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Potty Training and Kids Home Alone

Q: My family is encouraging me to potty train my 2-yearold daughter this summer. I don’t know where to begin – help!

A: Few parenting milestones can be as daunting as potty training. Everyone seems to have the best method but no two methods are alike! However, potty training does not need to be so overwhelming.

First of all, timing is everything. If you are planning a major change within the next few weeks, I would not suggest potty training until after the change. Consistency is the key to successful potty training, so choose a time when potty training can be a main focus.

Secondly, assess your child’s interest. Is she curious about the potty? Does she let you know that her diaper needs to be changed? These can be good indicators that she is ready to start.

Next, set the stage. Invest in a potty chair, get a book about going to the potty to share with your daughter, and decide if you are going to do some type of reward system. Sticker charts work well, or simple dollar store items can be a great incentive for your child. Consider taking her to the store to pick out her very own big girl underwear.

Finally, be positive, consistent, and keep your cool. Take your child to the potty on a regular schedule. Be enthusiastic about her attempts and her successes. Do not become angry or frustrated with her. A child should never be punished for having an accident or for not being potty trained as quickly as others expect her to be. Accidents will happen so be prepared. Travel with extra changes of clothing or arrange your schedule so the first few days can be spent around the house. Also, be careful about the use of pull-ups. They are so absorbent there is little differentiation between them and diapers. Thick cloth underwear may be more effective if you want a step between diapers and underwear.


Q: With school out, my children are home alone during the day while I’m at work. They are 11 and 13 and have always been reliable when I’ve left them before. I’m not worried about them but not sure how to handle the question of whether their friends can come during the day. It’s a long boring day for them if they only have each other to entertain themselves.

A: I encourage you to think about the situation in reverse. Would you like your children to go over to their friend’s home without parental supervision? We all know that peer pressure can have a tremendous influence on children. It can be very positive – being with children who strive to excel academically or make nutritious food choices so they can be strong soccer players, for example. But unfortunately, we also know that it can be extremely negative – cigarettes, alcohol and drug use, inappropriate Internet or TV usage, dangerous or risky behaviors. I think having your children with their friends unsupervised is not the best idea. Would it be possible for the parents to pick your children up? Could you arrange for a trusted adult to be available a few hours to monitor them at home or take them to activities? I agree that the summer can be boring if kids do not have enough creative outlets.

It may be worthwhile to spend the remaining weeks of summer vacation finding some organized activities they can participate in to help break up the boredom.

Denise Noble is a mom of two and has master’s degree in counselor education. She is affiliated with, the parenting education arm of Greater Richmond SCAN, and has coached parents and worked with families for nearly twenty years.
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