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Bath time can be stress time for a variety of often opposite reasons: can't get them in, can't get them out, can't get the soap near them, they nearly empty a bottle of body wash every time.
From the start, bath time should be fun time so that it's looked forward to rather than resisted.
We often choose to bathe them at a time of the day that's pressured for us and the tension carries across, or at a time when they are just too tired and past co-operating. Consider a change.
In some families bath time is dad's time and it gives the children and dad some time together.
Dads tend to be a little more relaxed about mess and water on the floor.
(Save the plush carpet for when the children have left home.)
Here are some ideas to make bath time easier:
• A range of bath toys that remain in the bathroom can be an incentive.
• Bubbles and coloured or scented water usually appeal. Let them tip in a little food colouring or bubble mix.
• A favourite CD played only in the bathroom.
• Bathe or shower with a young child.
• Start a child in the shower at an early age and get them used to water running over their head and face.
• One early bad experience with soap or shampoo in the eyes can quickly set up a resistance, so take special care.
If the bath itself seems to be causing a problem, try a basin or baby bath of water in the bath and wash them in that.
Or have them stand in an empty bath and wash them using warm water tipped over them from a basin or plastic container for wetting and then rinsing.
For an older child who is resisting bath time, an extreme method best done in seriousness but with a laugh as well is to pick them up and put them in the bath or shower clothes and all.
They quickly get the message.
From the start, have a routine for wet towels, discarded clothing, wiping out or drying up.
Train them so that it becomes part of the bath-time routine.
As they get older and forget to clean out the bath or shower, have a standard follow-up: a job not done gets bigger, requiring the hand basin and floor to be washed as well.
My final suggestion is to allow plenty of time so that they can stay in the bath as long as they want.
If they're enjoying themselves in the process of washing, so much the better.
So long as the children are wetter than you, then you can count bath time a success; and you can always ''pull the plug'' in the end if you have to.
• Ian Munro