How often do I hear parents asking me what to do with children who won’t co-operate to clean their teeth? Frequently! It’s certainly up there with fussy eaters, delaying bedtime, not getting dressed... Teeth cleaning needs to be done daily, and it’s best to explain it to your toddler or child that just as they have a bath everyday, they also need to clean their teeth to get all the old food and dirt off them.
As a parent you just need to make it part of their night time routine for it to be successful. Start with a chart, now this can be fancy and done on a computer with wonderful graphics or it can be handrawn on a coloured piece of paper. Write down in order the steps that are part of their bedtime routine, dinner, bath, pj’s, clean teeth, toilet, story, bedtime be sure to include pictures rather than words.
Next step: do not chase a toddler who is trying to run away! NEVER... as they simply think that this is a great game and do it longer every single night. Instead if you need to motivate them start at the top of the hallway and say ‘Daddy with chase you to the bathroom, ready, set, go!’. Only ever do this ONCE each night, because after squeals of delight you will here that inevitable ‘do it again daddy, do it again’. DON’T. ‘Only once’ will be your reply.
Now once you get to the bathroom, forget trying to rush your child, avoid getting annoyed, or hassling them to hurry up. Instead focus on what they are doing that you want, yes you may have to wait until you get what you want, there may be ballet dancing around the bathroom, chatting about what happened at kindy, everything except picking up the toothbrush and putting on the toothpaste. Simply wait and look at the floor. Once your child picks up the toothbrush, say ‘good to see you’ve made a start you’ve picked up your toothbrush’ and add a smile. They will pick up the toothpaste really fast then. Make another comment on what they have done that you are looking for. Keep going, praise what you want, and take no notice of what you don’t want. If you are really desperate you can remind them that story time starts after a proper toothbrushing or you can simply walk away down the hallway and say casually as you leave ‘let me know when your ready to start’ having you the audience leave is the last thing that they want. Before you know it they will be calling you back. Back you go with your patience and once again praise any effort to cooperate. Be sure to time the 2 minutes of teeth cleaning and do a part check over with the toothbrush at the end.