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​Potty email series - issue​​​​1234

​Potty ​Training - ​Is​ Your Child ​​Ready?

Are you eager to get your ​little one ​potty ​​​​​trained?

Thinking about how much easier (and economical!) life will be with no more diaper duty can turn even the ​most laid-back parent into an obsessive, aggressive potty-training drill sergeant. And that stinks.

Potty training should be a positive, rewarding experience for you and your toddler, so don't let unrealistic expectations (starting too soon/pushing too fast/insisting on immediate success) clog up the process.

You can help ensure everything flows smoothly by first taking a moment to determine if your child is even ready for potty training. To measure your child's "readiness," look at these behavioral skills and developmental markers:

  • Age
    In our experience, most children become successfully potty trained between the ages of 2 and 3. There are some children who are able to learn earlier due to their physical and cognitive maturity but, in general, most aren't ready until they've blown out at least two candles on their birthday cake. Other indicators include having good motor skills, being able to walk from room to room, being able to pull pants up and down, and getting to the bathroom independently. Also, girls tend to be successfully trained earlier than boys, and older children tend to be trained faster.
  • Bladder Control
    Your child should already be staying dry for several hours at a time, urinating about four to six times a day, and completely emptying her bladder. If she is still wetting a small amount frequently (seven to ten times a day), it may be best to wait.
  • Language skills
    It's important for your child to understand what you say. He should know what you mean when you use words like "wet," "dry," "pants" and "bathroom." Also, he should be able to express his wants and needs to you.
  • Instructional readiness:
    Your child should be able to understand and follow simple instructions, such as "Come here, please" and "Sit down." Just as important, she should be cooperative when following these requests. If she resists or throws frequent temper tantrums, you may want to hold off.
  • Bladder and bowel awareness:
    Your child may indicate that he's aware of his need to potty. This awareness can often ​be communicated through actions rather than words - making a face, assuming a special posture like squatting, or going to a certain location in the house when feeling the urge to go. Such self-awareness can be a positive signal your child is ready for training.

Teaching Activity

Toddler See, Toddler Do

Another good way to gauge your child's readiness is to monitor her reaction when you model the behavior. Take your child to the bathroom when you go. As you model how to go "number one" and "number two," watch to see if your child pays attention. Does she ask questions that show a basic understanding of what's going on? Can he answer basic questions about going potty? By modeling the behavior, you can see how engaged and prepared your child is to learn. In addition, it's also helpful if dads model for sons and moms model for daughters when possible.

A word of caution - this one's not for the squeamish. We 're talking about going to the bathroom here, after all. One of the best things you can do to get your child to learn a new skill is to model the behavior. In this case, we're talking about going to the bathroom and letting your child observe you when you go. Do your best to banish any thoughts of modesty, and let your child see how simple and mundane going to the bathroom really is. Dropping your pants. Doing your business. Proper wiping technique. Washing up afterwards. These are all things you take for granted, but your little one needs to know. Throughout the animal kingdom, offspring learn by observation; proper bathroom technique in humans is no different.

Social Skills

Following Instructions

Your child needs to know how to follow instructions. Potty training involves multiple steps, including getting to the bathroom, removing clothes, wiping, flushing and washing.

To learn and do all those steps successfully requires following instructions. It's also a must-have skill when the occasional accident happens. You'll need your little one to listen and learn so the accident can be cleaned up quickly and future mishaps can be avoided.

Following instructions is a simple four-step process that will be useful throughout your child's development - not just when potty training.

Here are the steps to the skill of Following Instructions:

  • Look at the person - Tell your child that looking at the person makes listening easier.
  • Say, "Okay" - Explain how saying okay or nodding yes means you understand what the person said.
  • Do what you've been asked right away - Doing the task immediately makes remembering what to do easier.
  • Check back - When the task is done, let the person know you did what was asked.

Preparing Your Child for Potty Training

If you think, but aren't certain, your toddler has the ability and understanding to start potty training (see our previous email regarding the behavioral skills and signs to look for), don't plunge right in without first doing a little prep work.

Remember, potty chairs and toilets may be unfamiliar or look scary to your child and cause some degree of stress. To relieve any anxiety and set your child up for success, follow the "P":

  • Parent modeling
    As described in our previous email, allowing your child to go with you or your spouse to the bathroom and see how to use the toilet properly (modeling) is a learning opportunity. It's a chance for your child to see what will be expected of him. Like anything else, kids learn a lot by watching others.
  • Potty chair
    Give your child a chance to get used to and comfortable with the potty chair. Set it out and let her sit on it, name it and put stickers on it. Let her know it's her special throne, and it's not for Mom or Dad.
  • Practice
    Provide time for sitting on the potty chair. This is "play" practice, so your child can keep his clothes on (although it may be a good idea to test how well he manages to pull down his pants and underwear). Just be prepared for the possibility that he may do a little "method acting."

Teaching Activity

Positive Pep Talks with Some Practice

Plant the seed ​for why going to the bathroom properly is so important before plopping your little one on a potty chair and saying go. Do some pre-teaching in the days leading up to potty training to help ease your child into the process so the situation is more familiar and less alien. Also, have daily pep talks about potty training. Congratulate your child on becoming a "big" boy or girl who's ready to learn what other "big" boys and girls do. You also might want to use children's books (some feature popular characters from Sesame Street) to show how potty training is done. Anything you can do to get your child excited will get you off on the right foot.

In addition, use your chats to have your child practice how to dress and undress, specifically, pulling pants and/or training diapers up and down. It's a great time to reinforce this important step for going to the bathroom. The more preparation you do at the beginning, the more success you'll have at the end. And as always... be enthusiastic and make it fun!

Social Skills

Asking for Help

Another way to set your child up for success is to teach her how to ask for help when she needs to go to the bathroom. This skill can reduce the number of messy accidents you have to deal with inside and outside the bathroom. Of course, the ultimate goal of potty training is for your child to go without you. But until she has successfully mastered the skill, you can boost her confidence and ease any uncertainty by letting her know help is available if she simply asks for it.

When it comes to asking for help, teach your child to follow these steps:

  • Look at you - Mommy or Daddy.
  • Ask you if you have time to help
  • Say - "I need to go potty."
  • Say - "Thank you for helping."

Asking for help is a fundamental skill and one that serves all children well during the training process and as they grow older and start school.

Let's Get This Potty Started

Now that your child is physically and emotionally ready - and you are, too - it's time to get the potty started!

This process will take time - from weeks to months - and there will be accidents along the way. So be patient... and stay positive! Remember, you are teaching a new skill, one your child has yet to acquire. As the "teacher," you must be encouraging. When accidents happen - and they will - keep your disappointment in check. Try to maintain a neutral or even positive demeanor. Don't raise your voice or yell. You don't want to add any more stress to the situation or have your child lose interest or become fearful.

When training starts, there are three things to always remember. They're not hard to forget, as they all start with "P":

  • Pampers and Pull-ups
    To avoid lengthening the training process and undermining the whole effort, your child must go "cold turkey" on Pampers and Pull-Ups (except at bedtime). The reason for the cold-turkey approach is simple: Pampers and Pull-Ups are essentially wearable toilets, and your child won't see much need for using the one in your home when he can much more easily use the one he's wearing.
  • Prompting (Tell, don't ask)
    You will need to prompt your child to go to the bathroom and sit for a few minutes multiple times a day. Tell, don't ask. Asking a young child if she has to go to the bathroom is unproductive. So instead of asking, just say it's time to go and then escort your child and have her sit.
  • Praise
    Every time your child does any toileting behavior correctly - pulls down his pants, sits on the potty, wipes or whatever - praise him. Your smiles, hugs and congratulatory comments will reinforce his success. You can take praise a step further by using small rewards. Wrap little items - stickers, tiny toys, beads, gum, etc. - in tinfoil and put them in a jar or special dispenser near the bathroom. When your child achieves a success at any level, let him grab a prize from the jar. Praise and rewards make the training experience fulfilling and make it more likely the positive toilet behaviors will be repeated.

Teaching Activity

Prime the Pump

You want your child to have lots of opportunities to practice on the potty chair, so increasing fluids is helpful. Provide extra water or more of a favorite beverage. Just know, however, this can mean more "spills." Still, having multiple opportunities to reinforce your child's successes certainly increases the likelihood that you'll reach your goal more quickly.

During the training phase, a good strategy is to put your child on the potty chair every hour or so. If he wets himself in between trips to the bathroom, make the visits more frequent. If he's able to stay dry for two or three hours, the visits can be less frequent. Taking your child to the potty chair ten or twenty minutes after eating also gives him a greater opportunity to have a successful experience.

Social Skills

Managing Stress

This week's social skill is for you, not your child. Potty training can be just as stressful on you as it can be on your little trainee. By managing your stress level, you can keep any anger, disappointment or frustration you feel from bubbling over and negatively affecting your child.

To manage your stress, follow these five steps:

    • Identify - situations and/or circumstances that produce stress (accidents, messes in the bathroom, your child's refusal to stay on the potty chair, etc.).
    • Learn - your body's responses to stressful situations (heavy breathing, feeling flushed, tensing muscles, etc.).
    • Use relaxation cues - (imagine yourself on a tropical beach, take deep breaths or count to ten) to overcome stress responses.
    • Generalize - these relaxation cues to the situations that tend to cause stress.
    • Reward - yourself for using stress-management techniques.

    Your ability to manage stress can prevent you from reacting harshly or punishing your child when accidents happen... and accidents will happen. Your reaction and how you deal with accidents throughout the training process (calmly, not emotionally, by teaching, not punishing) will go a long way toward improving your child's chances for success.

    Oops, It Happened... ​Again

    Potty training is a process. And as we've said, along the way there will inevitably be accidents.

    Because your child will want to please you and receive all that wonderful praise you've given for potty successes, any accidents he has may be hidden or at least not immediately announced.

    That's why you'll need to check your child for clean pants frequently, every half hour or so. If his pants are clean, give lots of kisses and hugs. If they're wet or soiled, let him know using just a few words. Don't get angry... that never helps.

    When your child wets or soils his pants, clean the accident and have him practice what to do the next time he feels the need to go pee or poop. Simply have him go to the bathroom, remove his clothes, sit on the toilet and practice as though he was going "for real."

    As strange as it may seem, the more often your child goes through these practices, the more quickly you will get results. So try to think of accidents as happy - if messy - "teachable moments."

    And don't forget - if you start the training process and realize your child isn't ready, even though you thought he was, stop. It's better to take a break for a month or two and then try again rather than push ahead and unwittingly create a negative association between the toilet or potty chair and your child's willingness to urinate or have a bowel movement in the toilet. You can always put your little one back in Pampers or Pull-Ups. He will ultimately feel motivated to be trained, possibly by something other than your prompting. After all, what child wants to have toileting accidents at school?

    Teaching Activity

    Handling Accidents

    The Positive Practice Procedure

    • When you discover your child has soiled or wet pants, say so in a matter-of-fact tone of voice and tell him he will now have to practice using the toilet.
    • Before the practice, tell him he needs to change into clean pants. Go with him to change and help him if necessary. Do not talk about the wetting accident. Begin the positive practice immediately after he has changed.
    • Start the practice by going either to the scene of the accident (if known) or where he was when you discovered the wet pants. Use this spot as your starting point. Take him by the hand and calmly lead him to the bathroom. Help him lower his pants, sit down on the toilet, pretend to go, get up and pull his pants up. Then head back to the starting point.
    • Repeat this procedure until he has made the trip from the starting point to the toilet ten times. Try not to talk with your child during positive practice. You may, however, keep track of the practices by saying something like, "Now do practice number seven."
    • If your child gets angry or refuses to follow your directions, use your usual discipline to get him to complete the positive practice. If you decide to use Time-Outs as discipline, resume positive practice when the Time-Out is over. If he resists again, merely return him to Time-Out. Then let him know that his choices are to be in Time-Out or finish the positive practice.
    • Don't give in. Try to do ten practices every time you find your child has wet or soiled clothes. Almost every parent who has tried the positive practice procedure has been tempted to cut the number of practices to five or six. But the procedure is most effective if you do the full number every time.
    • Whenever your child does use the toilet (instead of wetting his pants), be sure to give him lots of praise and possibly a small reward.

    Social Skills

    Maintaining Personal Hygiene

    Potty training is fraught with messy accidents, which makes it a good time to talk about overall cleanliness. It's also a milestone in your child's progression from infant to toddler to full-blown childhood and the inevitable march toward independence. If your child can go to the toilet by herself, she also can follow a personal hygiene routine - with a little help from Mom or Dad.

    Here are the behavioral steps your child should follow to maintain personal hygiene:

    • Bathe - or shower daily.
    • Brush - your teeth in the morning and at bedtime.
    • Brush - or comb your hair.
    • Put - on clean clothes daily.
    • Wash - your hands before meals and after using the bathroom.
    • Put - dirty clothes in the hamper.

    Hygiene doesn't just have a role in your child's (and your family's!) health; it has a role in your child's future relationships with others. Making and keeping friends is hard to do if you're stinky, dirty or messy. Potty training is a logical time to teach and reinforce good hygiene.

    As we said in our first email message, toilet training can and should be a positive experience for you and your child. Following the steps and strategies described in our month-long email series hopefully has made achieving success easier and, perhaps most importantly, allowed you and your child to enjoy the transition from Pampers to the potty!

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