings involved in the process.  Sometimes a younger child will listen more to the older sibling they look up to.  You can use this to your advantage.  However, you should monitor this very closely to make sure there is not some “abuse of power” by the older sibling. 

iv) Since Orthodontists usually fit some types of braces that act as habit breakers in order to help patients to stop sucking their thumbs, parents should consult them. The braces remind the children to stop sucking their thumbs because the orthodontists fix them by using little "gates" on the palates.

v) Some products such as storybooks that have funny illustrations and puppets are not only unique and fun but they can help in inspiring children to stop sucking their thumbs. You can even make up your own stories. 


Guards also play a vital role in helping them to stop this habit by preventing the sucking action and hence, it is advisable for parents to consult the dentists to see if they can place them on the roofs of the mouths of their young ones.

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I would like to wish you luck with the process of helping your child with this habit.  I would also like you to take a look at the reasons your child is doing the habit.  There might be something more going on that would cause them to not feel the comfort from the home or relationships that may be leading them to soothe themselves with the thumb sucking.  It might not be anything at all that you are doing, but it might be the way the child looks at the world in general.  Talk with your child.  Find alternative ways for him or her to soothe them. 

One last thing to look at, are you more concerned with what people will think about you as opposed to what others will think about the child or the negative things we talked about above the child could experience.  I have found this to be 



May 28, 2013 2:18pm
This may sound mean, but my niece was always sucking her thumb while in school. I put some tea tree oil on her fingers and that nipped it real quick. It's natural and just the taste sure won't hurt you. She hated me for a while because every time she stuck her fingers in her mouth she had a bitter taste but she quit sucking on her fingers.
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