Graduate seminar in toothbrushing

Oh my god with the toothbrushing. Why, why, why is this such a chore?

We’ve been brushing teeth with Peanut for four years and two months. And we have tried the following tricks, in order, to win over a resistant child:

1. brush his teeth hanging him upside down
2. sing a song while brushing
3. get a flashing firefly toothbrush
4. brush like animals (elephant brushes slowly and heavily, hummingbird quickly and lightly, platypus changes each time because what the f*%#?)
5. you brush then we brush
6. count teeth while we brush
7. tell a long story while we brush
8. play red light, green light dance-style while we brush (green light, you dance while I brush; red light you stop while I brush the tough parts)

And I swear to his future periodontist, I’m gonna let these baby teeth fall out of his head before I invent another game to get these stupid, no-good, replaceable, temporary, cookie-begging teeth clean.

Sure, offer your tricks below. Please. But I can’t pretend I have the energy for anything really creative, so skip the eighteen-part games even if you swear by them. Simple, please. Be gentle with me.

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16 thoughts on “Graduate seminar in toothbrushing

  1. Show him pictures of people with nasty rotty teeth and tell him he’s looking at his future? Also: Although we’re a crunchy/feel-good type family with boundaries and bodily autonomy, etc., I won’t say that I haven’t a time or two, under extreme duress and with love in my heart and at most just the tiniest fraction of my inner explosive rage apparent on my face, held one of the rugrats down for a toothbrushing.

  2. Wow, sounds like you have given it your best on that one! My son likes choice, so he has two toothbrushes and two different colored toothpastes (a blue crest and red toms of maine silly strawberry), and we just announce brushing teeth time each night by saying “Ok, which color toothbrush we using tonight? which color toothpaste?” But we’ve gone through our battles stages too. Sounds like you need bigger ideas than I can offer. I figured I’d comment anyway to say that your list impressed (and amused) me. (Your post popped up in my google reader because I subscribe to the attachment parenting tag).

  3. oooh, I like Daryl’s scare tactic. Plenty of pics of meth heads with rotten teeth to give him nightmares. Ok, maybe not such a good idea. You’ll be up all night slaying monsters under the bed.

    Would it be wrong to give the kid a cookie for brushing his teeth?

    Dontchaknow unicorns brush their teeth at noon so they can see the rainbows at dinner. uh hum.

  4. I could cement houses with the crud my children would leave on their teeth. By the way, did I mention my oldest has braces, so I could very well be paying for straight but incredibly filthy teeth. Ten years old and he can’t seem to remember that stank breath is unforgivable…Preaching to the choir, sister…

  5. Try counting, but not teeth. Count to five for the top and five for the bottom. Do that consistently. When you get to five you’re done – no matter what! If you’re consistent Peanut should be at least a little less apprehensive about it and a little more cooperative. I’ve seen it work… Best of luck!

  6. We’ve tried a number of those tactics. Just holding him down is what I end up doing most of the time. It’s not pleasant, but it makes him cry–then it’s easier to brush! And we hug afterward. Naturally.

  7. We went through this, too. So blinking frustrating.

    Can’t remember what ended it, though. That’s how unhappy it all made me. I appear to have blocked it out!

    So basically I’m just offering my empathy…hugs!

  8. I freely admit to using my daughter’s dentist (who she likes a lot, by the way). As in – we want to be able to tell him that teeth have been thoroughly brushed at least once, and preferably twice a day.

    And I let her do it herself, even if it doesn’t always get done perfectly, because she’s *that* independent.

  9. Same at this crazy house of ours. My Big Boy seems shocked and disgusted every morning and evening when teeth brushing time arrives – as though I’ve sprung a harsh punishment on him for no good reason. Despite reminders that we do it EVERY DAY, it’s still The Worst Thing Ever. I’ve also tried shock tactics – he now believes that when his baby teeth fall out it’s because he hasn’t brushed them properly…I’ll let him believe that for now, because it does work as motivation…very occasionally.

  10. My kids love to “brush” their teeth, but only to suck the toothpaste off the brush. I sit the older one (barely 3) on my lap and I look for the “cavity monsters” that come in colors such as aubergine and amarillo. He’s going to lose all those teeth anyway, right?

  11. @Daryl “under extreme duress and with love in my heart and at most just the tiniest fraction of my inner explosive rage apparent on my face” is my new favorite adverb
    @Kitch unfortunately, no. Because I can let the rotter’s teeth rot but not let the feces on the carpet fester. Sorry. You have my sympathy and support but I will not trade.
    @Lynn thanks for trying. We did that when he was two and it worked like a charm. Three meant options weren’t the solution and Four seems to mean that even asking is like pouring him in boiling oil.
    @jc I did know that about the unicorns. That’s why I’m enrolling him in unicorn college tomorrow. The noon brushing and the fact that it’s boarding school.
    @Maria, as always the empathy helps. Doesn’t solve my problem, though, so get back to work generating ideas for our households. We shall overcome.
    @Heather tried it last year. Counting makes him furious. He wants to negotiate what number we count to, what language we count in, and inexplicably, which day we’re we’re allowed to use counting as our tactic.
    @Steel naturally. Never doubted it.
    @Ink, thanks sweets. Now tell your hypnotist I need details. Go forth and recall!
    @Lesli tried both tactics. And he has two close family members who are dentists. Doesn’t care. He’s *that* stubborn. ;-)
    @Penni the fear makes him say he wants to, then he resists and screws around and makes nuts with his mind control games.
    @Kate we do try for the search, including searches for bits of the foods of the day. But I’m dentally anal retentive and fear that slack habits now will make him lose his adult teeth by the time he’s 20. Nothing like a little catastrophizing. Helps makes the week go by faster.
    @all of you: come on. Nobody’s gonna come over and work their magic on him for me?

  12. I didn’t read all the comments so I hope this isn’t the same as something above. But Diego refused forever to let me brush his teeth. I did all the things on your graduate list above. Nothing worked. So finally I just straddled him (pinning arms and legs) and brushed his teeth without the fight. It wasn’t fun but it worked. I did that for a while until he finally decided he LIKED brushing his teeth. I’m not recommending this method, but just another story to add to your toothbrushing is the devil notebook. xoxoxo

  13. belated suggestion (I’ve waited b/c I’m sure you’ve tried everything under the sun and how could I have anything new to offer?): my lil guy will do whatever a talking toy/towel/shirt/toothbrush tells him to.

    I gather that you’re out on the sunny west coast somewhere? If you’d care to fly me out during the horrid Chicago winter I’d be happy to give Peanut a toothbrushing seminar at no cost to you! : )

  14. Toothbrushing babies and toddlers is the bane of my existence. Truly. As a result, I have no words of wisdom to offer. Just a 6 yr. old with a crown (yes, I am a horrible mother)

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