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March 20, 2011 / MrsH

Our New Soap Dispenser

Buddy doesn’t like to wash his hands before dinner.  Really doesn’t like to.  It’s not uncommon for him to fall asleep crying without ever eating his dinner, because he so much doesn’t like to.  We’ve been working on this for months and months, trying to figure out what his problem is and trying to determine where we draw the line for ourselves.  If he’d just use a hand sanitizer we might let him, but he refuses that too.

Last week, he and I went shopping for his very own soap dispenser.  I wanted to get the kind that made foamy soap, or that’s “no-touch” just for the coolness factor.  But after a bit of browsing around the store, we ran across a bright pink, plastic dispenser.  “THAT ONE!”  At least he knew what he was looking for… The dispenser now graces our bathroom and guess what?  We haven’t had any major handwashing issues since.

Just in case you have a reluctant handwasher too, I wanted to share the other things we’ve tried, even though they ended up not working (or not working enough) for Buddy:

  • Our first thought was whether it was a sensory thing, but it doesn’t seem to be.  He washes his hands just fine at other times of the day or in other peoples’ homes.
  • Temperature.  It can be hard to get the temperature just right.  I spent weeks teaching: “ok, so now we first turn on the warm water and wait till it gets warm, then we add  some cold water.  No feel carefully, with one finger, is it comfortable?  Ok, great, let’s wash.”  It didn’t seem to help and I still cringe at the waste of water it creates.
  • Willfulness.  I honestly think there’s a part of that going on here, a need for control and power.  We tried solving it by making handwashing be utterly non-negotiable: “when you’ve washed your hands, you may join us for dinner” type of thing.  It honestly doesn’t really work, but I’m still not ready to concede and allow him to skip handwashing.  His hands are gross.
  • We sing songs and try to make it exciting.  Sometimes that works.
  • Do it early. If he comes in from playing outside I can usually get him to wash his hands, which can then count as his pre-dinner washing if it’s close to dinner time.  Other times he wants to help cook dinner, which also requires handwashing.  That then serves as his before dinner washing.  Though in all honesty, about half the time he decides to go find something else to do.   Or to go pester a sister…
  • Choices, choices. Occasionally we can sidestep the argument by giving him a choice of where to wash his hands, or to pick a towel that he’ll use afterwards.
  • It’s all in the language.  Instead of “Buddy, you need to wash your hands now,” we try to say something else such as: “what sink will you use to wash your hands?” or “it’s dinnertime, what do we need to do first?”  or “hey we’re having pizza for dinner, let’s get cleaned up so we can eat!”
  • Teach him why. I haven’t done this yet but would love to use this demonstration of how germs run away from soap, shared at Not Just Cute, but I frankly haven’t had the energy yet to do it with much positivity.  Maybe at our next family meeting.

All of these approaches have had little to no success.  We still use them because occasionally they work and it sure beats having a meltdown, but it’s quite frankly utterly exhausting.  I’m open to other ideas!

 

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4 Comments

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  1. Cara / Mar 21 2011 10:31 am

    This is a HUGE issue with my 3 1/2 year old son too! I’ve also thought it was a sensory thing, a power struggle thing, Thanks for the tips!

    • MrsH / Mar 23 2011 9:51 am

      Note that they haven’t really worked! Though so far the soap dispenser seems to do it! No meltdowns over handwashing since…

  2. Kateisfun / Mar 21 2011 9:46 pm

    Not exactly washing but… you know at some nice restaurants or on long flights you get a hot washcloth to wipe down with? Maybe this could be a nice pre-eating family ritual that you enjoy together… just throw some damp washcloths in the microwave for 20 seconds or so. Of course, I realize dinnertime for kids is not exactly a relaxing affair with loads of spare time, so it could also totally not work.

    • MrsH / Mar 23 2011 9:52 am

      That could be such a fun alternative, thanks for the suggestion! Missy loves playing waitress, where she takes our orders and sets the table etc. Perhaps we can add the washcloth thing as a fun thing that we sometimes do, and then once he’s familiar with the concept we can make sure to offer it on nights that he seems prone to melting down, and/or add it to the list of choices.

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