The Frog Blog

Thoughts from the Leapfrog Learning Center in Shrewsbury

The challenge of potty training can be stressful for everyone (parents and children) but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Over the past 20 years, the professional staff at the Leapfrog Learning Center has helped hundreds of children make a stress free transition into being potty trained.  Leapfrog has a variety of resources (books, tapes, and magazine articles) which we make available to parents who are struggling. We particularly recommend “Toilet Learning,” a book by Allison Mack.   Our experience has proved that patience, tenacity and a coordinated plan (home and school) always work in the end.

Most children start the process between 18 and 36 months of age but all children have different ways to tell parents when they are ready.  Parents who start the process prematurely can cause problems  so it is important that parents know the signs of readiness  (physical and psychological).  Children are physically ready when … parents can tell a child is urinating/pooping  by his facial expressions (or words) …  if a child can go for more than two hours between urinating  … if a child poops at roughly the same time every day.  Children are psychologically ready when … they can follow simple instructions …  feel uncomfortable in dirty diapers …  can recognize a full bladder or the need to poop …  or start asking to  go to the bathroom.  Experts say parents should never start potty training when times are already stressful (like during a move or the arrival of a new baby) and parents should never punish children for accidents.   If potty training makes your child act  stressed, you are pushing too hard and need to back off for awhile.

The “Mayo Clinic” says if a child is not potty trained by 3 1/2 then he is “resisting” and you need change your strategy accordingly.  Many things can make children reluctant to cooperate.  Maybe they are afraid of the potty or frightened by the flushing process … perhaps they once had a painful  experience (stool too hard) … sometimes they are confused by inconsistent rules from different care givers … maybe they crave the negative attention that comes with “accidents” … perhaps they resent being forced to sit on the potty for long periods of time … or, maybe, they are just naturally stubborn.  Very rarely, there may  be an underlying physical disorder.

Some strategies for resistant children include … having them participate in the cleanup process … switching to “big boy” underwear even if they are still having accidents … refusing to give a child diapers or pull-ups if they ask for them just to avoid the potty … finally, this is one problem where bribery is acceptable.  Bribes might include special books that children choose but can only have read to them while they sit on the potty … a chart where they get stickers for potty successes … special toys which they can only play with while they are on the potty …  extra bed time stories … a reward visit to a favorite park, etc.  How far you go with bribes depends only on how creative you can be.

If your child goes to a good preschool, ask your child’s teacher for advice and strive to replicate the strategies they use in school.  Consistency is important and will help your child make this important transition.  Finally, as with all your child rearing questions, spend  some time researching answers  on the internet and read everything you can find.

Visit the Leapfrog Learning Center & read about our “outreach” programs to help parents with common problems

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