Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides

Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Mommyhood

Q and A with Rebecca: Potty Training September 1, 2008

Got a parenting dilemma? Need more information about something you’ve read on my blog? Just ask!

Reader “Butterflymom”: My little one is 2 ½ and she could not care less about potty training! When she was about 1 ½ she was VERY interested but I didn’t pressure her (mainly because she couldn’t communicate with me in public that she had to use the potty). Besides, it was mainly just curiosity. Now, she would rather be in her diaper, which I don’t get.

Rebecca Lacko: I’m sorry to hear about about your “missed opportunity” back when your daughter was younger and more interested in the potty–that is why the Baby Signs Potty Training program uses sign language, so the baby can tell you when it’s time to go.
But that’s water under the bridge–it’s a year later and the good news is that you are committed to helping her reach this significant milestone. Does she have friends who use the toilet, or is she in a preschool or daycare setting where she can observe other children using the toilet? That can really help. Demonstration is key.
While our little baby Noah is doing great with the Baby Signs method, our first son Joseph outright refused to use the potty (read the full details here), even though he knew all there was to know about it–he didn’t care if he was sitting in his Number Two’s, he didn’t want to use it. The trick that worked for us was really quite simple: We put the diapers out of sight (only one would appear at bedtime.) In their place, we put a basket full of big-kid undies, and allowed him choose which ones he wanted to wear every day.

“Butterflymom”: See, I’ve tried the whole panties thing and she just doesn’t care. She tells me, ”No, Mommy, I poop in my diaper.”

RL: The undies must become non-negotiable. However, you can make it an exciting process from your daughter’s perspective by adding perks, like rewards. I filled a large dish with tons of prizes (stickers, plastic necklaces and rings, fridge magnets, just dollar-store stuff) and I put it in the bathroom and told my son that every time he used the toilet, he got to choose something from the dish. He went right to work, trying to use the toilet, even when he didn’t have to. And every time he asked for a diaper, we said together, “good-bye diapers! Heeeeelllllllloooo undies!) It was actually fun.

“Butterflymom”: I’ve tried little prizes if she goes, even a calendar with stickers to put on it when she goes, NOTHING. NOTHING WORKS!

RL: I promise you, your daughter will not go to kindergarten in diapers. It sounds like you are doing all the right things. You have the opportunity now to use this milestone as a means of growing your bond with your daughter by being consistent, trustworthy and her biggest cheerleader. Whatever you do, keep smiling and maintain a positive attitude. The reward every child is truly seeking is your unconditional love, so demonstrate it abundantly, especially after a successful potty trip, or after a good try at using the potty. When mistakes happen, just cheerfully say, “we’ll try to use the potty again next time!” and that is all, then just clean it up and move on.

“Butterflymom”: The problem I’m obviously having is I’m not being consistent. When she has an accident in her panties and then asks for a diaper, I give her a diaper. I feel like an idiot because, in hindsight, why would I do that? That’s just showing her if she has an accident, I’ll give in and give her what she wants. (*Sigh* This first-time parenting stuff… I tell ya!)

RL: Parenting is a 24/7 challenge, to be sure. Give yourself a break, mom—you’re learning, too! If you need help remaining consistent, please keep this in mind: you are the parent. Your toddler may say she wants to poop in her diaper, but you know what is best! You’re there to help her make decisions that benefit her health, and her self-esteem. You wouldn’t let her choose when or if she’s going to take a bath, and you wouldn’t let her decide at every meal what she should eat. (If my son Joseph had that power, he’d eat yogurt, Goldfish crackers, and ice cream around the clock!)
Most importantly, the risk of a urinary tract infection is reason enough to get her out of poopy diapers. They are extremely painful and the risk of UTIs only increases as the child gets older and, ahem, produces bigger poops.
This can actually be a fun process, you just have to decide it is. Let your goal be good health and a strong loving bond. Your own reward will be a new level of patience, and a confident, diaper-free kid!
Let me know if this information is useful, and how things go!

Hit “Comments” with your health or parenting question(s), and I’ll do my best to respond within 24 hours. Your privacy is respected; I will not publish real names without permission.

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