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All the advice in the world no good without a willing toddler

October 15, 1997|By LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

When our son, Tristan, was about 18 months old, we made a rite of passage. We bought a potty chair.

My husband thought it was humorous to buy the chair only five months after our toddler learned to walk. But I thought it would be good to have one so our son would get used to seeing it.

And with a child's natural curiosity, he'll want to check it out, I reasoned. Why not? He certainly has explored every other apparatus in our house. Who needs Little Tikes when you can have measuring cups, empty boxes, hats and flyswatters?

True to form, Tristan noticed the chair a few minutes after I took it out of the box. Then he used it.

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At that moment, I felt pretty smug about this potty training thing.

Little did I know it would take a year before this feat was duplicated on a regular basis.

I like to compare it to the first time my husband took me golfing. I got par on the first hole. It definitely was beginner's luck.

And likewise was my son's first experience with his potty chair.

Child development experts say not to rush this. When children are ready, they'll let you know.

Over the past year, I began to wonder if the experts knew what they were talking about. I thought my son was ready.

He says his ABCs, counts to 20, sings "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." You'd think he'd be able to tell me when he has to go to the bathroom.

I think his resistance to change held him back.

Sort of like the way we feel when we're learning a new computer system. Or dialing the area code while making a local call.

The best advice I got was to stop using disposable training pants. They keep moisture away from the child's bottom a little too well. The child is not uncomfortable and doesn't see a need to use the potty.

We made a big deal out of the transition from disposable pants to cotton briefs.

After the first accident, he was hesitant to go back to briefs. We gave him a break for a couple of days and went back to the grocery store for another pack of disposables.

Then I tried the distraction method, asking questions while I dressed him. Sometimes he wouldn't notice the briefs - until he had to use the bathroom.

There were puddles and more puddles. Children don't seem to understand that parents need more than a 5-second warning.

We just cleaned up each accident in a matter-of-fact way. Once he realized that it's OK to forget, he started to remember.

These days he rarely forgets. It took lots of patience, hugs, and most importantly, a willing toddler.

Now if we just could get him to go to bed on time ...

Lisa Tedrick Prejean is editor of Lifestyle.

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