Thumb Sucking — The Bump
School-Aged Children

Thumb Sucking

My little one is 5.5 and about to start Kindergarten and she's still sucking her thumb.  I thought she was done with it or just sucking her thumb at night,. but I just caught her for the second day in a row!  I've tried everything: reward charts, bandaids, gloves, and even that bad-tasting nail polish... Do any of you have any tips?
Married 7/10/2009 * DD 12/2/2010 * DS 4/24/2014
2 babies in heaven (mc)


Re: Thumb Sucking

  • One of my kids was a pacifier addict for a while, but I didn't deal with thumb sucking.  The pacifier was a hard habit to break, but at least we could take it away entirely.  I know it's tougher with the thumb.

    If you think she was pretty much down to night sucking until recently, it could be that she's going through some developmental changes that are stressing her slightly, and she's reverted to her sucking habit to ease the stress.  If so, she may get control of it again when she's feeling a little more confident and relaxed.  Or, she could be slipping back into the habit when she's bored.  Boredom and idleness are a kind of stress on kids that age too.

    One good thing about kindergarten is that kids are VERY busy.  There's always something to do with your hands, whether it's reading, writing, drawing, using scissors, fiddling with math manipulatives, jumping rope in PE, typing on a computer keyboard, etc.  Kindergartners are pretty self-obsessed; they may notice that another kid is sucking his/her thumb, and may even comment on it, but there's usually not a lot of teasing/bullying about these types of things until 2nd grade.

    So, kindergarten may help her kick the habit.  Of course, you may see a surge in sucking behavior when she gets home in the afternoon, especially while she's adjusting to school.  Ultimately, I wouldn't worry too much unless you've gotten a dire warning from your dentist.  This will work itself out in the next year or so as she matures.

    High School English teacher and mom of 2 kids:

    DD, born 9/06/00 -- 12th grade
    DS, born 8/25/04 -- 7th grade
  • Nope.  My 7 year old sucks her thumb at home but stopped during the day when she started kindergarten.  
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  • Thumb sucking is a challenging habit to stop in kids, and it usually seems you need to be ready to make an all-out effort to nip it in the bud or not address it at all. And I've heard that sometimes the key is to understand what may be behind the behavior. What are they thinking about when they suck their thumb? Is it a way to ease stress or anxiety? If so, you may need to address this underlying issue or give them some other ideas on how to handle their emotions. Lastly, if it's just a habit, then try to replace it with something else. Give them some modeling clay, a squeeze ball or something to draw. That might be more successful than the negative approaches like nail polish, etc. Just some thoughts!
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