Assess whether the thumbsucking is a problem Thumbsucking is a normal, natural behavior for many children, and is something they do to comfort themselves and alleviate anxiety. Generally, it will not need correction if it does not continue past 2-4 years of age; most children will give it up before starting kindergarten. However, if you notice any of the following, it might be a problem. It’s causing dental problem. Thumbsucking can sometimes affect a child’s bite, the alignment of their teeth, or the way the roof of their mouth develops. It’s causing medical problem. Persistent thumbsucking can cause the skin on the thumb to shrivel, crack, or chap. It can prevent the nail from growing properly, or even cause infections under and around the nail bed. Watch for triggers. Many children suck their thumb only at certain times, like when they are falling asleep or riding in the car. Others do it for comfort when they’re hurt or upset. In many cases, they might not even be aware that they are sucking their thumb. Learning your child’s triggers can offer clues as to the best method for helping them stop. Ignore it. Children often use behaviors like thumbsucking to get attention from adults; they can also become battlegrounds for power struggles between parents and children. The more you talk about or call attention to the behavior, the more your child will do it. If you suspect this is the case, try to ignore the thumbsucking for a period of time. Give it about a month, and see what happens. Your child may stop sucking their thumb on their own. Use positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is one of the best ways to encourage behavior change in children. Give verbal praise to your child for not sucking their thumb. You could also set up a simple reward system. Put a sticker on the calendar for every day your child does not suck their thumb. At the end of a week with no thumbsucking, give your child a small reward or prize – an extra bedtime story or a small toy. At the end of a month, offer a larger reward, perhaps a special outing. Gradually extend the length of time required to earn rewards. Cover the thumb. A thumb that is covered will not feel or taste the same as a bare thumb, and this is often enough to stop many children’s thumbsucking. Try a band aid, a finger cot, a small finger puppet, or a thumb guard. If thumbsucking occurs mainly at night, try putting a mitten or a sock over the hand.