Resistant to Bath Time

  • Posted by Dr. Jay Gordon

Q. “My two-year-old absolutely hates bath time.  She screams as soon as she hears running water and struggles to get out the entire three minute it takes me to get her a little bit cleaner.  How often does she have to bathe?”

A. Toddlers get just “a little” dirty .  .  .  I once asked my favorite child psychologist, the great Dr. Fay Levinson, her best advice.  “Top and tail” she told me.  Take a wash cloth to her bottom and rinse her hair quickly and forget about frequent baths.  The basic concept here is that every really unpleasant bath time experience reinforces her negative feelings about baths and prolongs the whole process.  Read books about kids bathing, sing songs about baths and let her sit and watch you bathe.  She needs a graceful way out of this and her sweet little two-year-old mind can’t find it.  You, with great patience and tolerance for grubby feet, can help her.

The same principle holds true for kids with a fear of dogs, cats, aunts and uncles, or even broccoli.  Pushing them really hard into contact with things they fear creates scarier moments for them and their fears are strengthened not “fixed”.  Books, songs, watching dogs (or uncles .  .  . ) from a distance will slowly decrease a toddler’s aversion to a particular situation.