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3 Motivational Techniques To Discourage Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking is not an uncommon reflex for a young child. Driven by instinct, many children practice this habit as an innate coping mechanism or self-soothing behavior. Yet this natural instinct should decrease with age, but when it doesn’t, parents should seek effective intervention techniques. According to the oral health educators at Colgate, the American Dental Association warns that thumb sucking after age four can cause improper mouth growth and teeth alignment.

Fortunately, knowledgeable parents can use a number of available approaches to deal sufficiently with this commonplace occurrence. Consider the following three motivational techniques to discourage thumb sucking in your child’s life. One or more of these tactics may be the best solution for your family.

1. Always Praise, Never Punish

Any motivational program requires the right use of reality-based positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is an influential technique focusing on your child’s self-esteem and willpower. Recognizing their continual efforts over time is more important than targeting perfect results. Ergo, avoid scolding or using negative reinforcement, as this interferes with the ultimate goal of seeking positive improvements.

Positive reinforcement doesn’t necessarily need to use tangible items as rewards. Verbal praise is one of the most vital motivational techniques to discourage thumb sucking. Why? Through properly recognizing their attempts and minor accomplishments, children can learn to understand the value of their positive qualities and actions. Strive to praise your child with natural enthusiasm and descriptive compliments on the duration of time they have abstained from the habit. The more you do so, the more effective the technique will be.

2. Inspire With Progress Tracking and Tools

Children process their life experiences differently than adults do, so they perceive the passage of time uniquely as well. What may feel like a short week in the life of an adult might feel similar to a month of time to a child.

As follows, an inspiring technique to encourage your child to give up their thumb sucking habit is to track their progress actively on a chart or calendar—and offer responsive rewards after a certain period of time. According to WebMD, using a progress tracking tool to engage a child in the habit-breaking process can be a motivating behavioral approach. This practical form of goal-setting provides young children with a powerful perspective on actions and consequences.

3. Use Beneficial and Tangible Reminders

When children have difficulty breaking this habit, they can benefit from visible reminders on the thumb or finger—whether gentle or more progressive in nature. As the healthcare professionals at Healthlink BC report, these cues can be as simple as a Band-Aid or as innovative as a thumb guard. A thumb sucking glove from TGuard can serve as an effective physical reminder, with a wearable design that offers superior comfort and efficiency.

With the right motivational technique, parents can help take control of the situation and move forward on a better path that protects their child’s health and wellness. Consistency is key to breaking the habit for good.


Breaking the Thumb-Sucking Habit” from WebMD

Helping Your Child Break a Thumb Sucking Habit” from Colgate

Thumb-Sucking: Helping Your Child Stop” from HealthlinkBC