Dad Advice: How to Get Kids to Brush Their Teeth
Dad Advice is a collection of fatherly hacks and parenting ideas that we decide have the potential to be useful to our readers. We like to tackle parenting topics that we’ve personally dealt with in our home and - through trial and error (lots of error) - have developed a system that has worked for us. If you have a parenting question or a topic you’d like a second opinion on, e-mail Ryan@DadSuggests.com.
Believe it or not, sometimes our kids (currently 6 and 2) don’t do what we’d like them to do. Occasionally, brushing teeth is one of those things we’d prefer that they did. And, through trial and error, I have developed a system that works for us. The secret?You must avoid frustration by focusing on imagination and fun. By divulging my top secret mind voodoo, I sincerely hope I can say I did my part to prevent a cavity in a mouth near you.
Attempt appealing to their reason - Haha! Good try, Dad. Might as well start somewhere though, right? Surprisingly, explaining about the potential to get holes in his teeth actually worked with our son sometimes.
Ditch the choo choo train - get creative - Just like with feeding a baby, sometimes the kids are into letting the train park at the station. Sometimes they’d prefer it was an airplane flying into the hangar. But, who are we kidding? Your kid has their mouth latched shut because that game gets boring fast. You’re going to have to step it up a notch. Set your imagination to overdrive. Perhaps the toothbrush is a special wizard’s wand and needs to cast a spell on all of the little townspeople in their mouth. Be fun. You get the idea.
Be very specific about the things you are finding in their mouth - This is where I began to find the most consistent success. “I need to find those brownies you ate!” “Oh! I just found a carrot! Would you like to eat it again?” I also like to ask if they’d like me to find anything to share with the rest of the family. Brushing teeth can get weird. “Can we share this brownie I found with your brother?”
Find very strange things in their mouth - A powerful combination of strategies 2 and 3 - gamify brushing teeth and find weird things. Last week I decided I found snakes in my kids’ mouths. They really wanted me to get those out. But you need to be on your toes too, because once our 2-year-old wouldn’t even open up for the snakes. She was feeling grumpy and defiant. But once she found out there was a cat in there and we needed to rescue the cat from the snakes, she was game again. She loves this strategy so much she starts to volunteer her own ideas for animals that are in her mouth.
If our little one refuses to cooperate at toothbrushing time, she’s decided for whatever reason that she doesn’t want to do it. The idea of doing something she’s already decided she doesn’t want to do makes her grumpy. And fighting the grumps with more grumps is never a good idea. It’s our job to surprise away those grumps with enthusiastic creativity. Sometimes our daughter gets so into it, she wants to brush more animals out of her teeth long after they’re all clean.
Staying on your toes with new ideas is vitally important if you’re going to surprise away your kid’s grumps. Help us to collect more ideas for everyone reading and let us know your best strategy for getting your kids to brush their teeth (or anything else they’re resisting!) in the comments.