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Archive for June 27, 2013

The Terrible Trouble with Toothbrushing: A Toddler’s Perspective

[By L.R.Knost, author of Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages, Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood, and The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

toddler toothbrushing 2A Toddler Speaks…

Okay, let’s just get right to the point. I don’t like having my teeth brushed. In fact, I don’t think it’s overstating it to say that I flat-out despise having my teeth brushed. And I’ve got good, solid reasoning on my side.

Let’s look at the facts, shall we?

  1. Teething hurts, and I’ve always got either a tooth burrowing its way painfully through my gums to the surface or a newly-emerged tooth still partially embedded in inflamed gums or a tooth that’s just fully come in and is surrounded by irritated gums. Can you say, “Ouch!!!”
  2. I have very little control over the outside of my body. People (You know who you are!) are always picking me up without warning and putting me places I didn’t ask to go and wiping my face off without asking (Those wash cloths totally cover my mouth and nose, btw. Suffocation = not cool.) and putting clothes on me without even asking my opinion (Yes, I do have an opinion, and it is a valid one even if I can’t articulate why those purple pants bother me or why the brown shoes feel better than the blue ones.) and the list goes on. So losing control of the inside of my body is a really, really big deal!
  3. Ever heard of a gag reflex? If not, you should Google that. It’s real.
  4. Seriously, would you like someone getting all up in your face with a stick and shoving it in your mouth? (Btw, you might want to consider brushing your teeth before trying to brush mine. Or at least use a breath mint.)

Okay, so now that we’ve considered the facts, let’s take a look at a few suggestions to make toothbrushing a happier experience for all of us (Mainly me, of course.):

  1. I like choices, so how about offering some? You can let me choose between two brushes or two toothpastes or whether I want to brush before or after my bath. I may still be a bit resistant, but I’ll feel a little more in control of what happens to me.
  2. Speaking of choices, there are tons of toothbrushes out there, and some even have handles so I won’t feel like it can go down my throat and some have soft bristles all the way around the top so I can chew on it and get a lot of brushing out of the way painlessly. Who knows, it might even feel good on these aching gums!
  3. This should go without saying, but seriously, remember the sore gums, gag reflex, etc. Be aware. Be careful. Be gentle!
  4. Again, this should be obvious, but I am a real, live, thinking person with real, valid feelings, so how about asking if I’m ready to have my teeth brushed? And if I’m not ready, how about respecting that and modeling a bit of that patience you want me to learn (At least, I’m guessing that’s what you want me to learn since every time I ask you to play with me or get me something you say, “Just a minute, honey.” Just saying.) and waiting a few minutes. We could read a book or sing a song or something to get me in the toothbrushing mood.
  5. And speaking of modeling, go ahead and brush your teeth first while I hang out on your hip and watch. Seeing that it doesn’t hurt you and that everyone has to brush their teeth is very reassuring. Better yet, let me have a crack at brushing your teeth before you brush mine. Turn-about is fair play, right?
  6. I really do need to feel like I have some control over my body (Foundation for potty transitioning and all that sort of thing, you know.) so how about letting me brush my own teeth first and then you just finishing the job up and getting in all the hard places?
  7. Silliness is my language, so definitely get your funny-bone in action. Try calling toothbrushing more palatable names like ‘tickling the ivories’ or ‘tackling the tooth monsters’ or ‘tickle teeth time.’ I may or may not go along with your goof-ball approach, but I’ll appreciate the effort.
  8. Get your groove on and start singing your way to sparkling teeth. You can make up toothbrushing words to the ‘A,B,C Song’ or ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It’ or whatever song you like. Something like “This is the way we brush our monkeys…no, that’s not right…This is the way we brush our toes…” combines silliness with singing. Win-win! By the time you’re done messing up the song my teeth are all brushed, and I’m giggling so hard I don’t even realize it!

Well, that about covers it. Give it some thought, will you? Your toddlers will thank you!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Remember, parents, gentle approaches to childhood issues won’t necessarily ‘work’ to eliminate normal behaviors, and resisting toothbrushing is a totally normal behavior, unfortunately. Gentle parenting is about working with your child through normal behaviors as kindly and respectfully as possible. They may still resist, but they will get that you aren’t just forcing things on them. Over time, your gentle and respectful approach will bear fruit, though, in a healthy, connected relationship.

Related posts:

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

10 Ways to Play with your Children when Play is the Last Thing on your Mind

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

Playground Confessions~Look Who’s Talking!

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

When Children Hit~10 Tips for Parents

Testing the Boundaries~What’s a Parent to Do?

You’re Not the Boss of Me!

Toddlers, Tantrums, and Time-Ins, Oh My!

Easy Peasy DIY Parenting Tools

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


The ‘NO’ Zone

[Portions reprinted from Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood by L.R.Knost. Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages and The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline also available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

toddler saying no pointing fingerThe life of a small child is comprised of a daily onslaught of tempting surfaces begging for the artistry of a crayon, tall places crying out to be scaled, lovely little objects in need of a mouth or nose to visit, and dozens of other alluring glass and liquid and sharp things to be explored through the physics of gravity, the kinetics of concoctions, and the application of Newton’s Laws of Motion. There is only one force powerful enough to defeat this nearly irresistible call of adventure, imagination, and discovery…the No!

Every child knows the power of the No to circumvent the most well-laid plans. Even tiny babies just weeks into the world are introduced to its power when they grasp a fistful of hair while nursing or reach for some lovely, squishy stuff while getting a diaper change. That itty bitty two-letter word is packed with a force beyond comprehension to a toddler, and when they finally figure out how to wrap their little lips around those letters and form the word “NO!” themselves, the possibilities seem limitless!

Do you want a cookie? “No!”…Well, actually, yes, but how cool is it that when I said “No!” I controlled whether or not someone gave me a cookie!

Do you want Daddy to hold you? “No!” Well, yes, but I got to decide whether someone held me or not for a change!

Do you want to play outside? “No!” Actually, I do, but do I really get to decide for myself where I go? Cool!

That kind of power and control can go to a little person’s head, for sure! And the change in the big people when the word is used against them clearly demonstrates its incredible value. Their faces go from happy to serious or even angry, and sometimes a little person can even make a big person yell. What dazzling power!

And then when little ones manage a few more words in their vocabulary, they can add direct quotes from the most powerful beings they know ~ mommy and daddy. Quotes like, “I said ‘No’!” and “Don’t you tell me ‘No’!” and “No means ‘No’!”

The authority! The dominion! The clout! And using them against those powerful beings, watching them turn red in the face and yell and threaten…well, it’s a little scary and makes a small person feel really disconnected and upset…but the surge of intense pleasure at feeling powerful and in control almost makes them feel like a big person for a moment!

And that’s what they most long to be, just like mommy and daddy ~ big and strong and smart and powerful.

So what’s a mommy or daddy to do when confronted with the No from their little power-mongers? First, take a deep breath, and then engage those adult brains.

What inherent power is there, really, in a little two-letter word? Only the power we give it! What if, instead of that tiny word being able to push our buttons, we just disconnected the buttons entirely and didn’t react to the No at all? It would simply become a no, just another word to celebrate our precious little people adding to their fledgling vocabularies.

What if we backed up even further and disenfranchised the No from the beginning? When our newborn baby’s flailing hands caught a tiny fistful of hair, what if we just smiled and gently removed it and kissed those itty bitty little fingers?

When our intrepid little explorers discovered the wonders of kitchen cabinets, what if we used cabinet locks but left one or two full of pots and pans and plastic bins for them to discover?

What if when our little people headed for the walls to do their best Michelangelo interpretation on them, we simply intercepted them and offered alternative canvases?

Or what if when they ascended the kitchen cabinets, we just scooped them up and headed outdoors for some climbing adventures?

The thing is, the No is only the No when we, the adults, make it the No. And it can become simply a no when we get creative and interactive and stop using a tiny two-letter word like it has “Phenomenal Cosmic Power in an itty-bitty living space!” (Aladdin 1994)

Related posts:

When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

The Problem with Punishment

7-Year-Old Gentle Parenting Crusader

Changing the World, One Little Heart at a Time

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

The Color of Change

Better Children, Better World

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


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