Why can’t I stop sucking my thumb?

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Thumb-sucking is something my 8-year-old does. She has sucked her thumb (usually the one on her right hand) since she was a few weeks old. She says it helps her to get to sleep and she most often sucks her thumb when she is feeling tired.

Thumb-sucking has become a habit for my daughter, which means that it’s something she does regularly. But often, she doesn’t even notice she’s doing it! And the dentist has said she must try to stop sucking her thumb because otherwise she’ll get wonky teeth.

But breaking a habit is hard – especially when it’s something you’ve done nearly every day of your whole life!

Habits are patterns of behaviour, which means they are things that we do regularly. Some habits – like cleaning your teeth twice a day, or eating breakfast in the morning and dinner in the evening – are part of our normal daily routine. But other habits – like biting your nails or sucking your thumb – are unhygienic and can be bad for your health.

But if you have a habit that you want to break, then it is possible to stop doing it – you just need to use something called ‘willpower’. Willpower is something we all have – it’s a way of choosing to make a change and sticking to it, even when that change feels tough or tricky.

Doctors have come up with a way to help people use willpower to break habits, but it isn’t always easy and it can take a long time. The first step is to spot the habit and then work out when and why you do it. Next, you see if there’s a way to avoid things that make you do your habit. You can reward yourself with treats when you don’t do your habit! It can also be helpful to ask a friend to help you break your habit, by reminding you not to do your habit and telling you how well you’re doing when things feel tough.

For my daughter, stopping thumb-sucking is really tricky. She’s been trying to break the habit for about 3 years! We tried using some bad-tasting nail polish but it was so yucky it made her cry. But she has been trying really hard and she doesn’t suck her thumb half as much as she used to. I know that one day she’ll stop altogether but, for now, it’s just a little habit that she uses at bedtime to help get herself off to sleep.

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One thought on “Why can’t I stop sucking my thumb?

  1. tiffany7291 June 11, 2018 / 8:42 pm

    It can also deform the thumb. I’ve met 2 grown women that still sucked on their thumbs & it made them flat & enlarged. Just thought I’d mention it. Your daughter is young & aware of it becoming a problem,,,so that’s half the battle right there. I broke myself from nail biting by using fake nails. I know they make some for little girls,,,,having it feel different in her mouth,,,might make it less of a comfort. Just a thought….

    Like

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