All children and youth deserve a safe, respectful, caring and positive learning environment. In fact, the Pan-Canadian Consensus Organization states that “positive learning environments in schools will: maximize the learning of every student, help children and youth become full participating citizens of society and help to build a sense of community.”
The same applies to home and family. When there is a positive approach to learning, there can be much success. Positive reinforcement when it comes to thumb sucking can lead to better success in breaking the thumb sucking habit.
What problems can thumb sucking cause?
The most common problem caused by thumb-sucking is a poor bite in the form of:
- Buck teeth: prominent upper front teeth
- Open bite: the teeth do not meet together at the front
- Cross bite: the lower side teeth bite outside the upper teeth
- Tipping back or crowding of the lower front teeth.
If sucking does result in changes in bite, this may also affect the way a child chews, swallows and talks – a lisp may develop.
Apart from dental effects, some children become withdrawn while sucking their thumb. This “zoning-out” can be problematic if it interferes with learning and participating in activities.
How do you break the thumb-sucking habit?
Attempts to stop thumb-sucking should be tactful, constructive and involve positive encouragement and praise where applicable.
- Always use a positive approach and choose a time when daily life is settled as your child may use thumb-sucking as a means to relieve stress.
- If your child sucks while asleep, you should attempt to gently remove the thumb from the mouth.
- Try the reward system for children who have gone for lengthy periods of time without sucking. Try using a calendar with stickers and make small rewards when they do not suck.
- You can weaken the thumb-sucking habit by distracting your child and keeping both hands busy.
- For older children consider inviting non-thumb-sucking friends over for sleepovers. Chances are, your child won’t suck in front of his/her peers.
- Try weaning your child off the habit by using a positive product like Thumbuddy To Love
- As a last resort for older children and teenagers, orthodontists can fit a thumb crib appliance that sits behind the upper front teeth and is cemented to the back molars, but it is better to start breaking the thumb sucking habit early like around age 3 or 4 with positive teaching products to have success in stopping thumb sucking.