Concerned that your third grader won't part with his hopelessly tattered, but beloved, blanket?
Don't despair. Philadelphia researchers advise that once you get him to stop sucking his thumb, he won't care if you discreetly dispose of that favorite toy, sock or blanket.
That is the conclusion of a paper with a distinctly non-clinical title: "What Would Linus Do With His Blanket If His Thumb-sucking Were Treated?" published in the December issue of the American Journal of Diseases of Children. Patrick C. Friman, a psychologist at Children's Seashore House of Philadelphia, found that children over 5 who suck their thumbs and are concurrently attached to an object almost automatically lose interest in the latter when thumbsucking ceases.
Friman studied eight children, the oldest of whom was 12, for whom thumbsucking had become a problem -- subjecting them to potential dental problems, ridicule by peers, and tension with parents. He used a "horrible tasting" over-the-counter deterrent painted on the thumbnails plus a system of rewards in the form of special treats, such as toys. Each child, Friman said, had expressed a desire to stop.
Friman said that thumbsucking in children under 5 is harmless and should be ignored by parents. It should also be ignored in older children if it is only done while falling asleep or in the wake of emotional trauma, he added. "If it isn't causing any problems," he advised, "there's no sense being concerned about it."