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Does your child dread bath time even more than the family cat? From hair washing to teeth brushing, cutting nails and more, here are some tips for conquering common hygiene battles.

Aside from keeping up appearances and not offending others, practicing good hygiene is necessary for kids to keep themselves healthy and prevent the spread of common illnesses. Yet more often than not children will find hygiene routines an undesirable exercise, where clearly from the range of “no-more-tears” shampoos, funky toothbrushes, special soaps and other products designed to make bathroom time more tolerable, difficulty is expected and even predicted.

Preventing the Problem – To get your child to cooperate without a struggle:

  • Compromise on cleanup times and places. Try to make compromises with your child about issues like where you dress her (on the couch, standing up) or when you wash her hair.
  • Involve your child in the process. Ask her to bring you things she can carry and let her pick a favourite toy or towel so as to give her a feeling of control over the bath-time routine.
  • Prepare your child for the cleanup event. Give your child some warning before a bath, for example, to make the transition from playtime to bath-time less abrupt. Say, “When we finish this book, it will be time for your bath”, or “After breakfast, it’s time to brush our teeth”.
  • Develop a positive attitude. Your child will pick up on the dread in your voice if you announce bath-time like it’s a prison sentence. If you sound worried or anxious, you’re telling her it must be as terrible as she thought. Your attitude is contagious, so make it the one you want imitated.

Solving the Problem – What to do if things are already out of hand:

  • Remain calm and ignore the noise. A calm mood is vital when dealing with your upset child. If you don’t pay attention to the noise, she’ll learn that shouting and screaming has no power over you, which is what she wants when she’s resisting your efforts. Say to your self: “I know my child needs to wash her hair. If I don’t pay attention to her noise, I’ll get this done faster and more effectively.”
  • Have fun in the process. Distract your child by talking, playing, or singing. Say, “Let’s trim those nails and listen to the radio”, or “Let’s see who can brush teeth for the longest.”
  • Shower power. Maybe a bath sounds babyish to your growing child. Instead, you can install a kid-safe showerhead, for ages 3 and up, which is adjustable to your child’s height, has a gentler spray and fun animal shaped showerheads.
  • Encourage your child to help and give praise. Ask your child to wash her own tummy, rub on the soap, or open the shampoo to give her a feeling of participating in her personal hygiene. Even the slightest sign of cooperation is a signal for praise. Lather on the words of encouragement. The more your child gets attention for acting as you’d prefer, the more she’ll repeat the action to get your strokes. Say, “I really like how you put that shampoo on your hair,” or “That’s great that you can flush the toilet by yourself and wash your hands.” Thank your child for good behaviour or listening to you and tell her how intelligent she is.
  • Use a little bribery. Let your child know that when she’s done something you want her to do (take a bath, brush teeth, cut nails), she can do something she wants to do (read a story, play a game). Say, “When your bath is over, then we’ll have a story,” or, “When we’re finished, then you can play.”
  • Persist in the task at hand. Despite the kicking, screaming and yelling, be determined to finish the cleanup process. The more your child sees that yelling isn’t going to prevent you from washing away the dirt, the more she’ll begin to understand that you’ll get the job done faster if she takes the path of least resistance.
  • Compliment your child when you’re done. Tell your child how delightful she looks and smells. Ask her to go look in the mirror. This will remind her why she needs to have a bath or change her clothes. Learning to take pride in her appearance will help her make cleanliness a priority.

What not to do

  • Don’t demand cooperation. Just because you demand that your child must flush the toilet doesn’t mean that she will. Acting rough and tough only teaches your child that bullying tactics are the way to go.
  • Don’t make hygiene routines painful. Try to make necessary practices as comfortable as possible for your child. Provide towels she can use to wipe her eyes and make the bath temperature just right. Wrap her in a robe after you’re done, and so on.
  • Don’t avoid cleanup. Just because your child resists doesn’t mean you should back down. Resistance to cleanup can be overcome by persistence, practice and patience.

Tips for getting the basics right

Wash hands:
Hand washing is vital for preventing the spread of illnesses. Germs from coughing, rubbing the eyes, nose and mouth can be spread to other people by the hands.

  • Make it count. Using the proper technique is important when washing hands: Teach your child to first wet her hands thoroughly with warm water, then use enough soap to create a good lather and rub the hands vigorously for 20 seconds. Rinse, dry and turn off the tap with the towel.

Brush teeth:
Besides brushing in the morning and before bed, squeeze in a third brush mid-day after the afternoon snack. Anytime your child munches on sugary treats, they should brush within 20 minutes since bacteria can take their toll that quickly.

  • Lend a hand. Children under 6 don’t have the fine motor skills to brush or floss properly and you should assist their brushing at least hand over hand.
  • Get gadgets. Brush each row of teeth for at least a minute, for a total of 2 to 3 minutes brushing. Get a colourful egg timer or an hourglass sand timer. It will give your child something to focus on while they wait for the sand to run out or for the timer to go off.

In Conclusion
When you’re interacting with your child rather than simply telling her how to do something, show her how to do it properly and make the activity fun while at the same time purposeful. As with most things, it’s all about having the right attitude, where your child will probably be more receptive to what you have to say about personal hygiene if you encourage it by being a good role model yourself.

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