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How Do You Get Your Kids to Brush Their Teeth?

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How Do You Get Your Kids to Brush Their Teeth?

Last week I put the word out to see if parent’s would be interested in contributing to a new feature on our website called “Who’s The Expert”.

I was astounded.

Within a day, about 35 parents had already contacted me, all keen to find out more and share their awesome tips and ideas for the new feature.

I couldn’t get over it! I put the word out for contributions on our first topic “Tantrums” and was in awe by the fantastic insights and responses that flooded in.

One Mum in particular, wrote in to share her story about how her daughter used to have a tantrum whenever it came time to brush her teeth.

I was really impressed with the strategy she used to overcome the teeth brushing tantrums, and I figured that there were probably plenty of other parents out there dealing with a similar issue.

So, I put a shout out to our contributors to see what tips and idea’s they had to share, and checked through my own strategies too, to come up with this nice little bundle of tips for encouraging kids to brush their teeth.

To start with, I thought you might like to hear the story from the Mum I mentioned earlier…

Her name is Melanie and she is a full-time mother, full-time wife, full-time teacher, and never-enough-time blogger at Is It Just Me? Stories of Love, Life, and Mothering. She holds a doctorate in education and yet those many years of education have proved to be useless when it comes to actual mothering!

She lives by two simple rules:
1) No T-shirts, and
2) No mini-skirts. Ever.

She’s been published on Scary MommySammiches & Psych Meds and Red Tricycle. She makes herself laugh on Facebook and Instagram.  

Here’s the story about how she got her little one in the habit of brushing her teeth:

It never occurred to me that my biggest parenting challenge would occur in the bathroom. I guess I shouldn’t have been that surprised; it seems to be the one room in the house that kids generally do the most bitching.

Nonetheless, each and every night, around 6pm when it was time to brush teeth I would consistently find myself in a power struggle tug-of-war with my two-year-old.

The simple act of telling her to go to the bathroom would only initiate in her the exact opposite reaction.

“Get your toothbrush ready!” would result in her pulling out a hair brush and giggling hysterically.
“Stand up, please!” would result in a dramatic collapse onto the floor.
“Open your mouth wide!” would result in her lips sealed tight with both hands covering her mouth for good measure.

I would ultimately end up yelling, she ended up in tears, and I can’t confirm or deny if I ever tried to actually pry her mouth open.

Thankfully, on one fateful evening I had the sense to walk away and take a breath. As I stood in the hallway contemplating a way to brush her teeth while she was sleeping, it occurred to me that I was part of the problem.

"This is like a game of tennis. You can’t play unless both people pick up the racket. I keep picking up the racket! I keep picking up the racket! It’s time to put down the racket."

I realized that this was not going to get any better until I made a change. My daughter was having a delightful time getting all of this undivided attention from me.

She could make me do crazy things!

For a two-year-old, that was pretty amazing. Even though there were days that I wasn’t convinced I was, I was the adult in the room, so I had to be the one to put down the racket. Otherwise, I’d be forced to play this crappy game of tennis every night!

"Put down the racket. You can’t play tennis with only one person."

I put down the racket and stopped engaging in the game. Instead of making demand, after demand, only to grow more frustrated with her, I reset the rules. “It’s time to brush. Let me know when you are ready to do it the right way.” Then I turned on my heel and walked away.

Within a few minutes she came running to me, “I’m ready! I’m ready!” and she was. This time, she received all of my attention but it was positive attention. We talked, laughed, and for once (and for then on) brushing her teeth was a positive experience!

I love this story, and the strategy Melanie used to get her little girl to brush her teeth, it’s so simple – just don’t engage in the distracting behaviour!

But, I know that not every strategy out there will work for every kid, so I thought you might be interested in hearing a couple more simple strategies that worked for other parents too:

Victoria from Lylia Rose
shared her simple trick about following-up teeth brushing with a fun activity:

We try to make tooth brushing a fun experience and let the children choose their own toothbrushes such as tiger and princess themed brushes.

This encourages them to brush their teeth as they look forward to using their chosen brush.

Every so often they won’t brush properly or try to refuse, so I exaggerate a little. I’ll say something along the lines of ‘do you want your teeth to go bad and the dentist to pull them out?’.

It always works and they’ll brush their teeth properly right away!

Tamlyn Nicoll, Mum of two beautiful boys (you can find her on Instagram)
shared how she got her little boy to brushing his teeth:

If he doesn’t brush his teeth, he doesn’t get his after bath story.

We only had to withhold the story time once!

Holly from Taste Buds
a Mum of two and a qualified paediatric Speech Pathologist who specialises in the area of baby, toddler and child feeding difficulties shared one of her tips:

Let them brush your teeth at the same time as you brush theirs.

A little tricky to coordinate but always good for a laugh!

Once you’re smiling about it, the stress drops and you can have more success at them allowing you to brush their teeth properly. 

I would just love to be a fly on the wall to watch that one 😉 

Lastly, I wanted to share one of our Oh Beehave! strategies with you too:

Practice Brushing (with a toy or doll)
If you are having trouble getting your child to brush their teeth, encourage them to practice teeth brushing with a small toothbrush and a doll (or even if you are getting them prepared to eventually brush their own teeth this can be a good starting point).

To help as a prompt for teeth brushing, you can try giving your child options, such as:

"Would you like to brush your teeth or dolly’s teeth first?"

Giving your child the opportunity to practice teeth brushing can help them feel more comfortable and less anxious about brushing their own teeth.

Giving a choice can also help them feel as though they have a sense of control of the situation, making it more likely that they will brush their own teeth (even if it means brushing their dolls teeth first!)

To check out more Oh Beehave! strategies for teeth brushing click here (non-members will need to register to view – it’s easy with just 1 click!)

How do you get your kids to brush their teeth? Let us know in the comments below (if you have a website, feel free to include the link).

If you have a topic you would like us to include, a tip you want to share, or you would like to feature as a contributor on “Who’s The Expert” get in touch (let us know if you would like to receive email alerts!) or join our facebook group!

Looking for more strategies?


Download our App Parenting Therapy in the iTunes App Store to access the 30 best parenting strategies

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So many helpful tips here! With my littles ones I count to 20 slowly in a language they don’t know – they listen for a bit, they love the sense of routine, and bonus, they learn some Dutch 😀


I love this idea for a series for parents, I’ll be following along for more – we do pretty well with teeth brushing, but there are plenty of other things that my three year old will throw a tantrum for!

These are great tips! I love that you reached out to others for their advice!

Galit Breen

Such great tips—thank you! I love when parents find/create great “hacks” and then share them with the rest of us! We need each other and that help is SO APPRECIATED!

Melissa Blake

Great tips!! xoxo


Thanks for these tips – yet another of your posts I’ll be bookmarking for future reference once the kiddies come along! I like how you’ve got lots of other perspectives from people here as well – because every child is different, that’s for sure!

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