4 Tips to Stop Thumb-Sucking
Healthy Kids from Teeth to Feet: Kids & Health
By Ylonda Caviness for Healthy Kids from Teeth to Feet
Got a sucker? As sweet as it may seem when your kids are toddlers, the nasty habit can wreak havoc on tooth and mouth development if it continues after adult teeth appear, or around age 5. Most kids stop on their own before then; others respond to gentle reminders or praise. But if your kids’ digits remain the go-to soother once they’ve started school, try these mom-tested tips for kicking the habit.
Focus on fashion: At age 3, Imani Robinson loved her two middle fingers. But she loved fashion more! Her mom, Kenya Robinson of Los Angeles, used colorful band-aids to help her kick the habit. Imani loved the pink girly ones so much she didn’t dare get them wet.
Find a role model: Whether it’s an older sibling or the cool kid down the street, find an impressive role model who either quit the habit or never started it. That’s what worked for Fred Gabriel’s younger son Jeremy. “He really wanted to emulate his big brother Sam — and Sam never sucked his thumb,” says the Kent, Conn., dad.
Dial the doctor or dentist: Sometimes, parents aren’t the best authority figures. Elena Tapper’s middle son, Dylan, was very selective sucker — going for the thumb only when he had a snuggly in hand, which was never in public. Nothing the Montclair, N.J., mom said made a difference. But when Dylan was nearly 6, the dentist sat him down and made a deal with him: On his birthday, he’d quit cold turkey. It worked.
Get creative: It took a story and a song to get Kristen Jenkins’s 3-year-old daughter Olivia to stop sucking her thumb. The Harrisburg, Penn., mom read The Berenstain Bears and the Bad Habit and made up a song to go with it: “I’m 3; no more thumb for me!” Six week later, the job was done. Andrea Van Ness of Denver grew so frustrated by her son Charlie’s incessant thumb-sucking, she created Thumbuddy To Love, a sucking cessation system that includes finger puppets, a storybook and success stickers. Her son quit in two weeks and launched her into entrepreneurship.
Stopping finger-sucking doesn’t have to be a painful process — and it may save you from future pain and expense at the orthodontist’s.
Image source: twinpossible.com
Ylonda Caviness is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in Redbook, Essence, Parenting, The New York Times, iVillage.com and other national publications. She’s also a mother of three. Caviness is a frequent contributor to HealthyKids.