Getting Teeth Brushed

By Wayne Russell

What sparked this post? A recent comment by a mum saying that some mothers and websites suggest the following solution when I child does not want to brush his/her teeth:

  • Go the the store and buy different flavored toothpastes, sometimes up to four different flavors.
  • Then ask your child at each brushing which flavor they would like to brush their teeth with: "Which toothpaste would you like to use tonight, very berry, fruit punch, strawberry or watermelon?"

This advice is flawed for a number or reasons:

  • It is a difficult solution. We have a hard enough time keeping our child's snack selection stocked. Worrying about whether we need to buy another tube of fruit punch toothpaste is ridiculous.
  • It could make your child more demanding. Will they want four different colored toothbrushes?
  • What if you loose their favorite flavor and then you have to convince them that strawberry is just as good as bubblegum? Are you going to send your spouse on an emergency store run for toothpaste?

Here are some things that have worked very well for our family:

  • When our daughter fusses about brushing her teeth, before or during teeth brushing, we say one of our favorite lines, "Only girls that brush their teeth get treats." It is an effective reminder that the reason we brush our teeth is to take care of them so that we can eat that small bowl of frozen yogurt once in a while.
  • We only have one toothpaste flavor at a time. If our daughter is with us at the store we will let her choose the flavor. The other day while at Target we were even able to convince her to choose the Little Bear toothpaste instead of the coveted My Little Pony one (Little Bear had 33% more toothpaste than My Little Pony and cost the same. Yes, we are probably too frugal!)
  • The only choice we sometimes give our daughter regarding brushing teeth is, "Do you want to brush your teeth first or your hair?"
  • During teeth brushing, we always encourage our daughter to be a helper by sitting/standing still. When she is being uncooperative (wiggling around or not keeping her mouth open) during brushing we say that simple phrase, "Only girls that brush their teeth get treats."
  • During our daughter's first dentist visit, her dentist encouraged us to introduce flossing. Our daughter now allows us to floss her teeth every evening before bed without any fuss. She has internalized that she needs to look after her teeth.

Make it a great day or not, the choice is yours!

Pick up a copy of any Love and Logic parenting resource. You will not be disappointed!  We enjoy this one.