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Keep Potty Training Positive- Don't Punish For Accidents

Question

Hi, our daughter is 2yrs 10mo old. We potty trained her 9 months ago using the “naked and $75” method from John Rosemond’s book Toilet Training Without Tantrums. Potty training clicked with her on day 5 and she was having zero accidents at home.

She was in daycare until 3 weeks ago. At daycare, she was having numerous accidents every single day. She really wasn’t getting the help/encouragement/instruction she needed with potty training. We’ve since hired a nanny and the accidents have gone down significantly. My question is, is there ever a time (or age) to punish the child for accidents? For example, she tells me “I need to go pee-pee,” I tell her to hold it, but she widens her stance and pees where she’s standing. She makes no attempt to hold it from what I can tell but instead prepares to pee right where she’s standing. I guess we were hoping potty training would be “done” by now since it’s been 9 months of working on it. This is our first child so we really don’t know what is normal. How long before a child is accident-free?

Answer

Hello and thank you for reaching back out. It sounds like your daughter has made a lot of progress since you have hired the nanny. That's excellent news! The whole concept of "holding it" with regards to delaying going to the bathroom is a very abstract concept and at 2 years and 10 months, your daughter is not developmentally able to comprehend "holding it", at least not on purpose or consistently. The good news is that as she gets older she will learn to understand this.

Typically before a child says that they need to go "pee-pee" they may already be exhibiting some visual cues that indicate they are going to need to go. Some start to "do the dance", get squirmy, run in circles, begin looking around the room or even go and hide. See if you and the nanny can pick up on some of these cues and begin to teach your daughter to recognize when she needs to go. When you see these visual cues, tell her, using alpha speech, "I can see that you are ___Visual cue______ it's time to go sit on the potty". This will help her make the connection to what you see, what she may be feeling, and needing to go potty. You can also increase the frequency in which you are having her sit on the potty to help minimize accidents too. Your daughter is still young enough where having a predictable schedule can go a long way in helping her to continue to be successful. Make sure she is going after meals, before and after a nap/quiet time, before and after outings, etc. Potty training takes time and it's best to keep everything as positive and encouraging as possible so we do not recommend punishing for accidents. You can still have her help clean up any accidents and say things like "I am sorry that you had an accident, next time try to make it to the potty" or something encouraging like that. If she tends to have accidents in the same area, you might need to take note of where the closest potty is. Some parents will place a potty chair in the main area their child spends most of their time in to help with accidents. Portable potty chairs can also be used to help transition kids out of diapers at nap and bedtime too by putting the potty chair in their room. Knowing that they have a potty close by can help boost confidence and eliminate accidents.

Don't worry so much about what is "normal". Comparison is of the devil as they say. What's normal for one child may not be normal for another. The amount of time it takes a child to achieve "accident-free" status varies from child to child and can also be impacted by things like changes in routine, cutting teeth, being sick, vacations etc. Your daughter is doing great for her age and you all should give yourself a big pat on the back for getting her this far before the age of 3! She just needs a little more time! Hang in there and please reach back out if you need further guidance.

Lisa Woodman
Certified Leadership Parenting Coach
coachingbythecup@gmail.com

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