Fingers Constantly in Mouth

Updated on October 09, 2008
D.C. asks from Cedar Park, TX
13 answers

My daughter is 3 1/2 years old and she has a bad habit of putting her fingers in her mouth. She just recently started pre-school and I've noticed that it has gotten worse. Every time I see her doing it, which is a lot, I tell her that it is gross and she will get germs in her mouth that will cause her to get sick. It doesn't seem to bother her....just me (and probably everyone around us)! Maybe it is just a nervous habit....how do I get her to stop? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks in advance!

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So What Happened?

Well, for the past week I have rewarded her with gum for keeping her fingers out of her mouth for a certain period of time. It seems to be working. I'm not too sure how she does at pre-school, but in time hopefully this phase will pass. Thanks for everyone's advice. I'll stick to what is working for now and may come back for reference later if this continues!

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J.T.

answers from Victoria on

I just scaned the other comments and I was supprised that no one put the thumb sucker stuff that gets them to stop. You can find it at Walgreens and its called something like bitter thumb or some clever catchy name. Good luck!

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L.A.

answers from Austin on

Sounds like she is a little stressed and this is what soothes her.

Depending on what works with your daughter, there are different ways to educate, encourage or bribe her...

When she starts to stress, you can try to get her to tell you or her teacher what she is feeling. You could have her rub her ear softly.

There are books with the Berenstien Bears called "the Bad Habit". One of my daughter's favorite book was "Dr. Dog" it humorously talked about all of the ways you can get sick and putting fingers in your mouth was one of them.

For every hour she goes without her fingers in her mouth, tell her how proud you are of her.

Or set up a behavioral chart and reward her for every hour or day she goes without the fingers in the mouth.

My daughter used to twist her hair or run her hands through her hair when she was stressed or tired. She figured out how to express what was going on once we helped her find the words for what was going on.

I used to bite my nails till one weekend I spent with a favorite Aunt. She asked why I bit my nails, I told her I was not sure. She told me it was a shame, because she could not grow her nails long and would love to have beautiful nails. She said if I would grow them out, she would paint them with any color I wanted. This worked great for me.

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M.C.

answers from Houston on

D.,
I have a 5 year old who loves to chew her finger nails. I tried the same tactis you did, but for a little tike, they just don't get it...germs don't quite click. One thing I have done and it does work is I give her a piece of gum to chew or if gum is not around, we have gotten into the "for every minute you don't chew your finger nails, I will give you one penny" routine. That has helped too because it will distract her long enough for her to stop and get into another activity. The gum works best though.
I hope this helps!

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L.L.

answers from College Station on

Hi D.. I have a grandson that had the same issues. He finally outgrew it. If you speak to your druggist there is a product that you can paint on the thumb for thumb suckers. I can not see why this would not work for fingers as well. Good luck. Habits are hard to break.

L.

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S.O.

answers from San Antonio on

My son turned 3 recently and is nowing sucking his toes? I expect that as a baby, but 3??? Kids do wierd things.

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J.G.

answers from San Antonio on

When I was a little girl I sucked my thumb until I was 5 years old. I use to get in trouble at school for not taking my naps. The problem was that I needed to suck my thumb to fall asleep. Of course I was embarrased and I didn't want the other kids to see me. I stopped very soon after. Just knowing that I couldn't do it at school helped me to get over it at home. When I had my two boys, I noticed that they too started to put their fingers in their mouth. I did not want them to be like me when I was little so I stayed on them constantly taking their hand out of their mouth. Always telling them not to do it. It was a bit of a hassel but I stayed on them. I didn't care how long it was going to take I wanted to make sure they were not going to pick up this habbit. They soon stopped. My adivise to you, Stay on it no matter if you have to tell her 100 times a day she will stop. Have patience, and don't give up.

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J.W.

answers from Houston on

Hi D.
She was probably totally unaware that she was doing this, but every time you bring it to her attention she may decide to do it even more as a form of receiving negative attention.
Try to ignore bad behaviour and reward the good.
Next time say to her 'What a clever girl, you've been keeping your fingers out of your mouth for such a long time now that I am going to reward you with...........'

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D.B.

answers from Houston on

You, as her mother, have the opportunity and responsibility to help your 3 year old child feel secure, and you may have already gotten responses from others that this is the way she has developed to calm herself in stressful situations. First and foremost is to bring your love for her to mind, manage your own reactions to her behavior, to watch how you communicate to her (using words like "gross" only serves to have her believe, in her young mind, she is gross herself, not loved by you, and is on her own with her stress), to assure her you are helping her, and to try a thing or two: offer her an alternative to sucking on her fingers, such as a stuffed animal to clutch, a piece of clothing of yours or a piece of a familiar blanket---anything you can substitute. And have antibacterial wipes available to keep her fingers clean. Give her lots of hugs and verbal assurance.

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B.K.

answers from Austin on

Hi D., It definitely sounds like a result of anxiety. Chewing/sucking on things is a coping skill. We all have something we do (ex: twirling hair, taping feet, biting nails, etc). If it really bothers you, find something appropriate for her to chew. Offer her gum, a straw, laughy taffy, starburst, whatever you think would be good. Chewy things do offer anxiety relief, according to the Occupational Therapists we work with. My son went through this but was chewing on his shirt. How annoying is that! He'd soak it. He was 3 and a half when he did it. He just turned 4 two days ago and the habit has been gone for a couple of months now.

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A.L.

answers from San Antonio on

My dd is 9 and has done this all her life. She rarly does it anymore though, only when she is really tired. It's a comfort thing. I wouldn't worry about it. It's a coping mechanism and it would be normal for her to do it more now that she is in a very new and strange situation. My dd did not get sick more often than other children. I wouldn't worry about what other people think. The needs of your dd are more important.

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M.M.

answers from Houston on

I sucked my thumb until 5 years of age.....iodine, the red stuff that starts w/ m...(mercurecomb or something that sounds like that), salt, tobasco sauce, etc. didn't work. I wiped it off and put it back in. It did push my teeth outward a little, so I've dealt w/ that later in life.

As a teacher in MS, I see kids who still suck on their fingers/thumb. It bothers me that they use it as a crutch still. Talk to her, and have her wash each time you catch her. Don't make it negative, and eventually she'll stop. Do catch her w/o it in and praise her!

Also, take a picture of it in and it out of her mouth. Put tally marks on post its and when she gets more tally marks for having it out she can get a small gift ($ Store).

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S.S.

answers from Austin on

My 2 1/2 neice puts two fingers in your mouth and with the other hand, puts one finger in her nose. Although we tell her to not do it, she does. It sounds like a nervous or comforting habit.

I feel it will pass with time.

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B.J.

answers from Austin on

D.,
I know this may sound odd but it is actually good for your daughter to be exposed to germs because every time she is exposed she will build up antibodies that will defend her in the future. It's not a good habit to put your fingers in your mouth but my children grew out of this phase quickly. I used to wash my two boy's hands every time I saw them put their hands in their mouth and eventually they learned to wash their hands often.
B. J

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