Children and their habits: thumb-sucking

How to deal with a child who continues to suck their t-shirts when they should have outgrown this behaviour.

Dear Diane, My seven-year-old son has a strange habit of chewing his T-shirts. He does it until they are wet right through and starting to get holes. I try and stop

him, but as soon as he’s on his own, he starts doing it again. It’s got to the stage where I can’t keep buying new clothes. And if we’re going somewhere nice and

I put him in a smart T-shirt, by the end of the day it has been ruined. Should I be worried about this behaviour?

Val, Rotorua.

Dear Val, Your son isn’t the only one who is busy sucking till he makes holes in his clothes.  There are a number of children who don’t outgrow this sort of behaviour at an age we would consider appropriate. Also, a lot of children suck their thumbs or fingers – even more so when anxious or tired. It is worth bearing in mind that many grown-ups like to suck their drinks through straws and that there is a major market in drink bottles that it is apparently socially acceptable for grown-ups to suck from.

All this, while they consider their children too old to still have a bottle! I would recommend you cease trying to stop your seven-year-old from sucking and have faith that he will eventually outgrow the need. In the meantime, try and find ways of letting him meet his sucking needs without wrecking his clothing.

Some parents find that a necklace enables their children to chew and suck. The idea that appeals to me most is the “backwards scarf” worn cowboy style. If you Google the words “Kids dribble bandana”, you can find lots of products – he would probably appreciate one in camouflage fabric – so that he can meet his sucking needs while keeping his clothing dry and hole-free.

Diane Levy provides expert answers to your parenting queries. Send your questions to: [email protected]

Diane’s parenting books are available in book shops.

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