The Truth about Potty Training
5/28/2008 | by
Potty training can seem overwhelming to some parents. Is the child ready? What is the best way to start? Should a reward system be used or not? All these questions can baffle a parent who’s just getting started. Add a bunch of myths into the mix, and you have a recipe for parental stress. The following myths have confused parents for far too long, and it’s time they were debunked!Myth:
All children potty train at the same age
False! This myth has probably caused more stress than any other. If the child happens to be a late bloomer, the parents can receive all sorts of comments from other parents because their child isn’t potty trained yet.
According to Michelle Passamaneck, a pediatric and urology nurse practitioner and the director of the Dry Time Clinic at The Children’s Hospital in Denver, Colo., the time when children begin potty training varies greatly for each individual child.
“There are many variations depending on maturity, patient sex, place in the sibling order, personality, etc.,” Passamaneck says. “The range that most children fall into is 2.5 to 3.5 years, but this is a big range, and many kids fall out of it, too.”Myth:
Once a child is potty trained, NO accidents should happen.
False! “Accidents, especially at night, are common and should not be punished,” Passamaneck says. “There will be less accidents if the parents focus on ‘putting pee in the potty’ and not staying dry. There will also be less accidents if kids are encouraged to go potty frequently. Parents should aim for eight to 10 times a day, with six times a day being the least acceptable.”Myth:
Being tough with a child is the best way to help them learn to use the potty.
False! Dr. Jill Lekovic is a pediatrician at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Ariz. She says this myth is false and that it’s important that parents know the difference between consistency and being inflexible.
“There is a big difference between being consistent and being inflexible,” Dr. Lekovic says. “That can be a tough thing to figure out in the day-to-day business of parenting, but usually you can trust your instincts. Babies love predictability, thrive on a routine [and] feel most secure when they know what to expect from us. But being a good parent means being flexible, and part of that is being able to see what works for your baby and what seems to create a really frustrating conflict. Toilet training can be frustrating sometimes, but it should never create a conflict with your child. You are in it together, and the only thing that works is patience, encouragement and positive reinforcement.”
Dr. Lekovic says it’s the parent’s job to be prepared so the child can get cleaned up quickly after an accident with as little embarrassment as possible. Be matter-of-fact, and re-adjust your methods to try to avoid the same situation.
“There is absolutely no benefit to being tough, and they may choose to avoid the whole thing [using the potty] entirely if it seems impossible or scary,” says Dr. Lekovic. “It is important to remember that there is nothing frightening to children about potty training unless we make it so.”Myth:
Making your child stay in wet or soiled underwear will encourage them to use the toilet faster.
False! “The only thing you will accomplish by leaving your child in wet or soiled [underwear] is having a miserable child with a rash,” says Dr. Lekovic. “Nothing is gained by making them stay in it. Your goal is to help them feel capable and in control, and helping them get clean and dry quickly will help them learn how easy that will be for them.”Myth:
Toilet training has special importance in children's psychological development, and if you mess up it will affect them forever.
False! Dr. Lekovic believes this myth is one of the most studied aspects of toilet training.
“Ever since the early psychoanalysts suggested a connection between toilet training and personality adjustment in the 1940s, people have tried to connect everything from a child’s personality to his sexuality [to] toilet training,” she says. “[However], it has been proven many times over that toilet training is no different than the rest of early childhood development. If you are humiliating, punishing or excessively negative with your child, they may encounter many different problems along the way.”
Dr. Lekovic suggests a more positive approach to training. “Encouraging them, helping them, teaching them and loving them are always going to be OK,” she says. “And if you remember those things in general you will be fine! Your child is not going to be stressed out, much less scarred for life, because you bring a potty into your home or encourage them to use it. In fact, they clearly benefit from a potty routine early in life!”