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7 Tips for Motivating Kids To Stop Thumb Sucking

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If your child has been sucking their thumb or fingers for some time now and you’re struggling to help them break the habit, these seven tips for motivating kids to stop thumb sucking could help.

Thumb or finger-sucking can be a difficult habit for kids to overcome. As parents, it can feel like no matter what we do, nothing works. Don’t give up! You can motivate your child to break their thumb or finger sucking habit with these reliable methods.

Help Your Child Understand Why Thumb Sucking Is Harmful

Help your child understand why they should break their thumb sucking habit. Thumb sucking can cause misaligned teeth or an overbite later in life, and it can even alter the shape of a child’s developing jaw and face. Thumb or finger sucking can deform the palate and cause problems with speech development. It can also lead to skin irritation and infections around the thumb.

While you don’t want to frighten your child, finding a simple way to explain these negative possibilities caused by thumb sucking can encourage your little one to find other ways to comfort themselves.

Offer Praise & Positive Reinforcement for Not Thumb Sucking

Positive reinforcement can motivate your child to stop thumb sucking. Instead of scolding or punishing your child for this habit, praise them when they refrain from it. A simple recognition of their efforts can go a long way in helping them overcome this habit. It can also help them develop healthier coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety. So, focus on the positives and cheer for your little one as they work toward kicking their thumb-sucking habit.

Use a Reward System

Rewards systems can encourage children to break a thumb or finger sucking habit. The key is finding a system that motivates and engages your child without it feeling like a punishment or bribe.

Rather than giving them trinkets or toys, consider using emotional or intangible rewards, like extra time playing a game, watching TV, or reading a third story at bedtime. When you read that story, your child will likely get drowsy (that’s kind of the point, right?) and may impulsively suck their thumb. If they put their thumb or fingers in their mouth, stop reading. Start again only when your child removes their thumb from their mouth.

Identify an activity you could offer your child as an extra-special prize once they’ve successfully gone a certain amount of time without sucking their thumb. It could be a trip to their favorite restaurant (the one with the play area that has slides and a mini-merry-go-round!) or even a visit to the zoo. Whatever your reward system is, make sure it’s tailored to your child’s interests and not just a one-size-fits-all approach.

Distract Your Child With Activities That Require the Use of Both Hands

Activities that require the use of both hands can distract your child from sucking their thumb. Encourage your child to engage with crafts, puzzles, coloring books, kid-safe clay, or games that keep their hands and mind occupied. If your child is old enough, they could even become your “special helper” around the house for chores. Give them a dust cloth for the bookcases, let them carry laundry up from the basement, or ask them to help you unload the dishwasher.

Offer Alternative Ways To Self-Soothe

Offering alternative means of comfort, like a favorite stuffed animal or blanket, can help your child find relief without resorting to thumb sucking. Remember to be patient and supportive as your child tries to overcome this habit. Let them choose which object they think will help them feel safe and calm. Offer limited options (“Would you like to hug the bear or the hippo?” or “Do you want the Grandma blanket or the Auntie Pam blanket?”) so your child doesn’t feel overwhelmed. Too many options could intensify their need to suck their thumb.

Mark Progress on a Calendar and Set Goals

One way to help your child(ren) stop this behavior is by keeping track of their progress on a calendar. This will show your child how far they’ve come and can motivate them to keep improving for a target date when they can earn a reward.

Setting goals is also important. Encourage your child to avoid sucking their thumb during the day or only doing it for a certain amount of time. As they reach their goals, reward them for their efforts. Small incentives like a hug, a sticker, or 10 extra minutes playing a game can go a long way in encouraging positive behavior. With patience and persistence, parents can help their child break the thumb sucking habit and improve their oral health.

Try a Thumb Sucking Intervention Device

When all else fails, you can use a special device to stop thumb sucking. Sometimes referred to as a thumb-sucking glove, these devices aim to remove the pleasurable sensation kids get from sucking their thumb or fingers.

The TGuard Aerothumb does exactly that: it is ventilated in a way that removes the sensation of suction when a child puts their thumb in their mouth and tries to suck on it. Without that sensation, the activity is no longer pleasurable or comforting. The child will eventually let go of the habit and find another way to comfort themselves.

The TGuard is ambidextrous, meaning you can put it on either hand. As a parent, you know that kids are clever. They may initially switch to sucking the thumb on their other hand. If your child tries this trick, simply put TGuards on both of their hands. Thanks to its medical-grade materials, the TGuard is comfortable and secure. A locking band around the wrist keeps the device in place.

Stopping your child from thumb sucking can be a challenging task for parents. There is no right or wrong way to do it. Every child is different and requires a unique approach to breaking this habit. These tips on motivating your child to stop thumb sucking can help them quit thumb sucking.

Remember to provide positive reinforcement and celebrate even the smallest successes. With consistency, patience, and understanding, you will be able to wean your child off this behavior and preserve their oral health and development.