There are babies who refuse to announce their productions, hold onto what they have, and resist any attempt to toilet them. If you're still buying diapers
and the potty-chair remains unused, read on.
Later toilet-training, like late walking, may be your child's normal
developmental pattern and one shared by mom or dad when they were in training.
The nerves and muscles involved in toileting may not yet be mature. Suspect this
cause if your child has been on the late end of normal in other developmental
milestones. Most children are well on their way to daytime bowel and bladder
training by three years. If by that time you and your child have made no
progress, in addition to consulting your baby's doctor, consider:
1. Consider Medical Reasons
- A child won't perform any bodily function that hurts. Constipation is
painful, often causing tiny tears in the rectum while the child is straining,
which further makes the child hold onto his bowel movements and a painful cycle
continues. Suspect this if your child squats, grunts, and painfully grimaces but
produces nothing. Starting the day with a stool-softener breakfast (fresh
fruits, whole grain fiber-rich cereal, and lots of fluids throughout the day)
can open resistant little bottoms. (See )
- Bottom burning from food allergies could be another culprit. Look for the
telltale allergic ring and raw area around the anus. High-acid foods, such as
citrus fruits, and lactic-acid-producing foods, (such as dairy products) are the
usual offenders. Diarrhea stools during the flu or after taking antibiotics may
also temporarily hinder bowel control. (See treating )
2. Are you pushing too hard?
Class may have begun too early,
during a negative stage, or teacher and pupil may be clashing. Ask yourself what
could be happening, or not happening, in your baby's life that makes him
reluctant. Consider backing off awhile and taking inventory of the following
emotional slumps that may slow training:
- Is baby going through a negative phase in which he is not receptive to
- Is there a disturbing situation in the family: a new baby, a major move,
family stress, long working hours, a return to work, or an illness?
- Is your child angry? Anger shuts down proper functioning of all physiologic
systems, especially toileting.
3. Rewards that work.
Make toilet-training a fun game. Put a
sticker chart next to the toilet. Every time he goes potty on his own, he gets a
sticker. After several stickers, he gets a social treat. Also try putting two
coin jars in the bathroom. Every time he goes on his own (even with help and
prompting) let him take a coin out of the full jar and put it into his own jar.
Sure, he may make frequent trips to the potty to get more coins, but it's
cheaper than diapers.
4. Dump the diapers.
It's okay to fib a bit. Some babies will not
be toilet trained until they give up their diapers. One day simply announce,
"The store doesn't have anymore diapers" or "The diapers are all gone." Let him
run around outside (if it's warm enough) bare-bottomed with only a long shirt
on. Or, chance going bare-bottomed in the house. (What you spend on carpet
cleaning, you'll probably save on diapers.) Going bare-bottomed encourages him
to take more responsibility for his bodily functions.
5. Set a toileting routine.
The best time for a bowel movement is
around twenty minutes after a meal. Let your son sit on the potty after a meal-
preferably after breakfast-so he gets into a daily toileting routine.
6. Share the load.
If your three-year-old is still having
"accidents" that you feel are caused by laziness, inattentiveness, or just
wanting to be a baby again, let him share the responsibility of cleaning up
after himself-not in a punitive way, but in a responsible way. Show him how to
wash out his pants and then put them in the hamper to be washed. Expect older
children to regress during a negative stage, during a family upset, or shortly
after the arrival of a new sibling. If you feel that he is old enough to take
responsibility for his bodily functions, temporarily ignore the pant soiling,
giving him the message that if he wants to be uncomfortable walking around in
poopy pants, that's his choice. You want him to get the message that this is his
responsibility, not yours. If you feel he's soiling his pants to get extra
attention from you (a bottom clean-up is certainly a lot of hands-on attention),
increase the positive attention you give him in ways other than attending to his
clean-ups. Give him special jobs to do around the house and special one-on-one
outings with one parent. You want to give him the message that positive behavior
gets better attention from you than negative behavior.
7. The control issue.
This may be your child's way of maintaining
control over one area of his life that you can't control. If you hold the reins
tightly in other areas (choice of clothing, tidiness, choice of pastimes, and so
on) don't be surprised if he becomes a hold-out in this area. It may also be the
only way he knows to stay little longer. This may be the time to close the lid
on the potty for a few weeks or months, tune into your child, have some fun, and
strengthen the bond. If your child is already emotionally upset and has shaky
self-esteem, be careful not to give the message that your child's value depends
upon performance. This number one no-no in parenting is a sure strikeout,
whether in toilet-training or in Little League. A caregiver's role in toilet-
training is that of a facilitator: Set the conditions that make it easier for
the toddler to go. The rest is up to the child.