Every morning I used to struggle to brush my daughter’s teeth. The struggle is real, I could get past rest of the day, but brushing is the key. It kind of decides the tone of our day. I think about making it attractive, funny and even gentle, but that’s not always the case. I am not really sure if I am the only one who struggles with my kid’s brushing.
I’ve had really bad times and have felt like I have totally failed to understand why she doesn’t like to brush. Somehow it used to be one of the topics I have thought a lot about at this stage of growing up, from 4 to 5. She does it everyday, but not without me going from gentle to yelling to finally pleading her to do so.
With her schedule being, Waking up – 5 min struggle, brushing – 15 min struggle, bathing – 5 min, dressing up – 5 min, eating – 15 min. My goal is bring down the brushing to 5 min so that I could add the extra 10 min to eating before she starts to school. However, until now, I only wake her 10 min early to cope up with the timing.
I used to wonder if my mother ever had to go through so much struggle everyday. Not that I remember with brushing, though I was a slow eater. All I remember about my school days is wake up, brush teeth and only then do other things. However, we did it like robots, nothing much to think there.
I never realized that brushing was a tough thing to do until my daughter told me so. For a start, I really couldn’t understand what’s even there to struggle with brushing. After all, we hardly spend 2-3 minutes for it.
What with so many options for a toothpaste and brushes with every Disney character on it. Oh, that electric toothbrush, she rolls it just about everywhere except her teeth. What about massaging her hair with it?
I can complaint that there are just too many options nowadays. Anyway, it’s we who buy those because they really look awesome. However, the same me wonders sometimes if I must give her a neem stick and make her brush with it. Who knows, I might even try that someday.
I maybe wrong, but I have not heard parents complaining about brushing. Even though eating is more of a common problem, hardly people complain about brushing. I found it difficult to accept that I had a weird problem.
I became easily frustrated that I yelled and started dreading the brushing time. When I tried to shift this to my husband, they both made it look easy because they never used toothpaste. How great is that? This is better than not brushing at all, isn’t it.
It was not really working out especially my voice does not have a soft tone. Even though my husband has a base voice when he talks it’s polite unlike mine. Mine is more of a hard voice so talking soft sounds like talking firm. Imagine what talking firm feels like then.
Some time last week, I lost it after 10 minutes of lecture and finally banged the door to vent my frustration. I saw my daughter laughing while I was here struggling to find a way to make her brush. That was it.
I couldn’t take it anymore so I just walked out and sat near the stairs for a while. I really did not know how to handle this. Even though she did not call for me, I went back in. She was busy playing with water. When I looked at her, she looked so calm and sweet. Why on earth you don’t want to brush your teeth was the only question I wanted to ask her.
Instead I asked her why she laughed while I was venting my frustration. She answered without even thinking that she found it funny. I really did not know what to say. I was not upset nor angry, I just did not know what to think of it. On second thoughts, I wondered, if it was just like a rude kid who’s not getting what she wants? *Deeply wondering*
Maybe that was the problem, I wanted her to brush. I wanted this to be done for hygienic reasons. She said that I was forcing her to do this and that’s why she did not like it. I felt that was not fair.
Who has the time to tell 100 stories every morning so a 4-year-old can brush her teeth in leisure? Every morning is a busy morning and I couldn’t explain it every time to her.
Last week, out of frustration, I told her that I made a call to the dentist and he agreed to keep it simple. Let’s take all your teeth out, so we don’t have to brush ever again. That look on her face looked completely confused.
Some Solutions that Work
I love the methods suggested by so many websites. Trust me, I have tried many of those. I have told her stories every morning while brushing. Even her own stories as a toddler who loved to brush.
Oh, what about singing, ‘This is the way I brush my teeth’. I’ve mimicked some of her stuffed toys and also managed to bring them out before they got drenched. They all work.
I have also added the Opposites game. All I have to do is rant that goes like ‘Oh, my daughter does not brush her teeth at all’ so she does the opposite thing. And the other game is where I appreciate her that she brushes her teeth every day without my needing to push her. These work too.
What about telling all the benefits of brushing? What about waking her, bathing her and then brushing her. Same with waking her, brushing her and then bathing her. I have also brushed along with her. Routines changed over time to find what fits the bill. It’s just that there’s no one happily ever after that exists with anything. And, sometimes I don’t have the patience everyday to go with the flow.
I had difficult times and also made it difficult for my daughter. I have also made many wrong choices when it comes to handling the brushing problem. There was a point in time when I went overboard and made her brush the next instant.
This solution worked, but..
Me: I called up the doctor and he asked me to bring her to his clinic.
4-year-old: What for?
Me: What else, he suggested that if you’re not going to brush your teeth, he better remove them. Anyway they’ll become dirty and then fall, we’ll take it out before that. You can be happy without brushing your teeth and I don’t have to struggle with you every morning. He asked me to bring you in right away. Let’s go.
4-year-old: *After Deeply thinking* okay, I don’t like to brush my teeth, we will go.
Me: Are you sure? You won’t we able to eat much after that, forget about meat darling. And, we can never understand what you talk!
4-year-old: *concerned* Amma, are you sure I cannot eat much? Will I become like aaya (great-grandmother).
Me: Yes, mostly liquid food, porridge mainly. And, you must not tell later why did you not tell me all about it Amma. I’m telling right now everything I could think of. When you laugh, you will not have teeth, is it okay? Get ready, the doc appointment is in a short time.
4-year-old: Amma, I will brush my teeth now, you can cancel the appointment with the doctor.
Me: No Ammu, we will go. I don’t think you’re telling for real.
4-year-old: For real life, Amma. (Courtesy: Bluey) See, I am brushing my teeth. You call the doc and tell him that I am brushing my teeth.
Me: Okay, I’ll be back in a minute.
.. I felt bad
As I go out and talk loudly in the call, so she could listen. Oh yes, doctor, okay doctor, oh is it doctor. All that gimmicks and then I’m back. As she looks at me, I tell her that the doctor has given us an open appointment. What it means is that, whichever morning you’re struggling to brush or think that taking out teeth is better, we can just walk in and get it done.
Amma, I am not going to the dentist to remove my teeth anytime soon. Okay, sorted.
However, she became tired of this solution the next day. Even I felt it more like threatening her to do something. I didn’t want to do it ever again because I don’t want her to hate brushing forever. This could be more like a phase in not brushing, but she will get there soon.
Finally all I told her was she need not brush if she doesn’t feel like it. When I am considering it like one of the bad days and letting it go, she agreed to brush like nothing really happened.
One of my Learnings
After trying different methods, I understood something. Kids are smart unlike us, but we are wise. We need to unlearn a lot, first among it being the need to let go of perfection. I am not telling not brushing her teeth is right, but listening what she wants than what I want her to do.
Tell them what they need to hear, instead of what you want them to hear.My Learning
Don’t put the pick between your teeth, it still remains right there. Do you want to have teeth like a scary witch when you laugh? Keep the pick right there, oh don’t take it away. There, the pick just went back to the plate, in no time.
Brushing was not difficult before her 3rd year. Somehow it has become more of a struggle since she started school and since she knew it’s easy to get her way with her dad. That’s because she started questioning a lot and understanding a lot, above all, kids understand clearly who will come their way when they do what they want.
Photo Courtesy: Google Who doesn’t fall for those cuteness? My husband surely does! I try not to fall so end up going to the other end – anger.
Though sometimes it’s okay to be a meanie, which she agrees too, but not all times. Honestly, I have not scared her even by telling monster stories. She saw Halloween programmes for herself to know those scary stuff.
I need to agree like all of us, even children have selective hearing problem. Well, my daughter and I love to do a lot of things together, but learning to do a few other things together. This is purely writing down some real kid problems that we face as parents today.
Many might disagree, but then purely this is just what’s happening with me and my kid. Yours could be very different. This is just for laughter and little thinking.