Here's a few questions to ask ourselves (especially if we're trying to discover why our very young children resist bath time):
Then take the time to understand your child's perspective; find out why they don't want to bathe, "I notice you really don't want to take a bath. Let's talk about what you don't like." Listen without interrupting, correcting, or trying to fix the situation. Remember, they are simply trying to explain their point of view, which is equally as valid as our own point of view.
Finally, a word about bathing and the parent-child relationship. If you've had a tough day, your child is particularly resistant toward bathing and you simply can't be patient, consider skipping the bath. Be sure to acknowledge what's going on, "I am really tired and I am concerned that I just don't have enough patience for us to enjoy bath time tonight. If you decide you want a bath, let me know, otherwise let's have your bath tomorrow night when we're both in a better space." You could also offer the sponge-bath option.
- Go Slow. Don't rush bath time. If you are in a hurry, consider a simple sponge bath, or even waiting until you have more time. When kids feel rushed they feel stressed. This is especially true when it is time to wash hair. Go slow, try to keep the water out of their eyes, keep a washcloth handy or let them hold it over their eyes, etc.
- Be Present. There is nothing more thrilling for a child than having their parent's undivided attention, no phone, no computer, no distractions. When they're bathing it gives us the opportunity to connect with them and to let them know we value them. And it's a beautiful opportunity to listen to them talk about their day, their dreams, and to generally get a sense of what's going on in their world.
- Empower them. Let them make some decisions about what to wash and when. Ask if you can help, rather than just reaching in and taking over. Use questions to remind them about where to watch, rather than instructing them on what to do, "I see your face is clean, what else needs to be scrubbed on your head?"
- Play. Children who have time for free play are less stressed, and bath time can be a wonderful time for free, creative play. Play At Home Mom has loads of creative and fun bath time ideas. And if you click here it will take you to a list of fun bath toys on amazon. But you don't have to get fancy; children are happy to splash around and create their own worlds of fantasy, especially if you're there giving them your undivided attention.
Note: When my own daughter feels resistant to washing her hair I sometimes let her wash my hair, then we switch. When I was a nanny one of the girls didn’t like washing her hair either and she would put a dry washcloth over her eyes while I very slowly rinsed her hair out without pouring water over her face; it really helped her feel safe and remain calm. And inevitably there would be those times I hurried, her face got wet, and it would set us back.