My sons have lots of after school activities and that means lots of driving around. Luckily we have a wonderful village, so carpooling is the norm. My sons get driven to an activity by one parent and I do pick-up at the end. This week the tables turned and I was the one driving one of my son’s to an activity. As we approached a corner, my son said “Hey Mom, turn left when you get to the light. I know a different way.” It was a few blocks from where I usually turn and we were already cutting it close for time. I didn’t want to be late, weaving through a maze of dead ends and one-way streets. I told him that and he said “Mom, trust me, I know the way.” I'll be honest, I hesitated for a moment. But then I figured, what did I have to lose? After all it was his activity so being late would be his loss. Plus do any of us really get lost these days, what with GPS on our dashboards and in our smartphones. So I let him lead the way. He felt powerful, we got to our destination on time, and all was good. It was a perfect reminder to follow my children’s lead more often.
It’s important to take the same approach with potty training. As parents we do have to be in charge. But potty training cannot happen just because we want it to. Little ones have to be ready. And readiness is not determined by a biological clock or a school calendar. We hear too many stories of parents who pushed their children to start potty training and ended up in a pile of frustration, with a toddler more resistant to toilet-use than ever before. It is important to take the lead from our children and really listen, even when we don’t like what we are hearing.
Around age 2, our children are starting to develop a sense of self and looking to exercise some control over their environment. We may be hearing the word “No!” more often, but if we listen, what we are actually hearing is a child who is testing limits and needs boundaries to organize their world and feel safe. No need to get into a power struggle with your mini-me. Instead, let them take the lead in some areas of their life so that they don’t feel the need to exert control in the potty training department. Believe it or not, it can be fun to see how your child’s mind works as you allow them to make some of the less important decisions like which way to walk home, which elevator to ride, or which sippy cip to use. This will reduce a lot of tension in the home and decrease the likelihood of a tug-of-war with your little one over using the potty.
So let them lead. Or at least think they are leading. Stay positive about potty training. Don’t push them to start when they clearly aren’t ready. Find the right incentive for them, and make it fun. Potty training is much easier for everyone when a child is willing, truly ready and taking ownership of this major milestone.
To learn more about when to start potty training, see our previous blog post on potty training readiness.
Keep Calm and Potty On