Hi, my name is Gina and I have a little boy who'll be 4 in March, but he will not cooperate when it comes to potty training. I tried bribing, even tried disciplining him, but nothing is working and I just don't know what to do. I really need help in figuring out a solution for my problem because this is stopping him from participating in some activities like soccer, which he loves. I tried telling him that he won't be accepted in "soccer school" as he calls it unless he is potty-trained, but nothing will work. Please help.
From: Gina, Windsor, Ontario
You're not alone; it seems there is a trend toward potty training happening at later ages and, believe it or not, many respected professionals applaud it. They say it means parents are recognizing that training happens more quickly and much more easily when it's on the child's agenda, not the parents'.
The more pressure you put on your nearly 4-year-old, the more he is likely to feel as if something is wrong with him that he isn't trained, pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton told me. And that makes a child less likely to take the leap to training because he's more fearful of failing. Brazelton is author of many parenting books, including "Toilet Training The Brazelton Way."
So the best advice is to back off completely, and tell your son that whether he uses the potty or not is his decision. Tell him, "You're in charge. I'll leave the potty in the bathroom. If you want it, fine; if not, that's fine, too." Tell him to let you know when he needs his diaper changed and, when he does, keep your tone and your facial expressions matter-of-fact and non-judgmental. This will be hard at times, but it's what will give him control, and that's what will make all the difference.
As with any late-to-train child, you should also:
Check with the pediatrician for constipation or other medical issues.
Lower expectations. Stop asking him to poop in the toilet; ask him instead to flush the toilet once you empty the diaper into it.
Remove the stress. Stop bragging about what other children have accomplished or complaining about what your child has not achieved.
Of course, not everyone agrees with Brazelton on this. Just a few months ago, family psychologist John Rosemond called Brazelton's approach to toilet training "toilet babble," sparking a controversy the parenting press has dubbed The Toilet Wars. I've never been a fan of Rosemond, but I offer his article in the interest of presenting the full picture.
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