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Bath Time, A New Olympic Sport

Is bath time at your house an Olympic sport?

“Bath time at our house is a disaster. My daughter splashes, throws toys, and sprays the entire bathroom with water. Washing up doesn’t happen without a big fuss.”

Kids think that the tub is their own private swimming pool & washing up is not on their to do list.  They are not being bad – they are just having FUN! 

Lots of little kids never want to take a bath! They don’t cooperate and it becomes a battle of wills. Here are some tips if you have a little bath-avoider!

Think about it!

Take a minute to stop and think about why your child doesn’t want to take a bath. Is it because she’s having too much fun doing other things and doesn’t want to stop? Is it because bath time usually includes a battle of wills? Is it because she always gets soap in her eyes? Or is it because it signals the beginning of the bedtime routine? Once you figure out the real reason, you can take steps to move past the problem.

Things You Can Do

Make it fun. Allow your child to use bubble bath or kid’s bath foam or soap crayons to make it more fun. Buy a few fun bath toys, or use plastic kitchen products for play. Allow your child to play for a while before the washing up, and a little bit afterwards too. Starting and ending on a fun note will set you up for success tomorrow.

Control the suds. Even one incident of soap-in-the-eyes can make a child edgy. If your child fears getting soap in her eyes when you wash her hair, let her wear swimming goggles or a plastic sun visor while you wash her hair.

Be very consistent. Have a bath every day, or every-other-day, at exactly the same time, and in the same way. Specific routines can overcome resistance after they’ve become regular occurrences.

Give a forewarning. Let your child know ahead of time that bath time is nearing. Give a few warnings; “Bath time in ten minutes.” Then “Bath time in five minutes.” Your child will respond better than if you just drop the bomb in the middle of his fun activity.

Change your routine. Bath time is often done at bedtime when a child and the parent are tired and grumpy. In addition, if your child knows that bedtime follows bath he may want to put off the entire sequence. Instead, consider letting your child bathe first thing in the morning when everyone is fresh and energetic.
If your child is old enough… consider skipping the bath and changing to a shower!

What Not To Do

Don’t lecture about the importance of personal hygiene. Hygiene isn’t the reason your child avoids the bath — she isn’t even thinking about that aspect of bathing. It’s the time that it takes and the process involved that she objects to.

Don’t wheel and deal. Parents inadvertently get into the practice of bargaining with their child: “If you get in the bath right now then I’ll let you have bubbles.” Bribes are the wrong approach to gaining cooperation, and take power away from the parent and give it to the child. Bribes are different from rewards or encouragement. Bubbles offered to a child up front, to make the bath more fun, are fine. Bubbles offered later, to stop a tantrum, could be seen as a reward for misbehavior or as incentive for future tantrums.

Don’t make it a battle. It’s just a bath, mom and dad. Take a breath and relax. In a few months this will pass and you’ll be on to the next parenting challenge – and yep. There is always one of those.

Read The No-Cry Discipline Solution for more ideas & inspiration.

Elizabeth Pantley's picture
No-Cry Solution Series Author

Elizabeth Pantley is a parent educator, mother of four, and the author of the now-classic baby sleep book, The No-Cry Sleep Solution, as well as six other books in the series, including The No-Cry Separation Anxiety SolutionThe No-Cry Potty Training SolutionThe No-Cry Discipline Solution, The No-Cry Picky Eater Solution, plus other successful parenting books. She is known worldwide as the practical, reasonable voice of respectful parenting.