Kids are eager to learn, but sometimes all the demonstrations and reminders in the world won’t drive home the importance of good oral hygiene. But children aren’t just paying attention when you want them too; they’re also watching and listening when you’re just going about your daily routine. Modeling the behavior you want them to learn, such as brushing twice a day, is essential because even toddlers find the flaw in the “Do as I say, not as I do” routine. Make sure you’re setting the right example with these five steps.
Brush and Floss Daily
Most families teach that brushing is a private practice to do behind doors, but being a little more open with your oral hygiene is a boon to a learning child. Get the entire family together in the mornings and evenings so that everyone can brush together at the right times. Even if some of your children are too young for brushing still, include them with a teething toy or by teaching them to rinse with water so they can join in on the family routine. The same should be done with flossing as children grow old enough to handle it on their own.
Discuss Your Mistakes
It’s natural to want to present an infallible and perfect image of yourself as a parent, but kids like hearing about the mistakes you made when you were young. Explaining a story about a painful cavity or even a root canal you experienced as a result of falling behind on your oral hygiene is a great learning moment that has personal meaning to the child. Stories about imaginary characters just don’t have quite the impact as a story about your mom or dad when they were little.
You tell your children that candy will rot their teeth, but you’re still nibbling away at sweet treats after every meal. Set a good dietary example as well by trimming extra sugar and acids from your diet, especially in the forms of drinks like coffee and soda. Even if you don’t want to eat broccoli rather than a chocolate bar for your mid-afternoon snack, think of the lasting impact on your children you create by directly modeling the behavior you want them to learn.
Take Them to Your Checkups
You’ll need a dentist who is family friendly, but bringing your kids along during your dental checkups can help children learn to feel comfortable at the dentist rather than nervous. It also demonstrates the importance of those six-month cleanings, especially if the dentist is willing to bring the children in for part or all of the process so they can watch it being performed by someone else before it’s their turn in the chair.
Expand the Focus
Finally, look around your local community for other groups and organizations focused on teaching good oral hygiene skills. For example, both the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts offer dental education merit badges and other programs designed to encourage brushing and flossing. Getting the family involved in a larger group only further reinforces the example you’re setting at home.