If you’re a parent, you have probably struggled with your kids over tooth brushing many, many times. My one-year-old shakes her head from side-to-side and wants no part of it while shouting, “OW-EEE!!” (which means “stop this” in her baby language.) Soon enough, she will learn that there is no choice in the matter, and we’re brushing her teeth each night whether she likes it or not.
Over time, she will surely grow to like brushing her teeth–but only if SHE is the one doing it. All my girls went through that stage. They would shout, “I DO IT!” while trying to pry your fingers from the toothbrush. Normally I’d make this deal: “Fine, you can start it, but Mommy has to finish for you.” If whining ensues, I’d say, “Okay, then just Mommy does it.” After considering these choices, of course they always choose option one where they are involved at least a little bit. (At some point along the way, I’ve decided that we become better parents when we figure out how to negotiate: “Okay, you have two choices: either you pick up your toys now, or you put away all these crayons and markers you took out. You’re in charge here on this one. Which do you pick? I’ll leave it up to you… I can’t wait to see what you choose…”) :)
Eventually the tooth brushing deal grows old, though. Around age 4, your children will probably try to convince you that they no longer need you to “finish” brushing their teeth: “I don’t need help anymore!! I’m a big kid now!” Well, they are certainly becoming more capable at that point, but they are probably not quite ready to do a GOOD job of cleaning their teeth.
My doctor gave me this tip once: until your children can demonstrate to you that they can tie their own shoes, they’re not ready to brush their own teeth.
Kids simply don’t have the dexterity yet to hit every tooth surface properly until they’re able to tie their shoes, and who wants to deal with cavities being filled as a result of poor dental care? (Not me! And not your kids, either!) I love this tip because it’s black and white. There’s no gray area whatsoever. And you can also blame the doctor or dentist: “Hey, it’s not my rule. The dentist is the one who said it works this way…” That point usually makes them give up and hand you the toothbrush. (Just like on an airplane when I say that the pilot says you HAVE to stay in your seat, and you HAVE to keep your seatbelt on–and don’t think I haven’t hit the call button more than once to have a flight attendant give that very information directly to my child! Works every time. No kid wants to upset a PILOT. They practically have SuperHero status!)
So the next time your kids start whining about being old enough to brush their own teeth, simply remind them of the shoe-tying rule, and put the argument to rest without another word. I wouldn’t be surprised if it encourages them to start working on tying their shoes, too! You’ll have shoe-tying, tooth-brushing, super-proud kids in no time! :)
This little friend just qualified for solo tooth brushing, and she’s pretty fired up about it!
I hope you enjoyed this Friday Fast Tip (delivered right on time on FRIDAY and everything this week!) :) Feel free to check back every Friday (unless I’m running late–happens often) for more quick tips and ideas!
What favorite parenting tips can you share?