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My son is 8 years old and still sucks his thumb. We have been trying to encourage him to stop for years (talking with him about it, telling him to get his thumb out of his mouth when we catch him, etc.). None of what we have tried has worked. Also, it is causing oral problems (e.g. crooked teeth). Nobody has made fun of him at school (as far as we know), but we suspect that he only does it when around family and when he is alone.

Does anyone have any advice on how to get him to break this habit?

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This happened to our 2nd daughter. She's a younger soul, and took a long time to do everything, compared to her peers. Around the middle of autumn, third grade when she was 8, we started to place more responsibility on her, giving her some chores, getting her more grown up clothes (rather than little kid clothes that were pink, etc - nothing against pink, heh) - oh, and we changed her room a little bit, rearranged it, took down "baby" things, and as a family decided not to treat her as the baby anymore, but as a little kid.

It worked...

  • Welcome to Parenting.SE! Nice method -- did you mention anything about thumb-sucking to her in this process, or just wait and watch? – Acire Sep 25 '15 at 16:12
  • Like Jonathan, we had talked and talked about it through the years, but this time we didn't, we just felt like if we did then we would ruin our efforts, heh. No, she just stopped, like a synapse finally got connected. – JasonH Sep 25 '15 at 16:17
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From my experience sucking my thumb till about age nine. For the record - I wanted to stop sucking my thumb because I found it embarrassing, so certainly an aspect to stopping thumb sucking was a conscious wanting to stop, but I don't remember enacting any specific plans to stop (as I would any bad habit I have as an adult).

  • You can buy that gross tasting nail polish stuff. It's not 100% effective - because you can just suck it off and then your thumb tastes nice again. But I think it helps interrupt the habit.

  • Offer some kind of reward. 'I'll buy you a xyz if you stop sucking your thumb by age 10'.

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I know this is an old question, and is probably resolved. But in case anybody else finds this:

Thumb sucking, nail biting, scab-scratching etc are often symptoms of something being wrong (but not always - treat it as a warning sign). The child might be under pressure or otherwise not thriving in some everyday context.

In my case it was undiagnosed ASD and blatant bullying.

So if a child has any such habits, I'd take a step back and examine the mental well-being of the child. It might not be anything major, or anything at all, but just in case it is, it's better to be observant.

And when trying to break the habit, remember that punishing children isn't helpful. Try positive reinforcement instead.

  • I think if a child has bitten their nails, thumb-sucked and picked scabs since it was possible for them, then it is more likely habit than anything else. If it starts after 2 or 3, then that's a definite reason to 'be observant'. If there's any change in behaviour that is negative, that is a just cause to be very observant. My 16 y/o started thumb sucking when her birth parents died when she was 4. We did not dare to be negative, She desperately was looking for comfort. We did a lot of cuddling and positive enforcement. We went to a special class together for kids who were innocent 'victims'. – WRX Jan 4 '17 at 16:34
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My oldest sucked his 2 fingers until he was 12. I tried everything, nasty stuff on fingers, harassing him, warning him about other kids harassing him, really anything I could think of any honestly nothing worked. He stopped once he got a girlfriend in middle school. Sometimes life just has to run its course, but good luck getting them to break the habit I am sure others were able too.

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