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Tired of telling your kids to brush their teeth? Bored of telling them to go back and do the job again because they appear to have done nothing other than briefly chew a toothbrush?
Does your jaw get repetitive strain injury from asking the same old question at least twice a day: "Have you brushed you teeth?"
Oh the joys of parenthood.
And then to top it all, the response to your twice-daily question invariably falls into one of two categories:
1. Whinging - "Awww, do I have to?" "Why do I have to do everything," "I brushed them this morning" etc.
2. Blatant lying - for example "Sure," in a clipped tone, as they run out the door.
Well the solution to your problem may lie in a little bit of reverse psychology.
If your kids are the type of children who, when you tell them they can't play on their DSI, want to do it even more, or when you, quite absentmindedly, mention that you need to buy more apple juice because you've run out, a completely unexpected drama commences where they reveal that they’ve ONLY EVER enjoyed apple juice, and that everything else tastes AWFUL by comparison, then this is definitely the tip for you.
The next time you're met with objections from your kids about brushing their teeth, point out that there's a new house rule. Tell them, that if they don't brush their teeth right now, they will not be able to brush their teeth again for a week.
(Don't panic at this point. It is important here to hold fast. Do not allow yourself to visualise a prospective, cavity ridden outcome.)
At first you may be met with a snigger. Maybe even a look of disdain. In fact, in some cases, the idea will greatly appeal to them, and a world without teeth brushing will seem pretty awesome.
(Again do not panic.)
Then you have to follow it through. The first night my kids went to bed without brushing their teeth, they thought it was fantastic. Though they were slightly bemused (and a little nervous when they saw me packing up their toothbrushes into little Ziploc bags.)
In the morning, my 5-year-old tested the waters “Can I brush my teeth Mom?”
He started to complain. He was feeling a little hard done by.
"New house rule. No."
By the time he came home from school, it was the first thing on his mind.
“Not for a week,” I replied.
“I’ll be good.”
That evening he cleared up the table after himself. He put on his pajamas AND put his clothes in the laundry basket. He cleaned his face and waited.
“OK,” I said, “You can brush your teeth because you've been extra good.”
My nine-year-old was a harder nut to crack, but even he, who would happily adapt to a full-time career as slob, managed a mere two days before he too was on his best behavior. “Please can I brush my teeth?"
Now when I say “teeth," they both run off and brush without one word of complaint. When we go to the dentist, they boast about being cavity free.
They complain to the dentist how their Mom did this terrible thing: She stopped them being able to brush their teeth; did he have any idea what can happen to your mouth if you don’t get to brush your teeth?
The dentist says he has some idea, as he knows a little about teeth, but nevertheless he shakes his head sympathetically.
Then he turns to me and smiles.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|