Here is a method that worked wonders with my three-year old daughter. She had sucked her thumb since she was a tiny infant. Finding her thumb right around 8-10 weeks, she began to soothe herself in a beautiful way. I simply couldn’t resist it. It calmed her down, helped her fall asleep and put her back to sleep when she woke up. I LOVED it!

Shortly before she turned two, I noticed she would start sucking her thumb throughout the day as well. In her carseat, on the sofa, in my arms…even standing up in the middle of the room, just hanging out and sucking that sweet thumb of hers. Hmm, I knew I probably had something bigger in my hands than I could handle. And yet…did I do something about it? No.

It wasn’t until she was close to four years old that I realized Kindergarten was around the corner. If I didn’t help her lose this habit, she would go to school with it and certainly face taunting. Yikes, that scared me into action.

I tried the anti-thumb sucking nail polish. It didn’t work. She sucked it right off. I tried telling her to stop. She would listen for a second…and then go right back to sucking. Arg. Frustration set in. Finally, I spoke to a mom who shared that she had a rule with her kids. No sucking anywhere except for bed. Aaaah! Suddenly the lights went on. This was something that made sense. And, my daughter was old enough to understand something like this.

I decided going from sucking all day to only at night was a bit too extreme. So, instead I thought of specific locations where thumbsucking was permitted. The morning we started I took her to the blue rocking chair where we had story time and watched movies. “Honey, this is the place where you can suck your thumb if you are in the house. Ok? From today on you are a big girl, and big girls don’t suck their thumbs everywhere. That is for babies. Big girls who are at home only suck their thumbs in this blue chair.”

My daughter understood perfectly. From that day on, when we were at home and I caught her sucking her thumb anywhere else, she had to go to the blue chair to suck her thumb. Once she was done, she could come off and proceed with whatever she was doing. It worked magically! I was extremely consistent, always gentle and very patient. After some time she sucked her thumb around the house less and less. Eventually, she just knew to go to the blue chair for any thumbsucking.

We still had two other places where she could suck her thumb. The carseat and her bed. We spent several happy weeks focusing on getting adjusted to this. Once she was used to these boundaries, we let her be for a few more weeks. Then, we began the next step. “Honey, today is a big day. You are a big girl and we are going to say bye, bye to thumbsucking in the blue chair. That is something babies do and you are already three, almost four! From now on, you are only going to suck your thumb in the car seat or in bed at night. Ok? Are you excited? You are so big.”

This transition was more challenging, BUT we peppered it with some special rewards and sticker charts for going without sucking her thumb. Whenever I caught her actually exercising self-control I would reward her. She really responded! The final move was the car seat. I actually attached a sticker chart to the back of my car seat, directly in front of hers and every time she kept her thumb out of her mouth during a trip, she would get a sticker. After a few stickers she got a little prize. The visual in the car was extremely helpful. I also made sure to give her fun items to distract her while she unlearned the habit.

The final blow to the habit was the biggest hurdle, because she actually sucked her thumb unconsciously at night in her sleep. We spent time at bedtime reminding her that she was no longer a baby and that in Kindergarten kids don’t suck their thumbs. We encouraged her every night to go to sleep without sucking her thumb. We painted some anti-thumb sucking nail polish on her just to give some extra motivation. At night I would come in and unplug her mouth from her thumb every time I heard the sucking noises come out of her room. This went on for months. I did notice, however, that she was step by step sucking her thumb less.

Finally, by age four and a half she was no longer sucking her thumb. Victory was ours! I was so proud of her and was very thankful that I had made a consistent, patient, slow and steady effort to ween her of her habit. It certainly was worth it that first day of Kindy when I waved bye to her with tears welling up in my eyes, knowing she wouldn’t bring thumb sucking into the classroom.

Image used under Creative Commons License – Flickr user various brennemans (March 30, 2014)

Aimée Elliott Ghimire

Aimée Elliott Ghimire

Aimee is a mom to four little girls and also an author, businesswoman, ministry leader and an avid world traveler. As a busy mom she doesn't have time to seek out long answers to short questions - that is why she created Mommy Medicine. This is a place where authors share short and succinct answers to complicated mommy questions.
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