Healthy Kids    

Thumb Sucking

Should you try to stop it?

The debate over thumb sucking

Doctors, dentists and common-sense agree that thumb-sucking in young children is perfectly normal. and will usually stop by age 5. But if your child is starting kindergarten with thumb in mouth, that’s the time to be proactive.

Good or bad?

Thumb-sucking is a way of coping with anxiety and gives comfort to toddlers, much like a security blanket. Unlike a blanket, though, prolonged thumb-sucking can present adverse effects. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, It can cause the teeth to shift and become improperly aligned and damage the palate from so much rubbing. These effects can be reversed if the child stops.

READ MORE: Security Blanket: Keep or Toss?

How do I stop it?

Remember, moderate thumb-sucking in children under 5 is ok. In most cases, children stop either on their own or from social pressure. If you do feel that it’s time to take action, remember: the behavior often comes from want of security. That doesn’t mean that your child feels unsafe, but that making them feel uncomfortable or ashamed of their behavior is not the way to stop it.

READ MORE: 7 steps to improving your child’s self-esteem

Don’t berate or punish your child. Positive reinforcement is the way to go for transitioning out of thumb-sucking. Use whatever your child tends to respond to. Try verbal praise, gold stickers or even a new toy for going a whole day without doing it-- you know your child best. Just don't be too harsh about your child's rate of progression.

Bedtime is a biggie for thumb-sucking. Encourage your child to hold on to a favorite doll or stuffed animal to replace the tactile sensation they're used to.

If you don't find success on your own, contact your child's dentist about the different kinds of devices for the mouth or hand that discourage thumb-sucking.

WebMd has a great step-by-step guide for dealing with your child’s thumb-sucking.