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9 Effective Ways To Stop Thumb Sucking for Good

As a natural reflex for children, thumb sucking is seen as early in one’s life as the time spent in the womb, as it’s visible even in ultrasound photos. According to the American Dental Association, this instinctual urge typically wanes between the ages of 2-4. Yet, many young children continue to rely on this practice as a habitual self-soothing mechanism. Not to mention, those who break the habit may return to their previous behavior in times of anxiety or stress.

Prolonged issues arise when this behavior continues into—or past—the preschool years. Fortunately, we have compiled a guide regarding nine effective ways to stop thumb sucking for good. This post outlining tried-and-true solutions should offer a good foundation for parents who desire to halt this habit before it gets out of hand. If you notice your child sucking their thumbs and do not know how to stop it, explore the advice featured on the list below. Consistency and commitment are the keys to determining the best solution for your family.

1. Have an Open Conversation

Until someone points the habitude out to them directly, children often do not realize why sucking their thumbs is a potential problem. By gently opening a dialogue with your child with tact and care, you can encourage their own self-awareness about the subject. It’s important to refrain from shaming, scolding, or ridiculing during this conversation with your child.

As a parent, you are helping your children see an issue they have not considered before and understand that you are there when they’re ready to stop. Ask them inquisitive questions about why they suck their thumbs. Do they enjoy the sensation? Is there anything they can do that will make them feel as good?

2. Study the Topic Together

A wide assortment of educational kid-friendly content is available in our information age. You and your child can explore videos, coloring books, cartoons, books, and more about the topic, as well as the harm the habit can cause. Educative resources—not ones stemming solely from parents themselves—are an important part of finding a solution for a child’s thumb-sucking tendency.

3. Observe Patterns

As a parent, you need to rely on your own sleuthing skills to determine how to approach the issue. Take careful notes, both mentally and manually, of what unambiguously compels your child to suck their thumb. Take into consideration the time of day or specific situation that triggers the behavior.

As the International Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry reports, the oral habit persists “due to physical and emotional stimuli.” This stimulus could include tangible cues and emotions, such as hunger, boredom, stress, anxiety, hyperactivity, sadness, or pleasure. Case in point, perhaps you notice your child resorting to the habit when feeling sad, angry, or anxious. Consider whether there is another way to handle those emotions. Through pattern recognition, parents can advocate healthy replacement outlets for their children.

4. Establish a Rewards System

Visual reminders of success are key motivators for many children. Positive reinforcement is a strategy that works efficiently to recognize and praise a child when they are not performing the habit. With this approach, do not criticize, but rather positively motivate your child. For example, you can give them small gifts, prizes, and privileges on days they have managed to successfully avoid the behavior.

Suffice to say, offering rewards is a riskier technique among the effective ways to stop thumb sucking for good. You may find the approach too effective. However, keep in mind an overly-invested child may still demand daily rewards, even after breaking their habit. Before using this method, ask yourself if your child is likely to become overzealous.

5. Lay Out Ground Rules

Parents who want to learn how to break a thumb-sucking habit for good should understand the benefits of creating ground rules for their children. Giving up on a habit immediately is no simple feat. Start by meeting your child halfway and instituting a rulebook for correct etiquette.

In other words, parents should only allow thumb sucking in certain circumstances. Then, they can apply further boundaries to wean the child off the habit over time.

6. Use Stuffed Animals or Toys

Consider how to incorporate stuffed animals or toys to gamify the process. This approach may inspire your child to step up to the challenge. For instance, tell your child that their favorite stuffed animal is also trying to give up thumb sucking, and they need help to show them how to do so. Getting your child to act as a role model is another effective positive reinforcement strategy.

7. Utilize Visual Reminders

As reported by Mayo Clinic, the American Academy of Pediatrics advocates the need for effective habit-breaking treatment for five-year-olds and older. Most children in this age group sincerely want to stop sucking their thumbs. The issue is that they are not aware of how fixed the practice is in their life. Daily habits can quickly become second nature if you do not pay attention.

To help inattentive kids, parents can put a visual cue on their thumb. As a visible illustration, a loose rubber band wrapped around their thumb will remind them of what to avoid.

8. Go To the Dentist

Keep in mind that children, like adults, sometimes need the guidance of a health professional to inspire actual change in their lives. According to Colgate, consulting a dental professional is a wise choice to gain expert tips or insight on oral health. The next time you go to the dentist, ask the doctor to explain to your child the importance of taking care of their teeth and the effects that come from thumb sucking in detail. Dentists can provide expert advice and encourage healthy habits with detailed resources and kid-friendly approaches.

9. Use a Thumb Guard Product

As innovatively reliable products, thumb guards are ideal solutions to help your child abandon their thumb-sucking habit. These strategically-designed devices act as direct barriers against the originative sucking sensation that stimulates the addiction. Parents can employ this valuable treatment approach to gradually decrease the urge for good. The AeroThumb by TGuard has ergonomic features configured for ultimate comfort, safety, and efficiency.

The Bottom Line

Parents undoubtedly want the best for their children, as well as to see their kids grow up, eat healthily, make friends, and build a life for themselves. That is why seeing a child negatively impact their health with a thumb-sucking habit is worrisome. Fortunately, concerned parents can turn to the above solutions and strategies to confront the issue head-on for the best long-term outcomes.


Thumbsucking and Pacifier Use” from the American Dental Association

Three-Alarm System: Revisited to treat Thumb-sucking Habit” from the International Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry

Thumb sucking: Help your child break the habit” from Mayo Clinic

Thumb Sucking: The Good, the Bad, and the Normal” from Colgate