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Increase the Peace – or – How to Get Your Kid to Brush Their Teeth

brush your teeth
An Antidote for Yelling

A mother asked me for help because she finds herself yelling a lot and wants to yell less.
This happens especially when things like brushing teeth come up and they resist.
Here is my response:

Dear friend,
I understand how frustrating being a parent can be.

Anger Comes From Obstructed Expectations

Often when we get angry and yell it’s because we have certain expectations on our kid’s behaviour that aren’t being met. One way to change the cycle of frustration, anger and yelling is to change our expectations.

I know this is easier said than done, but really… what isn’t!

For example if you are having a frustration that your kid won’t brush their teeth at night and it always ends up in yelling, change the expectation that your kid will brush their teeth every night.

Now of course the immediate response is… “But my kid needs to brush their teeth or they’ll get cavities.” or “They need to get into the habit of brushing now so that they’ll do it all their lives.” or some variation.

Anger Creates and Amplifies Resistance

Not that these responses aren’t valid, but the question is, are they being served through yelling and anger? Not really. In fact the opposite occurs. Our kids become more and more resistant to what we’re asking them to do.

I can remember when I was young I hated brushing my teeth. My parents insisted that I did so every night. They would even check my toothbrush and smell my breath. So I started putting a little tooth paste on my lips and brush as well as wetting the toothbrush.

I think probably a 10 year time span went by when I didn’t brush my teeth at all!!
This was entirely an attempt at taking control over my life where I felt none.
I was trying to create some sense of personal power and freedom.

Let Kids Have Ownership

Instead if we chill out about the teeth and do it every other night, or 4 times a week, or in mid-afternoon instead of at night, or even letting them be in charge of when the tooth brushing happens. Even if that means a few days off…

A few benefits occur:
1) They won’t be associating brushing with the stress of the fight
2) They’ll feel ownership over their teeth and their care
3) You will be angry and yelling less

All of these seem worth the effort of letting go of that expectation.

Letting Go Of Expectations Brings Harmony and Cooperation

Now examine what other expectations you can release in order to bring more peace to your home. It is a difficult process to do this kind of self-evaluation. It requires letting go of a feeling of control (control that doesn’t really exist anyway!)

It’s amazing how much more actually gets accomplished when peace is increased.

Increase the peace!

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