Potty Training or Potty Learning?

I’ve got potty training on the brain these days.  This is in part because I’ve been able to do the “No More Diapers” dance in my own house.  My daughter’s been fully potty trained for about 3 weeks now.  Many of my friends, both in cyberspace and in real life, have kids who are potty training.

Which brings me to the title of my post.  I really prefer the term “potty learning.”  I took it from an excellent book by William and Martha Sears called You Can Go to the Potty.  The book is aimed at children, but there are excellent tips for parents.  As I mentioned, I prefer “potty learning” to “potty training.”  Our children are not pets who need to be housebroken.  They are young people who need to learn how to do things.

I know there are people who will be horrified to learn that my son was nearly 4 when he learned and my daughter is 3 and a half (that half is very important to her).  Nowadays, I see so many parents anxious to get their under 2’s to use the toilet.  If you can do it easily, then more power to you.  But I very sincerely doubt that most kids that age are ready.

With both of my kids, it took less than 2 days for them to be able to consistently use the toilet during the day.  (My son still isn’tdry at night, but this is very common, especially in boys.  But that is a post for another time).  I didn’t have to bribe my kids with toys, candy, stickers, money(!), or other prizes for going to the bathroom.  We haven’t had weeks or months of working on it, only to have them regress.  In fact, I didn’t “train” them at all–they figured it out all by themselves, for the most part.

When I mentioned this to the pediatrician, he was pleased that we had chosen this gentle method.  He said that children should not be coerced or pressured and that most children are not ready before age 3 or 3 and a half.  This was the same thing my daughter’s occupational therapist had said.  And in my own experience, the parents who have had the most success have waited until their children are a bit older.

Like with other things, I prefer the low-stress method of parenting.  I also chose not to “sleep train” either of my children.  I found listening to them cry stressful, so I used other methods of getting them to sleep.  I don’t know whether the now sleep better than their peers, but I do know that bedtime has always been pleasant and calm in our house.  (I should write about this sometime, too.)

In the end, my recommendation for parents is that if potty learning is not going well, your child seems uninterested, you constantly find yourself offering rewards, your child seems to do well and then regresses, or you and your child are frustrated, then back off for a time.  Give it awhile, then revisit.  It doesn’t have to make you crazy.


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