Give kids baths, not showers

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  August 30, 2011 06:00 AM

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My in-law's 4 year old son hates to take showers and has a fit every morning. They say after he is in awhile he is ok, but every morning is just misery for the parents. What can they do?

From: Mark, Redondo Beach, CA

Dear Mark,

This is all about learning to pick your battles. Why is it so important that a 4-year-old take a morning shower? I bet it's because it's convenient for the parents because they take morning showers. And why do adults take morning showers, anyway? Mostly it's to wake us up, to be fresh for the work day, and to look our best, ie., do something about our bed head. That's what's developmentally appropriate for us, as adults.

There are zillions of reasons in the course of parenting why parents need to impose their will/wishes/control over a child. Save the battle for what's really important. This also gets into my philosophy of parenting, which is to feed into a child's strengths. That promotes a sense of security and self-confidence which leads to self-esteem and trust, among other things, and eventually to a willingness to try new things. Of course, feeding into a child's strengths requires that parents have an idea of what's developmentally appropriate for him/her, given stage of development and individual abilities. Which gets us back to that morning shower. It's not developmentally appropriate for a 4-year-old. Kids are dirty at the end of the day. A bath at the end of the day is fun and also soothing; it helps get them ready for sleep. Most kids hate showers because water pelting them from above is disconcerting, violent almost. To step naked & cold into water coming down at you from above? It doesn't feel good to them.

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6 comments so far...
  1. I agree with Barbara that a night time bath routine should be explored. My kids had fun playing with tub toys and getting warm and cozy in their pajamas, knowing that a story and snuggle in bed was right around the corner. If this family with the four year old does not have a bathtub, they could try evening showers or putting a big pot full of warm water, soap and a sponge in the shower stall and bathing him that way. If it is possible to install a hand held detachable shower head, that would allow the boy to have some control over rinsing himself off and showers might go over better.

    Posted by cordelia August 30, 11 06:26 AM
  1. I totally agree with Barbara. My son wouldn't get in the shower until he was six years old. What's the big deal? If there isn't time for a bath in the morning because the adults need to be in the tub/shower stall combo, then he should have his bath at night. Most parents I know do "tubby time" as part of the bedtime routine for several reasons: it helps with wind down, it does help establish a routine, and there isn't time for one in the morning. Oh, and it gets the kid clean from daytime adventures, too.

    Posted by RH August 30, 11 07:03 AM
  1. My child (soon to be 5 years old) is the exact opposite. He has always hated tubbies. He is a shower kid and has been since he was 2. I know that is not typically the case though. Some like showers, others prefer tubby time. I am a big fan of night time tubby time. Go get him some toys that he can only play with at tubby time...no where else. Let him splash around (within reason of course).

    Posted by jd August 30, 11 11:04 AM
  1. Give that kid a bath..He's 4 years old. If he's like my son he might hate getting in but he also hates getting out. It's an opportunity for him to play on his own for a bit and have some fun. You can sit on a stool or (toilet) to supervise and relax too. I love tubby time for that reason sometimes after a long day. I've even gotten out an emery board and had time to file my finger nails which led to some curiosity. It helped cut down on the nail trimming tantrums that used to happen.

    Posted by m's mom August 30, 11 03:45 PM
  1. I had the same thought: Why is a 4-y/o being given a shower in the morning anyway?! Obviously, if there's no tub that's one thing...but even then, there are plenty of work-arounds as other posters have noted.

    My 3.5 y/o will only tolerate a shower just after the beach - as long as I block most of the water pelting down on her with my own body. But the joy for her of a bathing routine comes from a tepid bath with her toys, her lavendar soap, and knowing snuggly jammies, Caillou, and stories are just around the corner.

    Besides, as Barbara noted, kids are filthy at the end of the day, so if he's going to bed dirty, he's probably not feeling so awesome about things as it is.

    Posted by Phe August 31, 11 08:46 AM
  1. Different things work for different families. My kids complain about baths or showers, and then they whine when they have to get out because they enjoy the hot water (and toys for the little one). Both of them could take showers at 3, so it really was always a matter of their preference at the moment and what we had time to fit in.

    But do really agree that bathing should be done at end of day for kids. Who knows what dirt and germs they've picked up over the course of the day, and the scheduling works out for the whole family--adults in the morning and kids at night--so there's always enough hot water.

    Posted by momof2 August 31, 11 02:45 PM
 
6 comments so far...
  1. I agree with Barbara that a night time bath routine should be explored. My kids had fun playing with tub toys and getting warm and cozy in their pajamas, knowing that a story and snuggle in bed was right around the corner. If this family with the four year old does not have a bathtub, they could try evening showers or putting a big pot full of warm water, soap and a sponge in the shower stall and bathing him that way. If it is possible to install a hand held detachable shower head, that would allow the boy to have some control over rinsing himself off and showers might go over better.

    Posted by cordelia August 30, 11 06:26 AM
  1. I totally agree with Barbara. My son wouldn't get in the shower until he was six years old. What's the big deal? If there isn't time for a bath in the morning because the adults need to be in the tub/shower stall combo, then he should have his bath at night. Most parents I know do "tubby time" as part of the bedtime routine for several reasons: it helps with wind down, it does help establish a routine, and there isn't time for one in the morning. Oh, and it gets the kid clean from daytime adventures, too.

    Posted by RH August 30, 11 07:03 AM
  1. My child (soon to be 5 years old) is the exact opposite. He has always hated tubbies. He is a shower kid and has been since he was 2. I know that is not typically the case though. Some like showers, others prefer tubby time. I am a big fan of night time tubby time. Go get him some toys that he can only play with at tubby time...no where else. Let him splash around (within reason of course).

    Posted by jd August 30, 11 11:04 AM
  1. Give that kid a bath..He's 4 years old. If he's like my son he might hate getting in but he also hates getting out. It's an opportunity for him to play on his own for a bit and have some fun. You can sit on a stool or (toilet) to supervise and relax too. I love tubby time for that reason sometimes after a long day. I've even gotten out an emery board and had time to file my finger nails which led to some curiosity. It helped cut down on the nail trimming tantrums that used to happen.

    Posted by m's mom August 30, 11 03:45 PM
  1. I had the same thought: Why is a 4-y/o being given a shower in the morning anyway?! Obviously, if there's no tub that's one thing...but even then, there are plenty of work-arounds as other posters have noted.

    My 3.5 y/o will only tolerate a shower just after the beach - as long as I block most of the water pelting down on her with my own body. But the joy for her of a bathing routine comes from a tepid bath with her toys, her lavendar soap, and knowing snuggly jammies, Caillou, and stories are just around the corner.

    Besides, as Barbara noted, kids are filthy at the end of the day, so if he's going to bed dirty, he's probably not feeling so awesome about things as it is.

    Posted by Phe August 31, 11 08:46 AM
  1. Different things work for different families. My kids complain about baths or showers, and then they whine when they have to get out because they enjoy the hot water (and toys for the little one). Both of them could take showers at 3, so it really was always a matter of their preference at the moment and what we had time to fit in.

    But do really agree that bathing should be done at end of day for kids. Who knows what dirt and germs they've picked up over the course of the day, and the scheduling works out for the whole family--adults in the morning and kids at night--so there's always enough hot water.

    Posted by momof2 August 31, 11 02:45 PM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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