It seems that in an instant, we go from admiring our baby’s chubby-cheeked, gummy-smile to a grin that’s filling up fast with tiny little pearly whites.
But as those little choppers start to sprout up, you’ll need to start taking care of those teeth and keeping them clean by brushing them.
When your child is small, you’ll have to do the brushing for him. As he gets bigger though, he’ll need to start doing it himself.
But what if every time you ask him to brush his teeth, you’re confronted with a tear-filled tantrum that results in you having to chase him around the house until you can grab him, pin him down and then give him a haphazard brushing that probably didn’t effectively clean his teeth?
If that’s the case, give these tips a try to help ease him into the world of teeth-brushing:
Give Your Toddler The Gift Of Choice
When children are given a choice (about pretty much anything ever), they always feel like they have control.
It’s a nice trick to put in your Mom-hat and it works especially well in this situation.
Take your child to the store with you. Buy some toothpaste or toothbrushes for you and your spouse and then pull out some children’s brushes from the shelves.
Gee, I wish they made toothbrushes this cool for Mommy! Which one would you rather have, the Paw Patrol one or the SpongeBob one?
By giving him a choice, he feels in control of the brushing. Plus, he’ll be excited about using it if it’s something he really likes.
Do this with the toothpaste too. Show him the children’s toothpaste and then let him choose which one he likes best. Be aware of flavors too.
For example, if your child always gags at grape-flavored things but loves strawberry flavors, be sure to get the flavor that your child likes or it will be a disaster.
Brush With Your Child
Children love to be just like us.
If your reluctant brusher sees you brushing, he’ll be more likely to follow suit.
You can incorporate it into your morning and evening rituals.
Maybe put on fun music as you brush, do a brushing teeth dance or even play a game of Simon says with teeth brushing.
You can also do a race to see who can finish brushing every tooth first.
If your child has any older siblings, enlist their help in inspiring your child to brush too.
The whole family can be in on it, which can make brushing fun for your child.
Stop Expecting Too Much
Hovering over your child and shouting, “You missed a spot! No! Brush harder! No, that’s too hard! Get between your teeth!” is not going to do anybody a bit of good.
You’ll only wind up upsetting your toddler more and making him dislike tooth-brushing even more than he already did.
It’s okay if he’s not the world’s best brusher now.
What’s important here is that he’s learning how to brush on his own, taking responsibility for his teeth and developing a good habit that he’ll use his whole life.
Find A Balance
Because at this stage in the game, your child will not be the best brusher, you probably worry about his teeth.
After all, how can you keep cavities and plaque from building up if you can’t even get the toothbrush into his mouth for more than 2 seconds at a time?
Find a proper balance between diet and brushing.
That means avoid sugary drinks and give only limited amounts of juice.
Try not to give sugary snacks and baked goods very often and make sure your child is eating more healthfully than not. This should offset any imbalance here.
Show Them Examples Of Bad Teeth
This is especially helpful if a relative has teeth that they didn’t take care of, but if you don’t know anyone personally who’d be willing to be made an example of, you can show them pictures of what happens when you don’t brush your teeth.
A movie that can show a good example of bad teeth is “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” where Jim Carrey’s character shows his bad set of tooth with bugs rolling around.
This can be use as a teachable moment to explain to your child what will happen when he does not brush his teeth properly or regularly.
In addition, you can even make up a story about someone you know who didn’t brush their teeth and wound up with a toothache.
Whatever you do, tell it in such a way that it doesn’t make your child fearful of the dentist or this tactic can backfire.
Offer Lots Of Praise
Remember, everything to kids seems like a much bigger deal than it does to us.
So when your child listens to you and brushes without resistance or starts making progress, make sure you acknowledge it with a robust round of praises.
Wow! Look how clean your teeth are now! You did such a great job! I am so proud of you!
Saying things like this will go a long way to helping reinforce the positive behavior you desire and building this important hygienic habit.
Get A Good Dentist
Just because your dentist does a good job on you doesn’t mean they are the right person to care for your child’s teeth.
Make sure your dentist is a pediatric dentist and if not, ask for a referral to one.
Pediatric dentists know how to work with kids, plus they take extra care to be even gentler than dentists that work on adults.
Sometimes, it takes motivation from an outside source.
The dentist can also show your child how to brush properly, give them a fun tour of the office, give them stickers and make them feel extra special for brushing.
When you have the right dentist, your child might be excited to go to the office for his next teeth cleaning.
If you give your child the tools to brush his teeth correctly along with your love and support, he will get it. He will stop resisting eventually.
It can be incredibly frustrating for us as parents when our children defy our wishes, but if we stay calm and let them know we’re there, they will soon stop fighting us on it and start to see this as a normal activity that is part of everyone’s daily routine.