How Aiden Stopped Sucking His Thumb

Aiden has always been a thumb sucker. I tried my hardest to get him to use a soother as a baby, since he was so fussy, but it only ever lasted a day or two. Once he could find his thumb, it was his default whenever he was tired or overwhelmed. He went through times where he would suck his thumb less, but I still would say he was a pretty heavy thumb sucker. In the car, watching tv, reading, bored – always there. 

When Aiden began preschool, he was asked to stop thumb sucking there and he was ok with that. Our thought had been to kick the habit before age 5 with work to begin when he turned 4. However, not yet 4, the habit is gone. Here’s how it went down…

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Aiden was at the dentist, where we discussed our plans for addressing the thumb sucking. Despite what we discussed, the dentist approached Aiden and told him that we had “agreed” to stop thumb sucking and that the dentist would give him a prize if he could do it. Well, we were like “oh crap,” but Aiden was relaxed: “Ok!” So, if he was on board, we got on board. I quickly made up a chart with an additional prize reward after 2 weeks of success, one I knew he wanted but that was a pain to get (so I’d told him he wouldn’t get for his birthday). Well, that did it. He was very highly motivated. 

That night, Aiden struggled for a while, clearly saying “I’m really trying not to suck my thumb” many times. And he didn’t suck it. His complaints went down within 3 days and only from time to time is it now apparent that he is craving it. For a while, he complained of being tired throughout the day and after a while I realized it was at times when he would have otherwise sucked his thumb. Overall, it was super easy (for us) and we are so impressed with his personal drive to stop a very difficult habit. I’d say that since he kicked the thumb sucking it actually mellowed him out – perhaps he had to learn a different way to calm down or maybe the thumb was making him tired/grumpy sometimes. Nice bonus outcome. 

Although Aiden no longer sucks his thumb during the day or to fall asleep, we do sometimes see him sucking his thumb during the middle of the night when he’s asleep. Since this is obviously when he is doing it unconsciously, we’ve let it slide. 

The reward chart worked really well in this situation, but it has not helped at all with potty training at night. Just goes to show how readiness is a key factor in the success of these methods.

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