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Potty Talk

Parents Agree: Enthusiasm, Consistency Are Key

The timeline of each of my daughters’ lives seems to be drawn along a series of milestones. I handled the transition from crawling to walking relatively well. I braved the crib to bed switch sooner than most. However, I did not immediately embrace the idea of potty training. As a Type A personality parent, there is something comforting and predictable about a diaper. I even felt like I had an ounce of control. Friends promised that once I helped my child achieve this milestone I would feel a new sense of independence and freedom.

Suzanne Hanky, a family educator with Commonwealth Parenting here in Richmond, says that sense of independence is important for children, too

Hanky calls potty training a skill of self-reliance. “Skills of self-reliance are those things that our children learn to do for themselves that make them feel powerful and productive,” says Hanky.As potty training builds confidence in a child, the child takes an important step toward independence. This increase in independence marks a key transition in the parent/child relationship. Hanky encourages parents to move past diapers, leave their role of servitude behind, and, she says, “become a preschooler’s parent – one who is a teacher, busy teaching the child how to be successful in the world.

I couldn’t help but wonder how we Would ever reach that point

That said, I had always heard that timing was everything, and that you should start when your child was ready. Sounds simple enough, right? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “the longer you wait before beginning toilet training, the easier and quicker the process is likely to be since your child will have become more self-sufficient.” Diane Stafford, author of Potty Training for Dummies, narrows this down further to a common window of opportunity between the ages of two and a half and three.

Many feel they should wait longer to start training boys, however Hanky, a mother of five, believes “it is purely a myth that boys’ plumbing and their immaturity make toilet training more difficult.” She feels “male and female children alike are capable of being trained early in the second year.”

Regardless of age, there are signs to look for when evaluating whether a toddler is ready to potty train, including facial redness, and making faces or noises when going to the bathroom in his diaper. Physical signs like this indicate a child knows he has to go. Parents and caregivers need to be aware and start talking about what happens next.

As you are observing your child’s routine and signs of readiness, start including tactics that will introduce potty Training into your daily routine. Around the age of two, read lively, upbeat potty books to your child. Around this time, you can also start modeling the behavior for your child. Invite him in to the bathroom with you to see what you are doing. Introduce the terminology you will use, such as Mommy is putting her tinkle in the potty.

It is important to mention some factors that might lead to delaying potty training.Stafford and the American Academy of Pediatrics agree that you should wait if your child is in an uncooperative stage.You also want to delay for any upcoming major life changes like the birth of a new sibling, changing from a crib to a bed, or changing preschools or child cares.

Make sure, however, you do not allow yourself to fall into the trap of letting these delays linger. Hanky feels “when we are willing to delay teaching our children skills that lead to pride, then we are literally robbing them of the opportunity to be cultivating a strong self image.”

If your child has shown initial signs of readiness, consider purchasing potty training supplies soon. First decide on the potty, whether it is a child-size potty or an adapter seat on your toilet. There is no right answer as long as your child fits well and sits comfortably on the seat. You want to consider the urgency of getting to a potty and the logistics of your home. If You have two floors and two bathrooms, you might go with a potty in each. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you involve your child in the potty selection process.

You will also need to think about whether your child will wear diapers, training diapers shaped like underpants, thicker training underwear, or regular big kid underwear during training. Local mom, Jennifer Hapke, recalls taking her daughter to the store to pick out her first pair of big girl undies, which reinforced that it was her decision to start potty training. Kristy Sharp, a Midlothian mom of two toddlers, says she tried all of the options until she found the right combination for her son. This combination changed as potty training progressed. But to reinforce the ultimate goal, make sure your child picks out big kid underwear regardless of your plan.

I think we are ready. Now what? Some families keep it casual and gradually introduce the potty, slowly advancing from exploring how the potty works to sitting on it. The gentle reminder that the potty is there cues the child. This approach is based on the idea that ownership in the process will reduce power struggles and lead to progress. Other families chose to take a more scheduled approach. They watch the clock and visit the potty based on time rather than waiting for the child to show a need.This approach is based on the idea that repetition is key and leads to progress.

Regardless of which approach is right for your child, caregivers need to remember two key factors in potty training success: consistency and enthusiasm.

Children will progress at a faster pace when there is consistency in the training process. Use the same words to refer to the behavior. Use the same positive reinforcement to reward behavior. Also make sure everyone involved in your child’s care understands and supports your potty training plan. Stafford suggests drafting an outline for childcare facilities or sitters if necessary.

All the moms I talked with said enthusiasm was crucial to success.Remember to celebrate every step in the process. Many families sing a special song while their child tries to use the potty.Remember to involve your child in creating this song. Rewarding positive behavior Can be another form of enthusiasm.Parents use sticker charts or candy jars to keep their children engaged. Michele Hughes, a Glen Allen mom of two, said a standing ovation reinforced her son’s success. Keep the reward manageable and realistic as they will use the potty many times each day.

And be realistic in your expectations, too. Remind yourself to be patient and avoid power struggles by minimizing pressure on your child and yourself.Expect and understand that accidents will happen. The key is to handle accidents without punishing your child as the emphasis is on building their self-confidence.

And remember, too, that each child is different. Think hard about who your child is and what works well for her in other life circumstances. Many say that motherhood is easier the second time around, but potty training my second child required an entirely new bag of tricks than what worked for my first. It quickly became a challenge I embraced, offering me new insight into just how different siblings can be, and setting us both on the path toward achieving the next milestone.

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