Parenting is full of milestones, like your child first discovering the power of the word “no.” Trouble starts when they express their newfound independence regarding activities that they should do to protect their health and aid their development — such as brushing their teeth.
What can you do if your little one kicks up a fuss when you tell them to do their nightly duty? Here are nine smart ways to get your kids to brush their teeth without tantrums and tears.
1. Share the Science
Next to “no,” is your toddler’s favorite word, “why?” If you have an inquisitive little monkey, use the teachable moment to share some of the science behind why people brush their teeth. Your child probably isn’t too worried about their Alzheimer’s risk at age four, but they might not like the idea of tooth decay requiring more dental visits.
Tell your kids why it’s vital to brush at least twice a day. They don’t have to brush after every meal, as their saliva does a sufficient job of removing food particles. However, they must do so before bed when saliva production slows down — they shouldn’t sleep with a dirty mouth.
2. Make It an Event
How would you like it if your boss plopped an assignment on your desk, saying nothing but, “get this project done right now or else.” You probably wouldn’t like it much. Your child feels the same way when you order them into the bathroom, timer in hand.
Instead, change their mindset by making brushing your teeth a celebration. Announce, “It’s time to start our wind-down ritual,” as an event to look forward to, like a birthday. Combine the chore with fun activities, like putting on their favorite comfy Elmo pajamas and fuzzy slippers and setting up their blanket fort for the night.
3. Provide Proper Tools
If your child doesn’t like their toothbrush, they’ll be more reluctant to get in the bathroom. Plus, the right model can help them do a more thorough job.
Little hands sometimes struggle to manipulate manual brushes. Consider investing in one of the best electric models for the toddler set. The rotating motion helps remove trapped particles around the gumline, even if your toddler hasn’t mastered the perfect 45-degree angle yet.
4. Including Floss and Rinse
While your children should brush at least twice daily, one job should include a complete floss and rinse. Ideally, do so before bedtime so that trapped particles don’t linger overnight, fostering bacterial growth.
Round, inexpensive floss can cut, and little fingers might struggle to manage tape. You can select flossing sticks that your toddler can handle more readily. Another option is a water flosser — such devices also help older family members whose arthritis makes manipulating string a challenge.
5. Choose a Yummy Flavor
Believe it or not, your child might not like mint. If they balk at the taste, why not try a kid-friendly flavor like bubble gum?
You can also use this chore to give them a sense of agency. Feeling like they control their destiny is vital to your child’s mental health. Why not offer them a choice of flavors — they can opt for zingy cinnamon or cool mint?
6. Tell a Funny Story
If your child still balks at brushing their teeth, why not add a storyline to get them to do the deed? One parent tells her little ones that they have animals hiding in their teeth — her kids need to hunt them all with their brushes.
You can also make it a contest if you have more than one kiddo. Tell them that you’ll award a prize to the contestant who does the best job of scrubbing away every “spot.” Perform a pretend inspection afterward and announce dual winners.
7. Enlist Cartoon Characters
Do your little ones love cartoons? It’s a rare kiddo who doesn’t.
If so, make YouTube your partner in getting your kids to brush their teeth. A quick search reveals hundreds of adorable animated videos, complete with songs, all intended to make the chore less burdensome. Choose your favorites — after all, you might end up with an earworm.
8. Set a Positive Example
You can lecture your child until judgment day about the importance of brushing their teeth. However, the most effective method to get them to do so might not take words at all.
Your little ones will imitate what you do far more than they listen to what you say. Let your kids see you complete your nightly hygiene routine. Make it a family affair by getting in the bathroom together.
9. Reward Your Little One
Ever since Pavlov experimented with dogs and dinner bells, scientists have known that people respond to promised rewards. It’s okay to give your little one an incentive for brushing their teeth.
You can tie the chore into their allowance by making it worth a dime or a quarter each time they complete the task without grumbling. Alternatively, trade for privileges — if your kiddo wants to stay up an extra half hour to watch their favorite podcast live, they must polish their pearlies first.
Get Your Kids to Brush Their Teeth These 9 Smart Ways
You don’t want tooth-brushing to lead to tantrums and tears. Get your kids to brush their teeth using these nine methods.