Ugh! How do I brush without battling my kid?
The best answer is to start early. When your baby is born, start getting in his or her mouth with a washcloth – even before there are teeth! This sets a pattern of normalcy for them. If you didn’t do that, it’s not too late! There are several things you can try and you should try each of them over time because eventually, the one that worked will stop working.
Sing a Silly Song!
My favorite is to try singing and being really silly during brushing. Instead of singing a song with words, sing to the tune of a song with silly sounds that change the shape of the mouth. For example, we used to sing “Elmo’s World” or “The Eyes of Texas” with vowel sounds. “E” sounds are perfect for getting the outside of the upper teeth because they open up the cheeks. Don’t forget to stick out your tongue to the music and get the build-up off!
Who Goes First?
The songs will quit working. You may be able to go back to them periodically, but your child will start demanding more independence. This is when they may be willing to put the toothbrush in their mouth, but not if you are holding it. We’ve all been there, right? This is when you give them a choice of who goes first. You ask them, “Mommy/Daddy goes first, or you go first,” for example. This lets the child have some control, but you are still letting them know there are some things in life they don’t get a choice about. In this case, it is that the parent or caregiver gets in there EVERY time.
Choices, Choices, Choices…
Who goes first will stop working, too. At this point, I offer choices, similar to who goes first, but more. Start with having more than one toothbrush. Let the child choose which one you use and which one they use or however they want to run that part of the show. Another choice is toothpaste. Toothpastes have different favorite characters and colors that may entice them. They may want to use the same toothpaste you do, although most kids don’t like adult toothpaste flavors. Fluoridated toothpastes in the United States sold over the counter are all the same concentration, so it is safe to let them choose, just use sparingly!
Don’t Give Up!
Finally, don’t ever let them win and not brush. All that does is reinforce that pitching a fit will make you stop. Try to make it fun and positive and reward them with lots of hugs and kisses, read an extra bedtime book, a trip to the park, or anything other than food! If they fight you all the way through, do not apologize for getting it done. You are doing them a service by taking care of them and apologizing afterward is another reinforcement for negative behavior. Again, reward the good times, walk away from the bad (after you are done) and let them work through their anger. You are not hurting them, so don’t feel bad. Crying is their way of saying they are mad and they don’t like something because they don’t have the big words and logic we do. It isn’t very often that a toddler will say, “I really don’t like what you are doing and it makes me angry.” Ha!!!
Mix It Up!
This can be a vicious cycle, but you can do it! You must establish healthy patterns for your children and I hope you can do it the fun way! If you have any questions, we would love to see you at Blume Pediatric Dentistry! Call us at (210) 614-3334