Waiting- A Potty Learning Story

June 18, 2008 · 1 comment

in Daily Life, Development

Here’s the example you have been waiting for! Honestly, the problem is not what to say, the problem is finding the time to post everything there is to say!

Without fail, the majority of questions and worries parents have tend to fall into three main categories: eating, sleeping,and developmental milestones – for example- ” Will she ever – walk, talk, sleep through the night, use the potty, stop throwing tantrums, learn to listen, learn to enjoy water?”

Most parents honestly don’t know the answers to these questions, for the simple reason that they haven’t ever had a child before, and never spent much time with children before having one of their own! And even if they are second time parents, each child is so unique, that sometimes it’s hard to know if a behavior is “normal” or not. That’s because there is a wide range of normal for any given child!

Sometimes parents unknowingly make a very small problem into a bigger one due to their own fear, worry, concern, and sincere desire to “help” or encourage their child.

I’m lucky in a sense, because I’ve worked with and observed so many families and children over the years, I can usually say and mean, “Don’t worry. Just relax and wait, and this will pass.”

And much to the relief of the parents I counsel – it usually turns out that everything does resolve itself in time, and all is well until the next developmental turning point.

Here is a little secret about how children grow and develop physically, mentally, and emotionally:
They do it in spurts throughout their childhood and into young adulthood. And each growth spurt is accompanied by a period of disequilibrium, which can cause even the most easy going baby to suddenly be fussy for a time, or for a” good”eater to go on a hunger strike, or for a baby who has been walking to “regress” and start to crawl again, or for any number of other surprising changes in a baby’s behavior.

So here is a potty learning story that illustrates the principle I’m referring to. I refer to this story as my “You can lead a child to the potty, but you can’t make her use it until she’s ready,” story.

S. started to show interest in using the potty at about two years old. Her Mom and Dad purchased a little potty chair for her and placed it in the bathroom, and whenever she would follow one of us into the bathroom, and at bath-time, we’d invite her to sit on her potty. She had several successes and was quite proud of herself, and couldn’t wait to wear the cute new underwear she and her Mom had picked out for her at the store.

Then suddenly, much to the dismay of her parents, S. decided she was not interested in using the potty at all- ever ! When we asked her if she wanted to sit on the potty, she said, “Not now,” “When I get bigger,” or just plain “No.” One day she told me, ” But Lisa, I already did it,” in response to my question about whether or not she’d like to sit on the potty. (This cracked me up- because, it seemed to me she was saying, “I did it, everyone cheered, so why do I have to keep doing it again and again?”)

Anyway, Mom and Dad became worried, and wanted to discuss strategies. I told them I had only one – drop it, and let S. decide when she wanted to come back to this particular task. No reminders, no pressure, no bribes, no sticker charts, no candy, no discussions, nothing.

So they tried and mostly succeeded in following my advice (with a few more “adult only” coversations where I reassured them nothing was wrong, and not to worry).

Then one day last week, S. who is now two years and 9 months old, woke up and announced that only babies pee and poo in their diapers, and she used to too, but she was a big girl now, and she peed and pooed in the potty.

And she did! And she does! Within the past two weeks, S. has gone from peeing and pooing in her diapers to wearing underwear and using the potty 99.9% of the time- even asking at our little yoga class (when she had a diaper on “just in case”), to go to the potty!

S. is so proud of herself! Her parents are thrilled, and proud of her, and a little in awe too, of  just how easy the whole process was.

And I am so proud of all of them! Magda Gerber said time and time again- “When a child is ready, he will do it.”  (The “it” being sitting up, walking, using the potty, using his “words”, etc.) Her message to parents was always to do less, worry less , and trust and enjoy children more.

Parenting is a hard enough job without worrying about the things that really come as a natural part of a child’s maturation, and require just time and patience on our part….

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