5 Year Old Thumb Sucking

by Cris
(Miami, FL)

My 5 year old sucks his thumb non stop, he also licks everything.... and sucks on his clothing.

ie: the other day walking down the street he was licking the wall as he walked. Should I worry?

Ben's Answer:

While it is very common for kids to suck their thumbs as a natural way to soothe themselves starting in infancy, the wall-licking is a little more concerning. Most kids naturally quit thumb sucking by age 6-7, although some kids will continue, even through their teens, though they may hide it from their peers. As the adult teeth are coming in, constant thumb sucking may cause dental problems which may need later work to correct.

Although it is very common for young kids to suck fingers or thumb, it is important to try to determine what he is feeling - if he is anxious, worried or stressed by anything. The thumb sucking may be a way to deal with his nervous energy - like nail biting, chewing clothes, etc. This sort of behavior can also be a symptom of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD); OCD is a type of anxiety disorder that can be both psychological as well as neurological (having to do with the brain). There are good herbal supplements made for kids with OCD behavior, that are safe and can work quite well, while your MD might suggest medication. There are more and more studies now showing that certain psych meds may be risky, or actually dangerous for kids, so I would research that carefully first.

Licking objects, like walls may be another compulsive/nervous behavior. If he eats inedible things, dirt, sand, hair and other things, this would suggest a disorder called Pica. Pica usually resolves itself in time, but obviously is risky behavior (exposure to germs, lead paint, etc).

For any of the above issues, a child therapist would be very helpful to help sort it out. Therapy might alleviate much of this. There are also behavioral interventions you might try with or without the aid of a therapist, such as praising and rewarding NOT sucking his thumb (giving a gold star or sticker for example and then getting some treat when he gets enough stickers). And it is best to not focus too negatively on the unwanted behavior. Punishment is not a good option.

If he is willing to try to change this behavior, I would try EFT/Meridian Tapping. EFT is extremely helpful for anxiety and compulsive behavior. You can even try EFT "surrogately" on yourself - for him - a technique that is a bit hard to explain but it works in many cases.

Take Care,
Ben

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Jan 04, 2010
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Stop Thumb Sucking Early
by: Anonymous

It is best to stop thumb sucking as early as age 3 so the habit does not go on forever. If thumb sucking goes unchecked, it can lead to buck teeth and a changed palate (roof of the mouth). There is a great product kids love that is called Thumbuddy To Love that comes with a childrens story book, thumb puppet and sucess chart. You can get it on www.thumbuddytolove.com or on Amazon
Check it out!

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