How To Break Your Child’s Habit: Digit Sucking
Got a thumb or finger-sucker on your hands? If so, you are definitely not alone in your parenting or caregiver woes. Digit sucking is a common practice for infants, and the habit can easily carry on into early childhood. The problem is, prolonged digit sucking can alter the formation of the teeth, palate, and jaws as your little one grows.
Most children do stop sucking on their thumbs and fingers by the age of two to four. However, if you are looking to break the habit to prevent dental or orthodontic issues, there may be a few things you can do to help break the habit.
How to Stop Thumbsucking in Children
Sucking on thumbs and fingers is a natural way of self-soothing for small children. Therefore, the key is to find ways to offer that comfort that the child is craving to replace the digit-sucking behavior. Here are a few good tricks that can make a lot of difference.
1. Simply offer praise
When you see your child not sucking on their fingers or thumbs, be sure to let them know how happy that makes you. This positive reinforcement can encourage the child to avoid thumbsucking simply because they want to do things that make you pleased. You can also offer small rewards, such as a special treat or activity when the child goes a set amount of time without sucking.
2. Correct the cause of anxiety
If the digit-sucking behavior is obviously brought about during certain types of anxiety, you may be able to deter the behavior by eradicating the cause. For example, if your child sucks their thumb after the lights go off because of anxiety about the dark, invest in a nightlight or lamp.
3. Offer a replacement self-soothing option
Children can learn new ways of soothing themselves, but it can be up to you as a parent to show them the way to these more attractive methods. For example, you can offer your child a soft teddy bear they can hug when they feel anxious or feel the need to put their fingers in their mouth.
4. Avoid punishment
Some parents shift into punishing their children for thumbsucking once they reach a certain age. However, this is not the best route to take to correct the behavior for a few reasons. If the child starts to feel ashamed about sucking their thumb, this can actually make them more stressed and anxious and push them to do it more. Focus on positive reinforcement for the best results.
Still struggling with digit sucking? The dentist may be able to help! Reach out to our office to schedule an appointment for your child.