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Sudden bath phobia in 2 year old

8 replies

unblissfullyignorant · 17/05/2012 09:29

My 2 year old DS, who has always LOVED his evening bath before bedtime, has suddenly decided he doesn't want one. To the point where he actually becomes hysterical when his bath is suggested.

The bath has always been part of his routine, since he was tiny, and follows eating his dinner and getting undressed as sure as night follows day. After his bath he then goes to bed, after about half an hour of bedtime stories.

Now, when he's finished his dinner and me or DH start to undress him, he starts a tantrum which quickly descends into sobbing and moaning. He can be chivvied into the bathroom but refuses to sit down in the bath, simply stands up crying while he is washed, than taken out and dried. He continues crying until we start to dress him in his PJs, and then seems quite happy with his normal bedtime stories and being put to bed.

Normally, I would think it had something to do with the idea of actually going to bed, except in the last few days when we mention bath after dinner, he cries, "sleep, sleep!" and hightails it to the bedroom. Last night, so over the idea of having the bath tantrum again (on my own without DH home), I just said to him breezily,"shall we brush our teeth and then bed?" and he quite happily toddled into the bathroom and obediently got his toothbrush out from its basket.

DH and I just cannot work out what his sudden aversion to it could be. I should also say here that he has recently acquired a new little sister, now 7 weeks old. Any thoughts or suggestions from MNetters would be appreciated, it's starting to drive me mad, and sad - it's very upsetting for him and us. Trying to wash an unhappy toddler who really needs a bath is no fun.

OP posts:
imnotsmallimfunsized · 17/05/2012 11:00

My daughter did this and my boyfriend suggested brushing teeth in the bath this calmed her and eventually she just stopped crying. We made a big fuss got loads of toys and just made her love the bath all over again

TheSurgeonsMate · 17/05/2012 11:19

Mine isn't scared of the bath, but she's fed up with it as she's interested in the potty that's now in the bathroom, and I think a bit concerned that if she's in the bath she isn't on the potty.

Because she really needed a wash the other night, and was standing there wailing away I said "Right, I'm coming in" and started stripping off. She was astonished, but thought it was great once I was in. We had a very splashy bath with lots of bouncing.

Could you ride it out like that?


unblissfullyignorant · 17/05/2012 12:38

I should say we normally do brush teeth in the bath, with mixed results! We have also tried engaging him with new bath toys, the problem being that by the time he is actually in the bath, he is so far into his unhappy state, nothing seems to engage him. If i even suggest teeth brushing at that point he tries to wrestle the brush from me so he can throw it!

I haven't tried joining him in the bath yet though thesurgeonsmate - mainly because his 7 week old sister is generally awake and needing attention, if not at that point then certainly imminently after bathtime is done (still trying to get the night time routine running!). But hey, she won't care if I'm in my bathrobe so will definitely give that a go tomorrow night when DH is home so I can spend as much time as he needs.

Thanks for the suggestions, will report back

OP posts:
hattifattner · 17/05/2012 12:48

my ds2 was scared of falling down the plughole Grin.

Try putting him in the baby bath in the bath, or put a large plastic box in the tub and fill with soapy water.

We had to do this for about 6 months before he was sure he wouldnt fit down the plughole.

Other things...."if you are good you can wear your socks in the bath." - for some unknown reason, this appealed hugely to my son. He's a funny one....

Timandra · 17/05/2012 13:18

Try sitting filling it with toys or something interesting like shredded paper without water during the day. Let him play without mentioning bathing a few times so he stops associating the bath with fear.

Then you could sit him in it empty with a small bowl of water and get him to wash himself with a little bit of help.

You can move onto filling the bowl from the bath tap while he's in there and hopefully eventually you'll make it all the way back to proper baths.

Try to let him lead the progress and don't put any pressure on him to do anything. Take him away while he still wants to be playing to increase the attractiveness.

It might also help to get him to help you bath the baby but keep him fully dressed so he knows he is not getting in. Similarly letting him stand at the side of the bath and play while you are in there might help.

He will get over this eventually anyway so don't worry.

MNP · 17/05/2012 14:06

Try painting in the bath and then 'washing' the bath clean and ds too.

Dottymcdot · 17/05/2012 16:50

Has DS had a bowel movement in the bath? DD1 did at around this age and became terrified that she would do it again (DH was there and not great with poo so think his reaction was inappropriate and scared her) I could only get her in the bath again with reusable swim nappy.

unblissfullyignorant · 17/05/2012 22:45

These are all really great suggestions, thank you. I think we'lll start playing in and near the empty bath during the day, to start with before even thinking about filling it with water for bedtime. He's a big boy though so I'm not going to get him to fit In the baby bath. But i could get him to stand in it as part of the play.

Dottymcdot there have been no poos in the bath (so far!) so I don't think it is that, but you never know what goes through their little heads, especially when they are just that little bit too young to articulate.

Have just remembered a detail from his last bath tantrum that leads me to think that his phobia is not fear related - he was kicking up such a fuss shouting and crying that he woke up his sister in the other room and she started wailing as well. So i had to get him out and onto the bathmat and pull the plug before i could leave the room and go and get her. When i got back (holding her) he was still making a big fuss, but then saw I was holding the baby, and made to get back in the bath again! Like he realised he had missed out on time with me or somehing and wanted to take it all back. The tantrum then became about me NOT putting him in the bath. I think. But who knows?! If there had been any water in it and i had put him in i know that he would have still carried on.

Anyhow, will try some of these strategies and let you know what works.

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