When my kids were about 16 months old and taking a bath, one of them pulled up the shower knob and doused them both with cold water. Both of them cried a long time. Several nights after this I went to give them a bath and my daughter willingly returned to the tub but my son would have none of it.
I'd had problems with them disliking the bath before this and had always had a hard time knowing what to do. Before I learned about the Hand in Hand approach I either forced them to take a bath, doing it as quickly as possible, or I avoided giving them a bath at all.
As I sat in the bathroom thinking about what to do, I realized I could hold the limit that the bath was going to happen but that I could also wait until the feelings had cleared enough to let him accept it willingly.
I got down on the floor with him and told him he had to take a bath. He cried really hard. When his crying slowed down I reminded him that he needed to get into the tub. Each time this would bring on a new onslaught of tears. After a while, my daughter completed her bath and I had to move on to bedtime.
Three different times my daughter got in the bath while I sat on the floor and held out the idea that he would get into the bath while he cried about it.
I was just starting to despair that this was not going to change when he pointed to the bath animals. “Crab?” he asked. When I responded he said, “In,” indicating the bathtub. “Crab swimming,” he said. “Yes,” I agreed. This went on until we had all of the animals in the water “swimming.” Then as if nothing had ever happened he lifted up his arms and told me he wanted in. I couldn't believe it! Holding onto my desire for him to take a bath while simultaneously allowing all of his feelings their space allowed us to thoroughly and completely heal this situation.
-Alaiya Aguilar, Certified Instructor
From the Hand in Hand Toolbox
- Alaiya used a tool called Staylistening to help her son release his fears about taking a bath. Read more about Staylistening how helps the bond between you and your child
- There's more about Setting Limits and Staylistening here
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- Patty Wipfler's book Listen gives parents five simple tools to use for calmer parenting. Buy the book here.