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Thread: 4 year old with fingers constantly in mouth!

  1. #1

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    Default 4 year old with fingers constantly in mouth!

    My four year old DD has FINALLY been persuaded to give up her dummy at night. (yes, I know she's way too old for that. It was a long struggle.) Anyways, since then, she has CONSTANTLY got her fingers in her mouth! She bites her fingernails or something, I don't even know. But it REALLY bothers me, and I know it's not clean. She is a very high-strung, nervous child, and I can tell that it gets particularly bad if she is stressed about something. I try to just gently remind her to keep her fingers out of her mouth (lest I add to her stress!) but 2 seconds later, she's doing it again. We were using a public toilet the other day, and the sound of the toilets flushing makes her very afraid, and so she had her fingers in her mouth half of the time, and the other half, they were touching the toilet. I was soooooo grossed out! Needless to say, we washed hands thoroughly ASAP, but really, it was too late.
    So here's my question, should I keep on her about it, (gently of course) or get some of that nail-biter stuff that tastes so bitter to put on her hands, or just let it be for a little while until she is over not having a dummy. I don't want her to have to break a new bad habit in a little while, but I feel like she is such a nervous kid, if I take this away from her too, she'll be a wreck! (yes, I do have serious worries about her future!)
    Any thoughts?


  2. #2

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    Hmm, that's a toughie. I can see why you want to break the habit. It's a real shame she has anxiety issues poor thing. I guess if it were me I would do the gentle reminding each time - almost in passing to keep it low key. But you know your child best. The only other things I can think of are maybe substituting the sucking comfort for a feeling comfort (small taggie blanket or other textured material that she can feel, a necklace with a pendant or beads) and maybe looking into some natural calming medication like Brauer's Infant Calm or Rescue Remedy both of which you can get at chemists.
    That's all I've got, hope it all works out for the two of you.

  3. #3

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    Cricket, This is hard and I can see that you are pretty stressed out about it.

    My DD, (now 6) was a big time finger sucker. She never took a dummy (much to our distress) - and her fingers still go to her mouth when she is nervous or frightened....even when she is put on the spot.....imagine this.....she gets the Academic Award for her year level in 2007, and all the photos we have of her receiving her award had her with the award in one hand, and fingers in the mouth. We have just spent all our time telling her "Fingers out" - she has got better as she has become older (mostly because she started school, which helped her confidence).

    I am sure that your DD will grow out of it, as you are doing all the right things. If she is feeling anxious at the moment because you have got rid of the dummy - then it is reasonably understandable that she will be sucking fingers more often. Yes, it's a bit yukky, but if you are on top of washing hands frequently - then I believe it's ok. Yes, public toilets are yukky ..... maybe you could give her something to suck on whilst she is in there.....a lolly or something to reduce fingers in the mouth.....I know it's not nice to have anything in the mouth in the toilet - but a lolly is surely better than fingers.

    Good luck! and don't stress!

  4. #4

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    I have been thinking about this issue because DS is a major finger-sucker & I wonder what he will be like when he gets older... Anyway, most people seem to have found that their kids won't suck their fingers at school (because they realise it's not socially acceptable with the other kids). However, some still keep sucking their fingers at home (before/after school).

    I understand your concern about the grossness factor!! You could try some of the anti nail-biting stuff (eg. "Stop and Grow") which tastes really bad, so that the fingers won't seem so appealing. But you would need to give her an alternative for self-soothing as well (as Sacha suggests). The necklace would be an easy and portable solution (although you may find she puts those beads in her mouth too)??

  5. #5

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    Thanks so much for the replies ladies. I really hadn't considered replacing the fingers with something else. Great suggestion! Choosing something might be a bit of a challenge, but I'll see what I can come up with. The finger thing has really got to stop though, I think. I'm going to try some of the nail biting stuff, and see how we go with that. If it really seems to make her unable to cope, then we'll maybe have to reconsider, but I'm going to give it a shot anyways.
    I wonder if it would be wise to give her something to help her calm down. It seems like it might be a good solution. I am a little concerned though, with giving her a "medication" for stress at 4 years old! I am trying to teach her to manage her feelings, somewhat, ie. help her realize that she CAN settle down, that she CAN take some deep breaths, and say "i'm OK", and just not freak out about things that don't go her way. Do you think she would learn how to cope with her "panicky" feelings on her own if I give her that stuff? Or would she always depend on it? Maybe I'll ask around and see what options there are - maybe at the health food store, otherwise.

    If anyone has more ideas, especially for things for her to try to replace that comfort, I'd love to hear them!

  6. #6

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    Hi Cricket
    Both the Brauer's and the Rescue Remedy are natural and don't mask the anxiety like a drug, but help you to deal with stress a bit better. Definitely it is a good idea to talk to someone at a health shop and you will probably find both of these products in a large health store if you have one handy. Another idea for worrying fingers would be one of those squishy balls that you can get, filled with oozy stuff IYKWIM? I think she would be old enough for something like that to keep her hands busy.

  7. #7

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    Oh, and you've probably already done it, but just in case, I would google child anxiety and you may find tips on how to teach her to deal with things herself. The internet knows everything

  8. #8

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    Burn some Aromatherpy scents around the house, lavender oil in the clothes washing, lavender oil under her pillow case, and even sparying a little on your daughter. It worked for my friends daughter who had severe anxiety as a little one

    Aromatherapy Scents for Anxiety/Stress:

    Bergamot: Fresh scent with a mix of citrus and floral notes
    Lavender: Fresh sweet and floral scent.
    Patchouli: Pungent and rich woody smell.
    Ylang-Ylang: A mixture of floral, sweet, and fruity notes.
    Jasmine: A warm and exotic floral.
    Juniper Berry: Pungent sweet, crisp smell with fruity hints.
    Geranium: Fresh floral scent with sweet and fruity notes.
    Chamomile: Sweet and fruity.
    Hyssop: Fresh and fruity with woody and sweet notes.
    Clary Sage: Pungent earthy scent with a slight fruitiness.

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