I’ve tried everything to help my daughters stop sucking their thumbs. We’ve gently reminded them, encouraged them, pointed it out when we see them doing it, praised them when we don’t see them doing it, put hot sauce on their thumbs…but nothing has worked. While the habit itself doesn’t bother me, I worry about the long-lasting effects on their beautiful teeth. Raising a child with a bad habit can be difficult and finding ways to help your child break the habit even harder. Instead of fighting, consider ways to help empower your child to break their bad habit.
Put your child in charge.
Whatever the habit and the causes behind it, parents have a way of swooping in and taking charge. We want to help our child stop, so we come up with elaborate plans to help. However, giving your child some power over the situation can help them take responsibility. With thumb sucking, for instance, my daughter has come to me on occasion and asked me to put hot sauce on her thumb so that she remembers not to suck-that will be more powerful and successful than any plan I put into place without her consent.
A little positivity goes a long way with children, and negativity can have unexpected results and implications. Though it can be difficult, one of the biggest ways you can empower your children to break bad habits is to remain positive. Point out positive changes you see your child making as they strive to break a bad habit.
Telling your children why you have concerns about their bad habit can be a huge step in empowering them to break those habits. Even if you think your children are too young to truly understand, take the time to bring things down to their level. Don’t use scare tactics, but be honest. Point out that thumb sucking can impact your mouth and teeth, and that you want your son or daughter to have beautiful, straight teeth, for example. By being honest with your children, they may begin to internalize the consequences of their actions and may begin to see why they should work to break their bad habits.
Some children form bad habits during times of stress-one of my daughters began thumb sucking after a move and the loss of her blanket. It was her coping mechanism, which then became a difficult to break habit. If you can’t stop a bad habit before it begins, you can work with your child to eliminate those stressful upsetting situations that have them turning towards a bad habit. For instance, if your child sucks their thumb only when overtired, work together on setting and sticking too a more reasonable bedtime. The key is to work with your child to limit or eliminate stresses that lead to their bad habits.
Change the way you view the habit.
Changing the way you view your child’s bad habit can go a long way towards empowering your child. Does thumb sucking really have negative consequences that can not be undone? What about hair twirling or picking at their lips? The more focus you put on a bad habit, the more likely it is to be a problem for everyone involved. Try to change the way you think about and the way you react to your child’s bad habit. By doing so, you may find yourself less stressed out and anxious about the habit. Taking the focus off of the habit may inadvertently encourage your child to break it.
Read more on related topics by this author:
Parenting No-Nos that You Shouldn’t Lose Sleep Over
Techniques to Help Bed Wetting in Children
Curb Aggressive Behavior in Your Preschooler