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Many infants and young children calm themselves by sucking their thumbs. While most children will stop on their own between ages 3 and 6, some continue past the age of 4 or 5. Prolonged thumb-sucking can lead to serious dental and speech problems. By using lots of love, encouragement, and a few simple steps, you can help your child succeed in breaking the thumb-sucking habit.
Motivate your child by talking to him or her about why it is important to stop thumb-sucking. Explain that stopping will help him or her have a beautiful smile and nice teeth. Let your child know that continuing will cause problems with how his or her teeth grow.
Make sure you choose the right time to have this discussion. Children often suck their thumbs to relieve stress. Picking a stress-free time will help the child succeed. Also, a child probably needs to be 4 or 5 in order to understand your reasoning and to be able to cooperate in this process.
Throughout this process, provide empathy and encouragement, and be available for your child. Acknowledge that this is a difficult habit to break. If you are consistent, patient, and positive, your child will be more likely to succeed. Remember this is your child's habit to break, and he or she must be willing to cooperate. Do not force your child to comply.
Small rewards are a great way to motivate your child. If you reward your child often and regularly for not thumb-sucking, he or she is more likely to succeed.
Current as of: December 27, 2012
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics & Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
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