Arts & Leisure

Dear Mari: Put your foot down at bath time

BRIBING WITH bubble baths may not be the best way to get a child to bathe (Shutterstock).

Dear Marilyn,

Help! I have a 3-year-old little boy who refuses to take a shower or a bath. My wife and I have tried everything, and I mean everything. Anytime my wife or I mention that it is time to take a bath, he starts to hyperventilate. Then he starts to cry or pout.

   He’ll say things like, “I don’t want to take a bath.” or “No, not me. I’m not taking a bath.” This is turning into a nightly battle for us. Sometimes we don’t want to have the fight, so we don’t even bring up the bath, and just skip it.

We have tried bubble baths, toys, and reading books to him in the bath, but nothing seems to work. I want him to enjoy taking a bath. I don’t enjoy these battles, and neither does he. What should we do?

We can’t think of anything else to try and make the bath time more enjoyable for him. We would like for you to give us some advice.

Signed, Bath Time Nightmares

Dear Bath Time Nightmares,

   You and your wife do not understand the real issue here. It is not that your son doesn’t like to take a bath. The issue is that bath time has turned into a power struggle.

   You think that your son does not enjoy these battles, but at some level he actually does. He has now learned that when he pitches a fit, sometimes he “wins” and doesn’t have to take a bath.

   He took control of the situation, and he got to do what he wanted to do, and you and your wife did not. Of course, he’s too young to verbalize that is what he is doing, but that is exactly what is going on here.

   He even gets you to play games, and give him bubble baths, and as long as he keeps crying and complaining, he gets you to do all kinds of things.

   So, the answer is for you to take back control of the situation. You are in charge, and he is not. He needs to understand that.

   You need to set firm limits and boundaries, and stick to them. He needs to learn that there are consequences for his actions. He needs to learn that it is much more pleasant for him to please you and your wife, then to try and take power from you.

   So, it comes down to rewards for good behavior, and negative consequences for improper behavior.

   You let him know when it is time to take his bath, he must not cry or whine. Let him know that if he does, he will have a “time out” and then he will have his bath.

   When it is bath time, if he is pleasant about it, give him lots of praise. Let him know how proud you are of him.

   If he is not pleasant, then follow through on what you had told him. He has a time out. If, after the time out, he still cries and is still unpleasant, he has another one.

   You and your wife need to stay calm, and let him know that he will not have privileges, (TV, video, whatever he enjoys) until the bath is done, and he is pleasant about it. Then follow up with another time out.

   It should not take long for him to understand that he no longer has power over you or the situation.

   After the bath, praise him. He will learn that obeying what Mom and Dad want leads to pleasant rewards, and that bratty behavior will get him nowhere. This is a very good lesson for him to learn.

Dear Marilyn,

My boyfriend and I are having some major problems. I can’t seem to make him realize that he needs to make some effort in keeping our relationship together.

I wash his clothes, do his dishes, clean the house and pay the bills. We both work, and he does contribute to the bills, but I am the one that makes sure that they are paid on time.

We have a 4-year-old son. He pays very little attention to him. He plays with him for about five minutes, and then he is back on the computer playing games, or gambling online.

It kills me to hear our son begging for his Daddy to play with him outside. His little heart breaks every time, and I hate it. I always try to step in and help, but it only leads to more arguments. He verbally abuses me.

I am strong enough to take it, but it gets so frustrating when he bashes me and then tries to make up for it later. He needs some sort of counseling, but I don’t know how I can make him go. My son needs his Dad.

I just want him to admit that he needs help, and I want him to be there for my son and me.

I am so tired. Please give me some advice as to how I can get him to go for counseling.

Signed, Broken-Hearted


Dear Broken-Hearted,

   The answer is not for him to get counseling. The answer is for you to take your son and move out right away.

   I realize that there are both emotional and financial reasons that you want to stay with him. You want him to change, and then you are hoping that everything will be all right.

   That is very unlikely. He is selfish. He is unkind. He is a terrible father for your son.

   You are a person of value and worth. So is your son. He is not treating either one of you that way, and therefore you need to leave.

   It is time for you to take control of the situation. The time for “wishing and hoping” is over. You must do this both for your own sake, and for the sake of your son.

   Please seek legal advice regarding support that he will owe you, and find your own way without him.


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