A few months ago, brushing Noah's teeth wasn't a problem. I would sit on the toilet seat, lay him over my lap, and give his teeth a quick yet thorough brush. Then, he would have a turn which consisted of him putting the toothbrush in his mouth for one second, and then saying "All Done". It always went so smoothly that when he started to protest, I chalked it up to teething pain, and considered it to be a temporary problem. But, night after night it was becoming virtually impossible to get the brush into his mouth.
I have heard how important it is for the parent to brush the child's teeth, and I can see why. Noah's idea of brushing his teeth is sucking the toothpaste off the brush and then biting on the bristles. So, I searched for help on the internet and found some great tips to try:
- Many websites recommend getting a toothbrush with a character, like Elmo, on it. We had already done this. One website went a little further and advised to "...let your child have several brushes in different colors so that he can choose the one he wants when it's time to brush." http://www.babycenter.com/0_tooth-care-for-toddlers_11282.bc
- Use two toothbrushes. "If your toddler has his own toothbrush to hold while you brush, he won't be as likely to grab at the one you're trying to brush with. He feels like he is involved in the process, and he feels very special to be able to hold his own toothbrush." http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1799526/tips_for_brushing_your_toddlers_teeth.html?cat=25
- "Give your toddler a toothbrush and let him brush your teeth whilst you brush his. It can be messy..." http://www.toddlerbedtimetips.com/toddler-teeth.html
- "Sing a teeth brushing song - any nursery tune that he knows..." http://www.toddlerbedtimetips.com/toddler-teeth.html
- "We tell him we see carrots and broccoli growing in his teeth - 'you're growing a broccoli forest! Let's clean it out!' Dorky, but he loves it." This parent added "...we tell him to 'say GRRRR like a tiger!'" http://ask.metafilter.com/105860/How-did-you-get-a-recalcitrant-toddlers-teeth-brushed
- "Let your toddler put the toothpaste on the brush. This is a big deal to a child.They want to be independent and do things on their own. It is okay if they make a little mess it can be cleaned up later, with your help of course." http://ezinearticles.com/?Tips-That-Make-Brushing-Teeth-Easy-For-Every-Toddler&id=1897348
I decided to try all of these techniques, as well as a sticker reward after successful toothbrushing. Off we went to the store. Noah needed a new toothbrush anyway. However, instead of picking out one, I had him pick out 3 soft-bristled toothbrushes. We had Little Bear toothpaste at home, and the only other fluoride-free toothpaste available was Thomas the Tank Engine, so I grabbed that one in order to give him a choice of toothpaste as well.
Once Noah had chosen his toothbrush, I chose one of the remaining two to brush his teeth with. Of course, getting into his mouth to brush his teeth is the hardest part, but at least we had established a positive attitude about the activity at this point.
I would say (fingers crossed) that brushing teeth is now a successful activity. Out of the other tips listed above (besides multiple toothbrushes), a couple have worked particularly well with Noah. For instance, he likes when I say he has "peanut butter or toast in there". I tell him "I can see it right there!" He laughs and opens his mouth to let me get it out. Telling him to say "Grrrr" also helps. That way, he moves his lip out of the way so I can brush his front teeth.
Also crucial to our success is his immediate sticker reward. He gets to choose a sticker and then place it on his piece of paper on the fridge. He really like the choice part of this.
Having stated all these tips, I couldn't help but notice one other factor that helped with our dilemma: MY change in attitude! Originally, my approach to brushing his teeth was more "matter of fact"; a job that needed to get done. Let's face it, brushing our teeth is tedious and boring. None of us look forward to it. Brushing someone else's teeth - also not a very exciting activity.
However, attempting these new tips was a fresh start. Noah fed off my excitement about it. He felt more positive because I was now having fun with it too. I made sure I didn't overdo the brushing. I did what was necessary to clean his teeth, and then excitedly stated "All done!". I truly was so proud of him, and happy for him, and as we skipped down the hall to get his sticker, he felt that. So, heartfelt praise is a huge factor for being successful at brushing a toddler's teeth, as is just having a little fun with it! I guess this is true for most things a toddler needs to learn to do. We just need to remind ourselves of it every so often.