We’ve been encountering some counterwill at toothbrushing time lately. We have brushed Avery’s teeth every day, morning and night, since she was 4 months old. But suddenly, she does NOT want to give us our turn to brush her teeth after she has had some time with the brush. We’ve managed to regain control of the situation thus far by threatening no books at bedtime if she doesn’t let us have our turn to brush her teeth. But tonight, that didn’t work. Tonight, I was caught in a 20 minute battle with a 2 year old who did not want to give up her toothbrush. She decided she was fine with going to bed alone and without books if it meant I wasn’t going to get a turn with the toothbrush, but her sneaky plan was just to never finish brushing her teeth. She was sobbing the entire time we were in this battle of wills. I was calm. I was trying to be very clear with what was going to happen. But at 15 minutes into the battle with my 2 year old, I lost it. I don’t normally yell as a parenting tactic – it’s just not in my comfort zone. But I yelled. I let the situation escalate. I ripped the toothbrush from her hand and hauled her tantruming body to her room and used my body to block her from opening her door and leaving. She screamed a blood curdling scream. I put my hand on her back and tried to get her to take deep breaths. “NO DEEP BREATHS!” she screamed. I finally got her to say that she would let me brush her teeth so we could go to bed and read books.
When we got back to the bathroom, however, she took back her words and refused me the toothbrush yet again. I yelled again. I yelled loud this time. And it wasn’t just an emotional outburst, but a calculated tactic. What if a loud yell was what she needed to listen? But my loud yelling was met with more screaming and crying. I gave her a time out, right where she stood. More like I gave myself a time out. I left her there in the bathroom and closed myself in my bedroom. She came banging on my door, crying for me.
It was a horrible, muddy, messy situation. My wife stepped in and saved the day. Avery let my wife brush her teeth. I met her in her bedroom and we turned out the light together. She grabbed a stuffed animal from a drawer and cuddled it. She NEVER does that at bedtime. She always gets her cuddles from me. She needed comfort, and wasn’t turning to me for it. I looked her in the eyes and said I needed to talk. I told her I was sorry that I yelled; that I shouldn’t have yelled like that. Then I asked if there was anything she was sorry for. Through her dwindling sobs, she said “yes. Sorry for not letting mommy brush Avery’s teeth.” I said “I love you.” She said “I love you.”
I felt like shit for how things escalated. I cried my way through her bedtime stories. Parenting is hard.