So you have an internalizer? Or would you describe your child as strong-willed, impulsive or goal-directed?
Your answer plays a huge role in what works and doesn’t work when it comes to tackling potty training and other milestones that lie beyond, according to Peter L. Stavinoha, a clinical neuropsychologist at the Center for Pediatric Psychiatry at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas and co-author with Sara Au of a new potty training book, Stress-free Potty Training: A Commonsense Guide to Finding the Right Approach for Your Child. "If you really know your child pretty well, I think that will take a lot of stress out of many parenting tasks because then you can come at it with more confidence," he says.
What is the biggest take-away from the book for parents? "Parents need to think about how they are going to individualize their parenting approach during this classic developmental milestone. Not only because I think it will help parents be sensitive to their child’s cues in terms of getting through this milestone in a less stressful way, it will also reflect on a broader parenting approach that I think can be really beneficial in future difficult situations parents will inevitably face."
Does this approach really take the stress away? "Many times stress gets introduced because parents have expectations for how a child is going to achieve potty training that are not necessarily reasonable for their child. ... When parents feel that pressure based on those expectations, sometimes they push too hard on their children and, for many children, their natural reaction is push back or simply not follow along. That just creates more stress for the parent because not only are they are not meeting expectations, but they are behaving in a way that’s counterproductive."
What are you suggesting instead? "It’s not a very passive approach we’re advocating, it really is an active hands-on approach. People will ask, ‘well, when do you start potty training?’ Well you start during infancy, you start during all those interactions you have with your child."
Give us three quick tips from your books: "First is start early and understand the process of potty training is just that, it really is a process, it is not an event. If you are dealing with your child according to their temperament from very early on with interactions that promote the idea of independent pottying I think you will have an easier time.
"The second is the whole idea of individualizing the approach to your child. There really isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.
"The third point would be the idea that by looking at child development milestones, whether it’s potty training or whether it’s learning to do homework independently, these are processes that require strategic and thoughtful parenting individualized to that child, but they also require a skill acquisition by the child that is going to take some time. Parents need to recognize some kids will do it quickly, others slowly. Parents either really need to be ready to adjust expectations or not have too firmly held expectations about how this should go for them and their child."