Read an Excerpt
Excerpt from the Potty Training Answer Book
Does potty training mean different things to different people?
Potty training can mean many different things, although they all lead to the same outcome-your child's understanding and control of his body. The methods may differ drastically or the methods may be interchangeable and complementary. Some people believe potty training is a natural process that is easily learned at the right time, while others believe it is urgently taught with very specific adult intervention. Unfortunately, in many cases potty training feels like a dreadful chore.
The underlying truth is that all children enjoy taking control of their bodies. And all parents have the ability to make potty learning a positive and even fun experience. Children want to grow up as long as change is safe and manageable. You want to support your child through each developmental stage-cultivating skills, encouraging through failures, and designing winning solutions.
Different potty training strategies will work for different families at different times. While the basics will be true for all children, sometimes a specific shortcut will get you over the hump in a frustrating situation. There is always a solution to help you and your child move forward.
What are some popular potty training theories?
Infant potty training
In many cultures around the world, potty training begins with children under one year of age. Organizations like DiaperFreeBaby have recently described "elimination communication" as a natural family philosophy consistent with their interpretation of attachment parenting. Mom, or another caregiver, is a full-time participant in the pottying process: timing feedings and eliminations, reading baby's physical cues, and holding the baby on the potty. Proponents of this method believe it saves on diaper costs, minimizes environmental waste, and leads to deep parent-child bonding. It is also time-intensive and can only be done in an emotionally supportive environment.
Dr. Sears' Attachment Parenting
Attachment parenting celebrates emotional and physical bonding between parents and children through breast-feeding, co-sleeping, and responsive intimacy. In Dr. Sears' book You Can Go to the Potty, he describes potty training as potty learning. The learning process is a natural progression toward independence through loving parental support. Children are fed, rocked to sleep, and diapered by grown-ups. Then, as children grow and learn language, they choose to eat, sleep, and potty on their own.
Potty training in a day
This method accelerates potty training by increasing fluid intake and thereby increasing potty opportunities. It is recommended for children over twenty months old if both parents are in agreement. Readiness conditions should be apparent for the child to begin. In this method, children learn about the pottying process by teaching a doll that wets and using a reward system that reinforces the child's success. Parental approval and disapproval are intended to lead the child to the desired behaviors.
American Academy of Pediatrics
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines focus on a positive developmental approach to potty training. The guidelines recognize a range of ages to begin potty training based on differences in readiness factors and family dynamic. The AAP recommendations are individualized and allow for months from beginning to mastery.
"No Pants" Toilet Training
In this method, the diaper is removed as an obstacle to children feeling the physical sensations of pottying. The method presupposes the other readiness factors are in place. It may also be a method suitable for some children with special needs, in that it gently yet directly teaches about the potty process. Parents, or caregivers, simplify the child's schedule and focus attention on learning the new potty experience.
What is a potty training myth and what is reality?
One parent's truth can easily be another parent's myth. Imagine parenting choices to be a long buffet table filled with recipes made from land, sea, and air prepared in dozens of different ways from deep fried to steamed. Then add seasonings from all around the world. Some will be your favorites. Some you will love to eat but regret in the morning. There will be those that your best friend would die for, even though you wouldn't taste it if someone paid you. Just to confuse things a little more, there will be dishes that you loved two years ago that just don't do it for you anymore.
Searching for the right potty training strategy is just like that. You have many choices, and your friends will swear by the strategy that worked for them. Scan the buffet. Try small tastes of the choices that you like. Before you know it, you will have a full plate of things that really work for you and your child at this particular time.
The myth is that there is one right way for every child. Children create the exceptions to every great theory. It doesn't take long to find out a certain food doesn't agree with you. Likewise, by the time you finish this book, you will know how to choose or modify potty training strategies that work for you.
Is a potty training method ever wrong for my child?
Yes, when potty training feels like a battle, it's wrong for your child. Remember, parents always lose power struggles because the rules of engagement are on the child's terms, not the adult's terms. If you feel a power struggle brewing, quickly call for an emotional truce. Give yourself a momentary time-out to regroup or consider a large scale re-evaluation of your plan.
Resistance comes in two forms: (1) the hesitant uncertainty of learning something new, confusing, and challenging; and (2) the dig-in-your-heels defiance of you-can't-make-me. The second form of resistance will not be productive to moving forward to potty training and requires a re-evaluation. If emotions are flying out of control-screaming, panicky coercion, blind desperation, or fearful anxiety-STOP! It's time to change course.
Some frustration, as in all learning situations, is natural. Potty teachers welcome the opportunity to build confidence and encourage a sense of "I can do it." You will witness your child's vulnerabilities and even some behavioral testing. But you and your child should always be on the same side and never at war with one another.
Can I borrow different strategies from different theories?
Finding a potty training strategy that doesn't need to be tweaked to fit your child is like bringing home a newborn that sleeps through the night. You can swear that it's because you did all the right things at the right time, but chances are your second child will prove that theory wrong.
Potty training is personal. You are learning about how your child learns and masters her body and her world. You are learning about yourself as a teacher-what frustrates you and what inspires you. Your child's potty training experiences involve trust, decision making, perseverance through mistakes, and the ability to conquer obstacles.
Any potty training program that minimizes the people factor in favor of a right method falls short. Some potty training situations require more creativity than others, and some children need more support than others. Focus on your child-she's not wrong just because she's not responding the right way. Feel free to make your modifications to any theory.