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My Son Sucked His Thumb Until He Was 10 and Here's What Happened

Photograph by Twenty20

When I had the exciting ultrasound telling me the sex of my third child, the picture was so clear I could literally see him sucking on his fingers in utero. I wondered if he would suck his fingers when he was born just as I had when I was kid—until second grade mind you. Truth be told, the only reason I stopped was because my dentist yelled at me and I was petrified for my next visit.

I remember telling my babysitter at the time how upset I was that I couldn't suck my fingers anymore because the dentist might yell at me again. She took me to her jewelry box which had brass handles and was overflowing with beads, dangly earrings and rings with large stones. Most of them were silver and I had my eye on one with a large piece of turquoise wrapped in a silver design. It was beautiful.

She told me if I stopped sucking my fingers in two weeks, the ring would be mine. Suddenly not sucking my fingers was so much easier—I really wanted that fine piece of jewelry. I managed to quit my habit in a week and never looked back. So the thought of having to deal with a potential thumb sucker didn't faze me.

When my son was born he was really fussy. I was prepared from the ultrasound image and was already armed with a pacifier since we all know tiny babies aren't coordinated enough to suck their fingers or thumb yet.

It worked and soothed him right away. As the months went by, he began trying so hard to get his fingers in his mouth. I would try to help him, I knew it was what he wanted. He started sucking on his hand before he was able to get the fingers in his mouth on his own. He did it so much his hand was chapped and raw. It didn't seem to bother him, but I asked his pediatrician about it to be sure. She said to let him do his thing, he was perfectly happy and healthy.

She also mentioned that me bringing it up so much might be fueling his need to put his fingers in his mouth.

As the years went by, the finger sucking didn't stop. When he entered kindergarten, I began to worry. What if he does it at school? What if the other kids make fun of him or the teacher tells him to stop and embarrasses him?

I had a talk with him about it and he didn't say much, but he told me he didn't want to suck his fingers in school and according to his teacher never did it. I thought his finger-sucking days would be coming to an end very shortly, but I was wrong.

He continued to do it and didn't stop until his 10th birthday.

When he was about seven, I became very concerned and started trying ways to get him to stop. I offered bribes, gifts, talked to him about germs and would constantly tell him he couldn't do it around people anymore—he was too old!

Honestly, it really bothered me.

I had a talk with his pediatrician again. I thought for sure I would walk out of her office with some great tools to break my sons habit. I was so frustrated the same tricks that got me to stop when I was a kid didn't work on him. Once again, she told me to let it be and that he would stop when he was ready.

She also mentioned that me bringing it up so much might be fueling his need to put his fingers in his mouth. So I stopped. But it was hard.

Another three years went by and I was beginning to lose hope, but I was determined not to make him feel ashamed.

Around age nine, he only sucked them at night in front of the TV or in his bed.

And then one day he came to me and said he was going to stop. He just didn't want to do it anymore. And that was the end of it.

I think sometimes we're so worried about what other people may think that even if it isn't harmful to anyone, we begin to fixate on it. I'm so glad I listened to his doctor and just let him ride out his habit.

He is now perfectly normal, his mouth and fingers are perfect and that is all that matters. So if you have a thumb or finger sucker and are feeling frustrated, know you are not alone, and it will all turn out just fine—they will stop when they are ready, but probably not a second before then.

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