“Help! My child hates brushing!” – Advanced tips

black father and son brushing teeth during morning procedure

This is a common concern that brings parents and their kids in for their first dental visit. In fact, it is one of the most commonly asked questions even on online forums. So if you are struggling, you certainly aren’t alone. Despite tips from magazines, you’ve tried bribing, you’ve tried singing but still no luck… Well, here are some other useful (less conventional) tips for your toddler!

Choices matter
Kids at a young age are learning to take control and seek autonomy. Give them an opportunity to take part in making choices. “Do you want the Baby shark toothbrush or the Paw Patrol one?” Bring him to the store to pick his choice of toothpaste. Buy a few. “Do you want to use the bubblegum or the grape toothpaste today?” Ultimately, the choice doesn’t matter, what matters is they made a choice.

“.. but why mom?”
“Why” is probably a child’s most used word (coming in 2nd after the word “No” of course). Kids are naturally curious. You are likely to enjoy better cooperation when kids understand why they have to brush, rather than going “Because I said so”! Never underestimate a child’s ability to comprehend. Explain the “WHY” behind toothbrushing (e.g. we got to get those sugar bugs off the teeth!) and use books to reinforce the idea. Our library has great books for free!

Avoid a mad rush
We all wish we had more hours in the day but chances are, you are in a mad rush ( especially in Singapore!) for the morning school drop off and in a similar frenzy to adhere to an early bedtime. When we are rushed for time, things tend to seem more challenging and naturally tempers start to flare. ( I’m not proud of it, but I’ve been there too, losing my cool even over brushing my child’s teeth! )

Need more time to coax your child to brush? Start your morning/ night routine 5-10 mins earlier as a buffer. If you are starting with a morning routine, and can only get a semi-thorough brushing for 1 min ? Hey! 1 min brushing is better than no brushing at all! Start somewhere and work your way up.

Routines work wonders
Children thrive on routines. Even when they’re tired out from the day’s activities and just not in the mood, knowing what’s going to happen, when and how really helps them to get through the process. Your child needs to brush at least twice a day, morning and at night. A suitable night routine could be a glass of milk, brush and bath followed by storytime and cuddles!

Let’s get silly!
Let’s face it, we love to make our kids laugh. Kids tend to respond positively to fun. (versus yelling!) When my child was younger, I used to make up silly stories or sing his favourite song during brushing. When he got older, we used to do the “food finding game” where we brush to “hunt” for bits of food. Go silly, be animated — “EEEEeeeeww!!! Noodles between your teeth. Wwhhhat! Broccoli hiding here!” “Oops sorry I brushed your nose!” Cue giggles. That bought me the extra minute to brush his teeth.

Use an authority figure to your advantage
All parent know this – we can tell our kids one thing a billion times to no avail. But all a teacher needs to do is say it once and it works like magic! Some children listen better to authority figures. Use that to help you – engage one to be on your team. It can be a teacher or even your dentist! I know I’ve been roped in numerous times. From toothbrushing to thumb sucking even to reducing screen time! It’s always worth a try.

At the end, some kids still struggle no matter what we try (yes, let’s be realistic here!). Thank goodness toothbrushing battles usually fade out after 3 years old. So do not worry. Keep calm and parent on!

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