Here's a classic from Donna that never loses its frustration factor:
My son used to love taking baths, and he loves being in the water in the summertime. But a few months ago, he started not enjoying the bath experience and wouldn't sit in the bath anymore. For months, I've had to wash him while he's standing in the tub. Sometimes he lets me get in with him and he'll sit on my lap, but that's not always possible and seems to be more and more inappropriate as he gets older (he's 2 years+ 4 months old). He seemed okay with the standing-up baths for a while and even played with all of his bath toys, but now he doesn't even like to get in the water at all, even with toys. I've changed the temperature of the water, thinking it was too hot for his little bottom, but that didn't help. For a while, he was okay if I let him put the soap on his hands and let him put it on himself , but now that's not even working. My husband has tried, too, but no luck. I now just give him a quick wash every few days, and shampoo his hair maybe twice a week, but he's crying the whole time. We've reduced the number of baths he gets a week so it won't stress us all out so much, but nothing seems to help. I've exhausted all of my ideas. Any suggestions would be helpful."
Classic wisdom is that at a certain age kids get afraid of being sucked down the drain. I think sometimes thats it, but not always. We went through this same stage in which a 2 1/2-year-old wouldn't sit down in the tub. I just didn't think much about it, since Ï was too busy trying to get him to let me wash his hair, and trying to keep the two boys from splashing all the water out of the tub.
But now that I think of it, yeah, this stage was a big pain in the butt. And it was the first time around with my older son, too. I don't think I ever came up with any solution for it. I tried a bunch of different things, from cajoling, to playing games, to just muscling through the bath and hair-washing while he screamed. I think what fixed it, though, was that he grew out of it. And his younger brother is now sitting back down, and can be talked into letting me wash his hair, too (he'll be 3 in May).
So is this a universal, that they go through a phase of not liking baths, even if they'll play endlessly with other water? If your kid went through an anti-bath phase, when was it and when did s/he grow out of it? How did you cope during it?