We've covered potty training on multiple occasions for this blog, outlining tips to help your toddler learn the basics, and another putting forth some ideas in independent toileting. This is a subject one can attack in many different ways, so today we want to shine a spotlight on potential pitfalls that virtually every mother is at risk of. Even if you think you've got all the bases covered, we very much recommend reading up on these 5 biggest mistakes one can make in potty training:
#1 Starting the Training too Late
There's a lot of back and forth on this aspect, with many sites and guides warning strongly against starting the training too early. We're definitely in the camp of too early, but we believe there is benefit to a somewhat of a head start. From a physical health perspective, besides avoiding nappy rash and infections, children who are trained earlier are less like to suffer repeated urinary tract infections, and may be less at risk for developing problems with incontinence later in life.
Traditionally, the arguments for later training (3-6 months as opposed to the first three) are that babies will pee less frequently when they can sit up on their own, and once they're able to stand you can do the training on the potty chair. This method is generally accepted to work with no negative side effects, but why not any later? Depending on the our own child's personality and developmental schedule, this could be a difficult age to train them. They may find it harder to break the diaper habit and they can be more resistant to sitting on potty chairs.
Potty training after 18 months is often associated with independence, but it's probably not a good idea to wait passively for your child to exhibit signs. Rather, expert advice says you wait until they are healthy - no diarrhea or constipation - free of stressful changes and co-operative. Younger children may void more often and have fewer motor skills, but older children will have to relearn body signals, can be more stubborn to change and may turn that independence against you. There's no healthy middle ground, but there is a right time for you to suss the right time out.
#2 Products to Avoid
There are a number of on-the-shelf products that may actually be possible irritants; causing damage to your baby or toddler's skin. The general rule of thumb is to always go with the option that's as natural as possible, though we admit how that's defined gets trickier all the time. Here's a handful of the one's we recommend steering clear of, and why:
#3 Rewarding Their Use of the Potty
No something to leave out of the training entirely, but the notion of rewarding your child every time they wee or poo should raise some immediate red flags. There isn't much evidence that rewards are effective, and worse, it teaches a child to override their bodies feeling for the promise of a reward, and they may even become (in a sense), dependant on it. There are ways to use rewards in a positive way: praise as opposed to prizes, stickers and charts to show them they're making progress, and goal rewards such as moving on to underpants etc. These will help encourage without overdoing it.
#4 Over Coercion, Scolding and Restraining
Potty training very rarely goes smoothly. There's going to be messes, embarrassments and even a few tantrums along the way. Whatever goes right or wrong, it's always good to keep a level head. If a child is not responding well to your chosen teaching method or is entirely contrary, take a break and try again later. Over coercion can lead to a myriad of problems, including constipation, urinary tract infections and phobias.
The same can definitely be said for punishing or scolding them for accidents; they may start holding back their urine or stool, which at best slows the process down, at worse is a health hazard. Likewise, never restrain them to the seat if they want to get up; make time on the potty entertaining: stories, games and toys should go hand in hand with the training.
#5 Believing in the 'Correct Method'
There are countless approaches to potty training; more than we could list. Some have been conceived by professional paediatricians and psychologists, others invented by mothers who were able to identify positive patterns in their toilet teaching. There are 'fast-track' plans that claim to teach toilet training in "less than a day" (albeit with a lot of prep work), and there are other more debatable techniques like 'elimination communication' may have their positives or benefits.
Believing that there's one method or approach that will work at all times with all kids is pretty bizarre, and not leaving room for change or adjustment during the training, particularly when things aren't going well, just sets everyone up for failure.
What are some of the potty training mistakes that you regret making? Did you have any issues that you were able to resolve? Let us know in the comments, and you can also share with us on our Facebook page, Twitter and Google+.