Friday, August 1, 2008

Potty Training...Parent Training

My daughter seems to be interested in going to the bathroom on the toilet. She has successfully gone potty (not just pee either), she regularly lets us know when she has already gone in her diaper. But I'm not getting my hopes up that she is potty training, she did this about 5 months ago. She actually started sitting on the potty every morning and went "number 2" for about two weeks then she just stopped. So I started doing some reading about potty training back then and now I am thinking about it even more. Here's what I wanted to know;

1. What is the overall goal of PT (this might seem obvious... to stop using diapers right, not so easy.)?

2. Is it my job to train her?

3. Is she developmentally ready?

4. What are the ways I could really mess this up?

Here is what I have found out: 1The overall goal is obviously that your child is not longer needing diapers and can go the the bathroom in the toilet... but its WAY more than that. Toilet training is NOT about the parents' accomplishment of getting their child to use the toilet. According to Dr. Sears ( if your kid is still in diapers when you had planned otherwise, it does not make you a bad mother or father. It just means your child is not ready, and all kids are ready at different ages (usually between 18 months and 2.5 years, but its not unusual for a child to be 3 or four before they are regularly keeping the princess panties dry). The actual accomplishment of using the toilet and being able to stay dry is all about your child. Its their accomplishment.

In the book Kids are Worth it! by Barbara Coloroso, she says "The backbone (authoritative, which is not to be confused with authoritarian) puts the child be in full control of her body functions and master her own toilet training at her own speed. The parent has a flexible routine, is positive and nonchalant about the routine, expects mistakes and sees them as opportunities to learn, has a relaxed attitude, and is available to help. She is not overly concerned about other adult's expectations and comments."

I think that also answers my second question, while my job is to provide guidance, support, encouragement and lots of toilet paper, its my daughters job to be physically and cognitively ready for potty training.

My third question, is she ready, how can I tell? Basically, when she goes in her diaper and is conscious of it, lets her parents know she has peed or pooped, asks to sit on the potty, is able to stay dry for a period of time, or in my personal opinion when she can hold it long enough to only have accidents behind the couch... OK so I didn't read that anywhere, its just what my child is doing. Oh yes she does not have accidents anywhere in the house, just behind the couch. Anyways, a child also needs to be able to communicate they need to go to the bathroom, and most importantly they need to be willing to use the toilet. Once again its not about me being a good cheerleader and getting her to go, its about her being willing to use the potty and then I can become her cheerleader.

OK my final question is about how I can possibly mess up potty training. Coloroso says that parents who take ownership of toilet training (starting before the child is ready), use punishments (spanking for accidents, "big boys don't pee their pants" humiliation, etc. ) or use a more laissez-faire attitude can accomplish several outcomes, these include:

-The child's understanding is that they do not have control over their body or its functions
-feelings of shame or failure
-prolonging the process

Dear lord! This is not as simple as it seems.

A few other comments. Dr Sears' says you need the following things before you start PT:
  • Sense of humor
  • Endless patience
  • Creative marketing
  • Potty-chair
  • Training pants
Barbara Coloroso says you need the following things before you start:

Patience: "the power or capacity to endure without complaint something difficult"
"Once you and your child embark on the toilet-training adventure, thanks to your willingness to establish a backbone structure of preparedness, practice, and patience, your child will be able to begin to see herself as a competent, resourceful, and responsible person who is learning to treat her own body with dignity and regard."
And finally, "Relax. Many mothers and fathers are concerned that teaching their children bowel and bladder control is a mysteriously powerful parent-child interaction fraught with all sorts of hidden pitfalls, any one of which can induce crippling neurosis. But in reality, toilet learning is not different from any other early childhood learning experience-learning how to handle a fork, or button a shirt-that requires a combination of mental and muscular coordination." Alison Mack, Toilet Learning

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