When Your Child Does Not Want A Bath

Posted by in No-Cry Discipline

Lots of little kids never want to take a bath! They don’t cooperate and it becomes a battle of wills. Here are some tips if you have a little bath-avoider!

Think about it!
Take a minute to stop and think about why your child doesn’t want to take a bath. Is it because she’s having too much fun doing other things and doesn’t want to stop? Is it because bath time usually includes a battle of wills? Is it because she always gets soap in her eyes? Or is it because it signals the beginning of the bedtime routine? Once you figure out the real reason, you can take steps to move past the problem.

Kennedy, 21 months

Kennedy, 21 months

Things You Can Do

Make it fun.
Allow your child to use bubble bath or kid’s bath foam or soap crayons to make it more fun. Buy a few fun bath toys, or use plastic kitchen products for play. Allow your child to play for a while before the washing up, and a little bit afterwards too. Starting and ending on a fun note will set you up for success tomorrow.

Control the suds.
Even one incident of soap-in-the-eyes can make a child edgy. If your child fears getting soap in her eyes when you wash her hair, let her wear swimming goggles or a plastic sun visor while you wash her hair.

Be very consistent.
Have a bath every day, or every-other-day, at exactly the same time, and in the same way. Specific routines can overcome resistance after they’ve become regular occurrences.

Give a forewarning.
Let your child know ahead of time that bath time is nearing. Give a few warnings; “Bath time in ten minutes.” Then “Bath time in five minutes.” Your child will respond better than if you just drop the bomb in the middle of his fun activity.



Change your routine.
Bath time is often done at bedtime when a child and the parent are tired and grumpy. In addition, if your child knows that bedtime follows bath he may want to put off the entire sequence. Instead, consider letting your child bathe first thing in the morning when everyone is fresh and energetic.

If your child is old enough… consider skipping the bath and changing to a shower!

What Not To Do

Don’t lecture about the importance of personal hygiene.
Hygiene isn’t the reason your child avoids the bath — she isn’t even thinking about that aspect of bathing. It’s the time that it takes and the process involved that she objects to.

Don’t wheel and deal.
Parents inadvertently get into the practice of bargaining with their child: “If you get in the bath right now then I’ll let you have bubbles.” Bribes are the wrong approach to gaining cooperation, and take power away from the parent and give it to the child. Bribes are different from rewards or encouragement. Bubbles offered to a child up front, to make the bath more fun, are fine. Bubbles offered later, to stop a tantrum, could be seen as a reward for misbehavior or as incentive for future tantrums.

Ekatarina, 2 years

Ekatarina, 2 years

Don’t make it a battle.
It’s just a bath, mom and dad. Take a breath and relax. In a few months this will pass and you’ll be on to the next parenting challenge – and yep. There is always one of those.

Need more tips? The No-Cry Discipline Solution is your answer for gentle ways to encourage good behavior without whining, tantrums and tears.

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  1. Hi, I would like to know why exactly bribing a child creates problems (takes power away from the parent etc.)?

    • The biggest problem with bribes is that they escalate – first it’s an M&M, then a cookie, soon an ice cream sundae. Then a child starts asking, “What are you going to give me if I do it?” Much better that they do things for the right reason, not to gain a prize!

  2. Do you have any tips for newborns and young infants that don’t like baths?

    • Many parents find a very pleasant way to bathe their baby is to bring him into the big tub with them. Infants who are apprehensive about getting into the water are normally relaxed and happy if they enter the tub while held in loving arms. A wonderful way to introduce your baby to the bath is to let him enjoy a cuddle while being slowly immersed into the water. An easy way to do this is to have one parent seated in the tub and have someone else undress the baby and cover him with a small cloth, and then hand the baby over to the parent who is in the water. An alternative is to cover the tub side with a non-skid mat and hold the baby closely to your chest as you carefully step into the tub and slowly sit. Yet another choice is to undress your baby and wrap him in a towel and put him in to a baby seat next to the tub, get in yourself, then lean over and pick him up and bring him into the tub with you.