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Stop That Thumb-sucker!

Alison Wood | 4, October 2012


Many mothers have tried to stop the habit.
Doctors have tried to prescribe an antidote.
Grandmothers have tried to soothe it a way.
But is there any help for a thumb-sucking child?

Yes! There is help and hope. Thumb-sucking children do not have to become lifers. Here is an effective method to break the finger-lickin' culprit:

1. Embrace the fact that this is a habit, not a behavioral issue. The child is not misbehaving, and therefore should not be punished. It is just a minor impediment that they needs to be conquered.

2. Look for other dependencies that are coupled with the thumb-sucking. Is the child clutching a blanket or squeezing a teddy bear at the same time? If there are any other comforts associated with the thumb-sucking, these will help wean the child from the habit.

3. Think of a reward system relevant to the child's affections and desires. Does the child enjoy outings with you? Does the child love getting wrapped presents? Does the child enjoy picking out surprises at the store? Remember, these should be exceptional rewards.

4. Prepare the plan. If the child is a thumb-sucker at night, try to get the child refrain from thumb-sucking for two consecutive nights. If the child succeeds, reward with two prizes (two outings, two wrapped presents, two dollars, etc.). Thumb-sucking that occurs during the day can be rewarded in the same manner. After the child receives the prize, break the big news. Point out that the child went for two entire nights without thumb-sucking. Challenge and encourage your little one to go five nights, quickly adding that this time around there will not be two prizes -- but five. Little eyes will bulge and hearts flutter. Five prizes?!

5. Activate the plan. Designate a week for this habit-breaking plan. Choose a time that is not consumed with extra activities.

6. Remind the child of other comforts to use during the tempting times. She can squeeze that favorite teddy bear. He can hold that special blanket. This time is dedicated to breaking only the dependency of thumb-sucking, not other habits.

7. Provide comfort and encouragement at any time. Praise and encourage often; reward only thumb-free days or nights.

Little hearts need big hands to guide them. A fundamental part of parenting is helping your child overcome even small obstacles in life. Prove to be the mom or dad that will be there for the small and big challenges in life's path.

Alison Wood is a stay-at-home mom of six and freelance writer and blogger. She enjoys raising her six children and desires to share her experiences to help other mothers.

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