10:57 am - 11/10/2012

Bathing problem.

I have a small problem and I am hoping all of you lovely VPers could help me.

I just moved in with my boyfriend and he has a 7 year old daughter that stays with us on the weekends (I will call her G to make it easier). G is a great kid and I love her... But she has a bathing problem. When G is at her moms house she never showers. G only showers when she stay with us for the weekend. Her mother is a nasty person that doesn't shower either and that is where G has learned her bad habit from. My boyfriend and I are trying to teach her it is very important to shower and be clean. G has gotten sick of hearing my boyfriend tell her she needs to wash when she is at her moms house that she lies now. G tells us she is showering but we can smell her, so we know she isn't. I love the kid and really want to help her grow into a strong young women. And I feel part of helping her growing up is teach her good healthy habits. I am just having a hard time talking to her about the bathing issue. She isn't understanding why it is so important to be clean. Do any of you know of any kid friendly resources that I might be able to use to help get the point across? I really want to teach her good habits now before she starts period. Because once her body changes she is going to need to be clean to stay healthy. Any advice would be very helpful. Thank you in advance. VP is a great resource.

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velkoria 10th-Nov-2012 05:34 pm (UTC)
Okay I don't want to sound harsh but isn't it time to call CPS now? I mean I could be overreacting but this is what I would do.
archangelbeth 10th-Nov-2012 05:37 pm (UTC)
I'd personally suggest splitting the difference -- explain to her that as she grows, she will start producing odors under her arms (and other places), and she needs to at least take a wet washcloth to the areas which A: have odor, and B: show dirt (like the back of the neck...). Depending what her weekdays are like, a fast scrub with a damp washcloth (or paper towel) might be a lot more feasible than a whole shower (especially if she has sensory issues with water in her face; I had to get my kid a shower-handle-stand that could be mounted below the level of her head). I know that often, between after-school stuff, homework, and dinner... Frankly, baths/showers are usually a weekend thing over here, too, unless the kid's been falling in the mud or something.

(And also remember that people perceive odors very differently! Stuff that my mom thinks stinks ("no, mom, I did use deodorant; yes, mom, I did wash this"), I wave at my spouse and he shrugs. So what you think is a stinky kid may or may not be being perceived as such by her mom, or herself. Mind, flipping this back around can be something you explain to the kid! "Yes, I know you don't think you're a stinky kid, but other people's noses are different. Some people won't think you're kind of odiferous, but other people will, and it's polite to try to minimize odor. Grab that washcloth when you're at home!")

And, finally... There are a lot of studies that suggest people are getting too clean and it's causing allergies and asthma! The main reason for cleanliness is more politeness to others (which is certainly a good reason!); remember that Queen Elizabeth I was extremely clean in her time! Why, she took a bath every month, whether she needed it or not! And she lived to nearly 70.
caddishness 10th-Nov-2012 05:56 pm (UTC)
Re:Queen Elizabeth I, I'm not sure if she really only bathed once a month, but she's reported as being very careful with her appearance and that she did not tolerate people who smelled badly or were dirty (if I remember right). In any case, I imagine that a woman on her period would have a harder time bathing, and would probably do something like an improvised shower or using a washcloth rather than sit in a tub. Queen Elizabeth lived to be nearly 70, but many people of the time died of disease when they were relatively young and child mortality rates were over the roof. Just because that's how people used to live it does not mean that it's particularly healthy.

I also do not believe that bathing or showering regularly causes health problems. When cleanliness is brought into the question of allergies and asthma it's because if anything children aren't allowed to play outside, be around animals, climb trees and other things that build resistance by putting them in contact with minorly aggressive agents. However one also wonders if allergies and asthma weren't about the same as today but less threatening allergics went undetected much of the time.

And the washcloth idea does not sound particularly idea if that girl can afford bathing and has a stronger body odour. If you're applying it to areas A and B it does nothing for areas that don't smell bad and don't show dirt, like arms, but just because you can't see it it doesn't mean it's not dirty or covered in dead skin.

Edited at 2012-11-10 05:56 pm (UTC)
caddishness 10th-Nov-2012 05:43 pm (UTC)
Have you tried explaining to her why she needs to shower? I'd say something about how otherwise she will smell badly, and that as she grows up and her body changes the odour will increase (and it's also a good idea for health reasons). If telling her about her health does nothing telling her about the smell and the fact that as she also gets older people will start taking issue with it may motivate her.
brigittefires 10th-Nov-2012 11:06 pm (UTC)
I think that these things can be said, that when she grows up things will change, but why change them now? Change behaviors when they're warranted. I'm not washing off next week's armpit sweat with my shower today, and similarly I'm not learning how to tell when I need a shower by telling me at 7 that someday I will need to shower more so I should start now.
juliiie87 10th-Nov-2012 05:50 pm (UTC)
What Beth said, about relative sensitivities to smell, and explaining to her that bathing is mostly something we do so other people won't think we're smelly / dirty, and who would want that ? Maybe emphasize that you and her dad want her to be pretty(and healthy!), and being relatively clean is a part of that ? I find it's tricky because there's a risk of making her feel worthless if she doesn't bathe every day, and the fact that she doesn't understand why she should do it, so why bother if she can just lie about it...? Maybe, when she's over at yours, instead of questionning her and blaming her, try to make it a positive ritual, let her pick her own scented soap, bubbles and what not, to get her all pretty and clean, make her feel good and special about it ? Also offer her some to take home with her. She might take the habit on her own after a while... She's only 7 and she's likely to become increasingly aware of what people may think of her as she grows older.

But at the end of the day, I feel this is a parenting issue the mom and dad should discuss, for the kid's well-being.

Edited at 2012-11-10 05:55 pm (UTC)
lilly4supper 10th-Nov-2012 06:26 pm (UTC)
I agree with you that her mom and dad should talk about it but sadly Gs mom lies too. And when my boyfriend bring is up to her she just freaks out and yells at him. She is a fine mother... But she loves making her ex (my boyfriends) life hell.
tethys89 10th-Nov-2012 06:12 pm (UTC)
Have you tried asking her (in a conversation away from any potential heated debate about the showering) why she doesn't shower or why lies to you about showering?

And is it possible she's wary of showering more often because she gets itchy skin if she showers more often?
(This is what happens to me if I shower more than once a week, and it can take two or three weeks for the itchiness to go away again, I would lie without hesitation if I felt someone was trying to make me shower more often. A flannel under the arms is about as far as I seem to need to go between showers most of the time.)
eavanmoore 10th-Nov-2012 06:23 pm (UTC)
At that age, the most effective way to get her to bathe is to make it fun. If there's a tub at either of her houses, can she try bubble baths? Bath toys? If showers are her only option, could she pick out her favorite soaps or use hair curlers on her wet hair?

I'm not sure it is so critical to teach her habits now, though. When she gets older, when her body changes and she becomes more self-conscious about it, it's quite possible she'll turn to more frequent showers all on her own.
the_physicist 10th-Nov-2012 07:13 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure it is so critical to teach her habits now, though. When she gets older, when her body changes and she becomes more self-conscious about it, it's quite possible she'll turn to more frequent showers all on her own.


OP, i would deal with issues she has now and not worry about future habits with regards to showers and baths. i really don't think it's a habit kids need to get into for them become teenagers who shower regularly. they'll grow up and change so many of their habits, their bathroom routine is one of those things that will change generally regardless of previous habits.

my mother once tried to get me into the habit of washing my face so i wouldn't get pimples and using deodorant. of course i use deodorant now, but it was pointless trying to get me into the habit of doing something i didn't need to do because i was way to young to need to do it just for the sake of 'habit'.

what's good is to be supportive of her when she's ready for that change though if her mother might miss letting her know how to take care of herself then.
eavanmoore 10th-Nov-2012 06:29 pm (UTC)
Side note: I'm uncomfortable hearing the word "nasty" used describe any person and especially a woman. If her hygiene is problematic, if you find her BO offensive, if her house is messy -- just say that. But it's so easy for women to internalize the idea that they're gross, that their bodies are gross, and that they need to go to special effort to make sure they don't offend anybody, and "nasty" is one of the words I've most often heard describing things that aren't really that gross at all. "She doesn't shave her legs, it's so nasty." That kind of thing.
cloudsinvenice 10th-Nov-2012 10:53 pm (UTC)
I'm also uncomfortable with that, particularly since if an adult with basic knowledge of self-care is not washing to the extent that she smells, that points to her having some difficulties that it's problematic to write off as just her being "nasty".
angerona 10th-Nov-2012 06:43 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure from your post whether you are trying to make sure she bathes while at her mom's house or at yours. If it's the former, let it go. At 7, she doesn't need to bathe daily. She does still need good private parts hygine, and you can talk to her about that, but that can be accomplished without a shower.

if you are thinking she needs to take a shower at least once a week -- that's true. Offer her nice smelling bath gel (or take her shopping for her to pick it), ask what parts she hates the most, to see if they can be minimized. E.g. i she hates washing her hair because it's hard to brush, tell her she doesn't need to use shampoo, it's ok to use only conditioner, or get a special detangling conditioner or something.

If you are constantly on her case, no wonder she's resisting. Just show her that you do it, that her father does it; talk to her about her changing body and about yeast infections, etc., if she doesn't wash her private parts. But also -- just take her as she is. So she smells when she comes from her mom's, don't ask her if she's showered (don't put her in a position where she feels she has to lie to stay in good graces) -- just offer to run a nice bath for her right there and then or help her wash herself.

In general, I'd recommend reading up on kids that age. They talk and they seem like they are all grown up, but they aren't. Oh, and her menses are still five years away. Five years is long enough to learn how to shower.
silvers_shadows 10th-Nov-2012 06:58 pm (UTC)
They're five years away if she's lucky. Menarche is coming on a lot earlier these days in some children.
kuradi8 10th-Nov-2012 06:56 pm (UTC)
I don't see this as a big issue. By the time she reaches puberty and starts noticing boys (or other girls, whatever the case may be), she'll start bathing and primping all on her own. At that point peer pressure will also play a far greater role than any parenting. As my Grandma used to say, "A little dirt never hurt anyone." ;o)
knittinggoddess 10th-Nov-2012 07:09 pm (UTC)
I had a friend in college who grew up dirt poor, and part of the way things worked at her house was that nobody showered more than once a week. I think her shower or water not working regularly was part of the reason, but it became a cultural thing for her because nobody explained to her that most people in this country shower at least every other day.

I also know that growing up in my house, I didn't want to shower because the house was too cold in the winter, and being naked in the bathroom was just an unpleasant experience for other reasons.

It's also worth mentioning that if there is molestation or abuse (physical OR emotional) going on in the house, a kid might not want to shower because getting naked in a common room is scary.

Yes, I think it's a good idea to explain the purpose of showering and make a compromise with her. It's important to rule out some of the more systemic, bigger issues that might be playing a role in her behavior.

Ultimately though? She's 7. Her body isn't yet going through hormonal changes that make her more odorous or oily. If she only bathes once a week (more if she's been jumping in mud puddles or at soccer practice), it's really not a big deal. As long as she has a daily grooming habit of brushing her teeth and washing her face, you're teaching her how to take care of herself. The degree to which she will need to clean her body will increase with time. That time is not now.
brigittefires 11th-Nov-2012 12:46 am (UTC)
All of this. I'd be worried if there were other signs of sexual abuse, but if it's just a 7 year old being 7? Meh. I only got a shower more often at that age because I was rinsing out the chlorine from swim practice.

I can attest that showering in a common room is scary when you're young and sexual abuse is going on. In my house it was punishable to lock the bathroom door, because there was only one bathroom (so if you were in the shower it was not uncommon for someone to use the toilet) and because my parents were concerned about us slipping and falling and hurting ourselves without a way to get into us. I took to wiping off instead of showering, because it was something I could do without anyone else coming in, thinking I was in there just using the toilet. (I also had issues using the communal water cup for brushing teeth, and as a result I was 28 before I started using a cup to rinse my mouth.)
the_physicist 10th-Nov-2012 07:21 pm (UTC)
do you also have problems getting her to take a bath or shower while at yours? as others have mentioned, but it really does make sense to repeat it, could ask what they dislike the most?

a silly as it sounds, but 7 year olds aren't all that smart and if her mum isn't big into the whole hygiene thing it could also just be an unpleasant experience because she doesn't know the options.

my mum wouldn't let me have short hair, i had to endure crying every morning when she would forcefully brush it and take chunks out of it and it was worse after washing because my mum didn't know what conditoner was, or maybe it didn't exist back then, but i doubt it. when she discovered conditioner, you know it says you have to rinse cold on the back of the packet? (or used to?) so yeah, then it became the pick between ice cold friggin shower or no conditioner, so still not amazing. so people don't know bugger all about how to make taking care of yourself not a massive chore... maybe you can find out what the bad parts are for her and work out ways to make the experience more similar to the kind of experience a grown-up has?
stothyra 10th-Nov-2012 07:33 pm (UTC)
The hair bit is really interesting, and now I'm remembering when I was a kid. My mom never had long hair in her life. I'd run away from her after I showered when I was a kid because she would brush my hair afterwards and yank it. My dad was the only one allowed to brush my hair because he had long hair once upon a time and knew how brush out tangles without it being painful. It really may be something that basic. Her mom does something that's really uncomfortable to her because she doesn't know how to do it any other way. Her mom may not want to be hurting her, but she doesn't know how to do it without pain.

I suggest getting her the fun bath stuff, and good smelling body gels. Make it fun for her and she'll enjoy it.
lilly4supper 10th-Nov-2012 07:48 pm (UTC)
I guess what I am mostly looking for is either books or websites that are kid friendly that she could read. Us talking to her is just starting to upset her. But she loves to read. Are there any books out there that are written for little girls that talk about how to take care of your body?
archangelbeth 10th-Nov-2012 08:32 pm (UTC)
American Girls books, and I think you want "the care and keeping of you"? That's from memory, but I know it's an American Girls book.

*fast visit to Google*

My memory wins! http://www.amazon.com/Care-Keeping-American-Girl-Library/dp/1562476661
zimknits 10th-Nov-2012 08:10 pm (UTC)
I would be extremely careful about constantly hounding and interrogating her over showers in that it may give her some issues. Aside from that I echo the above suggestions, stop trying to force and turn it more into a game. You also might want to take the suggestion of reading up on that age range to get an idea of what is "normal" and a better idea of how to respond.

If it were me? I'd take her somewhere like Bath and Body works (or heck even a local chain store) into the bath row and make it fun for her to pick out a shampoo/conditioner/bubblebath/soap. That way it's more of a "HEY I WANT TO DO THIS" as opposed to they're going to force me to do it..

Also might look into the bath time markers (you can draw on walls and it washes right off) and toys, maybe even a big fluffy special robe she can wear after bubbletime! Don't have to go overboard or anything, just keep it "light hearted" and "fun" the rest will come on it's own. When she sees it isn't a battle and gets to play with special toy in bath or gets to wear big floofy robe she'll get the idea.
evilnel 10th-Nov-2012 10:03 pm (UTC)
You beat me to the same suggestion, lol.
evilnel 10th-Nov-2012 10:00 pm (UTC)
Maybe rather than trying a front-door approach of explaining/arguing what she's doubtless heard before, go around back. Take her to Bath and Body Works or LUSH and let her pick out stuff that smells good, and a fancy loofa and then encourage her to try it so you can see what it smells like. You can even let her pick out lots of those little sample sizes so she can take them to her mom's house and will be maybe more likely to use them.
bluegarnet 11th-Nov-2012 02:20 am (UTC)
I haven't read all the other comments, but this is exactly what first came to my mind when I read the entry. Take her down to Sephora or Ulta, etc and let her pick out her favorite scent in the Philosophy 3-in-1 shower gel. They smell amazing. I think it might encourage her to shower more.
i_love_freddie 10th-Nov-2012 11:30 pm (UTC)
I really don't think it's that big a deal. Up until I was about 10, me and my siblings usually had a bath only once a week - Sunday evening before school started again. Occasionally we'd have a mid-week bath if we were really dirty, but that wasn't often and we were all fine. As I got older, I just naturally started taking more baths and showers.

I know that different people have different thoughts about what is acceptable. But she is young, and if it is getting to the point where she is actually lying to get you guys to drop it, I think you should leave it alone and come back to it in a year or so when she is a bit older.
nickelshoe 11th-Nov-2012 04:09 am (UTC)
I agree with this. Before trying any education or incentives, just drop it for a while so it's not a struggle. (Assuming she's getting at least one bath or shower a week.) At this point, even a positive approach is likely to meet resistance since it's already an issue.
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