Recently, I was very fortunate to participate in a teleconference discussing potty training with two experts on the topic, Dr. Andres Cotton and Jeannette Kaplun. Even after having potty trained 3 kids and now starting to think about potty training my 4th (and expecting a 5th), I had questions about this milestone. We all know the common advice “they won’t go to college in diapers” but nonetheless it’s common for parents and caregivers, even those of us with plenty of previous potty training experience, to have questions about the process.
The teleconference was really encouraging for me in a number of ways. First, Dr. Cotton and Jeannette Kaplun reinforced the fact that each child is ready to start potty training on their own timeframe. Second, when used properly a rewards system is fine to incorporate in the potty training process. Finally, do what's best for your child not what you want to be ok for them, yourself or your family.
Meet the two experts, Dr. Alberto Cotton and Jeanette Kaplun.
Dr. Alberto Andres Cotton is a well-respected Miami based pediatrician with 17 years of experience who began his career in medicine in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Some of his notable achievements are working with the Miami Children’s Hospital Haiti Medical Relief Tea where he was voluntarily deployed to provide assistance, and being featured on Univision’s top morning show Despierta América to share his expertise on health related topics. He now resides in Miami, Florida with his wife and three children. In Miami, he divides his time between working at the emergency center at Miami Children’s Hospital in addition to working at his own private practice. Dr. Cotton has dedicated his career to the well-being of children, as well as providing Hispanic mothers with the right information to give the best care. Dr. Andres Cotton has teamed up with the Pull-Ups® Every Flush program to share his expertise with Hispanic moms by offering tips and advice that challenge some of the preconceived notions of potty training.
Jeannette Kaplun is an award-winning journalist and internationally recognized parenting expert who has over 17 years of experience on TV, radio, online media and as a published author and conference speaker. Born in El Paso, Texas, and raised in Chile, Jeannette is truly bilingual and bicultural. In 2012 she launched her bilingual platform for Hispanic women who want to look, feel and do their best, Hispana Global. In 2011 Jeannette won LATISM´s Best Parenting Blogger award and in 2002 was named as one of the most influential Hispanic journalists by the Hispanic Media 100. She is known as one of the leading Latina bloggers in the US and in May 2012 was invited to the White House as part of LATISM’s Top Blogueras Retreat. She began blogging about her pregnancy and motherhood in the early 2000’s, which makes her a true pioneer in the Latino/Hispanic blogging world.
1. When to start potty training?
I wrote about how I have started at different times with my 3 older children. Now, I am thinking about starting to train my 4th. He’ll be 2 in just a few weeks and is starting to demonstrate a real interest in potty training. As a matter of fact, I put him on the potty not too ago since he expressed interest. Do you know what happened? He screamed and cried, very loud! And for a few days after this, he refused to even enter the bathroom! So, needless to say, he’s not 100% ready. A part of me really wants to push him on with the potty training process, because our 5th baby is due in July and I would love to have only 1 child in diapers. After listening to Dr. Cotton and Jeannette, I have decided to wait until after the baby is born and we have settled into a routine; especially considering that we have experienced regression with potty training when a new baby has arrived in our home.
Check out what Dr. Cotton and Jeanette Kaplun had to say:
Dr. Cotton: At the beginning of potty training, we need to know there are different stages that makes the process longer, at times painful and there may be a point in time where you may go backwards. The first stage is when your child does not give you signs that he/she need to use the restroom. He/she may be playing and not notice they are wet and it does not bother them. At this point you do not need to worry. The second stage is when your child will have the urge of taking off their pamper because it bothers them and they start asking for diaper change. The third stage is when they start asking to pee. You will then take them to the restroom and he/she may not be able to make it on time. The fourth stage is when they ask for the restroom and they make it on time to use the restroom. At this point they are ready and you should watch for the best time to stop using diapers. It is a long process but it depends on every child. Every child is unique and they cannot be compared to other children that were potty trained by the age of two or three. Every toddler has their norm and rules to follow as well as every family.
How normal is regression after potty training?
Dr. Cotton: It is very normal. Like I said before, you shouldn’t get mad at your child. It can happen that your child reverts at a moment of stress. If at that time he cannot control his urine, he will most likely revert so he/she can advance later on.
Jeannette Kaplun: Also, if a sibling is on their way, it is very normal to see regression. Whenever there is stress or change in the child’s life you can expect some kind of regression. Sometimes it’s an accident.
2. What about using the rewards system?
Personally, we have used a rewards system in our home and found it very encouraging for our kids. My first two received M&Ms each time they used the potty; but we moved away from that practice with our 3rd. I had embarked on a healthy living journey for my family, especially with what we ate, so it didn’t make sense to reward potty training with candy. Instead, my son used a sticker chart and when it was filled he cold pick a small “prize.” I found that his worked well.
It seems like family members and friends will have an opinion about whatever approach you have decided to take with the potty training process for your child. My mom (who was visiting) when we were potty training our 3rd thought that using any reward system was silly. She could not understand why a child would need a prize for using the bathroom and why we made such a big fuss over it. She would say "Pero, si es necesario, no un juego!" (Going to the bathroom is necessary, not a game!). In a way, I see her point. She potty trained 4 kids, without a reward system and, according to her, without major problems. However, I think that as long as the reward is small, it’s ok. What’s been your experience with this? Have you used a rewards system? Obviously, the most important reward is that you give your child praise and encouragement. Lots of hugs and kisses are perfect too!
Here’s what the experts had to say:
Dr. Cotton: It is always good to celebrate in small ways because if you celebrate big, you will never finish celebrating all the time. You should reinforce every moment in a positive way. Never reinforce anything your child does wrong in a negative way. There will always be accidents in which the child will go back many times and we cannot punish them for that. Always be positive with them and move forward. Always keep them positive because it is a very had stage in a child’s life.
Jeannette Kaplun: At first you should celebrate everything they accomplish, as Dr. Cotton says and I as a mom, I do not recommend you to celebrate excessively. If that is the case, the child will be waiting for a big celebration every time they use the restroom. You should mark the time of celebration to reinforce in a positive way. You do not need to give them the whole toy store, instead you can sing them a song or write it down on a table. There are many ways to celebrate it.
3. It's ok to wait, listen to your child and be honest with yourself, you know best.
As a Latina mom, I know that potty training traditionally happens at a younger age in Latin America than in the United States. My mother thought that I had waited too long to potty train my children. So did my aunts. And I had friends whose kids were trained long before some of mine. I know that it's ok to wait until my children are really ready.
A funny side note....My husband does a lot of work in China, so I have to come to know a little bit about potty training in the culture by my conversations with his associates. Wow, I was blown away, they are potty trained when they are very young, often starting as early as when the child is 6 months old! Shortly after learning about traditional potty training in China, I was discussing the topic with a good friend whose parents are from India. Sure enough, potty training traditionally starts early there too!
Well, after freaking out that we weren't doing the same or toilet training in a weekend "marathon" session, I realized that it was ok to take my time. Phew! I mean, just check out the picture of my youngest....this is what he prefers to do with the toilet paper at this age!