Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Sometimes, low-tech is the way to go. There might be all sorts of fancy, new-fangled tools out there, but then again, you might have what you need right at home. That old adage about necessity is the mother of all invention? It totally applies here. WTF am I talking about? Why, thumb sucking cessation, of course. Duh!

Nicholas sucks his thumb. Still. He's 5 1/2 yrs old. He's sucked his thumb since he was a
n infant. I even have an ultrasound picture of him in utero that shows him sucking his thumb. It was his destiny, I suppose. It's always been a major source of comfort for him. And as a sensitive, emotional child he needed it. In the beginning it was cute. What baby doesn't look adorable when they suck their thumbs? Plus, I preferred it over the dreaded pacifier. Except for the one glaring difference, that is: you can take away a pacifier but you can't take away a thumb. Lauren was a binky baby, but we pulled it from her when she was 16 mos old. Game over. Nicholas? Here we are nearing the end of his kindergarten year in school and he's still One With The Thumb. And Blankie. He has a special blanket that he sleeps with (green fleece he's holding in the picture on the right).

Initially, thumb sucking seemed to go hand-in-hand with Blankie. The two were tightly linked. So, around the age of 3-ish, I decided to limit Blankie to just his bed, hoping that he would maybe quit sucking his thumb if he no longer had Blankie around all the time. The plan backfired. Sure, Blankie now lived and breathed only in his bed - it no longer was a fixture when he watched cartoons or came in the car with us - but the connection to being with Blankie and triggering sucking his thumb didn't break - he STILL sucked his thumb even without being with his Blankie. Damn.

So fast forward a couple of years. We're constantly reminding Nicholas to not suck his thumb. "Thumb!" we'll say and he'll know to pull his thumb out of his mouth. He sucks unconsciously. He doesn't always even realize he's put his thumb in his mouth when he does it. In the car, watching TV, when he's tired or agitated - whenever. I've watched him and it doesn't seem like he really does it at school - hopefully it's because he's too busy and engaged to do it - but I'm sure that some of his pals have seen him do it. It's only a matter of time until he gets teased about it. Thankfully, Nicholas isn't an intense sucker. He's never raised a blister on his thumb, and his teeth don't seem to have been affected (at least that's what the dentist told me. He couldn't tell by looking at his teeth that he was a thumb-sucker. I had to tell HIM). But still - it's time for him to quit.

I bought that foul-tasting nail polish. We had a long talk about the need for him to stop sucking his thumb and he agreed to try. He was OK with me putting that polish on his thumb nail. He was on-board. The first night was ooooooo-kkaaayyyy. Not great, but better. He sort of got used to the bad taste. I noticed him trying to scrape it off with his teeth. He announced to me proudly the next morning that he'd "only sucked my thumb 3 times!" like this was a major accomplishment. Baby steps, I reminded myself. The 2nd night wasn't much better. He fussed a little bit more about putting the polish on. He said he'd try harder to not suck his thumb without the nasty polish. I knew I had to find another method or this would never work.

And so I lied to my child. That's right - I LIED TO HIM. I told him a story about the Olden Days when I was a little girl. You know, the Dark Ages. I told him how I used to suck my middle and ring fingers together (that part was true - I did suck my fingers) but that it was really, really, REALLY hard for me to stop. Just like him. So my mom and dad found a special glove for me to wear at bedtime that would stop me from sucking my fingers (not true). They even had to tape it onto my hand so I wouldn't pull it off when I was sleeping (not true). He was buying this BS hook, line and sinker so I was rolling with it. I asked him if he would be willing to try wearing a glove to bed to help him stop sucking. He said he would. So I went to the closet where we keep all of our winter gear and found a mitten. It a blue waterproof Gore-Tex type of mitten. We put in on and even taped it down with masking tape. He was giving it the College Try. We read stories and got tucked in. We snuggled with Blankie and gave hugs and kisses. Then a few minutes later I got called back up because the tape was bothering him. So I untaped the glove amid his promises to not take it off in his sleep, and left him there to come to terms with the fact that he's going to have to find a way to fall asleep all by himself without his thumb.

AND HE DID IT! NO CRYING, NO ORDEAL. Just a quiet, swift drifting into sweet slumber without his thumb. And that ridiculous glove stayed on his hand the whole night. He got up the next morning and saw that he'd NOT taken off the glove in his sleep and came running up to me to announce this big breakthrough. I was so proud of him! We had lots of hugs and high-fives and a visit to the Treat Bag (a silly little bag I keep full of little chocolates or toy cars or whatever I can find from time to time at the Dollar Store) as a reward. This was a Big Deal to be celebrated!

Last night, he did it again. We're on a roll here!

If he can go two whole weeks without sucking his thumb then he gets $10 to spend on a new toy or something. That's HUGE incentive for Nicholas. Bigger than the Treat Bag! And it's all because of a silly little lie of desperation and the lowest of low-tech solutions. No fancy gizmos here, no sir. A simple glove is working for us. And I couldn't be happier about it.

I sucked my thumb until I was 15. Consciously. At night. Guh.

Leah was 2.5 and was still sucking her index and middle finger, upside down, destroying her teeth. We put on a bandaid on her for 24 horus (she was scared to death of bandaids!) and that was it. No more sucking fingers.

The glove sounds like an awesome idea! I wish my parents had thought of that given I had 20 years of orthodontic work. Sigh.

Way to go, N!
What a brilliant idea!! I am so glad that this is working for Nicholas. He must be so proud (and you too). I admit, I was a thumb sucker, a SERIOUS thumb sucker. I had a callous on my thumb and loved it dearly. (Thankfully it had no lasting affect on my teeth. I never had braces and my teeth are so straight you would think I did.) About the time I was to start kindergarten, my parents decided they were on a mission. It was time to end this and so they too used some nasty tasting stuff. Didn't work, I sucked until it was gone. Next try, a bandaid with pepper sprinkled on it. Nope, it became soggy and wouldn't stay on. Then it became serious. It was the dreaded corner. Everytime I was caught sucking my thumb I had to stand in the corner. Now being the ultra-stubborn person that I am - who cared about a little corner time?? So when that didn't work, I got a spanking. Didn't take long to cure it with that kind of consequence. I am scarred for life, lol. Glad you have better ideas. What a great & creative Mom you are. My hat is off to you.
My daughter just turned 7 and stopped sucking her thumb about 2 months shy of this birthday! I was beginning to wonder if she would ever stop after we tried the icky nail polish, hotsauce, vinegar, bandaids, and taping socks over her hand at bedtime. Finally, she was ready to give it up when her 1st grade teacher told her that she couldn't go to 2nd grade if she still sucked her thumb. We helped her by putting on the bandaid once again, and she kept it on!! We gave little prizes for each day that she went without sucking her thumb. After a week we were done! Praise God! (She'll still have to wear braces, regardless of thumbsucking, though.)
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