Monday, March 16, 2009

Helping My Son Stop Sucking His Thumb

At 4 years old, my son was still sucking his thumb. Not just at night, but throughout the day as well. Whenever he had his favorite blanket, his thumb would go in. Recently our dentist shared some ideas to help our son stop sucking his thumb:

*Put the favorite blanket away until my son gets older, letting him know that he could have it back some day.

*Set short goals: 1 day, 2 days, 1 week, ect. and reward my son with something he would enjoy: i.e. a scoop of ice cream or going to a favorite park

*Set a long term goal of 2-3 months of no thumb-sucking. The dentist said by that time we can be pretty sure he's completely broken the habit.

*At the end of the 2-3 months, have a party to celebrate the end of thumb sucking. Invite family and friends and make it a big deal for my son. Knowing that he'll receive this party if he continues to not suck his thumb, it gives him something to look forward to.

*The dentist also told my son that if he has not been sucking his thumb, than next time he has a dental cleaning, he'll get to pick out a special prize!

2 weeks ago I started the first step- I took my son's blanket and put it somewhere safe. I reassured him that he could have his blanket back when he gets a little older. We set some short-term goals and rewards, and talked about the party we would have after a couple months of no thumb-sucking. He was only a little upset about the blanket the first night, but did fine after that. He was very excited about having a party and didn't seem to mind giving up the blanket to receive the party (and cupcakes!).

He hasn't sucked his thumb since! He even stopped asking about the blanket. Looking at him now, you can't even tell that just 2 weeks ago he was sucking his thumb 24/7!

2012 Update:
I also used this method with my 3rd. child (pacifier) and 4th. child. I like that this method is a gentle way to help a child give up the thumb/binky/finger habit, making it a pleasant experience for both the kids and I.

*Have a child who used to be an avid thumb or finger sucker? Leave a comment and share your tips for breaking the avid!


  1. My child wasn't a thumb sucker. He chewed on blankets. We restricted the blanket to his room and he wasn't allowed to take it with him when he went to stay overnight at the grandparents. Last summer he was invited to spend most of a week with his grandparents and the blanket stayed home. No more chewing on the blanket at night.

    Now, if we can just get him to stop chewing on his shirts during the day. I wonder if I can restrict those to the bedroom and ban them from trips with us too? :)

  2. Well that was easy!! I'll tell you how my daughter quit...she broke her arm (by accident of course)...wuold you believe she went back to thumb sucking after it healed....but then she broke the same arm the next summer and finally quit!!:) Poor thing:(

  3. I too have a 24/7 thumb-sucker. If my other kiddos see the baby going for his thumb, they say, "uh-oh, another thumb-sucker!".....

    We are working on this, but it feels like quite the uphill battle. Most other parents of thumb-suckers have told me that it was HARD to get their child to stop ~ great....

    Here's hoping your plan works!!

  4. There is a really nasty tasting nailpolish that my mother used to use on me. She painted my thumb with it and it tasted so bad I stopped. I can't remember what it is called???


  5. I have a thumbsucker too. She is almost 5. We have been working on getting her to stop. Whenever I see her sucking on her thumb I say "Thumb Alert!" She smiles and I giver her a smile and she stops sucking her thumb. I wasn't sure what the next step should be but a party sound like a great motivator. Thanks for the ideas. Your cupcakes were really cute.

    Clorissa in Illinois

  6. Ugh... my son just turned 5 and sucks his two middle fingers. Can't for the life of me get him to stop! If only it was linked to a blanket, but it's not. He'll do it in bed, when reading a book, or any other quiet activity. We looked into one of those devices for putting on their hands, but they are more for thumbs. There is something for fingers, but it's $50 for something we are so sure we could make ourselves for $5. IF only we'd do it.

  7. I took monkey away today and told him he could have him back when he is older. He is at school now without his monkey. It starts today!


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