Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Keeping Your Child’s Dignity while Potty Training

I had the privilege of writing for the e-book Parenting Responsively along with 11 other ACPI parent and family coaches.  Over the next few weeks I will be reprinting my chapter.  I hope you will enjoy it.  If you would like to order the entire book you may do so on my website for $9.99 - Strong Roots Family Coaching.  Enjoy

Potty Training without a Power Struggle - Keeping your Child's Dignity

                Caring for three children ages six and under can be a challenge, but adding potty training to the mix can make it downright chaotic.   That is where I found myself not too long ago.  Joy, my two-year-old charge had just started wearing underpants earlier in the week.  She had done very well on this particular day, so I decided it was time for our first outing without diapers.  When we arrived at the community center for her older brother’s basketball practice, I was surprised to find that she had had an accident during the short car ride there.  I remained positive as we headed inside where I could change her clothes, gently reminding her that "everyone has accidents" along the way. We went on with our day, she happily coloring in her coloring book, and I keeping a two-month-old entertained with catching some of the eldest boy’s practice. Not more than 20 minutes had passed when I noticed that there was a puddle on the floor of the gym, right under her feet.  At this moment, I came to the realization that Joy wasn't as ready as I had thought to be without diapers, and that continuing to have her in public with panties would only lead to frustration and emotional stress.  

                For many parents, the thought of potty training brings up feelings of anxiety.  You may have heard potty training stories that recount months of embarrassing accidents, painful setbacks and intensive struggles. From those stories, you may have gleaned that potty training isn't always easy.  But fortunately, potty training does not need to be stressful for you or your child.  Potty training doesn't need to be a source of emotional pain and frustration.  Whether you begin the potty training process this month or next, your child will eventually learn to use the toilet regularly, with whatever method you choose, and with success.  While you can, and many parents do choose to approach potty training in a way that can cause distress, there is another way.

You can potty train your child successfully while allowing him to maintain his dignity as he tackles this new and somewhat scary endeavor.

                While you may think that walking is the first major milestone for your child, it's really not.  To your child, walking is just one more way to get from here to there. Before walking, he was able to scoot, roll or crawl to wherever he wanted to go.

                But when it comes to using the potty, your child is truly experiencing a first. To him, learning to urinate on the toilet is the first monumental task he is facing. Up until now, the only place he knew to go to the bathroom in was his diaper. Remember his whole life he's been wearing a diaper and naturally relieving himself in it.  So not only does your child need to learn to go in the toilet, he has to unlearn the habit of going in his diaper. As you can imagine, this is huge adjustment for your child. Remember potty training is a process. Transitioning to using the toilet will happen, but it takes patience, courage, instruction and a lot of cheerleading for it to happen easily and successfully.   

                When you bring patience and respect into the potty training equation, you are letting your child make the decision for himself that he is ready to use the potty.  When using the potty is something he chooses to do, rather than something that he is being forced to do, he's able to maintain his dignity with each challenging day.  While it may seem contradictory to the training process to let your child decide when he's ready, when you do, you'll actually shorten the length of the potty training process because he'll be gaining dignity that will raise his self-esteem.  When his self-esteem is raised, your child better has the ability to take on new challenges and to keep working on areas of his life that need improvement. 

                The self-esteem built through a positive potty training experience will also help him, as he gets older.  They gain the courage to try new things and to get up and try again, even if they fail the first few times.   Children who have a positive experience will also learn to equate hard work with that good feeling that only increased self-confidence brings.

                In more than 15 years of working with young children and families, I have seen a masterful change in the demeanor of children when they master using the toilet.   Their independence grows by leaps and bounds. They look for new and bigger tasks that they can master.  The benefits your child gains from a positive potty training experience do last a lifetime. 

                As I said earlier, potty training is a process. While potty training language can at times be confusing, for our purposes, the phrase “potty training” encompasses everything from talking to your child about using the toilet to dealing with accidents at night as a child gets older.  Actually getting rid of diapers and putting on underpants is what I refer to as “the transition to underpants.”

Please click here to see last weeks section from Potty Training without a Power Struggle

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