Q&A: 2.5 year old screaming in the bath

Jessica writes:

"Several weeks ago, my 2.5-year-old son decided he wanted to try wearing underwear. He did it for a week, many accidents ensued, and by Thursday, he started holding his poop because he was afraid to have an accident. He held it all day, and finally, during his bath that evening, he couldn't hold it any longer. It wasn't the first time ever that he'd pooped in the bath, but it had been at least a year and he surely didn't remember ever doing it before. I tried to react in a
nonthreatening way. I got a little bit "OMG POOP" on him and told him he had to get out of the bath right away. Then I calmed myself so I could keep him calm, told him it was okay and that I'd clean it up after he was in bed. So we did the bedtime routine, got him in bed, and I cleaned it up. I thought that was it. It was the end of potty-trying for now, though. He's happily back in diapers. Which is fine.

But my question is not about potty training.

Ever since the poop-in-bath incident, N has hated his baths. I can't decide if it's directly related (i.e., he's afraid he's going to poop in the bath again) or if he's hit that developmental spurt and
suddenly has a bunch of irrational fears, and one of them happens to relate to bath-taking. (For history's sake, he's always had fun in the bath, spent 20 minutes or longer, and rarely initiated getting out.) Now, he's perfectly cheerful until we get into his room and start taking his clothes off, at which point he starts whimpering. By the time we get to the bathroom, he's saying he doesn't want to take a bath, and when his butt hits the water (if we can convince him to sit
down), he starts shrieking and screaming that he wants to get out.

He used to just hate the hair-washing but would calm down and play once we were done. Now, it's full-on screaming from start to finish. Doesn't want to play, doesn't want to color with his bath crayons, doesn't want to sing or read a book. Just "I want to get out!!!!" at the top of his lungs, shrieking and screaming and sobbing.

I've tried asking him what's upsetting him, but I don't think he knows, or he doesn't understand how to answer the question. He's extremely verbal, but he's still only 2 and a half, and I think
cognitively, he's just not up to answering "why" questions yet. If I make suggestions, he just agrees with me. ("Is the water too hot?" "Yeah." – The water was lukewarm at best. "Are you scared?" "Yeah." "What are you scared of?" "I don't know." "Are you scared that a green monster is going to come out of the drain?" "Yeah." – Well, obviously not because I just made that one up myself.) Last night I tried asking if he was "sad or scared." He said he was scared. I asked if he was scared of the water. No. The soap? No. The drain? Yes. I have no idea what's going on in his head. I tried explaining that the drain is too small for him or his toys, that only the water and the dirt would go
down. But I'm not really convinced that the drain is the problem, either.

I would try doing the bath somewhere else, but we only have the one bathtub and he's TERRIFIED of the shower – always has been, wants nothing to do with it. I suggested that maybe tonight we would try sitting at the other end of the tub, away from the drain, but somehow I don't think that's going to help.

So, how do I help him get over whatever it is that he's so upset about in the bath so we can have fun, peaceful bedtime baths again?"

And this, my friends, is why we need my mom to open the Toddler Boarding School. Because then it would be her problem and not ours.

There definitely seems to be some bath avoidance at 2.5. It's all part of the 2.5 phase. Remember the whole Ames & Ilg theory of equilibrium and disequilibrium at 6-month cycles? Usually equilibrium hits around the year mark and disequilibrium at the half-year mark (of course your child may vary), so 2.5 is a hornet's nest of all kinds of stuff going on developmentally and physically, and bath avoidance is one of those things. It could be exacerbated by the poop incident, too, which means it might be a more visceral reaction than just the normal fear.

You've hit the nail on the head with your assessment of why you can't just ask your son what he's afraid of. At this age they're not really reliable narrators, and are easily led. If only there was a way to ask a 2.5-year-old "WTF?" (in a nice way, of course) and get an actual answer, but there isn't. So you kind of have to let go the dream of understanding why it's happening and just try to get through it.

First, I'd assess whether or not he actually needs a bath every night, and if he doesn't, don't give one. That'll cut the stress at least a little.

Personally, in your situation, I would resort to my most lazy self and just try to bribe him to get the bath done. Cookies, hot fudge, Thomas DVD on endless repeat, whatever it took to get his necessary parts washed.

If you're not down with bribery, I think you and your husband are just going to have to shoot rock-paper-scissors for which one of you takes the hit and has to give the screaming bath on any given night until this phase ends or he forgets about the poop drama.

Does anyone else have anything for this phase other than bribery or grin-and-bear-it? It doesn't last forever, but it's so troublesome while it lasts.

0 thoughts on “Q&A: 2.5 year old screaming in the bath”

  1. Oh, I feel your pain! We didn’t have the poop incident, but our son REFUSED to take a bath for about 6 months around his second birthday. No amount of bribery – watching his cousins in the bath – or cajoling would help. We resigned ourselves to sponge bathing him during that time. And then it passed.We’re now faced with a serious fear of getting his hair wet – which means his hair almost never gets washed. We’ve had him screened for Sensory Processing Disorder – but this appears to be a simple phobia. I know this too shall pass. SIGH.
    Hang in there!

  2. Oh, I feel your pain! We didn’t have the poop incident, but our son REFUSED to take a bath for about 6 months around his second birthday. No amount of bribery – watching his cousins in the bath – or cajoling would help. We resigned ourselves to sponge bathing him during that time. And then it passed.We’re now faced with a serious fear of getting his hair wet – which means his hair almost never gets washed. We’ve had him screened for Sensory Processing Disorder – but this appears to be a simple phobia. I know this too shall pass. SIGH.
    Hang in there!

  3. Oy! My son went through the exact same thing (without the pooping incident) at a few months shy of 2.5. Happy boy who loved his baths one day and then crying, hysterical mess at the very mention of one the next day.Either my husband or I actually got in the tub with our little guy for a few baths and it gradually got better.
    Also we let our son pick out new bubble bath at the store and really talked up how cool it would be to use the new stuff in the bath.
    We did cut the nightly baths out and go to every other day or every couple of days for this phase.
    I’ve sort of blocked it out but seems like it only lasted a couple of weeks for our little guy.
    Another thing, our son had started associated bathtime with bedtime so I think he wasn’t so keen to take a bath since he knew he would have to go to bed soon after. So we started implementing earlier bath times with the promise of more playtime or a video or whatever after the bath. Don’t know if that is considered bribery but hey…it worked. 🙂

  4. Oy! My son went through the exact same thing (without the pooping incident) at a few months shy of 2.5. Happy boy who loved his baths one day and then crying, hysterical mess at the very mention of one the next day.Either my husband or I actually got in the tub with our little guy for a few baths and it gradually got better.
    Also we let our son pick out new bubble bath at the store and really talked up how cool it would be to use the new stuff in the bath.
    We did cut the nightly baths out and go to every other day or every couple of days for this phase.
    I’ve sort of blocked it out but seems like it only lasted a couple of weeks for our little guy.
    Another thing, our son had started associated bathtime with bedtime so I think he wasn’t so keen to take a bath since he knew he would have to go to bed soon after. So we started implementing earlier bath times with the promise of more playtime or a video or whatever after the bath. Don’t know if that is considered bribery but hey…it worked. 🙂

  5. lessee, what we’ve done for this stage (over and over)…1) Shower instead of bath
    2) washing with the tub unplugged (shower like, but without the shower head – ours is detachable anyway, so the shower head can be in the bathtub anyway).
    3) Washing with bucket of water and washcloth
    4) Mainly not washing at all but letting them ‘play’
    5) Giving them control of the temperature and on/off (annoying, but useful)
    6) more bath toys
    7) towel on the bottom of the tub (fear of slipping is big)
    8) new nonskid thingies on the bottom of the tub
    9) Both 7 and 8 at the same time
    10) hosing off in the sink (I can remember my mom doing this for me when I was bath-averse) – just sit on the bathroom counter, and put my toes under the water, and get wiped down. I don’t know what she did with my hair, though I do have a vague recollection of her shampooing me under a yard sprinkler at least once…
    11) Play hairdresser (wash hair in a chair over the side of the tub or sink, with plenty of towels)
    12) Still get so frustrated my brain boils
    Fortunately, they have all grown out of it. We’ve had the poop/pee in tub fear/crisis, and the slip-and-bang-head or slip-and-be-scared crisis, and the shower-spray fear, and the soaping-my-head fear, and the hating anything that seems like washing thing, and the need to control absolutely every aspect of it thing, and the avoid and swap thing (Miss M is going first, I’m after her! NO, I’m not first YOU’RE first, I’m after you! No, you’re first! NO! AAAAAAHHHH BOTH OF YOU INTO TO THE TUB! er, cough, sigh… somebody please pick, or you will have to bathe together. NOOOO, I don’t wanna share my bath!) er. Yeah, that.
    Now, we get some resistance (do I hafta? Please, can Mr B go first?) but they’re also asking me to close the curtain so they can wash their own hair (GASP!) in the (GASP!) shower! Okay, not Mr G, who still takes 90 million years to bathe and still forgets to shampoo… oy. Teenhood on him is going to require a timer on the showering.
    Hang in there. It’s the 2.5 thing, I’d bet. Yeah, there are traumas that can intersect, but no, it’s not a permanent affliction.
    I will say that it was nice when our family doc said ‘hey, wash hands and face daily, and baths once a week or when they look grimy or smell funny’ (heh). Daily baths not happening at our house, and never have. Except for the grownups (Mr G is headed into that realm as his body heads into puberty, but that’s different).

  6. lessee, what we’ve done for this stage (over and over)…1) Shower instead of bath
    2) washing with the tub unplugged (shower like, but without the shower head – ours is detachable anyway, so the shower head can be in the bathtub anyway).
    3) Washing with bucket of water and washcloth
    4) Mainly not washing at all but letting them ‘play’
    5) Giving them control of the temperature and on/off (annoying, but useful)
    6) more bath toys
    7) towel on the bottom of the tub (fear of slipping is big)
    8) new nonskid thingies on the bottom of the tub
    9) Both 7 and 8 at the same time
    10) hosing off in the sink (I can remember my mom doing this for me when I was bath-averse) – just sit on the bathroom counter, and put my toes under the water, and get wiped down. I don’t know what she did with my hair, though I do have a vague recollection of her shampooing me under a yard sprinkler at least once…
    11) Play hairdresser (wash hair in a chair over the side of the tub or sink, with plenty of towels)
    12) Still get so frustrated my brain boils
    Fortunately, they have all grown out of it. We’ve had the poop/pee in tub fear/crisis, and the slip-and-bang-head or slip-and-be-scared crisis, and the shower-spray fear, and the soaping-my-head fear, and the hating anything that seems like washing thing, and the need to control absolutely every aspect of it thing, and the avoid and swap thing (Miss M is going first, I’m after her! NO, I’m not first YOU’RE first, I’m after you! No, you’re first! NO! AAAAAAHHHH BOTH OF YOU INTO TO THE TUB! er, cough, sigh… somebody please pick, or you will have to bathe together. NOOOO, I don’t wanna share my bath!) er. Yeah, that.
    Now, we get some resistance (do I hafta? Please, can Mr B go first?) but they’re also asking me to close the curtain so they can wash their own hair (GASP!) in the (GASP!) shower! Okay, not Mr G, who still takes 90 million years to bathe and still forgets to shampoo… oy. Teenhood on him is going to require a timer on the showering.
    Hang in there. It’s the 2.5 thing, I’d bet. Yeah, there are traumas that can intersect, but no, it’s not a permanent affliction.
    I will say that it was nice when our family doc said ‘hey, wash hands and face daily, and baths once a week or when they look grimy or smell funny’ (heh). Daily baths not happening at our house, and never have. Except for the grownups (Mr G is headed into that realm as his body heads into puberty, but that’s different).

  7. We’ve gone through a phase with each of ours in which they stand in the tub in ankle-deep water while we mop off the worst of the crud with a washcloth. Sometimes we tell them they only have to be in there until Mommy/Daddy counts to 40 or whatever, which seems to help. If nothing else, it’s a reminder that the number after twenty-nine is not twenty-ten.This too shall pass. But unlike other stages, you won’t miss it.

  8. We’ve gone through a phase with each of ours in which they stand in the tub in ankle-deep water while we mop off the worst of the crud with a washcloth. Sometimes we tell them they only have to be in there until Mommy/Daddy counts to 40 or whatever, which seems to help. If nothing else, it’s a reminder that the number after twenty-nine is not twenty-ten.This too shall pass. But unlike other stages, you won’t miss it.

  9. You get in the tub with him. The tub has only the merest hint of water or no water and a bucket or cup and do a sponge bath.The wash tub in the basement next to the washing machine is great for dogs baths and standing kids getting wetted down.
    It’s summer in the northern hemisphere, so spray him with the hose outside while naked (potty training and a bath all in one).
    Only do the bath every third day or so and use a washcloth in-between.
    Stay late at grandma’s house on Sunday night and let her give him a bath, then take your sleepy, dreamy, pajama-clad kid home.
    Hire a babysitter and make it her problem.
    Squirt guns or spray bottles outside fo a good wetting down (or a sprinkler). Who says then have to know they’re getting clean?

  10. You get in the tub with him. The tub has only the merest hint of water or no water and a bucket or cup and do a sponge bath.The wash tub in the basement next to the washing machine is great for dogs baths and standing kids getting wetted down.
    It’s summer in the northern hemisphere, so spray him with the hose outside while naked (potty training and a bath all in one).
    Only do the bath every third day or so and use a washcloth in-between.
    Stay late at grandma’s house on Sunday night and let her give him a bath, then take your sleepy, dreamy, pajama-clad kid home.
    Hire a babysitter and make it her problem.
    Squirt guns or spray bottles outside fo a good wetting down (or a sprinkler). Who says then have to know they’re getting clean?

  11. no poop in the tub, but our normally-I-love-the-bath-will-even-ask-to-take-more-than-one-a-day will frequently now pitch a fit over taking baths. some of it is control issue and some are related to not wanting to get water in his eyes. We do all of Hedra’s 1-6 in addition getting in the tub with him and sometimes just doing a wet washcloth wipe down.

  12. no poop in the tub, but our normally-I-love-the-bath-will-even-ask-to-take-more-than-one-a-day will frequently now pitch a fit over taking baths. some of it is control issue and some are related to not wanting to get water in his eyes. We do all of Hedra’s 1-6 in addition getting in the tub with him and sometimes just doing a wet washcloth wipe down.

  13. I don’t have anything, but I was smiling through both the story and Moxie’s reply. My guy is just shy of 2 and it’s absolutely amazing to see that life…coming in from playing, being the one to put the cap on the milk, washing hands and then stopping washing hands…is just so challenging for him. It’s so hard to make it all nice and then I get tired of making it all nice especially if it’s not going to work anyway.

  14. I don’t have anything, but I was smiling through both the story and Moxie’s reply. My guy is just shy of 2 and it’s absolutely amazing to see that life…coming in from playing, being the one to put the cap on the milk, washing hands and then stopping washing hands…is just so challenging for him. It’s so hard to make it all nice and then I get tired of making it all nice especially if it’s not going to work anyway.

  15. Fill a large bucket with hot water. Use a bowl or cup to get water from the bucket and simulate a shower. Eliminates the having-to-sit-in-water issue without introducing the scary shower. If you’re quick about the soapy bit in between initial wet and final rinse he shouldn’t get very cold.

  16. Fill a large bucket with hot water. Use a bowl or cup to get water from the bucket and simulate a shower. Eliminates the having-to-sit-in-water issue without introducing the scary shower. If you’re quick about the soapy bit in between initial wet and final rinse he shouldn’t get very cold.

  17. Heh. Welcome to my world.My son has always been deathly afraid of water (he freaked out at nine months old when we were standing in front of fountain, and that’s pretty much been it ever since) so bath time is a nightmare at our house. He’ll be three in July and its getting a little better (he’ll wade in a kiddy pool, for example) but not much.
    — We do baths twice a week. On Wednesday Daddy gives him a bath, and on Sunday he gets a bath at Mimi’s (his grandmother) house. For whatever reason, he’s always fine at Mimi’s house, so if you can take him to your in-law’s for a bath I highly recommend that. 🙂
    — We don’t put any water in the tub. Instead, we put him in the empty tub and then use the flexible hose shower head thingy with adjustable spray to basically trickle water on him, or into a cup which we dump onto him.
    — On in-between days we wash him with a washcloth and/or baby wipes (which he loves).
    This too shall pass. A friend once sent me a card that said: “Boy (noun): a noise with dirt on it.” He won’t die if you don’t wash him every day.

  18. Heh. Welcome to my world.My son has always been deathly afraid of water (he freaked out at nine months old when we were standing in front of fountain, and that’s pretty much been it ever since) so bath time is a nightmare at our house. He’ll be three in July and its getting a little better (he’ll wade in a kiddy pool, for example) but not much.
    — We do baths twice a week. On Wednesday Daddy gives him a bath, and on Sunday he gets a bath at Mimi’s (his grandmother) house. For whatever reason, he’s always fine at Mimi’s house, so if you can take him to your in-law’s for a bath I highly recommend that. 🙂
    — We don’t put any water in the tub. Instead, we put him in the empty tub and then use the flexible hose shower head thingy with adjustable spray to basically trickle water on him, or into a cup which we dump onto him.
    — On in-between days we wash him with a washcloth and/or baby wipes (which he loves).
    This too shall pass. A friend once sent me a card that said: “Boy (noun): a noise with dirt on it.” He won’t die if you don’t wash him every day.

  19. She was in a different place developmentally, but fwiw, my daughter went through a similar fear of bath after pooping in the tub for the first time when she was about 14 months old. It probably wasn’t related to the pooping, however, and more related to the fact that our always unpredictable plumbing caused the water to go quite hot as we were rinsing her off with the shower head and because of the agitation and distraction caused by the poop, we didn’t realize that was the problem for several seconds. Sigh. Anyway, she was freaked out. Letting her play with water in the sink helped ease her back into it a little. I had the most success though with getting several books about bathtime, including one that could go into the bathtub with her and a different one that I made for her illustrated with photos of her enjoying her bath throughout her life. Time was probably helping too, but she really enjoyed those books, and by 3 weeks or so after the initial trauma, she was back to enjoying her bath.

  20. She was in a different place developmentally, but fwiw, my daughter went through a similar fear of bath after pooping in the tub for the first time when she was about 14 months old. It probably wasn’t related to the pooping, however, and more related to the fact that our always unpredictable plumbing caused the water to go quite hot as we were rinsing her off with the shower head and because of the agitation and distraction caused by the poop, we didn’t realize that was the problem for several seconds. Sigh. Anyway, she was freaked out. Letting her play with water in the sink helped ease her back into it a little. I had the most success though with getting several books about bathtime, including one that could go into the bathtub with her and a different one that I made for her illustrated with photos of her enjoying her bath throughout her life. Time was probably helping too, but she really enjoyed those books, and by 3 weeks or so after the initial trauma, she was back to enjoying her bath.

  21. Both my kids have gone through this at different ages. With my daughter, letting her control something has been a big help. We tell her she has to take a bath but she can pick whether she wants bubbles (that we let her pick out) tub crayons/markers or what color she wants her bath (via those water coloring tablets). This helped her get comfortable and reacquainted with the fun aspects of the bath.With her the big thing is hair washing so we let her pick which “friend”(plastic tub toy) she wants to help get her clean and then that “friend” tells her that it is their first time washing hair/tummies/feet and they really need help. They might even be a little scared of the bath too which helps th ekid feel less isolated. Using a squeaky or dopey voice seems to help. This has proved invaluable to us- it cut the screaming down at least 70%.
    And I so sympathize with the poop in the tub. Both my kids have done this multiple times and it is SO HARD not to freak out because Poop. In your tub. YUK.
    If you need a good laugh, or just want to know you’re not alone, read this: http://tinyurl.com/q66fle

  22. Both my kids have gone through this at different ages. With my daughter, letting her control something has been a big help. We tell her she has to take a bath but she can pick whether she wants bubbles (that we let her pick out) tub crayons/markers or what color she wants her bath (via those water coloring tablets). This helped her get comfortable and reacquainted with the fun aspects of the bath.With her the big thing is hair washing so we let her pick which “friend”(plastic tub toy) she wants to help get her clean and then that “friend” tells her that it is their first time washing hair/tummies/feet and they really need help. They might even be a little scared of the bath too which helps th ekid feel less isolated. Using a squeaky or dopey voice seems to help. This has proved invaluable to us- it cut the screaming down at least 70%.
    And I so sympathize with the poop in the tub. Both my kids have done this multiple times and it is SO HARD not to freak out because Poop. In your tub. YUK.
    If you need a good laugh, or just want to know you’re not alone, read this: http://tinyurl.com/q66fle

  23. Another 2.5 who hates the bath here. I do it every other day and then just standing in the tub with the water trickling and the drain open. It is hard to do hair this way but since she is wearing hats a lot in the summer, I ignore it unless there is actual crust in her hair.This is one of the main reasons my DD will NEVER have ratty-looking Rapunzel hair. I am not willing to take care of it, ponytails and barrettes never seem to stay in, and you can’t hide it under a hat. She’ll have the ‘Dutch Boy’ look until she’s old enough to take care of it herself, that’s for sure!

  24. Another 2.5 who hates the bath here. I do it every other day and then just standing in the tub with the water trickling and the drain open. It is hard to do hair this way but since she is wearing hats a lot in the summer, I ignore it unless there is actual crust in her hair.This is one of the main reasons my DD will NEVER have ratty-looking Rapunzel hair. I am not willing to take care of it, ponytails and barrettes never seem to stay in, and you can’t hide it under a hat. She’ll have the ‘Dutch Boy’ look until she’s old enough to take care of it herself, that’s for sure!

  25. Will these kids go swimming in a pool? Maybe sign him up for swim class once a week (have his daddy take him Sat AMs while you sleep in). If he likes the pool you can say “want to go swimming” in the tub? Might be worth a try.

  26. Will these kids go swimming in a pool? Maybe sign him up for swim class once a week (have his daddy take him Sat AMs while you sleep in). If he likes the pool you can say “want to go swimming” in the tub? Might be worth a try.

  27. New bath toys helped us at this stage. And at nearly-nine she still plays with them, so they were a good investment! Oh, and she still often resists getting in the bath, because after bath comes hair combing. She has long, thick, curly hair. Yeah.What currently works for both of us is hide and seek. When I find her she gets in the tub fairly willingly.

  28. New bath toys helped us at this stage. And at nearly-nine she still plays with them, so they were a good investment! Oh, and she still often resists getting in the bath, because after bath comes hair combing. She has long, thick, curly hair. Yeah.What currently works for both of us is hide and seek. When I find her she gets in the tub fairly willingly.

  29. Ask him if he wants a bath. When he says no have him stand on a towel and wash him down with a wash cloth. Repeat as many nights as is necessary for him to decide that baths are just way more fun.

  30. Ask him if he wants a bath. When he says no have him stand on a towel and wash him down with a wash cloth. Repeat as many nights as is necessary for him to decide that baths are just way more fun.

  31. Been there. Probably already mentioned, but we decreased baths to once hair just got too grungy. Used wash clothes, wipes etc in between. AND I started getting in the tub with the babe for all her infrequent baths. I would let her wash my hair and shower me with warm water. Although annoying sometimes to have to take a bath when you don’t want one, it was fun (warm water splashing on me, very soapy hair but oh so clean hair) for both of us and after a few months she seemed ready again for her own baths.Babe has pooped often in bath btw and it only freaked her out once (not the first time though, which is strange). It doesn’t gross me out (changing poop diapers or cleaning poop baths just all feels gross) but she knows to avoid it and will announce if she needs to poop so we can intervene early.

  32. Been there. Probably already mentioned, but we decreased baths to once hair just got too grungy. Used wash clothes, wipes etc in between. AND I started getting in the tub with the babe for all her infrequent baths. I would let her wash my hair and shower me with warm water. Although annoying sometimes to have to take a bath when you don’t want one, it was fun (warm water splashing on me, very soapy hair but oh so clean hair) for both of us and after a few months she seemed ready again for her own baths.Babe has pooped often in bath btw and it only freaked her out once (not the first time though, which is strange). It doesn’t gross me out (changing poop diapers or cleaning poop baths just all feels gross) but she knows to avoid it and will announce if she needs to poop so we can intervene early.

  33. Our 10 month old just freaked out about the bath for a few nights– panicked shrieking that meant we touched his foot to the water and gave up. It’s a radically different age, I know, but just wanted to add our tips: we replaced his infant tub with a mat on the bottom of the real tub (no slipping) and bathed with him a few nights in a row. We have also learned he refuses anything but warm water– lukewarm doesn’t even work and forget about anything cool. About the same time, he decided he liked a few bath toys a friend had dropped off but which sat rejected in the corner of the tub. Since then, he’s been impossible to get out of the bathtub and loves it. Good luck!

  34. Our 10 month old just freaked out about the bath for a few nights– panicked shrieking that meant we touched his foot to the water and gave up. It’s a radically different age, I know, but just wanted to add our tips: we replaced his infant tub with a mat on the bottom of the real tub (no slipping) and bathed with him a few nights in a row. We have also learned he refuses anything but warm water– lukewarm doesn’t even work and forget about anything cool. About the same time, he decided he liked a few bath toys a friend had dropped off but which sat rejected in the corner of the tub. Since then, he’s been impossible to get out of the bathtub and loves it. Good luck!

  35. We never had the total bath freakout, but hairwashing was rough for a while. We bribed, or got in, or several of the other things already mentioned. I just wanted to empathize with the age–2.5-year-old freakouts are HARD freakouts. (Sort of a tossup whether you prefer those or the considerably-more-staying-power-but-somewhat-more-amenable-to-logic 3.5-year-old version.) It will get better.

  36. We never had the total bath freakout, but hairwashing was rough for a while. We bribed, or got in, or several of the other things already mentioned. I just wanted to empathize with the age–2.5-year-old freakouts are HARD freakouts. (Sort of a tossup whether you prefer those or the considerably-more-staying-power-but-somewhat-more-amenable-to-logic 3.5-year-old version.) It will get better.

  37. We seem to go through this periodically. I just bathe her less often (we’re down to once a week at the most right now – when there’s yogurt in her hair usually) and do daily “spot cleaning”.My strategy for when she really starts freaking out (and we’ve got the same situation, totally fine until you get in the bathroom, starts whimpering, then totally loses it when feet hit the water) is to just narrate: “You really hate this don’t you? Ok, since you hate it, we’ll do this as fast as we can”. I keep talking, and gently but firmly wash her hair, get her out of there as fast as possible, and we have a nice long snuggle once she’s wrapped in the towel.

  38. We seem to go through this periodically. I just bathe her less often (we’re down to once a week at the most right now – when there’s yogurt in her hair usually) and do daily “spot cleaning”.My strategy for when she really starts freaking out (and we’ve got the same situation, totally fine until you get in the bathroom, starts whimpering, then totally loses it when feet hit the water) is to just narrate: “You really hate this don’t you? Ok, since you hate it, we’ll do this as fast as we can”. I keep talking, and gently but firmly wash her hair, get her out of there as fast as possible, and we have a nice long snuggle once she’s wrapped in the towel.

  39. Bathtub crayons as a bribe and yeah, we don’t take a bath every night unless he wants to and we wash his hair about once a week.

  40. Bathtub crayons as a bribe and yeah, we don’t take a bath every night unless he wants to and we wash his hair about once a week.

  41. I have not even an inkling of a solution, but since he didn’t see you clean up the poop, maybe he is afraid that it’s going to come back up the drain?Q has ear tubes, so we cut out the nightly bathing as soon as that happened, and we had to put ear plugs in. I feel those ear plugs come in multiple packs to accommodate protecting the child’s ears from water, and the parent’s ears from the shrieking. We do bath when her hair is just so lank… and then often add on one more day for good measure.

  42. I have not even an inkling of a solution, but since he didn’t see you clean up the poop, maybe he is afraid that it’s going to come back up the drain?Q has ear tubes, so we cut out the nightly bathing as soon as that happened, and we had to put ear plugs in. I feel those ear plugs come in multiple packs to accommodate protecting the child’s ears from water, and the parent’s ears from the shrieking. We do bath when her hair is just so lank… and then often add on one more day for good measure.

  43. I can’t remember how old Bug was when he went on a bath strike (2ish or younger?). We solved it by getting a super cool bath toy. It was from Pottery Barn and was brightly colored bar with suction cups to hold it on the side of the tub. Four things hang off it: ladle like thing, riverboat paddle wheel thing, bowl with spigot and funnel with rotating see-saw like thing. He LOVED it and forgot all about hating baths. I have no idea if this would work for you.The other thing was using a hand held shower head so he could control where the water went.
    Good luck. It IS a phase, which doesn’t make it suck any less.
    For what it’s worth, he’s now 4 and LOVES baths. He even still plays with that bath toy.

  44. I can’t remember how old Bug was when he went on a bath strike (2ish or younger?). We solved it by getting a super cool bath toy. It was from Pottery Barn and was brightly colored bar with suction cups to hold it on the side of the tub. Four things hang off it: ladle like thing, riverboat paddle wheel thing, bowl with spigot and funnel with rotating see-saw like thing. He LOVED it and forgot all about hating baths. I have no idea if this would work for you.The other thing was using a hand held shower head so he could control where the water went.
    Good luck. It IS a phase, which doesn’t make it suck any less.
    For what it’s worth, he’s now 4 and LOVES baths. He even still plays with that bath toy.

  45. I’ve heard at least one other (besides mine and the others in this comment thread) two plusser who had this happen. When it happened here, I couldn’t tell what the preciptating even was. I can only guess it was the time he had a tiny cut on his foot, there was some fleck of bath crayon stuff floating in the tub, I washed his foot and hurt him when I scrubbed the cut a little too hard. He associated the cut with the fleck of something and began FREAKING OUT, there were a few baths that didn’t cause freaking out at the outset, but the freak ensued when he saw some thing floating in the water (you have never noticed so much stuff floating in the water than you do when your kid has a crazy fit at the first sight of such things… I would spot something and remain calm appearing while secretly wondering how soon before he would see it)Anyway, he quickly moved to the point where suggesting a bath (and we only give baths when he’s really dirty, so every third day or so) resulted in the freak out, or at least lack of enthusiasm (it used to result into E trying to remove his own clothes and running to get a washcloth for us and throwing his toys into the tub while it filled). He always let us bathe him. He just would stand in the center of the tub and we would wash and rinse him while he SCREAMED as if we were pouring molten sulfur over his head. It took about two minutes and sucked.
    And then one day, a couple of months after it started, he ran into the bathroom, tried to turn on the water, and thrillingly went back to his bath tub swimming, face dunking, “I’m drinkin’ water” saying ways.
    So… it will go away. And man are two year olds crazy. Poor little brain connections turn them crazy every couple of months.

  46. I’ve heard at least one other (besides mine and the others in this comment thread) two plusser who had this happen. When it happened here, I couldn’t tell what the preciptating even was. I can only guess it was the time he had a tiny cut on his foot, there was some fleck of bath crayon stuff floating in the tub, I washed his foot and hurt him when I scrubbed the cut a little too hard. He associated the cut with the fleck of something and began FREAKING OUT, there were a few baths that didn’t cause freaking out at the outset, but the freak ensued when he saw some thing floating in the water (you have never noticed so much stuff floating in the water than you do when your kid has a crazy fit at the first sight of such things… I would spot something and remain calm appearing while secretly wondering how soon before he would see it)Anyway, he quickly moved to the point where suggesting a bath (and we only give baths when he’s really dirty, so every third day or so) resulted in the freak out, or at least lack of enthusiasm (it used to result into E trying to remove his own clothes and running to get a washcloth for us and throwing his toys into the tub while it filled). He always let us bathe him. He just would stand in the center of the tub and we would wash and rinse him while he SCREAMED as if we were pouring molten sulfur over his head. It took about two minutes and sucked.
    And then one day, a couple of months after it started, he ran into the bathroom, tried to turn on the water, and thrillingly went back to his bath tub swimming, face dunking, “I’m drinkin’ water” saying ways.
    So… it will go away. And man are two year olds crazy. Poor little brain connections turn them crazy every couple of months.

  47. Jessica, please don’t beat yourself up about your reaction to the poop in the tub, because plenty of tots I know of have had the exact same I HATE THE BATH reaction, at the exact same age, sans any prior pooping in tub incidents. Oh, the joys I have to look forward to! ;)Our bathroom situation is such that the shower is way more convenient & warm for everyone, so our DS (18 mos) has really only taken a handful of baths, mainly at other people’s houses. Maybe my laziness will pay off, and the dreaded bath phobia will never hit as long as we stay in the shower? Wishful thinking!
    Amen @anastasiav, kids won’t die from lack of bathing. In some locales, folks bathe very infrequently and yet are often much healthier than those of us in the US who spend ages in the shower everyday.
    Amen, @Bitts, I absolutely adore the “Dutch Boy” haircut on little girls! So very childhood Caroline Kennedy-esque! I wish my mom hadn’t been so dead-set on keeping me in long hair when I was a girl. It didn’t look that great & was absolute torture to manage.
    Amen, @Mommy, Esq., on swimming lessons for little ones. Our local YMCA offers them very inexpensively for kids 6 months and up w/a parent, and it has been a great way for us to make new friends. Seeing our little guy finally learning how to climb out of a pool by himself was so cool. Not sure it will help us avoid the seemingly-inevitable I HATE THE BATH phase(s), but I figure having some basic water safety skills will be useful in life.

  48. Jessica, please don’t beat yourself up about your reaction to the poop in the tub, because plenty of tots I know of have had the exact same I HATE THE BATH reaction, at the exact same age, sans any prior pooping in tub incidents. Oh, the joys I have to look forward to! ;)Our bathroom situation is such that the shower is way more convenient & warm for everyone, so our DS (18 mos) has really only taken a handful of baths, mainly at other people’s houses. Maybe my laziness will pay off, and the dreaded bath phobia will never hit as long as we stay in the shower? Wishful thinking!
    Amen @anastasiav, kids won’t die from lack of bathing. In some locales, folks bathe very infrequently and yet are often much healthier than those of us in the US who spend ages in the shower everyday.
    Amen, @Bitts, I absolutely adore the “Dutch Boy” haircut on little girls! So very childhood Caroline Kennedy-esque! I wish my mom hadn’t been so dead-set on keeping me in long hair when I was a girl. It didn’t look that great & was absolute torture to manage.
    Amen, @Mommy, Esq., on swimming lessons for little ones. Our local YMCA offers them very inexpensively for kids 6 months and up w/a parent, and it has been a great way for us to make new friends. Seeing our little guy finally learning how to climb out of a pool by himself was so cool. Not sure it will help us avoid the seemingly-inevitable I HATE THE BATH phase(s), but I figure having some basic water safety skills will be useful in life.

  49. One day your bath avoider will wake up and say ‘Mommy, I wanta Baaaaaaaaath.’ and you’ll never know what, why or when but that oddness will be over and a new one will just be dawning…sympathies and don’t worry if he doesn’t get a bath everyday for a while. As my granny always says, “Well, we all have to eat a peck of dirt before we die…”

  50. One day your bath avoider will wake up and say ‘Mommy, I wanta Baaaaaaaaath.’ and you’ll never know what, why or when but that oddness will be over and a new one will just be dawning…sympathies and don’t worry if he doesn’t get a bath everyday for a while. As my granny always says, “Well, we all have to eat a peck of dirt before we die…”

  51. Okay, I haven’t read the comments but just throwing out the idea of some new terribly exciting bath toys that you could “accidently” let him see, get excited about and then let him know bummer he can’t play with them until he’s in his bath since they are bath-only toys.Also, maybe put a lot less water in the bath? Or even let him sit in the bath dry and then let it fill up while you are bathing him?
    My boys LOVE the bath crayons. They also love just about any bath toys but they also love bath time and we fortunately didn’t go through this with them when they were 2 1/2. My husband is responsible for bath time and lets them do some crazy bath-time things such as climb up the jaccuzi arm rests and then slide down the back rest, try to balance on the arm rests while they try to reach a bath toy stuck on the wall… all sorts of things I wouldn’t recommend but definitely created a very fun bathtime environment. We also have the luxury of having a “wand” in the bath so the boys get to take turns playing with the firehouse while they are bathing. Lastly, while it definitely wasn’t a plus when they were younger, we have the luxury of 2 at the same time in the bath.
    Maybe the OP has a neice or nephew or same-aged friend that would be willing to bathe with her son and perhaps the son might feed off the other kids excitment? Just another random thought. Good luck.

  52. Okay, I haven’t read the comments but just throwing out the idea of some new terribly exciting bath toys that you could “accidently” let him see, get excited about and then let him know bummer he can’t play with them until he’s in his bath since they are bath-only toys.Also, maybe put a lot less water in the bath? Or even let him sit in the bath dry and then let it fill up while you are bathing him?
    My boys LOVE the bath crayons. They also love just about any bath toys but they also love bath time and we fortunately didn’t go through this with them when they were 2 1/2. My husband is responsible for bath time and lets them do some crazy bath-time things such as climb up the jaccuzi arm rests and then slide down the back rest, try to balance on the arm rests while they try to reach a bath toy stuck on the wall… all sorts of things I wouldn’t recommend but definitely created a very fun bathtime environment. We also have the luxury of having a “wand” in the bath so the boys get to take turns playing with the firehouse while they are bathing. Lastly, while it definitely wasn’t a plus when they were younger, we have the luxury of 2 at the same time in the bath.
    Maybe the OP has a neice or nephew or same-aged friend that would be willing to bathe with her son and perhaps the son might feed off the other kids excitment? Just another random thought. Good luck.

  53. We are in the bathe 2x week camp, and have definitely seen the love/hate bath routine in our 2.75 year old.I loved the idea of moving bath time a little earlier (fewer freakouts when less tired).
    As far as asking what is bothering him, try to ask open ended questions, not yes/no questions (you don’t want to give him things to worry about that he hadn’t even considered!!) So: Are you scared or sad? Then: What makes you scared/sad about the bath?
    Sometimes, the thing that bothers them is eminently fixable or work-around-able, but you’d never know until kidlet volunteers the problem.
    At 2.5, they need some control/choices but can become tyrants. I limit myself to offering only two choices *that I can live with* — do you want your bath first or do you want a story first? Do you want this toy in your bath or that toy? Let’s pick out which towel to use for your bath tonight?
    We had to adjust our bath routine in small (but major for her) ways — she used to let us undress her, now she has to do it, most times she sits on the potty before bath, sometimes that provokes screaming, now she “washes” herself, then Daddy “helps”, and the biggest one: should we play first or wash hair first? (notice, washing hair is not optional, only when she does it).
    Good luck!

  54. We are in the bathe 2x week camp, and have definitely seen the love/hate bath routine in our 2.75 year old.I loved the idea of moving bath time a little earlier (fewer freakouts when less tired).
    As far as asking what is bothering him, try to ask open ended questions, not yes/no questions (you don’t want to give him things to worry about that he hadn’t even considered!!) So: Are you scared or sad? Then: What makes you scared/sad about the bath?
    Sometimes, the thing that bothers them is eminently fixable or work-around-able, but you’d never know until kidlet volunteers the problem.
    At 2.5, they need some control/choices but can become tyrants. I limit myself to offering only two choices *that I can live with* — do you want your bath first or do you want a story first? Do you want this toy in your bath or that toy? Let’s pick out which towel to use for your bath tonight?
    We had to adjust our bath routine in small (but major for her) ways — she used to let us undress her, now she has to do it, most times she sits on the potty before bath, sometimes that provokes screaming, now she “washes” herself, then Daddy “helps”, and the biggest one: should we play first or wash hair first? (notice, washing hair is not optional, only when she does it).
    Good luck!

  55. Regarding the previous poster’s suggestion of bath sharing as a solution, that reminds me. Our friends’ two-and-a-half-year-old was going through a bath resistant (though not bath hysterical) when we visited recently. She loves our one-and-a-half-year- old; when we put our daughter and our daughter’s bath toys in the tub, the two-and-a-half-year old couldn’t strip down and join in quickly enough. And when we visited a couple months later, she started nagging for a bath as soon as we were in the door….

  56. Regarding the previous poster’s suggestion of bath sharing as a solution, that reminds me. Our friends’ two-and-a-half-year-old was going through a bath resistant (though not bath hysterical) when we visited recently. She loves our one-and-a-half-year- old; when we put our daughter and our daughter’s bath toys in the tub, the two-and-a-half-year old couldn’t strip down and join in quickly enough. And when we visited a couple months later, she started nagging for a bath as soon as we were in the door….

  57. I attempted to scan as many of the posts as possible but I am in a bit of a rush so sorry if this is a repeat.What about having him wear a loose fitting swimsuit in the bath? That way he might feel like there is something to contain his poop, should he go, but you can still get your hands “down there” and wash him.
    I only thought of this due to the fact my almost two and a half year old is refusing to play in his pool naked and repeats “Oh, poop” even though he doesn’t have to go but will generally stop stating that phrase once he has a suit on.

  58. I attempted to scan as many of the posts as possible but I am in a bit of a rush so sorry if this is a repeat.What about having him wear a loose fitting swimsuit in the bath? That way he might feel like there is something to contain his poop, should he go, but you can still get your hands “down there” and wash him.
    I only thought of this due to the fact my almost two and a half year old is refusing to play in his pool naked and repeats “Oh, poop” even though he doesn’t have to go but will generally stop stating that phrase once he has a suit on.

  59. I’m coming late to the party and haven’t read any of the other posts. Since we can’t really ask a 2.5 what’s going on, I’m going to use my preschool thinking cap and guess what’s going on. Warning: I’m going to get a bit graphic here.When a little one is trying to seriously potty train for the first time, he can become very affected by the experience and his success or lack there of. Some little ones take time to get used to having the poop leave their body and the feeling of air touching their behind. Remember his entire life the poop has made his behind warm. Also,in this case he was having a bunch of accidents so he used his 2.5 yr old wisdom and decided the best course of action was hold it all day so he could prevent any further accidents.
    Then when his body hit the warm water it involuntarily let go and he pooped in the tub.
    Then he realized that water leaves the tub by going down the drain and so the poop must have done the same thing. And if poop can leave by going down the drain, then maybe he could go down the drain too. Now he’s terrified of getting in the tub, he doesn’t want to go down the drain.
    My suggestion is to stop asking him questions and offer choices. Most parents at this point will ask questions hoping they ask the right question to help the child find the right answer so maybe he will have his aha moment and go back to loving the tub again.
    This is one of those times when the child needs a re-set. He needs to be washed outside the tub with a washcloth for a little while and be put in the kitchen sink to have his hair washed. He will grow developmentally and move past this, but for the moment he needs you to work with and support his fear so he can move past it.
    Try to wait until he complains that he’s cold because he’s in the sink before you offer him a choice. Tell him he can sit in a plastic booster seat in the tub in a tiny amount of water and he can be in charge of telling you how much water goes in the tub. Or if he’s a kid who likes games you can set a timer and race to see how fast you wash him and get him out of there. You can tell him it’s okay to cry while you do this and he can hang on to your arm but he needs to be washed. Sometimes when you tell a child it’s okay to cry and he does and you both live through it he sees that the situation isn’t so bad and begins to move on. If he doesn’t complain about being cold when you wash him in the sink then let it go because he’s still getting washed and this will work for a while.
    Good luck.

  60. I’m coming late to the party and haven’t read any of the other posts. Since we can’t really ask a 2.5 what’s going on, I’m going to use my preschool thinking cap and guess what’s going on. Warning: I’m going to get a bit graphic here.When a little one is trying to seriously potty train for the first time, he can become very affected by the experience and his success or lack there of. Some little ones take time to get used to having the poop leave their body and the feeling of air touching their behind. Remember his entire life the poop has made his behind warm. Also,in this case he was having a bunch of accidents so he used his 2.5 yr old wisdom and decided the best course of action was hold it all day so he could prevent any further accidents.
    Then when his body hit the warm water it involuntarily let go and he pooped in the tub.
    Then he realized that water leaves the tub by going down the drain and so the poop must have done the same thing. And if poop can leave by going down the drain, then maybe he could go down the drain too. Now he’s terrified of getting in the tub, he doesn’t want to go down the drain.
    My suggestion is to stop asking him questions and offer choices. Most parents at this point will ask questions hoping they ask the right question to help the child find the right answer so maybe he will have his aha moment and go back to loving the tub again.
    This is one of those times when the child needs a re-set. He needs to be washed outside the tub with a washcloth for a little while and be put in the kitchen sink to have his hair washed. He will grow developmentally and move past this, but for the moment he needs you to work with and support his fear so he can move past it.
    Try to wait until he complains that he’s cold because he’s in the sink before you offer him a choice. Tell him he can sit in a plastic booster seat in the tub in a tiny amount of water and he can be in charge of telling you how much water goes in the tub. Or if he’s a kid who likes games you can set a timer and race to see how fast you wash him and get him out of there. You can tell him it’s okay to cry while you do this and he can hang on to your arm but he needs to be washed. Sometimes when you tell a child it’s okay to cry and he does and you both live through it he sees that the situation isn’t so bad and begins to move on. If he doesn’t complain about being cold when you wash him in the sink then let it go because he’s still getting washed and this will work for a while.
    Good luck.

  61. My son is 27 months and we haven’t had too many bath issues yet but we have had issues with going into unfamiliar places. This is definitely new. He gets hysterical when we take him to the photographers, doctor’s office, my workplace, small enclosed stores… the list goes on. We can really only take him to restaurants and large stores like Wal-Mart and Lowe’s. It’s weird. We tried to take him to a sporting goods store and had to leave. We took him again days later and he freaked when we just pulled in the parking lot.I know this seems unrelated, but it seems like maybe bathtime might be your son’s thing that makes him irrationally hysterical. It’s such a freakin’ weird age.

  62. My son is 27 months and we haven’t had too many bath issues yet but we have had issues with going into unfamiliar places. This is definitely new. He gets hysterical when we take him to the photographers, doctor’s office, my workplace, small enclosed stores… the list goes on. We can really only take him to restaurants and large stores like Wal-Mart and Lowe’s. It’s weird. We tried to take him to a sporting goods store and had to leave. We took him again days later and he freaked when we just pulled in the parking lot.I know this seems unrelated, but it seems like maybe bathtime might be your son’s thing that makes him irrationally hysterical. It’s such a freakin’ weird age.

  63. Moxie’s probably right, it’s just a matter of time. But, my son hurt himself in the bath at about that age, (freak penis faucet oh man don’t even ask it was horrible but not at all damaging other than a bruise)and there was some major freak out. So what i did the next day was get out a couple of new bath toys that he really loved, stick them in the tub, and get him undressed. He just played with them over the side, and eventually it was just more fun to get in, so he did. I didn’t say he had to at all, just let him when he wanted to. But I was definitely ready for a long haul, but it wasn’t too bad. Maybe two days later? Good luck!

  64. Moxie’s probably right, it’s just a matter of time. But, my son hurt himself in the bath at about that age, (freak penis faucet oh man don’t even ask it was horrible but not at all damaging other than a bruise)and there was some major freak out. So what i did the next day was get out a couple of new bath toys that he really loved, stick them in the tub, and get him undressed. He just played with them over the side, and eventually it was just more fun to get in, so he did. I didn’t say he had to at all, just let him when he wanted to. But I was definitely ready for a long haul, but it wasn’t too bad. Maybe two days later? Good luck!

  65. Hey, we had a poop-in-the-tub incident last night!Thanks to this post, I was pretty amused: Behold the power of the Internet!

  66. Hey, we had a poop-in-the-tub incident last night!Thanks to this post, I was pretty amused: Behold the power of the Internet!

  67. Maybe he could bathe less frequently? My sister would be embarrassed for me to admit this, but my almost three year old gets a tub about every 3 weeks. Yep, weeks. He likes the tub just fine, it just never seems to happen. He is not visibly dirty, doesn’t smell, hair looks like everyone else’s and he never gets sick, so it is working for us. It would probably work even better if he was one of those who didn’t like tubs. If there is visible grime, we wipe with washcloth (usually just hands and face).I always figure that if the cavepeople didn’t do, it is likely optional.

  68. Maybe he could bathe less frequently? My sister would be embarrassed for me to admit this, but my almost three year old gets a tub about every 3 weeks. Yep, weeks. He likes the tub just fine, it just never seems to happen. He is not visibly dirty, doesn’t smell, hair looks like everyone else’s and he never gets sick, so it is working for us. It would probably work even better if he was one of those who didn’t like tubs. If there is visible grime, we wipe with washcloth (usually just hands and face).I always figure that if the cavepeople didn’t do, it is likely optional.

  69. Bath lover here, so not much advice, but we did a lot of co-bathing in our house around that age.I’d also try the kitchen sink. It’s a fun new experience, it’s smaller, at your level and might be just the thing to get the negative feelings to simmer down.

  70. Bath lover here, so not much advice, but we did a lot of co-bathing in our house around that age.I’d also try the kitchen sink. It’s a fun new experience, it’s smaller, at your level and might be just the thing to get the negative feelings to simmer down.

  71. when my son refused the bath he started to shower with daddy in the morning. he loves it. they have a whole routine they wash, they shave (pretend for the little guy), they get out and brush teeth and put on face lotion and deodorant.my 2.5 year old might smell like a grown man but he sure is clean for school!

  72. when my son refused the bath he started to shower with daddy in the morning. he loves it. they have a whole routine they wash, they shave (pretend for the little guy), they get out and brush teeth and put on face lotion and deodorant.my 2.5 year old might smell like a grown man but he sure is clean for school!

  73. If it really is a fear of “going down the drain,” (which I can remember having when I was about that age, also fear of falling through the slats of a bridge we crossed on the way to the beach, which were about an inch apart. Impossible my butt, all reality crumbles before a toddler imagination!) What helped me, and helped my 2 older boys when they became screaming non-bathers as toddlers was switching back to the baby-tub. No scary swirling drain to get sucked down, no scary running water to suddenly rise up and cover my poor little head. You might even have to put it on the bathroom floor and fill and empty it with a bucket instead of just having it in the big bathtub a couple of times. Or for a month or two (my oldest).Since our doodle-bug is 25 months old now, I may make her older brothers fill and empty that baby-tub when she hits this stage.
    And for the record, I’ve only ever bathed them when they were grimy or starting to smell funny. About once a week or so usually.

  74. If it really is a fear of “going down the drain,” (which I can remember having when I was about that age, also fear of falling through the slats of a bridge we crossed on the way to the beach, which were about an inch apart. Impossible my butt, all reality crumbles before a toddler imagination!) What helped me, and helped my 2 older boys when they became screaming non-bathers as toddlers was switching back to the baby-tub. No scary swirling drain to get sucked down, no scary running water to suddenly rise up and cover my poor little head. You might even have to put it on the bathroom floor and fill and empty it with a bucket instead of just having it in the big bathtub a couple of times. Or for a month or two (my oldest).Since our doodle-bug is 25 months old now, I may make her older brothers fill and empty that baby-tub when she hits this stage.
    And for the record, I’ve only ever bathed them when they were grimy or starting to smell funny. About once a week or so usually.

  75. My son had a poop-in-the-bath incident around that age and reacted the same way. We took baby steps – told him he could stand up in the bath and we could wash him quickly. Eventually, he got tired of standing and finally sat down. It probably lasted two weeks, and some new and exciting bath toys will probably help your case. Give it time, it will work itself out!

  76. My son had a poop-in-the-bath incident around that age and reacted the same way. We took baby steps – told him he could stand up in the bath and we could wash him quickly. Eventually, he got tired of standing and finally sat down. It probably lasted two weeks, and some new and exciting bath toys will probably help your case. Give it time, it will work itself out!

  77. Not sure if someone said this yet or not -Find a quiet moment during your day (lunchtime, snuggling on the couch, whatever) and be all casual, like “Hey, remember yesterday you were screaming when it was bathtime? What’s up with that?”
    Try not to ask it in a leading question kind of way (don’t offer options). Give it a minute. In my experience they are likely to tell you if they are not currently stressed out about it and know that there is no chance of them having to have a bath right now and confront the issue.

  78. Not sure if someone said this yet or not -Find a quiet moment during your day (lunchtime, snuggling on the couch, whatever) and be all casual, like “Hey, remember yesterday you were screaming when it was bathtime? What’s up with that?”
    Try not to ask it in a leading question kind of way (don’t offer options). Give it a minute. In my experience they are likely to tell you if they are not currently stressed out about it and know that there is no chance of them having to have a bath right now and confront the issue.

  79. Wow, thanks for the awesome suggestions, everyone! It really helps just to know I’m not alone with my insane 2.5-year-old!What I did the last two nights was put him in the baby bathtub in our shower. He seems to like it. Although, the specter of a 36-pound 2.5-year-old in a baby tub is rather hilarious and I think he comes out dirtier than he went in. Ah well.
    I do like to bathe him every day because he manages to get rather icky at daycare between the food, the woodchips, the art projects, and the dirt. Plus, he has horrendous long, curly, fine hair that NEEDS to be washed. We only do that every other day, because he has been freaking out about that for months. Heh.
    You people must have magnificent kitchen sinks, though. Even my 5-month-old wouldn’t fit in ours. 🙁 Hehe.

  80. Wow, thanks for the awesome suggestions, everyone! It really helps just to know I’m not alone with my insane 2.5-year-old!What I did the last two nights was put him in the baby bathtub in our shower. He seems to like it. Although, the specter of a 36-pound 2.5-year-old in a baby tub is rather hilarious and I think he comes out dirtier than he went in. Ah well.
    I do like to bathe him every day because he manages to get rather icky at daycare between the food, the woodchips, the art projects, and the dirt. Plus, he has horrendous long, curly, fine hair that NEEDS to be washed. We only do that every other day, because he has been freaking out about that for months. Heh.
    You people must have magnificent kitchen sinks, though. Even my 5-month-old wouldn’t fit in ours. 🙁 Hehe.

  81. jameson still takes baths in the sink. he’s 27lbs. i just hate the thought of crouching & leaning in that horrible position beside the tub. grr. my back is killing me just thinking about it.

  82. jameson still takes baths in the sink. he’s 27lbs. i just hate the thought of crouching & leaning in that horrible position beside the tub. grr. my back is killing me just thinking about it.

  83. I don’t know how feasible this is for you, but when our daughter went through this stage with hating her baths, we drastically cut back her bath schedule and then starting inviting her best friends over for bath time. All of my girlfriends hate giving their kids a bath too, so saying to them, hey could Sophia come over for two hours to play and have a bath? was welcome to them. It took nearly the whole summer of me doing this before she would bathe alone again. Oh the things we do.Also, a warm wash cloth does the trick pretty well too. Bathing is overrated. 🙂

  84. I don’t know how feasible this is for you, but when our daughter went through this stage with hating her baths, we drastically cut back her bath schedule and then starting inviting her best friends over for bath time. All of my girlfriends hate giving their kids a bath too, so saying to them, hey could Sophia come over for two hours to play and have a bath? was welcome to them. It took nearly the whole summer of me doing this before she would bathe alone again. Oh the things we do.Also, a warm wash cloth does the trick pretty well too. Bathing is overrated. 🙂

  85. My son was a bit younger (22 mo?) when almost the exact same thing happened. He kept peeing in the bath, and one day either I and/or my husband probably reacted with a bit more annoyance than we should have, and that was about the last bath my son had for almost a month. Previously a kid who loved baths, now he was screaming bloody murder when we started taking his clothes off for a bath. So I just used a wash cloth as best I could until I finally figured out, after about 2 weeks, that he was petrified of getting in the bath and feeling like he had to pee, but knowing he would get in trouble. I had to tell him over and over again that I was sorry, and that it was OK for him to pee in the bath if he felt the urge, and that I wouldn’t get mad at him for doing so. And I asked him every night if he wanted to take a bath. And after about 2 weeks, one day he said yes, tore off his clothes and ran to the bath as though nothing had ever happened. And he happily pees in the bath pretty much every night since then….

  86. My son was a bit younger (22 mo?) when almost the exact same thing happened. He kept peeing in the bath, and one day either I and/or my husband probably reacted with a bit more annoyance than we should have, and that was about the last bath my son had for almost a month. Previously a kid who loved baths, now he was screaming bloody murder when we started taking his clothes off for a bath. So I just used a wash cloth as best I could until I finally figured out, after about 2 weeks, that he was petrified of getting in the bath and feeling like he had to pee, but knowing he would get in trouble. I had to tell him over and over again that I was sorry, and that it was OK for him to pee in the bath if he felt the urge, and that I wouldn’t get mad at him for doing so. And I asked him every night if he wanted to take a bath. And after about 2 weeks, one day he said yes, tore off his clothes and ran to the bath as though nothing had ever happened. And he happily pees in the bath pretty much every night since then….

  87. BTDT, and I think that definitely the only way around it is through it, but I do have one possible idea. Haven’t read the comments, so maybe this has been mentioned already. Is your kitchen sink large enough to still bathe him in? When my oldest son was 3, I let him take a bath in the sink (he asked to do so after seeing me bathe his baby brother there) and though it was a tight squeeze (he is like 99th percentile for height) he did fit in there.It *just* might work (or at least lessen the problem) since it would be a different venue entirely for the bath, which could be a fun novelty for him while also distracting him from recent “traumatic” (to him) events. Also (and I would do this before even placing him in the sink) you can use one of those cheap round rubber drain covers so he doesn’t notice the drain (just in case he actually does have a fear of it).
    If the sink works for a little while, it could buy you enough time until he gets over his fear of the big tub. I also second Moxie’s recommendation about reducing how often you bathe him (obviously depending on what your starting point is). At most, every other night, and you could even go down to say, twice a week, depending on how grubby/stinky he gets while playing. 🙂
    One more thing I just thought of…if you are already in or coming into summer like we are here (I’m in Michigan, and it’s finally getting to swimming weather), maybe you can use his little pool if you have one? Fill it partially with water from the hose, then warm it up with hot water from the house, and let him be distracted by toys that are different from the ones he uses in the tub while you (sneakily) 🙂 lather him up. Maybe alternating this with the kitchen sink (or whatever else works) just might get you through the rough period.
    I hope this helps…but either way, you will get through it! Good luck!

  88. BTDT, and I think that definitely the only way around it is through it, but I do have one possible idea. Haven’t read the comments, so maybe this has been mentioned already. Is your kitchen sink large enough to still bathe him in? When my oldest son was 3, I let him take a bath in the sink (he asked to do so after seeing me bathe his baby brother there) and though it was a tight squeeze (he is like 99th percentile for height) he did fit in there.It *just* might work (or at least lessen the problem) since it would be a different venue entirely for the bath, which could be a fun novelty for him while also distracting him from recent “traumatic” (to him) events. Also (and I would do this before even placing him in the sink) you can use one of those cheap round rubber drain covers so he doesn’t notice the drain (just in case he actually does have a fear of it).
    If the sink works for a little while, it could buy you enough time until he gets over his fear of the big tub. I also second Moxie’s recommendation about reducing how often you bathe him (obviously depending on what your starting point is). At most, every other night, and you could even go down to say, twice a week, depending on how grubby/stinky he gets while playing. 🙂
    One more thing I just thought of…if you are already in or coming into summer like we are here (I’m in Michigan, and it’s finally getting to swimming weather), maybe you can use his little pool if you have one? Fill it partially with water from the hose, then warm it up with hot water from the house, and let him be distracted by toys that are different from the ones he uses in the tub while you (sneakily) 🙂 lather him up. Maybe alternating this with the kitchen sink (or whatever else works) just might get you through the rough period.
    I hope this helps…but either way, you will get through it! Good luck!

  89. I haven’t had to time read through the suggestions, but in addition to other suggestions try the playful parenting approach. During playtime tell him that you are going to give a doll (or an animal) a “play bath.” Pretend that the doll is upset, and take his lead. This kind of imaginative play has been awesome for my paranoid little 2.5yr old. It allows him to show me what he is scared of when he isn’t in the moment.FWIW my experience has been that kids don’t become scared of the drain until they are a bit older.

  90. I haven’t had to time read through the suggestions, but in addition to other suggestions try the playful parenting approach. During playtime tell him that you are going to give a doll (or an animal) a “play bath.” Pretend that the doll is upset, and take his lead. This kind of imaginative play has been awesome for my paranoid little 2.5yr old. It allows him to show me what he is scared of when he isn’t in the moment.FWIW my experience has been that kids don’t become scared of the drain until they are a bit older.

  91. my little brother went through the same thing and my parents finally reached the end of their rope and let me (five years older than him, so about 8 at the time) take over. One of the most helpful things was calling it something other than a bath…the name we arrived at (and I have no idea how or why) was Sailboat-Tugboat. I only put an inch or two of water in the bath, played music (a boom box sitting outside the room so no risk of electrocution!), let him drink juice from a sippy cup while he stood in the tub (he wouldn’t sit) and I scrubbed him down, and did the hair as fast as possible. Sometimes he wanted to wear his bathing suit in the tub and I let him.He’s now 20 years old and a college sophomore who takes care of his own hygiene and as far as I know doesn’t require any special tactics for showering, so take comfort that this too shall pass.

  92. my little brother went through the same thing and my parents finally reached the end of their rope and let me (five years older than him, so about 8 at the time) take over. One of the most helpful things was calling it something other than a bath…the name we arrived at (and I have no idea how or why) was Sailboat-Tugboat. I only put an inch or two of water in the bath, played music (a boom box sitting outside the room so no risk of electrocution!), let him drink juice from a sippy cup while he stood in the tub (he wouldn’t sit) and I scrubbed him down, and did the hair as fast as possible. Sometimes he wanted to wear his bathing suit in the tub and I let him.He’s now 20 years old and a college sophomore who takes care of his own hygiene and as far as I know doesn’t require any special tactics for showering, so take comfort that this too shall pass.

  93. I’m 34 and I’m still afraid of going down the drain. Only very recently can I take the plug out while I’m still in the tub, but must jump out before the water drains completely. Completely irrational, I know.I think there have been a lot of great suggestions already mentioned, the best one of course being This Too Shall Pass!
    We only do baths about twice a week, too. It’s nice to read that we’re not the only family. For a while I was feeling like a bad parent because I couldn’t be bothered. Luckily my husband does most of the baths.

  94. I’m 34 and I’m still afraid of going down the drain. Only very recently can I take the plug out while I’m still in the tub, but must jump out before the water drains completely. Completely irrational, I know.I think there have been a lot of great suggestions already mentioned, the best one of course being This Too Shall Pass!
    We only do baths about twice a week, too. It’s nice to read that we’re not the only family. For a while I was feeling like a bad parent because I couldn’t be bothered. Luckily my husband does most of the baths.

  95. Oh dear God…I don’t know how happy and slightly sad to know we just have to get through this. It does help to know we’re not the only ones going through this right now with our 3 year old. As soon as you mention bath or shower she screams and cries hysterically. (we keep windows closed in case neighbors think they need to call DCFS!) We’ve tried basically everything everyone has mentioned…and now we’ll continue to do so. At least we know we’re not alone! Thanks everyone.

  96. Oh dear God…I don’t know how happy and slightly sad to know we just have to get through this. It does help to know we’re not the only ones going through this right now with our 3 year old. As soon as you mention bath or shower she screams and cries hysterically. (we keep windows closed in case neighbors think they need to call DCFS!) We’ve tried basically everything everyone has mentioned…and now we’ll continue to do so. At least we know we’re not alone! Thanks everyone.

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