Tuesday Topic: Hygiene Battles

It’s Tuesday and I am on a roll with Tuesday Topics.  This week’s question is from Angela who has a child with special needs requiring strict hygiene requirements.  It has turned into a battle and she needs some helpful advice.
I have a daughter (8 1/2 with some delays) who makes tooth brushing a huge issue EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  It is super important that she brushes her teeth. This is not something we can just let go because of the cleft palate. The cranial facial clinic has made it clear it is imperative that she brushes well three times a day. Trying to brush for her is very much a trial also.
Today I watched her fool around for a full 30 minutes before she actually put the toothbrush in her mouth and two seconds later she proclaimed she was done.
She is deliberately super slow about getting to the toothbrush and spending forever holding up the bathroom, so we have the kids brush on the bench in the great room. Also partly because otherwise the kids will simply rinse the toothbrush and call it good. Once she gets to the bench she uses numerous tactics to draw attention to herself and the fact that she is NOT really brushing.
I have tried everything that I can think of, but it is still her favorite way to disobey and attempt to draw me into conflict.

We have some hygiene issues ourselves, so I can relate to this being a fatiguing challenge.  As always, there are so many of you with wisdom who can offer suggestions to Angela.  Please take a moment to support her by leaving a comment.

If you have a Tuesday Topic you would like me to present, please email it to me at lisa@onethankfulmom.com with Tuesday Topic in the subject line.

This Thursday we are kicking off our One Thankful Mom Book Group; we would love to have you join us.  We’re currently a cozy group of 112 and still growing.  The book, The Whole-Brain Child is fantastic and I am quite sure that we are going to have a great time learning together.  If you aren’t able to figure out how to join the group, email me and I’ll send you an invitation.

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Encourage one another,

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

15 Comments

  1. Debi
    October 23, 2012

    Toothbrushing isn't an issue here, but wiping after going potty sure is! UGH!!!

    Reply
  2. Angela
    October 23, 2012

    Our daughter had major teeth issues when she came home a year ago (6 yr old) and she had to have many removed. She had the bacteria that can live without air (aggressive & common in ET) so she had a lot of infections at first. She now has many crowns that need special care and hygiene is very important! Anyway, what we found works best for her is to set the timer (we give her 3 minutes – she has a lot of teeth missing btw!) and afterwards we check her teeth and if she misses spots then she has to go brush again and then if she doesn't get it all brushed the second time around then we brush for her. We don't make a big deal about it, just go at it matter-of-factly because she also has choose at times to use this as a way to draw attention to herself!

    Reply
  3. Sarah La Due Chaney
    October 23, 2012

    i bought toothbrushes that light up in di8 fferent colors for top right, top left, bottom right, bottom left. worked for my 4 (1-6 years). also, i understand how much harder this can be having 4 in 4 years, but i wonder if one of you should be 12" from her the entire 2min of active brushing. not taking your attention away from her. sometimes things take longer than we wish they would (ie: she's 8 1/2 shouldn't she be doing this without supervision by now). God bless you as you persevere for Christ.

    Reply
  4. Angelina Denver
    October 23, 2012

    I have taken to just doing the underarm/teeth/hair washing for my girls that can't/won't/don't do a very good job at taking care of themselves. It is a big pain but I want them to be clean and presentable. It can be a battle but most of the time I keep it nice, light and happy! Good luck 🙂

    Reply
  5. Mary (Owlhaven)
    October 23, 2012

    I don't know if this is THE right way to handle it, but when we had this issue with our girls who came home at 9 and 11, we told them they could either do it themselves correctly (as we'd showed them) or we'd be glad to do it for them. This might not have worked for everyone, but after just a time or two of their dad taking over the toothbrush, they decided they'd much rather do it themselves correctly. I think one key to this approach working is to approach it with zero anger, just a matter-of-fact 'you get to choose' attitude.
    Mary, momma to many including 4 from Ethiopia and 2 from Korea

    Reply
    1. shannoncl
      October 23, 2012

      Ditto. especially the last part. very matter of fact.

      Reply
  6. Debbie
    October 23, 2012

    I haven't had this issue, but wondering if a rewards chart would work? Brush your teeth correctly for however long (takes 3 weeks to form a habit!) and you get this fun prize? I've used this method for other things with success.

    Reply
  7. RussAnita Olson
    October 23, 2012

    Maybe you've thought of this, but is there a oral sensory issue that is part of the difficulty. Is the toothbrush too hard, or too soft. The toothpaste taste bothering her. We kept buying the kids toothpaste for our son. And we kept having him barely use any, brush for 15 seconds and be done. We ran out and him use our 'grown up toothpaste' and that made a world of difference. He was 8, and just didn't like the sweet toothpaste, but didn't know there was an option. We also got a timer, and the visual of what 2 minutes was has helped. Our dentist gave us one. What about mirroring it with her. Brush teeth looking at each other, eye contact, together. This helped our daughter learn how and become a favorite event of one on one time during the day. It took 2 minutes, and seemed like a hassle. Then I realized we were done and it was over with 2 mins of concentrated time, instead of 30 minutes.

    Reply
  8. Janell
    October 23, 2012

    Have you tried contacting an occupational therapist? My son used to have an aversion, (he sort of still does) with brushing especially his top molars. He says it tickles and he shudders like it does while he brushes them. Our OT gave us some great pointers on how to do this so it's less "scary" for him, desensitizing his mouth.

    Reply
  9. Karen P
    October 24, 2012

    Our pediatric dentist gave us some toothbrushes that you push the end opposite the brush on the counter and it has a flashing light timer that flashes for one minute. My kids thought that was really neat. The other thing that helped was the smart rinse mouthwash for kids that "clumps" together with the germs left behind. They would have a contest to see who had the least amount of germs. I would also remind them that other people don't want to be around friends with dragon breath and not brushing your teeth will definitely give you dragon breath.
    As for other hygiene issues like bathing, hair washing, etc., I would typically tell them that if they didn't want to bathe and wanted to smell like a goat, that was fine BUT that they would need to sleep on the floor, not their bed, because their bed is for clean sleepers (we bathe at night). Like someone else said, it was done in a matter of fact way and then I would just walk away. Every time, they went to take a bath so I never had to deal with "Fine! I'll sleep on the floor!" issue. I was prepared, however, to have them sleep on the floor if they didn't shower. I know all kids are different, but with mine, having to sleep on the floor once would have been enough of that!
    My youngest child has the opposite problem–she wants to shower ALL. OF. THE. TIME. If she has to change clothes or even sees someone else in the family changing clothes, she assumes we are showering and is ready for her turn! You might look up and she'll be stark naked, waiting to get in and we're actually heading out the door to go somewhere instead!

    Reply
  10. Acceptance with Joy
    October 24, 2012

    THank you all for you comments and suggestions. This battle is a couple of years old… and is getting old as you can imagine. I mean, I did brush her teeth for her for awhile, but it was the same battle even then. I like the ideas…. I pray one of them works 🙂 Blessings to all!!

    Reply
  11. Maria
    October 24, 2012

    I am a mother to adopted children with sensory issues including brushing teeth. I am also a child psychologist. The advice I would give is to always stay calm, be matter of fact, and make sure you have plenty of time for teeth brushing. I would also schedule times with my child to try to work out what the problem is and deliberatly help in trying different solutions. It is difficult to find a solution (and suggest advise here) without the input and cooperation of your daughter! Working this one out slowly but deliberatly may give you a working model of how to involve your daughter in finding solutions for other times she might get stuck. I know, it may seem endless but very rewarding …

    Reply
  12. Denise
    October 24, 2012

    I have a twelve year old who won't brush his teeth OR shower. It makes me crazy. He is starting to have that teenage boy stench. I am doing GREAT if I can get him in the shower twice a week. He always tells me he brushes his teeth, but I know he doesn't. He can be out of toothpaste for weeks and not notice. We are working through it in therapy. Often times he acts like it is a surprise when I ask him to shower. We had him survey his friends. Hygiene is our enemy right now though.

    Reply
  13. charity
    October 26, 2012

    I agree with the many suggestions of what might be adding to the difficulty, and just wanted to add one more thought…I have a sensory issue even as an adult that makes it difficult to brush teeth when i am pregnant…as soon as the baby is born, it is like my nerves return to normal and it is no big deal again,….i have found the simplest solution is to keep multiple textures of tooth brushing aids available, and if one drives me crazy i can switch immediately. i have regular toothpaste, the health food toothpastes, which are not sweet, and are often much smoother, more like a gel, as well as a tooth powder. during many pregnancies, i only used the powder, as the temperature of the water coming in was just one more sensory overload issue, and with powder, all i needed was to "dry brush" and the spit in your mouth is enough for it to work well. crazy the small details that make life difficult! blessings to you.

    Reply
  14. Karen
    October 27, 2012

    I saw that your daughter is doing multiple things to get you to notice her while she is not brushing. Sometimes I get so focused on what I want done that I think my kids feel that energy and they feel like I don't care about them. It is such a dance to balance caring, showing them you care, but being matter of fact about the task at hand. I am thankful that brushing teeth is not a 30 minute job for us but can imagine how it would make me feel. It sounds like she is not able to comprehend the importance and at 8 1/2 it sounds like she is much younger in maturity? Seems like if we can recognize where they are in maturity and start there we find a way to make progress. I try hard not to lecture as my kids tune that out. So I find times when we are close (rare) to plant seeds of ideas and praise them BIG when they are catching on.

    Reply

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