Dear Dr. Billings: My husband and I are concerned about our youngest son. He turned four years old last week and still sucks his thumb. We've tried everything... cajoling, rewards, bitter tasting liquids on his thumb...nothing has helped. We are at our wit's end. Can you help us? -- Desperate in Denver.

Dear Desperate: First of all, let me say that I feel so fortunate that Mommy and I were blessed with a manly son, possessed of a little self-control. Unlike your little pansy of a boy, our Luther would have needed no reward, no urging to give up that ridiculous habit. He simply would have exerted a little willpower and licked that problem on his own, knowing full well he'd receive a good fanny blistering from me if he didn't. That said, I suspect it's far too late in the game to harbor any hopes that you and your husband could manage to instill any sort of manly pride in your son without some outside help. That momma's boy of yours is permanently damaged goods, I'm afraid, unless you put him in the hands of a professional. I'd suggest three or four years of military school for the lad, that'll straighten him right out.

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