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A Thumb for Comfort

The first time I saw my eldest son suck his thumb, I recall thinking how great it was. No pacifiers falling on the ground going back in his mouth. No night wakings for a binky that had dropped onto the crib mattress. No blankies or stuffed animals to keep track of. What could be better than a self-soother naturally attached to the child?

Unfortunately, along with the thumb-sucking came a secondary habit. This is not unusual for kids who suck their thumbs: some twist their hair with their other hand; some pull on their ears. Unfortunately, my son's mindless secondary habit was pulling his private parts out of his pants.

This became the biggest joke among his preschool teachers. At the time, no one could explain to me exactly why my son played with himself ALL the time. "It's a phase; he'll stop eventually." "Ignore it and he'll outgrow it." "All boys play with themselves." Everyone said these things, and yet the phase was never-ending (plus I didn't see any friends' kids playing with their private parts all the time!). Age 2 turned to 3 turned to 4 with everyone talking to him about private parts and with no sign of this habit ending. I posted to listservs and got little feedback. I Googled thumb-sucking and read about nasty tasting stuff that I could put on his nail. My husband and I tried wrapping his thumb in Band-Aids as a deterrent, which only resulted in us going through a few rather costly boxes of Band-Aids a week.

Finally, at the end of August, I read about sticker charts. We made the end of thumb-sucking a positive experience. Thirty days of no thumb-sucking stickers and we'd give him a puzzle that he coveted. Even more days and he'd get a cheap CD player for his room. Unbelievably, the thumb-sucking stopped. He still sucked it at night to get to sleep, but we could live with that. We thought the phase was FINALLY over and we were thrilled ... until last week.

We went away; he got a bad cold, and now the thumb is back in the mouth and the hand is back in the pants. So, at age 5, we're back to square one. He and I made a new sticker poster this week. But I'm less sure this trick will work a second time.

So, I ask: How have you dealt with a thumb-sucker or other seemingly unbreakable habits?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  February 8, 2007; 7:15 AM ET  | Category:  Preschoolers
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Oh my! I thought my thumb-sucker was bad, as he puts his thumb in his mouth and his pointer finger in his nose - VERY FAR into his nose.

My little one is turning 4 next month and I have tried to use the birthday as a motivator to stop. We, too, tried Band-aids. They were costly and useless.

Our Ped. Dentist suggested orthodonics was cheaper than therapy in the long run and that we should not shame him into stopping. This message came right after she said "he sucks so hard he has moved his bone in his mouth" - so I was a little annoyed.

I have no solutions to offer - but know that my little son has the greatest immune system EVER - since he touches so many germs and they immediately get a VIP reception in his mouth and nose. Weare shooting for the attendance award in kindergarten.

Good luck!

Posted by: KLM | February 8, 2007 7:50 AM | Report abuse

I'm sorry, I am laughing so hard here. I feel for you -- boy, what a secondary habit to pick!

Unfortunately, I can't be the voice of experience here, because my daughter's 5 1/2 and still sucks her thumb when she goes to sleep. I figure she's confident and strong when she's awake and making her way on her own through the big bad world of kindergarten, so it seems like an innocent enough habit to give her comfort when she's tucked up safe in bed at night. So I haven't tried to break the habit. Plus I figure once she starts sleepovers, the other kids will break it soon enough. Then again, she never picked up any secondary habits to go along with it, either -- although she does have a blankie, does that count?

All I can suggest is to go back to the sticker chart -- if it worked before, it'll work again. We've done that with our little Queen of Putz to encourage her to get herself dressed and bed made in a reasonable time in the morning, and it worked tremendously well. So if your son responds well to the stickers like she does, just dive on in again.

Also, can you come up with other ways to help him learn how to relax? Seems like he'll be more likely to give up one comfort mechanism if he can replace it with something else. Like a favorite stuffed animal to snuggle, or soothing music at bedtime, etc.

Posted by: Laura | February 8, 2007 7:54 AM | Report abuse

I was a thumb-sucker and hair-twister, and my parents only gave me slight pressure about it. When I was in kindergarten (just turned 5), the teacher's aide took me aside, looked me in the eyes, and told me I was old enough and grown-up enough to stop thumbsucking.

Somehow hearing it from an authority figure that I loved, who spoke to me with respect, made the difference. I made a decision that day to stop thumbsucking, and basically stopped forever.

However, my brother was caught sucking his thumb in his sleep by his wife in his mid-twenties, when he was going through his qualifying exams for his Ph.D. Old habits die hard.

I know that you tried having the teachers talk to him about thumbsucking earlier, but it might work better now that he's a little older.

Posted by: Neighbor | February 8, 2007 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Regarding the thumbsucker - I sucked my thumb until I was pretty old, but my parents made a rule (when I got in kindergarten), that thumbsucking was allowable only at night in my room. I could not do it in the other parts of the house. I also had a teacher in kindergarten sternly tell me that I was too old to suck my thumb, and it did have a positive effect in curbing my habit. If the sticker chart fails, just ban the habit to the bedroom and move on. Also, he is old enough to understand that it is just not acceptable behavior to play with his privates in public!

Posted by: allthumbs | February 8, 2007 8:33 AM | Report abuse

You could try thumb guards. They cost about $50 but a friend of mine used them and they worked. It's a plastic contraption that fits over the thumb and straps around the wrist. My daughter was/is a thumb-sucker. At 3, we told her only at naptime, bedtime and tv time. At, 4, we said only at naptime and bedtime. Her preschool teachers helped reinforce it and she followed the limits very well. In kindergarten, we said only at bedtime. Now a second-grader, she is still trying to break the bedtime habit. Since I can't sit there in her room all night to enforce it I have just put up with it. But, if I had to do it again, I would have put thumb guards on her at night at the end of kindergarten. Now when I mention them she gets very upset. With her permanent teeth almost all in, she has guaranteed herself braces and I think she'd be better off without the habit at this point. I thought it was fine through preschool, good for sleeping and self-soothing but now I think she should stop.

Posted by: sympathetic mom | February 8, 2007 8:48 AM | Report abuse

What great stories are revealed here! I am a former thumbsucker and my youngest son has inherited the habit from me. At six, I tired of the teasing and after several experimental trials including nailpolish, etc, only one thing worked. At night I wore one of Dad's long tube socks. It covered my hand and stretched all the way done to my elbow. So every time I put my thumb in my mouth I got a mouth-full of sock.

i plan to use the same trick for my 3 1/2 year old and hope it works. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that my easy-going little boy will not succumb to the peer pressure the way I did!

Posted by: former thumbsucker mom | February 8, 2007 8:50 AM | Report abuse

My older daughter just turned 8, and she is a recovering thumbsucker. I kept thinking she would just stop on her own sometime, but finally last summer I started fining her one penny each time she sucked her thumb during the day. I am now three pennies richer. Her secondary habit is a blankie, but she doesn't need that. It gets lost for weeks at a time and she is fine, but when she finds one (we had several old cloth diapers, most of which have been lost or pieces torn off until there isn't anything left), she wants to take it to bed. As far as thumbsucking, I do very occasionally see her thumb in her mouth when I go in to wake her in the morning.

My younger daughter was a finger sucker, but had cleft palate surgery at 3 1/2 years old, and had to wear arm restraints at night for two weeks. After they came off, the habit was broken. She flirted with thumbsucking about the time her sister stopped, but I figured that she wasn't going to develop a thumbsucking habit at the age of five, and that seems to have been true.

Posted by: single mother by choice | February 8, 2007 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Wow, I wonder what I have to look forward to. My son sucks his thumb when he's tired and ready to go to sleep. He's only four months old so, of course, this isn't a problem. I never heard of thumbsucking being related to this secondary habit though. I do remember my sister-in-law talking about my nephew and how he would like to play with himself. She told him that if he was going to do that he would have to go to his room by himself to do it. And since he didn't like to be by himself, that kept it from becoming too big a deal. I don't remember hearing anything about him sucking his thumb though.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | February 8, 2007 9:05 AM | Report abuse

My beautiful niece was in the habit of sucking her thumb while rubbing her nipple under her shirt with her other hand. The last time I saw her, when she was about seven, she was still doing it, though less publicly than before. I think her parents thought it was harmless enough and that she'd outgrow it, but it lasted longer than anyone expected.

Posted by: Uncle | February 8, 2007 9:21 AM | Report abuse

I wonder what it is that makes some children thumbsuckers and some not. My two kids never seemed the least bit interested in sucking their thumbs, or pacifiers either for that matter. I didn't really encourage or discourage it, I did offer a pacifier when they were very young to try to calm them but they lost interest soon. I'm just wondering why this is such a strong behavior for some and not for others.

Posted by: Catherine | February 8, 2007 9:46 AM | Report abuse

We had Nuk baby, for some reason she never wanted to suck her thumb. But, she had (& still has) a blankie that she twiddled between her fingers as she slept. Baby #2, also a Nuk/sometimes thumb baby baby, did not care for the blankie. We ultimately just mysteriously got rid of the Nuks and both children seemed to be fine with that. I guess they were about 2 , 2 1/2 when we did that. My niece on the otherhand screams bloody murder when her Nuk is missplaced!

Posted by: Pink Plate | February 8, 2007 10:01 AM | Report abuse

My daughter sucked her fingers and at the same time twirled her hair. We dealt with the hair problem by cutting it short. Of course, that is not an option in the case of playing with private parts! But it does seem like you're dealing with two issues. Perhaps you should work on the private parts behavior first. Go back to the sticker chart. This time, have a shorter time period. You could put up stars every hour or so and say after one whole day of not touching himself (i.e., say 6 stars in one day) he gets a treat. Then stretch it out--it will take two days of stars...five days of stars...etc. Waiting 30 days just seems too long.

My daughter also responded well to punishment. We made charts and put a sad face on when she did the undesired behavior. She hated those sad faces and worked to avoid them. Getting so-many happy faces in a row was tied to a treat.

Good luck!

Posted by: Vienna mom | February 8, 2007 10:13 AM | Report abuse

I was a thumbsucker too, and I still remember what made me stop. I was probably about 4-5 and my sister two years older. We both were still sucking our thumbs (my sister while sticking the corner of her blanket up her nose, I while running the satiny edge of the blanket between my fingers) and my mom decided it was time to stop.

My sister was bribed with a candy bar but that wasn't enough to deter me, so I was promised a trip to Disney Land. That was enough to do it. I started by not sucking during the day, and with lots of reminders of Disney, I quit within a month. Unfortunately we never made it to Disney, but I did break the thumb habit! (although I continued to run the blanket through my fingers for quite a while).

Posted by: been there... | February 8, 2007 10:44 AM | Report abuse

We just broke our 2 year old daughter's finger sucking habit because of the "secondary habit" - sticking her fingers up her nose at the same time. She had a constant bloody nose as a result.

We bought the fingerguard for $70 (they also sell a thumbguard) at - she wore it for one week all day/night, and then one week just at nap/night, and her round-the-clock habit was gone in no time. She didn't seem to even notice that she couldn't suck her fingers, she was so excited about her "bracelet."

I am so glad we did it! No more nosebleeds, no more guilt at the dentist. This might be a good option for your son, too.

Posted by: thumbguard works! | February 8, 2007 10:51 AM | Report abuse

My son will be five in a few months and still sucks his thumb. Usually only when he's really tired, sleeping, or nervous. He has a bear that is his very best friend and goes everywhere with him too. I never connected the two. But he's starting to leave the bear places, or once or twice actually didn't take it to school. So sad that he's growing up.

He's started this habit of touching his face, though, and I never connected that either. I don't know what to do about it - he is making his face bleed. I guess it's for comfort, and he doesn't want to suck his thumb in public anymore? We have told him that sucking his thumb will move his teeth, maybe his friends at school have been teasing him about it and now he's touching his face instead. I don't know, but I really would like him to stop. I've tried the things I've read (try to set up some sort of signal, but he doesn't seem to get that, or other stuff, but I don't know how).
What's a mom to do?

Posted by: atlmom | February 8, 2007 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I am ashamed to admit this, but I hope it will help parents of thumbsuckers. I am 27 years old and still suck my thumb. You must, I repeat must find a way to break the habit while your child is still young. I don't know a sure fire way to do that or I would have done it for myself a long time ago. My parents tried a kinds of things when I was little (hot sauce, tape, tying things around my hand). None worked for long. I stopping sucking my thumb in public when I was in middle school, just before I got braces. I was then able to go a long time without sucking (months, years), but it always seemed to come back. I thought the habit was completely gone many years ago. But, about a 2 years ago I ended a long term relationship and the thumbsucking in private started all over again. Then, a family member died and it got even worse. It really is a comfort to me, even at this age. I have been able to lessen the amount that I suck it recently. But, it is so difficult. So, please do whatever you can to make your child stop NOW!

Posted by: Anonymous | February 8, 2007 10:58 AM | Report abuse

On pacifiers - my cousin was able to help her toddler make the decision to stop needing it by cutting off the tip of it. Since it wasn't smooth anymore, he made the decision on his own to let it go. I plan on trying this myself with my son when he turns 2 in March.

Posted by: cj | February 8, 2007 11:10 AM | Report abuse

I was a thumbsucker as a child. My parents tried EVERYTHING with me -- duct-taping mittens to my hands while I slept (they ended up in a pile on the floor by the next morning), putting the gross tasting stuff on my fingernails, bribery, you name it, they tried it. It finally took getting a "habit breaker" put in my mouth by my dentist when I was 10 to get me to was pretty traumatizing at the time but after about a week, I didn't even notice that I wasn't/couldn't suck my thumb anymore. I probably had it in for about 4 months when a Dorito somehow got stuck between it and the roof of my mouth and it popped out. Then I was done being a thumbsucker. Speaking from experience, someone telling me not to do it anymore would NOT have worked. I loved it too much!

Posted by: Anonymous | February 8, 2007 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Not a thumbsucker, but I would twirl my hair endlessly. So my parents shaved my head. Cheap and easy solution.

Posted by: KD | February 8, 2007 11:15 AM | Report abuse

On pacifiers: Only one of my kids actually liked the pacifier. Our pediatrician told us something to the effect that babies only have a physiological need to suck up to about 4 months and after that it's just a habit. Well, we just took our daughter's away at 6 months and that was that. At 6 months, it's not like she could crawl around or walk around looking for one. She used to go to sleep with the pacifier but then if she woke in the night she would be looking for it. After a few nights without it, she was fine. She found other ways to self-soothe. Every time we see a 3 year old walking around with a pacifier, we pat ourselves on the back. Unfortunately, our other daughter is still too attached to her bottle at 2 years old that we haven't taken it completely away yet. No pat on the back this time. With #1, she was done with the bottle by about 21 months. We probably should just suck it up and go cold turkey on the bottle and deal with the resulting upset but does anyone have any better solutions?

Posted by: Rockville Mom | February 8, 2007 11:31 AM | Report abuse

I'm wondering what everyone's philosophy on blakets / teddy bears / stuffed animals is?

I hear stories of how a blankie was taken away from a 4-year old because he is "too old" for it. Is this old school, or do parents still set an age limit on the comfort items?

I guess I'm willing to let my kids take their pooh bear and stuffed dolphin to college if they need it. I'm curious to hear how other parents feel.

Posted by: Liz | February 8, 2007 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I know this is off topic of thumbs and other annoying habits -- but I would like to know how parents are able to get fingernails and toenails clipped on a child that just doesn't want it done? Short of a full body brace what is a parent to do? I've tried it while he's asleep - he eithers jerks around or wakes up - I've tried it in the high chair - screaming and not breathing at the same time -- it is a scary time -- HELP!!!

Posted by: cj | February 8, 2007 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I sucked my thumb until I was about seven. "Shaming" me and painting my thumb with hot stuff did not work--it just made me feel ashamed and need the comfort of thumb-sucking more. Two of my children were thumb-suckers, also until about age 7, and the third was a head-banger (that can be worse). The thumb-suckers could find their thumbs as soon as they were born, so I assume they were sucking in utero. So I think this tendency runs in families. But my advice is to at least avoid shaming the child. The more matter-of-fact you can be, the better.

Posted by: Midwest | February 8, 2007 11:46 AM | Report abuse

"On pacifiers - my cousin was able to help her toddler make the decision to stop needing it by cutting off the tip of it. Since it wasn't smooth anymore, he made the decision on his own to let it go. I plan on trying this myself with my son when he turns 2 in March."

Tried this with our daughter. She knew something was wrong so she handed it to me and said "Fix it Daddy." Since I was the one that cut it, it broke my heart.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 8, 2007 11:47 AM | Report abuse

I like the comments regarding confining the habit to one's bedroom. Tell your son that it's ok with you if he sucks his thumb, but he must do it only in his bedroom (or wherever would be LEAST convenient for him to do it.) After all, it's not wrong to suck your thumb OR play with yourself. But there is a proper context for doing it - a lesson that applies to more things in life that just playing with yourself.

Don't get discouraged!

Posted by: Anonymous | February 8, 2007 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Why is it sad to see a kid grow up and leave their teddy bear at home? Last I checked, kids are supposed to grow up.

The key to breaking these habits is not to let them develop in the first place. Don't let the kid drag the blanket everywhere and then you don't have to take it away the first day of kindergarten. Don't let them walk through the grocery store playing with their "business" at two, and they won't do it at five.

Posted by: di | February 8, 2007 11:59 AM | Report abuse

My son is 14 months and sucks his thumb so hard that they are both chapped right now. He hasn't developed any real secondary habits yet, but if I'm holding him, he'll suck one thumb and hold my thumb in his other hand. How can you make them stop sucking their thumbs at this age?

I've heard about the boys reaching into their diapers to soothe themselves and have been able to avoid this so far by keeping him in onesie undershirts or turtlenecks all the time, but that probably won't work for a five year old!

As for stuffed animals and blankies, I had a blankie until I was at least 12 (that thing was gross by the end!) and I literally took my stuffed animals to college with me. It's only been since I got married that the stuffed animals have been banished to the shelf. I think I ran out of room in the bed! Never really caused any problems for me.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 8, 2007 12:02 PM | Report abuse

My youngest sucks his thumb AND is a head banger. He changes how hard he bangs, though, as to which surface he is banging on (tile, carpet, hardwood). I try to ignore it and he is almost 2 and he seems to be slowing down, but he's a fiesty one and definitely some sort of drama queen. And STUBBORN.
But it makes him feel better, I suppose and it's not going to hurt him much - if it did, he'd stop. My mom in law says my husband used to bang his head against the wall too. So it could be inherited (dad in law, husband and older child all chew on their tongues, so that must be inherited).
Younger one I'm not so concerned about with the thumb, partially because once the older one stops, I suspect he will too - he SO worships his older brother. I also don't think he needs the comfort as much, for some reason. Maybe he does, who knows. I just wish my older one would stop.
But my mom promised me a dollhouse that I coveted as a young child (after SO many other things, one of them being that stuff that tastes horrible) for me to stop biting my nails, and I absolutely couldn't do it. And I still play with my nails/bite my cuticles (am really consciously trying to stop and I think it's working a little - but it is a 30 year old habit, so it will take time, I know), so I know it may not be easy. In any event, they'll probably both need braces anyway (they have what I had, crowded mouths, and the dentist told me so at visit # 1), so if they need them anyway, what does it matter, right?

Posted by: atlmom | February 8, 2007 12:07 PM | Report abuse

"I guess I'm willing to let my kids take their pooh bear and stuffed dolphin to college if they need it. I'm curious to hear how other parents feel."

The rules for my elder daughter's school prohibit her from bringing things like that.

I might not have thought to be quite so rigid about it until experience taught me to. I have kept my other daughter from taking her favorite stuffed animal out of the house for any reason. She REALLY needs it at bedtime and for a while she wanted to take it everywhere and it got left at daycare a couple of times which made the bedtime process difficult. You don't want your toddler to lose their favorite comfort animal/blanket/whatever that they need to sleep. Once we decided her favorite animal had to stay home, we tried to make sure it was nowhere in visible sight to the front door so it wouldn't occur to her to want it as we were leaving to go out in the world.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | February 8, 2007 12:10 PM | Report abuse

to di:

It just is. I'm not trying to *stop* him from growing up, it's just that he's growing up. Maybe sad isn't the right word for it, but I don't know what is. I definitely miss a little tiny teeny baby, and all the steps in between, and each phase is beautiful, but it's kinda bittersweet when they get bigger. My aunt talks about how sad she is that her kids are all grown up - and her kids are almost 40 with kids of their own. She misses them as babies - as I do.
That's all.
With the bear, I really don't think I will take him away ever, we're trying to have him wean himself, and he's doing a fine job. He couldn't bring the bear to preschool until he went full time, and now he leaves it in his cubby, and I don't think he even takes it out at naptime (where he doesn't nap anyway). But he leaves it in the car sometimes for sports, etc. But that bear has been a part of him for so long and it is so sweet and now he's leaving him behind. I think the same goes for when they move on to whatever phase (they aren't home for dinner every night because they have something else going on, i.e., sports practice, drama practice whatever, or they go off to college). You won't be sad at all the turning points?
I will.

Posted by: atlmom | February 8, 2007 12:12 PM | Report abuse

(1) Thumbsucking -- your's is classic reversion. when your child is mature enough to understand, you can go to the dentist and get the "pitchfork" a spiky apparatus that your kid will understand is there to help him quit. It is temporary and pretty effective. By then, he may want to stop. Until then, if you can't subsitute something else as a self-comforter -- why is it so urgent? So adults that should know better won't gossip about it? This seems like their problem.

(2) lovies -- love them and leave them. Yes, why deprive your child of lovies? It will be painful, but you can make a special place in your child's room or bed for the lovie to wait for him or her to return for nap or bedtime. No traveling in the house or car (except for long road trips). My 3 y-o son asked me if he could have his lovie with him when he dies. Gulp. I said, of course. He said, good, right before I die, I am going to run into my room and get my lovie.

(3) finger nail cutting -- try nail scissors while your child is sleeping, aiming to get a couple at a time instead of all 20! Or, unless it is seriously dangerous, why not just let it go? As long as they are clean, what does it matter?

Posted by: Sluefoot | February 8, 2007 12:14 PM | Report abuse

to Rockville mom:

How old's your kid? My youngest is under two so he doesn't understand that the bear can't go places, he screams and screams. I know, I should be able to live with it til he stops, but this one will scream, at the top of his lungs, for hours, no joke, even in the middle of the night. A scream I've never heard any other child make. Truly blood curdling. My husband wants to record it to play when we call him sunday mornings when he is in college (like 6 AM). To show him how it feels ;)

I would love to get the bear away, if only to wash it more than we already do. It would be wonderful. Again, I suspect that once the older one doesn't bring the bear with him everywhere, the younger one will stop soon enough. The older one is thisclose, but not there quite yet.

Posted by: atlmom | February 8, 2007 12:17 PM | Report abuse

I wonder how prevalent it is to find a thumbsucker in his or her late 20s. I seriously doubt many of our children are in danger of this happening to them.

Posted by: SMR | February 8, 2007 12:20 PM | Report abuse

to Sluefoot -- "(3) finger nail cutting -- try nail scissors while your child is sleeping, aiming to get a couple at a time instead of all 20! Or, unless it is seriously dangerous, why not just let it go? As long as they are clean, what does it matter?"

I didn't think of using the scissors, and one or two at a time has been successful....sometimes. But it does matter to me when I'm getting sliced up and he's also cutting himself occassionally. So I'd like to try to keep up with it. Thanks - I'll keep trying!!!

Posted by: cj | February 8, 2007 12:27 PM | Report abuse

DD is 3 and is a thumb sucker. She does the twist hair or twist Mommy's hair thing. I don't envy you with the playing with himself thing. I would definitely explain to him that is an activity that is done only in his bedroom by himself. No offense, but you are never going to get him to stop playing with himself. Boys and Men do that. Who knows why but they do it till they die. Just let him hide himself away in the privacy of his own room. I am going to go home and kiss DD and thank God that her only other habit is pulling my hair.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 8, 2007 12:30 PM | Report abuse

My daughter (7) rejected the pacifier at 8 months and never sucked her thumb. However, she is a compulsive nail biter. When she was younger she would even bite her toenails. I was able to break that habit (although she does still pick them) but the nails never need to be cut. I haven't cut her finger nails in at least 6 months and toenails only need to be cut 3-4 times per year. I don't feel it is a habit worth fighting her over as it isn't causing any harm (she doesn't go into the cuiticle or cause infections) and she'll likely stop if she ever wants to grow her nails out.

Posted by: Nail biter | February 8, 2007 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I had a friend with a son who was afraid of having nails cut, and she had a "manicure" day with him every once in a while. She would wash his hands, put lotion on them, and even paint the nails with sparkly (or clear) nail polish. He loved it. After all of that attention, she would trim the nails and give him an emery board so that he could sand his nails with afterwards. It worked really well. Eventually he did not need all of the fussing over nail-cutting.

Posted by: Neighbor | February 8, 2007 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I took a teddy bear to college. My roommate had one, too. (They never went to class or anything - just sat on the pillow until bedtime.) In fact, I slept with one until I was married. :-) I think this might be less socially acceptable for boys beyond a certain age, but all the girls had them in my dorm.

As for nail clipping - I don't have kids yet (obviously), but I thought of something that seemed like it might help. [Insert standard disclaimer verifying my understanding that childless people have no valid child-rearing opinions and no grounds on which to speak.] Have you let him watch you clip your own finger- and toenails so that he can see that it doesn't hurt you or scare you? Maybe if he sees that Mommy and Daddy do it, too, it won't seem so bad.

Posted by: FutureMom | February 8, 2007 12:43 PM | Report abuse

To altmom:

The daughter I was referring to in regard to her animal is just over 2. But when we phased out taking it with her, she was probably around 15 months. But it also wasn't a long standing habit to break. So my situation doesn't sound quite the same as yours. My daughter frequently wants to take some random toy with her somewhere and if it's a random toy that she doesn't have a particular attachment to, I don't care, i.e. if it is lost, there would be no long-lasting trauma to child. Even then, once we get where we're going, I usually encourage her to leave it in the car. On the other hand, she sometimes wants to bring home a toy from daycare. Usually I can convince her to put it down herself (leaving her in control) so that it stays there. It's better for her to do it since if I take something away, it's much more likely to result in a meltdown, especially at the end of the day. Depending on exactly how old your child is, you could try talking him into leaving his bear at home, a little bit at a time. It's amazing how much they understand even when they're not talking much. Stress how much the bear will like staying home, how it will keep the bear safe, whatever. Maybe just keep bringing it up as a good option until your child is ready to do it. I'm assuming your son won't accept any substitutes. Some people buy the exact same stuffed animal and switch it out, which helps with the washing aspect, and can serve if one gets lost. Or sometimes you can use a completely different animal, although it doesn't sound like it in this case. Anyway, good luck.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | February 8, 2007 12:45 PM | Report abuse

My younger daughter was afraid of nailcutting, so I gave her an emery board and asked her to sand down my nails. Then I would do the same with her, and eventually would move on to actually clipping the nails.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 8, 2007 12:47 PM | Report abuse

My 2 3/4 year old daughter sucks on her arm. Forearm, by the inside elbow. She has been doing this for over a year. I've been told by the Dr. and daycare that that is 'normal' but I've never heard of any other kid doing it. Anybody else do this? I'm thinking I should treat it like thumb sucking and try to put an end to it. Long sleeves help, but she pulls them up (even in cold weather) and continues to suck. There is a red/swollen spot on her arm that is pretty permanent from the sucking. Any advise?

Posted by: arm chewer | February 8, 2007 12:53 PM | Report abuse

My guess is that these thumb/fingerguards come in sizes and could also be used to address the "other" problem...

That and a simple explanation that he's going to be the youngest sex offender on the registry if he doesn't cut it out. Eventually schools and/or daycare will determine a child is sexually harassing or threatening other students, even if he doesn't really know what he's doing.

The prospect of not being allowed to go out outings, play dates, etc. should be more than enough to take care of the problem.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 8, 2007 12:54 PM | Report abuse

My cats chew on plants and things, so I rub chili oil on them. It's used in Asian cooking and is extremely hot. You could also use oil from a jabanero or jalepeno pepper.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 8, 2007 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like this kid is on the way to one heck of an adolescence...

Posted by: Anonymous | February 8, 2007 1:01 PM | Report abuse

nail cutting: I asked my daughter - who doesn't do anything that she didn't think of - which nail she needed cut. She'd point to one, and I'd clip it once. Then asked which other nail - a lot of times she points to the same one multiple times, so I just clip a little once each time, so as to try to have enough to cut multiple times. We don't get all the nails done in a sitting, but we get over half -works with her toes, too. If she doesn't point to one, I suggest it, but if she says no, I don't touch it. This gives her control and participation and she is MUCH more willing to have it done that way. After doing this method for several episodes, she now will let me do ALL of her fingers and toes at one sitting - as long as she chooses the order of snipping.

Posted by: arm chewer | February 8, 2007 1:04 PM | Report abuse

my son was not a thumb sucker & he haated pacifiers. he was not interested in stuff animals either until he was about 4 & now at 6 1/2 he's kinda lost interest in them. he did have the secondary issue. however, i pretty much broke him of the habit by asking him if he had to go to the bathroom every time i saw his hands in his pants. when he would tell me no i would tell him that i thought he had to because he was playing with his penis. that made him aware of where his hands were. i didn't make him ashamed that he was doing that just pointed out that i was drawing an incorrect conclusion. it took about 6 months but eventually it dropped way off.

Posted by: quark | February 8, 2007 1:09 PM | Report abuse

to armchewer -- Thank you so much for your suggestions -- Chase is only 22 mo, but I like the concept.

to quark -- he's not got his hands down there yet, but this too seems like a reasonable way to address the issue.

Thanks everyone on this blog for all the thoughful idea and thoughts.

Posted by: cj | February 8, 2007 1:22 PM | Report abuse

"I wonder how prevalent it is to find a thumbsucker in his or her late 20s. I seriously doubt many of our children are in danger of this happening to them."

It's a lot more common than you'd think (though not by any means widespread)--I'm another one right here (mid-20s).

Posted by: Anonymous | February 8, 2007 1:29 PM | Report abuse

My husband was allowed to suck his thumb long after it was appropriate. Now we are facing thousands of dollars in oral surgery and orthodontic work. I would encourage everyone to stop thumbsucking early, using any means necessary.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 8, 2007 1:35 PM | Report abuse

My daughter is nearly 3, never a thumb sucker, gave up the pacifier herself gradually beginning around 6 months, but she likes to drink a bottle of milk at night. Surely there are worse things than your child having a milk habit! Still, though, I'd like her to be done with it soon. Any suggestions?

Posted by: Katherine's Mom | February 8, 2007 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Water down her bottle of milk gradually. Eventually it will be all water. She'll either drink the water -- no problem there - or she'll give it up all together.

Posted by: To Katherine's mom | February 8, 2007 1:44 PM | Report abuse

My daughter made a conscious decision (around age 4?) to stop sucking her thumb and was largely successful, although she still sucked it in her sleep. Unable to consistently stop herself at night, we simply put a knit glove on the offending hand (I'd considered Band-Aids but worried she'd suck one off and choke, and also she didn't need to have adhesive on her all the time) at bedtime. She still wears it at age 7 but can do without it; during particular tiring or stressful times, though, the thumb sneaks back to her mouth in her sleep, so she's usually ok with continuing to wear it most nights.

From the very beginning her special animal (and her younger brother's) was a home-only thing: never to day care, never in the car (except on overnight trips), and usually kept in the crib or bed instead of traipsing all over the house. It made things *much* easier, and I didn't worry about trauma when kindergarten started and suddenly she was without a constant companion. We also from the very beginning had said animals get a bath every single week on laundry day, lest the funky smell become part of what makes the animal so special. (My son also has a duplicate animal, although he doesn't know it yet; one swaps out for the other every week after laundering; we were worried that his chosen object would fall apart too quickly, leading to other traumas.)

Posted by: a mom | February 8, 2007 1:52 PM | Report abuse

I used to be a thumbsucker for a long time. I delayed breaking the habit because my mom was always nagging me about it and that used to annoy me. Eventually she asked my dentist what to do (in front of me). He shrugged his shoulders and said it wouldn't kill me to have crooked teeth, and he sucked his thumb until he was 13. Once she stopped bugging me about it I stopped pretty quickly because at that point I was really just doing it to prove to her that it was my body and she couldn't tell me what to do with it. One day I just decided I wasn't going to suck my thumb any more and I never did again.

I realise in retrospect that the problem was that my mom always felt that she was responsible for my successes but that I was responsible for my failures. So if I'd stopped in response to her nagging it would show how great a parent she was for having "fixed" me. She and my dad still do this. My one sister has some problems and my mom always talks about how when she comes "home" for the holidays (she's 30) my mom is going to "grow her up" by giving her chores to do (like cleaning the toilet).

The research shows that the only factor common to most long-term thumbsuckers is a long-running fight with parents about the thumbsucking. Which is cause and which is effect? On the other hand, I've known some people who had luck with the tabasco-sauce-on-the-thumb method.

My advice would be to go for the sticker chart again, because this is a way of allowing the child to "own his success". I agree that 30 days might be too long for the child to really appreciate the reward. A book we read with a version of the sticker chart method is "the strong-willed child". This book espouses the idea that it's really your praise that reinforces the good behavior and the material reward is of lesser utility. This makes sense to me in light of my mom's strategy: when you praise the child it allows him to own his success and feel great about himself instead of making him feel like he sucks and YOU (the terrific parent) are the only reason he's not a delinquent. In their method, you praise the kid for every day he stays away from his thumb, and also give a sticker. On days he sucks his thumb, you don't punish, just say "better luck tomorrow" (on the hypothesis that punishment is attention too. You could try punishing or not punishing and see which works better if you want.). You could do the material reward too but the praise may be the key.

Posted by: m | February 8, 2007 1:58 PM | Report abuse

to echo the 27 year old - I will be 30 next month! and still suck my thumb - at night in front of the tv and while sleeping - I do need braces and find it very hard to quit. My husband is so wonderful, he's never said anything - I fear I will never quit :( My parents never discouraged it - please please find a way to get your kids to stop. I hope I can

Posted by: still sucing | February 8, 2007 2:15 PM | Report abuse

My son used to give me a hard time too. Now I sit him on my lap, and tell him he is going to help me. I clip each nail so it is just dangling by a thread, then he gets to pull it off and throw it in the trash. This has worked really well -- again it might be a control thing.

Posted by: for nails | February 8, 2007 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Based on your story it seems the turning point from successfully curing his thumbsucking habit is when you "went away". Try same process again without going away.

By the way, I think your trying to solve a problem for a habit that is of benefit to his emotional state and will serve him well later in his life.

Posted by: scheinbaum | February 8, 2007 2:41 PM | Report abuse

For the most conprehensive research on thumbsucking visit:

I dated thumbsucking girls pretty much exclusively through high school and college. My first girlfriend recognized the telltale signs and that's how I got my first date.

Let me tell you guys, women who suck their thumbs are of the nicest, sweetest, most kind and gentle people who walk the planet. It's the hypnosis and euphoria that thumbsucking people experience that makes them that way. If you haven't started back when you were a baby, you will never know. Too bad.

If you have an issue with your child sucking his / her thumb, I encourage you not to paint their thumb with nasty tasting substances to discourage it, and hot pepper sause I would consider abuse. Or Please, visit the link I posted above.

Posted by: Father of 4 | February 8, 2007 3:15 PM | Report abuse

I was a thumbsucker until I was 11. I just decided to give it up one night. I didn't sleep at all that night but the next night I was just fine.

My parents didn't make a big deal about the thumbsucking but they did everything imaginable to keep break my blankie habit. Everytime they hid it, I found it. Eventually when it was threadbare and had to go, I found a new one. I finally gave up the blankie when I found out it couldn't go to kindergarten with me.

I don't know where I fall on when/how to break the habit. Peer pressure worked great on getting me to stop thumbsucking during the day though I still needed to self-soothe at night. Twenty years later, I do dislike that I have 1 thumb that is noticeably flatter than the other!

Posted by: Anonymous | February 8, 2007 3:17 PM | Report abuse

At the age of 5, a boy is old enough to be told to stop each and every time he touches himself in his private area in public (i.e., anyplace except his bedroom). This goes along with reassuring him that this is perfectly OK and normal, but it is private and he is old enough to take this activity to his bedroom. His peers are now old enough to realize he is doing something he should not be doing and eventually will tell him so. He may need to come up with some alternative activity for his hand; i.e., something to keep in his pocket that he can pull out and hold, for example.
He probably will decide for himself to not suck his thumb in public much longer. As a longterm habit, however, it can be hard to break, but clearly it is more acceptable than ....the private thing!

Posted by: Jean Kimmel | February 8, 2007 3:26 PM | Report abuse

he started putting his hands in his pants about 3 & it pretty much tapered off by 3 1/2. mostly, because i think he got annoyed with me asking him if he had to go pee.
i wouldn't say that his peers will break him of the habit. i can't tell you how many full grown men i've seen give a quick "package check" before the speak. i think it is a reassurance thing that they never entirely grow out of.

Posted by: quark | February 8, 2007 3:42 PM | Report abuse

To Arm Chewer: I had that habit off and on until I was about 7. One day, when we were visiting relatives out of town, an aunt asked my mom why I had a hicky on my arm. My mom explained to her why. All of this was in front of me. HOwever, the word "hicky" freaked me out, and when I asked my mom what it was and she explained it to me, I stopped right then. It was also cool to watch the mark fade over the next few days.

Posted by: nb | February 8, 2007 4:27 PM | Report abuse

I understand that we don't want to guilt trip boys (or girls) about their genitals, but why so protective of this habit? Body parts aren't toys...not those parts, not ears or elbows or noses. And certainly not Mom's hair or breasts. Play with something else.

Posted by: di | February 8, 2007 4:50 PM | Report abuse

PLEASE try the thumbguard. I was SO skeptical at first, especially because of the $80 price tag. But it made all the difference for my 3.5 year old son. I was also hesitant to use something so structured, I didn't want him to feel badly about it. So we made it a game: a thumb "stabilizer". he's really into trucks, so this worked like a charm. He actually ASKS for it. It took 4 weeks of persistence at bed time (never sucked any other time) at now we are thumb free! Never thought I'd see the day. Definitely worth a shot.

Posted by: bec | February 8, 2007 4:59 PM | Report abuse

My daughter has sucked her thumb since birth! Even on her ultrasound video she had her thumb in her mouth. She also takes her index finger and rubs the top of her nose or lately she has been sticking her finger UP her nose! I am desperate for her to stop this. She is starting kindergarten in the fall and I fear that she will be humiliated. I have tried everything. When she was younger, it got so bad that her fingernail started to become deformed and infected and eventually it fell off. I do not think the thumbguard will work for her since she seems to switch thumbs if her right one is not available. If anyone has any solutions for a 5 year old who picks her nose and sucks her thumb at the same time, please feel free to help.

Posted by: Jess | February 9, 2007 8:57 AM | Report abuse

You people are raising some pretty weird kids. Head banging, hair twisting, nose picking, masturbation, thumb sucking. Geez. My mother had 4 kids and none of us sucked a thumb and none became smokers so apparently it's not an oral gratification thing. Go figure. If we did the things you people are describing, she would have beaten us to within an inch of our lives.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 9, 2007 1:57 PM | Report abuse

My sister still sucks her thumb at 30. Her boys masturbate and they are 6 and 8.

But they all do those things in appropriate contexts and know that some things are OK in public and some things are just for private.

What's the big deal?

Posted by: Liz D | February 9, 2007 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Jess- best thing would be to try and train a new habit. As soon as you see her start to pick the nose, hand her a real hanky and tell her to rub that between her fingers instead. Make sure she has some of her own hankies in her pockets also.

I've never heard of a case where there were actual health problems due to thumb sucking, but if it got painful enough for her, she'd stop.

Posted by: Liz D | February 9, 2007 2:50 PM | Report abuse

My theory is that thumbsuckers are children who were taken off breast-feeding before they were psychologically ready to handle it. Anyway, for those kids that are old enough. How about giving them gum? I would suggest lollipops but I am highly against giving small children sugar. Just terrible for them.

For those that play with themselves, I would highly recommend a daily massage.

Posted by: charlie | February 9, 2007 3:04 PM | Report abuse

"If we did the things you people are describing, she would have beaten us to within an inch of our lives."

But then you have to deal with either suppressed issues of anger or very low self-esteem.

Posted by: charlie | February 9, 2007 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Charlie: So who has the supressed anger and low self-esteem -- the kids or the mother? My mother was very big on beating us so the damage didn't show. She beat me for being afraid to get a polio shot, she beat my sister after she came home from dates. Only 3 of us are on anti-depressants, but we get to choose her nursing home.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 9, 2007 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Babyish behavior = innocence = protective parent = better parent than thou

That's how you get three year olds laying in dad's lap drinking a baby bottle and wearing ratty Barney slippers everywhere, four-year-olds sitting on park benches holding mom's boob, parents desperately trying to teach their kids to wipe their own butts three days before kindergarten starts, first graders taking out their blankie when they make mistakes in dance class, eight year old boys walking through the mall with hands in pants, ten year olds with $200 designer backpacks walking down the street holding a teddy bear and sucking her thumb. Not to mention parents who haven't had sex or a good night's sleep in four years because they can't get their kid out of their bed.

If people REALLY wanted their kids to stop, they'd make them stop. Not beating, but throwing away the pacifiers, blankets, etc. Following them around all day for a couple of days pulling hands out of mouths, pants, etc.

God forbid little precious Winthrop or Madison, around whom the world revolves, might--gasp--cry. Mommy couldn't handle it.

Posted by: di | February 9, 2007 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Ah, yes. I'm reminded of that 8-year-old in Hagerstown who attacked the school bus driver then the police officer who took him into custody, and then he kicked out the window of the police cruiser. The kid was turned over to his mother. No doubt the parents will sue 'because he's just a baby.'

Posted by: Anonymous | February 9, 2007 4:27 PM | Report abuse

I agree on the basic principle, but how is sucking a thumb something to make a big deal over? Again, as long as it's taught and obeyed on doing it at the appropriate time and place, why make a battle over it?

Each issue needs to be kept in context. What exactly is wrong with a 10 year old sucking a thumb and holding a teddy bear? What exactly is wrong with a 30 year old doing it as long as it's not interfering with work or other abilities?

I'm 27 and I still sleep with my bear. I also wore a big black leather collar all through college.

As long as the person leads a full, stable, secure life, and keeps their weird habits in their place, who cares?

Posted by: Liz D | February 9, 2007 5:14 PM | Report abuse

"So who has the supressed anger and low self-esteem -- the kids or the mother? "

Obviously, your mother didn't have suppressed anger but the low self-esteem. The children end up with either. It's too complex just using text on a blog to go into.

"As long as the person leads a full, stable, secure life, and keeps their weird habits in their place, who cares?"

Sure, most of us get along fine with all the shortcomings of how parents raised us- no one is perfect. But these thumbsucking as an adult examples are just symptoms of underlying unresolved conflicts. It is how a person physically manifests their own coping mechanisms and for most people most of the time it doesn't present problems.

Life goes on and we all try to do the best that we can.

Posted by: charlie | February 9, 2007 5:26 PM | Report abuse

"My theory is that thumbsuckers are children who were taken off breast-feeding before they were psychologically ready to handle it."

Well, my daughter is 6 months old, a thumb sucker and is still breastfed, so there goes that theory...

Posted by: Anonymous | February 9, 2007 8:50 PM | Report abuse


My sister at 31 is a thumbsucker and I'd hardly say that she has underlying emotional issues that are preventing her from leading a full, healthy and happy life.

I sleep with my polar bear the same as I did when I was 11 (I also sleep with my human partner now), and I don't think I have underlying issues that are preventing me from leaving a happy, full, healthy life.

I agree with you that it's the emotional issues and not the habits that are the problem. But simply having that habit does not NECESSARILY mean that there are serious issues to worry about.

Oh and my sister and I were never breast fed, and I've never sucked my thumb.

Posted by: Liz D | February 12, 2007 2:01 PM | Report abuse


As I said earlier, it is kind of difficult to do a complete psychological analysis on a on-line chat.

It's not uncommon for people to overcome a lot of things and have a "full, healthy, happy life" and that's great. Because as a child grows parents can do many things to compensate for certain things that they did non-optimally. People are infinitely adaptable. We build our lives in such a way (generally) to grow as a person.

As I don't know your complete history as an individual, I cannot comment on you with absolute accuracy - but in general - a lot of these underlying conflicts don't come out in everyday life.

But, for example - again, this is just an example because I don't know you and I could be wrong - you sleeping with your polar bear, I would guess would show that you would not be able to handle traveling to a foreign country all by yourself for a couple of weeks. (A few years ago when I went to Morocco, I personally met two separate Japanese women who traveled there for a few weeks alone.)

Posted by: charlie | February 12, 2007 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Also, is your sister older than you?

Posted by: charlie | February 12, 2007 2:46 PM | Report abuse

My theory is that thumbsuckers are children who were taken off breast-feeding before they were psychologically ready to handle it."

Well, my daughter is 6 months old, a thumb sucker and is still breastfed, so there goes that theory...

Posted by: | February 9, 2007 08:50 PM

My mistake - I meant adult thumbsuckers, not children.

Posted by: charlie | February 12, 2007 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Which also does NOT mean that ALL children who were taken away from breastfeeding too early all end up as adult thumbsuckers either.

Posted by: charlie | February 12, 2007 2:53 PM | Report abuse

My 11 month old MUST pinch (herself or, preferably, others) while she sucks. If she is nursing, she pinches my breast, underarm, or neck. If she has the paci or a thumb, she pinches whatever she can get her hands on. As a last resort, she'll pinch herself. Otherwise, she won't settle down. If I put a sock on her hand, she bonks her head with the covered hand. I've tried to substitute hair twirling (even hair pulling would be preferable). Even with her nails kept trimmed, the pinching is unbearable to caregivers.

Posted by: ouch! | February 13, 2007 10:01 AM | Report abuse


I am not a certified child psychologist and I think that it might be good to see one. Also, I don't know your what your home life is like so I can't know where this comes from but the only thing that I can suggest for right now is to make it emotionally unpleasant for her when she pinches (no matter who) i.e. make a loud emotional noise (like you are about to cry) indicating your distress when she does it.

Again it is only a suggestion and I think it is better to see a professional. Things like this can come from anywhere and doesn't necessarily mean you're a bad parent. Good luck.

Posted by: charlie | February 13, 2007 2:16 PM | Report abuse


Interestingly enough I've taken a two week camping trip up to Montreal and back, and I spent 6 months living in Ireland as a study abroad program in college- didn't know a single person there when I stepped of the plane. Since I didn't have room for my polar bear, I took a small beanie baby polar bear.

You're right that issues are not necessarily apparent, and I certainly can't prove to you either which way (though you're welcome to come to Austin for dinner).

Again, the existence of a quirky habit in no way suggests that there is a fundamental issue with the person that needs to be resolved.

And yes, my sister is 4 years older.

Posted by: Liz D | February 13, 2007 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Upon reflection, I suspect that something/someone frightened her thereby she is fighting back by pinching. Did something scare her. If it is something that you did or something she ASSOCIATES with you, it might be best not to do my above suggestion. (See why on-line chats are not the best way to deal with things like this?)

Posted by: charlie | February 13, 2007 2:35 PM | Report abuse


Well, apparently your parents did a lot right in bringing you two up to compensate and therefore you two lead good lives.

Anyway, those habits that you have were not rid of before puberty so they became "etched" in your brain so they did not go away, at least for now. I'm sure that sometime in the future that your thumbsucking sister will stop (hard to imagine a 70 yo thumbsucking! ;) and you may stop feeling a great desire to sleep with a polar bear as it seems that you have been growing as a person. So bravo and I guess there is just nothing to worry about with your quirks.

I used to bite my nails until my late 20's. I stopped when I completely cut out sugar from my diet for about a month. It's not that they were completely linked together but it was a "growth spurt" and it was just time to stop.

As for the age difference, I asked that because I had assumed that your parents changed something in the way they brought you up so that you ended up having to sleep with a bear rather than thumbsucking.

Won't be in Texas anytime soon but thanks for the offer!

Posted by: charlie | February 13, 2007 4:01 PM | Report abuse

I have to agree with DJ on this one. The amount of moral agonizing over how to get Katlyn to stop sucking her thumb or Harrison to stop fiddling with his privates is dumbfounding to me. You all seem afraid of your own children. Who is the responible one in these relationships? These children have been coddled by allowing these actions to continue after infancy, or equally as likely they lack intimacy and have to find it in their thumb or blankie. Or hell, they just like to fiddle with themselves. Whatever the case, set some limits for God's sake. I can't believe someone is scared to throw away a ratty blanky! If you hadn't let them attach to it by dragging it all over creation you wouldn't be in this position today. And if he cries when its gone, remember you created the monster. Better he cry for a couple hours at 3 than be even further screwed up when he's 5 and gets teased for carrying a baby blanket. Be a parent by guiding your child toward appropriate behavior, without being captive to their every whim. Making Jackson stop playing with himself is not breaking his spirit, it teaching him appropriate behavior - and it needs to stop now, not "when he's ready". Habits form because their are allowed to start and then are allowed to continue.

Posted by: Grant | February 13, 2007 6:14 PM | Report abuse

My oldest son was a finger sucker and blankie toter(weaving the fringe between his fingers), his sister was an arm sucker and silky blanket edge rubber, the youngest didn't have any finger, arms, etc that he preferred to ME. He nursed until he was 3 years old. I would have rathered he sucked on something else after a while. Both my older children left their blankets behind when they left for college, but its still on their beds when they come home. My youngest son left me behind long ago ;-) I dont remember doing anything to stop them, but I do remember how my parents got me to stop sucking my thumb! I was 8, and the dentist told me that he was going to insert tines in my mouth that would impale my thumb anytime I tried to suck it. I stopped that night!

Posted by: Sue | February 14, 2007 9:17 AM | Report abuse


Actually my mom did a great job, dad not so much. I don't want to suggest we were Brady Bunchers or anything- simply that we're happy healthy stable adults despite everything else :)

Trust me, I teased my sister growing up constantly about her thumbsucking and I think we were all surprised when she kept doing it even after she had kids.

But it doesn't hurt anyone, she knows when it's ok to do it and when it isn't and she's not using it as a cover up for any other issues.

Posted by: Liz D | February 14, 2007 4:32 PM | Report abuse

These comments came at the perfect time. My daughter is nearly 6 and sucks her thumb all the time. I didn't want her to start first grade and be tortured by the other kids so in a fit of desperation I said she could get her ears pierced if she stopped. Well sure enough 1 week later she only does it at night. Now of course I have to put up with her "borrowing" my earrings!!

Posted by: stephanie | February 14, 2007 8:22 PM | Report abuse

you are making ridiculous judgments about people from little evidence. an 11-month old who pinches as she nurses does not need to see a psychologist; she will grow out of it if the mom dislodges her whenever she pinches. a grown woman who sleeps with a stuffed animal can be perfectly normal, just enjoy the familiarity of a familiar object (especially when traveling or in unfamiliar circumstances.) a six-year old who plays with himself is not crazy; he just needs to be reminded consistently and will eventually grow out of it. these are not emergencies that require huge anxiety on the part of parents.

Posted by: nora | February 15, 2007 3:56 PM | Report abuse

This is just a chat and a lot of these problems aren't gonna be solved here if they have been going on for years. It's basically just a forum to throw out our opinions. As I said before I'm just throwing out suggestions to maybe (a big maybe) help some people.


"an 11-month old who pinches as she nuses does not need to see a psychologist"

Here I was too quick. I should have said pediatrician (instead of child psychologist) because "ouch" said,

"Otherwise, she won't settle down. If I put a sock on her hand, she bonks her head with the covered hand. ...the pinching is unbearable to caregivers."

This sounds like a bigger problem than just pinching while breast-feeding which is why I recommended seeing an expert and not just throwing it out on an on-line chat.

And I never said this -

"six-year old who plays with himself is not crazy;"

Posted by: charlie | February 15, 2007 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Oooops! I never said that a 6 year old is crazy.

Posted by: charlie | February 15, 2007 7:08 PM | Report abuse

A friend of mine sucked her thumb until she went to elementary school and the kids teased her. Nothing like peer pressure I guess.

That said, she got through Kindergarten still doing it. It wasn't until first grade started that she was teased enough that it stopped pretty immediately.

Good luck and ignore mean posters!

Posted by: Mary | February 16, 2007 3:35 PM | Report abuse

A friend of mine sucked her thumb until she went to elementary school and the kids teased her. Nothing like peer pressure I guess.

That said, she got through Kindergarten still doing it. It wasn't until first grade started that she was teased enough that it stopped pretty immediately.

Good luck and ignore mean posters!

Posted by: Mary | February 16, 2007 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Our five year old daughter was also an inveterate thumbsucker. Our pediatric dentist recommended a nail polish called Mavala Stop, which makes the thumbnail taste very bitter. I was extremely doubtful and skeptical about it -- didn't want to resort to chemicals; positive discipline should work, etc. So we tried sticker charts, various treats (favorite meals, extra movies, toys) and other alternatives. They all failed. Each time we started off with promise and by the end there would be tears, and yelling, and general horridness. So after several months we tried the polish. It took two applications and that was it. She's been thumb-free for months. Really thumb free -- even at night, even after being sick. I don't know if it will work for your son -- he might have a gender-type problem with nail polish, whereas our daughter was all for it (since we don't let her use kiddie makeup at home), but it really worked for us.

Posted by: Brian K | February 20, 2007 10:21 AM | Report abuse

I have a three year old daughter with brown, curly hair, natural highlights, and beautiful texture most women would kill for. However, she keeps asking for blond hair and blue eyes like the disney princesses. She likes to point out people with blond hair and blue eyes. I am afraid of her self-esteem being hurt because she does not like her brown hair and brown eyes. I mostly attribute this to the glamorization of blond hair beauties (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Barbie). Even when my preference is for brunettes and she knows my favorite princess is Annebelle (Beauty and the Beast), she is still focused on the blond hair blue eyes.

Is this a first signal of worst things to come?

My neice (4 years old) likes to dance like Shakira and Paulina Rubio. This is very distrubing. At least my little one still likes to dance like a princess. I am concerned that the disney princesses are being sexualized too.

Posted by: FatherOfA3 | February 20, 2007 11:13 AM | Report abuse

I have a three year old daughter with brown, curly hair, natural highlights, and beautiful texture most women would kill for. However, she keeps asking for blond hair and blue eyes like the disney princesses. She likes to point out people with blond hair and blue eyes. I am afraid of her self-esteem being hurt because she does not like her brown hair and brown eyes. I mostly attribute this to the glamorization of blond hair beauties (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Barbie). Even when my preference is for brunettes and she knows my favorite princess is Annebelle (Beauty and the Beast), she is still focused on the blond hair blue eyes.

Is this a first signal of worst things to come?

My neice (4 years old) likes to dance like Shakira and Paulina Rubio. This is very distrubing. At least my little one still likes to dance like a princess. I am concerned that the disney princesses are being sexualized too.

Posted by: FatherOfA3 | February 20, 2007 11:15 AM | Report abuse


What are you posting here for when this subject is specifically addressed in today's entry?

Anyway, it sounds like she is beginning to pick up the sense that she would rather be someone else that she is not. (Coming from her mother?)

Just tell her that she can dye her hair when she is 15 (or whenever it's appropriate) and she can get blue eye contacts when she is 16. Tell her that you love her just like she is - that she is beautiful. Tell her she is your favorite princess. Then don't make it a big issue. Repeat as necessary and don't stress out about it. It will go away.

Posted by: charlie | February 20, 2007 5:49 PM | Report abuse

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