How can I help my child break a thumb or finger sucking habit?

If you have a child whom you need to help break a finger- or thumb-sucking habit, here are some tips:

– Stay positive and be supportive at all times. Rather than punishing your child for sucking his thumb, congratulate and praise when your child does not.

– Place a Band-Aid on your child’s thumb or even a sock over his or her hands at bedtime. Reassure them that you are not punishing, it’s simply a way to help them remember not to suck their fingers.

– Chart your child’s progress on a posted piece of construction paper or poster board. Allow your child to place a sticker or a star each day they refrain from thumb sucking. After a straight week of stars, your child can choose a prize – a small toy, a day at the zoo, etc. After a month of no thumb sucking, the reward becomes larger. At this point, the habit should be broken as you have made your child an active participant in his treatment.

– If you find your child is sucking his thumb due to anxiety, focus your attention on eliminating the anxiety-causing activity or atmosphere vs. focusing solely on the thumb sucking habit.

– Note any particular times your child has a tendency for sucking his thumb (while reading a book, during long car rides, while watching movies) and make it a point to create a diversion during these times

However you choose to help your child break the thumb sucking habit, continually remind yourself that your child needs the understanding and positive encouragement during the process. If these recommendations do not work for you, Dr. Callen is happy to discuss other options with you.