How to get a child to stop sucking their thumb


The ability we’re focusing on today is one that babies acquire long before they’re even born. Psychologists claim that infants engage in this behavior to regulate their nervous system. However, as children grow up, they should get rid of this reflex, and it’s the responsibility of the parents to help them. In this article, we’ll explore how to get a child to stop sucking their thumb and what consequences can arise if the problem is ignored.

What motivates a child to suck their thumb?

As we’ve already established, children start sucking their thumbs even before they’re born. It’s a reflex that’s typical of infants.

One study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that thumb sucking in early childhood can not only soothe fragile psyches but also reduce the risk of developing allergies later in life. However, at some point, the reflex ingrained by nature becomes a problem. So, how do you get a child to stop sucking their thumb? Let’s outline some key tips for you based on pediatricians’ recommendations.

Should you break a baby’s thumb-sucking habit?

Most pediatricians and scientists agree that parents shouldn’t try to break their child’s thumb-sucking habit if they’re doing it at 2 months old up to 1 year old. As the child’s gross motor skills develop, their hand-eye coordination and hand movements become more precise. This allows them to explore the world of sensations with their mouth. Therefore, there’s no reason to eliminate this habit in infants.

How to get a one-year-old to stop sucking their thumb?

To find a solution for how to wean a one-year-old from thumb-sucking, you need to understand the cause of this habit. During this time period, a baby sucks their finger for the following reasons:

  • Lack of attention from loved ones. Surround the child with care. Show physical and emotional contact generously towards them. Pay attention to the tone you use when speaking to the child. Any rough or abrupt intonation can cause anxiety in the child.
  • Increased excitability. During stress or active play, a hormonal surge occurs in the child. Eliminate emotional and physical activity before bedtime.
  • Boredom. Sometimes children suck their fingers out of idleness, so liven up the child’s leisure time with useful and educational activities.

Interesting! To maintain a stable emotional state, a child needs at least 15 hugs a day.

How to wean a child from thumb-sucking at 2 years old?

When parents are concerned about how to wean a 2-year-old from thumb-sucking, it is essential to consider not only the factors described above but also the appearance of the first teeth. In this case, there is no psychological aspect to this action. It is essential to understand that the child is simply itching their gums, and this will pass on its own over time.

How to wean a child from thumb-sucking at 3 years old?

By the age of three, the habit of thumb-sucking still persists. In this case, it is a neurotic nature of this action. It is no longer useful to use folk methods of struggle, such as applying green paint to the fingers or bandaging them, as most parents do. In this case, the stabilization of the child’s emotional state is needed.

At 3 years old and beyond, it is extremely important for parents to carefully break their child’s unpleasant habit. For example, scolding may cause even more emotional stress for the child. As a result, a sharp reprimand may have the opposite effect. Answering how to get a three-year-old to stop sucking their thumb, we advise you to analyze what might motivate them to do this action. Relax the child: you can distract them with games. If the child is able to shift their focus of attention, you will see for yourself that they will pull their hand to their mouth less often and eventually stop altogether.

How to get a child to stop sucking their thumb at 4 years old?

For preschoolers, the nature of the action is also rooted in its neurotic component. In most cases, constructive dialogues will be an effective way to get a child to stop sucking their thumb. For example, it is acceptable to give the child such an argument: “You are already an independent person, and adults do not put their fingers in their mouth because it is not polite.” Agree with the child that you will not yell at them if they suddenly put their finger in their mouth out of habit. You can even come up with a common code word that you will say to them in public when they accidentally put their finger in their mouth. Remember, eradicating a reflex takes time, so be patient.

Is there any danger?

If a child doesn’t participate in solving the problem, it can result in consequences such as incorrect tooth growth and jaw deformities. The younger the child, the more likely that there will be no problems with their chewing apparatus.

The consequences of thumb-sucking are:

  • Incorrect bite. For example, front teeth may protrude forward, which can lead to changes in facial shape.
  • Open bite. When the upper and lower front teeth don’t meet when the mouth is closed (normally, the upper teeth slightly overlap the lower teeth).
  • Speech impediments. This can interfere with the proper formation of some sounds.

Of course, parents shouldn’t worry about these consequences and try to find a way to stop their 3-month-old child from sucking their thumb. By the time the child reaches four years old, the parent should conduct a serious analysis of the reason for thumb-sucking. Be patient and make every effort to solve the problem.

We have provided general recommendations on how to stop a child from sucking their thumb. This problem should not be considered catastrophic. Also, keep in mind that when the child encounters society on their own, peer pressure will motivate them to give up the habit. However, it’s important for parents to take steps to eradicate this problem in advance so that the child doesn’t feel ashamed in daycare or school.

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