Wednesday, April 25, 2012

10 Ways to Stop Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking is a natural thing for babies. They will reflexively suck on anything put into their mouths and many start sucking their fingers or thumb before they’re even born. It’s not unusual to see young babies and toddlers sucking their thumb, but it can become a problem as they get older. Constant thumb sucking can cause mouth and teeth deformities plus create a social stigma if the habit persists beyond the age of 4 or 5. If you’re concerned about your child’s thumb or finger sucking, here are ten ways to help break the habit.

  1. Reduce anxiety – Thumb sucking is one way for children to cope with anxiety or stress. It’s a way for them to comfort themselves because the sucking is soothing and calming. If your child is prone to thumb sucking during stressful situations, help by providing extra attention and find other ways for him to deal with anxiety.
  2. Distraction – Keeping your child’s hands busy with other activities will help to diminish the opportunities for thumb sucking. Toys, games and puzzles can be used to distract children when the thumb heads for the mouth.
  3. Education – Talk to your child about thumb sucking and let her know that she will eventually want to stop. Explain how this is something babies do but big kids and adults don’t. When children are empowered to make the decision on their own, they will eventually make the choice when they’re ready.
  4. Provide good examples – Point out other children and siblings who don’t suck their thumb and invite friends who have kicked the habit to come over and play. Hopefully your child will want to emulate others who are good examples.
  5. Positive reinforcement – Praise your child when he makes an effort to stop the thumb sucking habit and provide rewards for reaching goals. Positive reinforcement will work a lot better than shaming, scolding or punishment.
  6. Remove enablers – Many times thumb sucking is associated with a favorite blanket or toy. By removing the enabling object, your child may find it easier to break the habit.
  7. Coat the thumb – You can coat the thumb with vinegar or other bad tasting substance to help remind your child to stop putting it in the mouth. Don’t do this forcefully or as punishment, but only with the child’s permission or if she asks you to.
  8. Raise awareness – Thumb sucking is often an unconscious act and many times children may not even be aware when they’re doing it. Gently point it out when you find your child inadvertently sucking away just to raise awareness.
  9. Social etiquette – Explain to your child that it’s socially unacceptable for older kids to suck their thumb and other children may tease them. They’re better off hearing it from you than to be teased unmercifully at school or daycare.
  10. Be patient – Finally, be patient while you let your child go through the process of quitting the habit. It won’t happen over night and it won’t take forever. Each child needs to work through the process in their own way and at their own speed. Making a big deal out of it can only increase your child’s anxiety and could hinder more than help.

As children get older, they learn to use other coping skills and become less dependant on sucking their thumb or finger. Parents and caregivers need to help kids through this process before it becomes just a bad habit. Avoid confrontations or shaming the child in public. With proper encouragement and help, kids can learn to kick the thumb sucking habit before they do permanent damage to their mouth or teeth.

Taken From Live Out Nanny

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