Getting My 5 Yaer Old to take a bath - FamilyEducation
Getting My 5 Yaer Old to take a bath
05/21/2007 at 13:11 PM

I have no where else left to turn, I'm new here, and I already posted this problem but I must have not done it right becuase I haven't gotten any responses...Anyway I have the hardest time getting my daughter to take a bath and to wash her hair. I've tried everything from threats (no watching TV and taking her toys away) to rewards (taking her to the park or to MacDonalds) but nothing works anymore, I eventually get her in the bathtub but it's a nightmare washing her hair, I even had her PreSchool Teachers talk to her but nothing is working. I was able to give her a bath and wash her hair about 3 days ago and it was wonderfull she didn't cry or scream or complai so I thought wonderfull now that she has seen that there's nothing to be scared about I won't have any problems anymore but today I told her again that it was bath day and she started crying saying she doesn't want to take a bath. Help! I don't know what happened to make so afraid of baths nothing that I can think of....Anyways I have nowhere else to turn.



Hey Elena


I did respond to you on the welcome thread but here goes again and hopefully some other people will have ideas too.


I think it is very common for kids to be scared of baths, water, washing their hair.  I think watching the water go down the drain and sometimes the noise it makes can make them have fears.

Have you tried taking a bath with her?  Maybe if you both get in the tub and she sees you wash your hair she will be less scared---or maybe a shower would be less scary.  My 5 year old nephew loves taking showers and never liked baths all that much--if you take a shower with her the first time maybe?  Another thing you could try is talking to her about it when you are not in the bath trying to get her to explain her fear---tell her she has to wash her hair and try to get her to tell you how you could do it without her being scared.




Yes I've alreay tried everything you've suggested. Taking a shower with her, having HER give me a bath and wash my hair by having her pour the water on my head and showing her that there's nothing to be afraid of, sitting down and talking to her about the importance of taking a bath and washing her hair and I've tried asking her what is she so afraid of and her answer is just "I don't know, I'm not brave" I've even tried just giving her a sponge bath by having her stand in the bathtub lathering down with soap and then rinsing her by pouring water on her with a cup, now that worked only the one time though so I though great now she knows that there's nothing to be afraid of but we're back at the beginning again.  I've already tried everything that you suggested I don't know what to do anymore.


Hey Elena


Well, I can't think of anything else.  Hopefully someone on the board might have an idea that would work for you.  My only other suggestion is to call her doctor and see what advice they might have---I am sure they have run across this problem before.


I am sure it is very frustrating to deal with this everytime you try to bathe your daughter.




I too have a 5yr old who hates taking baths ... actually its getting her hair washed that she hates - the bath part is fun when she gets to play with toys and bubbles etc - but then it lasts for tooo long.  Anyway - for the past few months we have been washing her hair in the kitchen sink - laying her on the counter and propping her neck up with a hand towel ... she gets a washcloth to cover her eyes and I use the sprayer to wet her hair.  This has worked but it is getting old.  I have started showering with her - we say that showers are like playing naked in the rain - she will tolerate this but rinsing her hair is still difficult.  We have not had her hair cut by a stylist because of this irrational fear of water ...hopefully the sink thing will work and she can get a real haircut before school starts!

Try this sink - try the shower - don't give up!  I keep hoping it will get easier too!


I've already tried the shower and it worked for a while but then that stopped working, I've even tried the sink but that was a Nightmare! So I don't know what else to do, I have tried taking stuff away from her like her toys or the TV and then I have to deal with the crying until it bothers my husband soooo much that he gives in and lets her watch TV like yesterday he told her it would be ok for her to watch TV if she agreed to take a bath today so she said Yes but now today I asked her again to take a bath and what do you think she said or did? Of course she said no and started her crying scene again. I don't know I just hope she grows out of this stage soon, I'm really getting tired of fighting with her just to keep her clean. Anyways I appreciate all the suggestions!


Thanks Marti,

I don't know I just hope she grows out of this stage soon, I'm really getting tired of fighting with her just to keep her clean. Anyways I appreciate all the suggestions!











Just a thought.... but have you tried giving your daughter a doll to bath herself while you bath her?  You know one of those "plastic" bath time dolls, Maybe if she has something to mimic you with she might be a little better.  She can wash the doll while you wash her and she can wash the dolls hair while you do the same.  Only let her use the doll when it's bath time, let it be her bath time friend.  Worth a try?! maybe?!


Lorie :)


Actually, you are correct in that it is a phase. It's terrible when it lasts a long time, but it is a phase. Many kids are terrified of the bath (my first and third children were, too). The first one screamed bloody murder with each bath until the second one decided at 9 months old (she was almost 3 at that time) that he couldn't wait to get into the tub and play. She was angry that he was having fun and had to have fun then too. When the 3rd one came along, we had to start all over again. Back to screaming and tears. We knew that he would get over it as he got older. We let him scream and holler, we did not negotiate (AT ALL), we just reminded him that those were the rules. It was extremely frustrating. But here's the key, if you sound like you can't take the screaming, crying fits, she will continue to do them. At 5, it becomes more of a competition.

I started explaining to my kids at an early age that they have one job as children: to be the best person that they can be. I have one job as their mom, to help them BE the best person they can be.

During the day explain these jobs to her. Then, explain to her calmly that in order for her to be the best person she can be, she has to wash her body and her own hair in the bathtub. Explain that in order to HELP her be the best person she can be, you will show her how to do it herself every single night until she is ready to do it on her own. And that once she is able to complete this responsibility on her own, she may then take them every other night. (She may not get right away that you are planning on daily baths, but by the second night, she will). You have to be okay with her being angry, or screaming or yelling. Say this mantra to yourself "this is a temporary inconvenience for a permanent improvement". Be patient, be strong. Remember NOT to focus on her noise level, but on helping her improve who she is. In other words, if she thinks you are doing this to get her to be quiet, she will continue to make it difficult. At some point, you will be able to say to her, "hey, it's okay to be upset, it's not okay to yell like that". You'll get there, I can see that you are determined to get this right!


Try buying a child bath kid with bubbles bath crayons and such and let her just sit and play. I would also make sure you use tear free shampoo.If it is fear of water in general  I would sign her up for swimming lessons. I have three sisters all of their children were afraid of water. My son was not but I always from the time he could hold his head up his self I laid him on his back in the tub washed the front side and washed his hair and then turned him over on his tummy and finished washing him. I would always drizzle a little water over his head and allow it to run down his face if he got excited and started kicking and put his face in the water it wasn't a big deasl he always picked his head back up. If we went to the springs or river swimming the only problem I had was he would crawl right on in he had no fear so I had to keep a close eye on him.


Brindy obviously did not read what you wrote. You stated that you tried all the gimmicks. They do not work because your daughter thinks taking a bath is open for discussion.  Mom, it's time for you to be in charge. You said that she "agreed" to take a bath once. That means that she thinks it is up to her. It's not. It's up to you. Be the strong parent. Explain the rules to her. Don't back down. She will be a much happier child if you take charge because kids depend on the strength of their parents. If she doesn't trust you to make the decisions, she will continue to compete with you. You don't have to be mean, AT ALL, just don't argue (even if that means you don't say anything at all). Be firm in your rules. No punishments for not taking a bath. Taking a bath is not optional and not open for discussion. Discipline would be for the behavior she exhibits when it is time to take a bath.  Say, "you're still taking a bath. I am taking away whatever priviledge for choosing to behave this way". When she sees that you mean it, she will stop putting on the show for you.


      I am a regular babysitter and I have sat for many kids who were scared of washing hair and bathing. I agree about not giving a choice about bathing but I never ask a child if they want to take a bath or not. Instead I get them interested in bathtime through toys like puppets, bubbles, etc. and I find out what is scaring them. The child and I discuss all of this long before bathtime. One little girl told me she was afraid of going under the water and getting soap in her eyes because it hurt. I said that I didn't like getting soap in my eyes or being put under water either. I let her know my methods were different and  what  my methods were First I showed her I would keep all the soap and water off her face by making coyote calls- looking up and howling to keep rinse water out of her face. I told her we would be making animal ears and asked her what animal she wanted to be. Lastly, I showed her toys I had  brought. She felt better about bathtime. When bath time came I reminded her I wouldn't get soap or water in her face and let her know it would be okay. I used a washcloth to wet and rinse her hair taking my time and reassuring her as needed. Once she was scared when I turned on the water to rinse the washcloth and began to whine. It's okay I said, Sweetheart, I'm only rinsing the washcloth. I'm not going to lay you under the water. She calmed right down and had a great time as I made her animal ears, played with toys with her, and kept my promise about keeping the soap and water out of her face. It took a little extra time (15 or 20 minutes) and it payed off royally because the next time I babysat for her she was begging me to bathe her and wash her hair so she could make animal ears and do coyote calls. Take time to find out what is so upsetting to her and listen. Then try some new positive methods. It takes changing things around to let your child see things from a new perspective, that bathing and washing hair can be fun. It always works not matter what kid I've worked with. Take  care and God bless!


Thanks Moodymoose77 I've already tried asking her what she's afraid of and like you said she said she was afraid of getting soap into her eyes, so I did re-assure her and told her that if she listen to what I tell her to do that I wouldn't get any soap in her eyes. Well now it seems to be getting better at least now she doesn't screem bloody murder anymore! but she still wimpers now the problem is getting her into the bath but once she does go in and after I'm done washing her she doesn't want to come out! so now what I do I remind her and tell her "remember the last time I didn't get any soap in your eyes?" but it's still hard. You the funny thing is though that right now she's at my parents house because we're moving from Ohio to Illinois and we needed all the worry free time we can get and they said that they had no problem giving her a bath and another problem I have with her is that she doesn't eat! and my parents told me that she's been eating a lot since she's been over by them. Go figure! :-) Anyways thanks for the suggestions and I've already tried them...Take care!


Thanks Christi,

I am firm about it but I can't drag into the bath tub kicking and screaming can I?  That would scar her for life! Anyway thanks for your reply it seems to be doing better now lets hope it keeps going!


You're welcome. Like I said, I've been there (twice). Having a highly gifted child has taught me how to be a better mother than any lesson I've ever learned! He would be the one to try the kicking and screaming because he gets that people (in general) do not like to hear loud kids (at home, in public, whereever). I learned to gently hold his face so that he was looking at me (or at least listening to me) and repeat over and over (until he responded to me) "you are still ___(fill in the blank, taking a bath, going to bed, doing your homework, etc).___.  The question is how badly do you really want me to ___(again, fill in the blank, add extra chores, reward your siblings with a priviledge you wanted, send you to bed early, etc.)___. It took repeating a few times before he heard me. After a couple times of going through this for different behaviors/events, it wasn't so hard to get his attention. I constantly have to remind him (even now that he is almost 9) that everything that he does is his choice. Obviously, not the bath, that's my choice. But how he chooses to respond, behave, react, all of those things are completely his choice. We have discussed many many MANY times how his choices will affect his life overall. And I really have to say GOOD FOR YOU!!!! GOOD FOR YOU for doing the work that you have to do! GOOD FOR YOU for actually trying the things people have suggested! I am proud of you and hope that you are proud of your accomplishments as well!


    Hi there,

I think you need to sit down and talk to your 5 year old and explain to her that you are scared of things as well and this is how you handled them.  Kids are people and they need to know that they can talk to us so when they get older they can do the same as well.  My 5 year old hates sleeping by himself.  Every kid has some fear and that is normal but it is for us as their parents to guide them throuh this fear and not threaten them to do something but guide them in how to overcome it.  That is part of our job is to show them that we are here to help them and not hate them for who they are.

Just a thought but I have been learning to talk more than get angry.


Thanks again Christi,

It has gotten better. We moved to Illinois and my daughter had to spend a week at my parents' by herself while we went back to Ohio to pack and during that time my sister gave her the baths and since then she's been ok with it. It's still a struggle getting her into the Tub I still have to deal with the "I'll take a bath in the other night" but at least now she doesn't screem Bloody Murder anymore as long as I put my hand on her forhead to prevent water from going down her face and as long as I have a towel near by for her to dry her face when water does go down it then she's fine...Again thanks a lot for your support!



Try making bath fun. There are so many things out there for taking baths. One is "painting " with washable paint and it's only used in bathtubs.It's in the toy aisle at Target or Wal-Mart. They also have alphabet letters for her to stick to the side of the tub.


Does she happen to be afraid of the water? Does she like swimming in pools? If she is afraid maybe you can take her to the local pool and just sit in the shallow end with her and bring some toys with her.


You didn't mention this but does your daughter have long or easy to tangle hair? From personal experience  it may help if you put conditioner in her hair before the bath. maby eaven give yourself a conditioning treatment at this time. Get some colored face cream and let her fix you up; let her put some on her too.

If it is warm outside give her a small pool and a box of Mr.Bubble (I have boys) My children would wear their swimsuits and soap up while waving at the neighbors. Just turn on the sprinkler and rinse well.If she is laughing at the end her smile will infect you too.

(watch out for soap on smooth concrete  and wood; it could be slick)

If you start dreading the bath she can feel it too.


Hi Elena, I'm mother of 3 (adults now) but when they were kids, everybody used to tell me how a inflexible mom I was talking about rules.
 I stablished my rules and no matter what I heard I just kept on following them.
 Just don't negociate with those issue that have to be the way they have to be like the bath.
One important question for me.
 Is your daughter like this just at bath time?


Hi Elena,

I don't know if you have solved this problem or not.  Since this worked with my granddaughter, I thought I would share it with you. I would let all of the water drain from the tub except a few inches. During this time I would get several containers with small openings and fill them with warm water to rinse her hair. Once the level of water was down to about 3" she would lay down on her back - the water was always below her earlobe so she would not get water in her ears.  I would also put a shampoo rinsing hat on her (you can buy them for children anywhere or take an old hat with a brim and cut out the cap).  The first half a dozen times or so she held a dry wash cloth over her eyes, even though the water did not go near her eyes- she had to slowly come to the realization on her own.  After trusting that her eyes would not get water in them, she began to trust that she would not have water in her nose, ears or mouth.  She also had the security of the tub against her back because she was laying down in it.  I would suggest if you do this, that the first few times you only have one or two inches of water.  Yes, it is alot of work but it won't go on too long and it really is worth it.My grandkids love to take a bath at Grandma's "because we can play and swim in the tub and then Grandma gives us a WARM towel and that's the best part!"  Yes, I spoil them, but that's what I am supposed to do.!!!  ;-)


Hi, Elena,

My grandson didn't like the water in his eyes. He would cry, kick and scream for his mom. He asked to take a bath for me. My daughter sat in on bath time one evening & all I did differently was:

I let him hold a wash cloth over his eyes when we rinced his hair (and) I bought him bath things like those chawlk things that they can write on the bath wall and bath bubbles....

Hope this helps.

Also wil she bathe for someone else. My grandson loved baths for me. She wasn't doing anything wrong, he just like me doing them. Now he dose it his self. Granny Kat

GrannyKat, teaching her grandson.


hi have you tryed a bath hat so the water cant get in her eyes my son hated the water going in his face so i brought the bath hat you buy them from the chemist

my son has no problem now with the bath or hair washing now


I don't myself fully understand the fear my nephew up to this day has some refusel problems with bath taking and i think that because my sister and brother in law used it as a punishment not directly but like if he was not listening my sister would say thats it its time for a bath and then everyone was tired, upset and irritable so make sure that when you take your child a bath that you put on a good game face don't let her feellike this is just as horrible for you as it is for her also have her take a shower with you i know my 5 year old daughter thinks of that as a treat she gets to use moms shampoo or body wash or we use writeable soap together on the wall.I have also heard that maybe a bathing suit might feelmore like fun in the tub pretending to go in a personal pool,let her explain the fearfullness she feels when your not at home maybe at a park or movies then you may have some insight.good luck be strong!


Hi, have you tried spray foam, give yourself a father christmas beard funny hair etc, it is fantastic for playing with in the bath and they dont even know their washing, or try lots of bubble bath and try to see how much bubbles you can make etc, just make it fun fun fun

regards natalie


This web site has a good article on defiant children. I'm hoping that this is not the case for you but my  daughter always threw a fit about taking a bath and washing her now. Now at 9 she is wearing the same clothes for days in a row (undies and sock and shorts) until they have an odor. I have to try to sneak the clothes away from her so they can get washed. Just this morning, I insisted that she wear clean shorts under her uniform jumper, she threw a fit but went to change. When she came back, I saw that she just put different shorts ontop of the stinky shorts and was probably planning to take off the other shorts as soon as I was not watching. We are having a hard time her. I just read up on defiant children and it seems the more I want her to do something, the more defiant she becomes.

For the heck of it, read the article on this site and maybe something will click. Good Luck. 


you may want to have her to pick a doll to wash her hair at the same time as her bath. Or maybe even have her just wash her dolls hair during the day as a play hair dresser day. My daughter will cry as well, as she has the curlist hair ever. I have learned that if her hair is conditioned well and I comb it out as I wash its better. I use a cup to pour over her head & is very careful not to get any water in her face. She does not mind it much. Also I wash ever other day instead of everyday.

Hi Elena, I realize you posted your comment a while ago, and I'm not sure if you'll see my response, but to anyone else out there that may read this, has anyone considered that maybe this could be a sensory problem? I haven't had time to read all the above posts since there are many, so I apologize if I'm repeating what anyone else has said. I just thought from my own personal experience, that maybe this is something you could look into. In my son's case, I have to wash his hair very lightly using the tips of my fingers. If I don't do this, he objects to me washing his hair at all. My son also doesn't like the water going in his face, so I tell him, "Close eyes tight" before I rinse his hair. I also use a washcloth to do this instead of a container, so I'm drizzling the water on his head lightly. That helps. I always keep a towel handy, however, incase any water gets in his face. Neither of my children have ever had a fear of the water. Infact, they love it. We give them foamy soap and bath toys to play with (the ones that stick to the walls of the shower when wet), and those keep them occupied. If you've ruled out that your child hasn't had any tramatic experience in the tub or pool (a tumble, swallowed water...), try this. You can also ease her into the water slowly. Some ideas: read books about bathtime before putting your child into the tub; start w/ a simple sponge bath and maybe wash her hair in the kitchen sink; use reverse psychology ("I don't want to go in the tub. Can you help me?"), then let her wash your hair; reward another child (brother or sister)for going in the tub and let your child see what she's missing out on (that one sounds mean, but it's worked in our case at times); never fight w/ the child. This can cause more problems and become a control issue. Maybe give your child more choices to make the experience a little easier, until she gets comfortable w/ the situation. Some of this stuff sounds a little far-fetched, but if you take the time to try it, you may find something that works for you. Every child is different. Good luck!

One more idea: Have your daughter put her face in the water (like in swim lessons) and make bubbles. This may help her overcome any fear she has and get her used to the idea of being "under water". My kids love the making bubbles part. 8-)

I am actually looking into creating a product to solve this particular need - my team and I have created this survey to help us determine what mothers would like/ prefer for this product. It would help us greatly if anyone reading this would take the time to fill out this survey! If we ever do create this product, hopefully it will help with this problem!

My daughter is going through this. So drops of food dye saved my life! It's so diluted that it doesn't affect their skin or hair at all. It's none toxic and safe. I just tell my little girl we are going to have a green bath, two drops, and she practically jumps in. She thinks it's the coolest thing to watch the water change. I also bought bath tub crayons. I know they seem scary but she loves the, and they are easy to clean. Good luck!