Doing the Right Thing

My little thumb sucker

Sometimes doing the right thing also means doing the hard thing. This is especially true when you are a parent raising children. Teaching our kids the difference between right and wrong is so important. Doing what you know is right in the long run can be hard to explain to a child when they can’t see past tomorrow.

For a couple of years now, my husband and I have known that we need to do something to help our youngest daughter stop sucking her thumb. She is the only one of our four daughters who has had this habit. My husband and I were both thumb suckers as children, so we both know how comforting it is and we also how hard of a habit it is to break. We both also wanted her to quit before she lost her two top teeth to avoid her permanent teeth from growing in crooked.

We have been putting off this task for two reasons:

1) We know how much comfort and soothing it gives her.
2) We really thought (hoped) she would outgrow it and stop this on her own.

Do your kids have a bad habit that needs to be stopped so no future damage will be had? Maybe it’s thumb sucking, nail biting, using a pacifier, picking their nose, licking their lips, or something else. These habits can also include back talking, being disrespectful, and general behavior problems that need to be corrected before becoming a bigger problem. I think we all deal with some sort of habit that we need to help our children break. This is not an easy thing to do, because we want our kids to be happy, yet we know if we do nothing to help them stop this habit, that they will experience more hardships in the future as a result.

Parenting is hard…
So is breaking a habit!

So last week, I began to research online as to the best way to help stop thumb sucking. I read a lot of different theories and I watched many videos with different philosophies and tactics. I decided to try one method that made sense. This strategy begins with night time thumb sucking: I had to put long socks on her arms, and then her sock-lined-arms were covered with long sleeved jammies. The socks and jammie top were safety pinned together at the elbow creases. The safety pins are placed there, so that if she goes to suck her thumb in the night, the cold safety pins will feel uncomfortable in her elbow creases. Also, this way the socks will stay on. This will train her on a subconscious level. She will not be able to take the socks off her arms, and she will not be able to suck her sock-covered thumbs.

Having a great attitude about kicking the habit!

Before we did this the first night, my sweet little girl began crying as I told her we needed to do this. She was so sad. It broke my heart. She’s been sucking her thumb since she was in my womb, and now I am taking that comfort away from her! I could have so easily told her, “Never mind, you go ahead and have your thumb tonight.”…but I knew I had to do what was right for her in the long run. I knew that this was the best thing for her, although it broke my heart to see her so sad and confused. She told me, “I don’t know why we have to do this!”

Have you ever had to do the right thing, even though it would be so much easier to do the easy thing? I think this is the hardest thing a parent has to do…because we want our kids to be happy and comfortable. Kids don’t understand long-term consequences. They only understand instant gratification. It is our job to help them along with this. Sometimes we have to be “The Bad Guy” to be “The Good Guy”.

Take Action: This week and moving forward, let’s do the right thing even if it is the hard thing. Let’s do it with loving kindness and grace. Let’s look to the overall good of the future instead of protecting in the name of instant gratification…for our children and for ourselves!

Because Together is Better,


  1. I was lucky with my kids that they were never thimb suckers – nor did they have pacifiers. I did think my youngest would never willingly stop breast feeding though lol. But she did – eventually.

  2. Wow. You just inspired me, big time. My son is six and still sucks his thumb. We kicked the habit a while back, and after a couple of months, he went back to it. I covered one thumb, and he eventually went for the other. His top teeth are now coming in. I need to do what is right!

  3. What a great post! I completely needed this today after a rough morning of time outs. Thank you!

  4. My daughter is only just under 6 months old – she likes to go to sleep in my arms, which she doesn’t do for daddy but she’s not a big dummy lover – her eldest big brother was 😉
    I agree, sometimes its more about breaking the parental habits than breaking the childhood ones 🙂

  5. Really good thoughts. This was important for us when our kids were young too, although they really weren’t thumbsuckers. They did have habits though, that we had to help them break. We have routines for bedtime that are now becoming habits. Trying to change things up. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I was a finger sucker – three fingers labeled vanilla, chocolate, strawberry. When I was about 6 my mother talked to me about getting grown up teeth and how I needed to let them grow without my fingers getting in the way. Amazingly, I then stopped. I am particularly grateful I was able to do so rather than have a control battle begin (there were huge food control issues, and I didn’t need one more).

    Good luck to you and your sweet daughter. I don’t like the sound of the nighttime sock routine, but I am not in the loop of current techniques and am not parenting a young child.

  7. I can so relate to this! I have a 6 year old who sucks her thumb and she has already lost both top teeth! Yikes! I try to remind her to take her thumb out when I see her sucking it, and she says “But I like it.”. I’ll have to try the sock idea. Thanks for the post! I enjoyed reading it.

  8. I can relate in many ways. I am trying to kick Joshua’s habit of asking for milk during the night. Many times this week he needed it 3 times to put himself back to sleep. Not only is milk bad to drink while laying down since it can cause cavities, but we need to teach him a better/different way to soothe himself back to sleep. It’s so hard! Last night I was able to tell him no the first time and said he needed to go to sleep without a drink. The next 2 times I caved and gave it to him so he wouldn’t cry during the night. Even the things that seem easy in parenting are actually harder for the parents to conquer!

  9. awww! how cute!

  10. This is far more better than playing with the navel, pulling and circling fingers on it until she get sleep. Kids have their own way of comforting themselves.

  11. I was sucking my thumb till I was eleven and never needed braces.
    I did it on my own and it never was a problem for anyone besides the fact that my parents didn’t like it.

    You may want to try a real large stuffed animal like a bear.

  12. It is so hard to not give in. Looks like you’re doing a great job!

  13. I always love reading your articles..

  14. It’s so hard to break away a comfort thing. I am currently trying to transition my 15mo into his own bed. It breaks my heart because he just wants to sleep with me, which I understand, because I can’t sleep when my husband isn’t in our bed. I’d love to cuddle my little guy forever, but I am so tired of getting kicked in the face all night. It’s a hard habit to break, but I’ve got to stick with it.
    Thanks for sharing your story.

  15. Thank you for sharing that you are not the only one. My 11 1/2 year old son still sucks his finger, openly. We have tried everything and yet to no avail. What a challenge!

  16. Great job at doing reseach to find a way to stop the habit. I was blessed and never had to go through this with my children, Kudos to you for doing the right thing as a parent!

  17. Great parenting lessons here. I was a habitual thumb sucker when I was a kid. My parents used an anti-thumb sucking flavor training to my thumb as a kid and it broke the habit quick. Not to joke around, but thumb sucking is a gateway drug for other bad habits

  18. It is so hard to do the “right” thing even when it feels like you are being the “bad” guy. I am lucky that my children never picked up thumb sucking or using a binkie/paci. I sucked my thumb as a child and remember how difficult it was for me to stop but once I kicked it I was fine. We live and learn.

    • Thank you for sharing Katrina! You are lucky that your children never needed to be weaned off of a bad habit. You can use this article for other areas in life though! -Deanna

  19. My son is 5.. and is going to be starting school in a few weeks.. Parenting can be difficult at times.. I love spending every moment teaching him between right and wrong.. then also exhausting at the same time haha!

  20. I have found that teaching teens to do the right thing is much harder than teaching young children. You are absolutely correct, the right thing and the easy thing are many times completely different.

    Great article.

    • Thank you Bradley! I agree that it hard to rope in a teen…that is why it is especially important to do the hard things when they are young! -Deanna

  21. We have had 2 out of our three children to suck their thumb. Our son stopped on his own.Our daughter had to get an appliance placed because we had literally exhausted all measures…but via patience and love our third has not sucked her thumb..we are so grateful for that

  22. thanks for the info I know lots of grand parents that will appreciate this

  23. Oh what a great article. I have been working on teaching my son, who is 9, this same thing about doing what is right and not what is easy. He is getting it. It really is such a foundational lesson. Sometimes even I want to do what is easy and not right!

  24. Great article, Deanna. Yes, we are not always popular as parents, but we are always loved in the long run. It can be so difficult to do the right thing for our children when it is so easy just to make their lives easier (instead of better). It is our “job” to train our children…always in a loving way. Kids know that we are doing what we do for their benefit.

    • That is so true…they crave guidance, structure, and boundaries. When they act like they do not…they are just testing the waters! -Deanna

  25. When I was in nursing school, one of my classmates sucked her thumb. She was 18 years old and proudly informed us that her aunt, age 32, still sucked her thumb. I thought… how sad!

  26. We don’t have an issue with the thumb sucking, but we have nail bitters..

  27. My daughter is a thumb sucker…we have tried so many diff things to get her to stop and non has worked. I hope it doesn’t cause her to get made fun of in kindergarten this year..that would break my heart!

    • Thank you Dana for your comment! Maybe you should try this, as it is working! It is just a mindless habit, once it is broken, it is broken! -Deanna

  28. Yes, I agree with you as a parent we are guides and mentors and then friends. I saw something yesterday on FB that said something to the effect : If your child hasn’t hated you, then you haven’t been a parent. There is a lot of truth in that because I sure hated my mother at times!

  29. I am so glad this worked for you. I did something similar (gee, it’s 26 years ago now) to break Lauren of waking up during the night. I let her cry, all night long. I warned my husband so he could figure out how (or where) he was going to sleep, and I stayed up all night (in another room) because I was a wreck, but she cried and cried and finally cried herself to sleep (remember, I knew she was OK). That was the one and only night she did that, and now she’s a an adult who is a great sleeper!

    • Tina, I remember those days also…letting them cry it out. It is so hard to see your babies be sad, but we know we are doing the best for them in the long run. Thank you for your story! -Deanna

  30. Yeah, it is general issue with kids. My niece is 13 yrs old and she is also fond of this.
    Thanks for sharing, this may help her.

  31. When I saw Quinn at bedtime this weekend, after just a very short time with the socks on at night, she had adjusted wonderfully!! No complaining, no tears, no questions…..she just accepted that it was part of her routine. That was such inspiration for me to witness how quickly our children can adapt to new things if we, as parents, enforce healthier behaviors. It may be difficult at the beginning, but after a short time, it is so worth it. Thanks D!!

    P.S. cute little Quinnee with the dark hair:)

  32. I would just like to add that after only a couple nights, she has been totally onboard! Her attitude has been unbelievably positive and understanding of the task at hand. I think this is a little reward to us parents for doing the right thing in the right (loving, caring, encouraging) manner, I could not be more proud of her and she knows it!
    Daddy G

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