Why I Abandoned the "Readiness" Approach to Potty Training

My son (just over two years old) has been running around the house in his dinosaur underwear the last few weeks. Accidents? Yes.  One morning he peed, slipped in the pee, and cut his lip with his own tooth.  The first few days it wasn’t uncommon for him to shout, “I have to go potty!” as urine ran down his legs at the breakfast table.

I tried to corral him on the hardwood floor—away from area rugs and off of couches—and remind him every 10-15 minutes to take a potty trip. A lot of times he was successful, but especially in the beginning, if I missed a window, another pee-soaked pair of undies ended up hanging on the shower curtain rod.

But what I’ve realized about potty training—the topic of this week’s Science of Kids column—is that I don’t buy the “readiness cues” that we’re supposed to follow as parents. The more I go through this process with my son, the more I realize that I’m in the driver’s seat, and it’s totally fine. He was perfectly happy with the old system: keep playing, while a super absorbent jumbo diaper magically takes care of things.

Where did we get the idea that we were supposed to follow our kid’s lead to the potty?

In the early 1900’s, Freud injected meaning into how parents handle the toilet training phase—theorizing that it had lasting consequences for our kids’ personalities. We don’t necessarily fret over potty psychodynamics now, but the idea that toilet training is delicate remains.  Read more about Brazelton, self-esteem, Pull Ups…and why I disagree.

Image: Everystockphoto/AndrewEick

Article Posted 6 years Ago

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