How to Tell Kids They Stink

By Kimberly Dyke
Hemera Technologies/ Images

Whether your child is smack dab in the middle of puberty or simply refuses to bathe on a regular basis, she can start smelling rather funky pretty quickly. Body odor, greasy hair and bad breath have the potential to become monumental problems if you do not address them and get your child on the track to good hygiene. Convincing your kid that being clean and smelling nice are important can be challenging, but is worth the effort in the long run.

Step 1

Talk with your child to find out her side of the story. Ask, “Why don't you want to take a shower or brush your teeth? What part of taking a bath bothers you?” Offer to help her through the things with which she struggles. Explain that her body goes through changes that make skin oilier and underarm sweat glands more active. Express that part of living a healthy lifestyle is taking care of the outside of her body.

Step 2

Speak in a gentle tone and a loving manner when discussing hygiene with your child, as it is a very sensitive issue for many children. Privately explain that everyone struggles with body odor at times and you understand how hard it can be to make changes. Supply your youngster with special soaps, deodorants and toothpaste to encourage her to want to clean up every day. Point out her good behaviors so she does not feel like you are attacking her, such as, “You are so great at soccer, and you are such a hard-working student. Let’s work on getting clean now.”

Step 3

Avoid entering into an argument or power struggle over showering or other hygienic issues. Resist pushing her into doing what you are asking her to do. Avoid trying to control her so she does not push back and resist bathing even more.

Step 4

Explain that body odor, bad breath and overall poor hygiene can offend other people. Talk about how kids typically do not want to sit near the smelly kid in class or hang out with her after school. Explain that people must deal with a body odor problem to avoid negative social consequences.

Step 5

Encourage your child to improve her hygiene with an incentive program. Create a daily behavior chart to mark off taking showers, brushing teeth, putting on deodorant and combing hair. Offer a reward for a week of good hygiene, such as a trip to the ice cream parlor, tickets to a movie or staying up late on the weekend. Continue to reward good behavior until proper hygiene is a natural habit.

About the Author

Kimberly Dyke is a Spanish interpreter with a B.A. in language and international trade from Clemson University. She began writing professionally in 2010, specializing in education, parenting and culture. Currently residing in South Carolina, Dyke has received certificates in photography and medical interpretation.