Thumb Sucking - A Cautionary Tale

Posted by Jayne Schembri on

Girl in red cloak wearing a thumb guard

We're Always Telling Tales

Way before the dawn of Twitter, Facebook and Google, families have used myths, fairy tales, and folklore to educate and instill obedience in their children. Many stories, were passed down verbally through each generation like a lengthy game of Whispers and many more, despite being written down, have been altered over the years.

Even today, as we tuck our little ones into their beds at night, many of us still delight their tender ears with the same enchanting tales as told to us by our ancestors. 

Take Goldilocks and The Three Bears for example. One of the best loved pieces of children's fiction in history, this is a tale that has certainly changed through the years. 

Rumored to have begun its journey as the tale of a cunning fox, the lead character reportedly changed to a silver haired old lady before becoming the entitled young madam who trespasses into the home of three innocent bears.

Tales of Morals

Caring nothing for their feelings, Goldilocks steals their food, vandalizes their possessions, sleeps in their beds and then has the nerve to complain that their furnishings are not to her liking. Is this the first recorded case in history of an entitled teenager? What a shock she received when the bears returned and found their uninvited guest. 

While the tale might be intended to teach about the treatment of another person's property, it is clear that miss Goldilocks is not the most endearing child. in addition, as is the case in many such tales, parental supervision was lacking and likely the cause of her delinquent behavior.

Tales of Obedience

Consider next, sweet Red Riding Hood, a vulnerable young girl, dispatched by her mother to deliver a basket of goodies to a grandparent. Consensus says that the moral behind this well-known story is that children must obey their parents and never trust or speak to strangers. Taking this stance, if Red heeded her mother, she would have avoided the trauma that followed.

Had grandma resided a few doors down the road, I might have agreed. However it is clear that granny's humble little cottage is some distance away. Also the child was deliberately left without parental supervision despite her mother being well aware of the risks. We know this because the mother warned Red that the woods were dark and dangerous and instructed her not to talk to strangers lurking behind the trees. 

Obviously the child failed to avoid a mid-journey encounter but she did at least manage to reach the cottage in one piece.

Tales of Horror

At this point we discover that granny isn't even a regular feature in the child's life. Little Red has no idea what her grandma looks like and therefore cannot discern that she has been greeted by an imposter.

Granny in the meantime has either been eaten or locked naked in the wardrobe, depending upon the version of the story we read. The figure, wearing granny's clothes and lying in bed, is none other than the wolf and he intends to feast on Red next. What luck it was that a woodcutter heard the child's screams and butchered the wolf in front of her!  I would love to know the result of the Police investigation that surely followed.

Tales of Caution

Did you know there is an equally unpleasant tale designed to encourage children to stop thumb sucking?

This fiction, part of a collection of tales designed to keep unruly, disobedient children from a life of depravity,  is taken from the book Struwwelpeter by Heinrich Hoffmann. It is the shocking tale of a boy named Conrad.  A boy who is quite addicted to thumb-sucking.

Despite his mother's firm instructions that he should stop the habit, the boy became sneaky with the practice and continued sucking without care. Eventually, exasperated by his stubborn defiance, Conrad's mother warned him that persisting in thumb-sucking would cause a sinister character, known as The Tall Tailor, to seek him out. The tailor would not be there to measure the lad up for thumb guards either. Oh no, this tailor,  armed with a sharp pair of sewing shears, was going to snip Conrad's thumbs clean off!

Tales of Drama

Now young Conrad's age is a mystery, but having delivered the terrible warning,  his mother leaves him home alone for a while.  Not surprisingly, Conrad's thumb returns to his mouth as soon as she departs. Woe to Conrad. The door burst open, and a tall, red-legged man, armed with an enormous pair of cutting shears, entered the room. Conrad didn't get a second warning. The man leaped forward, captured the boy, and rather brutally snipped off his thumbs.

Miraculously the mother returned before her son passed from shock or blood loss.  Sadly he held out his butchered hands before her. She saw his thumbs were missing and coldly responded, "Oh, I knew that would happen to naughty little suck-a-thumb."

Tales of Truth

Parents today are far more aware of child safety and the benefits of being honest with our young ones. Most would no doubt agree that delivering scary tales is inappropriate.

While children are not at risk from the tall tailor, prolonged thumb sucking does put them at risk of overbite. Our thumb guards are child-friendly. They are comfortable to wear, colorful, and, when combined with gentle encouragement, they are a highly effective method of helping children end their thumb-sucking habit.


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