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thumb sucking... my 3 1/2 year old son - sucks his thumb out of habit. Only when he's bored - and/or in his bedroom ( and sees his blanket). I've begun not allowing it in front of me - and he takes his thumb out. I'm afraid this will cause him to suck in privacy ( which he does - under the covers) HELP !!


Lexi Welanetz, Psy.D. Replied: Changing the behavior with any three year old can lead to a potential power struggle, whether it's in front of you or in private. Therefore, it's important to not let this lead to a fight or a battle of wills. If you haven't already, you might want to start by explaining why it's important to stop sucking his thumb. Be sure he understands that he may hurt his teeth. Besides appealing to his logical side, it is extremely important to empathize with how hard this must be and provide encouragement with your belief that in time he can do it. Whenever you change a habit, it may take some time. Your instinct to have him stop doing the behavior in front of you is a good one. This will help him to understand the need to change. It's essential to be patient and not to react much to catching him in the act even in private. This may cause him to experience unnecessary shame. Over time, he'll internalize what you want him to do. Most importantly, find a couple of opportunities during the day to notice out loud when he isn't sucking his thumb and praise him for being such a "big boy." Praise is a wonderful motivator!
Posted On 2007-11-12 00:02:23
Aileen McCabe-Maucher Replied: Congratulations! You have taken the first step to help your child to wean from thumbsucking. Going from public thumb sucking to private thumb sucking is a big milestone for children that engage this type of oral gratification. Try to implement a behavior modification chart and give your preschooler as much control over the behavior as possible. Buy a calendar and place it on your refrigerator. For each day your child reports refraining from thumb sucking give the child a sticker. After about ten or so stickers give your child a special treat such as a coveted toy or a meal out at a restaurant. I also recommend rewarding the absence of unwanted behavior by baking a cake and having a "no more thumbsucking" celebration. Pay attention to what emotions or situations trigger the thumb sucking behavior in your child. Does it happen when he is hungry, bored, or drifting off to sleep? Offer alternative ways of comfort and self soothing to your child and keep his little hands busy. Coloring books play dough and puzzles are all great ways to keep little hands busy. If your child is over 5 and still thumsucking talk to your pediatrician or pediatric dentist about getting your child fitted for a dental appliance that can prevent thumb sucking. If thumbsucking in the bedroom is a major problem consider playing soft soothing music at bedtime. Allow your child to choose the music. Teach your child to focus on his in breath and out breath as a way to comfort himself. Praise your child when he does not suck his thumb. Always try to catch him doing something "right" or "good." If your child "relapses" or sucks his thumb again, explain that it is okay and you love him unconditionally. But be clear that is an undesirable behavior thumb sucking can damage his teeth. Tell him why you don't want to do it. Kids this age LOVE to know WHY! Show him age appropriate pictures of deformed teeth and explain that thumsucking can de damaging. Refrain from punishing or attempting to make your child for guilty about the thumb sucking. It will only make your child feel anxious and lead to guess what, more thumb sucking.
Posted On 2007-11-11 22:21:41
Dr. Caron Goode Replied: Not to worry, it sounds like if you have progressed to his not sucking his thumb in front of you, then you will eventually be able to help him stop the habit when he closer to five. Experts generally agree nowadays that thumbsucking is a normal toddler behavior, sometimes continuing all the way up to ages 5 or 6 when permanent teeth come in. If you could change your language in the sentence, "only when he is bored" to "when he needs comfort or touch", you might see that he is like other toddlers who suck their thumb when they feel tired, stressed, need touch from another, or need to sleep. If he is just resting his thumb in his mouth, it cannot harm his teeth, and it is giving him some comfort. If his intensity of sucking increases, then he may be a more nervous child who actually needs extra rest time, quiet, and bonding with you. Most children do outgrow this about the time they get their permanent teeth or when their peers tease them about it. You are right that your son may do it privately, and I think that is fine, and encourage you to let him do it.
Posted On 2004-10-09 19:22:18
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