In a Nutshell: Potty training is as much about training you as a parent as it is about training your child to use the bathroom. Relax and enjoy!
I don’t think there is anything that bring out the best and worst in parents like potty training does. It is intense business! It’s been on my mind this week after the tragic news case of the toddler who was severely beaten and glued to the wall as punishment for having wet her pants. Stories like this are regularly in the news (here and here, for example). Even more common than these public tragedies is the sometimes unhealthy parenting that can accompany potty training.
Potty training stinks. Literally. I think the high emotion associated with getting your little one to put his poop where his poop should go has everything to do with the fact that bodily fluids are smelly. They bring out instinctual negative reflexes that are not always the best version of ourselves. Potty training is also one of the first battle parents fight with their child because it is one of the things that parents cannot control. You may be able to force a child to get in the car, but no amount of forcing can make a child stay dry in the Albertson’s check-out line. (Yes, I know.)
So, if you have a little recruit enrolled in potty training academy, here are some principles to help the process. The next post will give some specific suggestions, but know that there are lots of different and equally appropriate methods that can help potty training be a positive experience. Any method that strengthens the parent/child relationship, gives the child a great boost of self-esteem, and keeps a child from earning his diploma in a diaper is a winner.
Principle 1: Potty training is as much about training you as a parent as it is about training your child to use the bathroom.
How do you react to potty training? Is it all about you and how inconvenienced you are by smelly laundry, messes on the carpet, and making sure your little pooper keeps up with the pooper next door? Does your mood determine whether you can be chill and move on after an accident, or lose your temper and shame your child?
Potty training is a great chance for parents to come face to face with their parenting philosophy, and take a hard look at the skills they have developed up to that point. Look at this experience as a good chance to practice being a great parent under some extreme circumstances.
Principle 2: Potty training is a big deal. Get a plan.
This time is one of your child’s final steps out of the baby world. It can be a time of amazing self-esteem development in a child and needs to be handled well. The “learn and succeed” training method will have much better results than the “trial and error” method. Potty training has been done before, people. Do some asking around and reading to find a method you are comfortable with before you dive in. Planning also involves deciding ahead of time that you are going to keep your cool…even when you step in another puddle.
Principle 3: Every child is different.
There is a big age-range for appropriate times to potty train. I’ve known attachment-oriented parents who practice infant potty training, but most kids will fall into the 18 month to 4-year-old range. Individual temperament, family schedule, and physical readiness all play a part. Some kids are simply strong-willed and don’t want to be told what to do. Others have real fears about falling in the potty, or may have memories of a painful bowl movement. Some are just “late-bloomers” who need a little more time. But we all get it eventually! Don’t compare your child to others or put pressure on them to keep up with the other kids at playgroup.
Principle 4: Relax and enjoy!
Unless you want to make this process really, really aggravating, plan on facing potty training with a sense of humor and a whole lot of patience. The appalling cases of abuse in the news certainly have complex issues involved, but so many otherwise calm and loving parents have come unglued just because someone didn’t make it. This is a great chance for you to help your child succeed in one of their most exciting moments, so relax and try to enjoy the experience.
For a story about a great mom who handled a poopy mess with a great sense of humor, make sure to read Sarah’s account from Sunday. Just make sure you don’t have an accident of your own while you laugh reading it!
Next post: Some specifics on one potty-training method.