Most parents would agree that it’s a challenge to instill good hygiene in a toddler. And it’s no different for me and my wife when it comes to little Athena.
This is even more so when I’m a little bit of a clean freak and need to wash my hands three times before I go to sleep (well, not that crazy lah).
We tell her the basics like never putting her dirty fingers into her mouth (or any other object she gets her hands on), always washing her hands before meals, etc.
We explain to her how unhygienic practices can make her sick like suffering from stomach aches and things like that. She nods like she understands and we get really convinced.
But it seems to always get past her when the actual time comes to be clean and hygienic. And that is what annoys me like crazy!
When she remembers (basically, when we remind her!), she’ll pull out that rubber band she found on the floor from her mouth, or wash her hands before sitting at the table.
Sometimes, I get really annoyed and lose my patience. That’s when the screaming battle between me and her begins. And it could be at home or even in public.
My wife usually steps in as a referee. And you would expect a referee to be unbiased and, well, referee, the whole thing. But no! She seems to always side Athena!
Apparently, according to the referee, I can’t scream at a four-year-old and expect her to calmly understand adult reasoning and except that her counter argument is wrong!
According to the biased referee, you have to talk calmly to the child and slowly persuade her to do as you say. And when you do it often enough, they will form it into habit and understand.
But Athena is getting there. She’s slowly forming good hygiene into habit and doing as she is supposed to (the bias referee who is smirking, I say it’s just a coincidence!).
You see, the thing that really gets to me is that ever since Athena was toilet-trained, which was probably when she was 2 years old, she has this one habit that surprised me.
If we’re out of the house and she needs to use the toilet, she’ll have to check it out first.
There are several criterias for the toilet to be usable:
- The floor needs to be dry with no wet spots at all.
- The floor needs to be of large pieces of tiles (and especially not mosiac!).
- The toilet needs to be speckless without even a scratch on the seat at all.
- No squatting toilet.
- There must be no foul scent at all.
- The toilet must be brightly lit.
If you look at that list, Athena’s criteria for a usable toilet would beat even the strictest city council health inspector. If just one of it isn’t fulfilled, she’d rather hold it in.
Very hygienic, right? But then a piece of lead from a broken colour pencil that she finds under her bed passes the cleanliness test and it goes straight into her mouth!
What can you do?
Zan Azlee is a multimedia journalist, writer and filmmaker. He specialises in solo-journalism and often reports from conflict zones around the world. He usually succeeds in staying safe and coming home unharmed to his daughter, Athena Azlee, and wife, Jasmine Abu Bakar, by screaming like a little girl whenever he is faced with danger. Follow his exploits at FatBidin.com.