As parents, we’ve all had ‘those days.’ Times when our little ones just seem to be melting down, acting out, or just simply not listening to us. We’ve all been ‘that parent’ in the supermarket, juggling a baby in a car seat and trying to check out with a full shopping cart while having a toddler screaming and throwing a tantrum. We cannot help but wonder how to prevent this behavior and turn the little tantrum into the docile, happy child we normally see.
The fact is, children do best with structure, like a clear rules and a daily routine. Structure is about a child’s emotional and physical safety. It’s less about rules and discipline and more about helping teach children how to navigate their world, to know what they can expect, what’s expected of them and how to behave appropriately in certain situations. Children thrive in an environment where they feel safe, nurtured and capable. Structure helps a child learn how to handle their emotions. Developing self-responsibility helps children understand limits and making responsible choices on their own. These are important skills needed all throughout their lives and teaching them early on helps them grow intellectually and emotionally.
What’s the best way to make certain there’s enough structure in a child’s life? Start with their routine. Are they going to sleep and waking at about the same time each day? Eating meals and having play time at regular intervals? Do they listen and understand that it’s time to transition from one activity to another? If your child has a difficult time adjusting the change, try helping them countdown to the activity. For example, if they’re playing and it’s nearly time to leave for school, remind them they have ten minutes left of play, five minutes, etc. In addition, make certain they know it’s their responsibility to help get ready for the event, such as putting their toys in a basket to clean up, or get their shoes and coat out of the closet. Remember: part of routine is consistency! Try and keep to the same schedule as much as possible.
But what about those meltdowns? Of course they happen even to the best behaved and even tempered children. What should a parent do? One way parents can manage is to let children know there will be consequences for misbehavior. Lots of parents use the time out system. One of the reasons time outs work well and are so tried and true is because children who are upset and ‘melting down’ are removed from the situation which gives them time to calm down and think. Once a child is calm, then it’s the time to talk about the situation that just occurred in short, simple language. Mom or Dad can explain why that behavior wasn’t OK and ask the child to tell them what they would do differently next time. When children are older, or elementary school age, a good task is to ask the child to write down how their behavior was inappropriate and how they could handled the situation differently.
The bottom line is, keep your chin up, Mom and Dad! Good parenting is hard work, but with love and dedication, you’ll see your little ones thrive.
Timing and patience: those are the two keys to potty training success. Since it’s a big step for both parents and children alike, both are needed to ensure potty training is successful. How do you start the whole daunting process? By taking a step back, arming yourself with lots of patience-building techniques (like the old standby’s: deep breaths and counting slowly backwards from 10) and making certain you and your little one are ready to embark on this journey. Let’s look at the two key factors in successful training and examine them:
How can tell if it’s the right time to start? Is your child ready? What age is appropriate? Well, first of all, there is no ‘magic’ age. Children are ready at different times. It’s up to parents to check for the ‘cues’ that let them know it’s a good time to begin training. For some children, it may be as young as one year, for others, it could be over two. What are you looking for? Here are some cues:
– Does your child seem interested in the potty or wearing ‘big’ kid underwear?
– Does your child tell you when he/she needs to go?
– Does your child stay dry most of the day?
– Can your child pull his or her own pants up and down?
– Does your child tell you when his or her diaper is wet or soiled?
If you answered ‘yes’ to most of the above, your child is likely ready to begin training. It’s important to remember that any major life change, like a new sibling, starting a new pre-school or even taking a trip would be a poor time to start training. Wait until your child is in a steady routine and you have the time to dedicate to training.
There are many different ways to start training. Some parents go ‘cold turkey’ and simply begin dressing their children in underwear. This is one way to do it – but be prepared for quite a few accidents and messes. This, however, is generally considered the quickest way. Another option is to simply set a potty chair in areas where you child spends most of their time, such as a play room. Encouraging your child to discover the potty on their own and rewarding them for using the potty is another option. Whichever method you choose, remember to be patient with the process. Even when your child has ‘accidents,’ be encouraging and tell them ‘there’s always next time.’ Use books and videos to help them understand their bodies and the elimination process.
In the wise words of one sage pediatrician, “No child has ever gone off to college in a diaper.” Remember that is a journey for you and your child!
Potty training book recommendations:
The New Potty, by Gina and Mercer Mayer
Once Upon a Potty, by Alana Frankel
Going to the Potty, by Fred Rogers (yes, Mr. Rogers)
You Can Go to the Potty, Dr. William Sears