Christopher Omeltschenko, D.D.S.
6560 Colerain Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45239

How to stop thumb sucking

 

I know how frustrating it is to try to break your child’s thumb sucking habit.  I went through it all with my youngest daughter who sucked her thumb until she was almost 6 years old.  We tried showing her pictures of the dental problems that can occur in thumb suckers.  We tried putting socks on her hand at night.  We tried bribing her to quit with the promise of a trip to the toy store if she did.

Nothing worked.  Not even a little bit.

As a parent I was upset, but as a dentist I was beyond frustrated!  I was supposed to be the one who other parents turned to for advice on this, and I couldn’t get my own child to stop!  Since my daughter was reaching the age where it was becoming really important that we nip this habit in the bud, I decided I better come up with a solution – fast.

After analyzing what we had tried in the past and why none of those ideas worked, It seemed to me that what I needed was an approach that could give my daughter actual steps on how to stop thumb sucking, not just merely telling/encouraging her to do so.  I did some research and found that pediatric dentists were encouraging thumb suckers to gradually break the habit, starting a little bit at a time.  This made a lot of sense to me, and out of this I created the 21 Days to Stop Thumb Sucking system and corresponding Rewards Chart.

 

But now I had to see if the system would actually work for my daughter – the girl who we had tried for 2 years to get to stop sucking her thumb.   So, I printed up the chart, explained it to my daughter, and asked her if she was willing to give it a go.  And after saying “yes” and beginning the system, an amazing thing happened…by day 2 she had completely stopped sucking her thumb!!!

Somehow, someway, this 21 Days to Stop Thumb Sucking system had gotten through to her!

OK, I thought, maybe it was just a fluke.  Maybe she was just ready to finally give up the habit.  Or maybe I just found the right rewards that motivated her.  Or maybe, just maybe, the system works!  I figured I should share the system with other parents and see if it helped their child stop thumb sucking – and that’s just what I did.  And they are reporting back that the system worked for their child, as well!

I think the system works so well because:

  1. It’s gradual – the child is not asked to give up thumb sucking all at once.
  2. It gives the child some control – This system allows the child to be a part of the process.
  3. It offers rewards – Each step has clear/measurable expectations and rewards the child for completing the step.
  4. It’s comprehensive – This system involves elements of things I had tried before (rewards, placing a sock on her hand when sleeping) but brings everything together in a system that children seem to respond to.

While I can’t guarantee that it will work for every child, it certainly should be tried before more drastic measures, such as an oral appliance.  Give the system a try and let me know if it works for you!

Find the details of the system here:

21 Dayt to Stop Thumb Sucking System (Printable) 

Reward Chart (Printable)