Have you ever had to hold down your child, pry open his mouth, and insert a tooth brush just to make sure your child’s teeth get clean? I have. And I have also seen how ineffective it is, especially when the child just bits down on the brush and stops any cleaning action.
Would you like a few ideas that may ease the battle over teeth brushing? Here are three Love and Logic ideas worth giving a try.
1 – Choices.
Teeth brushing can become a power struggle if we let it; especially since it deals with one of the two things that, as parents, we really can’t control – what goes into our child, or what comes out. So instead of entering into a power battle with our child, we may try just give the power to him through choices. Here is how it may look. “Billy, it’s time to brush our teeth. Do you want to use your Superman toothbrush or your Spiderman one? Would you like to use the red toothpaste or the blue toothpaste? Do you want to stand on the stool or just sit beside the sink?”
2 – Tell them what you will do instead of what they will do.
But what if they just say “no” when you give them all those choices you ask. No problem. We can just tell them what we will do. It may look something like this.
Mom: Do you want to use your Superman toothbrush or your Spiderman one?
Billy: I don’t want to brush my teeth!
Mom: Well Billy, that is an important decision that you will have to make. I just want you to know that I provide sweet things to kids who protect their teeth by brushing.
Then hope that he doesn’t brush! That’s right, hope that your child does not brush. The lesson will be much more effective if he goes a day or two without anything that contains sugar. Then when he complains and whines, we can respond empathetically, “I know it’s tough living life without sweets.”
If you really want the lesson to sink in take the whole family out for ice cream and while you hand it out you can say “Jane, let me see those white teeth… wow, they are so bright. Here is your ice cream. Now let’s see daddy’s teeth… wow, those are bright too. Here’s daddy’s ice cream.” Then when you get to you Billy you can say something like, “Gee, Billy, I would sure like to get you some ice cream. And I will make sure I do when I know you are protecting your teeth by brushing.”
3 – Modeling.
Finally, the best way for our kids to do those things that are good for them, but that aren’t necessarily fun, is to model the behavior with joy and excitement. This may sound something like dad waking to the bathroom saying loudly, “Well, before I go to work, I better make sure I brush all those sugar bugs off my teeth so I don’t get any cavities.” Or, “I sure want to take a treat with me to work so I better protect my teeth by brushing.” You can also model how fun it is when your child is watching. I have included a new video clip entitled “Making Teethbrushing Fun” to demonstrate this parenting technique.
Shiloh Lundahl, LCSW, is a child and family therapist in Gilbert and Mesa, Arizona. He is the founder of Parent Arizona and Counseling Services and is part of the Arizona Family Institute.
He provides parenting classes using the Love and Logic curriculum, classes for parents of children with ADHD, step-parenting classes, and advanced trainings for foster and adoptive parents. He also provides in-home therapy in Gilbert, Mesa, Queen Creek, San Tan Valley, Chandler, and Tempe, Arizona.