Stress-Free Potty Training: A Commonsense Guide to Finding the Right Approach for Your Child

Stress-Free Potty Training: A Commonsense Guide to Finding the Right Approach for Your Child

3.9 17
by Sara Au, Peter Stavinoha, Kelly Light

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No two children experience the toilet-training process in exactly the same way. While some kids might be afraid to even go near the bathroom, others may know when to go...but still never seem to make it there in time. This helpful guide takes the stress out of this challenging rite of passage, giving parents much-needed advice to help


No two children experience the toilet-training process in exactly the same way. While some kids might be afraid to even go near the bathroom, others may know when to go...but still never seem to make it there in time. This helpful guide takes the stress out of this challenging rite of passage, giving parents much-needed advice to help them identify what approach will work for their child’s temperament. The book distinguishes between common childhood personality types, providing easy techniques tailor-fit for all kinds of kids, whether they’re stubborn or willful, clinging to diapers, afraid to move on, or just late-bloomers. The book shows how to:

determine a child’s readiness to begin potty training • gradually move children past their existing comfort zone, without causing undue pressure • handle accidents and temporary setbacks

This straight-talking guide enables readers to help every child make this important life transition free of worry and in the way that’s right for him or her.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“…must-have for parents and caregivers confronting the crucially important developmental milestone that is potty training.” —Library Bookwatch

Product Details

Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Introduction and Philosophy

Teaching your children everything you can to help them become functioning members of society is what parenting is all about. From the moment they are born, every single act of ours teaches them something, for better or worse. As babies, when they cry, we give them food. When they are tired, we rock them to sleep. When they eliminate waste, we change their diaper.

Hmmmm . . . let’s think about that last one again. Until this point in their very short lives, they have learned that the correct thing to do is to pee and poop into a diaper. We’ve taught them this lesson, and most of us have probably taught it well. Your children are so good at this skill, they probably don’t even think about it anymore.

That’s all about to change.

Potty training encompasses not only teaching new skills to your child, but also unlearning behaviors they thought they already had down pat. There’s no getting around it, potty training is a huge undertaking for both kids and parents alike. Going into a diaper has become second nature to your kids, just as using a toilet is second nature to adults. Imagine if someone came to you one day and said you couldn’t use a toilet anymore, that you had to use this newfangled thing that was nearly as big as you are and made loud, scary noises! You’d probably be a little confused and intimidated.

Does this perspective give you some idea of what your child is about to experience? Good! That’s what this book is all about: Helping parents view things from a child’s point of view. Potty training should be stress free for parents, and (as much as possible) for kids, too! Stressing about this major milestone will only harm the process, bog it down, and eventually, derail it. So, in keeping it stress free, you are doing what’s best for your son or daughter.

You—being the conscientious parent that you are—want to go about potty training in a careful, thoughtful way that considers your child’s individual needs. You know this is a big step and you want to make it as easy and comfortable for your “baby” as possible. You’ve probably heard horror stories from other parents and want to avoid getting into those kinds of situations yourself. In short, you want to do right by your child.

Our methods are not tricks we guarantee will work in a prescribed amount of time. Nor do we give you step-by-step directions that if followed result in absolute certain success. Parents do not control this process (that might sound shocking, but get used to the idea that you are not really in charge here), nor do we really control any process with our children. Our philosophy is that as parents we can manage and influence the training, but that children themselves control it. They have their own natural pace at which they will learn to use the toilet. Through thoughtful planning and effective communication with your unique child, you are setting the stage for your child to own the process and be successful at it.

If you’re like many parents, you may feel overwhelmed at the thought of starting to potty train. Unlike riding a bike, you probably have no memories of learning bathroom skills as a child, so how can you teach them to your son or daughter? To boot, others (maybe your mother- or sister-in-law, or that oh-so-helpful neighbor . . .) are often watching over your shoulder, which can leave you anxious and unsure in your abilities to handle this fundamental parenting task.

You’re not sure about the hype of those train-in-one-day programs, but on the other hand, can’t imagine waiting until your child decides to do it on their own. After all, they have no trouble walking around in a wet or dirty diaper for hours. What all this tells you, is that you can’t start by planning on the exact amount of time it is going to take to train! (Talk about setting yourself up for failure.) Every child potty trains differently; besides, even those one-day methods take a great deal more days in preparation.

We believe toileting proficiency is one of the most important skills you’ll teach your child, fundamental to personal hygiene, health, even social relationships for the rest of his/her life. Being comfortable with one’s own body starts with this first foray into being responsible for oneself. So, you don’t want to rush in headlong without a thoughtful plan. We recognize, of course, that you don’t want to dilly dally either. You want to instruct your child in the most insightful, caring way possible, and to do that you must take his or her individual personality into account.

But where to begin? You don’t want to miss your window of opportunity with your toddler, but you don’t want to force the issue too early and short-circuit the whole process either.

Welcome to the real world of parenting, where there’s no magical solution to any tough issue, just advice from experts and veteran parents, a multitude of proven strategies and tons of moral support, and of course, your own instincts and knowledge of your child—the most important ingredient.

In fact, you already have the knowledge you need to help your toddler potty train; you just may need to be pointed in the right direction. You know your child best. You know everything about him. You know his likes and dislikes, what motivates him most, and the signs he’s reached his breaking point. For example:

• You know if you get him up and out the door before 9 a.m. he’ll be in a great mood all morning, but if you dally and miss the window of opportunity, he’ll become cranky an hour before his regular naptime.

• You know it takes her a good 15 minutes to warm up to anyone besides you and your spouse, even her beloved grandparents.

• You know how to say “no” in many different ways, because if you just came out and said it flatly, he’d double his efforts to do whatever is off limits.

• You know she’ll be climbing on top of your childless friend’s brand-new glass coffee table before your visit is over.

• You know he’ll copy anything his 5-year-old cousin does.

You already know this and much more about your child. You’re the expert. Believe it or not, these are the keys to unlock that potty-training door.

What this book does is channel that knowledge and helps you figure out what kind of approach will work best. Dr. Pete Stavinoha, a dad and pediatric neuropsychologist, will give you a peek inside your child’s mind and help you potty train based on his or her individual personality. Sara Au, a mom and parenting writer, has culled together experiences from other parents across the country who are either in the midst of or have recently finished potty training their children.

We know your child is unique, special, and already has his or her own individual personality. The kinds of attempts that may have worked for your sister (or sister-in-law!), your neighbors or your friends, make you shake your head in defeat because you know those things won’t work for your child. And you know what? You’re probably right! Children don’t all respond alike, especially when it comes to something as personal as potty training. What prods one child in the direction of the bathroom could just as often cause another to run screaming in the other direction.

Child psychiatrists Drs. Stella Chess and Alexander Thomas are frequently credited with bringing to bear modern views of temperament in children. Over the past fifty years, researchers have identified a number of characteristics that describe how children interact with the people and world around them. Whereas scientists are not in complete agreement about what to call the individual traits that make up temperament, developmental psychologists tend to agree that temperament consists of a group of brain-based, inborn characteristics that guide a person’s reaction to the world and provide a basis for the development of personality. So, two children with two different temperaments may respond very differently in the very same situation—each is responding to stimuli in part according to their unique temperament.

In digesting the science of temperament for this book, we have grounded our temperament types according to several common traits identified by researchers over the years. We’ve tried to break these down into commonsense temperament types that every parent will be able

to recognize. Dr. Pete created five typical categories—Goal-Oriented, Sensory-Oriented, Internalizing, Impulsive, and Strong-Willed—and advises specific ways your child will best receive potty-training lessons. Keep in mind, most people have characteristics of a number of temperaments, so don’t be surprised if your child shows strong elements of two or even three temperament types. This is actually pretty common and, in fact, helpful because it will mean you will have more strategies at your disposal.

We start with a short quiz to help you figure out where you are with your child and your particular situation. We’ve left lots of room for your notes in this section, as potty training is a very fluid (no pun intended) process. Next, we outline a number of universal strategies you can implement and steps you can take regardless of your child’s personality. Some of these are very subtle changes; many involve changing your own behavior.

From there, we take you through the five different personality types and help you determine where to start with your child. Please remember, however, that these personality types are generalizations, and your child may not fall squarely in one camp or another. It may be that he or she exhibits the hallmarks of more than one type. Or, you may even see some other personality traits, latent until now, come to the surface during this profound change of life. For example, a child who is normally very laid back might decide to exercise her right to keep tight control over her own bodily functions when you try to potty train her. Often, this would be a sign she’s not ready to toilet train, but sometimes it stems from an underlying strong will that as yet hadn’t had a reason to show itself. In this case, while you’d originally have placed her in the Goal-Directed category, you’d now want to place her in the Strong-Willed category, and the approaches to potty training vary a great deal between the two. Since we know you are the expert here, we leave it up to you to decide which steps may resonate more fully with your individual child. We’d like you to read through the entire book before making a decision of how to begin.

Many of you may set about potty training in a very different way than you’d ever have expected before reading this book. Some of you may have to double back and reassess the category or categories into which your child falls. But we know all of you will gain some insight into your child’s mindset.

Throughout, we offer ideas for specific dialogue to use with your child. A parent’s words, tone, and attitude convey strong messages to a child in training, and so we provide some of those here for you to use at home.

A couple of important notes as you read this book:

• No one can force another human being to eat, sleep, or go to the bathroom. If your child offers fierce resistance to any of our suggested tactics, back off immediately. You may need to reevaluate his or her readiness, personality type, or any outside concerns. Or perhaps you’ll just need to try another of our suggested approaches. Remember, your role is to influence and manage potty training, but you cannot control it.

• To avoid sounding repetitive or wordy, we switch up our pronoun use from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph. In the sections where we discuss information specific to boys or girls, we’ll clearly spell that out for you.

• There are an infinite number of factors affecting your child’s interest, or non-interest, in toileting. (For example, one child was so set on imitating his dad peeing into a urinal that his mom had to first break him of the urge to spray the bathroom wall before she could get him to pee into the toilet.) We attempt to address as many as possible in this book, but by no means have we imagined every possible scenario. Take the advice in this book as a guideline, use what you like, and leave what you don’t.

• Relax, you are potty training the stress-free way! We promise your child will not go off to college in diapers. She or he will learn how to go to the bathroom in a socially acceptable way. With careful, thoughtful help from you—the most important person in his/her life—they will get through this transitional period of life with flying colors!

Let’s get started!

Meet the Author

Peter L. Stavinoha, Ph.D. (Dallas, TX), is a clinical neuropsychologist in the Center for Pediatric Psychiatry at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas and associate professor in psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. He is a regular guest on Good Morning Texas where he gives expert parenting advice on common issues facing children and families.

Sara Au (Orlando, FL) is a journalist specializing in parenting and health issues.

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Stress-Free Potty Training 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
KAS68 More than 1 year ago
Well worth it for me -- this book really helped me understand my son and why he/I were having difficulty with potty training. Once I figured out his personality type, we had him potty trained within 1 week. I was able to change my approach to make it a challenge & goal for him -- we started with setting an alarm clock every 30 minutes. The goal just to try to go potty. Once he was in the pattern of going every 30 minutes, we extended the time to 40 minutes,, and so on. Then it became a game where he was trying to beat the clock to the potty. Now, he's doing great (no clock) and only has an occasional accident -- usually when he is overtired and sleeping. I would highly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I finally caved in and decided to purchase a book after a year of unsuccessful potty training based on various websites' advice. I chose this book because it individualizes the potty training process based on my child's personality. My daughter responded really well to the suggestions provided and she has been doing very well with her potty training. I was surprised at how quickly my daughter became motivated, which was where we had been going wrong. I gave this book a 4 out of 5 because I wasn't thrilled by the labels used by the authors to distinguish the 5 personality types.
Illana Nissenbaum More than 1 year ago
loved the individual strategies,makes for higher rate of success!
RSD527 More than 1 year ago
I really like the personality test the book includes for the child. Based on my child's personality type, it gave helpful suggestions of things to consider and what would work best for my child. It was very helpful and practical!
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