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Boys and Bathing

I have a client whose 10 year old does not like to bathe. She wants to know if he does not smell its okay for him to bathe once or twice a week. I can find no recommendations. Help!

Barbara Harvey

13 Comments to “Boys and Bathing”
  1. Has your client tried everything in regards to making bath time more fun?
    Bill Corbett

    Could there be any sensory integration issues relating to the bathing for the child?


  2. Barbara,

    I can’t think of a 10 year old boy who does like to bathe! Seems like that’s one of those issues to negotiate with a pre-adolescent. It’s part of staying healthy (and socially acceptable), but it’s important to give him some control and choices over his body. I remember the teachers handing out deodorant in my boys’ fifth grade classes because they smelled so bad after recess, but then we live in New Orleans, so it was hot a lot of the year. That gave me ammunition to stand my ground about baths during the week and let it go on the weekends.

    I’d go with some coaching for the mom on having a problem-solving discussion with the boy to get his agreement on minimal standards of cleanliness!


  3. In general he doesn’t need to bathe daily, every other day is often suggested for children and going every 2 days would be okay as well. She needs to keep in mind his general hygiene, and keep an eye on that. Also is she pushing a bath, would he prefer a shower which can be faster, allowing him the privacy to shower on his own at this age, which I assume but can’t be sure. Also he may want to listen to music while showering, or choose his own bath care products. I would just verify that this isn’t an autonomy issue that he needs to be given more control over the care of his own body.


  4. I concur with Barbara completely! It is not uncommon for ten year old boys to have this issue. I am dealing with it with my son currently. (The truth is, once he gets in, we can’t get him out!)

    A little coaching with mom should do the trick.

    Lauren Leiker

  5. I remember a stage in our son’s life as a preteen where he didn’t want to bath. It was just an inconvenience. Then as a teenager…. we couldn’t get him out of the shower and he would use up all the hot water.

    They do grow up. In the meantime, bathing a few times a week won’t kill him but do have him wash hands before meals. Give some control over the bathing process and privacy for sure. If he does ever smell, tell him so, discretely, and suggest he do something about it lest others not want to be in his company.



  6. I guess my take on this is that I wonder why this child does not like to
    bathe, other than the mention made regarding his age and that this might be
    developmentally “normal”. Has anyone asked him if there is a reason he does
    not like to bath regularly? Does his aversion have another possible source?
    Are there possibly sensory issues that need to be addressed? What else is
    going on in the home that might contribute to his not wanting to bathe? I
    hesitate to give a cut and dried answer to this question without knowing

    Faye Luxemburg-Hyam

  7. First, have the parent and son talked about the reason he doesn’t like baths? Does he have privacy or is the mom or dad in the room with him? Depending on where you live – 2x/week may be plenty (just my opinion), especially in states that have dried out skin winters!! Our skin is our first defense against infection and needs to be protected. Also, thought about showers instead of baths?? MK

    Mary Kay Stranik

  8. Let’s not forget that back 50 – 100 years ago it was not unusual to bathe only weekly. There is probably nothing “wrong” other than he is a boy. I had one who decided he just didn’t want to take the time to shower or bathe. I figured peer pressure or girls would change his view. And eventually I was right. Why do we have to try and put some “syndrome” on every wierd thing our kids do?

    Sandy Cervenka

  9. This is an interesting discussion. I think we are obsessed with bathing. There is no reason for frequent baths in pre-adolescents except to maintain socially acceptable smell level. If once a week works for that purpose I’d say great. If he plays in the dirt outside a lot, bathing to get rid of the dirt might be helpful (again for social reasons and so you don’t have to clean the sheets so often – not for medical reasons). Choose other battles. Handwashing is important…. But assuming normal toilet hygiene and dental care, the rest poses no health threat.
    I’d say chill.
    Pretty soon he’ll be taking longer and longer showers…and for adolescent boys I can assure you they aren’t always just for bathing.

    Jody McVittie, MD

  10. I agree with Jody and Sandy. We need to pick our battles and this isn’t one of the them. My step daughter developed body odor when she was about 10 (today she’s 15) and refused to use deodorant. We set up a rule in the house that she couldn’t sit on the living room furniture, but anywhere else was fine. My wife and I just had to put with the smell. Eventually, peer pressure took over and one of her peers told her she smelled. She ran home to use deodorant and has used it since.

    Bill Corbett

  11. There are cultures around the world who do not take baths daily. I attended school in Switzerland for one year and bathing once a week was the norm. Visiting relatives in Heidelberg for the Christmas holiday again provided evidence of the once a week bath routine. Individuals did wash themselves carefully during the week however. As an aside, I wrote my father in California how shocked I was that the girls at my international school took baths once a week. My father suggested I get my nose out of the bathrooms and pay attention to the wonder of my new environs.

    Recently I went down the Colorado River on a raft. There were no bathtubs. We did wash in the river however using towels and a special soap. Good hygiene can be taught, modeled and learned.

    Mr. Rogers sang about children worrying about going down the drain. I doubt a ten year old is fearful of the drain, although stranger things have happened.

    Ada Alden

  12. I am so grateful for this group. This discussion has gotten me to thinking. In our goal to make parenting education more mainstream would there be any value in creating an anthology of NPEN members on the basic things that parents would have questions about like bathing?

    Barbara H

  13. Hey, Jody. I love your comments. Yea, MD. Yea Parenting person. Did you read any good books lately?