The three-day potting training myth
The Doc Smitty on finding the right method for your child and you
Despite any blog posts you read guaranteed, you might not be able to potty train your child in three days.
There, I said it.
Those of you who insist that every child can do so, comment away.
Those of you who tried and started a knock-down-drag-out weekend of fighting in your house, only to quit and come back to it later with a different strategy that was much more successful, you may stand up and applaud.
The three-day potty training method has several different flavors but all of them involve some of the following ingredients:
- Draw a hard line in the sand - no more diapers.
- Let the child go naked for the weekend (or longer).
- Give the child lots of fluids and salty snacks (I’ve seen some recommend soda. I mean, just … NO!)
- Put the child on the potty frequently.
- Celebrate successful pees and poops.
I know that these methods work some of the time, with some kids. The posts about the strategy wouldn’t be so popular if they didn’t. Problem is, I don’t hear much about it when it works. But, I do hear about it when it becomes a disaster. I hear about it when everyone is in tears and tensions are through the roof.
Any of you with more than one child can confirm that kids are different. They do things on their own time and in their own way. Potty training is the same way. To assume that every child can potty train by age 3 and in three days is unfair. Each child may need a different strategy.
Here is my potty training guide:
I usually give two signs for potty training readiness:
1.Knowledge of wet and dirty. If a child doesn’t understand what pee and poop is, good luck.
2.Ability to sit still on the toilet. Unless you want to be forcing your child to sit down on the seat every time, they have to be patient enough to wait for the action to happen.
But guess who ultimately decides when your child (and you) are ready to potty train? You and your child! Not grandma, nor your judgy friend or the blog post they shared. So, take your time if you want or go ahead, it’s up to you.
I only have one rule when it comes to your method for potty training. Be patient!
Be patient with your child. Some kids have legitimate fear about the part of their body that they are flushing down the drain. It can be the same to them as flushing an arm. Some kids will get it right away, some won’t. Give them the chance to fail without punishment.
Also, be patient with yourself. You will get frustrated at some point during the process. Pick some fun things to do with your child and alone to recharge. It’s OK if it doesn’t go perfectly.
Pick a method that you think fits well with your child and stick with it for a bit. Don’t change after one day. But, it’s also ok to step back and make a change after a bit if things are going well. It’s even ok to decide that you tried to early and wait to start again in a few months.
Potty training is a necessary step in development. It might not be as fun as the first word or first step but it is just as monumental. So maybe it’s not always a “happy” time but at least it can lead to joy. Don’t let unreasonable expectations steal that.
Justin Smith is a pediatrician and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children's in Ft. Worth, TX. He has an active community on both Facebook and Twitter as @TheDocSmitty and writes weekly for Cook Children's checkupnesroom.com. His interest in communications started when he realized that his parents were relying more on the internet for medical information. He believes that strategic use of social media and technology by pediatricians to connect with families can deepen their relationship and provide a new level of convenience for both of their busy lifestyles. Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” is set to open in Trophy Club in the Fall of 2016.