My 2 1/2 year old sucks her thumb. In my mind, that’s fine. She can suck her thumb for about six more months before I’ll even consider trying to get her to stop doing it in public or anything like that. Maybe because I know there’s no way I’ll really be able to make her do (or not do) anything. However, my husband has decided he’s ready to take this on. A few weeks ago he started telling her about germs and saying, “Yucky. Our fingers are dirty. We don’t want them in our mouth.” At church if he’s holding her on his lap he moves her thumb from her mouth and makes grimace. She usually tries to comply while she’s with him. But when he’s not around, she often explains to me that her thumb is not dirty and after close examination she pops it right into her mouth.
Yesterday we dropped dad off at work and as he got out of the car he said, “Have a good day. Remember not to suck your thumb.” My daughter smiled up, “Okay daddy.”
Later as I tucked her in for an afternoon nap I stood next to the bed asking if she wanted some music on or the fan. She seemed impatient, answering, “No. No.” Then she looked at me with exasperation and said, “Go away and I’ll suck my thumb.”
I laughed initially as I walked away. But it’s been food for thought too. My little one has used this behavior as a comfort since birth, and maybe even before. Now she’s being told that it’s yucky. She formed the habit with no interference and now she has to change it, not because she no longer needs the comfort it offers, but because her dad decided it’s time. (I believe one of his primary motivations is a hope to prevent further orthodontia. IMO the damage is probably already done.) She does want to please her dad, so when he’s around or watching she makes an effort. But when it comes right down to it, she’d rather have the comfort of the familiar. The things her dad knows and what he’s hoping to save her from don’t make sense to her.
I’m not asserting that thumb sucking is as damaging as some of the habits that I have, but the connection of her behavior to mine has stood out clearly. My Father knows things, he tries to teach me and warn me and encourage me. And sometimes, especially when I feel like he’s looking I try really hard, but other times I feel like my daughter, “Go away, so I can choose the comfortable. The thing you’re asking me to do is too hard and I don’t understand.”
So, I’m working on how to do better. And maybe as I figure it out, I’ll know how to help my girl stop sucking her thumb . . . in six months or so.