Last month, I took my 4 year old to the dentist.
I was worried about this appointment because my son is a thumb sucker and knew that the dentist would tell me that it’s time to start breaking that habit.
I’ve heard so many stories about how hard it is for kids to stop and I hadn’t really taken the time to figure out how I wanted to handle it yet.
I thought that I’d talk to the dentist about the options and then decide from there how I would help my son break this habit.
Well…that’s not quite how things went down.
After I told the dentist that he was indeed a thumb sucker, he asked me if there was a comfort object like a blanket or stuffed animal that he used when he sucked his thumb.
I said “Yes, his blue blanket. He snuggles up to it and sucks his thumb when going to sleep or when he needs comfort.”
Then he turned away from me and towards my son and told him,
“Hey J, I talked to Santa and he needs you to send your blanket up to him for a few weeks so that he can use it to make new blankets for babies. You and your Mommy will need to package up your blanket and send it away when you get home. When Santa is done with it, he will send it back to you.”
He then told me that this is a great way to get my son to stop sucking his thumb and that I could not give the blanket back until he had completely stopped.
In that moment I felt a bit run over by him. Wasn’t it my job to help my son stop sucking his thumb? I wanted some time to think about it so I could come up with a plan. I was looking for options from him, but he just did it for me.
And let me say, I certainly wouldn’t take this route first.
My son LOVES his blue blanket. Other toys have come and gone, but this blanket has been there through it all. He’s held on to that blanket all 4 times he’s had to moved across the country. He’s loved on that blanket when his brother was born and I couldn’t love on him. That blanket has been there for scary doctor visits and every time he got his feelings hurt. That blanket is his most prized possession and provides him such comfort, and now the dentist was telling him to give it away.
It just didn’t sit right with me.
When we got back to the car, my son talked the whole way home about Blue Blanket and how he didn’t want to send it to Santa. He asked me what Santa would do with it once he got it and why he needed it in the first place. It didn’t make sense to him and he was trying to figure it all out. I could tell he was nervous about this new plan.
I can’t say that I answered his questions all that well in the car. My head was still spinning trying to figure out my next steps.
When we got home and was putting J down for a nap I decided to tell the truth.
I said something like, “J, I know you don’t want to send your blanket away. But here’s why the dentist asked you to do that.
“When you have Blue Blanket, you suck your thumb. The problem is that when you suck your thumb, you’re hurting your teeth, so the dentist wants you to stop. He thought that if you didn’t have Blue Blanket for a while you would stop sucking your thumb.
“So, here’s our new plan. You can keep Blue Blanket if you stop sucking your thumb. If you can’t stop, then we’ll put him away for a while. I’ll be paying attention to how much you suck your thumb and I’ll also be asking you about it. If you stop, then you get to keep Blue Blanket.”
He responded with, “Well ok, that makes sense. I’ll try to not suck my thumb anymore. I want to keep my blanket, I don’t want to send him to Santa.”
We talked a bit more about why thumb sucking is bad for his teeth and I answered all of his questions.
He was still concerned that he’d have to send it to Santa. So, we decided that if he couldn’t stop thumb sucking that we’d put his blanket on the top of his closet instead of sending it to Santa. This way he could still see it.
Our plan was made and we both felt better.
This was about one month ago, and his thumb sucking has dropped dramatically. He admits that he still does it sometimes, but that most nights he doesn’t do it anymore. My husband and I have not seen him suck his thumb since his dentist visit.
I guess that honesty really is the best policy…even with 4 year olds.
Update: There was quite the discussion about this post on my Facebook page. Click the link below to read the opinions and share your own!