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Make no mistake, potty training your little firecracker is going to be arduous, time-consuming and wrought with frustrations. To most parents, its a tiresome process that seems to have no end, but one day, I promise, you will hear a toilet flush — and you wont be in the same room. In the meantime, here are some ways to ensure your path to Underpantsville is without unnecessary delays.
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1: Starting too early or too late
If you start too soon or too late, you could be setting yourself and your child up for a long period of messy frustration. Once your diapered doodlet demonstrates most or all of these signs, you should be good to begin:
• Ability to follow basic instructions
• Understanding and communicating oncoming urine or bowel movements (this can be verbally or with facial expressions, grunting or even hiding)
• Being aware of, and uncomfortable with, a wet or soiled diaper
• Dry diapers for 2-3 hours at a time
• Ability to undress himself (at least on the bottom!)
• Interest in the potty and other peoples trips to the toilet
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2: Bad timing
Once youve decided to begin training, try to choose a time when your childs life is unlikely to be disrupted by other stressful situations. Children have a keen sensitivity to emotions, and their natural reaction is to go haywire. Got a new baby on the way? Starting preschool? Packing up to move? Your child will internalize all of the anxiety that accompanies these changes. These are moments when your child needs a framework of security, and throwing a huge thing like potty training into the mix will likely result in failure and aggravation for all involved.
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3: Winging it
To ensure success, you need to have a game plan. Some decisions to make before you start include what kind of potty you plan to use (stand alone or toilet seat?), the rewards youll dole out, the potty books you wont mind reading 100+ times, the underpants or bare tushy method, etc. Similarly, you should get your child involved in the process. Get her excited about the new skill shes going to learn, the new pants shes going to wear, the older kids she knows who use the potty. Praise other big kid behaviors that you notice her employing. Shell be much less likely to put up a fight if she knows how rewarding it will be on the other end.
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Toddlers thrive on routine. Once youve set appropriate expectations, stick with them! Changing your strategy or losing your momentum partway through will only teach your little one that potty training isnt that important. If shes looked after by different caregivers over the course of the week, make sure that whoever is watching her knows your plan and can maintain it. Many childcare experts will have their own ideas about how to potty train (every mother-in-laws child was potty-trained in half the time its taking you!), but none of them will work if your kid is confused.
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5: Expecting too much
What worked for your co-workers kids, your mother or even your own older children might not be successful for your current trainee. Assess his readiness, temperament and preferences, and choose a method that will work for his learning style. Set realistic goals and expectations — deadlines are arbitrary to a toddler and can be discouraging when theyre not met. Motivate him to learn this skill, but be fair about it. Reassure your little one as he progresses and dont oblige him to conquer them all at once. If you can make potty training stress-free and pleasurable, your future underpants-wearer will be as enthusiastic as you are about taking that next step.
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6: Using punishment
This is one mistake that can be really difficult to avoid — especially when youve been cleaning the floor/changing underpants/sitting on the side of the tub reading the same potty book all day long. But threatening or shaming your child isnt going to make her want to use the toilet more, and doling out punishments for failure can set her back days or even weeks. Certainly you should explain your concern or disapproval regarding setbacks, but do so via constructive criticism to better your chances of getting through to her.
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7: Reacting negatively to accidents
Generally, your toddler is not soiling his pants on purpose, so its not going to help anyone to get hysterical about it. Its very common for tots to get preoccupied playing, and others may not have the muscle control it takes to hold it before reaching the bathroom. Maintain a positive, encouraging and calm attitude about mishaps — theyre perfectly normal and should be expected. Remind your child that accidents are okay, and that together you can try to remember to get to the potty next time. And always, always pack an extra pair of underwear and pants so you can matter-of-factly change that little tushy when away from home.
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8: Forcing the issue
Its very much in a toddlers nature to turn every issue into a power struggle. When it comes to potty training, this can be frustrating for both parties, and can even lead to constipation and pain for your little one. Gentle reminders can be helpful (invite her to join you at the potty and see if she'll sit on it for a few minutes), but constant ones (do you need use the potty now? How about now?) can be annoying and can lead to resistance. Same goes for forcing her to sit on the toilet if she is afraid or reluctant. If she doesnt seem interested in training or in wearing underpants, take a break for a couple of weeks, or even a month. The goal is to get your child to prefer underpants to a diaper, and the potty to the change table — by his own choice.
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For the average toddler, potty training can take about 6 months. Help your child to become comfortable with the stages of training: sitting on the potty, wearing underpants, undressing herself. Once shes mastered each of those steps, encourage her to move onto the next one in a positive way (hooray! Now lets see what happens when you sit on the potty with no diaper!) Praise her efforts when she tries to make it to the potty on time and show how proud you are when she succeeds. You can be certain that she will not go off to high school in a diaper. All children get it, eventually, and some of them just take their sweet time. Before you know it, youll be worrying about that thong she wants to buy.
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10: Admonishing bed wetting
Bedwetting is not failed potty-training! There are a whole host of reasons why children wet the bed — medical, physical and emotional. Dont penalize your toddler or preschooler for wetting the sheets. Just calmly change his PJs and linens, take him to the toilet, put him in a clean diaper and back into bed. Its very common for bedwetting to last well past toddlerhood, especially in boys, but most kids stop by around age 7.
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