I recently received the following e-mail from a parent:
"We have a 25 month-old son we are trying to potty train. He is pretty aware of what is going on and often tells us after he has "done number 2". We try to put him on the potty at the usual times he goes during the day. He seems to enjoy sitting on it. We read to him and talk etc. but he refuses to actually use the potty for its primary purpose. We will sit with him for 10-15 minutes with no success- then he will get up – we put the diaper back on and he poops in the corner. He can not yet pull his pants down or if he can he doesn’t do it for us. Any suggestions?"
There are two elements involved in toilet readiness, physical readiness and psychological readiness.
He seems to be showing some signs of physical readiness by letting you know that he is aware he has moved his bowels, but not psychological ready to let go of his bowels while sitting on the potty. And heck, with all the stories and a captive audience, why would he want to speed things up!
Each child has a unique developmental timeline telling them when they and their bodies would like to be trained. It is really up to a child to decide and parents to be supportive. Understand that it is not our job to get them out of diapers.
Like learning to walk, we do not need to worry about stimulating this natural maturation process in order for it to occur. Instead, we need to make sure we are not inadvertently slowing it down by getting overly involved. Parents often do this by making kids sit at regular times, entertaining them for undue amounts of time, or being in their service by pulling down pants that they can manage on their own.
These typical parental responses can trigger a power struggle or undue attention seeking which inhibit the child from learning to take responsibility for their body and how to care for it independently.
So what should we do to help our kids?
- Stop "training". This will remove the pressure on both of you, making this a non-issue. Have faith he’ll get around to this like everyone else does – in his own time, in his own style.
- Instead of "training", simply be "supportive" by following his lead and by making the physical environment conducive to learning:
- Use pull-ups that he can pull down himself
- Have the potty available when he ventures to sit on it of his own accord
- Buy clothes that he can get out of easily like sweat pants with elastic waist bands rather than one piece jumpers or coveralls with those nasty buckles!
- If he mentions that he is moving his bowels, you can be encouraging towards his progress, but let him keep ownership of his accomplishments. Use expressions like: "You really know your body", or "You are listening to your body!" If he does decide to use the potty, you can comment, "You can really take care of yourself!"
These are just a few ideas about handling the current situation. I hope this helps give context to your role in the process. Many other dilemmas arise as children learn this new skill so I’ll be writing more on this topic in the future. Keep your questions coming.