Bathing & School-aged Kids
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Bathing & School-aged Kids
My son is going on 6 in December, and lately, he doesn't like to
shower, or he doesn't want to do homework. I try to go over a
routine schedule to make it easier for him and me so that there
would be no complaining on his end. So, I tell him when we get
home after snack time, you can shower, and then do your
homework, but when it came to taking his shower, he just refused
to do it, and I ended up dragging him into the bathroom, and
told him his punishment would be going to bed early, and not
watching his favorite show. He cried up a storm, and I lost
control and kicked his toys around. I knew right then and there
I was out of control. At this point when I get home, I will
just try to relax, and kind of let it go a bit, and make some
changes in the routine. On top of that, I owe my son an
apology. Personally, I feel horrible about this.
You were so open and honest about your anger. I think you need
some support -- as we all do. We don't often talk about how
frustrating and angry parenting can be. I read a great essay
by Anne Lamott in Mothers Who Think that was helpful this
subject. She reminded us that it is often not the single act
that we are reacting to, but the string of suppressed
frustrations that cause us to get so angry. I am currently
trying to get MORE SLEEP so I can cope. What I find helpful
when my son is extra challenging is to walk away saying, ''I'm
too frustrated to cope with (blank) right now, I need a time
out.'' He protests loudly, follows me, etc. but I move away
from him and turn my back to him. Then I close my eyes, try to
center and relax, think of something wonderful about my son and
open my heart to him again, then try another tactic with him.
Sometims I ignore what ever we were struggling with, and ask
for a hug so that I can feel better (which helps him too). I
also think it is not so terrible to get angry sometimes to show
how we handle it. You can explain what happened and process it
a little together. If he knows that you feel bad for crossing
a line (kicking things for example) you can talk about how you
can prevent it and what you need from each other.
About the homework and after school needs -- try involving him
in creating the routine or incorporating something fun. When
homework battles got too bad for me, we tried going to cafe's
for coffee and milk. My son won't yell at me as much in
public! Plus it is something we both enjoy. Today, I gave up
on finishing his homework (a first time). He was too worn out
to do it, so anything he did wasn't going to be good. Try to
figure out if he is testing your limits or if he is having
trouble with the work.
Good luck. You're not alone.
another struggling mama
What about a bath?
What about showering or a bath after dinner (before the tv
Explain to his teacher the situation you are in and let him not
bathe awhile. His peers will soon make it clear that he needs
to clean up!
Is it really necessary to bathe every day for him? Does he do
sports or get filthy? It is known that most folks are
healthier without a daily bath. Could he do his bathing every
If there is a dad in the picture, could they shower/bathe
Have you asked him why he is not interested in showering? Is
he shy about having you around when he's in there or do you
give him complete privacy?
No real solution here I am afraid, but hope the questions might
bring about an ''ah ha!'' moment for you.
Nanny to a 6 year old
I have 3 boys, and the two oldest are in their 20s now. I
remember very well the period of years when they did not want to
bathe. It lasted from about kindergarten till about middle
school, at which point, I guess because of puberty, they finally
started to care how they smelled and looked. (At that point we
then had problems with huge clouds of cologne wafting all over
the house. Pew.)
I remember the fights. I remember one of them going into the
bathroom (to get me off his back), turning on the shower for a
few minutes, and then emerging 5-10 minutes later *completely
dry* and still in the same clothes, pretending that he'd showered.
Later he learned to wet the towel, or rub water on his hair to
trick me. It wasn't just shower trickery either. He would also
rub a bar of soap on his dry hands to make me think he'd washed
his hands, and eat a bit of toothpaste to make me think he'd
brushed his teeth (I used a sniff test - doesn't work.)
GRRRRRR!!!! They just had better things to do and didn't want
to spend time on an activity they considered to be a waste of
time. If they don't care if they are dirty, what can you do?
When they are 6 you can still sort of hold them down and wash
them, but when they are much older than that, they are mortified
to have their mothers even see them in their boxers. So what's a
mother to do?!!
I don't know what to suggest because I had a very low success
rate using nagging. I can tell you from experience that shaming
doesn't work either (as in, ''eeyou! what is that smell?''). One
thing I would suggest is cutting back on bathing to just 2-3
times a week, and let him pick when the bath days are. Maybe you
can tie it into some sort of treat. It might work if you convince
him that it's fun - reading in the tub maybe? Special bath
products just for him?
Now homework, that is a much bigger problem. It is a very, very
common problem reported by parents of boys. Some people say that
schools aren't really set up well for boys, who want more
physical activity more frequently, while girls often enjoy
sitting for longer periods doing work. I hate to tell you that
for my boys, reluctance to do homework continued all the way
through middle school and high school. It was always a problem.
As a 6-year-old, your son may be feeling overwhelmed and he may
need your help, either on the actual work, or with organization.
Also many parents limit time spent on homework and let the
teacher know about this. Your son's teacher may have some ideas
about this, but talk to other parents too.
Good luck. Boys are great.
I've read several parenting books regarding developmental stages
around this time,and I believe that defiance is a classic
characteristic of 6. He does sound as though he needs to feel
as though he has some choice. You could offer him something like
showering in the morning, or every other day, but it sounds as
though that is not the primary problem. I think 6 is a time
where independence is tested via defiance, and asking/demanding
some choice over immediate destiny is the harbinger. Regarding
your reaction, it was a bit emotional and you were taken by
surprise, but perhaps understanding what is going on will help
6 is coming at my house too!
When should a child be expected to bathe alone? My daughter will be 7 in a few
months. She doesn't like showers - only baths. We still bathe her. It's her preference.
She knows how to bathe herself - I've watched her do it and she does fine (I put the
water in the tub to regulate the temperature). Truth is, she is pretty tired by evening
when she bathes, and I think she just feels too tired to do it herself.I realize she won't
want me/us to do this forever, and I enjoy the time together. I don't mind bathing her
- I'm just curious when others' children started to bathe themselves.
still bathing my big girl
My nine-year-old basically bathes herself, but still likes me to
wash her hair and help her get out of the bathtub. Sometimes she
also wants me to hang out in the bathroom and talk. I've also
been wondering how long this will go on for, but she seems to
feel taken care of by the attention. She's going to overnight
camp for the first time this summer, and I'm wondering if she'll
want me to help her when she comes back.
For the last few months, we've been letting our almost-four-year-
old take baths while we're in the next room. We check in on her
often, and except for the time she and a friend decided to pull
all the towels into the tub, there have been no incidents.
However, I have this nagging worry that she might still be too
At what age did you allow your children to be in the tub by
themselves? How frequently did you check at first? When did you
transition to just calling from the next room? How old were they
before you finally stopped worrying about them drowning in the
This question is posted on the website, but there are no replies.
I think one child alone in the bath is much safer than more than
one. I've been doing the next room (we have a very small house)
since about 4, and now, at 6, I leave the door open and go to
other rooms though if it gets quiet (i.e. no talking to the toys
or splashing) I check on my child. I may be more nervous than
most people because a high school friend's child drowned in the
bath -- I reassure myself because that was two kids, a four-year-
old and a two-year-old -- it was one of those awful situations
where she left the room for a moment to answer the phone, and
when she came back into the bathroom the younger one had drowned.
Okay, I hope child welfare won't come after me, but I've been
letting my 25 month old bathe on her own since she was 12 months
old. I only use 3 inches of water; she has understood and followed
the rules from a very early age (i.e., no standing in the tub);
the handles to turn on the water are very old and stiff, so
there's no risk of scalding; I don't leave shampoo or soap near
the tub; and I am usally in her bedroom (4 feet away) putting away
toys and setting out clothes for the next day. I look in on her
from time to time--she likes to chatter with her toys and if it
gets quiet, I'm right in there. She's in the tub alone for 10
minutes, then I go in and wash her and get her out. I never used
one of those bathtub child holders, but a non skid bathmat is very
important (cheap at Ikea!). I am very aware of the risk I am
taking and always keep my ears tuned to the tub (i.e., no music,
TV or phone conversations, and I don't even answer the door!).
I think everyone needs to make this decision on their own, based
on the temperment of their child. Also, safety features should be
in place. I'm a single mom, so I probably encourage independence
in my child earlier that others.
Well, who knows what the ''right age'' is, but we have a 4-year-
old who has been bathing without a parent hovering (I wouldn't
say unsupervised) for a good 6 months now. He sits in the tub
and plays happily for a long time, while one of us does the
dishes in the kitchen adjoining the bath. He's always within
earshot and I usually have the ability to see him, too, if I
try. Now, if we had a nice big house where I couldn't see
and/or hear him, I think I'd do it differently. I would not be
comfortable if I couldn't hear and/or see what's going on.
I wouldn't let a child who could not swim well bathe alone. The
problem is that if, for some reason, a child's face gets under
water, and the child breathes in, s/he may just panic, and try to
breathe again (more water), etc. Only a child who knows how to
cope with water, that if you breathe some in, you need to
surface, spit it out, etc., can really recover.
Drowning is heartachingly common, and only takes a few minutes.
This weekend my family was at Lake Temescal. Although the life
guards had just gone off-duty, there were many children and
adults both in the water and on the beach. A child reported
another child was drowing. My husband and some other adults went
into the water as soon as they heard (I stayed with our
children.), and the off-duty life guard who had to be retrieved
from the shower tried to search, a 14-year-old boy died. In
minutes. With 25-30 people standing around, only yards away.
Apparently he could not swim well. We are still grieving.
I think that a 6 year old can bathe alone if an adult is within
hearing distance. I know of a horror story where an 8 year old
had his/her 1st seizure in the bathtub, was alone (parent was
elsewhere in house), slipped under the water, and...
When my nine-year-old daughter is bathing, I am within earshot of
her. When she bathes with her toddler brother I sit in the
hallway, reading, with the door open--she wants to be with him
''alone,'' and so I compromise so that I can spring to action if
My almost-5 year old boy has been bathing alone since about 4
years old, however when he is in the bath I always leave the
door open so I can hear him sing and play. A good idea until
you are comfortable leaving your child alone to bathe is to put
a baby monitor in the bathroom. Make sure it and the cord are
well out of reach of the child and the tub. I mounted a small
shelf just above the outside of the bathroom door for the
monitor and used an outlet from the laundry room. My child's
bathtime is his singing time as well, so I can always hear him
and know he's safe. If and when it ever gets quiet, I
immediately go to see what's up. Happy Bathing!
this page was last updated: Nov 18, 2005
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