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3 Most Common Mistakes: Potty Training

What are the three most common potty training mistakes?

Expert: Peter L. Stavinoha, Ph.D., co-author of Stress-Free Potty TrainingInterview by Robert Quigley

1. Starting too early

Parents will often get friends or in-laws or grandparents telling them about what age a child should be potty trained by. What they hear might be true for some children, but a lot of the time, it gives parents unreasonable expectations to adhere to. And it’s always counterproductive when parents push children too hard to do something that they’re not quite ready to do yet.

2. Thinking there’s one right way

A lot of parents have overly concrete expectations about how the process should go. They pick up books about how to train a child in a day, but that’s just going to create stress for everyone. Oftentimes, parents believe there’s some particular technique that will work miraculously, but they don’t really think about whether or not it’s rational. That’s one of the big ideas in the book: relaxed expectations. The child may not do things according to the parents’ agenda or schedule, but they will get there.

3. Forgetting that your child needs to be himself

When parents feel like there’s a cookbook approach to potty training, they forget to individualize the process to their child. Each child is different in terms of personality and characteristics, and you need to know what works and what to avoid. For strong-willed children – one of the personality types we talk about in the book – for example, don’t give them too much strong guidance, or it will be counterproductive. If it feels like the parent is trying to control them, then by their nature they will become resistant. When parents try to push them even harder, it sets up a negative dynamic which can persist beyond potty training. But when the parent thinks thoughtfully and strategically about potty training and takes who their child is into account, everyone is happier in the end.

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