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Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Thumb-Sucking: Helping Your Child Stop
Many infants and young children calm
themselves by sucking their thumbs. While most children will stop on their own
between ages 3 and 6, some continue past the age of 4 or 5. Prolonged
thumb-sucking can lead to serious dental and speech problems. By using lots of
love, encouragement, and a few simple steps, you can help your child succeed in
breaking the thumb-sucking habit.
Motivate your child by talking to
him or her about why it is important to stop thumb-sucking. Explain that
stopping will help him or her have a beautiful smile and nice teeth. Let your
child know that continuing will cause problems with how his or her teeth
Make sure you choose the right time to have this
discussion. Children often suck their thumbs to relieve stress. Picking a
stress-free time will help the child succeed. Also, a child probably needs to
be 4 or 5 in order to understand your reasoning and to be able to cooperate in
Throughout this process, provide empathy and encouragement,
and be available for your child. Acknowledge that this is a difficult habit to
break. If you are consistent, patient, and positive, your child will be more
likely to succeed. Remember this is your child's habit to break, and he or she
must be willing to cooperate. Do not force your child to comply.
Small rewards are a great way to motivate your child. If you reward your child often
and regularly for not thumb-sucking, he or she is more likely to
December 27, 2012
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics & Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
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