How to Get Your Toddler to Stop Sucking Their Thumb

Thumb sucking is a common habit that children develop (even in the womb). Sucking their thumb is essentially a way to pacify feelings of anxiety or stress as it provides them with comfort. Though thumb sucking may not have been something you were worried about when they were infants, now that they’re older and have more teeth coming in, you want to nip this habit in the bud before it causes a problem.

The question most moms have is, “How in the world do I get my toddler to stop sucking their thumb?” After using this self-soothing mechanism for so long, how do you help your little one break this bad habit? This answer will vary by child, but here are a number of effective solutions you can try:

Read a Book

If simply saying ‘no’ every time your toddler puts their thumb in their mouth isn’t enough, perhaps you could take a different approach. There are plenty of entertaining books out there for toddlers with valuable lessons in them. You can find half a dozen or so children’s books about breaking the thumb sucking habit. Simply choose a book appropriate for their age that discusses thumb sucking, and just by having that engagement you will start the process of quitting. They will connect more with the story and find interest in the characters which may persuade them to stop, and value the one on one time.

Reward Them

What toddler can resist the praise of their parents and a reward for good behavior? If you want your child to stop sucking their thumb, giving out rewards for quitting can go a long way. It doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate, simply something that really peaks their interests. Then, explain that if they stop sucking their thumb for the next few days that you’ll let them have a reward. For every day they go without sucking their thumb, you should also be sure to recognize their changed behavior with a few positive words of praise along with a hug and kiss from mom and dad to encourage them to continue down this path. Remember that when changing behaviors, positive reinforcement is always more effective than punishment.

Role Play

Sometimes kids just don’t pay attention to the advice their parents give them. However, they may be inclined to listen another way. Grab their favorite doll or stuffed animal and use your imagination to role play with your children. Pretend that the doll or stuffed animal wants to stop sucking their thumb, but they need your child’s help. Your child will do everything they can to try and help break this habit. Once the doll stops sucking their thumb, be sure to celebrate shedding light on how much of a big boy or girl the doll is for quitting. This can encourage your toddler to want to do the same.

Thumb Guards

If reading books, singing their praises, and handing out rewards isn’t enough to convince your toddler to stop thumb sucking, you may need to step things up a notch. A thumb guard has been proven to be an effective method of breaking this bad habit. It is a plastic cover that gets placed over your toddler’s thumb and hand to prevent them from sucking their thumb, and straps are secured around the wrist to hold it in place. Every time they try to put their hands in their mouth, they get a mouth full of plastic which isn’t as soothing. Eventually, they stop using this as a self-soothing method altogether. There are different types of thumb guards and elboy guards, so read reviews before buying.

Something Bigger

If your toddler continues their bad habit of thumb sucking despite your best efforts, it is quite possible that something else is going on. As thumb sucking is a method used to help calm and relax the nerves, perhaps something bigger is going on with your toddler. Pay attention to when they suck on their thumb the most. For example, if they only suck their thumb in the car ride before going to preschool, perhaps there is something at school making them anxious. If there has been a recent change or issue in the family such as recently moving or going through a divorce, this is another reason your toddler may be sucking their thumb. Once you resolve the underlying problem, you can retry the tips mentioned above to get them to stop sucking their thumbs for good.

Thumb sucking is a horrible habit to develop, but also very common in babies and toddlers. Once your child reaches a certain age, it is important to begin helping them to break this habit to avoid consequences such as damaged teeth or increased illnesses. Use the above-mentioned steps to get your toddler to stop sucking their thumb. If that doesn’t work, be sure to talk with your child’s pedo doctor or dentist for other solutions.

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