13 answers

2 1/2 Year Old Suddenly Cries Hysterically During Bath Time

Our 2 1/2 year old daughter has started crying hysterically when we go to put her in the bath and all throughout the bath. Neither my husband, older daughter or myself can think of anything that happened to her during her bath time to have caused this reaction. Nothing has changed. She is using the same bathtub, same bath toys, and always takes a bath at the same time as her older sister who loves bath. She hasn't taken a bath any where else in the last few months and this problem just started about 3 weeks ago. We sing songs during bath and try to make it very fun. Any thoughts or advice?

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She is simply afraid. (two year olds do that sometimes) Ask her if you lower the water really low if she will sit or even stand in the water.

Start by lowering the level of the water to about 2 or one inches. Ask if that is okay with her. If is is too high, lower it.

Let her do that for a couple of weeks and if she sits rather that stands, then she is really relaxed and having fun, gradually raise the level of the water 1/2 inch. If she notices and freaks out, put it back.

The goal is too have her relaxed, not to take a bath in deep water. If 1 inch is all she can do, that is all she can do. Give her six months and it will be a different issue.

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I've so been there! We had the exact thing happen to us - about the same time - I had lots of great advice, new toys - going in the tub with her or what ever. Here is my question and answers - http://www.mamapedia.com/questions/7418865322582605825

What worked was Daddy took the bath time solo - then she was fine. I'm not sure why that worked but it did - she just wanted a little more Daddy time.

Good luck to you.

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Have you checked to see if there is something wrong with her "private parts"? She may have injured herself, or have an infection, etc., and the bath water is stinging or burning when she's placed in it. Sometimes, things as simple as bubble bath, or even soap can cause a rash, or burning, and sitting in the bath water exacerbates it. Can you try a shower where she won't be sitting in the water, and it won't be soaking her private parts, but flowing over them?

Your posting sounds like you've ruled out emotional causes, but I didn't see anything that made me think you'd ruled out physical ones.

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My daughter did this also. She was a little younger. One bath time I went to stick her in the bath and I think her toe touched the water and that was it. I had to do sink baths for a couple of months and then she was fine. I just used the kitchen sink or did wash cloth baths and she would watch big sis in the big girl bath. Then one day it was all better. Good luck

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It's normal. My son also did this around 2. It lasted a month or two and then he was right back to loving the bath. I think that's the age when kids realize that water could be dangerous. I bathed my son really fast for those couple of months and didn't force him into the water. She'll get over this before you know it. Good luck!

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I don't have any advice but wanted to say that my daughter who is the same age is doing this for bed time. I wonder if its part of the "terrible twos"?

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My 2 1/2 did the exact same thing. I asked if she was worried/afraid/upset. She said simply that she didn't want to take baths anymore. We discussed it, at length, and she is getting better now with the crying. It is only 50% of the time. She will cry during bath but the minute I say, "OK, all done." the tears dry like magic. :) It is a "terrible two" phase. We cut back on the frequency of the baths until it blew over a bit. She has also done this with several others things, i.e. food she used to love, toys that are now taboo, visiting friends, it comes and goes. Hang in there!

1 mom found this helpful

She is simply afraid. (two year olds do that sometimes) Ask her if you lower the water really low if she will sit or even stand in the water.

Start by lowering the level of the water to about 2 or one inches. Ask if that is okay with her. If is is too high, lower it.

Let her do that for a couple of weeks and if she sits rather that stands, then she is really relaxed and having fun, gradually raise the level of the water 1/2 inch. If she notices and freaks out, put it back.

The goal is too have her relaxed, not to take a bath in deep water. If 1 inch is all she can do, that is all she can do. Give her six months and it will be a different issue.

1 mom found this helpful

What seems to be helping us right now is letting her have more control during bath time (she is 2 1/2). I give her the scrubby full of soap and let her wash herself, most of the time she does. When she doesnt want to I pretend like the scrubby is a flower and "tickle" her (actually washing her, just make a game of it). Another thing I have found my little one loves is showering (much easier on my back), we have a detachable showerhead and she gets to play with the water. Lately she hates me getting her hair wet, so I started pretending the shower is rain and she thinks its funny. I know its a very frusterating phase, just try to be patient. I think another aspect of this is that at 2 they really start extpressing wanting control over what they want and dont. Gotta love the age!

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Hello L.,

I've been working with children for more than 16 years as a nanny and parent coach, often children develop anxiety aroung 2.5 over things they never were scared of before. She may have watched a scary water scene on TV or may have just developed anxiety over water. I suggest you try an elimination technique.

First, purchase a shower head with a hose, and instead of filling the tub sit her in the empty tub and give her a "shower". You may also want to allow her to hold the hose. Once she is OK with the water, slowly add water to the bottom of the tub over a few days.

If it turns out her fear wasn't the water, but the tub, I suggest you be in the tub with her for a while, first all the way, then sit on the side, then just a hand.

This age can be difficult, but if you understand the reason behind the behavior, it's easier. You may want to read about Erik Erikson's stages of development, I used his theories all the time, and it helps so much.

I hope this helps.

R. Magby

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Our son cried hysterically during baths for about 3 months, starting when he was about 2. The result was 3 or 4 baths during that time and a sponge bath a few times a week. And then one day, he wanted a bath again and has been taking long and happy baths for a few weeks now. I just figured it was a phase and he'd get through it, which is what happened. A few new bath toys and the book Little Bunny's Bathtime! seemed to help the transition. Good luck!

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I know that sometimes they'll do this as a cry for attention/independence! I'd just keep bathing her and not give in and she'll hopefully "get over it" soon (I hate saying that :( )
What if you took her out and let her pick out a new bath toy like washable crayons, foam, a doll for her to bathe, etc Sometimes it might just do the trick!

Maybe she is pretending to be a cat :)

I'm just saying that because my 2 1/2 year old daughter likes to pretend she is different animals. Have you asked her why she is scared of the bath?

I know both my kids went through a time when they didn't like baths or showers, which they both usually love, and one reason was my son told me it made his ears hurt, so we were careful not to get water in his ears and took him to the doctor to see if he had an ear infection and were careful about it until that went away. My daughter at one point got soap in her eyes because she helped wash herself and then went to cover her eyes to rinse her hair and didn't rinse the soap off first - it was children's soap, but still it hurts. She is old enough that she should be able to communicate something to you about why she is scared of the bath, either by pointing or gestures, etc. I also know that my little girl is at the point where little things scare her so we have to be careful of movies she watches, because even if she's seen it before for some reason now it is scaring her. Also, I have to take my daughter out the tub before I let the water out because for some reason she is know scared of the water going down the drain.

So, it is probably something simple and small and hopefully temporary, but just something to think about. Kids have very active imaginations and can't differentiate between fantasy and reality, so if your daughter loves "Finding Nemo" or "Little Mermaid" maybe she is afraid that sharks might be in the tub or something like that.

Good Luck!

All three of my daughters went through a stage where they didn't like their bath or were afraid of the water. Each was a different age, but all were around two years old. Right now my youngest is liking the play time but doesn't want water anywhere around her head - she'll be two on the 1st. Just keep positive and consistent, and it will go away!

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