What To Do When Your Tween Won’t Shower

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The tween years are tough for kids. Their teeth are half adult, half baby – essentially making their mouths look like a living horror show. They still have those child faces, but they’re starting to grow body hair, breasts, and big feet. They still want bedtime kisses, but will literally (in their own minds, at least) drop dead of embarrassment if you kiss them in front of their friends. And the worst part of the tween years? The smells. Here’s some advice for what to do when your tween won’t shower.

smelly tween child

What To Do When Your Tween Won’t Shower

Tweens smell.

Even worse than that? When they decide they won’t take showers. One night you’ve got this beautiful little child with hair that smells like baby shampoo and heaven, and the next you’ve got a child standing defiantly in front of the bathroom door and refusing to rinse the stench of rotted corpse and limburger cheese from under their armpits. And worse, because of the outrageous growth spurts it’s not like you can just pick them up and toss them in anymore. And apparently it’s also an invasion of their personal space…even if their personal space is smelling up the entire house and a trail of green fumes follows behind them wherever they walk. Still, there are some things you can do.

1. Find out if there’s a reason they won’t shower. Maybe they feel awkward about their bodies. Maybe they’ve got a weird rash and they don’t want to tell you about it. Maybe they’re starting to notice hair down there and they just can’t deal. Start a dialogue with your kid. If there’s something going on they might not just come to you and say it. You’re going to have to ask some questions.

2. Buy them special bathing supplies that they pick out. This one is a double edged sword. Yes, it might get your kid to shower, but there’s also a chance your bathroom is going to start smelling like a gardenia factory. It’s a risk you might have to take…

what to do when your tween won't shower

3. Insure their privacy. This one is huge. Tweens want to feel that sense of autonomy and if you or one of their siblings keeps walking into the bathroom while they’re trying to shower (or do whatever else kids do in the shower that you really don’t want to think about yet) it could be that rebelling against the shower is their way of taking control of their own bodies. Make sure everyone in the family knows that shower time (for your tween, at least) is private time.

4. Don’t make a big deal. This one is hard. You don’t want your kid to be the stinky kid, but at the same time if you dig in your heels, they probably will, too. So if they miss a day, or two, or three, try to grit your teeth (maybe rub some Vicks under your nose) and bear it.

5. Wait for peer pressure to kick in. This one is even harder than the last one. At some point you may have to let your stinky kid become the stinky kid. It sucks. You want to protect your child, sure, but sometimes peer pressure has to be the thing to kick them into gear. If you’ve tried everything else and they still smell like a barrel of three-day-old cod, there’s a good chance their friends are going to start noticing soon, too. And they Will speak up. Even more, there’s a chance your kid might listen to their friends even if they’re trying to openly rebel against you.

horrified tween friend

The biggest thing to keep in mind with all of this, is that like with most childhood issues, this too shall pass. Tweens go through phases. Sometimes three different phases in a day. It’s like living with Sybil, but without the good meds. Some days are sweet reminders of why you became a parent in the first place and, unfortunately, some days just stink.


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  1. It’s been nearly a month my eleven year old son hasn’t bathed. I can’t help but get a little heated about it. He starts crying and I tell him about impetigo and dandruff. I tell him he’s going to get the whole household sick. He won’t change his clothes. What do I do?

  2. My 13 year o,old grandson has not bathed in over a year. We’ve told him he stinks, friends have told him. I’ve asked him why and he says quit being nosey. What to do?

  3. omgawsh…laffing my azzz off right now, we are soooo going thru tha same thing! thanx fer posting, i really needed this…