Contributor Julie Forbes is here today with potty-traning advice she got in a class, based on advice from the AAP, that she took at a children’s hospital last summer.
Good news, parents of toddlers! You can relax a little bit. Not enough to let them break into the knife drawer, but it seems societal expectations of potty-training are quite out of line with medical expectations. So at least there’s that.
Personally, I started to feel the potty-training pressure around my son’s second birthday. All of the sudden, people were asking me if we had started potty-training and how I planned on doing it. My husband was coming home with stories from work about foreign-born co-workers who had potty trained their kids by their first birthday. Some preschools were saying that my child had to be potty-trained to attend.
I felt completely behind. I googled potty-training, read about different approaches, and next thing you know I’m stripping my child naked, giving him tons of juice and trying to get him potty-trained in a weekend. Incredibly, he mastered peeing on the potty within the 3 day time period, but pooping was a completely different story.
He wanted nothing to do with the potty, the only way he’d drop a deuce was in his underwear, hiding behind the couch. I thought I had failed, I googled more, I talked to our pediatrician, I washed a lot of underwear, and eventually I decided to ignore it and pick up potty training a few weeks later.
I went through this cycle over and over and over again…. for a year…. until, magically, one day, he started pooping in the potty (around the age of 3) and hasn’t had an accident since.
After a year of poopy underwear, I decided I hadn’t really mastered the whole potty-training thing the first time around, and I was going to do better with my daughter. So, I attended a potty-training class put on by a children’s hospital, and left feeling completely relieved.
All of the information in the class was based on recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. As in, hundreds of childhood, medical experts have studied this kind of thing, and think this is the best way to do it. (Which certainly holds more weight with me than what google or my childless great Aunt Helga thinks.)
Turns out, the problem was me. I just needed to calm down, ignore what other people said, and wait a little bit.
Here’s what I learned:
Ignore Everyone’s Schedule, But Your Child’s:
You can’t will this to happen, and you have to wait for your child to be ready. Sharon Rau, the pediatric nurse who put on the class is also the mother of 6 and grandmother of 10 (so, she’s done this a few times herself). She says the biggest mistake she always made, was saying to herself: I have to get this child toilet-trained before the new baby arrives, or before grandma visits, or before vacation, etc. She says the child has complete control over when this is going to happen and you have to wait for their signs of readiness.
Don’t listen to those condescending comments from frenemies, and ignore your mother-in-law’s side-eye. There’s no need to hurry this along.
Look for These Signs of Readiness:
I thought as long as my child seemed interested in the potty and sat on it from time to time, that he was good to go. But Rau says the two most important factors are:
1.) your child has decreased frequency in urinating. (So, not only is the child not peeing as often, but when he or she does urinate, the diapers are extremely wet and heavy.)
And 2.) timely bowel movements, as in, you can set your watch to a poopy diaper.
Other things to look for: your child tells you when his or her diaper needs to be changed, hides to go pee or poop in a diaper, or changes facial expressions when pottying.
Those are the physical signs of readiness, but your child also has to be emotionally and mentally ready. Mental readiness means that your child knows the difference between wet and dry, and that he or she can understand directions. Emotional readiness means that things are calm in your life and your child’s life.
For example, Rau says not to start potty-training right before a new baby arrives because the older child could very well revert to baby-like tendencies. Don’t start potty-training when you have a lot of stress in your life, or you’ll take the stress out on the child.
One way to gauge the child’s readiness is by reading books about pottying. If your child is saying things like, “I want to be a big boy and go poo poo on the potty too,” that’s a good thing. If she’s saying, “I don’t want to use the potty,” or, “I like my diaper,” you may need to wait a little bit.
Wait for that sweet spot:
Look for your child’s signs of readiness and strike when the moment is right. If you’ve timed it perfectly, it should only take a few weeks to master potty-training. The AAP says that time is usually around 2.5 years old, but Rau says she thinks the longer you wait until 3, the better off you’ll be. She said its like teaching a 2 month old to walk: the earlier you begin, the longer it will take.
Using the example of my child, I started when he was 2 years old and it took us a full year to potty train him. If I had started when he was 2.5 years old, it would have taken us 6 months. If I started when he was 3, he would have figured it out in a snap. There’s no medal for potty-training early. And, if you start too soon, you’ll just cause undue stress to yourself and your child. Rau says, “If you wait for the right time, you’ll hardly know you’re potty training.”
If you have started potty-training and within 3 days you’ve had no success, just drop it. Your child is not ready.
Pull out some pull-ups:
A potty-trained child is one who does not use a diaper during waking hours. Waking hours, that’s it. Nighttime wetness is not something that can be taught. Sometimes, both daytime and nighttime control happen at the same time, but in a large percentage of children, nighttime dryness comes much later. If you’ve convinced your child that he’s too big for diapers, then get some overnight pull-ups because you could be using them for a while.
In fact, Rau says pediatricians say that parents come to them waaaaaaay too early concerned about nighttime wetness. Pediatricians say they don’t consider nighttime wetness to be a problem until the child is 10 or 11. Yes, 10 or 11!
Some of the reasons that children will still urinate while sleeping is because they just sleep so deeply that they don’t even know they’re doing it. Others dream that they got out of bed and went to the potty, but they’re just doing it in their diaper. This is usually something that children grow out of and does not need to be medically addressed.
Don’t ever punish (this includes humiliating or embarrassing over an accident.)
Don’t ever restrict fluids to achieve success. Don’t wake a child at night to potty.
Don’t draw a huge amount of attention to an accident.
If you find that your child gets too upset over an accident, you may be making too big of a deal over this whole thing. Calm down, and your child will calm down. Rewards are ok, such as praise or a pat on the back, stickers work well too.
Rau ended with this: if you forget everything else, just remember : Patience + Praise=Toilet Learning
Keep up with Julie and her life with 3 under 4 over at her Julie Forbes Facebook page.