How to Help a Child Stop Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking is a natural means for children to soothe themselves in a very stressful world. Young children need a way to cope with the pressures of growing up, and thumb sucking gives them a way to calm themselves. As kids grow, they lose interest in their thumbs and move on to more mature coping mechanisms, such as language or creativity. A few children, however, do not drop the habit of thumb sucking as they get older. This can lead to dental problems and social awkwardness when they begin to attend school. Here are a few tricks on how to stop thumb sucking in an older child.

1. Use positive reinforcement. It is very important that a parent does not negatively reinforce a bad habit. Positive reinforcement has been shown to be many times more effective. Reward a child for the times when he or she is not sucking a thumb.

2. Allow the habit in private. If a child is limiting the activity to the bedroom or bathroom, he or she is on the path to ceasing the habit all together. Limiting time for the habit means the child must consciously think about it, making it much more obvious.

3. Use a thumb guard or reminder fluid. A thumb guard is a plastic apparatus that makes it difficult if not impossible for a child to suck on a thumb. Likewise, reminder fluid is an option for kids who don’t realize they are performing the habit. Both options can be a little invasive, however, and might make social situations awkward for the child.

4. Peer pressure is a great tool. A child’s friends who have stopped sucking their thumbs offer a great way to encourage a child to stop thumb sucking. Planning a sleep over or having a party will create a good opportunity for the child to realize that sucking a thumb isn’t something that they want to keep doing. It is important that these encounters stay positive and don’t lead to teasing, but rather help the child see the benefits of being like everyone else and becoming more mature.

Thumb sucking can be a difficult habit to break for some kids as it is a very soothing activity that helps them cope with day to day life. However, through the effective use of good techniques, parents can help their child overcome sucking their thumb without any added stress.

Author Bio:


Jack Meyer is a regular contributor for As a detective he wants to spread the knowledge of terrible things that can happen when people don’t fully verify the credentials of a caregiver or any employee. He also writes for various law enforcement blogs and sites.