You don't have to be perfect to be the perfect parent!

Potty pitfalls

So, the potty training process has started!  Remember the mantra, “Two steps forward one step back!”  Potty training is a huge task for a toddler and a parent.  Sometimes you have a great couple of days, when you both are concentrating on the process, and then there is a bit of a back slide when you both relax a bit.  This is very common.  There are a few other “pitfalls” that are often seen as children and parents tackle the potty training process:

Potty Pitfalls

1.  Fears

  • Use of a small potty chair helps with fears of the adult toilet.  Begin with sitting on the potty fully clothed and progress to sitting without clothes.  Let your child’s favorite doll or stuffed animal “potty” too!
  • Fear of flushing the potty is common, do not force the child to flush or shut the lid when flushing.  Automatic flushing public toilets can be scary too.  Cover the sensor with a post it note to prevent it flushing while your child is sitting!
  • If your child is a real “pleaser” or is afraid to disappoint be sure you don’t sound upset or exasperated with the process.  When there is an accident say “Oops there it went, a little accident.  Next time you will go in the potty.  We’ll try again.”  When he does go, congratulate but don’t be overly excited as this may increase the pressure to be successful again resulting in a child who is afraid to disappoint.
  • Fear of pooping.  Some children potty train easily with “peeing” but struggle with the “pooping”.  It causes fear in some toddlers to actually sit and poop without a diaper.  Do not force the issue in the beginning…start slow.  Some toddlers may have to progress from “pooping” just standing in the bathroom for a few days, to “pooping” sitting on the potty chair in the diaper a few days, to “pooping” without the diaper on the potty chair.

2.  Holding stool.

  • This happens sometimes when a toddler is afraid to poop.  This results in the stool becoming hard and painful which begins a cycle of holding and constipation.
  • Try to soften stool with diet by increasing fluids, fruits and vegetables or occasionally with medications like Miralax (speak to your child’s doctor before use).
  • Back off of potty training and go back to diapers until your toddler no longer is constipated or having painful stools.  This cycle needs to be broken for at least 2 weeks before you begin again.
  • You may have to let your child poop in their diaper standing in the bathroom, then poop sitting on the potty in the diaper and finally progress to even cutting a hole in the diaper and allowing the child to poop into the potty while wearing the diaper.  This may help with the fear of pooping in the potty.
  • Talking with your doctor is a good idea.

3.   NO!

  • A toddler’s favorite response is “NO”! This stage fades at about age 3.  Battling with a toddler is not productive and you NEVER win!  The attention you give during a battle reinforces the behavior.  You cannot force a child to “poop” or ” pee”.  Make it clear to your toddler that potty training is for your child not you.  The fact is that children all want to progress and develop.  Your child will eventually want to use the toilet.
  • Do not ask a yes or no question unless you are OK with the answer NO.  Tell your toddler “It is potty time!”  Do not say “Do you have to go potty?”  This gives a choice that may not be a true choice and will result in a battle or tantrum!

4.  Accidents

Accidents will happen!!!

  •  Stay calm.  Toddlers do not have accidents to irritate you!  Toddlers age 3 and younger will not try to have an accident to upset you!
  • Remind your child to slow down, sit a bit longer and completely empty his bladder.  This will prevent accidents later.
  •  Make sure you remind your child to potty.  Children get involved in play and forget!
  • The older child (after age 3) can help clean up the accident.  Do this matter-of-factly–not like it is a punishment.

5.  Night time Control

  • Nighttime training will come later.  75% of 5 year olds are trained at night with minimal accidents.  Children who do continue to wet the bed after 5 often have parents who had a history of bedwetting. There should be no punishment involved with bedwetting.  Children can continue to wear “sleeping diapers or pants” until later.  You can talk to your doctor about when further treatment might be needed.

Your child will be successful!  You both will be proud.  This is just one of the many challenges you and your child will meet together!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


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