Brushtime can be a nightmare in our household. I battle twice a day to get Little E to brush her teeth often resulting in her going to bed without brushing. But I am not alone. A new report commissioned by Aquafresh has discovered that 80 percent of children throw temper tantrums and experience anger at bedtime, meaning that one in ten parents send their children to bed without brushing their teeth.
To celebrate the launch of the new Disney Pixar movie 'Inside Out' we were asked to help out with a video for Aquafresh exploring the different emotions children experience at brushtime. Inside Out is based in 11yr old Riley's head and explores how she is guided through her everyday life by her emotions. We set up a camera in our bathroom at brushtime to see just how Little E's emotions affected her brushing. You can see us in the video here
We also received a fab brushtime kit to help make teeth brushing that bit more fun! It is certainly working at the moment - we have had a 100% brushing success rate since introducing the Inside Out themed kit. Disgust and Sadness are cool toothbrush holders, Anger is a stress toy, Joy is a timer to make sure they brush long enough and Fear is a cool wristband to wear only when brushing. Little E has packed the whole kit up to take to for her sleepover this weekend! What a result!
And in case you thought I forgot to mention Little I, well she LOVES brushing her teeth so until she develops her Sister's obstinate nature we are ok for now!
There are a whole spectrum of emotions that your child might go through in a day, and each behaviour may require a different response. Here are some useful tips from Chile Behavioural expert Lorraine Thomas (themed around the Inside Out characters of course!) to arm you with the right approach to help them embrace your child's feelings with the best outcome.
• When helping your children to brush their teeth celebrate their joy and sense of fun. Live in the moment with them 100% and engage all of your senses. Joy is such a powerful feeling, it creates memories that last forever and it can diminish the power of a negative feeling.
• Children are mini-scientists, testing out their hypotheses about the world and they use all their senses to do it. In the bathroom, you’ll see them smelling, touching, seeing, squeezing – and throwing just about everything. This is normal so enjoy spending time with your pioneers so try to learn to take mess in your stride.
• Your child is an expert at enjoying themselves. When brushing their teeth they will know what they like and will want to make sure that no-one gets in their way.
• Love their smile. We love to see our children smiling and laughing – tell them how it makes you feel to see their clean smile after they have brushed their teeth.
• Tell them what you love about being their mum or dad and spending time with them. Get into the habit of doing it on a daily basis – just like brushing their teeth.
• Step into their shoes and try to understand what it is that is making them angry when brushing their teeth. Don’t take their behaviour personally. They are trying to communicate a message to you and may not have all the words or tools to do it. Children will often express anger when they are actually frustrated or tired or overwhelmed and ‘tuning in’ to what is causing them to behave in a certain way
will help you to manage it.
• Even nice children develop some nasty habits and when they are angry it is very common for them to shout and stamp their feet when brushing their teeth. Many will lash out and bite or kick a parent or sibling. It is usually not pre-meditated or spiteful. They are struggling to deal with a challenging feeling – just as we do.
• Encouraging children to talk about their feelings makes them much less likely to reach ‘behavioural’ boiling point and lash out physically so invest time and energy to nurture this in them.
• Be a great role model and deal with challenging situations such as making sure they brush properly calmly.
• Catch your child ‘red-handed’ behaving calmly instead of giving them attention for behaving angrily at brushtime
• If children argue and get angry – which all siblings will do at some point – resist the temptation to step in immediately. Give them the opportunity to sort it out themselves first.
• Remember that the time it is most important for you to love your child is when they make it the most difficult to do so.
• Children are frightened of many things. It’s a totally natural part of their emotional development. At around two and a half, a child’s imagination begins to develop and different fears can include many things like the dark or disappearing down a plug hole.
• Your child is a small person in a big scary world. Be gentle and supportive. If, for example, they are anxious about brushing their teeth when they have a loose tooth or tooth ache, explain to them the reason why they may feel scared and how brushing their teeth can help.
• If you know your child is worried about something that’s going to occur, make sure you prepare them. Tell them that they are going to brush their teeth and reassure them you will be there to support them.
• Acknowledge how your child is feeling and avoid saying ‘it will be alright’ or ‘there is nothing to feel sad about’. Show them that you have time and want to listen to them. Give them lots of attention and cuddles.
• Try to find out what it is about brushing their teeth that they feel sad about. Children worry about all sorts of things, it might be something small like a change in routine or something major like death or parents separating.
• When children feel sad, it is normal for them not to want to talk. Don’t put pressure on them to tell you but make it clear that you will be around to listen and talk when they are ready.
• Crying is a healthy way for your child to express their emotions, so let them do this – whatever their age.
• Be a great role model. Tell and show your child that it is natural and normal to feel sad by creating time for them to talk about their sad feelings and also by being open about your own.
• Children often feel sad because they are disappointed. Avoid saying it doesn’t matter – because it does matter to them – but come up with a practical tool to support them when brushing their teeth instead.
• When a child expresses ‘disgust’, it is usually because they are trying something which is new or they are very uncertain about the taste of. Their taste buds are developing and what may taste ‘disgusting’ one day may be their favourite food or drink the next. Help them to get used to the taste of toothpaste by using childfriendly mint flavoured toothpastes such as AQUAFRESH® Little Teeth Toothpaste
• They may also express disgust because they are actually finding the physical demands of tooth brushing too challenging and not really anything to do with the taste at all. Your child is constantly learning a whole new skill set so when you see them spitting toothpaste out – try to stay calm and see it from their point of view. If they are finding using a toothbrush overwhelming, for example, show them how to use it, do it for them and help them to master the skill.
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Artist, Baker and Blogger. Mum to my two beautiful, cheeky girls. Muddling my way through parenthood with equally cheeky Husband.