Brushing Wars: Mommy vs Toddler

Bring an end to the furious battle of the brushes!

Is your child giving you such a hard time brushing his teeth?

Well, power struggles are a normal daily part of life as a mom or a dad.

It is simple, your toddler is going through that phase of autonomy.

From the: “NO” to the “I WANT TO DO IT!!!” stage, and you get the picture.

As a pediatric dentist, I say: this is completely normal. If your child is not going through one of those stages- let’s get him checked (just kidding J)

It is reality though, 9 out of 10 moms complain that their child refuses to have their teeth brushed!

Hang in there, this can only be temporary: here are 7 dental and psychological tips for a more enjoyable, relaxed tooth brushing time!

  1. Patience and Faith: The number one secret ingredient is to have FAITH – that’s right- these days will soon be over. You are reading this right now, aren’t you? All you need is to survive this phase! Tough to imagine? Especially when it is so draining of your efforts and time. The science behind it is: this faith gives you an internal calm in face of the storm, funny enough, your toddler senses it too and gives up when its time!
  2. Understanding their need for power: It stems up from “I have a choice”. Why don’t we give them the choice? Of course we can’t give them a choice of whether or not they brush their teeth! They will choose not to. It is our responsibility as parents to choose what’s best for them including brushing their teeth twice per day. However, we can give them the choice to brush in the living room or the bathroom. “Do you want to brush with the red brush or the blue one?”There is a choice that can be made, the child will have exercised his power of choice, and you would have gotten your peace of mind. The more questions you ask them, the more they feel like they did run the show!
  3. Let them brush their teeth and yours: Allow them to brush their teeth first, then ask them to brush your teeth. This “role reversal” allows them a sense of control since they are in the brusher position. Now it is your turn to brush their teeth. Of course you would have endured a good bang for your teeth, but totally worth it.
  4. Enjoy your own brush: “Pretend” to be enjoying yourself with your brush in the bathroom and all you need is a big wide smile. It is only a matter of minutes before your child wants in on this pleasurable activity. Children in this age love to model and imitate, let’s use it to our favor. Who said brushing can’t be fun?
  5. Say “YES: Find opportunities to say yes more often during the day. The more they hear “NO” the more they discover and exercise it’s power too! We don’t want that, do we?! Like “lets brush your teeth now”- “NO”- “Yes I have such a new song to sing today, I am so excited”. Let go of the “NO” distract the child until you get what you want.
  6. Use the “I like it when” strategy: “I like it when we spend time together having fun counting your teeth”, “I like it when you sit still and open your mouth wide”, “I like it when you earn rewards for such a good job”. Unfortunately, children find the “don’t” command confusing which is why it gets us poor results and it just does not work!
  7. Make it fun and rewarding: There are many ways to make brushing fun and entertaining for your child. You just need to find what your child likes. Turn it into a game, a story, a song, whatever it takes to keep your child’s attention. Thank them in advance for getting the job done. Invest in a reward chart that makes them visualize the earned benefits aka gifts to their brushing efforts!

Electric brush for girls
Get it Now !

Electric brush for girls
Get it Now !

Electric brush for boys
Get it Now !

Best adult tooth brush
Get it Now !


Disclaimer: using these tactics involves a lot of patience, even more consistency and just that-practice! My advice is to use them all at once and play full out!

For more inspiration and creative ideas to make brushing fun check this blog post:

I would appreciate your comments below with your own experience and to whether anything worked with your child. Happy parenting 🙂

Dr. Yasmin Kottait DDS, HDD, MFDS Ed, MSc

A pediatric dentist with a special mission: spreading smiles to children wherever she goes.

Currently working in MyPediaClinic in Dubai Health Care City

If your kids are scared from the dentist, bring them to see me 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.