Breaking the Thumb-Sucking Habit

Thumb- and finger-sucking are calming mechanisms for children--a way for them to soothe themselves. Children usually give the habit up on their own by age four or five, when they become self-conscious and decide that they don't want other kids to see them doing it. But a new study published in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics suggests that children should stop sooner: According to researchers, too much pacifer- and thumb-sucking after age two can lead to persistent dental problems in preschoolers, like overbites or open bites (where there's an abnormal space between the upper and lower teeth). If your child is two or three years old and still sucking her thumb, here's how to eliminate the habit.

Step 1: Time it right
Choose a time when there are no new stressors (like a new school, new babysitter, or new sibling) in your child's life. You can also look for these signs of readiness:

• Your child is able to practice some degree to self-control
• Your child comprehends the concept of time
• Your child understands cause and effect relationships, like how thumb-sucking can lead to dental problems.

Step 2: Motivate your child
Children have to want to stop sucking their thumbs to be successful. Motivate your child by explaining why she should quit. You can also:

• Show your child her mouth in the mirror and explain what thumb-sucking can do to teeth
• Show her any deformity or calluses on her fingers that have developed from sucking

Connect with Us
Follow Our Pins

Yummy recipes, DIY projects, home decor, fashion and more curated by iVillage staffers.

Follow Our Tweets

The very dirty truth about fashion internships... DUN DUN @srslytheshow

On Instagram

Behind-the-scenes pics from iVillage.

Best of the Web