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How to Get Kids to Stop Sucking their Thumbs

A common question I get asked is about
how to get kids to stop sucking their thumbs.
Especially as they grow older
it becomes a concern to parents.

Many kids try and stop, but it’s hard
because it’s a significant source of comfort for them.

As one kid said:
“It feels good when I do it and
I don’t feel good if I don’t do it.”

My tendency is to address things under the surface
so here is how I responded to a parent
who recently asked this question on Facebook:

Watch Out For Shame

One of the most important things in situations like this
is to be careful about creating shame around the activity.

In our efforts to change a behaviour
we can unintentionally create the idea
that we disapprove of them when they are doing it.

To kids this gives the message that
we love and accept them less at those moments.
This translates into being less worthy of love and acceptance.

Let Him Know He’s Wonderful!

So I would work on letting him know that
while you may be trying to reduce the thumb sucking
you still think he’s wonderful and cute and lovely when he does it.

Let him know that the feelings he’s having
are totally natural and you love him and his feelings.

Let him know that there’s nothing wrong with him
for sucking his thumb and that
even if it takes a bit longer that’s totally okay.

We want him to feel comfortable with his inner self.

This is a very delicate time in
the building of his relationship with himself,
his self-image, his self-esteem and self-confidence.

Everything from his work to his relationships,
friendships, body image, relationship to food, drugs…
really everything is being affected by the messages
you give him during these formative years.

Not Condoning Behaviour

I know it might seem like you’re
condoning something you’d like to stop,
but in fact if he’s not anxious and
feeling judged and judgmental about it
he’s more likely able to listen to his own body
and find his natural rhythm to stop.

I hope this helps.


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