Potty train­ing takes in­struc­tion, not ne­go­ti­a­tion

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NOTHWEST/TELEVISION - JOHN ROSEMOND John Rosemond is a fam­ily psy­chol­o­gist and the au­thor of sev­eral books on rear­ing chil­dren. Write to him at The Lead­er­ship Par­ent­ing In­sti­tute, 1391-A E. Gar­ri­son Blvd., Gas­to­nia, N.C. 28054; or see his web­site at rosemond.com

QOur twin girls will be 3 in a few months. Our pe­di­a­tri­cian rec­om­mended that we start toi­let train­ing at 32 months, which we did. Af­ter sev­eral months and lots of gnash­ing of teeth, one of the girls fi­nally got it. The other one seems com­pletely oblivious to our ef­forts. This has be­come very frus­trat­ing for us and I’m afraid we’re show­ing some anger at this point. The pe­di­a­tri­cian says we should put her back in di­a­pers un­til she’s 3 and then start over. What do you think?

ACour­tesy high­lyof one faulted in­di­vid­ual’sre­search and neo-Freudian the­o­ries, the very wrong-headed no­tion that toi­let train­ing should not be­gin un­til 32 to 36 months be­came con­ven­tional wis­dom in the pe­di­atric com­mu­nity in the 1970s. As a re­sult, toi­let train­ing has be­come the sin­gle most dif­fi­cult par­ent­ing hur­dle of the preschool years. Con­trast the prob­lems to­day’s par­ents are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing in this area with the fact that in the mid1950s, Har­vard re­searchers de­ter­mined that nearly 90 per­cent of chil­dren were not only trained but ac­ci­dent-free be­fore 24 months of age.

De­layed toi­let train­ing, which the in­di­vid­ual in ques­tion termed child-cen­tered, is associated with re­sis­tance, con­sti­pa­tion and in­testi­nal prob­lems, not to men­tion a high level of par­ent frus­tra­tion. For this rea­son, it bor­ders on scan­dalous that a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of pe­di­a­tri­cians con­tinue to rec­om­mend this very prob­lem­atic ap­proach.

Your great-grand­mother was able to toi­let train an 18-month-old in less than a week be­cause (a) she did not think that toi­let train­ing was po­ten­tially apoc­a­lyp­tic, that one wrong move on her part would scar her child’s psy­che for­ever, and (b) she made her ex­pec­ta­tions per­fectly clear.

To­day’s par­ents tend to ap­proach the process with great trep­i­da­tion and anx­i­ety, which results in mi­cro­man­age­ment, which results in push-back of var­i­ous sorts on the part of the chil­dren. In ad­di­tion (and largely be­cause of their anx­i­eties), to­day’s par­ents em­ploy a pas­sive, rather than au­thor­i­ta­tive, ap­proach. They ask ques­tions like “Do you have to use the potty?” as op­posed to mak­ing state­ments like “It’s time for you to use the potty.”

Un­der no cir­cum­stances should you take your pe­di­a­tri­cian’s ad­vice and back off. I vir­tu­ally guar­an­tee that if you do, you will only make more prob­lems for your­self and your daugh­ter.

First, put the potty where your daugh­ter spends most of her day. Sec­ond, al­low her to be naked from the waist down while she’s at home. Third, con­fine her to one or two rooms of the home (in one of which sits the potty). Fourth, feed her a diet that is high in fiber (e.g. oat­meal) and lots of wa­ter (as op­posed to sugar-sweet­ened junk juice). Fifth, set your stove or oven timer to go off ev­ery hour or so, at which time you tell her that the buzzer means it’s time to sit on the potty. Di­rect her. Do not ask ques­tions or coax with of­fers of good­ies. Sixth, and per­haps most im­por­tantly, do not hover. Let her “own” the process. Lastly, sue your pe­di­a­tri­cian for caus­ing you un­nec­es­sary emo­tional trauma. Just kid­ding … or not.

When she’s toi­let trained at home, which shouldn’t take more than a few weeks, then be­gin in­tro­duc­ing her to public toi­lets. All of this is spelled out in con­sid­er­ably more de­tail in Toi­let Train­ing Without Tantrums by yours truly. Your lo­cal li­brary has it or can ob­tain it for you.

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