Sucking their thumbs gives cheer to kids

THUMB-SUCKING is one of the first coordinated acts a baby can do that brings comfort and pleasure.

Pediatricians estimate that about 18percent of children between the ages of two and six years suck their thumbs.

Why do babies suck their thumbs?

According to the publication, Dictionary For Dads Father's Family Parenting Guide, many young children suck their thumbs, fingers or a pacifier because it gives them a sense of security, comforts them and gives them a way to contact and learn about the world around them.

Does thumb-sucking cause any problems?

Pediatrician Alan Netheling ays prolonged thumb-sucking may cause a child to develop dental problems.

"Thumb-sucking can cause a child's teeth to become improperly aligned or push the teeth outward."

Netheling says that this usually corrects itself when children stop sucking their thumbs. But he warns that the longer the habit continues, the more likely it is that orthodontic treatment will be needed to correct any resulting dental problems.

He warns that children may also develop speech problems, including mispronouncing their Ts and Ds, lisping, and thrusting out the tongue when talking.

Children who suck their thumbs may need treatment when they:

Continue to suck their thumb often or with great intensity after the age of four or five;

Develop dental or speech problems as a result of sucking their thumbs or fingers;

Feel embarrassed or are teased .

Tips on dealing with habitual thumb-suckers:

Don't make your children feel conscious when sucking their thumbs.

Don't nag your child to stop the habit.

Don't worry about it. Your children will pick up on your concern, which will in turn cause them to worry.

Try to distract children with a toy when they begin to suck their thumb. But do it as subtly as possible or they will catch on.

You can try bribing or rewarding an older child not to thumb-suck .

Corrective measures such as restraints, elbow mitts, bad-tasting substances painted on the fingers, and others, usually backfire. Pulling the child's thumb out of his mouth will only serve to make him rebel against this restraint and encourage him to continue the habit.

Encourage the child to give up the habit in a friendly, non-judgmental manner.

Give your child extra attention and observe if conflicts or anxiety provoke thumb-sucking. If so, help your child find more healthful ways to deal with stress.

Invite friends over that do not suck their thumbs for frequent play dates. Peer pressure is a powerful motivator and if your child surrounds himself with children who do not suck their thumbs, it will be easier for your child not to suck his.

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