This potty training advice was posted on the Multiples and More blog this week.
Expert Interview: Janeen Hayward on Potty Training
Tackling the issue of potty-training anytime soon? Today's expert interview will give you some helpful tips! We talked with Janeen Hayward of Swellbeing, an innovative company which provides parents with support via webinars, private consultation, and discussion groups.
L: There are many websites that say children can be potty trained at early ages- even younger than 12 months of age! Do you believe this is possible?
J: Yes, I do believe this is possible though it takes an early dedication to learning a baby's potty cues and taking a baby to a potty every time they indicate that they need to eliminate.
L: What do you consider the most important signs of “readiness” for potty-training? Do they all need to be present before starting the process?
J: I really think readiness is as much about the parents as it is the child. As with all new learning, the process goes most smoothly when the message is consistent.
My approach to potty training tends to be more child-directed, meaning that I prefer the idea that you teaching a child to use the potty when they show an interest (i.e. questions about parents' toileting). I also find that noticing longer periods of dryness between diaper change is a great sign to cue in to as it reflects greater bladder control.
As important as when to try is knowing when NOT to try. If there is a big change in the family (new caregiver, new baby, new job, new home, starting school), it is best to hold off on starting potty training. One of the way children respond to stressful situations is to regress in their behavior.
L: Do you think it makes sense to try to potty train multiples at the same time, or different times?
J: Clearly every child is different, but I think it is hard to train one and not the other, unless one twin shows NO interest and runs the other way. If that were to happen, fine. What if one child is definitely ready, and another is only semi-ready? The interesting thing about siblings is that they often help one another along, and doing the training simultaneously often seems more natural and preferred. Plus, with twins, you have the risk of splitting them into "the one who is potty trained" and "the one who isn't" and it's always good to avoid labels. Sure, one will get to the finish line first, but unless there are clear reasons to avoid training them at the same time, I'm all for it!
L: Once the decision to begin training has been made, what are the next steps?
J: 1. Let your child observe mom/dad using the potty and explain what is happening
2. Purchase a comfy floor potty and books and invite your child to participate
3. Take your child for regular visits to the potty to practice
4. Keep them interested and relaxed while on the potty (deep breathing exercises, games, books, bubbles, art, etc)
5. Praise your child's efforts and their particular stage in the process (that was good sitting! or you got the peepee in the potty, great! or good job remembering to wash your hands!)
L: If potty training is not going well, at what point should a parent give up, and just try again later?
J: Whenever there feels like there is a power struggle parents need to back off. Pick it up again in a week or two, unless your child re-engages the process first.
It seems to be rather common that kids might be ready to potty train, but it’s the parents who are not ready. Is there any harm in waiting a little longer if you are not ready to undertake the process? Well, there is research to support that the longer a child is in diaper, the greater their risk for urinary tract infections in the near and long term. Additionally, unless you change a child immediately after elimination, it isn't terribly hygienic to keep them in their diapers. Moreover, the longer children are used to using diapers to eliminate, the harder it can be for them to give them up.
And, of course, there is always the cost of the diapers as well as the cost to the environment.
L: Do you recommend the use of rewards, such as treats or stickers as positive reinforcement?
J: Only if you are struggling to get the process jump-started. Internal motivation (feeling proud) is MUCH longer lasting and motivating than external rewards. That said, many families have great success using something small. What I strongly advise against is holding a present a child really wants over them as a reward for using the potty. It is manipulative and doesn't feel good to the child and often backfires.
L: Are setbacks (accidents) common once a child has been accident-free for a few weeks or months?
J: Certainly! Children often get lost in play and either forget to go to the potty or refuse to. How should parents handle these? Parents should be calm and comforting. "It's ok sweetie. Accidents happen. Let's get cleaned up and you can get back to your trains. Next time remember to use the potty when you get that potty feeling."
L: Do you have any other advice regarding potty training, that is specific to parents of multiples?
J: Be very careful not to compare them to one another. As you've liked experienced many times, one will reach a milestone before the other, but they both ultimately get there.
L: What do you think are the most common mistakes that parents make when attempting to potty-train their children?
J: They insist that children sit on the potty for lengthy periods of time, or until they produce something. This is a great way to create an aversion to the potty. The process can be lengthy for many children and it is often wrought with many frustrations twists and turns, but it is important for parents to continue to view themselves as a teacher and continue to encourage children so they don't decide to quit trying.
L: What resources would you recommend for parents who need more support and information regarding potty training?
J: swellbeing.com! We offer webinars on toilet training, as well as private consultations.
Janeen Hayward is a licensed clinical mental health counselor in the states of New York and Illinois and certified Gottman Educator. She graduated from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology with a Master's Degree in Clinical Psychology. In graduate school, Janeen counseled children and adolescent survivors of sexual abuse, many of whom were teen parents. Upon graduating, she directed a training program for graduate students in clinical psychology at a grade school in Chicago, offering play therapy and group counseling to school-aged children. This is where the seeds of swellbeing were sown; the idea being the best way to help children is to help their parents. After working in that school-based program for three years, she moved to New York City and has been working with new and expecting parents on infant and toddler sleep issues and adjusting to new parenthood, ever since. She is the proud mother of a daughter.