It is incredibly important for children to have a routine of brushing and caring for their mouths as early in life as possible. The rationale is that if kids simply grow up with a daily routine, they get used to it and it becomes indispensible to them.
However, routines change as kids grow up. Independence, new responsibilities and activities can get in the way of what once was an old routine. And it happens often that brushing gets sidelined as busy school schedules start.
We’ve heard this a lot. And we’re parents ourselves so we understand just how easy it can be to fall asleep with homework still in the bed before you go to the bathroom to brush and floss!
The cue, the routine, the reward
Charles Duhigg, bestselling author of The Power of Habit,talks about the habit loop: the cue, the routine and the reward.
All of our habits have cues, routines and rewards.
For bedtime routines, the cue is wanting to go to sleep, or feeling sleepy. The routine is quickly getting into pajamas, jumping into bed, lights out. The reward is blissful sleep.
Now you want to insert and keep brushing in the routine. What will have to change?
Identify the routine: Look at your child’s entire evening routine. What time is homework finished? What time is dinner finished? How much time are they allowed for TV and/or their gadgets? Something can always be adjusted so that there’s still enough time for oral hygiene.
Identify cues:What makes your child skip brushing? For many kids, being too tired makes them stubborn. So you might make it an alternate routine that on active days — game days, playdates, grocery shopping days, etc– they eat and brush earlier.
Get it out of the way before the crankiness sets in!
Experiment with rewards:Completing their homework without dawdling gives them more time for their gadgets (once they’ve brushed!). A lovely night light could be a reward for an exemplary evening routine. Their favorite breakfast the next morning. Getting a treat with their lunch. The list goes on.
So if your child needs to find a better way to fit brushing into his/her routine, identify the routine and identify the cues so you can adjust and plan when needed. Then experiment with rewards. This is what makes habits stick. According to scientists, and they are typically pretty smart!
About Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan, the offices of Drs. Plunkett, Ralstrom, Makowski, Thanasas, Ker, and Associates
Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan have specialized in pediatric dentistry and orthodontics since 1968. Our family-friendly and newly renovated office gives patients and families a more comfortable and consistent experience with dentistry from the very beginning. Our pediatric dentists treat children from newborn to 18 years of age while our orthodontists provide care for both children and adults and are proud to be Premier Providers of Invisalign and Invisalign Teen services. The ability to treat all patients with compassion and individuality, including those that may have special needs reaches beyond our facility, which has treatment rooms available for children who require additional privacy and customized care options. We pioneered valued hospital affiliations to allow dental services to be performed at DMC Children’s Hospital and St. John Macomb Hospital, when appropriate or necessary, and our specialists are also proud to be on staff at Henry Ford and Beaumont hospitals.