Thumb sucking is a common problem with lots of children. It begins after a month or two, of child's birth. Babies play a lot with their hands and legs. They keep on moving their legs and hand. If we observe babies, we will see that they always try to put their fingers into mouth and some babies even try to put their whole palm into their mouth. This is the most enjoyable play activity for infants or babies less than a year and gradually the baby learns to suck any particular or say the thumb as it gives immense pleasure and satisfaction to the baby. It satisfies the baby's sucking instinct and keeps the baby busy till he is wake. Most of the time the baby falls asleep sucking its finger.
So for infants or babies it's a normal activity and with increase in age it gradually disappears. Some babies continue this habit even in their childhood. We can see children going to school and still sucking their thumb, but the habit becomes a matter of concern when it continues to the later stages of life. Children can be found sucking their thumb usually at the time of sleep or when engrossed in some intense mental activity like studying or when relaxing, especially when nobody is around.
It has been found that some children who undergo the process of weaning too early, they continue to suck their finger or thumb as it acts it acts as substitute for them. However sucking thumb may also have some side effects as discussed below:
# The thumb or finger being sucked may become thin and weak.
# The shape of lips, teeth and mouth may also get affected.
# Some children also suck their lips or bite them always as a result the upper case of teeth comes out and face may look ugly.
# The child may face a lot of social discrimination, like friends may tease the child and teachers also object. Even parents may also get a lot of criticism and advices from others.
# Child may develop low self-esteem and hesitate to socialize.
So for proper all-round development of the child it is advisable to help the child to unlearn the habit of thumb sucking.
You can surely be able to stop your baby from sucking its thumb, just try few tricks as discussed below:
Apply any edible liquid that tastes bad, on the child's finger or thumb or you can also apply nail paint.
Covering the child's thumb with tape is also useful.
Try to keep his/her hands engaged by giving the child some new toys like colorful blocks, paints & brushes, even small containers like those we use in our kitchen to spices or biscuits, etc. the child will be busy in opening and closing its lid. Or give a spoon and a bowl or plate to bang with and the child will enjoy creating its own music.
Anything new given in hands will motivate the child to explore, learn and play and gradually the child will be able leave the habit.
You can also keep the child busy with you in your day-today activities; the child will definitely enjoy this and will also be able to forget the habit.
Praise your child when he/she is not engaged in sucking thumb, you can also reward him with his favorite things.
In case of older children, tell them about bad effects of sucking thumb. Take for example in case of girls, as they are very concerned about their looks, tell her that her face won't look pretty any more if she keep sucking them and nobody will talk to her. In case of boys, you can tell them that they won't grow up into strong boys or like any of his favorite superheroes if he keeps sucking his thumb and friends will also tease him and keep him out of their group. So, just try to change their mind set.
Keep punishments, of course not very harsh ones, for the last stage when nothing works. Punishments can be like not allowing to play video games or any of his favorite game, or telling them that they won't be given any new games, dresses, stationaries or their favorite food items, or don't take them for outings, parties or picnics. But one thing parents should remember that they should continue the process and should not break it in between as your child will definitely try to change your mind, so you need to be very strong; till your child leaves the habit.
My daughter too had the habit of sucking thumb. It started when she was almost 3months old and continued till she was 3 years. I had also tried different method, at last one night while making her sleep, I told her that if she keeps sucking her thumb then her face will look very ugly and she won't be able look like princess Barbie and from the next day I found that she was not sucking her thumb anymore.
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