When Should My Daughters Be Bathing Without My Supervision?

Filed under: Opinions

Dear AdviceMama,

I'm a single full-time father of three girls (ages, 7, 6, and 3). Their mother left us, so it's just me and the kids. I bathe all three of them in the tub at once; it's quicker, saves on water, and we all sing songs, so it's kind of fun. My question is, when do I begin to let the older children bathe on their own? I figured I would keep it up until one of the girls mentioned they wanted to try it on their own. If they are comfortable with it and I am comfortable with it, I don't see much of a problem. So, regardless of how much we all may love bath time together, when should I push them to be a little more independent and start washing their own hair? Any feedback would be great!

Mr. Clean

Dear Mr. Clean,

Bath time at your house sure sounds like a lot of fun! (And conservationists will be happy to hear that you're saving water!) I think it's great that you're finding ways to incorporate connection and play into your daily rituals, and that you're also sensitive to the fact that sooner or later, your girls will want -- and need -- more privacy when they bathe.Children should be supervised in the bath or shower until they are at least 6 years old, depending, of course, on their maturity. Supervising a child in the bath doesn't, however, mean that you should do for them what they can do for themselves.

While your daughters may need help with shampooing till they're 6 or 7 (or a bit older), by the time they're 4 or so they should be cleaning themselves with a soapy washcloth. Washing hair is difficult for a child. Make sure they use a no-tears shampoo so they can brave the task without stinging eyes. All three girls may need your help with the rinsing, but I would start encouraging your two older daughters to begin trying to shampoo their own hair. Here are some tips to keep in mind as your girls become more independent in the shower or bath:

• When your girls start asking to bathe by themselves, keep the bathroom door open and stay within earshot.
• Don't assume that your girls are safer if they bathe or shower with a sibling. Horsing around can lead to slips and falls.
• Scalding is a real hazard. Teach them to always turn the cold water on before the hot, and to turn off the hot water before shutting off the cold. Run the water for them for a while as they watch so they can learn how to do this carefully.
• Make sure you have a good bath mat to avoid slipping and sliding.
• Teach them to count down from 15 when they rinse their hair in the shower, or to pour 15 cups of water on their heads to ensure the shampoo is rinsed out. (You can give your daughters a plastic visor to keep the water out of their eyes.)

Keep up the good work, Dad, and under your loving care your daughters will surely turn out to be fine -- and clean -- young women.

Yours in parenting support,

AdviceMama, Susan Stiffelman, is a licensed and practicing psychotherapist and marriage and family therapist. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in developmental psychology and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology. Her book, Parenting Without Power Struggles, is available on Amazon. Sign up to get Susan's free parenting newsletter.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.