Google+ Authentic Parenting: Sit Back, Relax and Unschool Hygiene

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sit Back, Relax and Unschool Hygiene

Welcome to the April 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids and Personal

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted
by Code
Name: Mama
and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories, tips, and
struggles relating to their children's personal care choices.


Many momisms (regular, annoying and denigrating sayings only mothers seem to handle) deal with hygiene: “Did you brush your teeth?”, “Go wash your hands”, “Brush your hair”... Most of these phrases, we utter almost without realizing we do... and certainly without realizing how disrespectful they are. Place yourself in your child’s position: would you feel empowered if someone asked you if you washed your hands before coming to the diner table?

True, our children need to learn proper hygiene in order not to get ill, or make others ill. But in Western society, our hygiene standards are way out there, to a degree that it’s not even healthy anymore... and weren’t we just using these hygienic rules to promote health? A little dirt strengthens the immune system and too frequent washings are damaging to our skin and hair.

So how do you find a middle ground? How will your child learn to manage his or her own hygiene without becoming a stinky person everyone avoids and without constant reminders?

  1. A big part of your child’s learning experience of hygiene is modeling: If your child sees his parents take frequent baths or showers, brush hair and teeth, wash hand before eating, when cooking and after using the bathroom, he’ll internalize hygiene.
  2. When your child is a little older, you can start talking about why you wash your hands and brush your teeth. Tell them about bacteria and cleanliness, about cavities... Books and youtube videos are a good help in this department. When explained in a suitable language, kids pick up easily on the why and will be willing to partake in his own hygenic management.
  3. All things considered, it’s also important for your child to see cleanliness as something enjoyable rather than something he or she needs to do. This way, he’ll internalize hygienic standards. Getting a cool toothbrush or some nice bath products (or making your own) can be just the incentive your child needs to get clean.
  4. And last but not least, make sure your child does not feel punished, shamed or coerced into cleanliness... Most parents think they have to enforce hygiene and this is exactly what makes children rebel.

So sit back, relax and let the cleaning take its natural course. If your child feels empowered and enjoys the washing and getting clean, odds are that there will be very little issues in getting clean. And if your child does need a nudging, make it fun and gentle.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon April 10 with all the carnival links.)



  1. Absolutely, modeling is so important. I love the suggestions to go to YouTube and books, too, because Mikko's loving some resources right now on the idea of germs and bugs. I think it helps if they can really visualize the why of hygiene, as you said. I remember hygiene practices being such a conflict between my parents and me as a child, and it really doesn't have to be. Great post!

  2. Great tips! I completely agree! I don't think a little bit of dirt is ever worth pressuring or shaming your child into doing something.

  3. I really appreciate the simple way you've explained this - it makes so much sense! I have made similar connections WRT gentle discipline but haven't consciously thought about it in terms of self-care.

  4. I find modeling to be one of the very best parenting tools, hands down. It can also be one of the worst give-aways for our own bad habits! (Like my husband's rear-scratching, and my nose-picking! EW! I know!)

    Children pick up on everything - so modeling healthy, clean behaviors is a great way to encourage good hygiene without having to enforce it.

  5. We too practice modeling and making things fun! The why of being clean is so important like you wrote and really sinks in over time, my oldest loves to explain to his sibblings why they should get the germs off their hands!

  6. Great post! I sometimes find myself saying these things, though I agree that hygiene is made too much of in this society! I don't worry too much about hygiene in general, and try to ask my daughter kindly to brush her teeth or ask her if I can change her nappy, bathe her, etc, rather than dictating that it's what's going to happen.

  7. Love this post!

  8. I think you're right. My son LOVES taking baths, so I don't think I have to worry about that one. But overall, I think he'll grow up doing what we do. I remember my parents would always nag me about picking my nose when I was little. I really tried to stop until one day I caught my dad picking his nose. "Aha!" I thought. "The rule is really, 'Don't let anyone SEE you pick your nose.'" Kids do what you do, not what you say.

  9. Valid points! You manages to change my perceptions! Thanks! :D

    I get bored in telling her to do those things, and I'm sure the little one just switches off...

  10. I love that you make it important to organically entice a child's innate desire to be clean, rather than creating a desirable behavior. #4 is my favorite point on there. How do you deal with others who are rude because your child is not "meeting their standards"?

  11. Nothing works better then modeling with my little one. If mummy and daddy brush hair/teeth, little one wants to do it too because that's what big people do. As for strengthing the immune system with a little dirt, most antibiotics are 'found' in dirt!! Great post :)

  12. I really enjoyed this post. modeling and explaining WHY go so far with our dd. she is much more likely to do things happily if left to choose it on her own and if she understands why. we had a real toothbrushing struggle and we did books and youtube videos. She will now tell you happily that teeth should be brushed at least 2 times a day!

  13. One thing I heard from an emergency dentist long island is that it's better to avoid being technical in explaining brushing to a kid.


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