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

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814436660
Publisher: AMACOM
Publication date: 10/01/2015
Edition description: Second Edition
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 459,876
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

SARA AU is a mom and a journalist specializing in parenting and health issues.

PETER L. STAVINOHA, PH.D., is a dad and a pediatric neuropsychologist in the Center for Pediatric Psychiatry at Children's Medical Center of Dallas and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Together, they are the authors of the popular book Stress-Free Potty Training.

Read an Excerpt

Stress-Free Potty Training

A Commonsense Guide to Finding the Right Approach for Your Child

By Sara Au, Peter L. Stavinoha, Kelly Light


Copyright © 2016 Sara Au and Peter L. Stavinoha
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8144-3666-0


Identifying Your Child's Personality Type

In order to identify the most dominant characteristics of your child's personality, we've created a short quiz for you based on common behaviors. You already know what makes your child tick, and taking this quiz will help you channel that knowledge into the science of psychology, and from there into the best ways to potty train. By exploring kids' reactions to people and their environment, we can loosely separate them into groups with similar reactions.

In reading through the quiz, you may feel a great deal of the statements are negative in nature. You are correct. It's unfortunate, but much of what differentiates one type of personality from another is the stimuli that cause negative reactions. For this to seriously be useful for your family, you must answer truthfully, even if you don't like what that says about your child. We know your children are adorable, unique, sweet, loving kids. But as wonderful as every child is, there is no way around some of the negative-sounding aspects needed to categorize them for the purposes of this book. Grouping them is what will help you determine the best way to begin potty training. Don't worry that this means the personality types themselves are negative. They are not.

So before you jump into the meat of the book, go through this short quiz and rank each of the statements in order of how often they describe your child's conduct. Add up the scores and the highest number will show your child's most dominant trait or traits.

Each parent should take this quiz separately and you can then compare answers. Because each child at any given moment responds to whatever set of stimuli is in front of them, they may display character traits to Mom differently than to Dad. Evaluating any overlap or difference of opinion is a terrific way to create a thoughtful, planned approach to potty training. And remember, it is perfectly normal for many children to fall into two, sometimes even three, different groups, and in these cases you should combine the advice in each of those chapters.

After the personality quiz for your child, there is a series of thought-provoking parenting questions we urge you to consider about yourself before beginning to toilet train. These will give you clues into your own temperament and also help you frame your potty-training techniques.


Rate the following statements according to how true they are about your child. once finished, add up the total points for each group. a score of 24 or above indicates a dominant trait or traits, although secondary or tertiary traits with a score of 22–23 should be kept in the back of your mind.

Rating Scale

1 = this is rarely or never true about my child.
2 = this is sometimes true about my child.
3 = this is often true about my child.
4 = this is nearly always true about my child.


* My child is bothered by tags in clothes, hates elastic waistbands, and is irritated by certain fabrics. _______

* My child startles a great deal at loud noises like the vacuum cleaner, lawn equipment, or even a door slamming. _______

* My child seems overstimulated in crowds to the point that we simply don't take him/her out to big events much at all. _______

* My child seems to refuse certain foods based on texture or smell. _______

* My child has an intense reaction when her/his hands are dirty or wet. _______

* if i don't get the bathwater temperature just right, my child strongly resists getting into the tub. _______

* as a parent, i am always worried about my child's comfort because she/he falls apart when she/he is the least bit uncomfortable. _______

* My child backs away from attempts at physical affection like hugs and kisses from anyone outside our immediate family. _______

Total _______


* My child just doesn't get into things the way other kids do; baby-proofing the house was almost unnecessary. _______

* My child clings to me more than my friends' kids of the same age seem to do, and gets intensely upset if I try to leave him/her alone for a moment with someone else like a babysitter or even grandma. _______

* When we go places or meet friends out, my child seems to get even more clingy and shy. I don't think this is simply the stranger anxiety that is common in babies because these are people we see frequently enough for him/her to know them. _______

* My child seems afraid of lots of things (even imagining complex fears that seem to come from nowhere), and this is especially true at bedtime. _______

* My child seems unsure of him/herself in any new situation. it takes him/her a really long time to warm up and get comfortable. _______

* rather than jump into a new activity, my child likes to watch for a long time. She/he also needs some prodding to join in with the group. _______

* if I say "no" to my child or set a limit, he/she immediately becomes upset and seems to retreat into him or herself.

* once my child is upset, she/he can't seem to move beyond it for a _______ while. She/he stays sad or pouts for a really long time.

Total _______


* My child usually sticks with an activity for a while before she/he moves on to the next activity. _______

* My child isn't distracted easily from a task and likes to finish things once she/he has started. _______

* My child really enjoys when she/he has something tangible at the end of a project (like a painting, drawing, or stack of blocks). _______

* My child is usually good about following directions. _______

* My child asks questions about how to do something, and asks for help when she/he needs it. _______

* My child does not ask me to do things for him/her; is fine doing things independently. _______

* My child doesn't refuse my offer to help though, and likes it when we work together on a project. _______

* My child likes to show me what he/she has done after finishing something and seems to take real pride in his/her accomplishment. _______

Total _______


* My child really likes to be independent, and he/she is very resistant to anyone helping him/her. in fact, if i try to help, he/she usually _______ gets mad at me.

* My child can be very stubborn. if something is her/his idea, she/he really works hard. if it is my idea, there is almost nothing i can do to get her/him to do it. _______

* My child has no problem telling me "no," and she/he can be defiant and resistant. _______

* My child tends to get angry quickly, and when she/he is angry it seems like the emotion is really intense. _______

* When i set a limit or say "no" to my child, she/he gets angry and tantrums or broods for a long time after. _______

* My child's tantrums can last for more than 15 or even 30 minutes at a time, and there is little that i can do to shorten them. U When i try to finesse my child into doing something she/he does not want to do by prompting or cajoling, the more vocal and louder my child gets in resisting me. _______

* My child seems resistant to most attempts at discipline/time-out. instead of just doing the time-out, she/he constantly fights it and won't stay in time-out. _______

Total _______


* My child has a hard time staying with any activity for more than a few moments. even if she/he is doing something she/he enjoys, she/he seems to get distracted to something else very easily. _______

* My child is extremely impatient and can never wait her/his turn for something. _______

* My child seems to enjoy lots of stimulation — she/he likes it when there are lots of people around and lots of things going on. _______

* My child is very active and loves to climb. i have to watch him/her really carefully because before i know it she/he is on top of the couch, on the table, or in some other dangerous place. _______

* My child has a really hard time staying in one place or staying still. She/he hates being in a highchair, and she/he rarely stays seated long enough to do things like draw or color or build. _______

* My child is gung-ho to try new physical activities, and she/he is usually quick to try out all the equipment on the playground (even the larger equipment designed for bigger kids). _______

* I have a hard time keeping up with my child at the store or in the mall. He/she is always on the move, and he/she likes to have me chase him/her around in a game of cat-and-mouse. _______

* My child makes friends with practically everyone and does not seem shy around new people; he/she is often described as a "social butterfly." _______

Total _______

group a = Sensory-oriented Child group B = internalizing Child group C = goal-Directed Child group D = Strong-Willed Child group e = impulsive Child

Summary of Personalities

Sensory-Oriented Child These are children who have intense reactions to the otherwise normal sensory stimuli of touch, sounds, smells, and tastes. For example, they are often extremely picky eaters, can't stand loud crowds, and incessantly itch at things like tags in the backs of shirts. They may overreact emotionally, and are routinely anxious, shy, and cautious. They are slow to try anything new. When well within their comfort zone, they are usually very easygoing. But they have a tendency to overfocus on anything that might cause them discomfort, and when those sensory issues take over, it can be difficult to calm them down.

Internalizing Child Serious and conservative, these children often spend a great deal of time and energy considering a situation, weighing their options, before they act. They will practice a new activity or skill in their heads before making an attempt at it; they want to be able to do it perfectly. These children are easily frustrated if success does not come to them quickly, and this tends to inhibit their risk-taking and exploration. If you've never felt the need to baby-proof your house, you probably have an Internalizer. Their fears can be provoked easily, and so they have the inclination to withdraw from new things. These children prefer to be in close proximity with a parent, and they very much enjoy being held.

Goal-Directed Child These children are generally logical, reasonable, and willing to follow your directions or suggestions. If you are excited about things, they are too. These children are curious and seek knowledge. They are adaptable and tend to go with the flow, but once they focus in on a goal they persist and see it through. These kids are hard- wired to enjoy accomplishment. Their mood is generally positive, and they tend to be mild to moderate in terms of activity level. When faced with new situations, they will strike a balance between curiosity and caution. If upset, they can get over it relatively quickly and easily. Although every child has an occasional tantrum, it doesn't happen on a regular basis with a Goal-Directed Child.

Strong-Willed Child Often described as stubborn, these children tend to have strong, somewhat negative, reactions. They are slow to adapt to new things that are not of their choosing or of their discovery. When they feel like they are in control, they can be relatively easy to get along with. However, when they feel they're being manipulated or forced into something, they are quick to perceive and resist it. Strong-Willed Kids can often be unpredictable in behavior and emotions, at times making their parents feel like they are always two steps behind. They may be rather moody and quickly engage in temper tantrums that are more intense and lengthy than those of other children.

Impulsive Child If you've ever likened your child to Curious George ®, he or she is probably Impulsive. These kids are energetic and extremely active. Typically risk takers, they are the ones who climb all of the furniture and go out of their way to find new physical (read: dangerous) activities. In other words, they're the first to go down the big-kid slide at the park, have no fear when jumping into the swimming pool for the first time, have no fear of climbing, etc. Although reasonably directable, they don't like to be bored and frequently seek out new ways to stimulate themselves much to parents' chagrin. Although outwardly friendly and garrulous, Impulsive Kids also tend to be easily distracted and have trouble persisting in an activity. Tantrums are often strong but over quickly.

Parents' Notes

Now that you've had an opportunity to examine your child's personality traits, before you make your plan, you also need to think about your own first responses to common potty-training situations. Step up to the mirror and honestly write down the first answer that comes to your mind. There is no one right or wrong answer. It's all very subjective — knowing yourself is almost as important as knowing your child when you begin something this emotionally charged. Have your spouse do the same, separately. Make sure your expectations are realistic and that both of you are prepared for the variety of messes that come with potty training. Use the blank pages at the end of the chapter to record notes from this conversation, and refer back to them as you read the rest of the book.

* I need/want to potty train my child because ...

* I need/want my child to be successfully in underwear by (date) because ...

* I need/want my child to be dry at night by (date) because ...

* If we don't make either of these dates, I'll feel ...

* If my child wet herself in the middle of the grocery store I would ...

* If my child had an accident on the living-room rug, I would ...

* If my child were to smear feces on the bedroom wall in the middle of the night, I would ...

* If I was at a friend's house with my child and she had an accident on their living room rug, the first thing I would do is ...

* The thought of being on a long car ride with a child who is potty training scares me because ...

* If my child, in the middle of a crowded restaurant, loudly announces he has to "poop real bad," I would ...

* I will wait (x # days) before taking my newly potty-trained child anywhere in underwear because ...

* If my naked child couldn't quite make it to the bathroom and I could see the poop was coming out, I would ...

* If my child soiled himself with feces in a public place, I would ...

* If my child takes a year to potty train I will feel ...

* I'm really stressing out about potty training because ...

Now, reflect on your answers and talk them over with your partner. After you read the book through, come back to this page and contemplate your answers again. Take your thoughts on all of the above scenarios and put them into the context of what you've learned from this book about your child and their personality types. If you have specific dates by which your son or daughter must be trained, like for instance the start of preschool, give yourself a good amount of leeway, or else have a backup childcare option available just in case. If you believe your response to any of the above sentences would be stress or anger toward your child, you will need to come to terms with that before you begin potty training. All of those scenarios (and even worse!) might actually happen, and all must be handled in a cool, calm, and collected manner. If there is anything about which you feel strongly, and with which your partner/spouse disagrees, now's the time to figure out a compromise.

From this point, you can start to formulate your stress-free potty-training plan. Your strategy shouldn't be too rigidly defined, because much will depend on how your particular child takes to the tactics outlined in this book. You'll want to make an educated choice about the ways in which you want to start, have a preferred timeline, and discuss your plan with all the parties who'll be involved (grandparents, babysitters, daycare, perhaps older siblings), but always keep in mind that your child is in control of this process. We know you are ready to do this, but before you begin to implement your plan, you'll have to determine if your son or daughter is ready.

Mom's Notes

Dad's Notes


Determining Readiness

Potty training is a process without an exactly defined beginning. It starts long before your child is actually attempting to go on the potty and includes a variety of motor skills, understanding, and interest. Your child's readiness forms the basis for those potty-related skills that will be learned during the training process: knowing and telling you when he has to go, stopping what he's doing to go, wiping, flushing and washing hands.

Determining the appropriate time in your child's life to begin teaching potty-training skills is key to your success, but it is also a very subjective determination. For many parents, there is a good amount of time between your toddler's initial interest in potty-related activities and actually training him/her how to use the potty. Throughout, it's important for you to set the stage appropriately.


Excerpted from Stress-Free Potty Training by Sara Au, Peter L. Stavinoha, Kelly Light. Copyright © 2016 Sara Au and Peter L. Stavinoha. Excerpted by permission of AMACOM.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Introduction and Philosophy 1

1 Identifying Your Child’s Personality Type 9

2 Determining Readiness 21

3 Apply Universal Strategies 33

4 The Goal-Directed Child 78

5 The Sensory-Oriented Child 95

6 The Internalizer 114

7 The Impulsive Child 136

8 The Strong-Willed Child 154

9 Common Interruptions 182

10 Overcoming Challenges and Obstacles 191

Conclusion 209

Index 213

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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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