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Why Potty Training should be spelt RELAX

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by: Celeste Hunter

As a child care provider I have spent more than my share of time potty training children. On average I begin child care when a child reaches 1 years old and graduates from their infant-only program.
Inevitably that first year the questions begin about potty-training the life or death struggle that parents feel they must go through with their toddler.

The biggest mistake parents make is thinking that potty training should be the most important thing in the World. Getting the toddler onto the potty at precisely the right time becomes the mission for the household and World War III begins. Here’s some helpful advice from a seasoned General for parents mounting their strategic measures and preparing for battle.

R E L A X

Well you had to expect at some point that I was going to say this to you. But really…think about why you are so desperate to get your child to potty train. Is it because your mother and father swear that you were potty trained by two? Is Joey down the street in ‘big boy pants’ and you feel like the pressure is on? Or is that wonderful parenting book telling you that your child should be showing ‘signs’ by now?

Sit back and relax. Take a nice big breath and think a moment. How many school age children do you see running around with diapers on? None. So that means that eventually your child (impossible as it may seem) will decide that the potty is the better place to put the contents of their diaper. No it isn’t going to happen magically but eventually they will decide that what’s currently stuck to their bottom is:

1) not a pretty smell

2) not a good feeling

3) just plain yucky

So your job as a parent is to sit back and wait for the inevitable to happen. Just like crawling, walking, jumping, talking, and everything else your child is going to do and accomplish in their life…it will be on their own terms and when they are good and ready. NOT when you are. Might as well start getting used to it now.

Now that being said let’s discuss some basic facts. Each and every persons body is different including little kids. Each of us is hardwired in certain physical ways. Just as you are literally unable to talk before your body is ready the same is true for controlling waste removal from your body.

With each developmental stage that your child goes through their body is programmed to physically respond…i.e. the appropriate muscles strengthen, etc. The same is true for the potty training time. When your child’s body is ready they will physically be able to control urinating and bowel movements. Until this time the muscles in the pelvic region are not capable of performing this task. Let’s say that again NOT capable of performing the function of controlling urination and bowel movements.

O.K. so when are a child’s muscles ready for potty training? Then answer: When their body decides.

That’s it. No magic age…no perfect time no absolutes. Just when they are good and ready. So as much as you love that hair color that is just theirs, the eye color, the smile so to must you learn to love their bodies decision on potty training.

That being said let’s discuss common things you should be doing from an early age to help your child gear up for potty training.

1) Don’t hide the contents of the diaper from your child.

I know this is gross…but if you don’t let your child see what they made and that it is yucky (I dare someone to say that their child is going to say Oooooh Ahhhh over this) then how are they going to understand that they don’t want it on their skin…or more importantly their bottom? By this I don’t mean that you should put on a show for your child. Simply place the diaper in an open condition where the child can see the contents for your own safety I recommend far away from grasping hands.

2) Don’t EVER let your child sit in a full diaper.

By this I mean a wet and a soiled diaper. If your child gets in the habit of functioning with a wet or soiled diaper on then they will be less likely to feel aversion to having that on their skin. By training them from an early age that that is not desirable you are teaching them to feel more comfortable in a dry diaper.

3) Discuss what is in the diaper.

Here again we are delving into gross but it is very important to teach your child the difference between wet and soiled. Eventually, at some point, your child is going to need to know the difference in outcome between the two. If the child is just wet say ‘well looks like we have a wet diaper’ and leave the diaper where the child can see the contents. The same is true for the soiled diaper. *Important note here: Remember that whatever name you teach your child they will use when sitting in a restaurant. At the top (and I mean top) of their lungs they are going to announce what they need to do… so keep that in mind when picking your names. My favorite for bowel movements is tinky. Everybody thinks it is so cute when a child announces they are “tinky”.. little do they know what that really means!

4) Don’t make the bathroom a mystery.

When you are using the bathroom explain why you are in there and what you are doing. If you are going to use a potty chair have it set-up in the bathroom and let your child sit on it as a chair. If you will be using the toilet insert have it available at your child’s eye level for them to see and grow accustomed to.

5) Involve your child in clean up.

When you are done changing your child hand them the diaper (if it is in the condition to do this) and have them “help you” throw it away. After this is done take a trip to the bathroom and wash your hands together.

6) Change your child where they can see the toilet or potty chair.

My favorite way to help children to want to use the potty is to begin changing them where they can see the toilet. This can mean literally having your changing supplies in the restroom, or changing them in front of the door to the bathroom. Just so long as they can see the bathroom. Eventually your child will ask to “try” the toilet. Let them go through the motions as if they have actually done what they set out to do.

7) Once your child begins to have dry diapers and asks to use the restroom start talking about the “feeling in their tummy” after they have gone to the bathroom.

For obvious reasons it is going to be pretty tough catching your child urinating but it should be easy to catch them right after a bowel movement. Talk about the feeling in their tummy, that it is owie, or not good, or whatever you want to call it. The important thing is to help your child associate the feeling of needing to have a bowel movement and the result. Talk about how you want your child to tell you when they feel this way. Your child should be pretty accustomed to telling you when they don’t feel good, or have an owie, so this is a small leap for them.

8) Don’t assume because your child successfully asks to use the bathroom and manages to produce some content for the toilet that they are really ready to potty train.

Remember that going to the bathroom means taking time out from whatever you are doing to relieve yourself. I don’t know about you, but I know several adults who aren’t great at this. I have seen more than one adult in my time hopping around because they waited to long. Remember that your child is going to have to stop playing, reading, or give up the prized toy in order to do what??? Go to the bathroom where there are no toys??? Think like a child. It is going to take LOTS of practice to decide that that 2 minute time period isn’t forever, and that whatever they are doing beforehand isn’t mission critical. Like I said, some adults still aren’t great at this!

9) Don’t set your child up to fail.

Try always as a parent to place your child in situations where they are most likely to succeed. They will have plenty of times in their life that they will fail don’t give them additional practice. Deciding that you are going to put your daughter in big girl pants and then go to the park is not a good idea. She isn’t going to be able to remember to tell you that she has to go to the bathroom, and will face failing at wearing big girl pants, the humiliation of being wet in front of other kids, as well as being uncomfortable.

10) Consider waiting until your child begins asking you to use the bathroom.

Your child may decide all on their own that they are ready to potty train. Consider waiting for this time and not getting caught up in the hype of ‘who’s wearing big girl/boy pants first’. After all…diapers, just like infancy only last a little while, and when you are all done it may seem like the “baby time” didn’t last quite long enough.

One other very important thing parents need to remember is that if their child attends child care, or stays with someone else for a good chunk of the week…they will most likely be successfully potty trained at one place or the other. Usually children will potty train at home before child care. Not because the child care provider isn’t doing a good job monitoring your child or asking if they need to go to the bathroom but more likely it is because your child is just plain having to much fun to stop! Give your child a little extra leeway if this is your situation.

Above all, remember that wearing diapers is a part of your child’s young life. Those moments (yucky as they are) will be nonexistent soon enough. Rather quickly you will find yourself wondering how this grown kid got into your household and what happened to your little baby.

Take time to R E L A X and appreciate the little moments of that little life you are sharing.

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Celeste is a successful Child Care Professional in the state of CA


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