The Secret to Child Raising: Participate

from Jeremy

Who knew parenting was so easy?  I didn’t!   

Easy, you say, yeah right!  How is it easy? 

I learned a secret that made our bedtime routine a cinch. At least what used to be a bedtime brawl is now a two minute session of shared time with my son. 

For over two years we’ve been working with Joshua on brushing his teeth at night.  For two years he’s resisted at one level or another.  About two months ago his level of resistance was getting out of hand.   

One night, while Jan was out (she doesn’t get to do this enough!) for a dinner with friends, I was hanging with Joshua.  We’d had a great day together, and were wrapping it up with our usual bedtime routine.   

Our routine consisted of putting on pajamas, reading books, going potty, brushing teeth, putting on our diaper, and then reading a book before a daddy story and a goodnight hug.  Sounds simple right.  The brushing teeth step just wasn’t working.  We weren’t getting past that step for several weeks, and Jan and I could not figure out why.  

On this particular night Joshua was more recalcitrant than usual.  He was not going to brush his teeth.  I ended up brushing them for him, and it wasn’t great.  He thinks that when I brush it’s too rough.  He’s right.  By that time, I’m frustrated and it’s not as gentle as he would do himself if he did them himself. 

We then went into his bedroom to get on diapers, but I was already frustrated.  He sensed that frustration, and doesn’t quite understand it, mistaking it for a playful voice.  Therefore, he got playful.  He jumped away from the diaper, wiggled his legs violently, and did everything he could to resist the next step in the bedtime routine. 

I was getting more and more frustrated.   

Yet, where was it getting me? 

I decided to walk out, declaring “Let me know when you’re ready, I’ll come back.” 

Joshua does not like that.  He immediately said “I’m ready, I’m ready”.   

“Ok” I said, coming back in. 

“I didn’t like that Daddy.” 

“I didn’t like it either.” 

He let me put on his diaper, we told stories, and he went to bed. 


I wasn’t proud of walking out on him, but it got me through a tough night. 

I then spent some time contemplating what could have made the night easier. 

I realized that I should not just tell him to brush his teeth, but rather, I should brush mine with him. 

The next night I got my toothbrush, brought it into his bathroom, and we brushed together.  The simile on his face was awesome!  He was so excited to brush with me that he pulled me closer to him so we were both over the sink, his arm wrapped around my shoulders. 

It was the best self-teeth brushing he had up to that point in his childhood.  

He loved brushing with me. 

The lesson I took from that experience was that I cannot tell Joshua what to do.  Instead, I should do things with him.  They will be more fun.  He will enjoy doing them.  And, extra bonus, I’ll get my teeth even cleaner than they would have been had I just brushed once that night. 

Now, I have to figure out how to transfer this lesson to every aspect of life with kids.  How do I do everything with him so that I know how to approach a difficult situation?  I know I need to step back, consider his needs, and think through alternative ways to do something.  That's going to be a lot of stepping back, considering, and thinking through. 

How do you do this with your kids?