Get Dreaded Jobs Done!

Clipping nails. Giving medicine. Brushing teeth. We've got tips that will convince your kid to let you do even the things they hate.
Nail clipper

Serge Bloch

For months when my daughter was 5, she'd literally run from the room whenever she saw me with the hairbrush. I wasn't able to take my 2-year-old's temperature for a year. And when my third child was an infant and had an infection, he'd simply spit out most of his medicine.

There are some things you can't make your child do no matter how hard you try. So we talked to moms, doctors, and other experts for their top tips on getting kids to do the things they loathe most. I've tried nearly all of these strategies with my own kids, and many of them are already working for me.

Trimming Scraggly Fingernails

Distract your child by giving her something to hold in her other hand, or put her in front of the TV. Clippers or scissors work equally well, doctors say, so use whichever method you're most comfortable with. To keep from catching any skin, press down on the pad of the finger to separate it from the nail before you clip or cut. Keep it light with a trick that one pediatrician uses with her own children: Pretend the little fingernail pieces are hitting you in the head while you clip. "I'd say, 'Ow!!!' and my kids would crack up," says Stephanie Richter, M.D., of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Brushing Teeth

Start early -- as soon as your baby's first tooth erupts -- so he gets used to the feeling of having something in his mouth, says Monica Cipes, D.M.D., a pediatric dentist in West Hartford, Connecticut. Once your child is around age 2, instead of standing in front of him to brush, have him sit on your lap or stand facing away from you. Then tell him to lean his head back, resting it on your chest. This way you can actually see his teeth better and you're less likely to gag him, Dr. Cipes says.

Use just a tiny smear of fluoridated toothpaste -- it's best for fighting cavities. Plus, it's not as sweet as fluoride-free paste, so your child will be less tempted to clamp down on the brush and suck. For preschoolers, give them a high five when they're being cooperative. And older kids will probably like chewable tablets and colorful rinses that show them the areas that they need to brush better.

You can also set yourselves up for success by letting your child pick out a toothbrush he likes, such as one that features his favorite character, or try a battery-operated model. Then make a silly game out of brushing: Have a chat with the "cavity germs" in your child's mouth, suggests Conway, Arkansas, mom Karen Mann, who says things like, "I am going to get you, cavity germs! You are not going to make holes in Sophia's teeth." Then Mann switches to a high-pitched voice for the cavity germs: "Oh no, please don't get us! We're having a picnic in here." If your child tries to grab the toothbrush from you, buy a second one and give him his own to hold.

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