Friday, February 5, 2010

Bathtime Troubles?

The Question:

Dear Jane,

My question is about bath time. My kids (ages 4, 2, 8 mo.) LOVE baths and have a great time splashing and playing with toys together. Just recently, though, my 2-year-old does not want me to wash her hair. I try to convince her to lean back or look up at the ceiling (which she used to do just fine), but she hides behind the 4-year-old and cries that she doesn't want a bath anymore. This discussion gets us nowhere and I eventually do what it takes to throw water over her hair, scrub it down, and have her out of the bath as soon as possible (and then hold her and love her because I've just traumatized her again). It's a negative cycle that makes her even more afraid of soap and water- which makes the next bath that much harder. Any suggestions for a hair-washing battles?


The Answer:


I actually think that what you're doing is fine. Just be kind, gentle and reassuring throughout the process. "I'm so sorry. I know this is hard but we'll be done in just a minute." etc. Just keep the whole experience quick and low key and when she realizes that this is simply one of the patterns of her life and it's not going to change, she should improve. Praise her for her bravery when she does.



  1. When I was little, my mom washed my hair in the kitchen sink. I laid horizontally on the counter, and she propped my neck with one hand while washing my hair with the other. She used the sprayer on low so it wouldn't get in my ears or eyes (which was what made me afraid in the bathtub). If you have a sink and counter that could accomodate this, it might be worth a try. I always felt she was so gentle, and it made the hygiene routine less traumatizing. Bathtub time was just a chance to have fun and wash my much easier!

  2. Great idea! And it's an added incentive to have an empty kitchen sink and cleared off countertop, right? Thanks for the nice alternative.

  3. It's not uncommon for kids to go through stages like that. For a while both of my twins refused baths completely (post on my blog here about it: We gave them baths in the sink or put them in the shower, neither of which they loved, but they put up with it and eventually grew out of that stage.

    I agree with Jane that you're doing just fine.

  4. I'm excited to give my advice!

    When I was little, I LOVED Little Mermaid. I wanted to be Ariel, which is pretty unrealistic, because I can't grow a fin. But what I COULD do is have Ariel's hair by lying in the tub and letting it float around me!! So my suggestion is show her The Little Mermaid, talk a lot about how pretty her hair moves, then during bathtime ask if she wants to play mermaid, and lay her in the water instead of pouring it over her. I've just started this with my daughter (who is 1.5), and she loves it. She also likes to talk and listen to her voice while her ears are underwater.

  5. When I wash my boys' hair, I roll up my pant legs and sit at the side of the tub with my feet in the water. The bath is shallow enough that they can rest their neck on my foot (i tilt my foot up and they lay on the little crook of my ankle)and I use both hands to gently get their hair wet. I've found they feel more secure this way as I am in a position to easily help them up and down, and I always enjoy soaking my feet for a minute=)

  6. My daughter was in that stage for an entire year. She even wouldn't bath at one point, but that passed, since not bathing wasn't an option. I started rolling up a wash cloth really thickly and holding it just above her eyes. It helped keep the water out somewhat and I could quickly wipe any water that escaped into her eyes. She started to freak out less when water wasn't getting into her eyes as often. One tool I never bought but probably should have was this pitcher with rubber on the spout that forms to their head so water doesn't get into their eyes. I've seen it at walmart. She'll get over it as soon as she cognitively realizes, hey if I tip my head back, I won't get water in my eyes! Good luck - you are doing great.


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