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How to Teach Your Kids About Hygiene

5 Ways to Encourage Better Hygiene

Kids can be a slovenly bunch. Circle of Moms member Cari O. says her 11-year-old daughter does not care about her appearance and will go out in public with mismatched clothes, unkempt hair, etc. 

Similarly, Stacy S. says her 13-year-old daughter doesn't care if she takes a shower or not. "When I was her age, I was always taking showers, playing with makeup and clothes, and fixing my hair in different ways. But not her. I have to make her take a shower and wash her hair, remind her every day to brush her teeth, hair and put deo[derant] on," she says. 

And Crystal H. says she's fresh out of ideas on how to encourage her 12-year-old son to keep himself clean. "He would rather sleep longer than get up and shower. If I make him get up and do it, he often times is not using soap or shampoo. He's not taking the time to use mouthwash. He will wear the same pair of socks for a week, etc. He does care about his appearance … I don't think he is hearing me when I am telling him that he stinks!"

Clearly you're not alone if you're searching for ways to help your big kid exercise better hygiene. For tips, we turned to the experienced Circle of Moms community.

1. It's a Phase

As you search for ways to help your child better maintain her appearance and level of cleanliness, it helps to remember that being unkempt is likely just a phase. "Almost every teenager/tween goes through this phase at some point," Tamara T. says.

Cella I.'s daughter, who falls in that age range, just started to take responsibility for her appearance within the past six weeks. "I think that it's just overwhelming for them, with all those changes to their bodies, to take on the responsibilities that come with a preteen body (like, in our case, daily showers)," she explains. "Just give it a little more time," and the disheveled and sometimes stinky phase will pass, Jennifer S. agrees.

Keep reading for more tips!

2. Set a Good Example

Of course, keeping yourself neat and clean is a good reminder for your child to maintain good hygiene as well, Circle of Moms members say. "How can you get her to care about her appearance? You kind of can't," says Sherry N. "Set a good example, and leave it be. Force her into it, and she will rebel and end up resenting you." 

3. Set Standards

Some Circle of Moms members say that as masters of the household, parents can set standards by which their children must abide. Sharon H. says she sat her daughter down and told her "if she wants to live in my house, she needs to take a shower every day and wash her hair… I am the parent and I need to be the parent. My daughter needs to know what is acceptable and not acceptable."

A member who calls herself "AndyandBelle R." says after constantly reminding her daughters about better hygiene, "I finally got mad and issued a warning to her and my 12-year-old daughter (same situation) that if they do not start taking care of themselves (i.e. showering/hair maintenance), we will be cutting off their hair to their chins (both have hair down their backs). This has helped! If they can't or don't take care of it, then it's gone."

And Sandra sys she no longer has discussions and battles with her stepdaughters. She explained to them that "if you are not presentable when we leave to go out, store, shopping, dining, etc., then you need to stay at home," she says.

4. Offer Carrots and Sticks

Some parents recommend offering your child an incentive for better hygiene or punishment for not meeting standards. Debbie K. says when her son was having trouble keeping clean, she had their pediatrician talk to him about the hazards of not keeping clean. And to provide an incentive, she bought her son a new robe and bedtime items. 

Michele W. recommends tying the ability to play video games with brushing teeth. Or she suggests that if you have a daughter, you could treat her to a manicure after her hygiene improves.

If you're OK with your child dating, then some Circle of Moms members recommend you suggest that the opposite sex won't be interested in your child if they can't keep clean. "My kid is totally in love with this kid in her class," says Amy N. "I asked her, 'Do you think he would want to be around somebody who doesn't brush their hair and take a shower?' She said, 'I wouldn't.' I said neither would I, and so you need to take care of yourself."

In Rebecca Q.'s case, Mother Nature provided enough of a punishment to turn her son's behavior around. "He knew all the proper guidelines for good hygiene, but for whatever reason (probably laziness) he just blew it off. Then came the pimples," she says. "Now he takes [hygiene] very seriously." 

5. Inquire How You Can Help

On occasion, poor hygiene is a result of a poor self-esteem or because your child is depressed about his looks so doesn't feel the need to improve, Circle of Moms members warn. In such cases, Karen P. suggests you build up your child's self-esteem, instead of berating him for bad decisions. She suggests parents could purchase a nice cologne to help a son understand what smells nice, or offer breath mints and gum with the comment, "since you didn't have time to brush your teeth …" She says, "Keeping the great relationship you have built [with your child] is the most important part. Hopefully he'll come around."

Sara G. suggests there are several books for teens and tweens that are going through body changes. "Maybe you can get her books on why it's important to be clean, and get books from the library about skin diseases and skin rashes and leave them laying around so she can see them when you're not looking and glance at how she can possibly get those skin things from not being clean." If you educate your children about their bodies in a positive way, they might be more easily persuaded to improve their hygiene, she adds.

Jaya N. says her daughter was feeling bad about her looks and under the impression that she could not improve. "I decided to work out on the issues. I promised her that her teeth can be corrected in a years' time with the help of a good dentist. I straightened her hair. She is a tall and slim girl. I bought her some trendy clothes, got her little personal touch-ups. She was surprised to see her own transformation into a beautiful tween." Now her daughter is happy and looks pretty all the time. "Talk to your child gently, address the issue, [and] she will understand," Jaya adds.

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