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Get Creative With Thumb Sucking

By Jodie Lynn


My three-year-old insists on sucking his thumb and I am scared to death it's going to be detrimental to the shape of his teeth and mouth. Any tips to help change this habit would be welcome.


If your son has just started sucking his thumb, there may be something in his life that is different or stressful. My nephew started sucking his thumb when he started going to an early-morning toddler gym class. My brother became concerned with it and the pediatrician suggested that he review any recent changes in his daily schedule. There were also around 12 toddlers in the class, and my nephew was an only child. Therefore, the class was extremely loud for him. The extra noise, kids and unfamiliar surroundings was just too much. Once he got back into his normal routine, he stopped sucking his thumb. The following year, when he turned four, they tried a different gym class with less children and he did great. - Alicia Phillips in Madison, WI


Thumb sucking brings about comfort. Once the child makes the connection, it's easily accessible and can be done when needed. It is usually a learned habit that is done in frustrating situations or perhaps during calm or sleepy moments. It can start as early as in the womb and is perfected after birth. However, if your son goes beyond the age of four or five and still does it consistently and passionately, he could very well develop an overbite as well as get teased by other children, especially once he starts kindergarten. By this age, you should be planning his first trip to the dentist. If not, do so soon. Either way, ask the dentist what you should be concerned with pertaining to his teeth and some suggestions on the best ways to help him to stop sucking his thumb. You can also get advice from his pediatrician. It is always a good idea to talk to other parents, doctors, etc., in private. This way, he will not hear the anxiousness in your voice and become even more stressful as you talk about and look at him. As silly as this may sound, kids know way more at this age than we sometimes think. In fact, various annoying habits can quickly become part of an ongoing power struggle. Try to stay calm about the situation and divert his attention from the habit by thinking of creative things to keep his fingers busy. Maybe playing a game where he needs to use all of his fingers or clapping and dancing to a song. There's many ways to keep him busy, break the habit and have fun; it just takes time and patience.

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To share parenting tips or submit questions, write to: Parent to Parent, 2464 Taylor Road, Suite 131, Wildwood, MO 63040. Email direct2contact, or go to which provides a secure and easy way to submit tips or questions. All tips must have city, state and first and last name or initials to be included in the column.

© Jodie Lynn
Jodie Lynn is an award-winning internationally syndicated family/health columnist and radio personality. Her syndicated column Parent to Parent has been successful for over 10 years and appears in newspapers, magazines, newsletters and throughout the Internet. She is a regular contributor to several sites including,,,,, and Lynn has written four books and contributed to three others, one of which was on Oprah and has appeared on NBC in a three month parenting segment. Her latest books are "Mom CEO (Chief Everything Officer) - Having, Doing and Surviving It All!" (June 2006) and "Syndication Secrets - What No One Will Tell You!" (March 2006).
Please visit for details on her new radio talk show, Inside Parenting Success.


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