Some kids just seem to get a kick out of creating a fuss. To such an extent that you can’t help but wonder if the best thing to do is let them win and give up for the night.
All well and good, but not exactly conducive with good oral health and hygiene.
When introducing toddlers and younger children to daily brushings, a certain amount of resistance is inevitable. After all, it’s hardly pleasant to have your mouth forced open and various weird and wonderful implements shoved into every corner of it by force.
You might understand the importance of good oral hygiene, but it’s a different story for kids who a) don’t really get it and b) don’t really care.
The problem being that the more forceful you become, the more resistance you can expect in return. Precisely why psychologists advise the following approach as an alternative:
- Stay calm
- Try to empathize with your child’s viewpoint
- Forget about the power struggle
- Focus on corporation
- Try to make it enjoyable
Good advice, but do you really have the time to transform every brushing into a deeply psychological experience?
Of course you don’t…and nor do you have to.
Instead, it’s simply a case of experimenting with a few tried and tested techniques for making things that little bit easier. Acknowledging the inevitability of resistance is the first step in the process, after which the rest isn’t quite as hard to handle.
Gauge your expectations accordingly, anticipate a little friction along the way and try your hand with the following:
Exit the Bathroom
If brushing has already become an issue, chances are your child will have associated the bathroom with unpleasantness. In which case, you may find it surprisingly effective to forget about the bathroom and expand the arena. See if you have more luck encouraging them to brush their teeth in the kitchen, in their bedroom or even outdoors (weather-permitting). For the time being, it really doesn’t matter where they do it, just as long as they do it. And that’s the single most important lesson you need to instil at this moment in time.
Choose a Kid-Friendly Toothpaste
If you expect your kids to get any enjoyment whatsoever out of minty toothpaste, you can forget about it. Minty flavours combined with a torrent of foam will simply make your kids want to gag and spit from start to finish. All of which adds up to an unpleasant experience they’ll do their best to avoid. Unfortunate and unnecessary, given the vast array of kid-friendly toothpastes on the market right now. Some of which have the kinds of delicious flavours they’ll actually look forward to. If in doubt, speak to your dentist or pharmacist for their expert recommendations.
Brush in Front of a Mirror
Every oral hygiene ‘lesson’ can be made all the more effective by letting your kids see exactly what they’re doing. Or better yet, see what bothof you are doing at the same time. Never underestimate the value and appeal of a simple mirror, which can make it far easier to encourage your kids to take an interest in their oral health and hygiene. Stand behind your child, provide them with a visual guide as to what they should be doing and lead by example.
Be Wary of Technology
There comes a time in the life of every child when a high-quality electric toothbrushshould be brought into the mix. However, bring in an electric toothbrush at the wrong time and you could end up frightening the living daylights out of them. There are some outstanding electric toothbrushes designed for kids available right now, which are as easy to use as they are entertaining. In the earliest days however, it’s a good idea to stick with a manual brush and keep things as simple and gentle as possible.
Make it a Positive Experience
Cleaning your teeth is never going to be particularly exciting. Nevertheless, you need to convince your kids it’s an absolute joy and something to look forward to. Even if it means going a little OTT and pretending to be ridiculously excited about the opportunity to give your mouth a good clean. The moment they begin seeing oral hygiene as a chore is the moment you’ll lose their interest and motivation. And try to remember that if your child is already in a relatively grumpy mood when they enter the bathroom, you can’t expect anything but a fight you’re unlikely to win.
Establish a Routine
Getting into some kind of daily routine can also be great for ensuring your kids know what to expect and when to expect it. Rather than springing things on them out of the blue, establish say 7pm and 8:30am as teeth-cleaning time for the whole family. Once again, the importance of leading by example cannot be overstated. If you instil some kind of healthy daily routine in your kids from the earliest possible age, the rest takes care of itself.
Don’t Be Afraid to Incentivise
Last but not least, rewarding your kids with some kind of incentive each time they brush their teeth isn’t a realistic option. Nevertheless, an occasional reward for a week, fortnight or month of fuss-free teeth-cleaning is something else entirely. Get a chart on the wall and stick a gold star in place each time your child gets the job done without kicking up a stink. Rather than punishing the odd tantrum here and there, focus instead on rewarding good behaviour and positive habits. After a while, they’ll begin associating cleaning their teeth with nothing but good things. All of which should make the whole thing much easier from then on.