Thumb sucking behaviour and how to cope up with it


There have been times when parents have tried a lot of ways to make their kids stop sucking thumb once they turn 4. Not only from scolding kids to even punishing them for this kind of behaviour. Why can’t adults and children get rid of this habit?

Let’s talk about this behaviour and how to help children overcome it.

According to Freud, human developmental stages are known as psychosexual developmental stages. According to this theory, children satisfy their needs through certain stimuli and from age 0-2 satisfaction is derived through mouth. During this period, we have often seen kids putting anything in their mouth. According to Freud, if humans are fixated at this age, they tend to develop habits like nail-biting, alcoholism, smoking, thumb sucking, chewing gum etc. Fixation at a certain stage develops when some needs at a particular stage is unmet or over met. According to Freud, when someone goes back to an earlier stage of development to cope with their current stressors, it’s called age regression.

Another important fact about thumb sucking is that it acts as a pacifier. Many psychologists have pointed out that children suck their thumb to calm themselves that it is this behaviour gives them emotional comfort which they are not able to attain through external surroundings. Due to the satisfaction and comfort felt during sucking thumb turns into a habit and a child restore to it every time they want comfort. You might have noticed at times when we are scared or stressed out, we start biting nails or unknowingly keep biting pencil. Similarly, children when feel threatened, scared or stressed-out resort to thumb sucking to regulate emotions. Thumb sucking is a trauma response at times. This provides children with comfort, safety and security. This may become a habit and continue through adulthood, especially during times of distress. 

After experiencing a traumatic event, in order to self-soothe and feel safe, a person may resort to thumb-sucking, as it would help them cope with their trauma.

Post a traumatic experience, besides thumb sucking, they may also become hypervigilant, experience disturbance in sleep, and feelings of guilt, shame, or even anger. They could also experience flashbacks of the traumatic event.

How to help children to cope up?


ü  Use positive reinforcement instead of negative reinforcement. -i.e. use praise and appreciation instead of punishment.


ü  Offer alternative solutions to thumb-sucking.


ü  Seek professional- from a qualified mental health professional.


It's important that we teach and learn healthy coping skills to deal with stressful situations and seek professional help if and when needed.