One of the most important jobs of parents is teaching your children good habits that will keep them healthy throughout life. We know there are many aspects of parenting that are difficult, and getting your kids to brush their teeth can be one of them. What is unusual about this particular habit is that it can span a wide range of ages. Some parents struggle with screaming toddlers when it is teeth-brushing time, and others have teenagers whose toothbrushes remain dry as a bone for days and days.
While not every technique will work with every child, you can try a variety of them to find one that works.
Watch Videos Showing Their Favorite Characters Brushing
For young impressionable toddlers, watching Elmo or Elsa from Frozen brush their teeth may be the motivation they need to start the habit. It is important to remember that parents should continue brushing their children’s teeth until the child can tie his or her own shoes. It helps to make the child feel like they are participating instead of just helplessly submitting.
A quick YouTube search will yield many videos of beloved characters brushing and looking happy about it. The American Dental Association and American Academy of Pediatric Dentists also have cute cartoon characters encouraging children to brush and showing them how to do it.
Make it a Game or Competition
Everyone likes to win, and sometimes you can leverage a competition between your children to improve their brushing habits. You can give points for brushing without being told to do so. You can also use a neat tool called plaque disclosing tablets (available HERE) to show how effective each child is at his or her brushing. The child who removes the most plaque “wins” for the day.
Let Them Get Creative!
Have your kids draw pictures or make up songs about brushing teeth. You can put the pictures up on the bathroom wall as motivation and sing the songs together when it is time to brush. Not musically inclined? Try a poem or rap!
For your older children, you may need to work out a reward system or positive reinforcement. In addition to rewarding consistent brushing, you can add rewards for good reports from the dentist and dental hygienist. The reward does not have to be a monetary prize. You can reward your children with “get out of chores free” cards or an extra hour to sleep in on the weekends. You know your child best, and you know what will motivate him or her to be consistent with those good habits.
One important point in using a reward system: as we are trying to teach the kids to be consistent in their good habits, we must be consistent in our oversight and follow-through with rewards when they earn them. Missing even one reward can nullify the whole venture in the eyes of your teenager.
Do It Together
Make brushing a family activity! As part of a consistent bedtime routine after bath and before stories (or whatever works for your family), your child will come to expect it and take part without complaining. Kids love routines and knowing what to expect. They feel safe and in control when they know what is coming.
You can set that in stone by consistently brushing together as a family every night.
Set a Good Example
Actions speak louder than words. When your children see you brushing your teeth (and hopefully flossing, too), it shows them that brushing is a lifelong habit worth instituting. We can even set good examples by the way we talk about brushing. Statements like, “It feels so good to have a clean mouth and fresh breath!” or after a long day, “I can’t wait to brush my teeth!” show your child that brushing makes you feel better about yourself.
More Questions about Getting Your Children to Brush Their Teeth?
Our experts at Rockland Dental Specialists are here to help! We can answer any additional questions or offer customized suggestions to help you and your children commit to lifelong great oral hygiene.