Thumb Sucking Addiction & How to Stop Kids From Doing It

When children are born they have no “bad” habits, it’s us the parents or society that create the habits. We are the creators of habit in our children. We watch our parents do things and our children follow suit. It continuous cycle of creating habits and then taking them away.

Then a couple years later we see the pediatric dentist who says a plan is needed on how to stop thumb sucking. Infants are blank slates but still they arrive in this world with their own hard-wired, intrinsic temperament traits in the same way that they arrive in this world as male or female. Their inborn intelligence potential, temperament, and their own unique set of experiences growing up in their native environment combine to create the individual’s personality and character. And often the first strongest character is a version of finger sucking. Learning how to quit thumb sucking can be the biggest challenge of a child. The sooner you start the better.

Its nature AND nurture combined that make a person who they are, not just one or just the other.

Newborns even have some instinctive behaviors, such as the sucking reflex, a walking-motion reflex when held upright on a level surface, and they have a specific newborn reaction to being startled: they fling their arms and legs out in a specific way that older babies don’t do; these behaviors are not taught to them. Why do they start thumb sucking and how they stop thumb sucking develops over time.  Some instinctive behaviors disappear in a few weeks after birth, other instincts stay with us longer. Although children ARE naturally very imitative, which is how a child learns the language their parents are speaking, not ALL behaviors are learned. Some are instinctive and some are self-taught.

Neither of my parents were thumb suckers, or nail biters. So they did not need to learn or teach me how to stop thumb sucking or nail biting. Their lack of this habit is one reason they were appalled by my extreme nail-biting habit. It never occurred to them that it was a desperate self-soothing technique I discovered for myself. Children are not taught to fall on the floor and scream in temper tantrums, these are inherent self-soothing behaviors or nervous-overload behaviors caused by too much stress, or fear, or by being too frustrated by an inability to achieve a desired goal or inability to verbalize a problem, or by an immature nervous system, by over-tiredness, etc. Children aren’t shown how to do these things, they discover them on their own.

It is nature/nurture that will teach how to stop thumb sucking.  My kid is a thumbsucker and all on his own placed his thumb in his mouth, nor did I give him a pacifier (I’m not against pacifiers, he just prefers his thumb).  Aside from my own experience, research in development has shown that the sucking reflex is one that babies are born with and that it is their first soothing/regulating action. While I tend to favor the “nurture” side of the nature/nurture debate, we know that humans are not born a blank slate.

I am actually regarded as the one with extremely good ability to cope with stress and the one sought after to help others. I have had my good share of stress in childhood and coping came natural, i didn’t run in a corner to suck my thumb when things got hard, the sucking wasn’t the main or only coping mechanism. And the stress I am referring to is one from a civil war tearing my country when I was 8, and my entire family getting chased out of our homes into perpetual refugee status around the world. We moved to 4 different countries before I was 14. But before I was 8 and happily sucking away I had a storybook childhood some kids only dream of.  When I was very young it never crossed my mind that I should learn how to stop thumb sucking.  It was only until later that adult thumb sucking scared me into action.

We as people seem to think in ways that to understand things we like to group and classify things and it puzzles us when something doesn’t fit the mold. So we classify addition and self-destructive behaviors and then we like to draw connections and make up cause-effect relationships that fit perfectly and logically. But we must be cautious about this because people, perhaps especially parents who are trying to do right by their children and ensure their best future, are prone to panic. A mother reads something like this and thinks oh my! I have to get my child to stop or he/she will become socially unacceptable!

Understanding and putting into practice the best products and methods to stop thumb sucking is a problem parents should really understand – to care for their child’s teeth and social development.  Learning a way to quit thumb sucking, requires understanding of how the habit develops, and providing proper motivation to unlearn the unwanted behavior.  I think we grow up into who we are, and thumb sucking it certainly does have an influence early on.  Know how to stop thumb sucking by first teaching yourself, then motivate your child, and develop skills to break habits early in life.