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Potty Training Without Tears

Tips to Help Potty Training Go Smoothly

Question:

I am so frustrated! It seems like everybody's kids are toilet trained except mine. I've been trying to get him started, but no matter how hard I try, he doesn't seem to care. He's only interested in his potty-chair because the bucket makes a great helmet!

Answer:

Think about it, when was the last time you saw a first grader wearing a diaper? No matter how much you want your child to be potty trained, it won't happen until he's ready. As a matter of fact, research was done on a group of twins. Of each set, one twin began toilet-training at 8 months of age. The other began training at 2 1/2. By age 2 3/4 they were both at the same skill level. So I ask you, why rush it?

Signs of readiness: Toilet training is easier if your child is physically and emotionally ready to begin. Look for these signs: A dry diaper for several hours; letting you know he has to go, or is going; being uncomfortable with a wet or messy diaper; the ability to put on and take off his own clothes; an interest in the potty and the desire to be trained. Once you see that your child is ready, put your child in charge. Potty training is one of the few areas over which he has complete control. If you demand that he toilet train on your schedule, you will likely create a major power struggle. A low-key, no pressure approach works best.

When you feel your child is physically and emotionally ready to be toilet trained, present the idea as an exciting opportunity to do something very grown up. Your idea will be much better received than if you indicate that this is something you want him, or need him, to do.

How to Teach: Teach your child how to use the potty in a very matter of fact, light-hearted way. Use the same approach you use when you teach your child how to cut with scissors, button his sweater or put on his socks. Buy him some training pants that are a size too big so that they're easy to take on and off. Put him in pants with an elastic waist, or if its warm enough, just let him wander around in his undies for a week or so. Help him out the first few times, then pronounce him ready to take care of his own business. Shake his hand and stay out of his way. Be pleasantly encouraging when he does it right, but avoid doing a whoop-and-holler war dance.

What about accidents? Accidents are bound to happen during the training period. Use the same approach you use when he buttons his sweater the wrong way. "Ooops. Missed the potty that time. Don't worry, pretty soon you'll get it right every time." It helps to teach your child how to clean up his own mess and change his own clothes and put his dirty things in the laundry. If he has to take care of all of this, it's a great incentive to stop having accidents!

Creative tricks? There are lots of tricky contraptions on the market that can be fun and interesting to try. There are musical potty-chairs, dissolving toilet training targets, creative videos and books. Use any of these items if you like, but use them with an attitude of fun. After all, learning to use the toilet is just a practical step in the normal process of growing up.

If all of this fails, then what? If your child is physically and emotionally ready to be toilet trained, but, for whatever reason isn't, try this I-hate-to-even-suggest-it-because-I-don't-believe-in-bribery-but-it-always-w orks idea. (I usually don't recommend bribery, but if you have a toddler reluctant to potty train, I know that there is a point that you'll do anything to get this business over with, so go ahead!) Go to the toy store and buy about thirty little prizes. (Check the party favor aisle for a great selection of inexpensive trinkets.) Wrap each prize separately in wrapping paper. Put them in a clear glass bowl and place the bowl on the counter in the bathroom. Don't say a word. When your child asks about it, respond in a matter of fact way, "Oh. Those are potty prizes. You'll get one each time you do your business in the toilet. But no hurry. Whenever you're ready." Most kids are "ready" immediately, but don't be surprised if your child drools over the bowl for a few days before deciding to be "ready." Allow your child to choose one prize each time he goes. When the bowl's empty, the habit will be firmly in place.

Excerpted with permission by NTC/Contemporary Publishing Group Inc. from Perfect Parenting, The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips by Elizabeth Pantley, copyright 1999

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