Miriam first took her thumb at 3 months old and since then, we have tried to discourage her from it. We have tried various methods. Physical redirection, distraction, rewarding, yucky thumb coating, bandaging, traumatic association using a cattle prod (just kidding). We told her horror stories about braces, threatened to make her pay for her own orthodontia, got her earrings for a brief quitting episode. None of it was ultimately successful. Then she started losing her baby teeth and the sense of urgency started to rise. But still, no success.
Turns out what worked for us was plain old vanity.
Several months ago, I decided that I could not control her habit, and should just stop trying. It was causing all of us headache and no success in view. So I just told her, “Look, Miriam, it’s up to you, I can’t make you quit sucking your thumb, and I’m going to stop trying. Just don’t let me see or hear you do it because I think it’s disgusting and I might throw up on you.”
In my newly adopted spirit of non-coersion, I decided to lay out the information I had. A lot of times I think the kids should just listen to me because I’m smarter – but when I do remember to share information and let them in on the why’s behind my preferences, I am surprised with the level of rationality and maturity they possess. Why I keep being surprised, I don’t know. But anyway. I told Miriam that I was going to explain to her why I had been trying so hard and variously to get her to stop thumbsucking. I had mentioned things before like “braces hurt” and “it costs money” and “you could ruin your palate” but I think the point never really got across. I took the time to sit down and show her photos of thumbsucking induced dental malocclusion (thanks to google image search). She was horrified and motivated to quit immediately.
Since then has only slipped up a few times and only for a second. I didn’t want to announce the cure too soon, lest it be only a passing success, but it’s been more than four months now and she has kicked the habit completely, even in her sleep. Guess I should have led with “It’s just plain ugly!”
Here are links to some of the photos that offended her so.