If you want your toddler to stop sucking their thumb, firstly, help your toddler want to stop. And offer a reward if they do.
Ask them if they want to stop the habit, and why it’s important to them. Often they just don’t want to seem like a baby. Explain to your toddler that it’s really hard to stop thumb sucking, but you’ll help them. Motivate your toddler by offering a reward if they can go a whole week without sucking their thumb. Like a special family outing or a cuddly toy or going to a soft play area. Something they’d really like.

Secondly, help them think of other ways to comfort and calm themselves.
Thumb sucking is really comforting. And if your toddler is going to break the habit they need to find other ways to help them relax and soothe themselves. Like cuddling a soft toy or cushion or stroking something soft.
For a short while, whenever they’re upset or tired, it’s good to give them extra cuddles and gently wrap your arms over theirs, so they don’t put their thumb in their mouth.
Often toddlers suck their thumb to fall asleep. So ask would wearing special gloves help them? Or putting some sticky plaster on the end of their thumb?
And if you feel a bit mean, remember WHY you’re helping them. Because of germs, to help them break a habit, and so their big teeth are more likely to grow straight.

And finally, notice when your toddler’s thumb is out of their mouth.
Telling your toddler to stop every time you notice them sucking their thumb doesn’t work. What’s really interesting is that commenting every time their thumb is out of their mouth in a friendly way is the most effective way to get them to stop. So when your toddler is tired, or upset or watching TV and they’re not sucking their thumb, smile and say: ‘Hey, Your thumb is out of your mouth.’
If they’re sucking their thumb, say nothing. But as soon as they take their thumb out of their mouth say: ‘You’ve remembered to take your thumb out of your mouth. You’re breaking a habit. And you’re really trying. That showed a lot of self-control.’
You may feel at first that it feels a bit false, but keep going. It will work eventually.
Remember when they do stop to give lots of praise for being so grown up and breaking the habit.
And help them feel really good about their achievement.

So the 3 tips to help your toddler stop sucking their thumb are

  1. Help your toddler want to stop. And offer a reward if they do.
  2. Help them think of other ways to comfort and calm themselves.
  3. And notice when your toddler’s thumb is out of their mouth.

If you found this useful, visit my website parent4success.com and sign up for my ‘Video Tips for Raising Toddlers,’ and you’ll get my latest video blogs sent straight to your inbox.

If you need more than three tips on this – or you’d like to discover the secrets you need to have happy well-behaved, children – please contact me by clicking here. You can arrange a free 20-minute (no obligation) chat to find out if working with me personally (by phone, Skype or face-to-face) would help you and your family. Contact Elizabeth

Time to tame your angry toddler.

child behavioural expert
The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

Need help now? Ready to explore whether investing in some tailor-made parenting sessions would be right for you and your family? Book your FREE 20-minute call with Elizabeth here