Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers/brush teeth 2 year old


Hi there, i am having a big issue with my 2 year old daughter to brush her teeth...sweet talk doesn't seem to work so we had to do it by force...i have to hold her close with me while my wife tries to brush but to no avail...i am concerned as i noticed plaqued is now developing on her two frontal teeth..

thank you and looking forward for your reply

p/s my daughter likes to do it by herself but its not done completely the right way, she ends up chewing and biting the toothbrush instead...

Hello Yura,

It is important that children learn to brush their teeth. Of course, the reason is that we want them to have healthy teeth and gums, avoid cavities, and to look their best.
However, there are some things more important than healthy, shiny teeth. For example, it is perhaps more important that you allow your child to develop in a psychologically healthy manner and it is extremely important that you maintain a positive relationship with your daughter. Let me explain both.
 At age two, many children are becoming more independent and autonomous. These attitudes and needs should not be stiffed. That is, if you want your child to grow up to be independent and her own person, then she must be allowed to do things on her own. If you take away her ability to be independent and autonomous then you will either have a child who fights you about every decision that may interfere with her wish to be herself or she will give in completely and become dependent. I think it is much better to allow her to do some things on her own (like brush her teeth or get dressed or buckle herself in her car safety seat) even though she will do an inexpert job at it. You can show her the right way and model it for her, but she may insist she do some things on her own.
The second major issue is maintaining a positive relationship with her. Yes, there are many things we would like to force our children to do: brush their teeth regularly, go to bed when we say it's bed time, eat all their vegetables, don't run in the house, don't touch things they could damage, etc. But, we can't regulate everything, nor can we force them to do everything the "right" way. If you are trying to force compliance or threatening consequences to bring about desired behavior, you are likely to alienate your child. Then, you lose your influence. It is just not worth it. Some things may be insisted upon by a parent, but they should probably be few and far between. Build up enough positive credit and you can get away with some things.
So, the question is: Is getting her to brush right at age two so important? Or, are there other things that are far more important at her age? I would suggest there are.
Any questions?
James Windell  


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James Windell


I can answer questions related to normal child development, disturbed behavior and how to provide appropriate guidance and discipline.


I've been a clinical psychologist in a juvenile court, worked in school settings, been a child psychotherapist in a private psychiatric clinic and consulted with schools, courts, hospitals and daycare centers.

American Psychological Association
Michigan Psychological Association

I have been a columnist with the Oakland Press (Oakland County, MI) for 21 years writing a weekly column called Coping With Kids, which is also published weekly in the Staten Island Advance. I have been a mental health columnist with the Detroit Free Press and a columnist for Working Mother Magazine. In addition, I have published articles in professional journals. I have published 16 books, among them are "8 Weeks to a Well-Behaved Child" (IDG Books), "Discipline: A Sourcebook of 50 Failsafe Techniques for Parents" (IDG Books); "Children Who Say No When You Want Them to Say Yes" (IDG Books), "What You Need to Know About Ritalin" (Bantam Books) "6 Steps to an Emotionally Intelligent Teenagers" (John Wiley & Sons), "The Fatherstyle Advantage" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) and "Defusing High Conflict Divorce" (Impact Publishers). My latest parenting book (2012) is "The Everything Child Psychology and Development Book." Articles about my work with parents has appeared in the New York Times, the Chicago Sun Times, the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. My website at includes more information about me, my books and includes many columns I've written.

B.A. in Psychology from Wayne State University
M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University

Awards and Honors
Best Educational Program by Juvenile and Family Court Judges Association (National award for the development of a parent training program for parents of delinquent teenagers. Beth Clark Service Award from the Michigan Psychological Association.

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