How to Stop Kids from Sucking on Their Fingers and Thumbs

Natural habit from the day were born

Thoughts from a Mommy of five

I think the first thing we must learn about when searching for answers on how to stop our children from sucking their fingers and thumbs is to understand "why" children do this. Things that I have noticed over the years that have been happening when I caught my kids doing this annoying bad habit are:

  • Boredom- I noticed that when they were simply doing nothing or watching television they would stick a thumb or a finger in their mouth.
  • Stress/Anxiety- If there was something happening around the house out of the norm, arguments, another child getting into trouble
  • Trouble falling asleep- this is probably when it's the most hard to stop because we aren't always around at this time
  • Insecurity- when they don't feel good or when they want something from you or when they are afraid of something new

So, in my theory, if we can head off these things before fingers hit the mouth, then we will be able to perhaps "teach" them new ways of handling these situations.

  • Boredom- Suggest a new game,spend time with them, anything to get their minds active.
  • Stress/Anxiety- Never argue in front of your children. Never discipline another child in front of a sibling. Let them no it's okay to cry or vent their feelings.
  • Trouble falling asleep- Set a good bedtime routine. Rather it's bath time, reading them a story or letting them wear their favorite pajamas. Some suggest introducing a "blanky" or a favorite blanket, I feel this only creates another annoying habit though
  • Security- Teach them good self esteem. Teach them that change is good not always bad or scary. Learn patience with them yourself so that they don't feel insecure about coming to you with things that they are having trouble with

There's nothing to worry about really

There's really nothing to worry about until your child reaches the age of six years old, before then there is really no dangers in this annoying bad habit except for it being annoying to you. It's natural as a baby to do this as a calming effect.

Most children stop this on their own between the ages of two- four. After they reach six years old , then you should start worrying, but if you have practiced the above suggestions chances are they will have left this habit far behind them.

Listed below are the potential dangers of thumb/finger sucking:

  • Oral Development after the age of six: Proper mouth growth, teeth alignment & changes in the roof of the mouth
  • Sickness-This effects any age, transference of bacteria, germs and viruses into the mouth. This can be lessened by frequently washing their hands.
  • Increased difficulty in stopping the habit the older they get

Some home remedies placed on their fingers that people have suggested to me, though I've never tried them as it just seems plain cruel to me:

  • Listerine
  • Vinegar
  • Cinnamon
  • Hot curry
  • Hot pepper sauce

Most of these don't work depending on the age of the child because most will just wash it off or learn to adjust to the flavors.

There are commercially sold products to aid parent of this habit as well, but most involve placing it on the child's fingers as well.

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Comments 31 comments

jimmythejock profile image

jimmythejock 9 years ago from Scotland

Pacifiers are the most annoying thing ever invented, none of my children ever had them as babies and they never seemed to mind, just like pacifiers though children grow out of sucking on fingers eventually and start biting their nails instead, great informative hub thanks for sharing.....jimmy

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IĆ°unn 9 years ago

me <---nail biter and I still chew on my fingers too. nothing worked. :p I did develop a lasting love for hot food though. :)

Just Toyia profile image

Just Toyia 9 years ago from Tennessee Author

Yea, I've never had much of a problem with the thumb-sucking or the pacifier thing- of course my 2 month old could always be the first! :)~

Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 9 years ago from Georgia

I remember my parents bought something at the store for me.. It didn't work. I would suck around it. Ha... They gave up and I grew out of it.. I think it was a security thing.

Just Toyia profile image

Just Toyia 9 years ago from Tennessee Author

Yea, kids are gonna do it regardless - besides sometimes the more you try to stop them, the more of an interest they'll have in it-

Shanny 9 years ago

I always wondered why kids suck their thumbs! Now I know. Probably the same reason us adults chew our fingernails.

Just Toyia profile image

Just Toyia 9 years ago from Tennessee Author

ya know, you're probably right Shanny! or the reason some adults drink....etc.

djtphn1 profile image

djtphn1 9 years ago from Riverside County, California

From birth to 18 months of age, children are supposed to suck on their fingers, as they are in the oral stage of the developmental process and this is completely normal. Most will grow out of this, and I would not recommend doing anything to stop this during this stage as it will hinder their develpmental process. Sucking is the primary source of pleasure for babies at this time. Everything goes in the mouth. Sucking = food. If the babies needs are properly fulfilled during this time, they can move onto the next stage. If their needs are left unfulfilled, they will learn to mistrust others and this obviously is not good. If they don't grow out of it, it means there is something that occurred during this stage that hindered their development....just some good old Freudian thoughts.

Just Toyia profile image

Just Toyia 9 years ago from Tennessee Author

yea, did you read my article? I believe I said "This was a natural process from the day we are born"- right? and there's nothing to worry about until your child reaches the age of six??? and most stop on their own between the ages of two to four? I don't anyone was trying to stop a baby , the title says, "Kids" not babies- Thanks for your advice though to those that may be trying to stop babies from sucking their fingers.

djtphn1 profile image

djtphn1 9 years ago from Riverside County, California

Good point, thanks, I was not implying anything just merely explaining why they start this in the first part of their psychlogical development. No offense meant.

Just Toyia profile image

Just Toyia 9 years ago from Tennessee Author

No offense taken, I just thought maybe you had missed some of my points made originally-

Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 9 years ago from Georgia

Definitely agreed. Kids will do what they want if they set their minds to it. Plus, a parent wanting them not to do it, usually causes the kid to want to more...

My habit wasn't a natural one. When I was at a nursery, I saw a kid sucking their thumb, and apparently thought it was cool, so I worked at it until I figured it out. My parents even tried to help me because I'd always have it upside down. But, once I figured it out, it took a long time to stop.

djtphn1 profile image

djtphn1 9 years ago from Riverside County, California

I still suck mine, LOL! Just kidding. Thanks for responding.

caspar profile image

caspar 9 years ago from UK

I know you can get nasty tasting stuff to paint on nails to discourage nail biting. I agree it would be cruel to use this on a young child to stop thumb sucking, but maybe if they're five or six and really want to stop it might help. I'm thinking if they pop their thumb in their mouth often without thinking about it and are being teased by other kids for being a baby.

My daughter had a nail biting habit which she wanted to stop when she was 5. I suggested "nasty paint" it (she was quite willing). Next time she went to bite her nails she was so disgusted at the taste she cried. She said she would promise never bite them again if I promised never to put that the stuff on her nails again. It worked! (But I still felt like a cruel mother.)

Just Toyia profile image

Just Toyia 9 years ago from Tennessee Author

Caspar- Thanks for commenting, I think once they reach that age where they want to stop then that finger stuff is probaby your best bet! But I think sometimes parents try it at too young of an age, that to me seems kind of cruel. I think they should at least give em a chance to grow out of it.

Chana de Wolf profile image

Chana de Wolf 9 years ago from Portland, OR

I was a major thumb-sucker as a child. Most children have a preference for one thumb over the other, but I was so avid about it that I didn't care. If my parents told me to remove one thumb, I'd just stick the other in my mouth. That went on until I hit the age of seven and became very self-conscious because I realized that I was the only kid in school still exhibiting this behavior. At this point *I* wanted to stop, which made all the difference in the world.

For the most part, I was able to control myself during the day while awake and conscious, but nighttime was a different story. After months of non-success at keeping my thumb out of my mouth while asleep, I finally gave in and allowed my dentist to prescribe a hot pepper liquid, which I applied to both thumbs before bed each evening.

At first, the urge was so strong that I would suffer through the discomfort until I had removed the liquid entirely and could suck my thumb in peace. But eventually the combination of the spicy liquid and my own self-conscious will power allowed me to conquer the urge.

Just Toyia profile image

Just Toyia 9 years ago from Tennessee Author

I'm glad you made it through! Do you find you still have that same will power as an adult trying to break those habits?

Miz Molly profile image

Miz Molly 9 years ago from Australia

I found success with my youngest, most stubborn thumbsucker by sitting her down in front of the computer, and showing her photos of people (that I had googled) that had the most horrific buckled teeth. She was six at the time, and I was worried about her teeth - I could see one tooth starting to 'push forward'.

She was old enough for me to appeal to her vanity. It took a couple of weeks, with reminders of these scary photos, every time anyone saw her sucking her thumb. We also put bandaids on her thumbs everynight for about six or eight nights. It actually didn't take long for her to stop - and she was a defiant thimbsucker!

Just Toyia profile image

Just Toyia 9 years ago from Tennessee Author

HI Miz Molly- Thanks for stopping by- My brother-in-law told his daughter he would cut off her thumb if she didn't keep it out of her mouth..he was just kidding but was hoping she would stop, when she didn't, he cut the thumb off of her favorite doll ( we all thought he was horrible) but she did stop putting her thumb in her mouth

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Siren 8 years ago

Well I found that a handsanitizer tastes awful so i don't suck on them... but i am very weak will... so its killing me... really. The urge is a little difficult to overcome, but it just takes time right?

Just Toyia profile image

Just Toyia 8 years ago from Tennessee Author


Sounds like you have an "oral fixation" as you are obviously over "child" age....Pyschiatrists might be your answer...or take up smoking! whatever, quit messing with me !

Keesha 7 years ago

My 2 yr. old sucks her two pointy fingers and i have tried everything. Still looking for a cure... So if anybody has any pointers please let me know...

7 years ago

Actually, if it doesn't affect your health, and it doesn't for the majority of thumb suckers, thumb sucking is a great habit in that it's convenient, free, legal, useful, effective, doesn't interfer with the space of others (unlike, say, smoking) and more.

There's at least two sides to every opinion. Lots of adults suck their thumb but do so secretly because of biased opinions about what it actually means.

Heidi Wagg profile image

Heidi Wagg 7 years ago from Alberta, Canada

One of the things I regret, since becoming a parent, is encouraging my daughter to use the pacifier when she turned one. I did this because I was going back to work and wanted her to have a smooth transition, (blindly) thinking she'd easily kick the habit since she started a bit older. I couldn't have been more wrong. She's now 3 1/2 and seriously addicted. If it were her way, she'd suck that thing all day and night. We try to put rules and limitations with the soother, but are constantly facing power-struggles. I honestly feel like her soother addition is ruling our lives!

Amylia 7 years ago

My daughter suckz on her fingers when shes mad or tired or just bored. Its the middle and ring finger so she giving everyone the rockin rolls fingers all day. It drives me crazy because everyone says its going to mess up her teeth and shes gonna have speech problem but noone has a solution, They just say let them grow out of it. I not putting anything on her fingers cause what if she rubbes her eyes then her mouth will be burning and her eyes and shell be crying and in pain and it will end up worse then her just sucking on her fingers lol.. please someone help i don't know what to do.

OTmommy profile image

OTmommy 7 years ago from Southern USA

I may need to use this useful information because my 16 month old son is a thumb sucker when he gets sleepy or over-whelmed. Hopefully, it will diminish as he gets older.

graceth0mas profile image

graceth0mas 7 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

Both my boys, Gavin (12) and Justin (7) are still thumb sucking. I don't want to force them to stop but I still try to tell them to try to sleep without doing sucking. I just hope I find a way before they reach puberty. Thanks for sharing your hub.

Isla 6 years ago

Yh well I'm 12 and I suck mine. It's not cool, I hate it but I can't stop. It's almost subconcious, I don't even notice if it is my mouth- I just find it there. The only thing that works is plasters- it doesn't feel right.... Any ideas? I have to stop!!

Ta Tiana 5 years ago

Put their finger in dog poop, then tell them to suck it. Warning: wait until they're old enough to understand what dog poop is! Once is done, enforce that if they put their fingers in there mouth again they will turn into dog poop! It worked for a friend of mine.

Brianna 5 years ago

This does not help at is so much more than that. it is so hard to quit. Trust Me!!!!!!

bri-utiful profile image

bri-utiful 4 years ago from Charleston, SC

I haven't read all the comments so I'm sorry if you've already answered something to this effect. My boyfriend's son doesn't bite his nails. He bites his fingers. He has stripped away layers of flesh from his fingers even causing them to bleed sometimes. They hurt but he keeps doing it anyway. We don't know what to do to get him to stop. Any ideas?

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