Our Best Tips for Helping Children End Habits
Tips to End Thumb Sucking and Other Habits
Thumb sucking and other habits like nail-biting, hair -pulling and skin-picking are common behaviours among children. While these behaviours are not immediately harmful, when they become prolonged or increase in regularity they can be a cause of concern for parents and carers. The greatest of these are concerns relating to the affects such habits might be having on their child's dental or emotional health. There may also be concerns that the habits are a direct result of anxiety or trauma.
When habits leave a child with bald patches, a visible overbite or areas of broken skin on their hands, this can also be a cause of social embarrassment. Understandably, if there are no major factors that might be influencing the habit, such as grief or trauma, parents may decide to encourage their child to end their habit.
Here are some popular tips to help children stop thumb sucking and other habits:
- Positive Reinforcement: This should be the first step when motivating your child to change or end any unwanted behaviour. Encourage your child to stop their habit by heartily praising them when they do not engage in it. When your child goes a whole day without sucking their thumb or biting their nails, praise them for their efforts. Let them know you are proud of them. You might use a reward chart or give them a treat for each of their successes. Positive reinforcement can go a long way in helping your child break the habit.
- Identify Triggers: Children often engage in thumb sucking and other habits when they are bored, anxious, or tired. Identifying the triggers that cause your child to engage in these behaviours can help you find ways to distract them. For example, if your child sucks their thumb when they are bored, give them an activity to keep their hands busy. If they bite their nails when they are anxious, some parents say that teaching their child relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation helps.
- Offer Alternative Behaviours: Children often engage in thumb sucking and other habits because it gives them comfort. Offering alternative behaviours that provide the same sense of comfort can help your child break the habit. For example, if your child sucks their thumb to help them fall asleep, give them a stuffed animal or a soft blanket to cuddle with instead. If your child is old enough you might find sensory toys such as fidget spinners or pop-its helpful.
- Use a Bitter Solution: Applying a bitter solution to your child's thumb or nails can help discourage them from engaging in the habit. There are several products available in the market that are specifically designed for this purpose. However, before using any product, consult with your child's paediatrician to make sure that it is safe for your child. Be aware however, that not all children dislike bitter tastes on their tongue. The rising popularity of sour candy is proof of that.
- Involve Your Child: If your child is old enough to understand, involve them in the process of breaking the habit. Explain to them why it is important to stop sucking their thumb or biting their nails. Ask them for their suggestions on how they think they could break the habit. You might even let them choose the method. Let them choose a reward that they will receive when they successfully break the habit. Involving your child in the process can help them feel more in control and motivated to break the habit.
- Be Patient: Breaking a habit is not always easy. It can take time and patience, particularly if your child has had the habit for a long time. It is important to be patient with your child and to encourage them to persevere when things seem a bit tough. Set small goals for your child, such as going one hour without sucking their thumb or biting their nails. Celebrate their successes and encourage them to keep trying. Do not use punishment as a tool to break habits. If children become anxious that they may be punished, it tends to have the opposite effect and increase their desire to continue with the habit.
- Fabric thumb guards. You might find your child needs a little extra help to end their habit. Our fabric thumb guards are designed to discourage thumb sucking and other oral habits by creating a barrier between the thumb and mouth, making it difficult or uncomfortable for the person to continue with the habit. Thumb and finger guards also restrict access to skin and finger nails and can make hair pulling difficult.
More About Fabric Thumb Guards
A fabric thumb guard is a soft and comfortable sleeve that fits over the thumb and covers the nail. It is usually made of breathable fabric and is designed to be worn during the day or at night. The thumb guard is secured in place with fastening around the wrist or base of the hand, so it stays in place even if the person moves around during sleep.
When your child tries to suck their thumb while wearing the thumb guard, they will feel a barrier that makes it difficult to continue the habit. Over time, this can help break the habit and prevent further damage to the teeth and mouth.
It's important to note that fabric thumb guards are not a fool proof solution and like any other treatment, they may not work for everyone. Some children may find them uncomfortable or resist wearing them. However, for the majority, they can be a helpful tool in breaking thumb-sucking or other habits.
In conclusion, helping children break the habit of thumb sucking and other habits requires patience, encouragement, and positive reinforcement. By using these tips, you can help your child break the habit and develop healthier behaviours. Remember, breaking a habit takes time, so be patient and celebrate your child's successes along the way.