How to turn “I won’t” into “I will”

Here’s how to get your toddler to do the things she never wants to do. By Rachel Waddilove for Practical Parenting

*Originally published in October 2009

Hair washing

Toddlers may have no problem with hair washing and then suddenly change their minds.

What to do
Distraction and speed are key. Give your child a rolled-up flannel to cover her eyes if she’s afraid of water going into them. While washing her hair, tell her a story. “Ooh, I’ve found a squirrel behind your ear!” always goes down well.
Have a plastic cup close by for rinsing, as children tend to be scared of the shower nozzle. As your child gets bigger, get her to kneel at the side of the bath with her head over it. Preservere. Hating hair washing is a tricky phase but it will pass.

Keeping clothes on

It’s not a problem if toddlers occasionally whip off their clothes, as long as they’re not getting cold.

What to do
Be firm, saying “You can do that for a minute and then we’ll get dressed.” If your tot wants to go naked at the most inappropriate moments, simply say, “We’re not doing that now, but when we get home we can undress before we get into the bath.”

Wiping runny noses

Some toddlers seem to have perpetual runny noses, so carry tissues with you wherever you go.

What to do

Speed is important, so swoop in and get the job done quickly, holding your tot’s head with one hand. The first time you wipe her nose, explain what you’re doing and then give her a tissue to keep in her pocket to get her to start blowing and wiping her nose by herself. Encourage her, saying, “Come on, blow, before you wipe with the tissue. And demonstrate for her by blowing and wiping your own nose.

Having vaccinations

This is one situation where it’s best not to prepare your toddler about what’s going to happen.

What to do
Sit her on your lap beforehand. She’ll scream and shout when the needle goes in, but she’ll soon recover. Take her for a treat afterwards.

Washing hands

You shouldn’t allow your children to eat if their hands aren’t clean.

What to do
Get your tot into the habit of hand washing before she’s walking. Take her to the basin and explain what you’re doing.
When your child is old enough to wash her hands properly, make it a ritual. Don’t simply tell her to wash her hands and leave her to it, because chances are she won’t. Get a plastic step for your child to reach the basin and she’ll start to think hand washing is great fun.


Never attempt to take your toddler to the hairdresser when she’s feeling unwell, tired or hungry.

What to do
Explain in advance where you’re going and try to make a day of it – tell her all about the treat you’re planning for her afterwards.
If you can’t get your tot in the chair or to sit still once she’s in it, sit her on your lap. Tell her a story while the hairdresser’s working. If you don’t get quite as much hair cut as you’d planned, don’t worry. Even a trim is a breakthrough. If your child really won’t let the hairdresser near her, you’ll have to do some snipping at home.

Getting out of the bath

If sitting in the tub getting cold and wrinkly is no deterrent for your little one, the following tips may prove handy.

What to do
Prepare your toddler by telling her she has a few more minutes to play and then she has to get out of the bath. If she makes a fuss, pick her up quickly, wrap her in a towel, put her on your lap and cuddle her. She’ll soon forget about having a tantrum.


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