Using the tools to help with tooth brushing
author By Emilie Leeks,

Lots of us have trouble with the day-to-day routines with our children - those jobs that we just need to get done, but our kids aren't always quite so on board!! This is a lovely story from a mother who used some of the Hand in Hand Parenting tools to help with the challenge of brushing her unwilling daughter's teeth!

My 3 year old has always hated brushing her teeth and this would result in a twice daily struggle between us with me getting more and more cross with her until, after a lot of tears and tantrums she would eventually brush her teeth. This felt even worse for me as I am mostly on my own for tooth brushing time, also my eldest daughter who I had parented in the same way never had these issues so I knew it couldn't be my fault!!!! Learning about stay listening and play listening made me realise that I needed to consider how my child felt about the situation and about how my behaviour was making the situation harder for her. I completely changed my approach and instead of telling her repeatedly that she 'had' to brush her teeth 'right now' I sat near her gently telling her that it was time to brush her teeth. I listened to her tears and frustration about this and patiently let her know that I was here for her but that she still needed to brush her teeth. I accepted that this might take a long time and this change of expectation from me completely changed how I felt about the situation, I was instantly calmer and waited until she felt ready to brush her teeth!

The next time I used a completely different approach, instead of getting annoyed I took a playful approach. I told her it was time to brush her teeth and I approached her with her toothbrush and pleaded with her not to open her mouth wide as I didn't want to get near the shark's mouth with my hand (she loves sharks!). She thought that this was really funny and came towards me with a wide mouth, I was then able to brush her teeth for a second before she bit down on her toothbrush. I quickly moved my hand and pleaded with her not to bite again. She again approached me with a wide mouth and again I could brush for a second or two before she bit again and I again reacted very dramatically pleading with her. This continued and I was able to brush her teeth without any tears or big upsets.

Over the last few months we have played many games and I have had to listen to her feelings around tooth brushing on a few occasions but I can't remember the last time that there were any issues around brushing her teeth or the last time I lost my temper about it. Now for the majority of the time she will just come to the bathroom and brush her teeth and on occasion will ask to play one of the games that we played!

For more creative ideas on helping with toothbrushing, you might like to have a look at these resources:

A word or two about Journeys in Parenting; a responsive parenting community

Emilie is a Hand in Hand Parenting instructor, and was a paediatric speech and language therapist in her former life. She provides support and coaching for parents via the Journeys in Parenting community. Emilie lives in Berkshire in the UK with her husband and 3 children.

Journeys in Parenting is a community group for parents, carers and parents-to-be, who want to find out more about parenting in a responsive and peaceful way. The community offers information, advice and emotional support for this hard work we do as parents. The vision of the group is to be a safe space, where parents are supported in guiding their families in ways which: are respectful to children; meet the parents' needs; and lead to a more peaceful planet for all.

To work one-to-one with Emilie , request a free 15-minute trial call here or visit the website for more details

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