Ever since she was born, my daughter, Dee, hated bathtime. Bathing her was a two man job when she was tiny because, well, mostly I just needed the moral support (and for it to be over ASAP).
As she’s grown older, we’ve been through endless phases of bathtime bliss vs bathtime battles. There doesn’t seem to be any method to her madness – one moment she’ll be fine and the next day she’ll change her mind for no apparent reason.
Actually… I could say that about pretty much anything in her life and it would be true!
We’ve been through a lot of trial and error whilst navigating bathtime during those times she’s not a fan. For anyone in a similar situation, hang on in there, I know what you’re going through, and it will get better!!
Here are the top 6 tips that worked for us… and I hope they might for you if you’re having a similar struggle.
1) Explain why it’s important
This is more of a long-term solution. If you’re after a quick win, double up on the tips, but I’ve found that the more I talk about why having a bath is important, over time, the more quickly she gets on board with the idea.
I explain it by saying that there are invisible bugs called germs that get on your body during the day when you’re playing, and if you don’t wash them away from time to time then they can make you poorly and smelly. Not exactly a science lesson, but it gets the point across to a two year old!
We reinforce the germ thing with teeth brushing as well (which has its own hurdles). Now that we’ve been laying the ground work for a few months, she’s super clued up about the importance of bathing which makes it an easier pill to swallow when she’s not in the mood!
2) Let them wear a swimming costume
Dee LOVES swimming, which is why her periodic bath aversion puzzles me completely!
One evening, after we’d been swimming, I wanted to wash the chlorine out of her hair but she protested immediately at the mention of a bath.
“How about you go swimming in the bath and you can wear your swimming costume?”
Cue eyes lighting up and an easy breezy bathtime experience for everyone! We got her to practice her kicking and holding her breath so it was like being in the pool, and whipped off the swimming costume for a quick sponge over while the bath was draining under the guise of ‘just getting the bubbles off’.
I don’t like to trick my daughter, but darn it feels good when I get away with it!
3) Get them excited about a new bath toy
OK, so I know you can neither afford to buy a new toy for each bathtime, nor are you inclined to clutter your bathroom. However, if you’re little one is usually OK with bathtime but has gone off the idea, it might be that introducing a new toy will give them that added incentive to get back in the bath, and make it enjoyable for them again.
Building fun associations with bathtime is great for the future of bathtime in your household!
I always feel like if we can make this one bathtime really fun and enjoyable, that will stick in her mind and she’ll be ok with the next one, or we can at least reference it and use it in our arsenal of positive persuasion.
4) Get in with them
If you’re like me, you can’t be arsed to get in a slightly too cold bath and have sponges flung at you every time your child needs a wash.
This one’s for those moments when you’re feeling somewhat benevolent and can just about handle the prospect if it means a bathtime win.
Who knows, you might surprise yourself and enjoy it!
I’ve had some really lovely baths with Dee, that usually end up with us having a really lovely, snuggly skin to skin cuddle. Skin to skin can still be such a beautiful way to bond with your bigger babies, and being in the bath with them is a perfect way to cut out other distractions and have some quality one to one time.
If that’s not building positive bathtime associations, I don’t know what is!
5) Let them say no
Yeahhhh, this one doesn’t actually help get your little one in the bath in that moment…. BUT, it might help stop the battle in it’s tracks and let peace return to the bathtime conversation.
Firstly – how often do you do bathtime? I have friends who do it daily as part of a bedtime routine. We do it just once a week, maybe more if Dee’s particularly dirty or if she really wants a bath. Either is fine. As long as you’re maintaining decent levels of hygiene throughout the week with hand washing, top & tailing etc. then, to be honest, it’s just adding extra pressure if your child isn’t a bath lover and you’re trying to instigate it every day. Do you have any room to ease up on the schedule?
Secondly – How often do you get into the same cycle of resistance with your child? You say “It’s bathtime“, they say “not on your nelly” (or words to that effect) and it feels like déjà vu and makes you want to stick sponges in your ears and climb out the bathroom window.
I’m sure we and our children sometimes have the same disagreements out of habit. Break the cycle. Don’t mention it for a few days. Or do mention it but let them say “no thank you, not today”, and you can say “OK, that’s fine, another time then”. Give them a sense of control over their situation, and when you do ask again, they won’t immediately switch in to battle mode.
6) If it’s really essential, be respectful but clear
There have been times, when all else has failed, it’s been 10 days of letting her say no, she’s drawn all over herself in felt tip, there’s yoghurt in her hair and her ear creases are growing their own ears…. I’ve reached my limit but she is still adamant she neither wants or likes the bath.
At this point, when nothing else in my arsenal of persuasion is working, I gently but firmly take back control.
For me, it’s still important to make it as positive an experience as possible, even if it’s going to be overall slightly negative for her. That means no shouting, no telling her off or saying she’s naughty, just telling her what’s happening and what’s going to happen, reassuring her that I’m there, I’ll do it as quickly as possible, why I need to do it, and that we can have lovely snuggly cuddles and read a book afterwards.
It sounds so serene writing it down like that! What it actually sounds like is a crap load of crying and screaming, (sometimes from both of us) but sometimes a girl just needs a damn bath and a mum is tired AF!
Parenting isn’t perfect, but we find our way…
I hope some of these tips might help you find your bathtime way, or at least inspire your own path. Do you have any bathtime struggles with your little one? Or any hot tips for other parents with reluctant toddlers?