Tag: Discourage Thumb Sucking

Break your child’s habit Discourage Thumb Sucking
Break your child’s habit Discourage Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking is a common habit to be found amongst young children especially till the age of two to three years. Many of us believe it to be harmless, considering it to be a coping mechanism employed by children in times of anxiety and restlessness. However, once the child starts losing baby teeth, a prolonged thumb sucking habit can lead to various problems including misalignment of the teeth and speech issues.

Negative Consequences of Thumb Sucking

At a young age, humans tend to have a soft jawbone which is why fingers and thumbs are able to change the shape of our jaw. Extended thumb sucking can lead to pressure being put on the roof of the mouth, causing the upper jaw to become narrow. This can result in misalignment of the teeth, pushing forward of the front teeth and a permanent change in shape of the jaw. Prolonged thumb sucking may even cause cross-bite, a condition where upper and lower teeth do not meet properly, and the top molars bite into the lower molars.

Orofacial Myofunctional disorders are another cause of concern for parents of children with a severe thumb sucking habit. This refers to a situation where the tongue of the child moves forward while swallowing or resting. Speech problems, including a lisp or an incorrect pronunciation of certain sounds such as s, z, sh and ch, is an outcome of such a disorder.

Remedies at Home

If your child has reached preschool age, and still sucks his/her thumb, take action. A direct confrontation or screaming at the child is not a good way to handle such a situation. To discourage thumb sucking, the following mechanisms can be put in place at home:

Positive reinforcement: Play a game with your child. Keep a calendar and mark the days when the child does not suck his thumb and reward him with his favorite toy or meal after a certain number of days. Also, do not forget to compliment him every time.

Reverse psychology: Instead of discouraging thumb sucking directly, point out to the child that other fingers feel left out so he should suck them too. The child is most likely to get tired of sucking all of them and quitting the habit altogether.

Reminders: Placing gloves on the hand or fluids that do not taste good is another way to discourage thumb sucking in your child. These act as a reminder to the child to keep his thumb out of the mouth.

If you believe a certain object triggers the habit in the child, help your child put it away.

Offer your child to suck the thumb in private rather than public. This will lead to less time being spent on the habit. Once the child does so, you can move on to discouraging thumb sucking at times when the habit is most deep-seated.

Be patient. Talk to your child when he is ready. Understand that it is a hard habit to let go of. It is most likely that peer pressure or being teased at school will discourage thumb sucking in the child, and serve as an incentive to get rid of the habit.