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Potty Training -- Everything You Need to Know to Stop the Battle and Build Self-Esteem

Toilette training seems to take up a lot of parents’ attention.  Yes, potty training is a big deal.  No, it doesn’t have to be a months-long process.  Or a battle.  If you approach your child (and the potty) in the right way, it is a natural, coming-of-age step that can – really! – be enjoyable for you and for you child.
Toilette training is not about the toilette.  It’s about control.  Your child is learning to control her body.  The reason that the bathroom becomes a battleground is because parents mistakenly think that they are in control of the situation.  Let that idea simply disappear.  Your toddler is now in control and accepting that will eliminate the battle.
For parents, potty training is about learning how to support their children in the fight for independence.  It’s imperative that you choose to stay on the right side of the battle lines, or your child’s self-esteem will suffer.
Okay, so how does a parent support his or her child, without engaging in a battle for control, and still get the job done?

  • Wait until the time is right.  You can begin to talk about the potty at an early age, even at one year, but do not put your child on the toilette until he asks.  He may be three years old before he’s ready and that is perfectly fine.  If you try to force him into training before he is ready, he will resist and your relationship will suffer, his self-esteem will suffer and your peace of mind will be destroyed.  You will know that the time is right when he shows a real interest in the toilette and he is showing control over his body.
  • Prepare her by keeping on a schedule.  By the age of one, your toddler should be on a regular schedule of eating, sleeping, playing and having diaper changes.  These regular diapering times will prepare her for a regular bathroom schedule in the future.  This doesn’t mean that you have to maintain a rigid schedule for years, but she should know that she has a regular, natural pattern to her day.  This sets her up to succeed when the time is right for potty training.
  • Do not spend weeks and months see-sawing from diapers to pull-ups to underwear.  This is so confusing to children and it simply destroys his feelings of self-esteem.  (It’s okay to use pull-ups at night for a few weeks while he’s working on his physical control, but do not use them during the day.) 
  • When he’s ready to use the potty regularly, simply get rid of the diapers and put him in underwear.  If he piddles on himself, he will see that it is uncomfortable and yucky and he will most likely not do it again.  Really.  If he does have an accident, DO NOT SHAME HIM: simply allow him to be responsible for cleaning it up (with help) and changing himself.  Allow him to experience the natural consequences of wetting himself.
  • Reward her for going on the toilette.  It infuriates me when I see parents being taught that their children should not be rewarded for going on the toilette because it’s what they “should” do.  Put yourself in your child’s world: your two- or three-year-old does not know that the toilette is where she “should” do anything.  She has quite happily been pooing in her pants for years now – and all of a sudden you create a different expectation for her.  If you want her to succeed and be happy about it, reward the behavior you want to see.  I have used a simple, small candy reward with great results.  For peeing, she gets one M&M, for a BM she gets two. 


By waiting until the time is right, rewarding the behavior you want to see and not shaming him if he does get it “wrong”, you are building your child’s self-esteem and empowering him to succeed joyfully.  No more battles.  Happy child.  Happy parents.  It’s that simple.



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