Help Kids Stop Thumb Sucking

It's important to find out why and when your child turns to suck her thumb. For the first week, keep a pen and paper handy, and write down every single time you see your child's thumb in her mouth. At the end of the week, go through your list, and see if there are any consistencies. Does she always suck her thumb around 4 p.m. while watching her favorite show? Does he suck his thumb around the other toddlers at the playgroup because he's nervous or shy?

Identify what the payoff is for your child. For example, if you notice that every time she hurts herself she sticks her thumb in, then a conclusion would be that her thumb helps her deal with pain. If you notice that the thumb goes in whenever she's watching TV, then the thumb is being used when she's idle.

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Now that you know what she's using it for, you can offer her something in exchange for the thumb. For example, if she's about to watch her favorite show, offer her a bowl of grapes to eat while the show is on. If he sucks his thumb when he gets hurt and he just tripped on the stairs, you can rush over and offer him a long hug followed by a quick distraction like a game or favorite toy.

A reward chart for a day completed with no sucking can be helpful. You can offer your child a treat or small toy at the end of the day if she's successful. I also find that the more immediate the reward, the better the outcome.

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