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My toddler doesn't like to get his teeth brushed. How do I get him to be more cooperative?

He knows it's part of the bedtime routine and doesn't try to avoid it. He will happily grab and hold out his toothbrush for us to put toothpaste on it, and then he enjoys sucking and chewing it.

When he's done that for a short while, we decide it's necessary to do it properly, and that often ends in me holding him while my wife brushing his teeth, while we explain what we're doing and why. It only takes 20 seconds, but it's always accompanied by screaming and squirming. I'd like to find a way to avoid this. As soon as we're done, everything is fine again.

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Our daughter displayed many of the same behaviors your cite and we had to resort to having one parent hold her while the other brushed her teeth properly. What we found helpful, though, was to have the parent brushing the teeth to say the vowels aloud - Aaaaaa, Eeeeeeeeee, Iiiiiiiiiii, Ooooooooooo, Uuuuuuuuuuu, and sometimes Yyyyyyyyyyyyyy - and to encourage her to say them.

After a few times, she lessened her resistance. Our thought was that she understood that when the vowels ended, the brushing would end, giving her a cue as to how long the session would last and how close it was to ending. It also gave her something to do. Not long after she started saying the vowel sounds, too, which further distracted her and made brushing easier for everyone involved.

Another thing to try is to have another parent brush his or her teeth at the same time. Let your son see that brushing teeth is something his parents do, as well. Children are naturally interested in imitating the behaviors of their parents.

If none of the above work, try compromising by letting your son brush his own teeth himself after you brush them. (This works particularly well if he's at that stage where he wants to do everything himself.) In short, you explain that you will brush his teeth - Aaaaaa, Eeeeeeeeee, Iiiiiiiiiii, Ooooooooooo, Uuuuuuuuuuu, and sometimes Yyyyyyyyyyyyyy - and afterwards he can hold the brush and brush them himself.

Good luck!
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Sometimes some strange trick will work. Our son started to accept his teeth being brushed when he got to hold a hand mirror and watch it from there. He sometimes still asks for the mirror though he's mostly forgotten about it, but lets brush her teeth normally.
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I'd go crazy too having someone brush my teeth. ;) I can only recommend to relax. Brush yours and let him find his way to do it. It will come if you can show him that you are convinced that he is capable of doing it properly. And as long as it does not, remember that it is your fear that lets him very little room to decide about his body. Don't force him into resignation. Let him explore and let him know it's his realm. And let him experience unbrushed tooth, too. This is where we take our motivation to brush ours! And it's not really that dangerous as we tend to think to go to bed without having your tooth brushed properly. The harm that can be done to the relationship between you and your child by forcing it is much worse than some potential hole in a tooth. Just imagine the respect he will experience when you ask him if he wants help and you would accept his no.

The other day on a familylab talk there was a mother telling about the big fights she has with her daughter because the daughter doesn't want to brush her teeth. The mother was asking for advice. Mathias Voelchert from familylab asked her if she could try to not care about her teeth for the next 14 days. It wouldn't be the end for her teeth but could be a beautiful 2 weeks for their relationship. :)
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