Thumb-Sucking: a Dangerous Habit? (II)

Thumb-Sucking: a Dangerous Habit? (II)

  Autor NN Team Data: 07.12.2007

Thumb-Sucking: a Dangerous Habit? (II)
How do you heal thumb-sucking?

Here are some tips you can follow to cure your child for thumb-sucking:

Choose the right time. To get rid of this habit, your child must be mature enough to understand why you want him to quit and to control himself. Around age five, most children can understand why they have to give up thumb-sucking. Before five years may be too early, no matter how intelligent the child might be, and your attempts will result in conflicts and frustration. The situation could become even more difficult because the baby will suck his finger more, trying to get rid of negative feelings. 

Choose the right time to try to cure him: a time when neither you nor the child is stressed and there are no major changes in your life (birth of a brother, a move). 

Motivate him. Children must really want to stop thumb-sucking. Here's howto help him:
  • Tell him you love him anyway and want to help him because you worry for his health. 
  • Show him in the mirror what happens with his teeth. Show his wounds or calluses on the finger. 
  • Explain him that finger sucking causes diction problems and he will be hard to be understood by those he is speaking with. 
  • Explain him that dirty fingers stuffed into the mouth introduce a lot of germs in the body. 
  • Talk him about the negative comments that other children can do against him. 
Use a reward system. If you offer your child rewards make sure he is wary enough time to get rid of that habit. In the first week offers them small rewards, colored pencils, jewellery, toys, chewing gum - or diplomas to prove his success. Let him choose a reward after the first day passed without sucking his finger, then another reward every two days. Then draw a graphic with the child's progress. Establish long-term goals together: he will receive a special reward after two weeks without sucking his finger, another after six weeks and another after three months. 

Use items that remind him of his commitment but never punish him if he didn't manage to refrain. You can apply a bandage on the finger. Thumb- sucking is an involuntary gesture, and the bandage will help him realize the finger is trying to 'sneak' in the mouth. 

Help him succeed. To increase the chances of instant success and to encourage your child to persevere: 
  • Be with him, especially in the first days. Be patient and encourage him. Do not force him to follow the rules. It's his habit and he must be willing to cooperate to succeed. 
  • make about various activities to keep his hands busy (drawing, puzzles, games), especially in the first days when you want to remove the gesture of leading his hand to the mouth. 
  • Identify the situations when the bandage may fall off a finger (e.g. hand washing) and replace it without criticizing the child. 
  • Avoid situations that make him suck his thumb: hunger, fatigue, excessive television viewing and quarrels. Many children take their finger to the mouth unconsciously while watching TV. Limit the time spent watching TV and put them in front of him a table with toys to keep his hands busy while watching his favourite shows. 
  • Encourage him, praise his achievements and efforts. 
Keep an eye on him during sleep. Many children that tend to suck their fingers cannot sleep unless they do it. Moreover, they suck their thumbs during sleep also. This is the most difficult part of the 'treatment' you'll make and takes most - usually about three months. You can help him by providing him a 'good night' ritual, especially in the first week. A gentle massage or a story before bedtime may help. Do not let him do physical effort or and do not give him drinks that contain caffeine before bedtime. 

A doll put on her hand or a glove worn during sleep can remember them that they must refrain. Tie it in such a way as not to dislodge or sew it on the sleeve of the pyjamas. Tell your child not to feel guilty if he sucks his finger during sleep because that is not his fault. However, be firm and explain him that he has to give up the habit at all. 

Read the English version of this article: Thumb-Sucking: a Dangerous Habit? (II)