Dear Miss Patti,
I’m having such a difficult time tooth brushing with my four-year-old! He hates it when I want to help him, but I know he is not doing a proper job. It always ends up being a fight and it looks like a wrestling match in the end… and I don’t think I’m winning! Thanks,
Dear Toothbrush Wrestler!
This is a common problem as toddlers discover independence and go through the lovely “Me do it!” phase. This is a wonderful time that requires immense amounts of patience from the parent. We want them to discover their own autonomy but at the same time there are things that need to be done properly for health or safety reasons.
Two things I can suggest that will help with this situation. First, come up with a list in your house of negotiables and non-negotiables. What are the things that need to be done? Maybe the way they are done can be up for debate but not the actual deed. Like you must go to school but what you wear is up for debate. You need to eat breakfast but what you eat we can decide together. You need to brush your teeth and it needs to be done properly to avoid cavities, but let’s come up with a plan that works for you.
The second thing to do to help make sure everyone’s words are being heard and respected is incorporating family meetings into your schedule. As soon as they begin talking, they can have a say! Positive Discipline is an amazing organization that has resources for all challenges your child may encounter as they grow. Having family meetings allows you and your children to put things on the agenda they want to see discussed as a family. This could include family vacations, chores and toothbrushing concerns.
For example, if toothbrushing is a problem, put it on the agenda and discuss it as a family. Why is it so important to you? Why is it a struggle for them? (Maybe they have sensitive mouths and their toothbrush, or the toothpaste might be the problem?) Then you come up with a solution where both parties are happy… “We’re going to brush teeth in five minutes, I’ll set the timer. I’ll help you brush first and then you can finish up on your own…” This leaves the child to either agree with the plan or add/change things. “Let's make it four minutes (they always seem to pick a lesser time) and if I don’t listen you can sit on me to get it done…” (they also pick more harsher consequences then we could ever think of). Always put a time on it — “We’ll try this for a week and see what happens, if it’s not working we’ll come back and find another solution.”
Brainstorming together not only helps build respect in a family but it also builds connections and keeps the communication lines open. It shows them how to problem solve and gives them a sense of belonging. Modelling how to problem solve in a collaborative way will help them be part of a bigger community like their classroom, their workforce, and the community as a whole.
Here is the link to the Positive Discipline Association and if you want to see when the next locally run Positive Discipline classes are being held, contact Gloria Cleve the Early Learning Project Manager for School District #59 at (250) 784-6330 or email at Gloria_Cleve@sd59.bc.ca
— Miss Patti
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