I have a four, almost five year old, who sucks her thumb (since she was 16 weeks old). She had promised to stop on her 5th birthday (one month away), but now that it’s getting closer she doesn’t want to stop. How can we help her transition without the “conventional” methods (bitters on thumb, etc.)?
Jackie, in IN
Breaking a habit is hard!
Breaking a habit that is constantly available to you is even harder.
Here are the truths:
- You have no control over this one. She isn’t going to stop until she decides to. If she agrees before she is ready, she will feel ashamed, but chances are she will still suck her thumb.
- Only true internal motivation will make the difference. The promise of stickers, a toy, a trip, will seem like a great idea until she needs comfort that she feels only her thumb can provide.
- Your reasons for wanting her to stop are not her reasons. Most parents want kids to give it up because we feel it is harmful either emotionally, socially or dental-ly. The social and dental issues may be real, but developmentally she can’t see those. She just wants you to be proud of her.
There are some good options:
- Help her discover what would be great about not sucking her thumb. A list of reasons that she finds motivating, with some pictures she draws or cuts out up in her room will help when the time is right.
- Be proud of her process. Instead of staking your praise on her accomplishment, talk about being brave (trying something that scares us), persevering (trying in the face of struggle) and patient (with oneself and a new skill).
- Give her the power. Let her know that her birthday is a nice marker, but that you recognize that this is her decision and her timeline. It is, so as parents we get a lot more cred when we say so out loud!
- Share a struggle. Have you ever quit something you’re willing to discuss with her? Honesty may empower her.
Don’t stake your own feeling of parenting “success” on her 6th year as a thumb-sucking-free time. What is more important is that she learn about the process of changing behaviors, and that you are supporting her always in living her best life. Yup, even at five years old.
Hey parents, have you ever helped a child change a behavior? What worked and what didn’t?