Why do children suck their fingers? What can parents do to help prevent it?

2021.12.20

Many parents become worried when their child continues to suck their thumb (other fingers). Although it is an instinctive behavior, continuing the habit for a long time may affect your child’s teeth. In this article, we will explain the cause of finger sucking and what parents can do to help prevent it.

子どもの指しゃぶりの原因は? 親がしてあげられる対処法

Why do children suck their fingers?

Many infants suck their fingers. Although the cause varies from child to child, one theory is that it is because it makes children feel comfortable when they have something in their mouth.

The period from newborn to around one and a half years old is called the “oral period” because babies this age rely on their mom’s breasts and milk for nutrition, comfort and security. Therefore, having something in their mouths helps them feel secure and emotionally stable.

Most children naturally stop sucking their fingers during the oral stage (between the age of two and three) because they would rather use their fingers for playing and doing a variety of activities. They stop finger sucking as soon as they lose interest in it. This is why some experts believe that parents do not need to force their children to stop until after they are 3 years old.

However, there are some children who cannot stop sucking their fingers even at the age of four or five. The reasons for this vary, but in some cases it’s because they have nothing better to do, or because it calms them down. If you are concerned that your child is unable to stop sucking their fingers, please try the following tips.

How can parents help their child quit finger sucking?

Parents should be conscious of the fact that scolding your child will not help them get rid of the finger sucking habit. Instead, it is more effective to give them praise when they avoid sucking their fingers.

Praise your child for not sucking

When you see your child sucking his/her fingers, it is a good idea to calmly warn them to stop. On the other hand, when your child doesn’t suck his/her finger, praise them. Putting a sticker on the calendar for each day that your child does not suck his or her finger is a very effective way to visualize the results of their perseverance.

Read a picture book about finger sucking

One popular book about finger sucking is called “Yubi Tako”. In the story, the main character, a girl, sucks her finger which causes the “octopus” to start talking. The unique story may not get your child to stop finger sucking but it is a great way to get them to think about it.

Use items that have been successful in preventing finger sucking

“Anti-finger sucking cream” has been shown to help some children from sucking their fingers. The safe cream has a bitter taste when licked but is safe if swallowed. The bitter taste often helps reduce the number of times your child sucks his/her fingers moving them one step closer to graduation.

Finger sucking is a temporary habit that often goes away naturally as your child gets older. Holding your child’s hand, reading him/her a story and playing with him are all effective ways to prevent your child from sucking his/her finger.

When children gain more interests and become curious about the world around them, they are more likely to graduate from sucking their fingers. Therefore, sending your child to preschool and other classes is often effective.

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