5 Potty-Training Mistakes Not to Make
Making the leap to potty training? Watch out for these five common mistakes.
By: Nicole Fabian-Weber
It would come as a pretty big shock if any parent ever uttered the words, "I love potty training!" Potty training, perhaps more so than any other toddler milestone, often comes with a host of mistakes, setbacks, and, of course, accidents. Lots and lots of messy accidents.
When I first started potty training my daughter, who is now 2 and 1/2, I thought I was going to be the exception to the rule. In a few days, my daughter seemed to understand and even delight in the process, but here we are, months later, and we still don’t fully have the hang of things. That was mistake no. 1 for me -- thinking we were in the clear when obviously there would be regressions. "Potty training is a fragile time for children, as they can feel the parents' desire for them to be out of diapers," notes Tovah Klein, author of How Toddlers Thrive. "They may even want to be out of diapers themselves. But it is a big step. And it happens over time, not all at once."
Thinking of making the leap from diapers to big girl or big boy undies? Here are five potty-training mistakes not to make along the way:
1. Shaming or yelling at them if they have an accident. “Part of learning to use the toilet is sometimes getting it right and sometimes not,” notes Klein. “So accidents are going to happen. When they do, the child needs to feel that they are not a bad person, but that accidents happen. They need the reassurance that it is OK, you will help them get dry clothes, and that they are still loved even though they had an accident.” When you yell or scold your little one for having an accident, you’re making your child feel ashamed both at letting you down and for having their body let them down. Shaming will make them feel bad about themselves, just as they are trying to show you how hard they are working to master this important bodily function.
2. Offering rewards like candy and stickers for using the potty. This is anther mistake I made that I swore I wouldn’t -- bribery. Despite reading countless articles that discouraged reward systems and even speaking with experts on potty training, I reached for the bag of candy during a moment of frustration -- and all I can say is: bad idea. As all the experts and articles advised, my daughter started associating potty training with trying to manipulate me, or whomever was asking her to use the toilet, into giving her candy. And, as you can imagine, having to tell a 2-year-old that they can’t have candy when they know it's in the house does not make for a fun time.
3. Training your child before she’s ready. Just because your friend’s child (who’s the same age as yours) is potty trained doesn’t necessarily mean yours is ready to make the leap, also. “Parents can feel under pressure to get their child out of diapers,” explains Klein. “Keep in mind that every child becomes toilet trained. Eventually. But not always on the schedule that the parent wants.” When you start potty training before your toddler is ready -- be it because she’s starting day care or there’s a new baby on the way -- the process can take much longer than if you just wait. The older your child is, or the more she’s initiating it herself, the more likelihood for success in a shorter period. “If you find that you started and the time is not right (for any reason), it is fine to back off and try again in another month or two,” assures Klein.
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4. Being inconsistent. The final mistake I made with potty training is being inconsistent. I’m approximately 10 months pregnant right now and really don’t have the energy to clean up accidents or try to reason with an unreasonable 2-year-old, so I’ve flip-flopped from underwear to disposable training pants, and, understandably, it’s sent my daughter mixed messages and hasn’t made for the most regular of bathroom routines. It’s probably best to try again in a month, all-or-nothing style.
5. Getting caught up in a battle of wills with your toddler about the potty. If there’s one thing parents will quickly learn about potty training (and most things pertaining to toddlers), it’s that they can’t force anything. "There are a few areas a young child has control over, and when they will use the potty is one of them," says Klein. "Given that they can only stake control in a few areas (sleep, eating, getting dressed, using the toilet), it is no surprise that they will exercise this ability. When a child regresses in potty training, the best way to handle it is to back off. This gives them more control and helps them feel safe. The more you push, the more your child will likely push back. Instead, back off and give her the message that when she is ready, the potty is there. Soon she will go back to it."
What potty-training mistakes have you made?
Nicole Fabian-Weber is the mama to a sweet toddler girl and brand new baby boy. She lives outside of NYC and writes for The Stir and numerous other online publications.
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