Brushing battleground - FamilyEducation

Brushing battleground

September 15,2010
I took the kids to the dentist yesterday. I had taken L. there already a few weeks ago, because he was complaining of a sore tooth. $108 later, it turned out that there was nothing wrong with his tooth--nothing that time wouldn't fix, that is. At that visit, both L. and I got an earful from Dr. D. about good brushing and flossing habits (or lack thereof, in L.'s case). At 10, L. still hasn't had a cavity yet, and in his mind he's doing all the right things. When Dr. D. took me aside to advise/scold me on the condition of L.'s teeth I weakly tried to defend myself. Bedtime has become a nightmare at our house lately, I told him, and what with homework meltdowns, flying tray tables and our bone-numbing state of emotional and physical exhaustion at the end of the day, getting L. to brush his teeth for two minutes is the last thing on our list. Dr. D. wasn't convinced. He pointed out that the only way L. would learn independence as far as his own personal hygiene goes is by our instilling these habits in him at an early age. Of course I knew he was right, but still, I wondered, what would Dr. D. do if he had to spend an evening at OUR house. Come on over, I mentally challenged him. Come TRY and make L. brush his teeth. After that visit, Scott and I made brushing charts and to-do hygiene lists and posted them in both bathrooms. For days after that last visit we hawked L., following behind him with our own brushing, just as Dr. D. advised. He complied grouchily for the first few nights, but then, as with most things involving forced routine, it became a full-blown control issue, and now L. is fighting us, tooth and nail, each night. Back at the dentist yesterday for the kids' six-month cleaning, L. and I had to endure yet another round of scolding from the formidable Dr. D. I admit it: we slacked off, as parents, and L. slacked off as well. Somehow, despite our best efforts, toothbrushing has become a casualty, lost in the swirling cyclone that sweeps through our house daily between the hours of 5:00 and 9:00 p.m. Dr. D. was not happy; L. wasn't happy. I wasn't happy. One of the things you learn early on as a parent is the importance of picking your battles. They all can't be fought, and they certainly can't all be won. The tooth brushing battle is an important one, I can't say it isn't, but it's not the most important one raging around us these days (sorry, Dr. D.). I don't have any real words of wisdom for myself (or anyone else) as far as all this goes. We're stumped now on creative, workable ways to get L. to initiate some independence in this department, so he can begin to take responsibility for his own bedtime routine, and his own personal hygiene. How can we help him understand that taking responsibility for things like toothbrushing IS giving him a huge measure of control over this part of his life?