There is still no consensus about the best way to brush adults’ teeth, let alone children’s teeth. This is largely down to the fact that people are unique, from their fingerprints, right through to their teeth and gums. The only way of judging how effectively you’re brushing your teeth is by visiting the dentist.
There is, however, a consensus amongst dentists that getting children to get into a regular routine of brushing their teeth and building a positive relationship with dental care is incredibly important. So, here a few ways you can get your children to be self-motivating in their dental care and stop the daily, or twice-daily, argument.
Put Your Child in Control
Kids enjoy feeling as though they’re in control; often the simple fact that you are telling them to do something is enough to make them say no. Every parent would have a story about battling with their child for hours about putting a toy away only to have them do it as soon as they turned their back. You can make them feel in control of brushing their teeth by asking them to choose their toothbrush and choose their toothpaste. You could even ask them to nominate a time when you should both go and brush your teeth. All of these things give your children a sense of ownership over the process.
Make Brushing Your Teeth Fun
You can make the process of brushing their teeth more fun by making it an activity that you, or the whole family does together. Put some music on and say everyone has to keep brushing until the music stops. Take it in turns to pick the music. Your child might feel like it is more fun if you get them an electric toothbrush; some electric toothbrushes even play a song when you turn them on. It’s all about turning it into something to look forward to, or at the very least part of a routine that becomes second nature, instead of it seeming like a chore.
Use Reason, Not Shouting
Children have rational thought processes, just like adults, and you need to respect this. Instead of screaming and shouting and making threats, you need to remain calm and explain why it’s so important that they brush their teeth.
The pressures of daily life can often make it impossible to stay calm when your child is being difficult and that’s why it’s important to wait until you are calm to have this discussion with them. If they say they don’t want to brush their teeth, give them an example of some things that you don’t like doing and then explain why you have to do them. You could say that you don’t like mowing the lawns or taking the bins out but you have to.
If you understand the thought process behind why your children don’t want to brush their teeth, you can empathise and figure out a way forward. If it’s because it’s boring, you can make it more fun; if it’s too hard, find a way to make it easier. You need to put yourself in their situation, instead of just saying they’re being difficult, you need to understand why. Understand the thought process to change the behaviour; don’t just react to the behaviour.
Explain the Importance of Dental Hygiene
Explain to your children why it’s so important that they brush their teeth. Find some pictures of decayed teeth and explain that this is what happens if you don’t brush your teeth. Tell them that healthy teeth are an important part of being healthy, just like eating vegetables and exercising.
Reward Positive Behaviour
You don’t have to buy your kids a present every time they brush their teeth without arguing. But, it’s important that good behaviour regarding dental care is reinforced. You can even set up rewards in advance, tell them that if they brush their teeth every night for a week without arguing you will go to the movies or go to the footy. That way the routine of dental care is being rewarded instead of the one off. Punishment should be an absolute last resort, as they will only brush their teeth to avoid punishment, instead of building a positive relationship with good dental hygiene as part of their daily routine.