How to (gently) get your child to brush their teeth

child to brush their teeth

For most parents, the phrase “I don’t want to brush my teeth” is rather familiar. While it may seem easiest to pry their mouth open and force them to brush, research suggests there are better ways that may positively influence children’s future dental health.

So, what does the literature say you should do to help children brush their teeth?

What is gentle parenting?

Gentle parenting centres around respect for the child. Parents who practise this approach generally avoid artificial or extrinsic rewards or punishments.

child to brush their teeth

These parents try to help their children habituate appropriate, or what we would call “good”, behaviours. The idea is the child should want to do the “right” thing for its own sake, not because it’s accompanied by a reward or because of the threat of a punishment.

Studies suggest this method is effective because children will go on to have superior social skills and fewer behavioural problems. The effect is believed to continue into adulthood.

Contrary to popular belief, this style of parenting does not eschew “consequences”. Rather, consequences are allowed to flow naturally from behaviour. Although, in the case of dental hygiene, we can’t let the natural consequence of not brushing lead to caries. So, what can you do?

When should you start encouraging dental hygiene?

One of the ways to ensure children brush their teeth, without resorting to bribes or punishments, is to start early. Dentists suggest brushing baby’s first teeth when they appear, even wiping gums, may help establish good dental hygiene early.

By starting early with dental care, it will become an established part of life and may cause fewer power struggles.

Does routine help?

Routine is said to be essential in children’s lives. Studies suggest routine can positively impact on children habituating positive behaviours because of the repeated exposure.

Families who provide a loving and consistent structure are more likely to have children who brush their teeth. Studies suggest taking a gamification approach creates an environment of fun around the routine of toothbrushing, creating better long-term oral hygiene.

Common areas that cause problems with brushing

One common issue is toothpaste. Children report not liking the taste or it making them feel funny. If your child won’t use toothpaste, but is otherwise OK with brushing, dentists recommend making the paste optional.

There are also many other flavours on the market besides mint, which some children may prefer to use and which may reduce the issue with refusal to brush their teeth.

But changing the toothpaste may not be enough. Studies suggest children’s refusal to brush teeth can create major family dramas, and parents report tooth brushing as a major site of power struggles. But effective behaviour management leads to children with fewer caries and healthy mouths.

Practical measures

When children refuse to brush their teeth, we can employ respectful methods to encourage them to develop good dental hygiene. Dentists report positive parent-child interactions and the use of positive discipline can result in good teeth brushing behaviour.

One example is having a special song that is sung only when the child allows their parent to brush their teeth.

Another strategy is reading stories about teeth brushing so children understand the importance of good dental hygiene.

Some suggest allowing your child to carefully brush your teeth, and then you can have a turn at theirs. This approach gives the child power and allows them to explore their feelings about having their teeth brushed.

Making it a game is another strategy. Perhaps you and your child can have a competition to see who can make the most spit at the end or whether you can count all your teeth as you go. Another option is to let the child start by brushing their toy’s teeth.

Having our children learn to brush their teeth in a calm and gentle way, without threats or rewards, is essential, with one dentist suggesting dental phobia is a problem when children have negative experiences at the dentist because of early childhood caries. Dental phobia is a fear of the dentist that prevents people with dental issues seeking help from a dentist.

These strategies can help children who are resistant to brushing to engage positively with dental hygiene. This approach takes longer than prying their mouths open and forcing them to have their teeth brushed, because you’re asking your child to engage with something they’re resisting. But the value is they will habituate good dental hygiene practices and you can end power struggles over teeth brushing.The Conversation

About the Author:

Rebecca English is a Lecturer in Education at the Queensland University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Main image credit: Deposit Photos

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Postpartum Self Care: New Baby? How To Still Take Care Of Yourself

postpartum self care

The first 12 weeks are the toughest, they say. The learning curve was steep. My husband said that in the first week of our son’s life, he had learned more than in the past 10 years. I had to agree. But as we get to the end of those 12 weeks (and I listen to very loud and strange baby sleeping/groaning noises), I am feeling reflective. I want to reflect on the priorities I set out before the baby was born to look after myself, then the baby, then everyone else. Here is what I have observed about postpartum self care.

postpartum self care

There is no doubt that is hard to prioritise yourself when there is a newborn screaming to be fed. For example, this morning I wanted nothing more than to meet my friends and their babies for a swim and a chat. My son? He wanted nothing more than to feed for 1.5 hours and then sleep. That, was not the time for prioritising myself. But as I sat there with him, I planned what my self care would be once he fell asleep: tea and chocolate. It is small but it was enough.

The First 12 weeks of postpartum self care

So here are the top things I’ve learned about postpartum self care during those first 12 weeks.

Small is good

Aim for small. Focus on the small things that have a big impact for you e.g. 10 minutes of yoga while your partner has the baby, 5 minutes to drink a cup of tea with two hands, 5 minutes to have a dip in the pool. If you get more time, great, do more. But if you aim for small things that are likely to happen you don’t set yourself up for unrealistic expectations and resentment.

Housework will get done

Rather than sit with my tea, I was tempted to empty the dishwasher. I didn’t allow myself to do it. The dishwasher will eventually get emptied; this was my only window for tea. Priorities.

Take the toilet breaks when you get them

Feeding nearly constantly means that getting even two minutes to go to the bathroom at the time you need to might be a luxury. If you get a window, use it!

postnatal self care

Prioritise rest

To some people, it is ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ seems like wishful thinking (and it probably is if you have more than one child). I don’t sleep every time he sleeps. I listen to my body and decide whether I need sleep or something else to nourish me. But I always prioritise rest. Rest can be whatever you find restorative. Before I had a baby, I used to do this by saying, ‘two sessions; not three!’ This meant that if I did something in the morning and afternoon (two sessions), I rested in the evening (3rd session=rest). With a baby, for me, it’s more like ‘one session; not three!’ Find what works for you.

Get prepared

My son likes to feed (a lot!) which can mean hours on end looking at his little face with his eyes closed. He is happy and I enjoy watching him. To a point. Then, I get bored, thirsty, and hungry. I start prepping by putting things within a reaching distance: books, journals, computer, TV remotes, water, and food. It is a godsend.

Accept help

I wrote a whole post about this but I think it is so important that it needs repeating. Yesterday, I asked a stranger to help me get my purse out of my bag to pay for parking. I had a baby on boob, a baby carrier around my waist and a backpack on my back… yeah! Flustered (after nearly 2 hours of a screaming baby), my first reaction was to stop, put everything down, get my purse out, and hope there was $2 in there. In a split second, I thought of my word for the year ‘ask’ and realised there was an alternative. The stranger ended up paying the $2.

So, there you have it. I am amazed to say that postpartum self-care is possible with a newborn. I am not sure I believed it would be. But I think the core strand that runs through all of this is flexibility. I have tried not to compare what I used to do, to now. There is no comparison. I know that eventually I’ll get to go for a massage without worrying about the next feed. But in the meantime, tea, chocolate, and the odd bit of time to write is enough.

So, what can you do to prioritise yourself during pregnancy, and in those first 12 weeks, and beyond?

About the writer: Dr. Amanda McCullough from Not Just Mum

Amanda is a life coach, award-winning scientist, health professional and speaker at Not Just Mum. She coaches intelligent, brave and honest women through the transition from passionate career woman to motherhood and back again. A move to Australia in 2014, her two uteruses and expertise in behavior change and women’s leadership led her to create Not Just Mum where she offers workshops, one-to-one consults and coaching series to support women to maintain their sanity and identity in this challenging and joy-filled time of life.

Find Amanda on her website, on Facebook and on Instagram.

Article images credit: Dr. Amanda McCullough