5 Effective Ways To Break Your Child’s Thumb-Sucking Habit

There is no denying that the sight of your newborn sucking his or her thumb is absolutely adorable. But did you know, thumb and finger sucking is actually one of the first activities any child learns to do? This is primarily because babies have natural rooting and sucking reflex which triggers them to put their fingers or thumb in their mouths.

Interestingly, according to a new study, children who suck their thumb and bite their nails are less likely to develop some allergies. The findings support the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ that allergies are partly caused by children not being exposed to germs at an early age as they would be in the natural world.

When To Stop

Thumb-sucking is a habit that occurs with many infants but in most cases, your child will usually give it up naturally as he or she becomes more self-reliant and social. Most experts say kids usually give up the habit between the ages 2-4. However, you should only begin to worry once the habit starts interfering with the child’s day-to-day functioning.

Effects Of Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking isn’t always as cute as it seems. If it persists after permanent teeth have erupted it can alter the growth pattern of the upper and lower jaws, causing misalignment of teeth and malformation of the mouth’s roof. This complication is not only cosmetic but can cause dental issues like overbite and underbite.

An overbite is when your front upper teeth project over the lower, whereas an underbite is a dental condition when the lower front teeth extend further than the upper front teeth. Both these conditions can cause difficulty in biting and chewing food, and can also affect the way you speak. In most cases, underbites and overbites require orthodontic treatment.

What You Can Do To Stop Thumb Sucking In Growing Kids

One of the hardest parts of parenting can be helping your child to stop sucking their thumb or on a pacifier. This is challenging because often times the pacifier or thumb is what helps your child fall asleep and stay asleep at night. But hang in there! Scroll down for some tips on how you can handle thumb sucking in growing kids.

1. Speak To Them Like An Adult

Applaud them often for being a ‘big boy’ or ‘big girl’. This may encourage them to give up on childish habits, such as thumb sucking.

2. Keep Them Distracted

When you spot them sucking on their thumbs, start engaging them in other activities such as dancing, singing or playing with toys. Even games like thumb wrestling, rock-paper-scissors will help! These games can actually help with motor coordination skills.

3. Use Positive Reinforcement

Reward them when they haven’t sucked their thumb for an extended period of time throughout the day! The reward can be something like an extra warm hug, a trip to the park or an extra bedtime story.

4. Communicate With Your Child Openly

Explain to your child that they are eating germs while sucking. Talk to them, and tell them that it’s a bad habit and they may fall sick if they continue, or grow up with a displeasing smile.

5. Keep Your Cool

Try to praise them when they are not sucking their thumb instead of criticizing them when they are. Avoid tactics such as applying bitter medicines on their thumb or covering their hands with mittens as this will only frustrate them and make them anxious. They don’t need to be pushed out of their comfort zone just yet. Children eventually grow out of their thumb sucking phase when they are ready.

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