The problem with potty training is that it is a very personal journey for kiddos, but it is a journey being taken under the guidance and supervision of parents who have their own agendas. Potty training, like so many other developmental milestones, is determined by physical, physiological and neurological readiness. Each child crawls at his own pace, walks at his own pace, speaks at his own pace. The range of normal development for these milestones is becoming more understood and accepted. And, while we can do things to support this development, it happens when a child is ready. Potty training readiness is no different. Unfortunately, the cost of diapers, the inconvenience of changing diapers, and the hassle of potty training tend to direct our parenting around this milestone more than a child's actual readiness. In addition, the increased number of children being cared for outside of the home means that our kiddos are also being potty-trained under the added agendas of child care centers, nannies, grandparents, and such. Who falls at the bottom of this list of agendas?? Your child!
So, how would you feel if you were being asked to do something so new, so personal, and, perhaps, so scary with no thought being given to how you feel about it? I am not suggesting that you sit your toddler or preschooler down and say, "so we are thinking about getting you potty-trained, how do you feel about that?" I would, however, like to present some strategies and perspective that will guide your potty training parenting practices in a way that meet your child where he is....
1. Don't worry about what other parents are doing!! You can ask friends what has worked for them, but don't compare your child to theirs. And, don't compare yourself to them.
2. Wait for signs that your child is ready:Is your child asking questions about your toilet habits? Is your child expressing discomfort with wearing diapers? Is your child excited about wearing "big kid" underpants? Does your child ask to use the potty? Or, does she comment when she has gone in her diaper? These are early signs and do not mean that your child will be potty-trained tomorrow. Rather, these signs present the perfect opportunity to invite your child into the process.
3. Pay attention to your child's potty routine. Does she poop regularly? Children who are "regular" have an easier time potty training. Children who find toileting uncomfortable, tend to be more opposed to the idea.
4. Talk about your plan for potty training with your parenting partner ahead of time. Potty training should not be a battle of control with your child OR with your partner. Discuss and agree on how to move forward before you do anything.
5. If your child is being cared for by others....If your child is attending a program, ask them about their policy and process for potty training. Share your plan for your child with teachers. If your child stays with family or a nanny, remember that you still guide how your child is being cared for. Explain, clearly, how you wish this milestone to be nurtured. If a center or caregiver is opposed to your perspective, or unable or unwilling to work with you, you may want to consider alternate care.
6. Regression happens. Stress in your life or your child's life may cause the "plan" to move backward. No problem. Follow your child's lead and begin to move forward again from where you are. This may happen more than once!
7. Reading books to your child about potty training is a great way for them to see that it is a part of life!! Our family favorites...
Once Upon a Potty by Alona Frankel (there is one for boys and one for girls)
Going to the Potty by Fred Rogers
For more books try: http://www.parents.com/fun/entertainment/books/potty-training-books/#page=158.
Don't be too hard on yourself! Parenting is hard work, especially when it comes to things like potty training. Have a plan, listen to your child, be realistic! And, as they say in the Cub Scouts,"Do your best 'cause that's the best you can do!"