Thumb Sucking in Children

One of the most important reflexes that children have from birth is the sucking reflex. Thumb sucking, which is considered normal in the first year after birth, is a behavior that children learn while in the womb.

Thumb sucking behavior may become common in some children over time. After their thumbs, they begin to suck their toes, toys, blankets.

Contrary to popular belief, the source of this behavior is not that the child is hungry. Sucking is a behavior that creates pleasure and provides psychological relaxation.

* Causes of finger sucking behavior:

It is seen that finger sucking behavior, which can be seen from birth, becomes more frequent around 1.5 years of age and continues until 3-4 years of age. As with other adaptation and behavioral problems, thumb sucking behavior may develop as a result of psychological problems and tensions. Situations such as tensions in the home environment, the birth of a new sibling, and the need for sucking are not sufficiently satisfied, which cause finger sucking behavior to be seen more frequently.

* When is thumb sucking called an adjustment and behavior disorder?

Finger sucking behavior, which is generally expected to decrease or even disappear around the age of 2, continues until the child starts school in some cases. Sometimes it is seen that this behavior continues during school time. If thumb sucking continues after the age of 2, it should be considered that it is likely to be seen as an adaptation and behavioral problem, and the underlying causes of the behavior should be investigated.

* Other behaviors seen in thumb sucking child:

Especially in children whose sucking needs are not sufficiently satisfied, behaviors such as ear-holding, head-shaking, and hair-twisting can be seen along with finger sucking behavior over time. Although thumb sucking behavior ends in some children, it can be seen that other behaviors continue.

* Mistakes made by parents:

  • rubbing cayenne pepper on finger

  • hit your hand

  • tying hands

  • stick a needle

  • Saying “shame” is “sin”

  • Rebuke

  • To make fun of

  • constantly warn

These mistakes made in order to eliminate the thumb-sucking behavior cause the behavior to be reinforced rather than its disappearance, and the situations that cause anxiety in the child, and the adaptation and behavior problems increase.

* What can be done to eliminate finger sucking behavior?

  • First of all, the causes of thumb sucking behavior and whether there is an anxiety-provoking event in the child should be investigated. As with other adaptation and behavior problems, thumb sucking continues unless the root cause is eliminated.

  • The child’s need for sucking should be adequately met with both the mother’s breast and the use of pacifiers and bottles. The close and warm relationship that will be established between mother and child during feeding will meet the emotional needs of the child as well as the need for sucking.

  • The fact that sucking gives pleasure and that this behavior is normal up to the age of 2 should be accepted.

  • The above-mentioned erroneous behaviors should not be exhibited, and the child should not be intimidated with incorrect ideas.

  • It should be stated in a calm language that this behavior is not pleasant and should be encouraged to try to quit.

  • The appropriate time should be chosen to discourage the habit. A child’s illness or the arrival of a new sibling are not good times to discourage the habit.

  • With the chart method, the times when he does not suck his finger can be marked, and when the desired goal is achieved, he can be rewarded with something he likes.

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