Before you had children, chances are you barely thought about toothbrushing. Every morning you walked into the bathroom, picked up your toothbrush, put on toothpaste, and then brushed your teeth for two minutes. Before bedtime, you did the same thing. Simple, routine, and mindless.
Consider yourself lucky if your child walks into the bathroom and brushes her teeth without muss or fuss! More likely, you are having a nightly battle full of negotiations, clenched jaws, and wiggly small ones.
Many parents have found brushing teeth to be a moment of combat in their homes. From getting your small one to go into the bathroom, to getting a toothbrush past her lips, to spitting, it can be a stressful situation.
Let’s break it down, so that the days of your struggles for better oral hygiene can be behind you. Breaking the activity down into steps can make it feel much more manageable. For purposes of this article, I am separating it into four chunks:
The solution is to make going to the sink direct and fun. Walk over to your kiddo, stand right next him, and say, “I’ll race you to the bathroom” or “Let’s skip to the bathroom.” Then take his hand and head in the direction of the bathroom together. Being in contact means that you can prevent detours before they happen.
While you are getting the toothpaste, have her get the toothbrush. Turn the water on and let her wet the brush. You probably want to be the one to put on the toothpaste, as putting on just a small dab is an adult skill.
But making your child part of the process will keep her engaged and lead to independence.
Create a routine for this: Have him brush the top for the count of 5, and then the bottom for a count of 5. Then make it your turn, you count to 10 for the top, and then 10 for the bottom. Once the routine is set, you can increase the time to get their teeth super clean.
Get the fight out of toothbrushing by doing one chunk at a time. No more commenting on how hard it is or telling your kids they are wasting time. Follow one chunk at a time, stay positive in your language, and celebrate after each success. Happy brushing!
Dr. Marcie Beigel is the best-selling author of “Love Your Classroom Again” and “Love Your Family Again.” She is the founder of Behavior and Beyond, a company dedicated to behavior change. Visit DrMar
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