Tools to Get Your Kids to Stop Thumb Sucking

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Thumb sucking may seem like an innocuous habit, but it can actually cause problems for your child in a few ways. It can cause issues with their teeth if they continue to suck their thumbs after they get their teeth in. Thumb sucking can lead to skin irritation and ingrown nails. Your child’s peers may ridicule them for continuing to suck their thumbs after the others have stopped.

There are other emotional repercussions from thumb sucking. It is, after all, one of the first coping tools infants and toddlers use. If they don’t give it up at the appropriate time, your child may be slow to develop new coping mechanisms. It can also be an early sign of addictive behavior. While if your child is teething, there is usually no problem. If it progresses past a certain point you should do everything in your power to change their behavior. Below are some facts about the habit, as well as tools and methods you can use to teach your child how to stop thumb sucking.

The Problem with Thumb Sucking

Even if you are not worried about your child’s emotional development per se, you should be concerned about their dental health. Thumb sucking can cause both overbite and open bite malocclusion. The former is when the top teeth are directed outward and are misaligned with the bottom row while the latter is when both rows of teeth are directed outward. These misalignments can both change the shape of the face and smile.

It can also cause your child to have a speech impediment that they will have to work through. Even with high-quality dental care, the speech issues can remain. They can make it more difficult for your child to communicate, which can lead to social and emotional problems.

Whether it is the inability to communicate yourself or ridicule from other children, prolonged thumb sucking causes emotional issues. All children need to learn how to use their words and cope emotionally by protecting themselves. Thumb sucking is inadequate for them to cope with their emotions. As soon as you stop them from sucking their thumbs, they will be forced to find new ways to comfort and calm themselves when they aren’t feeling well or are simply confused. While thumb sucking is an integral coping skill early on in life, it is inadequate later.

Tools to Stop Thumb Sucking

When the child is under a year old, using a pacifier is acceptable. Teething hurts them and they need to suck on something for the pain. It just isn’t good for them to get on the bad habit of thumb sucking. If your child continues to suck their thumbs after you have used the pacifier for a specific amount of time, return to the pacifier and gradually take it away. It is important to remember you can’t take away a thumb.

There are also products that you can put over the thumb to get them to stop physically sucking it. Some children will grow bored with it and stop sucking on the plastic thumb guard eventually. Another method is for parents to put socks over their children’s hands at night. While it may seem strange, there is less allure for the child when their hands are covered. When they are one or two years old, they should have the ability to stop the habit. Continue with positive reinforcement.

After the age of two it is important to use a thumb guard or a hand stopper that prevents them from sucking their thumbs and fingers. If the habit goes on, you may want to think about an emotional or psychological valuation to see if your child is developing at the right rate. There are also programs designed to motivate kids to stop sucking their thumbs.

When thumb sucking becomes dire after the age of 7, you can buy specifically-designed bitter nail polish that doesn’t taste good. You can also have a dentist explain to them the consequences of thumb sucking. This is when your child is old enough to understand why it is not good to continue the habit. Explain to them why they need to stop. If your kid is over 8, you might need some serious treatment for this.

Every child is different but they all need to stop sucking their thumbs at an appropriate age to learn new coping skills and avoid physical damages. You are their parent and this is what’s best for them. Don’t give in to what your kids want. Sometimes it’s right to do the hard thing.


Ryan Beitler is a journalist, writer, and blogger known for writing for Paste Magazine, The Slovenia Times, New Noise Magazine, and many more. 

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