More than 30% of toddlers are still sucking their thumbs at age 2. Fortunately, thumbsucking is harmless until your child's permanent teeth have erupted, at about age six. Your main response to thumbsucking should be to ignore it, especially when your child is tired. If it occurs when your child is bored, try to distract him. Give him something to do with his hands, without mentioning your concern about the thumbsucking.
Let's turn to some common responses that you should avoid:
- First: Don't pull your child's thumb out of his mouth at any age.
- Second: Don't comment, in your child's presence, that you are unhappy with this habit. Until your child is old enough for you to reason with him (about age 4), any pressure you apply will only lead to a power struggle that you can't win.
- Third: Don't scold your child, slap his hand, or use other punishments. These will only make him dig in his heels about thumbsucking.
- Finally: If you wait, your child will usually give up thumbsucking naturally. But if you turn the issue into a showdown, you will lose, since the thumb belongs to your child.
If you have any questions about thumbsucking, consult your healthcare provider.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D. FAAP
Last Review: 6/1/2008
Last Revised: 6/1/2000
Copyright 1994-2008 Barton Schmitt, M.D. Parent Advice Messages.