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Every step a battle with three yr old

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Some days it seems like every step is a struggle from a tantrum over putting on clean clothes( when dd wants to wear the same thing day in day out). Once she has recovered it is time for brushing teeth, another tantrum, then it is time to wash hands before eating, another tantrum! It's only 8:30& I am exhausted. I try to give choices but these are important hygiene issues.
post #2 of 9

This is my reality. Some days are better than others. Sometimes with the clothes, if he's really fighting it, I might give it a rest for a few, then re-approach it as a compromise (ie: "I'll make you a deal: you keep your jammies shirt on, but we change your pants. Deal?") and then he's at least partly presentable.


My son HATES having his hair brushed or combed. He will scream like I'm branding him with an iron. But he has fine hair that tends to look like a pipe cleaner when he gets out of bed. Water is necessary to get it to lay flat again, so I've taken to using a wet washcloth on his head. he doesn't like this either but I can make it into more of a game.


The toothbrushing...don't get me started. This makes both hubby and I crazy. It's a battle almost every time. I don't want to jinx myself but the past day was pretty good, we watched some toothbrush videos online and looked at pictures of decayed teeth.


I too am fairly exhausted by 10 am. :) Three won't last forever, right?

post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 
Glad I am not the only one going through this. With us it is hand washing! A step stool at the sink helps b/c she can do it herself. Sometimes she'll do fine for a week and then suddenly it is a huge fight all over again. My dd1 has fine hair too. We started with a washcloth but resorted to Disney princess detangler, it is much easier. I'd thought about a spray bottle of water but if dd1 gets a drop of water on her she gets very upset. My dh will be happy to hear a boy is fighting over his clothes since he's convinced it is a girl thing!
post #4 of 9
3 is a common age to start really wanting autonomy. Based on posts here, maybe this peaks at 3.5? But it can continue into 4 I think.

Anyway, the best thing to do IMO is to give autonomy wherever you are able, and only fight on those things that are most important. If he gets to make most decisions, he might not fight as much on the ones that are most important to you, and even if he doesn't hopefully you won't be as worn out and it won't bother you as much.

So put his clothes in his drawers and let him choose what he wears each day even if it looks funny to you. "Go choose something to wear" might set him up toward letting help put clothes on him, but let him do as much of the getting dressed on his own as he can too. Don't put clothes in his drawersthat are off-season so he can only choose things that are OK. If he needs a sweater and fights it, let him go out without the sweater and just carry it with you in case he tells you he's cold. Let him eat off whatever plate he wants, eat something with a spoon if he wants but you think of it as fork food, etc. Really pick your battles and let him have whatever doesn't matter that much. Try to only fight on safety issues (and IMO it's very fair to include stuff like teeth brushing in that. I might personally give up on the hair and just let him look like a pipe cleaner, but you'll have to make the call as to what is most important yourself.)

My daughter who is still in the toddler stage has gone out in the world with messy hair, a tutu, froggy rain boots (on a sunny day), and a baseball jersey top. It doesn't really matter that much IMO what they wear, and everyone can tell they dressed themselves. It's kind of cute to see a child in an outfit that is obviously of their own creation. But like I said, you'll have to find a line that works in your family. Generally though, I think the more you let go, the easier the tooth-cleaning, car seat, and other safety-related things get.

Also, try finding the best possible way to do the things you have to do. Maybe try a spray bottle or wetting the comb and then combing his hair to see if he dislikes that less than the washcloth? Also, try asking him what he doesn't like and start getting him used to problem-solving with you. "I have to wet your hair but you don't like the washcloth. Do you have any ideas how we can get your hair wet in another way?" He might not be much help with that now but it will help give him that sense of autonomy and set him up to start thinking of ways to problem-solve as he gets older rather than digging his heels in.
post #5 of 9

My child is the same he is nineteen months and every little thing is a battle....especially the tooth brushing, I'm sure he will get even more strong willed and opinionated once he is able to clearly verbalize all his feelings....then again hopefully it will get easier! Just wanted to say I feel your pain...or exhaustion lol. Every day I so badly want to take a nap when he does but there is a million things to get done....and I really cant get any thing done when hes awake! Hang in there mama!

post #6 of 9

I second mamazee's advice.


Another idea for handwashing is to let them play in a sink full of soapy water with a bath toy, as long as you are not in a rush.  My 3.5 yr old Ds loved this for a couple of weeks.

post #7 of 9

Good ideas, Mamazee. I think a squirtgun fight would be right up his alley...that's one way to get the head wet :)


It can be hard to come up with solutions when you feel like every step of the day is a battle, and your creative energy just feels tapped out. But not every day is like that, fortunately. I find that our days go MUCH better when my son doesn't have screen time. While 30-45 minutes in front of the TV may buy me time to make breakfast/dinner, we also tend to have more 'incidents' on these days, so in the end it's just not worth it.


After a hard day with my son, I try to read some passages from Naomi Aldort's Raising our children, raising ourselves. It's amazing how this book centers me and brings me back to the truth of what's important in our lives and relationship.

post #8 of 9

My son (22months) is the same way. What I do for hand washing is get a little washcloth really wet and put some soap on it and just wipe them very thoroughly with that, and maybe once again with soap and then once again with just the (very) wet washcloth. He isn't always agreeable to it but I can do it fairly quickly and it's much easier than washing in the sink...which he almost always fights. I am not a germ-o-phobe at all so for me it's good enough. To be honest there are days where he doesn't wash his hands at all except for this wiping method and I think it works well enough. As for hairbrushing I agree that it's just not important. In fact, DS also hates having his hair washed so we very rarely do and he often looks pretty raggedy with greasy messy hair....but so what? To me that's just not important and we keep trying and keep getting creative and sometimes it all works and he looks clean and other times not. That's the best we can do.


As for tooth brushing, I feel ya! We can rarely get it done without the pin-down screaming torture routine, which DH and I are not going to do every single day. We are extremely strict about no sugar (besides in fruit), no juice and no sticky raisins or dried fruit. On the rare days he does get a bite of sweets we do force brush his teeth. (yes I am aware kids get cavities even eating no sugar) I also want to try and teach him to rinse with water although I think he won;t be able to get that until next year....but I hear that helps when you don't want to do the torture routine. Here are also some more creative ideas: http://www.ahaparenting.com/ask-the-doctor-1/how-to-get-toddler-to-brush-teeth?A=SearchResult&SearchID=3784407&ObjectID=3594596&ObjectType=35  I know it's a lot of effort but I find if I try really hard to implement some of these it does work and I can actually get a few good swipes without any protest. Also, try doing some of the power games recommended in the above-mentioned book by Naomi Aldort, that may help with general cooperativeness since the child will feel more empowered. Again, takes more effort and time but I have noticed DS is more cooperative all-around if I do take the time to play power games with him.


Good luck to all of us! nut.gif

post #9 of 9


Originally Posted by SunnyPerch View Post


My son HATES having his hair brushed or combed. He will scream like I'm branding him with an iron. But he has fine hair that tends to look like a pipe cleaner when he gets out of bed. Water is necessary to get it to lay flat again, so I've taken to using a wet washcloth on his head. he doesn't like this either but I can make it into more of a game.

My son has the same hair as your son. His dad decided to buzz it short (it's grown out a little), and it looks like he put his finger in a light socket. Every.Single.Day. But you know what? I don't care. He's 3. When he's old enough to care about what his hair looks like I'll try to help him do something about it. Until then? I'm not going to bother.

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