Your LO is finally potty trained! Or so you thought…. Today Nicole answers questions from two mamas who have run into challenges after their kiddos completed potty training.
You Will Hear:
- How to get to the root of sudden misses after completion
- Strategies for giving your toddler the independence they are seeking
- Tips for getting back on track
- What other relatives and caregivers can do to support your efforts
- How to tell if it might be time to seek outside/professional help
Links and other resources mentioned today:
- Mini Potty
- Tiny Undies small baby underwear
- Go Diaper Free Book
- Tiny Potty Training Book
- “Help! We have complete resistance!” (part 2) - Podcast #212
- Find a Local Coach or EC Group
- Go Diaper Free Store
- Tiny Undies Store
Download the Transcript
If you can't listen to this episode right now (um, sleeping baby!?)...download and read the transcript here:
EPISODE 223: How do I deal with setbacks after completion?
Hello and welcome to the Go Diaper Free podcast. I'm your host for today's episode, Nicole Cheever, Go Diaper Free Certified Coach and mama of three kiddos who all did EC and potty training at different ages and stages.
Hello, everyone. This is episode 223, how do I deal with setbacks after completion? You can find the show notes over at godiaperfree.com/223, and of course, leave us a comment or ask us a question over there. And everything I talk about in today's show will be linked over there on the show notes. We have two questions, and the first is from Jessica.
Jessica: My baby has been having accidents all of the sudden. He is 25 months old. He was doing great. He would tell me when he needed to go. If I asked him, he would tell me “yes.” But now, he is telling me “no” all the time. He is fighting me to go to the bathroom. He's peeing on the floor, and he had a poop accident for the first time in I don't even know how long. The other day, yesterday. So I'm not sure if he's just got something medically wrong, or if there’s something else going on. Is it normal for two-year-olds to go through a defiant potty phase? Thanks.
Thanks for the call, Jessica. I want to first send you love and support because I can hear the frustration in your voice, and this is definitely a very frustrating situation. And I want to reassure you that, yes, it is absolutely normal. Toddlers can go through a defiant phase with anything, and pottying is no different, unfortunately. I know it can be really frustrating. I know it can be very worrying. It sounds like you're concerned about a medical issue and, absolutely, it's important to rule that out if there are any signs that there might be some kind of medical issue going on. But rest assured that going through a defiant phase is absolutely a hundred percent normal.
You said that he was telling you all the time, and anytime you asked him, he would say, “yes.” And now he's saying, "No, no, no, no, no." That is very common of toddlers. It's one of the major reasons Andrea, myself, most of the coaches, really encourage parents to start the toilet familiarity process well before 18 months. The age range varies, but it's usually somewhere around 18 months that children start to hit this independent phase. The “no” starts. They don't want you to be in charge of anything, they want to be in charge themselves. So first, I'm going to encourage you to stop asking. No more, "Do you need to potty?" If he has been going potty, which he has, this is a behavioral issue, not a potty training issue. Once they've shown you that they can successfully, from start to finish, connect all of the dots of the pottying process, this is not an issue in a missing skill or a gap in knowledge. This is behavioral.
It's not something you caused necessarily, but it's just a fact of life. Sometimes, our kids hit a point where they're going to start resisting things and, instead of worrying about what's going wrong with the potty training process, it can be really helpful to come at it more from the behavior process. I want to qualify this with: I am not a behavior expert. I am a certified potty training coach. There is a lot of behavior that goes into that. If you think you're having some major behavior problems, please seek out the assistance of a qualified behavioral professional, and they will be able to help you. But this defiant phase is very commonplace. There's a lot of information out there on how to deal with these. If you're having other defiant struggles like won't sit at the table, doesn't want to put their shoes on, then it can be very common for that to bleed into the potty training process as well. So like I mentioned, no more asking. We're not going to ask him if he has to go.
And if it's all of a sudden, if it really feels like it wasn't an ease in… I know all of my toddlers have started to, somewhat slowly, I'm talking about over the course of a couple of weeks, all of a sudden that blossoming toddler is coming out. It's happening right now with my 15 month old. If she doesn't like something, she's taken to throwing herself on the floor and crying. And so, I know, okay, it's coming. All this resistance is going to be here pretty soon if it's not already.
But if it feels like it was overnight, take a look at the bigger picture. Try to figure out if there's something big that's happened. And it might not feel big to you, and/or it might feel like you had really prepared your toddler well for whatever the transition was. Whether you moved or a friend moved out of town, someone they were used to seeing all the time that's now all of a sudden absent. You got a pet, you lost a pet, there's a new baby, you moved all the furniture around. Kids have varying levels of sensitivity. So like I said, it can be something that really seems insignificant to you, but it might be major to them. So try to zoom out and see if there's something that's gone on that may have triggered this. And if there is, it's your job as the parent to reassure them that there are other things in their life that are still the same, including where we put our poop and pee. This may require going back to the basics a little bit, maybe a half a day or a day of intensive teaching, to sort of remind him or retrain him of what the process should be.
But if you've been doing this for a long time, since before he was in this independent toddler phase, if you've been EC-ing your baby, and now you're in more of that potty training 18 month plus zone, then you're going to want to go about this intensive teaching a little bit differently than you did before. With EC, we're looking for all these cues and then we might say to our child, "It's time to potty," or "I see you doing you peepee dance, let's go pee." If being verbal with your child is causing a lot of resistance, close it down. Shut the mouth. What we want to do is be more physical. Toddlers are physical. And what I mean by this is, while you're doing your teaching, when you notice one of the signs that he has to pee or has to poop, either way it sounds like right now. When you notice a potty dance, if it's within the right range for his natural timing, if it's a transition time where you're going to want him to go potty, rather than asking him, "Do you need to pee?", state something very short like, "Time to go peepee," or "Let's put your pee in the potty," or don't say anything. Just start to guide them to the potty. Or you can pick up a toy and say, "Bear needs to go peepee." Put the bear on the potty, saying nothing. "Thank you, bear." Take the bear off the potty. "Your turn." So keeping it very, very brief.
Over-talking, number one, shows that you're uncertain and so our kids aren't going to believe us. They won't buy it if we are not sure ourselves. And then on top of it, it doesn't allow them that independence. So find as much as you can to pass over to him, to put the ball in his court. Let him walk to the potty. Let him flush the potty. Whatever you can do, and rather than asking, try to just state. "Now we're going to put the pee in the potty. Now we're going to put the paper in the potty. Now we're going to flush it." But going back to basics, if there is, for some reason a knowledge or skill gap in there, something missing to help him click, then that will identify it. You will find, "Okay, he can't get on the potty himself. So that's why he's frustrated right now because he can't get on the potty by himself. I have to lift him and put him there." And even that one little change can help everything fall back into place.
So finding a way that he can either get on the potty if he's not able to, whether it's the Mini Potty that he can just sit right down on, whether it's a toilet seat reducer with a ladder that he can climb up. If he's having trouble with clothing manipulation, sometimes kids poop because they can't get their clothes off themselves and they want to. So maybe Tiny Undies in a size up so that they're loose and he can easily push them down. Especially the Bear Learn Undies that have the little orange tabs on the side so he can see where to grab, the bear is upside down so it's facing him, so that's a little fun as well. Or just commando, no undies with loose elastic top pants, something he can get up and down himself. But doing this little intensive training will help you identify those places where he cannot get this done on his own and that's why he's resisting it. Two years old, the most common reason they're resisting is because they want that independence.
The Building Blocks of Potty Independence are going to be in both the Go Diaper Free book and The Tiny Potty Training book. You can search on the digital version, you can just do CtrlF and you can find... Just put “building” or “blocks” and you'll find The Building Blocks of Potty Independence in both of those books.
In general, when there's a power struggle, disengage. Do not participate in the power struggle with your toddler. But you want to do that in a way where you're not giving up. So, "Put your pee in the potty," and then turn your back away with both of you closed in the bathroom so that you are giving him privacy, but you're not letting him get out and pee on your floor. But giving him the instruction without asking him, because he will say no at this point, and not engaging in the power struggle, those are going to be keys, as well as handing him over the keys, finding those ways that he can be independent.
Podcast 212 is an episode about resistance in general. And I believe, in that episode, both the questions came from parents that have 18 month olds. So we're talking about all of this in that episode as well, all of the different ways that you can help, all of the ways that you can help resolve resistance with a toddler. Because toddlers fundamentally are a lot different than babies. And that's why we have EC versus potty training, two different books. It's a totally different ballgame. I've done both and I can attest to that.
Thank you so much for your question, Jessica. I hope that helps, and we have one more here from Tracy.
Tracy: This is Tracy from Texas. I have a two-and-a-half-year-old who was completely potty independent at 18 months, and she was for three weeks. And then I started noticing, at home, during the day, that there will be a couple of times, periodically, that she will have some wetness in her panties. Well that continued to regress into one or two every day, into more and more at home. And then it began happening at grandpa's or grandma's house, any place that she felt comfortable. And then it started happening when we were out shopping too. And then, it became an issue where occasionally we would have puddles on the floor, which we've never had puddles on the floor even before she became potty independent.
And then now, she will even crawl on people's laps and pee a little bit. Not a full pee, but enough that whoever’s holding her will have a wet spot. Grandparents, and even my husband, have asked if we need to put her back in diapers. I have done the potty training experience three times with no change in behavior. I'm afraid this has become a habit. I don't know how to break it, especially because now we have zero two-year-old stubbornness to deal with. Sometimes she gets upset when she realizes that she's wet. Other times, she denies that she's wet. I don't know what to do. Please help me help my daughter.
Thank you for the call, Tracy. I also want to send you love and support because this is a very frustrating situation, and I'm sorry that you're going through it.
You mentioned that it sounds like it's become a habit. Again, I think we're dealing with something that's behavioral. As you said, she was potty independent before, so that's one of the major ways we can tell that this is not necessarily a gap in understanding or knowledge of the potty process.
There might be a gap in the independence side of things, which we can resolve with an intensive teaching day. Again, finding those ways that you can hand over the baton, the ways you can help her to be completely independent. But it did sound like you were saying she was potty independent, which to me means she can complete pretty much the whole potty process without your help. Most kids can't quite wipe that well until they're maybe about two-and-a-half or three, so maybe you're still helping with that. But if she was independent completely, clothing manipulation, mounting the potty, taking herself or telling you, then this is absolutely a behavioral issue.
Andrea does collaborate with me a little bit on these podcasts, and something she mentioned was exploring whether or not there might be some sensory issues. It may be time for some sort of behavioral intervention. And again, asking, has there been any big life change? Has there been something in your child's life that you didn't really realize was significant to them? And just like us adults, it could have happened six months ago and she still may be processing it. Processing big life changes is absolutely not linear for anybody. So just because it may not have happened very recently doesn't mean she's not still having some kind of feelings about it. So if there have been any major life changes within the last couple of months, I would look at that.
And something I forgot to mention for Jessica's call, but I want to mention here because it applies here as well, is: as parents, we really want to check in with our own emotions and our own reactions. Because we can really make things harder for ourselves and everybody when we are too stressed out about a situation. Obviously, when you think your child's been potty trained and all of a sudden they're having setbacks, again, it can be worrying. It can be stressful. It's really frustrating. And it can be very hard to not exhibit those emotions while you're going through it.
However, we need to remember that our children are really busy building their brains at this point. Between 18 and 24 months, they're building long-term memory. Things can really fall out of order. It doesn't necessarily stop at two years. It can absolutely extend. And while they're busy doing this, sometimes things can change and it's really easy for us as parents to have alarm bells go off. "Oh no, everything was fine. Everything was great. It was going this way.” And then suddenly everything changes, and we tend to catastrophize that. We tend to go, "Oh no, all of our training, everything we worked for, it's completely for nothing." And it's just not true. It is absolutely normal for our kids to have these ups and downs, and especially, if there's something going on within the family life that's a little bit hard for them to deal with, or a new challenge, or just different.
And when we start to catastrophize like this, it can really affect the way we respond to our children when they're having these misses. So check in with yourself. When she has wet panties, what do you say? What do you do? Even though she's been completed, we should still be using the same methods and the same philosophy we did while she was training. Either saying nothing and helping them clean up, or just taking note, "Your panties are wet. Let's get you dry ones." Or, "Your panties are wet. It's time to put your pee in the potty. Next time, tell Mama you need help before your panties are wet." Or, "Let's try to keep your panties dry."
I really love the Tiny Undies Learn, with the bear on them, because you can say, "Let's make sure we keep Bear dry." Or you can get a special pair of undies with their favorite character on it, or a pack of them that you can say, "Let's make sure we keep Elmo dry. Let's make sure we keep the princess dry. And Mama will help you with that. Tell me when you need to pee and I will help you." And then of course, sizing up, or getting a ladder, whatever you can do to really encourage their independence. But the way we respond is going to be integral to the success of all of this.
We don't want to have this mindset of, "Oh, they're done. We should never have an issue ever again." They're babies. Even when they're three and four, they're still little babies. And they're human. They might have times where it's just a little bit harder for them, or they're going through some big shift and it's just not really a priority. I know with my oldest, we started potty training with him when he was two years and four months, and for the next couple of months, we had to be really careful about when he was super into playing with something, because his priority was whatever he was fixated working on, not using the potty. So we had the potty in the play space for a long time because that was just easier for us. So giving our children that grace, allowing them these missteps, is really important. And then checking in with how we are processing it or how we are responding to that.
That brings me to the issue with the grandparents. I worry that she's probably heard comments about this and about whether or not she needs to be back in diapers. Our children internalize everything we say about them, so please be mindful not to have these discussions, and encourage the grandparents not to make these comments, when your child is in earshot. Because if she's hearing all the adults around her not be confident about her being able to keep her undies dry, then she's not going to believe she can keep her undies dry. It is very, very important to be careful what we say about our children around our children.
It can be kind of an old school mentality to report to parents, disapprovingly, what happened. If you had your daughter staying with the grandparents for a period of time, and you come back and they say, "Oh, she did X, Y, Z while she was here," and it kind of feels like a reprimand, it's a way to kind of shame children into...
It can be kind of an old school technique, I've found, to report back to parents what a child had done disapprovingly in the presence of the child. Like, "Susie did X, Y, Z while she was here with us, and that wasn't really good, was it Susie?" And this is a kind of an old way to shame children into better behavior, but I think we can all really agree at this point that that never works. So if the grandparents are using this technique, if their solution is to speak about it with her present there because they think somehow it's going to encourage her to stop doing it, I would really encourage you to dissuade them from that because shame and the potty do not mix. In my opinion, shame and any kind of behavior issue do not mix, but especially with the potty, shaming them only continues issues. So I would really, really encourage you to find a different way to deal with it when the grandparents are around. And just like with your reaction, if she's sitting on someone's lap and they get a wet spot and they have this big reaction to it, that can exacerbate the problem. That can actually prolong it in the long run because there's this big reaction.
As far as her being upset sometimes, that may genuinely be because she's upset, that maybe because she's worried about you or another caregiver getting upset. But if we are steady, we want to avoid saying “it's okay.” But if we stay calm, saying, "Yes, you're wet,. Let's go fix it," take them to the bathroom, have them help you undress and change into the clean pants. This process can encourage them to stay dry as well. In Montessori, the solution is to have the child help clean up the mess and help change themselves. And you can kind of draw out the process a little bit so it's boring and they recognize that, "Every time I do this, I'm being taken away from fun, or play, or attention from the adults, and I don't like that." So it's a way to kind of dissuade them from wetting themselves as well.
I would also really highly recommend to you, Tracy, some of the private coaching. We do have coaches around the world. I will link the Coach Finder on the website, where you can put in your zip code, or your city, or your address and you can find a local coach. And if there's not a coach in your area, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org, and they can put you in contact with one of the coaches who's willing to do either a phone call or a virtual consultation with you. A lot of the coaches do also offer a little consultation just to make some recommendations for you for further coaching.
But if you've gone through the potty training experience three times and you just aren't getting where you want to go, there's something missing. There's something that needs to change. And it can be really hard as a parent, especially when you're in the thick of it and stressed, it can be very difficult to identify what that is. So the coaches are going to be a huge help for you. Andrea's got, I think, a couple of hundred coaches around the world, myself included, that have been through intensive training. And this is our specialty, is troubleshooting with parents and families, and identifying that little tweak that needs to be made in order to help you be successful.
Thank you both so much for your calls today. And I want to know, on the blog, have you dealt with setbacks? How did you address it? Head over to godiaperfree.com/223. Leave a comment. Ask us any questions you have. Point us to the resources that were helpful for you. We'd love to hear what people out there are using and what things have helped everyone to be more successful.
Thanks so much for listening. This is the Go Diaper Free podcast at godiaperfree.com. We'll see you next time.
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