Thursday, July 16, 2015

It’s Time to Leave… 4 Steps to a Successful Departure

“It’s time to leave.” These simple words can morph a delightful outing at the beach, playground or park into a volcanic meltdown of protests.  Going to the playground, park or beach is supposed to be fun.  But if every departure erupts in a meltdown or a mad chase after the child who seems programmed to bolt at the moment of departure, you may find yourself vowing to stay home the rest of the summer.   It doesn’t have to be that way.

If the same thing keeps happening over and over, it’s time to be a “problem-solving family.” 

1.  Talk with your child – even a toddler.  Let her know that there has been a problem leaving the park or other public situation.  The two of you together need to make a plan so that there is no longer a problem.

2. Ask her what she needs to be able to leave without a fuss.  Odds are she’ll surprise you with her reply.  If she doesn’t have any ideas offer several options.  Do let her know that you will give her a warning when it is time to go.  One option may be to let her know she has time to do three more things.  Or, you can set a timer.  Together decide what your “warning” will be.  But do prepare her for departure.  Not doing so is unfair to her.

3. Together determine what will happen if she decides not to leave without a fuss.  What the consequences are for not following the plan do not really matter.  What is important is that the consequences are “transparent.”

  • Your child knows what she is expected to do 
  • What you will do if she does not do it.  
  • When you will do it.  

For example, you may decide that you will give your child a warning so that she can do three more things.  Once she has finished three more things you will count to three.

  • “One do you want to walk to the car? Or I will carry you.  You can choose. 
  • Two, you can choose to walk to the car. 
  • Three, you did not choose to walk to the car so I know you decided that I would carry you.”  

These words reinforce that her actions caused what happens next.

4. Follow through.  “Now it’s time to go.”  If at this point she insists that she will walk to the car, you have to say, “I’m sorry.  You made a choice.  Next time you can make a different one.”  Then do what you said you would do.  This is not being “mean.”  It actually creates a sense of trust for your child.  She knows what to expect.  The rules do not change.  She’s on solid footing.  

It’s likely that you will only have to pick her up and carry her to the car once or twice before she realizes that you do, what you said you would do.  She also knows what will happen, and when if she does not comply.  As a result she will decide to do what she’s supposed to do, and a meltdown departure will become a thing of the past.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Stopping Aggressive Behavior - Begins with a Question

Oscar was howling when I entered the room.  His younger brother Evan shot a glance at me, then lowered his eyes, turned his head and body from me, all while maintaining a death grip on the iPad in his arms.

“He hit me!” Oscar screamed.  This was not an unusual event.  In fact I was in their home to help mom and dad figure out how to stop the sibling wars that had been raging.

Moving toward them, I said to Evan, “You must have had something very important to tell your brother.  What did you want to tell him?”

Evan’s eyes opened wide as though shocked that I had not yelled at him or grabbed the iPad from him.  He turned toward me.  “I told him I wasn’t finished!”  He stuttered in anger, “But he tried to grab it and then he pinched me.”   A red welt on Evan’s arm confirmed his report.

Antagonizer, troublemaker, the “bad one,” it’s easy to label a child, and with those nasty labels comes assumptions of intent.  

He deliberately…  He intentionally…  He is mean…  Assumptions that lead us to punishments and a disconnect from our kids.

That’s why when it comes to “intent” it’s important to stop, think and assume the best.  This is a child who has an important message to send. 

Will you stop the pinching and hitting?  Absolutely!  Those lessons however, begin with believing his intentions were not spiteful.  Instead there was inexperience, unawareness, or lack of skill.  A child who needs us to teach him how to assert himself respectfully.  How to manage frustration or delay gratification.  Those lessons begin with an assumption of “intent.”  That instead of intentionally being mean or bad, there is a feeling or need behind the actions.  A feeling or need the child doesn’t know how to communicate respectfully or appropriately.  But he can learn and you can teach him.

So next time you hear the scream from the other room, and dash to respond,  while you may need to grab a hand to stop the next strike, begin the lesson with the question – 

“What did you want to tell him?”   

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Taking the “Fight” out of Bed and Naptime: Establishing a Routine that Puts Mother Nature on Your Side

A good night’s sleep doesn’t begin with your bedtime routine.  It starts in the morning.  All day long we make decisions that either help to “set” the body clock, allowing the brain to know when to be awake and when to be asleep, or innocently disrupt it.  When the body clock is disrupted your child may appear to “fight sleep,” turning nap and bedtime into a marathon wrestling match that leaves everyone even more exhausted.

Five key steps to make falling asleep easier

1. Establish a regular wake time.  
Wake time is the cornerstone of your routine.  It’s also something you can control.  You can’t make a child fall asleep but you can wake him up.  It’s from this waking point that all other things revolve so look at your schedule.  Take note of the earliest time your child has to wake during the week and make that your wake time seven days a week.  Otherwise that day starts a slide into sleep deprivation.  You can allow a 30 minute variation, but once the wake time begins to waver an hour or more, your child gets thrown into jet lag.  His brain has no idea what time it’s supposed to wake up.

2. Serve six mini meals a day.  
Regular meals set the body clock.  Ellyn Satter at the Satter Institute recommends serving children six regularly scheduled mini meals a day. Each meal contains a little protein, carbohydrates, fruit/vegetables and fat.   Meals are served about two-and-a-half to three hours apart.  Your job is to decide what foods are served, when and where.  Your child’s job is to decide which foods to eat and how much.  (The limit is set by how much is in the bowl on the table.  Once it’s gone, there are other food choices on the table.)  Don’t fight over food.  Instead sit down and enjoy it together.

3. Get outside for exposure to morning light and exercise.  
Morning light sets the body clock.  Exercise at the right time, meaning not right before sleep, allows your child to be tired and ready for sleep.

4. Protect naps.
Skipping naps, or eliminating naps altogether can too often lead to over-tired kids whose adrenaline system activates to keep them going.   That child who is too wild to sleep is actually an over-tired child.  See the blog on sleep cues to catch your child’s window for sleep.

5.  Maintain a regular sleep time.  
Know how much sleep your child needs, watch for cues (see earlier blogs for this information) and with that knowledge in hand establish a bedtime that you follow seven days a week.  If exceptions need to occasionally be made, expect that two nights later you’ll be struggling with your child to fall asleep.  It can take several days to recover, depending on your child’s natural body rhythm, so the more consistent you can be the easier it will be for your child to fall asleep.  

Five bonus steps to make it even faster 

1. Provide cognitive and social stimulation.
Both your child’s body and mind must be tired for sound sleep.  Plan activities, join groups, and have fun.

2. Be selective about the use of electronics.  
Light sets the body clock.  Sitting in front of a screen can actually “trick” the body into thinking this is the middle of the day – not time for sleep.  Avoid electronics in the evening and keep all electronics out of the bedroom.

3. Keep the bedtime routine simple.
Frequently bedtime routines can turn into such lengthy endeavors that your child is past her window for sleep before it’s finished.  Move bath and reading time to “evening activities.”  Doing so allows the actual bedtime routine to be a simple: snack, toileting, pajamas, teeth, snuggle, kiss and good night.  Adjust to fit your family but keep it short – not longer than 20 minutes.  That makes it easy to hit the window for sleep.

4. Expect your child to require slightly less sleep in the spring and summer.
When days are long our brain likes to stay awake longer.  This may require an adjustment of 20-30 minutes later for your child’s bedtime.  Expect to move it back 20-30 minutes earlier in the fall and winter.

5. Maintain your routine seven days a week. 
The more consistent your routine the stronger your child’s body clock is “set” for sleep times.  Even an hour variation can create “jet lag” and as a result play havoc with your child’s body clock.  An inconsistent or erratic schedule is actually even more detrimental than sleep deprivation.  So maintain that schedule seven days a week.  Then enjoy your “adult” time while the kids get the sleep they need.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mother’s Day! Let’s make it our day!

Those who love us and know us well are not mind readers.  Help them out.  If you dream of breakfast in bed, let them know.  Want to go for a family walk?  Pick your favorite site and inform everyone of the time and meeting place.  Bottom line is we can take responsibility for our own happiness. 

We don’t have to wait for “others” to make us happy.

While you are at it, allow yourself time to reflect on what you are grateful for – regardless of your present situation.  There is always something good.  Think about each of your children. It’s easy to get caught up in their challenges and challenging times, but for this day focus on their gifts and strengths.  

Give yourself a pat on the back for the steps you’ve taken to nurture your children’s gifts.

Celebrate your moments of greatness as a parent.  Allow yourself to be imperfect.  We all are.  

Progress not perfection is always our goal.

And while you are at it reach out to those women who have gone before you.  Your own mom(s) and grandmothers, mothers in-law, teachers, coaches and other significant women in your life who have supported and encouraged you, helping you to become the woman and mother you are today.  

Happy Mother’s Day.  It’s Your Day!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Struggling to Get Your Kids to Sleep? Catch the Cues to Make it Easier

If nap or bedtime at your house has become a marathon wrestling match requiring more than 45 minutes of struggle to get the kids down, there may be a simple solution.  Catch the cues – earlier.  

When children don’t easily fall asleep, it can feel like they are refusing to sleep.   The reality is they can’t.   Each of us has a sleep window.  It’s typically about 15-30 minutes wide, during which time it is easiest for the brain to switch to sleep.  

When you hit the “window for sleep” the average child falls asleep within 27-35 minutes.

Put children to bed too early and they will lie wide awake or throw a conniption.  More likely you may be putting your children to sleep too late and as a result they are over tired and too stimulated to sleep.  The trouble with children who are over tired is that they send out mixed up cues.  Instead of getting drowsy they get wired.  They squeal gleefully as they chase the cat in circles around the kitchen or jump on the bed instead of lying down. Making you think they are not tired.  When in actuality they are over tired.  Ask them to stop and the odds are they won’t even hear you, or if they do will respond by stomping their feet and declaring, “You can’t make me,” or simply fall into a heap on the floor, sobbing.  

If you observe closely however, you can learn to identify the sounds, gestures and behaviors that point out to you the ideal time to put your child down for sleep.  Initially the cues may seem way too subtle and difficult to notice. But once you identify them they are like a red flag waving in the air – sleep NOW!  You’ll know you are hitting your child’s sleep window when you are putting to bed a child who is still happy and relatively compliant and she falls asleep within that 27-35 minute time frame. 

There are 3 levels of sleep cues:

Level one is the point to put down infants birth to 9-months of age 
        o For children 10 months and older level one is a “heads up” I’m getting tired but                       not quite ready for sleep.  
Level two is when to put down the child 10 months and older 
        o Do not wait for the second yawn/eye rub etc.  
Level three is over tired – the window for sleep has been missed.  Next time plan to               begin the sleep routine earlier.  

Here are some cues to look for:

Level one
Level two
Level three
Red around the eyes
Silly and wild
Slight sagging of cheeks
Little difficulty listening but not too bad
Nothing is right
Glazed look/staring off into space
Rubs eyes or pulls on earlobe
Not following direction
Momentary slowing of motion
Goes for comfort object
Not listening
Slight drooping  of eye lids
Change in skin color/pallor
A little difficulty complying but not too bad
Unable to settle or fall asleep
Makes a certain sound
Loses focus – starts to flit from one activity to another – seems bored
Looks away from you
A little irritable
Hyper and frenzied motion

Lays head down
Falling apart

Seeks contact with you

Still relatively happy/not crying

When you see the appropriate level of cues for your child’s age group begin your sleep routine. Keep it VERY simple.  Bedtime snack, pajamas, toileting/diapering, teeth, one story or no story, snuggle, kiss, prayer (if you say prayers in your family) and good night.  That’s it.  

You’ll notice extensive reading is not included in the routine nor bath.  That’s because these activities too easily can push a child past his sleep window.  Who wants to stop reading when a child is begging for more books!  Bath and reading can be early evening activities. 

You still do them but they are not part of the sleep routine. 

You really can take the struggle out of sleep time.  Catch the cues.  Move quickly.  Keep the sleep routine simple and you will discover how much more easily sleep can come.  

Next time we’ll talk about establishing a predictable routine that “sets the body clock” and makes seeing the cues even easier.  

In the meantime if you would like more in-depth information on how much sleep your child needs or how to help your child get the sleep she/he needs check out my book Sleepless in America:  Is Your Child Misbehaving or Missing Sleep?  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Shift to Daylight Saving Time Continues to Torment

Whining increased?  Meltdowns over seemingly insignificant issues pooling on your kitchen floor?   Does it seem as though your child’s communication system has deteriorated to one phrase - “No! You are not the boss of me.”  Are the kids waking up in the middle of the night and staying awake? Are they waking early?  Or, are you pulling them out of bed in the morning? Have the bedtime battles reappeared?  Do you suddenly feel like a three legged monster with a child stuck to your leg refusing to leave your side?  Has the rate of aggression gone up?  

If everyone in your family is irritable, lethargic and feeling downright nasty don’t blame it on the phase of the moon, a growth spurt, allergies or even “spirit.”  No, the odds are high that despite the fact it’s been days since we sprang forward the tentacles of daylight saving time are still messing with our body clocks leaving everyone feeling lousy.

So what can you do other than wait it out?

Slow down.  Even if it means canceling an event, or skipping a lesson or practice.  Stop.  Stay home.  Rest.  Stop pushing and rushing.

Expect to help the kids more.  True a mere two weeks ago they could happily dress themselves, finish their homework, feed themselves, go upstairs alone and get in the car independently – now they can’t.  Instead of fighting over it, expect it.  Before anyone falls apart demanding assistance proactively ask, “Is this a day you need some help?”  If the response is “yes,” help, but gently nudge by reminding them.  “Soon we’ll be through day light saving time shift and you’ll be able to do this again.”

Offer more soothing and calming activities. Back rubs, massage, rocking, holding, reading, water play, Play-Doh, listening to music and going for leisurely walks can calm everyone.

Recognize you are tired too.  Turn off the video.  Get off Facebook and go to bed.  Your body is screaming for a little respite.  If possible take a power nap after lunch.  Limit it to twenty to thirty minutes long.  Set your alarm so you don’t sleep longer and mess up your night time sleep.  Even if you don’t fall asleep you’ll feel more relaxed.

Continue to maintain your routine on the new time schedule.

Be strong.  Another two weeks and we should be back in sync.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

When Toilet Learning is NOT Going Well

Part Two in the Toileting Series 

You’ve been trying to lead your child to the toilet, but it’s not working – now what?  Lynn and I decided to play out a few scenarios for you.

If your child is reluctant to go near a toilet at all…

Do begin simply nudging her toward the bathroom when she needs to have a bowel movement.  If you see her squat or head to her favorite spot behind the couch invite her to the bathroom by saying,

“Do you want me to read this story or that one while you go?”  Initially you are just getting her into the bathroom.  You are not asking her to go near the toilet, much less sit on it.  Note, you are also not asking her if she wants to go into the bathroom.  You are using a different question that diverts her attention.  You can also implement a token system.  One M&M for stepping inside the door.

Why?  The idea that we urinate and defecate in the bathroom is a foreign concept to children until we teach them.  Sometimes the first step to success is simply getting them in the right place.  We use a token system because it is an approach that can be helpful when trying to start a new behavior.  You give an immediate reward for the desired behavior.  The reward is motivational to your child so potential rewards may be M&Ms, pick a prize or a sticker.  The key to success with a token system is that once your child has started the behavior, you will stop the token system.  And say to him, “Now, I know you can do this.  You don’t need tokens anymore.  This is what I expect you to do.”  If you don’t stop the tokens, your child will likely lose interest in them and you’ll find yourself caught in a cycle of increasing the rewards in an attempt to regain his interest.    

If your child is 3.5 years or older and not interested at all in using the toilet and is still using diapers all of the time…

Do put your child on a regular toileting schedule trying to catch him when he’s dry.  That may mean checking every 30 minutes or every 90 minutes.  The frequency will depend on your child and his bladder control.  The key is checking frequently enough to allow him to be successful.  At the appointed time you will say to him, “It’s time to try.”  Offer a choice.  “Do you want me to sing, or read a book while you try?”  You can also implement a token system to encourage him to try.  Every time he tries he gets one M&M.  He doesn’t have to be successful urinating.  He’s rewarded for simply trying.  If he is successful urinating he gets 2 M&M’s and 3 M&M’s for a bowel movement. 

Why?  Your goal is to catch him dry so that he has a chance for success.  Success builds on success.  You use a token system to get a new behavior started.  That system ends once the new behavior is learned.  You offer choices –(a song or a book) - to divert his attention and avoid a power struggle.  

If your child is successful urinating in the toilet, but resists having a bowel movement while on the toilet…

Do let her know she may put on a diaper to go poop.  She can pass the movement while in the bathroom with the diaper on.  As she begins to go describe the feeling as the poop starts to come out of her body.  Allow her to dump the poop out of the diaper into the toilet and flush it.  You can gently nudge her toward using the toilet by asking, “Is today a day you want to try sitting on the toilet for pooping or do you want a diaper?”  If she says she wants a diaper put it on her, then say, “Maybe next time you’ll be ready to try sitting on the toilet.”  One day she will choose to do so.  You can further encourage the effort by using the token system.  One M&M for trying to poop on the potty and two M&M’s for pooping.  In this case you may add the “reward” of using technology (I-Pad, look at photos on a phone, watch a movie) while sitting on the toilet.  Doing so allows her to zone out and remain on the toilet long enough for her to relax increasing the odds she’ll be successful.  Once she has a couple of successes it will get much easier. 

Why?  You want to avoid starting a pattern in which your child begins “holding.”  (If you see smears in her underwear she’s likely holding.)  This can lead to a stretching of the bowel which makes it more difficult to sense the need to go.  It can also lead to medical problems.  You do not want to force her.  Instead you are gently nudging her toward putting her poop in the toilet.  Know too that bladder control often occurs months before bowel control.

If your child has been constipated… 

Do help your child relax.  The brain has a long memory for pain.  If your child has suffered painful constipation when he attempts to go, his body may automatically “shut down” to avoid the pain.  Offer diversions of listening to a story, singing songs, using electronics to allow him enough time to relax.  Use the token system for trying.  Serve foods that are easy to digest and pass.  Frequently offer water throughout the day.  Ensure that he gets outside for exercise.  
Why?  All of these things can help the bowel movement to “slip out” and the brain to let go of the painful memory.  

If your child is afraid of the equipment…    

Do create a picture planner for steps moving toward the toilet.  It can be as simple as step one – look at the toilet.  Step two – step closer to the toilet.  Step three – touch the toilet.  Step four – sit on the toilet with clothes on.  Step five – sit on the toilet without clothes.  Step six – flush the toilet.  Invite your child to look at the chart.  Point out step one and invite him to try.  If he resists point out that the chart says that’s what he’s supposed to do.  Children believe the chart!  A token system can also be effective.  One M&M for each step.  

Why?  You are gently nudging your child toward success.  It’s impossible to talk someone out of fear.  What does work is breaking a new task or experience into small steps so tiny that each is easily accomplished.  

If your child is toilet trained during the day but wets during naps and night time sleep… 

Do allow her to wear diapers during sleep.  

Why?  Day time and night time training are two different things.  Often a child has day time control months and sometimes even years before she has night time control.  Take the pressure off your child and the frustration of stripping a bed at 3:00 AM off your to do list.  

Friday, February 20, 2015

Seven Steps to Toilet Learning Success

Part One:  

I will never forget the day my daughter came running into the kitchen to announce – “I have to go potty.”  That was it.  From that point forward she rarely if ever had an accident.  To an outsider that announcement may have seemed almost miraculous.  The reality however, is that preceding that “moment” were months of teaching, practicing and most importantly nerve and muscle development.
Toilet learning – you can lead a child to the toilet, but you can’t make her go.  

You can however, help her understand the concepts of wet and dry, create a toileting routine, practice using the “equipment” needed for toileting and patiently wait for signs of development that your child has the bladder and bowel control to be finished with diapers.  Every child will follow his or her own schedule, but here are a few steps you can take to make the process as natural as learning to walk.   And a few hints for what to do when you are beginning to doubt it will ever happen.

Steps to toilet learning: 

1.  Work Together: 

Toileting, like walking is a developmental task and like walking it is not a linear process.  Think for a minute about walking.  Your child learns to stand, long before she takes a step.  One day she takes that step, maybe even several steps but then decides to crawl again for awhile.  You don’t get angry that she’s crawling when you know she is capable of walking.  You simply accept that she’s not quite comfortable yet, and recognize that soon she will choose to walk.  One day she does.  

Toilet learning is the same.  Your role is to be the coach offering support, encouragement and opportunities to practice.  Accepting that your child is the one who will ultimately show you when she’s ready.  The challenge is that when she reaches the point of being dry several days in a row and then has an accident or urinates in the toilet, but insists she needs a diaper to poop, it’s difficult not to get frustrated.  You may fear “sliding back” but if you push too hard toileting will become a power struggle that you will lose.  What is a natural process can become one in which your child begins to “hold” or develop other physical and behavioral problems.  You don’t want to go there.  So as you go through the process remind yourself learning to toilet is like learning to walk.  You are the guide.   Your child sets the pace.  

2.  Understand development. 

There are three stages to toilet learning.  

A.  Your child is able to tell you AFTER she’s urinated or had a bowel movement that she has gone.  
B.  Your child is able to tell you she’s going.  
C. Your child is able to tell you she needs to go.  

At points A and B it’s easy to get irritated thinking your child is intentionally telling you when it’s too late to get her to the toilet.  But this is not the case.  Her nerve development is such that initially she cannot sense the need to go – she can only tell you she went.  Soon she will be able to tell you she’s going.  Finally she’ll have the nerve and muscle development to tell you she has to go!  Each step is cause for celebration.  Typically children gain bladder and bowel control between 2.5 and 3.5 years of age.  Usually bladder control occurs before bowel control.  Know too your child’s normal pattern.  Some children may have several bowel movements every day. While others only pass a movement every two to three days – this is normal for them and not a cause for concern.  Avoid beginning this process if in near future you are expecting a new baby or moving.  Stress affects the elimination process making bladder and bowel control more difficult.  

3.  Build your child’s vocabulary and understanding of concepts.  

This is wet and uncomfortable.  This is dry, clean and comfy.  Toilet learning begins with conversations during diapering.  Whenever you change your child – even if she is only 5 months old - talk about the fact that the diaper you are removing is wet.  Let her hold the fresh one you’ll be putting on her, explaining it is dry and will feel good.  Watch for signs that she is having a bowel movement.  Her face may get red.  She may squat.  When you see these actions say to her, “You are going poop.  Poop is coming out of your body.  Doing so teaches her what is meant by pooping and what it feels like.  If you haven’t had these discussions earlier, begin them now.  She has to have the words and understanding to communicate the “sense” of getting wet or having a bowel movement.  

4.  Establish a diapering/toileting routine.  

When your child awakens in the morning, immediately change her diaper, rather than allowing her to play.  If she’s not wet, announce, “You are dry.”  If she is walking you will add, “Do you want to try sitting on the potty?”  Or, “You are dry.  It’s time to try the potty.  If your child is resistant you can gently nudge her by saying, “Oh, you don’t want to try this time.  Maybe next time you’ll want to try.”  You are not expecting performance at this point in time.  You are simply teaching her that when she wakes, she will toilet.  She’s also learning how it feels to sit on the potty and how it works.  If you do this long before she might actually be ready for bladder control she’s still in a stage of exploring her world.  Sitting on the potty is fun – not a wrestling match.  In order to avoid a power struggle you can switch her attention by asking, “Do you want me to count to five or twenty while you try?”  Offer her books to look at.  Sit and talk with her.  Give her time to relax and see what happens.  If she eliminates give her the words – “You are going.”  Or, “You are peeing.”  Whatever you are comfortable saying.  If after several minutes of sitting she does not eliminate put her diaper back on.  Practice is finished until later in the morning when you will stop to diaper/toilet again.  Make diapering/toileting part of your routine after waking and eating and before going out.  Then it will be second nature for her to stop and try when she’s actually using the toilet.  Be sure to say, “Great try,” even if nothing “happened.”  

5.  Practice using the equipment.    

The toilet – especially those that flush automatically can be frightening to a child.  If your child is uncomfortable with a toilet, break the process down into tiny steps.  Make it easy for her to be successful.  You might simply “look” at the toilet, then step closer to the toilet.  Once you are close she can lift or lower the lid then try flushing it.  These actions can be followed with sitting on the toilet with clothing on.  Once your child is comfortable she can sit on the toilet with pants down.  Make certain there is a stool to rest her feet on so that she is comfortable.  In public bathrooms place your hand over the sensor or carry a pad of sticky notes. Place one over the sensor so that it does not “flush” before your child is ready.  Allow her opportunities to practice pulling up and down pants.  Purchase clothing that is easy to remove and put back on so she can be successful.  

6. Switch to “big boy/girl pants” only after your child is able to tell you she needs to go.  

There’s nothing more frustrating than watching your child urinate on the kitchen floor because she could not hold it.  Avoid frustrating yourself and your child by waiting until her nerve and muscle development are sensitive enough to forewarn her she needs to go.  Expect that one day she may ask for a diaper to poop and the next day choose to sit on the potty for her bowel movement.  Shifting back and forth is normal just like taking a few steps and then dropping to crawl across a room is normal.  If your child is new to being dry continue to give her a choice.  “Do you want a diaper or panties?”  “Do you want to use the toilet or to have a diaper?”  Remember you are working together.  You do not want to be rigid, nor do you want to be tied to an outcome.  This is a process which your child has control over.  You are the guide.  But she has the power.  

7.  Expect a point of resistance.  

It’s normal for a child to learn to use the toilet then suddenly decide she does not want to do so. When the moment strikes, or if you have been working with her and she is now 3.5 years or older but has not yet “tried,” it’s time to use a picture or a visual to prepare her that starting on this day – she’ll need to try.  She doesn't have to go, but she does have to try.  In order to make this happen, bring out the rewards.  Lynn and I rarely use rewards but learning a new skill sometimes takes a bit of an incentive.  A “reward” can be as simple as one M&M for urinating in the potty and 3 M&M’s for a bowel movement.  If chocolate is not something you want to use, electronics may be even more effective.  Ban electronic use – except when your child is sitting on the potty trying.  The reason for this is that the distraction can allow her to push past any fears she has, and keep her on the toilet long enough to relax and get results.  If she tries and does not go, tell her, “Good try!”  

Used together these steps can gently nudge your child toward toileting competence with little resistance.  Begin them early recognizing that you are teaching the process NOT yet expecting any results.  Doing so can lead to that seemingly “miraculous moment” when everything comes together. The nerve and muscle development are complete and your child is familiar with all of the components to the toileting process.  Only you will know about the months of conversations and practice sessions that came before this “moment” when your child ran in the door announcing, “I gotta go!” 

If despite following these steps you are experiencing major resistance or no success and your child is 3.5 or older don’t despair.   We’ll address these challenges in the next blog.  You too can be successful.