“Bath time!” These words can either make a kid squeal with joy or go hide in the sandbox. If your child does the former, be thankful that your greatest worry may involve how much water you are going to have to wipe up from the bathroom floor. However, if your child is often adamant about not taking a bath, or even fearful of getting in the water, here are six ideas you can try that might make the process if not fun, at least tolerable.
Address any fears that may be present
Often young children have a fear of getting wet or of sliding down the drain. Don’t try to reason with her or tell her she’s wrong; accept that it’s her right as a human being to have a fear and run with it. It does help to reassure her in an honest way, but don’t make her feel silly or dumb for having that fear.
Since lavender essential oil is often used to de-stress the mind, adding a few drops to the water (and even to her wrists or chest a few minutes before the bath begins), can help calm nerves and make the bath a more positive, relaxing experience.
Be a stickler for consistency
Even though our family lives can be hectic, having a set routine in regards to bathing can help the child know what to expect. Try to give him a bath around the same time each day. Also, singing the same little tune each time he goes in the bath and another little tune each time you help him out of the bath can set mental parameters, signaling to your child what’s going to happen next. Kids really do prefer routine.
Allow fun toys
If the plethora of bath paraphernalia available in your local superstore is any indication, kids love bath toys. Try purchasing several fun items made especially for the bath such as bath crayons, bath markers, foam letters, “shaving kits,” water dye tablets, and of course, the old stand-by: bubble bath. There are also several recipes for homemade bath concoctions online; making them together could increase her interest in bathing. Keeping these fun items in a plastic tote in the bathroom closet and pulling a new one out on occasion can motivate even middle-grade kids to take a bath; you might be surprised at the bathtub artwork your little drenched Picassos can come up with.
Let children be involved in decision-making
Giving up some of our need as parents to control the bathing process can give children a sense of empowerment. Try asking him to choose the duration of the bath and put a small timer on the counter. You can always adjust the time, if necessary, but giving him some control over how long it will take can help. Let him pick out his own shampoo at the store. Offer to let him choose one of his bathing suits to wear in the bathtub. Even letting him decide the time of day he bathes can impact his attitude toward it; switching the bath from the evening to the morning might help those kids who negatively associate bathing with bedtime to better enjoy the experience.
One tactic that can help encourage children is to have them try showering, instead. It’s often faster than taking a bath and can be described as a more “grown-up” way to get clean, appealing to children who want to be perceived as being “big.”
If you have to resort to forcing a screaming, clinging child into the bath, be open instead to trying sponge baths near the sink for a while. Using dry shampoo from a can on occasion will help clean her hair between washes. By giving sponge baths, she will still get clean while feeling her fears are being listened to.
Adjust your own attitude
As with anything in parenting, our attitudes can make or break any situation we find ourselves in. Take a deep breath and try to be patient. Children thrive when they see their parents handle the pressures of life in constructive ways. Both resistance to and fear of bathing are usually short-lived, so if you can hold it out with patience, you will find that what was once a dreaded experience can be fun again.