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Curing a bad habit

(19 Posts)
Tabitha2 Fri 29-Nov-13 20:42:22

My 3 year old grandaughter sucks her thumb which is fine as a comfort when she is tired, but also has made her cheek sore by constantly touching and scratching the same place whilst thumb sucking. We have tried telling her not to do it, putting a coloured plaster on her finger, explaining she will have a scar if she continues and bribery, collecting pieces of coloured pasta in a jar each time she managed to go through an hour without scratching her face, when the pasta jar was full her mother bought her a Lego set - this last worked temporarily but she has now resumed worse than before. Any suggestions how to deal with this would be very much appreciated.

Grannyknot Fri 29-Nov-13 20:52:06

I also had a thumb-sucking daughter. How about putting a thick smear of Vaseline over the spot on her cheek that she rubs? Might put her off as different sensation/slippery, plus may aid the healing. Just a thought.

ninny Sat 30-Nov-13 08:51:48

Hi try putting bitter aloes on her thumb, or something else with an unpleasant taste.

Aka Sat 30-Nov-13 09:03:33

Try to limit the time that your GD sucks her thumb. Start of by saying she can only suck her thumb in the house, not in public. Then when that is embedded limit it to her bedroom. You could explain to her that this is a bed activity during nap time and at night.
It's a comfort thing so don't pull the rug out from her all at once. She will eventually give it up.

annodomini Sat 30-Nov-13 10:01:27

A relative of mine only stopped thumb-sucking when she went to University and another was still doing it when she went to school and as a result has sticking-out teeth.

Bellasnana Sat 30-Nov-13 10:13:30

My eldest daughter sucked her thumb until she got married aged 26! We tried everything to get her to stop, but to no avail. She didn't even object to the taste of stop-and-grow which was supposed to cure her of the habit sad

Gally Sat 30-Nov-13 10:14:12

I put bitter aloes on DD's finger nails but she just licked it off and asked me to put on some more because it tasted so good hmm. I sucked my thumb until I was 9 and despite a lumpy thumb for a while, I recovered to become a completely normal HB grin. DGD pulled her hair out in huge lumps as soon as it started to grow. We all despaired, but the trick was not to call attention to it and just accentuate the positives (one day you will have lovely long hair.....etc) By the time she was 4 she stopped of her own accord and now has lovely long blond hair. I suspect your GD will similarly stop of her own accord one day, although the cheek scratching is a problem; could she be persuaded to stroke her cheek with a ribbon or a lovely new, chosen by her, soft comforter toy instead of her finger nail?

Mishap Sat 30-Nov-13 11:08:22

I would ignore it and just use a bit of distraction. Drawing attention to it only makes it worse.

I always try to imagine if I had some sort of nervous tic or whatever and people kept commenting on it and trying to make me stop - I do not think they would succeed, but it might drive me nuts having them try!

Most children suck their thumbs at some time and it obviously serves an important function of comfort or whatever and we should leave them to it I think.

My children did this and now no longer do! - we never made an issue of it. My SIL still does and he is a successful happy man.

One of my DGS has a habit of licking his lower lip and in the winter it sometimes looks a bit sore. His parents sensibly take no notice of it and just offer him some cream for his sore lip if he wants - they never make the connection as to how it happens, or he will simply become uncomfortable.

I think what I am saying is that I do not think it is a "bad habit." It's just what children do. Sometimes the things they do - like climbing trees - lead to unfortunate consequences like bumps and bruises, but we do not regard these as a bad habits - just children being children.

Lona Sat 30-Nov-13 11:13:55

What about putting a kiddy plaster on her cheek instead of her finger, then she might just pick at the plaster.

Nelliemoser Sat 30-Nov-13 11:19:49

It is the skin picking and scratching that is the problem not the thumb sucking!
Keep her fingernails very short.
Try giving her a comfort cloth to hold, feel, twiddle with, instead of scratching?

My DD would pull her fingers along the small hem of her old soft piece of cot sheet. Even when she was older give her a tea towel and she would start pulling her fingers along the hem.

Both my children sucked fingers or thumbs and had comfort blankets until they were about ten.

Each in turn suddenly seem to decide they didn't need them any more and just stopped.

Tabitha2 Sat 30-Nov-13 12:31:49

It is the sore on her cheek that we are concerned about not the thumb sucking which I know is quite normal, my child sucked her thumb till she was at school. Thanks for all these suggestions, we will try some of them.

Mishap Sat 30-Nov-13 14:14:49

Sorry that I misunderstood there "Tabitha2."

It does sound similar to my DGS's sore lower lip where he licks it. He is doing himself damage, but we ignore the cause so as not to make him more conscious of it. We just go for treatment of the resulting soreness and play the whole thing down.

nanapug Sat 30-Nov-13 14:43:49

Please, please, please do not try to discourage her. I was nagged about my thumb sucking as a child, and as a consequence I still do it at the ripe old age of 64!! It was something I needed to do as a child, and the constant nagging just drew more attention to it and made me want it more. There is usually a reason for it; so please don't take that comfort away. If she is making her face sore it is not the end of the world. Just distract gently by getting her to do something fun or hand you something or get her to pick something up but don't mention horrid things like scarring etc. It will just have the opposite effect, and at 3 you can not expect her to understand that sort of thing. She is still a baby. I like the idea of putting some vasaline on her face but just say "this is to stop your little face being sore". You can probably tell from my rant that I feel very strongly about this. The comfort gained from sucking your thumb can not be understood by any one who doesn't do it. She will stop when she wants to x

HildaW Sat 30-Nov-13 15:23:44

I sucked my thumb for several years - no great harm done. Do not see it as a 'bad habit' its a comfort thing and children need that sometimes.
Distraction might help but to be honest a sort of tacit acceptance is better. No need to totally ignore it - that's like pretending there are no monsters under the bed - and when its no longer needed it will be dropped.
In many ways a thumb is better than a favourite toy that has to go everywhere - its a nightmare - if they get lost or forgotten on trips. Younger daughter had a thing for her baby quilt and it followed us around for many years getting smaller and greyer until I decided that it had 'fallen apart' in the wash. She did not believe me and I had to make a new one out of silky patchwork as a replacement which took me hours - taught me not to interfere!.

Sue162 Sat 30-Nov-13 15:30:31

Oooh nanapug! How lovely to hear that someone else still sucks their thumb (I am 69!!!!). I didn't realise until my husband told me that I still do, sometimes, in my sleep. I think it is important not to remove a source of comfort but I agree that making her face sore is a bit more of a problem. I used to scratch my eyebrow until it bled and can remember the weird comfort it gave me. I was a very stressed little girl and I wonder if this little one is having a difficult time at the moment? It might be worth just having a think as to why she might be feeling a bit insecure?

HildaW Sat 30-Nov-13 19:54:48

Just a though, my GS used to nibble at his top lip a bit but his Mum gave him his own little tin of Vaseline and gently encouraged him to dab a bit on at night and whenever it looked a bit sore - he soon saw it as something of a treat - his own little 'special' pot and it soon started to heal up.

nanapug Sat 30-Nov-13 21:28:21

Ha ha, Sue162, we are not alone!! Yes, I do it at night and don't intend stopping now ;) I had a bit of a difficult childhood so there may be a link. I really like your idea HildaW x

Iam64 Sun 01-Dec-13 10:04:36

Tabitha2, one of my daughter's had a sucking habit. When she was 4, our dentist gave me a book, I think it was called Danny Stops Sucking his Thumb. The dentist advised me to read it to her every night for a week, and tell her at the start of the week the plan was we'd read the book every night, and then she'd stop sucking her nightie/soft toy/fingers etc. I worked like a dream. I was amazed at how easy it was to break a well established comfort habit. When I returned the book to the dentist, he told me it worked every time.
I'll bet if you google, you can find a similar tale. The skin picking needs a stop put doesn't it. Good luck

harrigran Sun 01-Dec-13 13:32:29

DH has habits he has carried from childhood, he twists his hair and ties it in knots. Coming from a large family he says it was a self comforting habit confused At two it might be cute at knocking 70 it is irritating.