“Why did you just touch your feet while you’re at the dinner table?”
“When is the last time you took a bath? Has it been more than three days?”
“Don’t touch your mouth after you just pulled that out of the dog’s mouth!”
“Don’t lick your sister’s elbow!”
“Why aren’t you brushing your hair? There are so many knots!”
These are all statements I have said to my youngest daughter recently.
She is my nine-year-old princess and unicorn-loving girl, who prances and dances around our house. Yet this girly girl has to be reminded frequently about her hygiene habits. We can sometimes get into an argument over her lack of hygiene.
So, here are a few things I do to help my youngest daughter (My oldest daughter has her hygiene under control) with this “chore” called cleanliness:
Special Hygiene Tools
I let my daughter pick out some of her hygiene tools. I try to give her choices about body wash, shampoo, conditioner, lotions, toothpaste, dental floss, deodorant, etc. She picks out a unique bag or basket for keeping those personal items. When my child has a say in her hygiene products, she is more likely to use them.
Show the Dirt
Ever heard the expression of rubbing dogs’ noses in the mess they made? I’ve done that with my children too. I’ve pulled out their dirty clothes, underwear, in particular, to show that if their clothing is not clean, then neither are they. I know it’s not pretty, but sometimes I must show them the “skid marks” on those undies. Then I go over proper wiping techniques and the importance of changing our clothes daily.
Agree to an Occasional Special Activity
If my child is resistant to hygiene, I consider offering an activity to help her transition. I will say something like, “I thought we could watch that movie you love tonight, but first, I need you to get cleaned up.” I offer to play that board game that my child loves. I know it could be considered bribery, but we parents must do what we can to instill these good behaviors until they become habits.
Focus on the Positive
After my youngest daughter takes a shower, I make a big deal out of how great she smells. I give a dramatic performance that causes her to laugh. I have made up songs about it. I help brush and style her hair. I marvel at the pajamas she picks out to wear, reminding her that pajamas so precious only deserve to go on a clean, great-smelling body. My daughter has told me that when I point out her mistakes and mention them multiple times, it causes her to feel bad. So, I strive to focus more on the positive behaviors my daughter has.
Spread the Love
As I work to instill hygiene habits in my children, I teach them to spread the love of self-care. When we put effort into our hygiene, we are loving and respecting ourselves. We are fortunate to do this on our own, and my kids have me to look after their well-being. But not all children or individuals are lucky to have someone around to care for them. I talk to my kids about that fact, about the needs of the underserved and underprivileged. On occasion, my kids and I pick out additional hygiene products at the store and make a few kits to hand out. Local charities and hospitals keep ongoing wish lists for those people they serve. Our small acts of donating can help others.
Remember that hygiene issues will arise with most kids. Some dirt is good for the soul, and beautiful flowers (children) grow from it.