More than 30% of toddlers are still sucking their thumbs. Fortunately, thumb sucking is harmless until your child’s permanent teeth have erupted about age of six. Your main response to thumbsucking in the meantime 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.
• Don’t pull your child’s thumb out of his mouth at any age.
• Don’t comment when your child’s present that you’re unhappy with his habit. Until your child is old enough for you to reason with, about age four, any pressure you apply will only lead to a power struggle that you can’t win.
• Don’t scold your child, slap his hand, or use other punishments. These will only make him dig in his heels about thumbsucking.
And 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.
During Dr. Schmitt’s 20 years as a medical practitioner and researcher, he has published over 100 articles or chapters on pediatric health care, and has been awarded the distinguished C. Anderson Aldrich Award by the American Academy of Pediatrics for outstanding contributions to the field of child development. Schmitt has also authored five books including Your Child’s Health, which won Child Magazine’s first Hall of Fame Award in 1991. Schmitt is also a professor of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and on staff at The Children’s Hospital in Denver, Colorado.