Dear Kid Whisperer,
My 5-year-old refuses to shower. This has been happening for the last two years. When it’s time for a shower, he screams, he yells, he hides. It’s exhausting. I feel like I’ve tried everything. What do I do? -Annie, Omaha, Nebraska
When kids are small enough to carry, it is a great and often necessary opportunity to show (not tell) them that you love them, you are more powerful than them, and that resistance is futile.
Once your kid knows that when it’s time to go to the shower, he will be going to the shower (whether he wants to or not), he will stop resisting– after trying all other options. This will make him upset, but he’s upset already. If you want to teach your kid to stop this behavior AND make him happy at the same time, you will fail and become very frustrated in the process.
Here’s how I would simultaneously train your kid to take a shower without resistance and guarantee that he will be sparkling clean by the end of the training session, all while having a smile on my face:
Kid Whisperer: It’s just about time for a shower. Would you like to go now or in five minutes?
Kid: NEITHER, DUMMY!
Kid Whisperer: OK, looks like you are going now. Would you like to go to the shower by walking or by flying?
Kid: What kind of a question is that? Well I tell you, adults these days really have no sense of…
Kid Whisperer (while picking up Kid): Flying it is. Wheeee!
Kid Whisperer carries Kid toward the shower.
Kid: YOU ARE MAKING A MOCKERY OF MY NEED FOR PERSONAL AUTONOMY!!!
Kid Whisperer: WHEEE!!!
Kid: I DEMAND TO SPEAK WITH MY ATTORNEY!!!
Kid Whisperer: WHEEE!!!
Kid Whisperer places Kid in the shower.
Kid Whisperer: Would you like to warm up for a minute or would you like to start washing now?
Kid: I think I have already made my thoughts on my level of cooperation clear.
Kid Whisperer: Washing now it is! Would you like to wash yourself, or would you like me to wash you?
Kid: What do you think, stupid?
Kid Whisperer: I shall do the washing!
Kid Whisperer does the washing. This is repeated with hair washing, drying, and putting on clean clothes. This procedure trains Kid to understand the concept of Behavioral Inevitability: no matter what he tries, it is inevitable that he will be doing what the parent wants him to do. Whenever possible, it’s important to do this when kids are small enough to be carried, washed, dried, and clothed. Note that I also gave preventive choices before giving the inevitability choices.
If a kid isn’t taught Behavioral Inevitability until they are larger, this inevitability can still be taught, though the training process becomes slightly more complicated.
Kids who have this kind of training are more pleasant to be around and end up being happier and more successful!