Q: I’ve been using the method described in your toilet-training book with my 18-month-old daughter, and she’s been doing great during the day. She rarely has an accident. However, I’m still using a diaper at nap-time and during the night. (I'm waiting for some consistency in dryness before taking that away). Is that correct?
The only problem is that she’s figured out the routine and now only poops in her diaper when I put her down to sleep. She has not gone poop on the potty during the day for several weeks. Is that cause for concern? Should I take away the diapers totally? I don't want to create a bad habit.
A: You (and your daughter, of course) are doing just fine. In fact, you’re both doing great and are living proof of the incontrovertible fact that pediatricians — not all, but certainly most — have been giving very bad toilet-training advice for the past 45 years. Specifically, they’ve been promoting the “child-centered” philosophy that has caused toilet training to become such a huge problem during this same time period. They can be forgiven for believing that the pediatrician responsible for cutting this philosophy out of whole cloth knew what he was talking about, but it’s time for them to begin doing major atonement.
Keep up the good common sense! And don’t become discouraged, much less anxious, if your daughter has a setback now and then. There will be, as you’ve already discovered, some bumps in the road. In that regard, the fact that she's waiting until naptime or nighttime to poop is no cause for concern whatsoever. It may take a while — several months, perhaps — but this eventually will resolve itself. In the meantime, celebrate her success and pay little to no attention to her reticence to use the potty for pooping.
Having said that, there are some strategies that might move this process along. One especially creative parent folded a diaper in the bowl of the potty and told her child that the doctor said he should poop in his diaper that way. The child promptly pooped in the diaper-lined potty and continued to do so from that point forward. That’s a testament to thinking outside the box if there ever was one!
It’s also interesting to note that prior to the 1960s, when everything parenting in America began to go to Hades in a handbasket, parents generally poop-trained before they pee-trained. Also, potty seats attached to the seat on the big toilet, so when a child was on the potty, he couldn’t get off very easily, if at all.
When a child was on schedule to poop, his parents would put him on the potty and walk off. When the child pooped, he called his parents. They’d come in, help him down and clean him off. In other words, on-the-floor potties are part of the problem, because children can get off them at will. (The advantage, of course, is that they also can get on them without parents' help.) The sorta-kinda good news is that newer — but in my estimation, somewhat less effective —versions of the “old” potties still can be found. I found some on www.diapers.com, for example. You might want to consider that option.
In any case, stay the course. In the final analysis, patience will be the cure!
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions at his website, www.parentguru.com.