12 answers

Advice on Breaking the Thumbsucking Habit in a Four-year-old

I was wanting to know if anybody had any helpful hints to help my daughter break her habit of thumb sucking. I have tried rewards to bandaids to vinegar to discipline. If anybody has any suggestions, that would be great. She is not motivated by telling her that it's not good on her teath or scare tactics or anything. She just wants her thumb and that's it.

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What can I do next?

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She will out grow it, but you can initiate a no thumb sucking rule unless she is in her own room. I understand it being used as a comfort but any other time its just a bad habit...they sell something at walgreens and at walmart that tastes bad and can be painted on the thumb.
Lots of luck

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I'm guessing that you and your husband were not thumb suckers? I come from a long line of thumb suckers, including both of my boys. Each child is different. I have heard the stories of how my great grandmother tried to force my grandmother to stop. She even used chili pepper and nail polish...NOTHING worked. She sucked her thumb until after she got married. She didn't even realize she was still doing it. She bragged about how she used to do and my grandfather laughed at her and told her that after she went to sleep she would put her thumb in her mouth. It must have humiliated her into stopping. She vowed never to force another child to stop. My aunt stopped at 12. I stopped at 21. My 3 year old and 19 month old still do. My grandmother does have dental problems, but they are the result of teeth grinding. My aunt and I have mostly straight teeth with perfect bites. Neither of us have buck teeth or anything else that older women and even some dentists will try to convince you of. Bad teeth, imperfect bites are generally a result of unfortunate genetics. At 4 she's probably not old enough to understand or care about it being "bad for her teeth". I would be cautious using scare tactics anyway because she may perceive that you think she is bad because she sucks her thumb. Also remember, she may be able to make an effort to stop while she is awake, but not when she is asleep. You may find it more beneficial to encourage her to save thumb sucker for nap time and bedtime. Teaching her that it's okay but that there is an appropriate time and place for it will be easier on both of you. If you still want to stop it after that, you will be closer to your goal. If anything, don't try to stop it all at one time. Children wean off the breast, off of bottles, sippy cups and pacifiers. Thumb sucking is no different. You may be able to wean her down to just in bed, but don't be discouraged if she doesn't stop completly yet. It is a developmental process that is important for her emotional development. Don't drive yourself and your daughter crazy, follow her cues. It will work itself out.

3 moms found this helpful

Gentle reminders during the day may help make here aware. Try and keep her (and her hands) busy so she doesn't do it out of habit rather than need. She will likely stop on her own.

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I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but I sucked my thumb until I was 10 or 11...I know! Unfortunately when a child wants to suck his/her thumb it's always there and available. It became comfort for me and no matter what my parents tried, I still did it. Like one of the mothers said, if I got a sore on my "regular" thumb, I just switched to the other one until it didn't hurt anymore. I didn't do it in public or when I had friends over so I knew it wasn't proper by society standards. Honestly, though, once my parents laid off of it, I quit on my own. It came to a point I'd only do it when I was sick or in bed and then I just stopped all together. Keep her busy, let her know how you feel about it and I would lay off for a while. Right now the forbidden is more appealing. She'll stop...no worries!

1 mom found this helpful

My oldest was a thumb sucker, in the womb. She didn't stop until she was in Kindergarten. If she had a sore on her sucking thumb, she'd switch thumbs. We found a polish called Hoof Stop the Bite. It taste horrible and was a huge deterant. We reminded her when we caught her sucking her thumb and only allowed her to do it at night. When we would tuck her in after she was asleep we would take her thumb out of her mouth. This went on until she was 7. From sucking she went on to biting her fingernails (which her dad does also, he was a thumb sucker) and we use the Hoof stuff again. She complains (she's 12) that when I make her put it on her nails I make finger food for dinner, LOL. She has gotten much better and is more concious of the biting. As for her teeth, the thumb sucking didn't make any difference. The dentist could tell she was an in-utero sucker, but she has great teeth. You'll just have to keep reminding her...my daughter would suck and had no idea she was doing it. Good luck and God Bless.

My sister is 35 and still sucks her thumb when she is very tired. She did not have to have braces. Yet I stopped at 10 years of age and had to have braces. I was going to recomend a thumb guard that One Step Ahead sells but they are $75.00 for two guards and 60 bracelets. Sounds like too much money to me. If you want to check them out it is www.onestepahead.com then click on the tab for older children. I do not rember what they call the catalog for older children.


You definitely want to get on top of this NOW!! I personally didn't have any problems with breaking my daughter of the habit, and my son never did it. So I guess I've been blessed. But others haven't been...

My sister's son still sucks his thumb... HE'S ALMOST 14!!!! He hides it really good though. But last month we threw his dad a surprise 40th birthday party. The cake that was there had a dye in the frosting that turned everyone's lips, teeth and tongue a very dark blue. During the party, my mom noticed my nephew... not only was this mouth blue, but so was his THUMB!! LOL

My husband's niece, who's now in her mid-to-late 20's, we suspect, is still sucking her thumb. So I think it's something you really need to work on.

My sister contributes her 14 year-old's bad habit to a power-struggle when he was a toddler. He's still very stubborn-headed. When he was about 2 1/2, he was told by one of his uncles NOT to suck his thumb, when he wasn't even doing it. My sister says that since then, it's become a major thing for their family. They tried ignoring it, putting something on his thumb, punishing him, and telling him about how it can effect his teeth... NOTHING HAS HELPED!
So they got to thinking it's probably going to have to come from peer-pressure to break him of it. Only time will tell.

Sorry I haven't been of much help... just wanted to tell you the sooner, the better! ls

i agree with cassie - my family are also thumb suckers. when the peer pressure starts getting to her she'll stop in public...the rest is up to her and personally i don't see any reason to make her stop. pressuring her about it will only stress her out and make it worse. my family of thumb suckers all have beautifully straight teeth. no braces. i constantly get compliments on mine, and i sucked my thumb until after i started school. a four year old doesn't need pressure like that. i know it's just my two cents, but please don't try to force her to stop. it seems cruel to me. she's doing it for comfort and why would you want to take that away, because of what people might "think". it's just a control issue in my humble opinion, and it's one battle that i feel isn't worth fighting. you can't watch her every second anyway...she'll win in the end, if she is determined to keep doing it.

i sucked my thumb for a long time when i was a child. what finally got me to stop was my dad sneaking a picture of me sucking my thumb. it embarassed me and i stopped. she may be too young for that but thought i'd throw it out there.

I once saw a child who has thumb sucking habit that his thumb become double the size of the other normal thumb. It looked really bad. It is not too early to try to stop this habit. And I think with patience and the help of moms here ,you will be able to help your daughter.

Taking picture of her is a very good ideas, but i also am afraid that she has not understand much. Try to find a picture of a thumb that look strange and ugly and tell her she needs to quit because the sucking will make her thumb doesnot look beautiful such as the nail will be swolen and the size of her thumb become bigger and bigger that it hard for her to move it (just exatruagrate a bit but not to scare her much). Hope this help!

She will out grow it, but you can initiate a no thumb sucking rule unless she is in her own room. I understand it being used as a comfort but any other time its just a bad habit...they sell something at walgreens and at walmart that tastes bad and can be painted on the thumb.
Lots of luck

My daughter is 4 going on 5 in a couple of months. We have tried not to stress the issue too much as she is very sensitive and that is how she handles stress. But we took her to the denist. The dentist explained why she should not suck her thumb and asked her to please stop for him. She agreed and now she tries very hard not to suck her thumb. I think sometimes it takes a person of authority to convince them to stop. She has all but stopped sucking it during the day but at night sometimes I come in her room and see her sucking her thumb. We may just break down and buy one of those thumb gaurds for night time.

Around the time she was 4, I started planting seeds in my daughter's mind that when she lost her first tooth, she'd be so big and grown up, she'd stop sucking her thumb. There came a point where we built this up so consistently that when she did lose that first tooth, she came to us so proud that she was going to stop the thumb-sucking. And she did, with no tears, no angst.

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