Finger Sucking Days Are Over!

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Since she was a baby, my daughter, Tiana, has had the habit of sucking the middle and ring fingers on her left hand. For a long time, she had an ugly callus on her knuckles. Her favorite way to soothe herself and calm herself down was to put those two fingers in her mouth. It was beginning to affect her teeth and the frequency of finger sucking went beyond sleeping times. So, a few weeks ago, I had to play hard ball mommy and put an end to it.

There was one particular culprit that had to be rid off — a doll named “Aymo.” It was a blue hippopotamus that triggered the finger sucking response. She named it Aymo and she was so attached to it. “Where is Aymo?” “I want Aymo.” “Have you seen Aymo?” “Can you bring me Aymo?

Aymo was a big part of her life. She couldn’t fall asleep without him. But something had to be done about Aymo. Eventually, we hid the blue hippo high up in a closet.

The transition to this point had to be well thought through and I had to be resolute about the decision to stop her finger sucking. Everyone in the family and in our house was of the same mind and cooperated with the plan.

First, I talked to her about being a big girl. She really wanted to put on nail polish but I told her that she could not do so if she continued to suck her fingers. One time, I let her paint her nails but the deal was that we would tape her two fingers so she would not be able to suck them. Tiana agreed but by night time, she began to realize what that really meant. For the first two weeks, it was a challenge to help her break the habit. But we persisted.

I would hold her to sleep at night so she could have another form of security and comfort instead of Aymo and finger sucking. And I showed her how to hug a new doll, whom she named “Elmo.” As an added incentive, I told her she would get a new toy if she got through 5 days without sucking her fingers. She made it and got a purple pony – Princess Luna. On the second week, she went through withdrawal and wanted to give in but I continued to encourage her and pray with her. We would pray, “Dear Lord, please help Tiana to stop sucking her fingers. Please help her to sleep well even if she can’t suck her fingers…” I would continually tell her, “I know it is hard but mommy is going to help you. we will do this together. Jesus is going to help you, too.”

Well, I am happy to say that it has been almost 30 days since we put her on her no-more-sucking-fingers-program. She can put herself to bed without tape on her fingers or having me hold her to sleep. The calluses on her fingers are beginning to go away. And she is still her happy, sweet self, learning to live without Aymo in her life.

I thought I would write about this because I believe in being persistent when training a child. Certain bad habits cannot be ignored and need to be weeded out in a loving way. My brother-in-law and sister are both dentists and they told me that sucking her fingers would eventually affect her jaw and teeth.

So I reminded myself…this is for her greater good. I am writing down what worked for Tiana in case other moms out there have a child with a similar habit:

1. I set a goal together with her.
2. I got everyone in the home on board with the plan — Edric, her siblings and the house help.
3. I assured her that I was going to help her and take care of her.
4. We prayed together when she would start to cry or remember her fingers, inviting Jesus to be a part of her victory.
5. I provided alternatives to Aymo — getting to fall sleep beside mommy and another stuffed toy to hug.
6. There was an incentive — a new toy for each milestone. One time it was a toy pony, another time it was clothes.
7. We used a lot of positive affirmation. Everyone in the house affirmed her and encouraged her as she was going through her withdrawal stages.
8. We split up the habit-breaking into phases.

1st phase…medical tape with Aymo still around. Mommy putting Tiana to bed. Reward for persistence.

2nd phase…medical tape with no more Aymo, replaced by another stuffed toy. Mommy putting Tiana to bed. Reward for persistence.

3rd phase…no more tape, no need for stuffed toys (optional). Aymo hidden in the closet. No more need for mommy or rewards.

9. Consistency! There were times when I really felt her sorrow. She would express to me that it was very hard. But, I had to be consistent and fixated on the goal of liberating her from this habit, reminding myself to finish what we started for her greater good. And we did!

So far, so good. Finger-sucking days are over! And Tiana seems to have matured in a big way, too. Hooray!

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Comments

  1. Thank you for posting this Joy. This is so timely. We’re trying to help our daughter rid of her thumbsucking habit too. I especially love this part: We would pray, “Dear Lord, please help Tiana to stop sucking her fingers. Please help her to sleep well even if she can’t suck her fingers…” I would continually tell her, “I know it is hard but mommy is going to help you. we will do this together. Jesus is going to help you, too.” — We’ll try praying about it tonight.

  2. Thanks for this post, Joy. How old is Tiana? I am in the same boat with my little girl. She just turned 2 a few weeks ago so am not sure if it’s too early to apply the same techniques.

  3. karen bersalona says:

    hi ms. joy. thanks for this great blog. my daughter who is 1yr & 4months also sucks her middle and ring finger on her right hand. thank you for giving us this idea on how to get rid of finger sucking. maybe now we still can’t apply this ways to her but in due time maybe when she will turn 2 or 3 yrs. old or when she already understands why we have to stop her habit. thank you so much & God bless you & your family.

  4. My little girl (she just turned 3) also has a habit of sucking her index & middle finger during bedtime. I’ve been trying to correct her for a few months now, but to no avail. Thank you for your ideas on how to slowly stop this bad habit from persisting. May i ask how long the process took? (from the time you took aymo away, to the time you declared victory). Thank you again. God bless you and your entire family! I greatly enjoy reading your posts.

  5. I wonder if this apply to bad habit such as nose picking. I mean the medical tape and rewards by giving new things.

    • Joy T Mendoza says:

      Hmmm. I don’t know! I actually have to revive the putting on a bandage part because I caught her sucking her finger again! Ay!!! She rarely does it now, but I may have to do the whole “program” again.

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