Thursday, February 7, 2008

Brush, Rinse, Repeat

I don’t think Chip is alone when it comes to tooth brushing troubles. Like most toddlers, he has a love-hate relationship with the tooth brushing routine. He loves the toothpaste part which is some hard-to-know-which-fruit scented and the tooth brush is sucked dry of the said toothpaste every time and lips dutifully smacked afterwards. He hates the tooth brush part. We have tried all sorts of tooth brushes. Brushes that light up and sing a little tune after 2 minutes of brushing. Brushes with little Einsteins, with Pooh, with Elmo, with unknown generic cartoon characters. Grown up looking brushes in solid colors. Their fate has been the same. All disdained and chewed until death.

Since devious toothbrush marketing techniques were not working, I turned to facts. “Chip”, I said to him one day, “There are germs in your teeth, if we don’t take them out, they will go in your tummy and will give you a tummy ache.” It seemed to work. Tooth brushing that night and the next few nights was no struggle. Until one day. “Aie, germs in Chip’s mouth will give me tummy ache.” “That’s right, Chip.” “Will I have constipation?” “Yes, Chip.” A little explanation here. Chip is well, umm.. let’s call him anal retentive in a physical way. If he drinks more than three cups of milk, there is trouble. “Ok Aie. Let’s rinse now. No brushing.” “Why?” “Because” he explained patiently to his obviously dumb mother. “If you drink too much milk you get a tummy ache.” Huh?? Apparently, Chip had it all down with the impeccable toddler logic. Tummy ache = constipation = too much milk. There is no other way to get tummy aches.

Plan B. “Chip, you think I am lying about the germs? Come here look.” I pointed to a wisp of my hair in the washbasin. “That came out of your mouth. Chip was aghast. “Black germs?” “Not just black Chip. They come in all colors.” “Purple germs? Blue germs?” “Yes. Open your mouth. Oh my! I see a big green one there. Spit it out.” Two year olds can be so gullible. Chip was convinced about all the germs coming out of his mouth. This technique worked for quite a long time. Meaning a little more than a month. Each night we spat out germs in Technicolor. And in all shapes. Purple rectangle germs – the most deadly, followed by green circle germs that lived in the molars and the red ones that took a long time to come out from their incisor lair. Until one day. “All done Aie.” We had barely started to brush. “Turn on the brush Aie.” “Your brush doesn’t turn on.” “Aie’s brush turns on?” “Yes, Aie’s brush turns on, Baba’s brush turns on, but not yours.” “Nooooooo! I want Chip’s brush turn on.” “OK. Here it is.” I turned the brush on and made whirring sounds. “No. Aie, not with your mouth. With the brush.” Chip sat there perched on the bathroom counter waiting expectantly for his god-like mother to perform the miracle.

Plan C. “Chip,” I said in a low whisper. “We will have to go to the dentist if you don’t brush your teeth.” A dentist?” “Yes. A dentist is a doctor for teeth.” Chip was intrigued. “Does he give tooch (shots)?” “Big tooch Chip. The needles are this long.” I said stretching my arms as wide as I could. “And it is not just the tooch. He also has a drill. He will drill your teeth. Do you want the dentist to drill your teeth?” Chip shook his head and opened his mouth. Brushed and rinsed. Chip got down from his perch. “Aie, is dentist drill like Baba’s?” The drill strategy worked for a while. Although he now looked at his Baba’s drill differently. Intently. Almost as if imagining the thing drilling holes in his teeth. The evil mom conscience had tripped the good mom conscience and I didn’t tell him the true drill facts and still haven’t. This worked for a while. Until one day. He just lost interest in the drill theory. The threats were treated with a bored look and I suspected if he knew the word ‘whatever’ he would have said it now. Many times.

Plan D. Well it was not really a plan. But I gotta do it to maintain narrative integrity. BigGeek on his way home yesterday stopped at a pharmacy to buy some vaporub for my cold and also bought a battery operated toothbrush for Chip. To say Chip was excited would be the understatement of the century. He danced with it until he realized the cover needed to be pulled off. The brush was promptly handed back to Aie dearest, but only for the few seconds that it took to free the brush from the casing. He garbbed the coveted toothbrush and gingerly pressed on the green button. The brush started whirring. Chip looked at it mesmerized. “Let’s go and brush my teeth, Aie” “Yes we will! But after dinner. Let’s eat dinner first. Yes?” “NOOOOOO” He wailed and thumped his feet. “Turn off the brush Chip. The battery will die.” “I want to brush my teeth now.” “Yes we will brush your teeth. But after dinner. Come let’s eat dinner.” This went on for a few minutes. Each iteration escalating Chip’s temper until BigGeek grabbed the toothbrush and turned it off.

Later, after tantrum, tears and dinner were done with, we went upstairs for the much waited moment. Finally. The toothpaste was smeared on the brush, the little green button pressed. Chip gleefully opened his mouth and brushed. Not his teeth, but his tongue. I tried to get a few swipes but then left him to enjoy his brush. A few minutes later, he came out asked me to turn off the toothbrush and went inside again. I heard him turn the light off and close the door and he came out again, but in haste and jumped into the bed and dived under the comforter taking care to make sure he was covered in it. Something was up. “What is in your hand Chip?” I asked. “Nothing Aie. Don’t look here. Look there.” As if. I peered under the comforter and lying there snuggled in his arms like his favorite soft toy was the orange and green toothbrush. I now need a Plan E.

On a completely unrelated note, my good friend and neighbor your-girl-next-door (formerly known as V) has decided to start writing a blog. Welcome to the blogworld YGND.


Preethi said...

hahaha.. round 4 to Chip... I am doing plan A,B and C together here... I usually make Nantu sit on the counter for his brushing routine.. so if there is trouble, I shut off the light, close the door with just a tiny opening so that he doesn't feel shut in and ask him to call out to me when he is ready. When he realizes there is no getting out of it, he calls out to me and the brushing gets done!

Vinita said...

Truly hilarious...hee heee heee just couldn't stop laughing. You must have a lot of patience.

But on a more serious note, be really careful what you say about the dentist because the visits to the dentist even though they are once in six months can be the worst nightmare.

( I pointed to a wisp of my hair in the washbasin. “That came out of your mouth. Chip was aghast. “Black germs?” “Not just black Chip. They come in all colors.” “Purple germs? Blue germs?” “Yes. Open your mouth. Oh my! I see a big green one there. Spit it out.”

hahahahahhahahah just can't stop laughing.

“Does he give tooch (shots)?” “Big tooch Chip. The needles are this long.” I said stretching my arms as wide as I could.

heheehehehehe.. reminded me of that story about those bunny rabbits loving each other .


girl-next-door said...

I can finally send a comment instead of an email :)
Hilarious interpretations from Chip, loved the "Tummy ache=constipation=too much milk" logic!

Good luck plotting your next plan :)

DotMom said...

preethi: he doesn't cry??? WOW.

vinita: you know..I realized the bit about the drill and the dentist right after I had told it to him. I have since modified the story.. there is a nice dentist mawshi who will not drill if Chip brushes his teeth everyday. :)

DotMom said...

vinita: what's the story about bunny rabbits, again?

girl-next-door said...

I can finally reply with a comment and not an email :)

Hilarious plans! Loved Chip's interpretation, "Tummy ache = constipation = too much milk"!! Truly beyond his age!

DotMom said...

girl-next-door: for what its worth, he told me yesterday that he has a tummy ache because he watched elmo :) impeccable toddler logic, I tell ya :D

rayshma said...

Vin has to try some of these with ME! LOL!!!! he's paranoid abt brushing and brushes his teeth after every meal... and i'm inherently lazy... so he keeps telling me he's gonna take me to the dentist etc... :D i'm gonna take tips from Chip now! ;) esp. to avoid the "tooch" karnaara dentist!:D

AA_Mom said...

Nice story and very well written too. I started brushing A&A's teeth very early on, thinking that they would get the hang of it. Hope it helps, Right now they are protesting but hope it will pass.

DM and GND you are lucky to have a friend a short distance away.

Its Our Space said...

Hey dotmom,haven't been to the comment space after your 100th,but I dont miss your posts:). Anyway,I will go with what Vinita says.Don't make the dentist anything more than what she is. May be you can use the the dental visit as some kinda prize,you know with the toys and stickers they hand out after the visit.

Also,delayed gratification is too much for toddlers to get a hang of. So,all strategies leading towards you "will have" clean teeth,healthy teeth, "wont have germs" etc dont really hold water against the 20 seconds attention span creatures. And the whirring tooth brushes are a pain.There is no way to replace the brush heads and the novelty wears off too quick for my comfort.SO the only strategy that works is "no school if you dont brush" Yee haw !

oops,sorry for the long comment .

Timepass said...

Reminds me of the days when my dad used to hand over the brush to me ( I was in primary school then) and I would stand and doze off...Suddenly he would come back from his chores to realise that I dozed off and he would wake me up with a big jolt...

ddmom said...

Technicolor.. hair.. = Germs? This is toooo much Dotmom.
Here, night time brushing is a piece of cake. As she brushes while taking bath. She will do anything to stay in the water. Morning time - she plays all sorts of tricks. Sometimes she will tell the LH that mummy already brushed her teeth. Same here. When she gets a new brush, the excitement lasts for few days. The germ tactics worked for few days. That went bonkers as one day she said - but I brushed yesterday night. And then I not eat anything after that. So there are no germs. Latest is to tell her matter of factly, mouth is stinking D, If mouth smells like this, none of your friends will play with you. And your teacher will not let you inside the school. Working for the last few days :)

I must add chip is just way to smart for his age... The other day LH was saying, why not invent some sort of a candy like kids-friendly-listerine kids can chew. I told him, that would mean the germs will end up inside the stomach.. hmm...

Anonymous said...
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DotMom said...

rayshma: I am lazy too.. won't do it after every meal, but do it twice a day..

aa_mom: i think its the age. they protest anything and everything :) GND is indeed lucky to have me so close by. (ok ok ok.. i am lucky too to have her live across the street)

it's our space: reward system doesn't work for Chip.. It's shock and awe all the way :) Usually my tactics involve no givinh him time to actually process what I said :) I agree with the battery operated toothbrushes. it's the first time we got one and I was dismayed to see the head can't be changed. BigGeek got it on sale. I don't think I'll pay full price for it.

timpass: lol.. we all do have tales rathermares of those days, huh :)

ddmom: Chip lies too. Weekdays is a breeze because BG gets mornings, I get evenings..weekends is a bit unscheduled. So Chip has ample opportunites to lie. We found that out the hard way. Now we simpley ask him if he is lying and he says yes.

M said...


first comment on your blog, I think, though I read everyday :-)

My kids (now 8 and 6) were somewhat recalcitrant about brushing, but their first visit to the dentist at age 3 (that's what our ped recommended) changed them forever! The dental hygenist showed them how much "gunk" she could scrape off their back teeth (It wasn't bad, she told me that she says this all first-timers, to get them fired up about regular brushing), introduced them to floss (like most desis I know, I didn't floss as a child and find it painful to use now) and now I have to beg them to STOP brushing and get dressed!

Maybe Chip would benefit from a visit to the dentist as well? From your descriptions, it sounds like he loves machinery - the dental equipment is very fascinating as well!


choxbox said...


only one thing works here - we have to brush each other's teeth by turns - first she will brush my front teeth and then i do to hers, then i open my mouth wide and she pokes inside and then lets me do it to her.. and so on.

noon said...

Nice post - enjoyed it.
Wow - Chip's constipation logic is pretty good actually! :)
I keep telling KB that I will take him to the dentist - except if he doesn't stop using his tooth brush all the time to eat his toothpaste.
I would not even dare to buy him a battery operated toothbrush! You probably (silly of me to have deleted that post since a lot of people seem to have it in their google reader)read it in the "KB turns 2.5" post - I had it with the battery operated "Weazel ball" - I am SURE that if I got him such a tooth brush, it will becomes his next month or year long obsession!

Trishna said...

Ohh My God! Dot Mom .. this is such a cool post..I had so much fun reading it! And Aadya's Aie is surely coming running to Chip's Aie for pointers when the time comes!You are just too cool!

Vinita said...

Here is the link to that story where you can read online. Its a very cute little story book which I have simply adored. The illustrations are very cute too(though not shown here)

Little kids love stories.. may be you could promise to read him a short story as soon as he finishes brushing, or tell him a story while he is brushing. If he stops brushing midway then the story stops too. Or you could use a timer and see if he can outrun or outbrush the timer which you can set for 2 min. Or make a daily sticker chart.. as soon as finishes brushing, or drinking milk or whatever you want him to do give him a sticker. HE gets to put it up on the chart and after a week depending on how many stickers he has got he gets to invite a friend for a sleep over or buy a story book or whatever you might feel appropriate at that time. Sometimes a simple hug or reading him a story under the blanket with a flashlight will do the trick too. Make sure every time the "winning jackpot" is a surprise which he can never imagine.

I Liked choxbox strategy of brushing each other's teeth. If you are busy in the morning then keep that reserved for the weekends.(or as one of the prizes)


Lavs said...

I laughed so much after reading about “Purple germs” and “Green circle germs”.

PS: With this comment, I de-lurk. I have been reading your space for quite some time now, though I am yet to complete reading all your archives.

Vinita said...

:)) This was the image i was talking about..

(the outstretched hands);)


DotMom said...

M: thanks for leaving a comment and delurking.. welcome! I so need to schedule a densit visit for him.. he might benefit when an "outsider" explains these things to him.. I just heard someone's 2yr old got a root canal done. horror.

choxbox: what a lovely idea :)

noon: i read abt the weazle ball :) Well.. if brushing becomes an obsession, one less headache, right? :)

Trishna: I so hope Aadya doesn't give you this much trouble:)

vinita: I suspected you were reffering to the hare story :) It's such a cute story..Chip never did like it though..I have been planning to do a sticker chart...always thought he was too lil for it.

Lavs: This was almost 6 months ago.. thought we would revise shapes and colors :) Thanks for delurking and welcome :)

vinita: ROTFL.. Wish I looked as cute as the bunny.

mummyjaan said...

Brushing time has always been my worst 'chore' - followed by bed-time.

I am impressed to see that you handled it by appealing to his imagination - and it worked. Well done - it's not easy to persuade little children to brush their teeth.

Mine put up a huge resistance for ages, but now that she's 4 we're doing better.

DotMom said...

mummyjann: it gets better??? Oh I can't wait for him to be 4. you lucky you!

Moppet's Mom said...

Hello, me back! :-)

Oh this is so familiar - although i really do like the multi-coloured and shaped germ idea. Moppet's still in a rather literal frame of mind, so I'm keeping this one to use a little later :-)

DotMom said...

moppet's mom: welcome and congrats!!! i so hope you don't have to use these tricks.. Moppet's not the devil Chip is :)

Usha said...

hehehehehhe. I am sorry but can't help it. So have you come up with plan E yet?
You don't know how glad I am that my son is all grown up - I'd have been totally clueless if he did things like this.

DotMom said...

usha: you have maternal amnesia. I think all mothers do and for a good reason too. I am sure your son raised hell too :)